I normally don’t comment on speculation regarding plane crashes. As an Air Traffic Control friend once told me, the cause of every aviation accident is the same – Gravity. Given the number of surprises that come along with crash investigations, speculation is fraught with uncertainty, and should be met with skepticism.
However, this article, written by an Internet attorney and a “cyber investigator” is one of the reasons why the general public should avoid putting stock into any reports that deviate from the facts in front of us (although in this particular case, even the “facts” are not necessary factual).
The headline screams “The Deletion of Data is Often Key Evidence in Proving Facts of a Case.” Ok so far. But then, they focus on MA370’s Captain, Zaharie Ahmad Shah, and the fact that flight simulator data was deleted.
As you may recall, the media had jumped to the conclusion that the Captain must have had something to do with the disappearance of the aircraft, because he had a simulator in his home. Perhaps they should have asked some professional pilots whether they also had simulators in their homes. Without a doubt, I would prefer a pilot who flew simulations on her off time than a pilot who does not. Day in and day out, a pilot’s job is basically the same in modern aircraft. You take off, you lock in the auto pilot, and you monitor the instruments until you’re close to landing. Sometimes you even let the aircraft land itself. Most everything is routine. Every 6 months, pilots in the US undergo recurrent training, where they go into a simulator and practice emergency maneuvers and hope that they never have to use them.
The bottom line is that pilots who want to keep in practice flying instrument approaches, landing at airports that are too short, or too high, or experimenting with aircraft characteristics when overloaded, or losing an engine before take off, the best place to do that is the simulator. Simulators generally record data so you can critique yourself accordingly. So, when would you delete that data?
One of the most important tools in logic is Occam’s Razor which states, in essence, that the hypothesis that makes the fewest assumptions should be selected. While not an irrefutable prospect, it can possibly provide us a bit of guidance in the current situation. Rather than assume that Captain Shah was planning the unthinkable, including all of the assumptions that must be made in order for that scenario to be the correct one, why not instead start off with the premise that the data was deleted because the Captain was either embarrassed by his performance in the sim, or nailed it so perfectly that he found it too easy to repeat, and deleted the file. An even simpler scenario would occur if the drive he was using was full, and he wanted to save some space. Any of those possibilities make fewer assumptions than a pre-determined plot to doom the flight.
Articles such as this one, that try to marry two disparate fields of technical expertise, would do well to have an expert from each of the fields as a consultant. This same concept can be carried forward into legal advice. Find an attorney who understands both the law, and the core capabilities of your business. Doing that will save you from possibly incorrect or misleading assumptions such as the ones portrayed in the article.