I turned on the TV Saturday morning to find the morning talking head show heading to commercial break with the teaser “TERROR IN THE SKIES!!!!” My thoughts turned to my airline days and how annoyed I used to get when reporters overstated things a bit. Thing is – I still get annoyed. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m a little careful about using the word “terror” and airplanes in the same sentence. I wish reporters would follow the same policy.
The particular event the reporter was referencing involved a United Airlines B777 traveling to Guam from Hawaii. Now, it’s not clear exactly what happened, but from what I can glean from various online sources, an odor developed, perhaps a burning smell, and the pilots reported that they were losing electrical power to certain cockpit instruments, and they needed to divert to Midway Island where the aircraft landed safely. By the time this bit of news had reached the morning show I was watching, a loss of electrical power had turned into a “loss of power” and the pilots landing “without engines.” Something seemed off to me, and is it turns out….it was.
Now, I’ve been flying airplanes since I was 15 years old, and employed in aviation in one form or another for a bit over 20 years. I accept that I may be a bit desensitized when it comes to aviation matters. For sure, a burning smell, and the possibility of an electrical fire onboard an aircraft are bad news, especially when you’re over the ocean, many miles from a suitable airport. For passengers, some of whom may not fly that often, I don’t doubt that the experience was a bit concerning, even scary. What I can’t get past is a habit of some in the media who seem to have a bit of a fetish for using scary headlines when it comes to anything aviation-related, and can’t be bothered to get the facts straight before running with sensationalist headlines.
-MJ, July 14, 2014