A Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 has reportedly crashed into the sea off Vietnam with 239 people on board, reports Vietnamese state media citing a Navy official.
State media there says the aircraft came down near Vietnam’s Tho Chu Island. Malaysian authorities have not yet confirmed the crash and say no wreckage has been found. A search is underway.
The Boeing 777-200 aircraft with lost contact with the Subang air traffic control within two hours of taking off from the Kuala Lumpur International Airport for Beijing.
Most of those travelling on the flight were Chinese and Malaysian but passengers were of 14 nationalities, among them Australians, Americans and French citizens.
Thomas, who has been involved in the aviation industry for 35 years, speculated such an explosion could be caused by either a terrorist bomb or a cargo door ripping away from the craft.
But he pointed out the latter incident had not occurred widely since the 1970s, and had never occurred in the nearly faultless history of the Boeing 777 since the aircraft was launched in 1995.
The Australian daily quoted Thomas as saying the plane has only been involved in one crash – which was ultimately ruled to be “pilot error” – when an Asiana Airlines plane crashed into a runway seawall during a landing at San Francisco International Airport last year. Three people were killed and hundreds injured in the accident.
“The whole industry is shocked. Malaysia Airlines has a great reputation and excellent record with its pilots, and the Boeing 777 is the backbone of the many airline fleets across the globe,” he said.
There are currently 924 Boeing 777s in operation, with the largest fleet (of 87 jets) belonging to Emirates airlines. The aircraft is also used by Virgin.
“These are planes which have been trusted to fly long distances, over millions of hours. Everything is so tracked and measured with these jets, so it’s very surprising to hear this news,” Professor Bishop said.
“Things like this very, very rarely happen these days – you’ve got a better chance of winning the lottery.”
Thomas also dismissed any concerns the 27-year-old co-pilot may have been lacking the flight experience to operate the vehicle, considering he had 2,700 hours experience, compared with the 18,000-plus hours accumulated by his head pilot.
“Malaysian Airlines co-pilots have always been well-trained and this particular co-pilot has over seven years experience with the airline,” Thomas said.
“I do not believe this was pilot or aircraft error,” he was quoted as saying in the daily’s news portal.
If the crash is confirmed, it would mark the second fatal accident involving a Boeing 777 in less than a year.