How can a flight go missing without any traces? Well, it did. MH370 or MAS370 was a massive passenger flight that disappeared into thin air.
Malaysia Airlines Flight was a scheduled flight on March 8th, 2014. It had to cover the distance between Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and Beijing, China. The flight was scheduled to leave Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia at 12:35 AM and arrive in Beijing, China at 6:30 AM, but it never did. Numerous questions must be hitting your brain at this point. But, to date, we have no answer to how a massive passenger jet could go missing in the 21st century.
AIRCRAFT AND THE PASSENGERS ABOARD:
This aircraft was a BOEING 777-200ER passenger jet and was one out of the two regular flights traveling between Kuala Lumpur and Beijing. The fuel tanks contained enough fuel (49,100 kg fuel) for 7 hours and 41 minutes journey. MH370 was an 11-year-old plane with no records of any mechanical issue. Apart from 239 passengers, it had ten crew members and two pilots on-board. Zaharie Ahmad Shah, the 53-year-old Head pilot joined in 1981 and had a flying experience of about 18,000 hours. Aged 27 was the co-pilot named Fariq Abdul Hamid with flying experience of 2,700 hours. The flight carried Chinese, Malaysians, Indonesians, Australians, Indians, French, Americans, Canadians, Iranians, New Zealanders, Ukrainians, Dutch, Russians, and Taiwanese.
A bit delayed in departure, the Air Traffic Control (ATC) was in contact with the flight for around 38 minutes after the takeoff when it was above the South China Sea. MH370 initially was on its right track and sent its last automated positions report around 1:06 AM. The last verbal contact that anyone had with someone inside the flight was at 1:19 AM when Kuala Lumpur Radar instructed Flight 370 to signal ATC in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam, as it was now entering the Vietnamese Airspace.
The message sent from the cockpit read ‘goodnight’ with no sign that anything should be amiss. The aircraft was on its scheduled path over the Gulf of Thailand, and this is when things sprang to abnormal. The way this aircraft dropped out of sight indicated that the transponders were up the spout. It was concluded that someone purposely turned them off as the sky was clear with no storms.
The Military Radar was the light at the end of the tunnel as it was still capable of hunting it down. MH370 flew over the Malay Peninsula, crossed the Penang Island (1:52 AM), and then drifted across the Strait of Malacca. The final confirmed position of the jet was somewhere over the Indian Ocean at 2:22 AM near the limits of the Malaysian radar.
Now, despite being dropped from all the radars, the aircraft was still communicating with the satellites. Satellite data gathered that MH370 flew straight over the Indian Ocean for 5 hours after making a bizarre turn. The Aircraft Communication System was still replying to the hourly stats request sent from the satellite company-Inmarsat. The cockpit even received phone calls but never answered them.
MH370 was still somewhere over the Indian Ocean at 7:24 AM and was already delayed by 1 hour past its scheduled arrival in Beijing. At this point, an announcement was made by the Malaysian Government stating that all contacts with MH370 were lost. Also, a search-and-rescue operation was initiated.
The final data received from the plane was a log-on request received by Inmarsat (8:19 AM). The reason for this request could’ve been either a power or a software failure.
It was already 7 hours and 38 minutes since the flight had taken off which increased the possibility of low or no fuel on the aircraft. Another stats request was sent to MH370 by Inmarsat around 9:15 AM and this time it stood unacknowledged.
POST ANALYSIS REPORTS:
Post analysis, it was most likely that the plane crashed in the Indian Ocean between 8:19 AM and 9:15 AM, the exact time is still unknown. Right after the final communication, the analysis indicated that the aircraft was several thousand kilometers west of Australia when it went down.
So, to sum up, MH370 took off from Kuala Lumpur, reached above the Gulf of Thailand, Malay Peninsula, flew past Penang Island, took a turn towards the Indian Ocean, and flew continuously for 5 hours. It now ran short of fuel and crashed in the middle of nowhere.
This missing passenger jet was a great tragedy in the history of aviation. Search operation commenced almost immediately after the distressing news broke out. Southeast Asia was the initial location where the hunt began as it was believed that the aircraft crashed somewhere around. As the officials brought out more and more information, the search shifted to the Indian Ocean. A massive area of 4.6 million square kilometers was searched by 19 ships and 345 sorties of the military aircraft.
Furthermore, a SONAR search of the seabed was also conducted which covered an area of 1,800 km. All these efforts were in vain. However, after a year of disappearance, in July 2015, a wing flaperon was found on the beach of Reunion (4,000 km away from the actual search location). Several kinds of research confirmed that the wreckage belonged to MH370. It was also confirmed that the landing flaps were not extended when the plane crashed which supports the ghastly theory of the plane crashing in a vertical dive. Likewise, more debris was found across the coast of East Africa.
Almost after three years of this mysterious tragedy, the official search for MH370 was suspended on 17th January 2017. Post this, no other strong evidence about the plane’s position was discovered other than small amounts of rubble. The hunt was mainly led by the governments of Malaysia, Australia, and China.
MH370’s search amounted to $155,000,000 and stands to be the most expensive search in the history of aviation.
The official reports from the search were successful in narrowing down the crash location to 25,000 square kilometers area in the ocean west of Australia. A US company named Ocean Infinity came forward in January 2018 and announced that it would recommence search operations in the 25,000 square kilometers.
However, it hunted an area of 33,000 square kilometers by March 2018 and found no traces of the aircraft. After so many years of rigorous research, there’s not even a single answer without a loophole.
WHAT MIGHT HAVE HAPPENED TO MH370?
There are numerous possibilities as to what happened to the aircraft. Hijacking as a probability called a lot of attention. There was a believable idea behind it. After carrying out background checks, it was revealed that two Iranians carried fake passports and booked a one-way ticket from Kuala Lumpur. It raised a considerable amount of suspicion as they entered Malaysia just a week before the scheduled departure of MH370. It was assumed that the hijacked aircraft was taken to a remote island.
This theory was rejected as some of the wreckage was found washed up on the Coast of Africa. On further revelations, the Interpol leaders inferred that they were not terrorists but mere refuge seekers who were migrating from one region to another. American and Malaysian officials were extensively indulged in carrying out the background checks of all the passengers aboard but achieved no leads.
The idea of the plane being remotely hijacked by cybercriminals was denounced as it was impracticable to gain access to the flight controls.
Passenger hijacking as a possibility was ruled out, but what about a crew hijacking? Skepticism was raised on Zaharie, the Head pilot but no evidence linked him to the incident. On this note, the Malaysian government decided to take interviews with the friends and family of the crew on board but nothing sinister was discovered. Even if the crew was accountable for this catastrophe, their purpose was still unexplored. Houses of both the pilots were searched and financial reports of all the crew members were seized.
Moreover, Captain Shah’s home flight simulator data was analyzed by the FBI but nothing was revealed. Remember, when the aircraft took an odd turn towards the Indian Ocean? The most likely explanation given by the American Intelligence Officers was someone reprogrammed the aircraft’s auto-pilot right before this turn. Someone could’ve even manually turned off the transponders in the flight resulting in a sudden drop off from the radar screens. Despite all the fingers pointed at the crew members, there was zero evidence found.
Our world consists of different people with various thought-processes. Some weird theories were also out regarding this strange disappearance. People believed that the aircraft got engulfed into some black hole or was captured by the aliens.
The theory of a sudden fire was also airing. It was believed so because it may have happened that the pilots decided to turn back to carry out an emergency landing at the nearest suitable airport in Northern Malaysia (when the flight first deviated from its path). A power interruption mid-flight would’ve been the most suitable ground for this. Though the reason for this interruption is yet unknown. Someone could’ve even manually turned off the electrical system of the aircraft. A faulty engine could’ve also been the reason for the crash.
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau ruled out one more plausibility. Cabin decompression could’ve resulted in an unresponsive crew leading to the straight flight for 5 hours over the Indian Ocean. If this is what happened, everyone aboard was perhaps unconscious when the aircraft crashed. All this stands to be uncertain because of the following reasons:
A) Cause of the decompression event is unknown
B) What was the reason behind flying over Malaysia and then changing course towards the Indian Ocean despite attempting an emergency landing?
No matter what theory we point out to be right, each one of them has minute tangles that make it doubtful. Reading about so many possibilities is infinitely confusing, imagine the level of frustration in the heads of the passengers’ friends and family. Keeping this mishap in mind, it is impossible to get any answers or closure without the discovery of the aircraft. Someone in this wide world may know exactly what happened or maybe nobody knows. Both possibilities are quite unsettling.
To date, this massive passenger jet along with the crew and its 279 passengers lies somewhere in the dark depth of the Indian Ocean.
May their souls Rest in Peace.
By Ayushi Anand