AFP (From Outlook 24 March 2014)
Seeking a sign Indonesian air force personnel scanning the seas
the missing flight 370
A Flight Into The Unknown
The world remains glued in horror to the curious saga of a missing plane
COMMENTS PRINT

Six days after it vanished into thin air, Malaysian Airlines—as a mark of respect for the missing Flight MH370—renamed the Kuala Lumpur-Beijing leg MH318. Would the gesture mean MH370 has officially  ceased to exist, lost forever—as news of its whereabouts continues to elude the world at the time of writing—or will it serve to etch it in memory as the flight that never reached home?

There had certainly been no inkling of any events to come. MH370 had departed from Kuala Lumpur at 12.45 am local time, on March 8, the weather forecast had predicted nothing worrisome, and last heard, it was cruising peacefully at 35,000 feet at 1,000 km per hour. A Boeing 377-200, the flight wasn’t chock-a-block; there were 227 passengers on board, 55 short of the aircraft’s seating capacity of 282. They were a typical mix of businessmen, MNC executives, people travelling to meet friends or family. Out in the night sky, it would have appeared as one more rout­ine flight. Exactly what the cockpit crew reported to air control at 1.40 am, one hour into the five-hour, 53-minute flight. It was on course for yet another hour; a visible blip on the radar at 2.40 am.

And then...

Something happened for MH370 to exit its designated flight path and enter into the annals of aviation history.


Graphic by Rahul Awasthi

The records and timeline suggest that the aircraft was in the air long enough to have crossed Thailand and reach far north into Vietnam. From then on, though, neither contact nor radar presence has been reported. The pilots made no distress calls, nor did the sop­histicated transponder built into the aircraft transmit any signals.

 
 
Records and timeline suggest the aircraft was in the air long enough to have crossed Thailand and north into Vietnam.
 
 
Bordering on a week into the disappearance, and despite an int­ense, extended and ceaseless multinational search involving the air force, navies, coast guards and rescue operators of 10 countries, MH370 has not re-emerged. What have surfaced, instead, are countless theor­ies. They range from the mundane—pilot error, mechanical malfuncti­o­n­ing—to the extreme: mid-air explosion, terrorism, hijacking. Some reports suggest that the plane changed course and flew without any contact with air control for over four hours. For a while, much was made of the fact that two of the passengers were travelling on stolen passports. They were later identified as Iranian nationals, trying to sneak into Europe for better job opportunities. Eerily, among the pass­engers, there were also 20 computer geeks, working in the arms ind­u­stry and whose expertise was in making aircrafts and ships disappear from radar screens to ensure the enemy cannot identify them.

None of this, though, has translated into any conclusive news of the plane. Rare though it is, there are instances in the past where aircraft have disappeared without leaving beh­ind any trace of passengers or the plane. In 2009, there was no news of Air France’s Flight 447 en route from Rio de Janeiro to Paris for five days, till rescuers found the bodies and debris of the plane—they discovered where it had crashed into the Atlantic. The ‘black box’ was located only two years later.

Meanwhile, Malaysian Airlines authorities and senior members of the Kuala Lumpur government are trying their best to assure aggrie­ved relatives, harassed friends and agitated neighbours like China—which had the bulk of the passengers on the ill-fated flight. Alongside,  questions are being raised on the existing flight security and safety standards in Malaysia and elsewhere in the world.

But for as long as there is no news, there is hope. Families, friends and the world at large are rallying in hope and prayer, waiting for a miracle to happen. One couple must already be thanking heavens for the miracle that did happen to them. Booked on MH370, they missed the flight because they couldn’t reach the airport on time.

***

8 Other Flights Which Vanished Into Thin Air Just Like Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370

 
1937 Amelia Earhart The legendary first woman solo pilot disappeared in her twin-engine monoplane over the Pacific Ocean attempting to circumnavigate the globe. No trace of her or the plane was found.    1938 Hawaii Clipper The flying boat, with 15 people on board, was due to cross the Pacific Ocean. It left Guam but never reached the Philippines. Neither the plane nor those aboard were ever found by rescuers.

 
1945 Flight 19 Five navy torpedo bombers with 14 crew took off from Florida on a training mission and disappeared. A rescue plane sent to search for them also disappeared with 19 crew members.   1947 BSAA It took 50 years to find any trace of the 11 people aboard the British South American Airways flight that disappeared in the Andes mountains. Its last message: “STENDEC”.

 
1948 & 1949 BSAA Two jets disappeared in the vast expanse of the ocean between Florida, Puerto Rico, and Bermuda without a trace, giving the region the notorious name of the ‘Bermuda Triangle’.   1962 Flight 739 The US military chartered flight, transporting American troops to Vietnam, vanished shortly after refuelling at Guam. Neither the aircraft nor the 107 people onboard were located.

 
1972 Flight 571 The Uruguayan flight carrying 45 crashed into the Andes. No trace of survivors for 72 days. Eight were killed in an avalanche; 16 resorted to eating corpses of the dead to survive.    2009 Air France Flight 447 The Airbus A330 from Rio de Janeiro to Paris crashed into the Atlantic Ocean killing all 228 on board. The wreckage of the aircraft was found after five days; bodies of 75 were never found.

***

7 Things You Must Know About A Black Box

  1. The ‘black box’ or the Flight Data Recorder (FDR) of an aircraft is actually orange. It stores all the information of a flight.
  2. It consists of three major parts: an underwater beacon, a cockpit voice recorder and a memory unit. All three are part of the same unit.
  3. It is located in the rear of an aircraft, near the tailfin, as it is considered to be one of the safer areas of a plane in the event of a crash
  4. The black box records the inflight states of the engines, hydraulic and electrical systems and records altitude, pitch and roll of the aircraft
  5. It is designed to survive every conceivable impact, fire, extreme temperatures, gravitational force up to 3,400 Gs and water pressure
  6. The battery of a black box is designed to last 30 full days and its underwater beacon can give out signals even from a depth of 14,000 feet
  7. The Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) captures the voices of the pilots and other voices in the cockpit, including engine noises and alarms
COMMENTS PRINT
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