Flight MH370: The Unsolved Mystery That Shook The World

Flight MH370: The Unsolved Mystery That Shook The World

 

The Disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370

On March 8, 2014, a Malaysia Airlines passenger jet with 227 passengers and 12 crew members on board vanished from the radar screens while flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. The disappearance of the Boeing 777, registered as 9M-MRO, sparked one of the largest and most expensive search operations in aviation history, involving dozens of countries and covering millions of square kilometers of ocean and land. However, more than seven years later, the fate of the plane and its occupants remains a mystery.

What happened to Flight MH370?

The last voice communication from the cockpit of Flight MH370 occurred at 1:19 am local time, when one of the pilots said “Good night Malaysian three seven zero” to air traffic control. At 1:21 am, the plane’s transponder, which transmitted its identity and position, was switched off, just as it was about to enter Vietnamese airspace over the South China Sea. The plane then deviated from its planned route and turned back to fly over the Malay Peninsula and then northwest over the Strait of Malacca. The last confirmed radar contact with the plane was at 2:22 am, when it was over the Andaman Sea.

After that, the only signals received from the plane were from a satellite communication system operated by Inmarsat, a British company. These signals, known as “handshakes”, were not intended to locate the plane, but to establish a link for possible data transmission. The last handshake was detected at 8:11 am, more than seven hours after takeoff.

Based on these signals, investigators determined that the plane could have ended up in one of two broad arcs: a northern corridor stretching from Thailand to Kazakhstan, or a southern corridor stretching from Indonesia to the southern Indian Ocean. However, further analysis by Inmarsat and other experts concluded that the plane was most likely flying along the southern corridor, and that its flight ended somewhere in a remote area of the Indian Ocean west of Australia.

What caused Flight MH370 to disappear?

The reason why Flight MH370 deviated from its course and flew for hours without communicating with anyone remains unknown. Several theories have been proposed to explain what happened, ranging from technical malfunctions to hijacking to pilot suicide. However, none of these theories have been conclusively proven or ruled out.

Some of the possible scenarios include:


  • A fire or an electrical failure that disabled most of the plane’s systems and incapacitated the crew and passengers, but left the plane flying on autopilot until it ran out of fuel.
  • A deliberate act by one or both of the pilots, who turned off the communication systems and changed course for unknown reasons, possibly due to mental health issues or personal motives.
  • A hijacking by someone on board or by remote control, who took over the plane and flew it to an undisclosed location or crashed it into the ocean.
  • A cyberattack that hacked into the plane’s computer systems and altered its flight parameters.
  • A shoot-down by a military force that mistook the plane for a hostile target and tried to cover up their involvement.

What evidence has been found?

Despite extensive searches in the Indian Ocean and on land, no trace of Flight MH370 was found until July 2015, when a piece of debris washed up on Reunion Island, a French territory in the western Indian Ocean. The debris was confirmed to be a flaperon, a movable part of the wing, from a Boeing 777. Further analysis indicated that it came from Flight MH370.

Since then, more than 30 pieces of debris suspected or confirmed to be from Flight MH370 have been found along the coasts of Africa, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique and Tanzania. Some of these pieces showed signs of damage consistent with a high-speed impact with water. However, none of these pieces provided any clues about what caused the plane to disappear or where it crashed.

What is the status of the investigation?

The official investigation into Flight MH370 is led by Malaysia, with assistance from Australia, China and other countries. The investigation team has released several reports on their findings and recommendations, but has not been able to determine the cause of the disappearance or the exact location of the wreckage.

The underwater search for Flight MH370 in the Indian Ocean began in October 2014 and ended in January 2017, after scanning more than 120,000 square kilometers of seabed without success. The search was conducted by a joint team of Australian, Malaysian and Chinese authorities, using sophisticated underwater vehicles and sonar equipment. The search area was determined based on the satellite data and other information available, but it was later found to be based on inaccurate assumptions and calculations.

In January 2018, a private US company called Ocean Infinity resumed the search for Flight MH370 on a “no find, no fee” basis, meaning that it would only be paid if it found the plane. The company used a fleet of autonomous underwater vehicles to scan a larger area of the Indian Ocean, but also failed to locate the plane. The search ended in June 2018.

In March 2019, on the fifth anniversary of the disappearance, the Malaysian government announced that it was open to new proposals for the search, but that it would require credible evidence and a high probability of success. The government also said that it had not given up hope of finding the plane and solving the mystery.

What are the implications of Flight MH370?

The disappearance of Flight MH370 has had profound impacts on various aspects of aviation and society. Some of these impacts include:


  • The improvement of global flight tracking and communication systems, such as the implementation of real-time tracking for all commercial flights and the development of new satellite technologies.
  • The enhancement of international cooperation and coordination in search and rescue operations, as well as in accident investigation and crisis management.
  • The revision of safety and security standards and procedures for airlines and airports, such as the strengthening of cockpit security and the screening of passengers and crew members.
  • The recognition of the rights and needs of the families and loved ones of those on board Flight MH370, who have endured years of uncertainty, grief and frustration. Many of them have formed support groups and advocacy networks, and have called for more transparency and accountability from the authorities and the airline.
  • The emergence of new forms of media and public engagement, such as the proliferation of online platforms and social media that have enabled the sharing of information, opinions and theories about Flight MH370. Some of these have been helpful and constructive, while others have been misleading or harmful.

Conclusion

Flight MH370 remains one of the greatest mysteries in aviation history. Despite years of searching and investigating, no definitive answers have been found about what happened to the plane and its passengers and crew. However, the disappearance has also inspired many efforts to improve aviation safety and security, to foster international collaboration and solidarity, and to support those who have been affected by this tragedy. As long as Flight MH370 is missing, the quest for the truth will continue.

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