The Malaysia Airlines plane—college research topic in aviation history

Malaysia Airlines airplanes at Kuala Lumpur International Airport, in front a Boeing 777. (Credit: Craig)

Malaysia Airlines airplanes at Kuala Lumpur International Airport, in front a Boeing 777. (Credit: Craig)

While air travel is safer than hitting the road in a car, there is always a risk of aircraft crashes. What is more unusual and shocking are the missing planes found throughout aviation history. The most recent disappearance of the Malaysia Airlines plane has left everyone baffled. What about other aircraft crashes and missing planes throughout the years — is there more to be discovered with a little research into aviation history?

Mysterious disappearance

Carrying 239 passengers on their way from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, Malaysia, Airlines Flight MH370 was last heard from March 7, 2014, at 2:40 p.m. local time (18:40 GMT Friday). When the plane went off the radar there was no distress signal and to date, no evidence of the plane or what happened to it has been found.

According to the “Disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Plane ‘Absolutely Baffling’” by Jaime Lutz on March 8, 2014, for ABC News’s blog, the plane was a Boeing 777 which has a near perfect safety record. Currently, an air and rescue team is combing the South China Sea, where the plane likely crashed, for the flight’s black box. The search area is over an area of 4,000 square miles.

Lutz says mechanical error and pilot oversight, as well as weather issues and terrorism (two passengers were traveling with stolen passports), will all be considered in the investigation of the disappearance of the Malaysia Airlines plane.

Other major aircraft crashes

World’s 10 most mysterious plane disappearances and strangest aircraft crashes,” by Mikey Smith for The Mirror on March 9, 2014, looks at other historic incidents of plane crashes and disappearances in aviation history:

10. Amelia Earhart disappears on July 2, 1937, with her navigator, Fred Noonan, while the two were attempting to circumnavigate the world.

9. An Air Force plane with legendary big-band leader Glenn Miller disappears over the English Channel on December 15, 1944.

8. The Bermuda Triangle legend takes off when a Navy flight-training mission reported being disoriented and ditched into the sea on December 5, 1945.

7.  The BSAA Star Dust disappeared on its way from Buenos Aires, Argentina, to Santiago, Chile, on August 2, 1947, but not before the “radio operator managed to send out one final cryptic Morse code message – reading ‘STENDEC’.” Fifty years later, mountaineers found fragments of the plane.

6. Another BSAA plane, The Star Tiger, adds to the legend of the Bermuda Triangle when it disappears on January 30, 1948, after being blown off course.

5. Apparently Flight 191 is not a lucky number in aviation history. At least three incidents have occurred over a 40 year period with flights with that number, including 1979 American Airlines crash and a 2012 JetBlue crash.

4. “Yet another BSAA plane, the Star Ariel, vanished during a flight from Bermuda to Jamaica on January 17th, 1949.”

3. Flight 571, a chartered Uruguayan Air Force plane carrying members of the Montevideo Rugby Union team, crashed in the Andes. Of the 45 people on the plane, 26 died in all, and the others only survived by resorting to cannibalism.

2. EgyptAir flight 990 crashed on October 31, 1999, most likely due to the conduct of Gamil el-Batouty, the co-pilot, who took the plane off autopilot and pushed the plane into a dive. The exact reasons why el-Batouty did this are unknown.

1. An Air France flight, Airbus A330, vanished over the Atlantic in 2009. The bodies of 74 passengers were never found, and it took two years to find the plane’s black box.

New clues

But even after years, new information can come out about missing planes and aircraft crashes. “Amelia Earhart Mystery: Sonar Image a New Clue to a Missing Plane?” by Ryan Lenora Brown on May 31, 2013, for The Christian Science Monitor, details efforts by The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) to solve the puzzle of what happened to Earhart.

The group has found an “anomaly” on the sea floor near the tiny South Pacific island of Nikumaroro. The group believes that this could be wreckage of Earhart’s Lockheed Electra plane. Brown writes that the group has spent “about $6 million on Earhart searches in the past 25 years, the majority of it raised from individual donors who want to be a part of solving aviation’s greatest whodunit.”

So will the disappearance of the Malaysia Airlines plane be solved, or will it go down in aviation history as another mysterious and unsolved addition to the list of missing planes and aircraft crashes? Let us know your thoughts in the comments. 

Want to learn more about transportation history? Check out Questia—particularly the section on commercial aviation.

3 replies
  1. Naomi says:

    I hope they are able to find the plane soon. I do not think a black hole sucked it in. That would mean the black hole would be too close to earth.


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