The mystery behind missing plane Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 has gotten more complex as investigating officials find further information. The revelation that two passengers were traveling on stolen passports, their tickets purchased by an Iranian middleman, had some speculating that the flight’s disappearance was a terrorist act. Officials, who believe that terrorists are not involved, are using new data to broaden their search for the Boeing 777, which may have been deliberately diverted toward the Andaman Islands by an experienced pilot. The ongoing investigation of the Malaysia Airlines missing plane may provide good research topics in transportation safety and its implications for commercial aviation.
Timeline for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
- Events related to the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 began on Thursday, March 6, when Iranian man Kazem Ali purchased two tickets for the flight for two Iranian men using stolen passports. Though Interpol has discovered the identity of the two passengers, it is still uncertain how their presence on the plane may relate to its disappearance.
- On Saturday, March 8, at 12:41 a.m. local time, Flight 370 took off from Kuala Lumpur. Its destination was Beijing, and it was expected to arrive at 6:30 a.m. There were 239 people on board: 227 passengers and 12 crew, with 5 passengers under the age of 5 and more than half the passengers on board being Chinese/Taiwanese. Other nationalities included Malaysian, Indian, Indonesian, American, Russian and Canadian.
- Around 1:30 a.m., traffic controllers lost contact with the plane after the transponder shut down or was shut off.
- Around 2:40 a.m., radar lost contact with an unidentified aircraft, now believed to be Flight 370. It was dramatically off course, and was flying over Pulau Perak in the Strait of Malacca.
As Ginny Gaylor noted in her iCitations blog post for Questia on March 11, 2014, “The Malaysia Airlines plane—college research topic in aviation history,” initially, it was expected that the plane had crashed, despite the Boeing 777’s “near perfect safety record.”
Change in flight path
As the investigation continued, however, the realization was made that the unidentified aircraft on the radar was likely to be Flight 370, despite being so far from the plane’s initial course. Officials expanded the search into the Indian Ocean, on the other side of the Malay Peninsula from where their search began. The plane executed evasive maneuvers to avoid radar detection, leading investigators to believe that one or both of the pilots—who between them have over 20,000 flying hours—might have been the cause behind the disappearance.
“Two sources said an unidentified aircraft that investigators believe was Flight MH370 was following a route between navigational waypoints when it was last plotted on military radar off the country’s northwest coast,” Niluksi Koswanage and Siva Govindasamy reported for Reuters in a March 14, 2014, article, “Exclusive: Radar data suggests missing Malaysia plane deliberately flown way off course.” They continued, “This indicates that it was either being flown by the pilots or someone with knowledge of those waypoints, the sources said.”
The fact that the plane lost communication also indicates that someone turned off the communications systems. But despite the deliberate nature of the changed flight path and the drop in communication, officials remain inclined to believe that it is not an act of terror. “They have found no link between the passengers [traveling under stolen passports] and known terrorist groups and that the plane could have been flown into a densely populated area if the incident was related to terrorism — but it wasn’t,” ABCNews contributors Gloria Rivera and her team explained on March 15, 2014, in “Malaysia Airlines jet made ‘tactical aviation maneuvers’: Law enforcement officials.”
Some investigators have speculated that the plane was making its way toward the Andaman Islands. The small chain off the coast of India does have a runway large enough for a Boeing 777 to land—but how would you hide the landing of a Boeing 777?
Tracking down the missing plane has become an international effort. Kelly Riddell of the Washington Times reported in “Missing Malaysian airliner: ‘There isn’t anything strange about this’,” on March 11, 2014, before the search area was expanded, “About 50 ships and 34 aircraft from nine countries are sweeping the Gulf of Thailand and the South China Sea near Vietnam.” That includes two U.S. destroyers that are aiding in the effort. “Helicopters on the destroyers capable of nighttime searches also are being used,” Riddell explained.
Despite the dramatic search efforts, officials have warned family members of the missing passengers to prepare for the worst.
What do you think happened on Malaysia Airlines Flight 370? Tell us in the comments.