“We deeply regret that we’ve to assume beyond any reasonable doubt that MH370 has been lost and that none of those on board have survived,” was the message sent to the families of those on board of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 on 24 March 2014. The disappearance of MH370 is one of the most fatal accident to ever take place in Malaysian Airlines’ history.
MH370 was a scheduled flight from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to Beijing, China. The aeroplane was carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew members. Forty-two minutes after midnight, it was allowed to depart from the airport and was estimated to land at local time 6:30 am (22:30 GMT). The plane’s takeoff from runaway 32R, attaining a height and speed in the atmosphere were all normal and cleared by Air Traffic Control (ATC). After almost 40 minutes in to the flight, the aeroplane was flying smoothly over South China Sea at an altitude of 35,000 ft. As they were about to leave the Malaysian airspace and enter the Vietnamese airspace, the pilots were instructed by Lumpur Radar to signal Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam. They bid goodbyes to each other and then one minute and forty seconds later, the unfortunate thing happened!
At 1: 22 MYT, Boeing 777-200ER suddenly vanishes from all the radar screens of Kuala Lumpur, Ho Chi Minh and Bangkok. There was no problem. No disruptions. The weather was clear. It just simply disappeared.
The aeroplane was contacted twice through other planes that were in air at that moment and even got connected but there was no response. The only thing they heard were some mumbling in the background. When there was no information or whereabouts of MH370 till morning , it was officially declared as “missing”.
The whole world was informed about this tragedy and search operations were flagged off in the area between Gulf of Thailand and South China Sea where the contact was lost.
This was until the Malaysian Military intervened and shared additional information. There’s a difference in the radar system of the military and ATCs. The latter remains in touch via transponders that are on the plane whereas the former’s tracking depends on reflectance. The data provided by military was completely different and surprising. According to them, it didn’t vanish. Instead moments after the contact was lost, the plane diverged from its scheduled path, making a small right turn, followed by a protracted left turn in south-western direction. The radar showed that it had passed Penang island and moved forward in north-westerly direction crossing Strait of Malacca. The last known detection on military’s radar was at 2:22 MYT as it went far away crossing the range of military’s radar. And thus, the search operations were extended to Strait of Malacca, Andaman Sea and Bay of Bengal but it was like squashing water.
Unlike the old planes, all the modern planes including MH370 was equipped with a satellite communication’s terminal to send or receive transmissions. and all the transmissions were being recorded in a ground station in Perth, Australia.
Everything was working as intended but when the aeroplane was past the Penang Island, in the strait of Malacca, the connection between it and the station was disrupted. The terminal ceased to respond. But minutes after it left the radar screens of the military, it requested to log-on back the network and connected back. From then, the satellite unit on Mh370 replied back to hourly requests and the satellite telephones for the next six hours later when its assumed the flight may have crashed due to fuel exhaustion yet were unanswered by the cockpit.
Although these transmissions didn’t contain the location of where the plane went, investigators were able to measure the distance between the plane and satellite and thus proposing seven possible locations where it may have gone. By taking into consideration speed, fuel consumption and other factors, they showed the most likely location to be somewhere in the southern Indian Ocean.
Accordingly, the search operations were expanded over Indian Ocean and eventually, ships and aircrafts searched more than 4,500,000 sq. km of area of ocean but flight 370 was nowhere to be found.
And nothing was to be found until the next one and a half year, when on the cost of Reunion Island, 4000 km west to the search area, people while cleaning the beach, found a part which is called a flaperon. It was later confirmed to be a part of MH370. Even though, it was found exactly opposite to the search area, investigators believed the debris must have moved along with the water and reached there.
However, some other parts were also found after that but since no major piece was discovered until 2017, the search operations were suspended. A private company Ocean Infinity, searched for the plane but also came empty handed.
So, how come a regular passenger plane on its daily job of moving people from one place to another, vanish out of thin air? What happened to the plane that was carrying someone’s son, daughter, parents, siblings and husband or wife? Though we are sure the plane must have crashed due to fuel exhaustion, we still don’t know what may have actually happened that led to the crash, here’s what might have occurred.
Now, there has been no shortage of theories. One of the most probable is hijacking. This was due to the reason that on board were 2 Iranian passengers with fake passports but was later cleared off as no organization took responsibility of the same. There is also a possibility of crew instigated hijacking as it had happened three weeks before MH370 disappeared where the co-pilot had locked the pilot out of cockpit and diverted towards Switzerland to seek asylum. Moreover, the transponder and satellite unit could only have been turned off manually. Many think that the pilot of MH370, Captain Zaharie Ahmad was behind it since police had found a flight simulator at his home which contained a very similar route that ended in the southern Indian Ocean. This information wasn’t also made public. It was in 2016, when the confidential documents were leaked, this info came out. But he had three kids and had more than 18000 hours of flight experience and a clean record. Also, nor he had any financial issues or any history of illness. In the end, this option was also dropped as no conclusive evidence was found. But if it was really hijacking, the motive behind it is an even bigger mystery.
Some believe that since the cargo on the plane included lithium-ion batteries, it may have resulted in a fire and thus the pilots may have turned back to Malaysia for an emergency landing but no such attempt was made. Cabin depressurization might be the reason behind the plane’s disappearance because if the plane really loose cabin pressure and pilots were incapacitated before going to a more oxygenated altitude, it will explain why it remained in the air for so long.
Others believe the plane must have landed somewhere like on Diego Garcia but again there’s no evidence for the same.
Although some debris has been found, it’s still not possible to determine what happened as those discovered are small parts. So until and unless we locate and find the main parts, there’s no explanation about what literally happened at that very moment which led to this devastating incident in our history.
‘It’s been 6 years, 2330 days, 20 hours, 30 minutes, 45 seconds and counting…… since the disappearance of 239 innocent people.’
By Abhinav Parewa, New Delhi