The Riddle May Not be Deep

June 18, 2019

WILLIAM LANGWEISCHE, long one of the country’s preeminent journalists, has hit one out of the park with his story in the most recent Atlantic about the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight 370. It’s by far the best-written, best-researched, and all-around most compelling piece one can read on the topic. It also has brought me to terms as to what most likely happened on the night of March 8, 2014.

From the beginning I’ve been afraid of the rogue pilot theory — the idea that one of the pilots, presumably Captain Zaharie Shah, was responsible for the flight’s disappearance. I suppose this is partly out of pride. I don’t want it to have been Zaharie, because the idea of the captain hijacking his own aircraft and killing over two-hundred people shames the entire profession.

I’ve instead been noncommittal, usually taking the “two main possibilities” route. After acknowledging at

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“Argo” and the 747

What is it with Hollywood and Airplanes? A Complaint from Ask the Pilot’s Office of Pedantics and Minutiae.

March 1, 2013

SO I WATCHED ARGO, the Ben Affleck movie about the 1979 hostage crisis in Iran.

Those of us of a certain age remember the hostage crisis quite well. Until September 11th, nothing in post-World War Two American history garnered more media attention and public discussion, save perhaps for the Vietnam War.

I thought the movie started strong but ended weakly. The closing sequence, especially, was contrived and overwrought — not to mention historically inaccurate.

But it’s the airplane scenes that we’re here to talk about:

The Boeing 747 is one of the movie’s stars. The iconic jet makes numerous appearances in the period colors of British Airways, Iran Air, and Swissair. Now, I don’t know if the British Airways jet that brought CIA agent Tony Mendez into Tehran … Read more

Pilots, Alcohol, Hollywood and Farce

October 29, 2014

THE OTHER NIGHT I went and re-watched the Denzel Washington movie,”Flight,” thinking that maybe it wouldn’t bother me as much as it did the first time I saw it.

A nice idea, but it was even more aggravating the second time around. I’m not sure who gets the bigger screw-job here: viewers, who are being lied to, but who may or may not care; airline pilots, whose profession is unrealistically portrayed; or nervous flyers, whose fears this movie will only compound.

First things first: this isn’t a movie review. I’ll leave that to the professional critics. I’m not Anthony Lane, and any attempts I make at dissecting “Flight” on its deeper cinematic merits, if there are any, are bound to fall short. I’m more than happy, however, to judge the film on its technical aspects: its cockpit scenes and its portrayal of airline pilots. And what I

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