Phil and a 777

The disappearance (and likely crash) of Malaysia Airlines 370 weighs heavy

So many of us who work in the mobile industry — media, manufacturers and developers alike — end up spending so much time in airplanes, so you'll excuse me when I say I can't help thinking about Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which vanished this weekend a couple hours after taking off from Kuala Lumpur. 

It's just gone, and with it 239 lives. As I'm writing this early Sunday morning, there's no sign that anybody has any idea where the plane is, though a crash in the waters off Vietnam is looking more and more likely.

And I can't help but think back to our last trip — Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain. My daughters (7 and 3 — "and-a-half," they'd both demand I tell you — don't really know what I mean when I tell them I have to go to work across the big ocean. But I did so aboard the same type of airplane that's gone missing — a Boeing 777-200. Around 16 hours from Atlanta to Paris and back last month. Not the first time, either. And from Atlanta to San Francisco last November. Or the 14 hours or so (each way) from Atlanta to Seoul a couple years ago, on a larger version of the airframe.

It's funny how you tend to get to know faces on trips like this. The woman who was in the same row as me from Barcelona to Paris, and again from Paris to Atlanta. Or the cameraman across the aisle who was returning from shooting the Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Or the guy who came up from the section behind us, snagging an unoccupied premium economy seat. And all the faces you see when you get up to stretch and go to the lav. So many faces. So many people.

Flying used to scare the hell out of me when I was younger. Probably it was about the lack of control more than anything. I get the physics. I nerd out one the planes a little bit now as a coping mechanism, I think. And I learned to let the safety statistics calm me. (And being old enough to have a drink helped, too.) Flying is safe. And I think about the hundreds and thousands of men and women who design and build the planes and work at the airports and spend their lives and their time away from their families just to ensure I can safely drag my sorry ass to see a new smartphone.

I've gotten used to the travel. I almost like it. And, yes, I've become a bit spoiled by it. And this weekend I'm reminded why it worries my wife and my mother so. And why my kids ask me when I'm coming home.

A few happier thoughts on the week that was:

  • The U.S. went back into daylight saving time — that's the proper style, by the way — today. I have to wonder that when my kids are grown and on their own, will they have any clocks they have to manually adjust? I think I'm down to the microwave oven, the oven in my kitchen, and perhaps my car stereo (which I never really bother with anyway).
  • This purported new HTC One case looks crazy. Hopefully it fares better than the last case with holes.
  • Good to see Pebble get a quick stability update after the 2.0 release, but I can't help but feel that the whole thing was rushed. Not that I didn't want 2.0 and the Pebble appstore, but, man, there's still some work to be done.
  • Very smart of Samsung to do its own streaming music player. Equally smart that it teamed up with Slacker to do so.
  • Interesting to see Vine crack down on NSFW content. (Porn, really.) Wonder if some sort of adult-friendly copycat will (ahem) spring up. (If it hasn't already.)
  • QuizUp is a lot of fun. (And, yes, it pains me when I lose an Android round.) But the typos in it are just atrocious. And I'd know — I make typos for a living.
  • And if you missed it last week, you can now get email notifications when someone replies to your comments on the blog here. Just one of many improvements we're working on in 2014. Thanks for your patience and for your feedback.

That's it for this week, I think. See y'all Monday.




Reader comments

From the Editor's Desk: Imagine all the people ...



I'm from Malaysia and it shocks me to find out such a big plane disappeared just like that. I'm a national squash player and I always travel around the world without having the fear of something like this would happen. But there have been speculations of a terrorist hijack. And until now we can't locate the missing plane even with our advanced technology. Praying for everyone in the plane.

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My father-in-law had been a pilot (747's) for Malaysia Airlines for 38 years, and after "retiring" (required at 60 in Malaysia), he's joined another airline for the UAE and will be flying 777's. He trained the captain of Flight 370 several years ago, and most of the crew had flown with him too. So he's understandably stunned about the crash. I hope they find the plane and find some answers and closure.

That`s the latest news on the Air plane..
It may have disintegrated in mid-flight, a senior source said on Sunday, as Vietnam reported a possible sighting of wreckage from the plane.

None of these countries ever check the ID and passports, and are not ruling out terrorism.

They found that Vietnam Radar had the plane altering it's course and it had turned around before it disappeared.

Another great post, as always, Phil.

Praying for everyone on that flight.

I fly a fair amount, as well. So, it's eye-opening, when you read about planes disappearing. It could easily have been a flight that either of us were on.
It's weird: I count myself as fortunate, that I wasn't on that flight or any flight that has been hijacked/lost. But, for some reason, you can't help but feel survivor's guilt.

Posted from my "Gift from God" Note 3, my "God-Given" iPad Mini 2, or my "Risen" Samsung Chromebook.

I fly a lot as well - 5 or 6 return trips per year, 2 or 3 intercontinental, usually - and I think the scary thing here is that whatever happened seems to have happened in the middle of a normal flight. I tend to grip the armrests a little tightly during takeoff and landing, but I'm pretty relaxed once we're cruising...

On a completely different note, I'd say the most recent phone case with holes has to be the hon 5C Crocs case - and I don't think HTC could be that corny :)

There has to be some sort of foul play involved. A Boeing 777-200 does not just fall out of the air, those planes are rock solid. I find it weird though there are no GPS locators or something like that on the plane. All those people lost....... it's such a tragedy.

Foul play or not, things do happen. No matter how large and rock solid that plane is, man made objects are not infallible. There's no telling what could have happened, but to someone in ATC, it's just a blip on the radar. When it goes away, it's just gone. Indeed a tragedy.

I'm not trying to make light of the plane-and lives-disappearing, and I certainly don't mean to come off that way, but it baffles my mind that so many people worry so much about flying. Statistically its far safer to fly than to drive, but people still freak out about flying but no one ever sits around in a panic because a loved one is driving to work. And flying has been around for a looooong time now. Its not like its a new technology that just came out 5 years ago.

It's probably partly to do with the lack of control involved, and I'd say it's a lot to do with the fact that a terrible car accident can kill 1-5 people and help is usually readily available. An aeroplane accident can kill 100-500 people and there's little that can be done to help.

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I can understand about how a plane crash can affect a lot more people at once, but the lack of control part makes no sense. How much control do people have when riding a bus or train? And people don't freak out about being passengers in a car where they have no control. And sure, as a driver, you have control over your own car but you have no control whatsoever of the other 2 ton missiles that are all around you.

"but the lack of control part makes no sense"

I think there's more to it than simply a lack of control. It's a lack of control combined with an extended period of time during which you know you're about to die. That is a particularly disturbing prospect.

And the disparity with the actual statistical risk, as compared to activities like driving or riding in a bus, has to do with the odds of survival in the event of an accident. In a car or bus, traveling at roughly 60 mph, you still stand a decent chance of surviving. You CAN still die, but you can also survive. In an accident on an airliner, traveling at 400mph, you, and everyone else, are all but certain to die. There have been instances where people survive airline crashes, but they're comparatively rare.

Growing up, my father had a small Cessna 150 (and then an ancient 172), and we flew all up and down the entire east coast several times. While that was statistically far more dangerous than flying in an airliner, it was reassuring to know that *if* there was a problem, those airplanes could be landed on almost any 1/2 mile stretch of straight road, or any relatively level field with a decent chance of survival. In other words, we'd still have a fighting chance.

So, people know that airlines are statistically quite safe, but that in itself doesn't help quell the fear that if you happen to be one of the unfortunate statistics, you'll live the last 10-15 minutes of your life knowing it's about to end and not being able to do a single thing about it.

It's not only that. Another thing is people imagine death on ground based transport to be pretty much instant. On a plane they think that if it hits the fan tell have a few minutes to contemplate their own mortality since there is generally a fe miles between you and the ground. So they are terrified at the potential of actually see death coming for them.

That's exactly right. In a car, it's "oh shit", BANG, maybe a skid and a bang, and you're unconscious or dead. In an airline, it's "Ooooooooo noooooooo" followed by 5 to 10 minutes of a terrifying ride back to earth. I've been up with a pilot doing light aerobatics, and the forces on your body are pretty significant and scary - and that's when it's expected. Experiencing the same thing, with 200 other people screaming in terror, being thrown around the cabin along with luggage and debris, knowing that it's going to end in your own death.

I'm sorry, but anyone who doesn't understand the "irrational fear" of flying simply hasn't honestly considered what the final minutes of being one of the unlucky would be like. Definitely not my preferred way to exit.

what bothers me a hell of a lot more than flying is driving. i can see people texting and driving, which causes way more deaths than flying. my anxiety is worse on the road than it is in the air.

Statistically it's not that simple. If you're going to travel 5000 miles, it's safer to fly, because flying is the safest mode of transportation per distance traveled. But if you're going to go on a typical ride by car, then that's safer than the typical flight, because driving is safer than flying per journey taken. Either way, taking a bus is even safer than driving or flying, and riding a motorcycle is the least safe of all.
Insurance companies, of course, use the per journey (or per passenger, that is also not so favorable) statistic when they calculate how to charge an airline for insuring a plane.

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I just left my 16 month old daughter and 2 month old son to fly to Barcelona. I know that planes are incredibly safe but you're right, Its incidents like this that really impact you. Thoughts and prayers to all involved.

Hope the passengers in the plane is safe. I am from Singapore and every time the news starts broadcasting, the headlines will be about the plane. So worried, my country and countries around me are helping out in the search and rescue operation.

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I hate flying, the flights to Japan from LAX puts me a step closer to checking in at an inpatient mental clinic. Now that I'm sober (knocking on something that I think is wood) the alcohol cart is no longer a blessed relief. The only comfort I get now, is that I die a good death if I'm in that small percentile.

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This article is completely irrelevant to what this website is about. If I wanted to follow that sort of news, I would go to CNN or BBC, not AndroidCentral.

Know what? Don't read it then. I've been writing these for two years now.

And I disagree with your premise. I like to think we try to bring the tech we talk about to a human level. Not just specs and leaks and whatever. Just as I like to remember that there are real people reading this site, I think it's nice to let the people behind it branch out once a week.

Some people have no sense of Humanity. Its a total tragedy and we should all hope that closure is soon. As far as irritional fear goes I know a pilot for a major LUV airline that turns to jelly when you put him on the edge of Grand Canyon because he is afraid of heights. In the pointy end of the flying tube he is just fine.

Irrelevant post is irrelevant.

Posted from my "Gift from God" Note 3, my "God-Given" iPad Mini 2, or my "Risen" Samsung Chromebook.

My thoughts exactly

You really should see the crap I don't post. Sorry if honesty offends you

Just as everyone here likes this editorial, you're in your own rights to dislike it. Why are people always mad that one person doesn't want to go along to get along?! I found it good and am on my way to ask Google for more information about the flight. But I understand you not being on ANDROID CENTRAL for news of the sort.

Simply saying, "Don't read it," does nothing. Too late!

Posted via my oldie but goodie Nexii 4 using the Android Central App

Meanwhile, some news outlets like CNN, Fox News, NBC News, etc. report on things other than worldwide/national events, like tech specific things, or some really heroic kid in some little podunk town who saved his family from a burning building. Do you whine and complain about those types of news too?

I see nothing wrong with an editorial. It's all relevant, maybe someone captured a glimpse of those using the stolen passports with their Android device, uploaded said images Google Plus before whatever happened, and all questions solved.

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We all give you immense thanks for taking time our of your apparently busy day to make note of your displeasure about having to read this headline. Very thought provoking comment.

If you ever decide to fire up an Android news blog to show us how it's done, let me know.

There's such a thing as "being human" and expression from things called "emotions" when writing. You should try it sometime.

The amount of traveling Phil and the rest of the guys do to bring us the news we come here for makes it entirely relevant.

I haven't flown since 1999, and will never fly again. I don't trust people and refuse to submit to searches by anyone for any reason.

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Well said Phil! I used to fly all the time for work, and I'd use a lot of the same coping skills (especially the drinks, hahaha).

Hopefully they find the plane and at least give the families some sense of closure.

Well it just looks as if you had nothing better to say or post. Being a tech blog, people will naturally come to it for exactly that: tech news. We have all heard about the tragedy elsewhere. What are you going to do, tell us what we haven't heard already?

I think all the other posts before and after this week's editorial pretty much dispels that, too.

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You're a better man than I for responding as calm, cool and collected as you did. Instead of reading the caption and moving onto the next article he read it and took the time to comment. Keep up all the awesome work, Phil!

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Posted from my "Gift from God" Note 3, my "God-Given" iPad Mini 2, or my "Risen" Samsung Chromebook.

Shallow people demand two things. Attention, and gratification.

I think the occasional aside that Phil takes to touch on non tech matters is indicative of the approach he takes to tech. He, and the rest of the guys, make sure that the specs are at the top of the article, and people are at the bottom, grounding tech in humanity.

Unlike some, I haven't been assimilated yet. Tech is just a tool...for people.

Posted from the (4.2 updated) redheaded stepchild of the Nexii

I always wonder why people are so obsessed with plane crashes but almost indifferent to car crashes. About 40,000 people die per year in the United States in car crashes (roughly 110 per day). In contrast, in 2012, there wasn't a single fatality from a U.S. plane crash. Kudos to the aviation industry for being so safe.

" And I think about the hundreds and thousands of men and women who design and build the planes and work at the airports and spend their lives and their time away from their families just to ensure I can safely drag my sorry ass to see a new smartphone."

Phil, I gotta say, your writing on this site really is fantastic. This quote puts things into perspective. Later on down the page, your joke about QuizUp and making typos for a living was gold. I am really enjoying your contributions to the site!

Thanks for taking the time to write such a good piece, Phil. It is good to take a step back at times and survey our lives, our passions and goals, our distractions. So much of our time in this life is spent on meaningless things (and I say this as someone who loves tech - especially Android). But in our final moments what will truly matter to us? At the end, what will the symphony of our lives sound like?

I feel so stupid asking this, but could someone explain (in layman's terms please) with all the technology we have, how a plane just falls off the figurative "face of the earth" like this? I'm just so shocked to see a plane just disappear from the sky with out a single answer other than "well it probably crashed."

Just makes me sick to my stomach to think of all the people affected by this and I send my prayers out to them and their families.

Well, it's understandable how it could lose contact with ATC/radar. But, I, too, would think there are other means of locating the plane, especially having seen this satellite video of planes landing in Beijing:

I suspect there are means such as satellites, but national security concerns could be preventing the public release of such images.

Phil I appreciate this article. I can tell you that myself and the thousands of others that build Boeing airliners that it weighs heavy on us when one goes down. We take pride in our product because we know lives depend on our quality of work. I always tell the new hires "We aren't building cars. When something breaks you can't just pull over to the side of the road." I'm hopeful that the plane is located so loved ones have closure and answers to what happened are found.

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Posted from my "Gift from God" Note 3, my "God-Given" iPad Mini 2, or my "Risen" Samsung Chromebook.

Thank you for posting this , because we do forget exactly how many people ride safely to their destination , and are able to see their friends and family, so when that right gets taken away from an entire group of people in a flight we see how lucky we are, my heart goes out to those families and loved ones.

It is a basic human instinct to not think about the fact that we are all going to die someday. I hope when my time comes it is doing something exciting and adventuresome like flying. As I pilot and plane owner I can think of no better way to go.

Unfortunately I am much more likely to slip on a banana peel, or get hit by someone texting or talking on a cellphone instead of concentrating on operating a 4,000 pound vehicle safely.

Thanks for the article Phil. I too am a recovering flying-phob. Loved it at as a kid, developed some sort of unexplained anxiety towards it in my late 20's and spent 10 years avoiding air travel to the point I drove from Seattle to the East Coast (twice ;). I found a program called SOAR - worked wonders, best $300 I ever spent. Well worth looking into for anyone who is coping with this fear. I've made 10+ trips since doing the program including a trip to Europe last month. My anxiety went from a 10+ down to a manageable 2 on most flights. Actually back to enjoying it again. Crashes like this don't shake my confidence like they used to.

side note - ever notice how much CNN would reach for some sort of aviation story when there were no accidents? "Flight encountered turbulence and stewardess spilled drink", etc. It drove me crazy while trying to work through this anxiety. Tragically, they have something to talk about now.

It's hard to imagine in this day and age that an object so big with so many people could simply vanish. It makes one respect mother nature and gives us a sense of our own mortality. That's why I always show my fellow man the utmost love and care.

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