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Malaysia Airlines Flight 370: What We Know
On March 8, 2014, the greatest unsolved mystery in aviation occurred: Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 vanished en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. The aircraft, a Boeing 777-200ER, was carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew members. After one year, still no trace of the airplane has been found, despite an intensive search of land and sea.
At 12:41 a.m., the airplane took off from Kuala Lumpur International Airport. It was scheduled to fly at 35,000 feet. Everything went smoothly. At 1:19 a.m., the pilots were instructed to change frequencies for Vietnamese Airspace, which they acknowledged by saying “Goodnight Malaysia 370.” Just two minutes later at 1:21, the aircraft vanished from radar over the Gulf of Thailand with no distress call and no warning. The flight was reported missing at 7:24 a.m., nearly one hour after missing it’s scheduled arrival time at 6:30 a.m.
At 2:40 a.m., MH370 was briefly detected on military radar as a satellite blip. Also, the first officer’s cell phone signal was briefly detected, suggesting that it was now being used and searching for service. The satellite blips continued hourly for about 7 hours, detected by INMARSAT. The final blip occurred at 8:19 a.m. The data suggests a course to the Southern Indian Ocean, but is very tentative.
While the search for MH370 resumes, investigators are exploring potential causes based on the INMARSAT data, the timeline of events, technical information, and information about the passengers and crew.
Some of the more prevalent theories include sabotage or an in-flight emergency that the pilots were attempting to respond to, such as a fire or decompression. Though the passengers have been cleared from terrorism, the crew members have not been. Much attention has been focused on the pilots, Captain Zaharie Ahmed Shah and First Officer Fariq Abdul Hamid. There is mounting circumstantial evidence against Shah. Investigators have reminded the public that he is innocent until there is evidence otherwise. On March 7, his wife left him, and he attended the trial of a Malaysian opposition leader who he supported. Also, investigators recovered deleted files from his home built Boeing 777 flight simulator, which included routes to remote areas of the Southern Indian Ocean, believed to be MH370’s final resting place. However, some do not consider this suspicious, since he would never be able to fly there in real life and wanted to experience it to the best of his ability. Friends and family have many positive things to say about him.
Another prevalent theory is an in-flight emergency that the pilots changed directions in order to respond to, such as a fire or cabin decompression. According to satellite data, MH370 initiated a sharp left turn, which some presume was to go to the airport.near Pulau Perak for an emergency landing. A fire is supported by the fact that there were 440.8 pounds of lithium ion batteries on board, which have been known to cause fires in the past. Though this would not explain why the transponder was disengaged, some theorize that it was an accident. There is another theory that a sudden decompression startled the pilots and caused them to unintentionally disengage the transponder.
Hundreds of thousands of square miles have been searched, and that number is still growing by the day. This includes water everywhere from the Gulf of Thailand, Strait of Malacca, Andaman Sea, and most importantly, the Indian Ocean. The multi-national search has included both ships and aircraft. Search and rescue teams have followed several false leads and debris from cargo ships, but it all turned up nothing. The ATSB has declared that if nothing turns up by May 2015, they will have to decide whether or not to keep searching. For the families, they do not have any closure, and are desperately waiting for answers about their loved ones.
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