In the days since Air France flight 447 disappeared there has been much speculation in the media as to cause and as to what exactly happened. In the last 12 hours I’ve seen a headline stating that the flight broke up in the air and one stating that the flight broke up when it hit the water. The truth is no one knows, and we all hope the flight data and voice recorders can be found so they can be analyzed and the cause found.
When I returned from our Marketing and Communications conference in Montréal, someone asked me what the people at the conference think happened. My response was that the folks at the conference are aviation professionals, so they don’t speculate. This point was stressed repeatedly in a session on crisis communication using the February crash of Continental Flight 3407 as a case-study. Bill Vanecek, director of the Buffalo Niagara International Airport and representatives of the NTSB and Pinnacle Airlines, all emphasized that they only release confirmed facts to the media and do not even entertain speculation questions. It was a well received presentation to a couple hundred airport communicators and airline professionals. When something like this happens, it is important to be careful. And when something like this — for which there is no obvious explanation — happens, it is important to get all the facts. We should all hope those recorders are found and recovered so a true cause can be found and so this will not happen again.
I stated earlier that true aviation professionals don’t speculate at times like this, they look for facts and analysis. So it is no surprise that Mary Schiavo, the former DOT Inspector General who has made her living since leaving DOT trying to scare people about flying (I wrote about her in an earlier post) did speculate, stating the other day that a lightening strike could be “like an atom bomb.”
In 30 years in Washington I have never seen someone abuse the status that comes with an earlier government post like she has. Can we please stop putting microphones in front of her face? There are a lot of people in the media I respect greatly. But until a decision is made to stop interviewing Mary Schiavo at times like this I will always respect the media just a little bit less than I otherwise would.
As I told the conference on Monday morning, this is a time to keep the passengers and crew, and their families and friends in our thoughts and prayers. And to hope we get all the facts so that flying may remain the safest, most efficient, means of transport ever devised.