Pilots and others advance theories on social networks

Plenty of theories surround what happened to Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.  Not only are analysts and the flying public mesmerized by the plane’s mysterious disappearance, pilots themselves are examining the facts and trying to figure out what happened.

On Facebook, users are posting photos of airplane controls, panels, manuals, and radars.  Pilot forums are buzzing as they share information about the plane’s disappearance.  One U.S. forum has nearly 150,000 hits and 64 pages of comments.

Bud Musser is a retired airline captain who flew the same model Boeing 777 that is missing. He says the pilot community is shocked that a 777 is involved.

“It is so sophisticated. It’s so automated that you can make it do whatever you want if you learn how to fly that airplane,” Musser said. “It’s the first airplane that the engineers listened to the pilots on how to design the cockpit. It’s user-friendly.”

But not so user-friendly that someone without prior aviation knowledge could reprogram its route.

A week after the plane went missing March 8, Malaysian authorities put the two Malaysian pilots under more scrutiny and searched their homes.  The U.S. pilot community is sensitive about putting pilots’ reputations at stake.  They say pilots know many lives are entrusted to them.

Vic Hooper has more than 4,000 hours as a Boeing 777 captain in Asia.  He says pilots work without immediate oversight, thousands of kilometers from their supervisors.

“They make decisions autonomously based on the situation around them, and they are responsible for their outcomes,” said Hooper.

The pilot groups offer plenty of scenarios.  Musser says curiosity drives the chatter.

“It’s a disappeared airplane,” he said.  “It’s kinda like out of the 1950s, or 60s TV show ‘The Twilight Zone.’ You just don’t know what happened and you can’t explain it.”

The old U.S. television show always ended with a bizarre, unexpected twist.

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