KUALA LUMPUR, March 8 — Aviation experts and analysts today expressed shock over the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines (MAS) flight MH370, noting that the Boeing 777 plane involved has a near-flawless safety record.
Chairman of consultancy firm Strategic Aviation Solutions and a former air freight executive, Neil Hansford told the British daily The Guardian that the Boeing 777 “has probably been one of the safest aircraft in aviation history”.
He said more than 1,000 such aircraft have been built and most of the 60 incidents logged so far have been minor.
Hansford added that the risk of both engines failing at the same time was very low.
“If you lose an engine in a cruise; it doesn’t fall out of the sky,” he said in the report.
Aviation safety consultant Mohan Ranganathan said it was “very, very rare” for an aircraft to lose contact completely without any previous indication of problems.
“The 777 is a very safe aircraft — I’m surprised,” said Mohan, who serves on India’s Civil Aviation Safety Advisory Committee.
He also pointed out that online flight data suggested that MH370 fell rapidly and changed direction after the flight had already reached cruising altitude of 10,7000m.
The aircraft is capable of flying extremely long distances and can stay in the air for as long as 16 hours, thanks to its two jet turbine engines.
The MH370 flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing was scheduled to take five-and-a-half hours, one of the shorter routes worldwide for the 777.
According to media reports, the safety record of the Boeing 777 only had three serious blemishes.
The first fatal crash in its 19-year history came in July 2013, when an Asiana Airlines jet landed short of the runway in San Francisco. Three of the 307 people aboard died, one of whom was hit by an emergency truck after surviving the crash.
The last crash involving a 777 with the same engine was on January 17, 2008, when a British Airways Boeing 777-236ER flying from Beijing to London crash-landed at Heathrow airport.
Both of its Trent 800 engines lost power during the aircraft’s final approach, which investigators found were caused by ice released from the fuel system restricting oil flow to the engines.
However, Rolls-Royce has since modified the engines to prevent the problem from recurring.
The missing MAS flight MH370 is a Boeing 777-2H6ER aircraft that was purchased in 2002, with one safety incident recorded in 2012.
It was also the 404th plane to come of the 777 model production line.
The plane is powered by Rolls-Royce Trent 892 engines, which most commonly powers this particular model.