Disappearance of Flight MH370 – The Greatest Aviation Mystery

One of the most tragic incidents happened on March 8, 2014, when Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 carrying 239 people went missing, never to be found again.

The investigations to find the missing plane were in vain. Not even one victim of the crash was found, and this gave rise to theories as to what actually happened to the airplane.

The greatest aviation mystery - MH370 plane crash

How and where did the MH370 disappear?

Flight MH370, a Boeing 777 bound for Beijing, China from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The Flight left the airport at 12:41 am on March 8, 2014. On board were 239 people including 12 crew members, 150 Chinese, 38 Malaysians, 7 Indonesians and others from France and US.

The plane had no faults, in fact, almost an hour after takeoff the plane communicated with ground control. The words were, “Good night, Malaysian three-seven-zero.” These were the last words from the plane. No one suspected a thing as the voice seemed calm and relaxed and nothing was going wrong.

How MH370 plane disappeared from its path
Flight path of MH370 before disappearing

However, two hours after takeoff the plane turned back towards Malaysia and carried on towards the Indian Ocean. The military radar lost site of the plane as it was flying over the ocean. No communication was possible with the aeroplane since communications had been turned off by someone in the plane or may have malfunctioned due to some sort of power failure. No distress call was received, and no bad weather reports were obtained. The final communication from the plane was an automated satellite communication signal but it was no help. The signal contained no information as to where the plane was. The plane had disappeared!

Was the Plane on Autopilot?

Further investigation reports revealed that the plane was turned back towards Malaysia manually, but the authorities are not sure who did it or why. The investigation report states that the specific manoeuvre the plane did to turn back was done manually.

Search for the MH370

9 countries contributed to the search operation at the start with the help of the FBI and Interpol. 40 ships and 34 aircraft were dedicated to this search operation. However, there was no specific point to start from and the search operation was a failure. The vast waters seemed to be the biggest challenge for the search group. With time, the search area widened and eventually, 26 countries were contributing to the search but had no luck.

2 months after the incident, Australia, China and Malaysia agreed to search under water. However, they also discovered little. On January 29, 2015, almost a year after the plane went missing, the Malaysian Government declared the incident as an accident.

The Mistakes

A report from CNN pointed out the mistakes of the authorities in keeping track of the plane and to go out searching for it. The time between the last voice communication and distress signal was 5 hours and 13 minutes. Such a long period and no one tried to make contact with the plane during this time. Also, it took 5 hours for the search teams to move out after the plane disappeared. These were not only mistakes highlighted by CNN for MH370 but were also part of numerous other violations of protocols.

The Little That was Found

Although the searches were huge and vast, what little that was found of the plane were fragments and those fragments happened to wash up on the coasts. A total of 3 wing fragments of Boeing 777 were found. These were at the Indian ocean coasts in Madagascar, Reunion Island and Tanzania.

MH370 fragments
A fragment of Boeing 777 – Flight MH370

These fragments ignited more search operations but again, they came up empty handed!

The Frustration

Families of the missing people aboard MH370 became frustrated and launched their own search operations. They were mainly focused upon the coast of Madagascar where one of the fragments was found.

More than $140 million was spent on the search operations and nothing was found. The government became frustrated and had to call off the investigations. However, other private searches did continue. The last search conducted by the Malaysian government was in January 2018. This search was also a dead end like the others. According to the Malaysian Prime Minister, the search will resume only if more evidence is found.

What we know so far about the MH370

  • The plane communicated only twice after takeoff. The first one was voice communication just an hour after takeoff, “Good night, Malaysian three-seven-zero.” The second one was a satellite communication signal just before it disappeared.
  • No distress signal was sent by the plane and no communication attempt was done.
  • Communication systems had been purposefully disabled.
  • Two hours after takeoff, it deviated from its route. It turned back towards Malaysia and carried on towards the Indian Ocean where it disappeared.
  • The plane was turned around manually.
  • 3 wing fragments of the Boeing 777 have been found till date.
  • Authorities have confirmed that the airplane had no technical faults.

The Theories

Many theories have been put forward regarding the disappearance of MH370. However, authorities have struck down many of them. The Planet Today shares some important theories by experts that might make some sense.

Lack of Oxygen

A theory put forward that was also considered by the Malaysian government and Australian Transport Safety Bureau was that the people on board the flight MH370 were deprived of oxygen. The lack of oxygen made them unconscious, including the pilot. This took the plane to autopilot, it turned back to Malaysia but wasn’t able to land. It therefore moved on towards the Indian Ocean and crashed into the sea when it ran out of fuel.

Other versions of the same theory suggest that the plane was hijacked, and the hijackers purposefully created a deficiency of oxygen causing the plane to crash.

Murder Suicide by the Pilot

Many experts are certain that the pilot is behind the disappearance of the aeroplane. The theories suggest that the pilot in command, Zaharie Ahmad Shah was the only one awake. He disabled communications and drowned the plane.

An Electrical Fire

A former pilot suggests that the plane may have caught fire due to some electrical malfunction. The plane switched to autopilot because of this fire and continued towards the Indian Ocean since the passengers and crew were on fire and couldn’t land it.

A Hijacking

Some are of the opinion that the plane was hijacked and all communications were disabled. The ground control was tricked and the hijackers got away with the airplane. They say that the plane may still be out there somewhere.

Another theory suggests that the plane is hidden somewhere in Northern Pakistan, (where Osama Bin Laden hid) or hijacked by the Russian Government. The plane was hijacked for a terror attack on US but the US military shot it down. However, US has struck down this theory.

Other theories also suggest that 2 people had boarded the airplane with stolen passports. People were also not clear about the fact that everyone had boarded the plane.

Remote Take Over

According to a US patent awarded to Boeing in 2006, the commercial plane could be controlled away from the pilots in an event of a hijacking. Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad also supported this theory as he believes that the technology exists to do such a thing.

The theories struck down

The authorities were quick to strike down any theory that discredited the aviation company or the governments’ name. First, they struck down the possibility of the crew members being psychologically unwell. They said that before flight, the crew members were perfectly well. Their actions or way of talking did not indicate anything odd. Furthermore, the crew members’ behavior on CCTV footage was perfectly normal and their voice message after the flight also had nothing off about it. The crew was under no anxiety or stress according to the lead investigator.

The authorities also claimed that the plane did not catch fire. This is because evidence collected from the fragments of the airplane show that the plane was in one piece when it went into the sea.