Mary Schiavo of Mount Pleasant has been appearing on CNN to discuss the mystery of the missing Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777.
"I think it's going to be found crashed," she said.
Schiavo was Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Transportation from 1990 to 1996.
She said in an interview Saturday that she has yet to make up her mind whether the plane disappeared because of actions by someone in the cockpit or mechanical failure.
"I'm not ready to say. You can't rule out either still. I'm going to let the facts play out," she said.
It is significant that the ACARS system on the plane was switched off before the last voice transmission from the aircraft, she said.
"Either the two pilots did it or someone in the cockpit," she said.
ACARS stands for Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System. It provides in-flight data automatically to airline officials such as fuel level and engine status.
The last message from the cockpit, "All right, good night," was presumably from the pilot, she said.
Airlines have codes that pilots use to communicate that a hijacking is in progress. "All right, good night" may have been such a code, she said.
She said the willingness of Malaysian authorities to reach out to the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board for help early on in the investigation may have been affected by a "diplomatic fuss" between the U.S. and Egypt over whether an Egypt Air pilot committed suicide.
The missing airliner is disconcerting in a post-9/11 world because it prompts worries that somewhere there is a Boeing 777 ready to take off for use as a strategic weapon, she said.
She described that scenario as waiting for the other shoe to drop.
"I'm not sure there is a shoe to drop," she said.
As Inspector General, Schiavo's responsibilities included air safety investigations. She was credited with exposing billions of dollars of fraud, waste and abuse of taxpayer money. She is currently a leader of the aviation team at the Motley Rice law firm.