Penn alum aiding Malaysia airplane recovery effort
Mike Glynn, a former Penn men's lacrosse player, is now a naval aviator deployed in Perth, Australia
April 16, 2014, 6:32 pm · Updated April 17, 2014, 7:05 am·
You may not know Mike Glynn, but you definitely know what he’s been up to. Following a four-year Penn men’s lacrosse career that he now calls “unremarkable,” the Class of 2008 graduate became a U.S. naval aviator and is now deployed to Perth, Australia to search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which has been missing since March 8. Glynn has been flying one of two P-8 Poseidons deployed to Perth in the last three weeks. For the last two weeks, Glynn has been supporting search and recovery operations in Perth as well.
We caught up with Glynn to learn about his path to participating in the largest multinational air-sea search in history and where the search is headed next.
Daily Pennsylvanian: What inspired you to join the U.S. Navy and become a Naval Aviator
Mike Glynn: I’ve wanted to be a naval aviator since a very early age. I have very clear memories of watching the Blue Angels perform when I was seven at an air show. The desire has never left. As I got older, I began flying and earned my pilot’s license during college. I wanted to experience a dynamic, tactically focused type of flying that is only accessible in military aviation.
DP: When did you join?
MG: I was a part of the Penn NROTC program from 2004 to 2008 and earned my commission upon graduating. Soon after, I reported to Naval Air Station Pensacola for aviation preflight training.
DP: What do you think is the most likely cause of the disappearance?
MG: I would say that in all honesty, my personal theories are no better or worse than anyone else in the aviation industry. Accident investigations take months if not years to determine causality. While more information is certainly emerging, the truth is that speculating about accident causality at this point in the search is just that, speculation. Myself and most other folks involved in the search are focused on doing our best to help provide information so that the professionals can unravel the mystery, and hopefully bring some measure of closure to the families and friends of the victims of MH370.
DP: How surprised are you that the search has gone as long as it has with no discovery?
MG: I think the entire aviation world is surprised by many parts of this story. The truth is that this search is unprecedented in scope and this event is certainly extremely unusual and baffling. The lack of debris in likely search areas is certainly frustrating, but the position of the search area, the depth of the ocean and sheer challenge of searching such a large area so far from land is remarkable.
DP: Can you go through the logistics of how you go about searching for Flight 370 on the P-8 Poseidon?
MG: For the last several weeks, our squadron Patrol Squadron 16 (VP-16) has been flying daily search missions from Perth International. Each event is roughly eight to nine hours long. The transit to the search area takes roughly three hours each way with approximately three hours of search operations. When on-station, several search aircrafts are each assigned a sector where we fly ladder patterns to methodically sanitize an operating area. While we primarily focus on detecting debris visually, we also utilize radar and multi-spectral imaging to detect objects in the water. Radar can pick up metal objects in the water while our electro-optical (EO) and infrared (IR) turret can be used to view objects in the water.
DP: What does a typical day involve for you on the search? It’s been reported that the air crew there is often working 15-hour days. Is that true?
MG: The truth is that search area is remote, and poses challenges for aircrew involved in the search. The P-8A is blessed with relatively high transit speeds, but other assets involved in the search do not reach the search area as quickly. The distance from the Australian coast is extreme. To put it in perspective, imagine flying from the East Coast or Western Europe to the middle of the Atlantic, searching, and then returning home. That’s the reality of what we’re facing. While the P-8A is a bit quicker, we’re still working 12-hour days at a minimum and crews from other nations are working even longer. The professionalism and dedication of all the military and civilian flight crews, support personnel, and maintenance professionals has been impressive and humbling.
DP: How much area is the P-8 Poseidon covering in the search?
MG: The area covered by the jet varies each day depending on tasking provided by the Rescue Coordination Center (RCC). On an average day during the last week, our crews are flying ladder searches with three to five nautical miles spacing covering a flight distance of 750-900 nautical miles. Again, these numbers vary and are by no means definite.
DP: What are you seeing in your search?
MG: Operations during the last several days have yielded relatively few objects in the water. The current search area is not near any shipping lanes or close to ocean currents that cause trash and debris to come together. As a result, the water is quite clean and we haven’t seen much.
DP: Are you discouraged by the lack of success for this search so far?
MG: The aircrews and search planners are motivated. We want to find answers for the families and friends of those lost in this tragedy. If we sanitize an area and are confident no wreckage is there, we add one more piece of the puzzle that helps the accident investigators find real answers. Until we find more conclusive evidence, we’ll be ready and engaged in the process.
DP: What is the morale of the air crew and maintenance crew at this point?
MG: The morale of the aircrew and maintenance personnel here is high. We wish we were here under better circumstances, but we’re motivated to do what we can to help find some answers. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of the victims. Until we’ve solved this mystery, we’ll do what we can to find answers and bring some closure.