Two years since MH370: The mystery grows due to the limits of technology

Two years ago today, 239 people on board Malaysian Airlines 370 disappeared en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing


Naveed Ahmad March 08, 2016
PHOTO: REUTERS

Pakistan has experienced three deadly air crashes in recent years. Air Blue flight 202 crashed in Margalla Hills in 2010 with 152 fatalities while Bhoja Air flight 213 went down in 2012 with 127 passengers during its approach to Benazir Bhutto International Airport, Islamabad. And Pakistan grounded its aging Fokker fleet after PIA flight 688 crashed in a field in Multan with 45 people on board. The air crash investigations were duly completed identifying pilot error, hostile weather or misfit plane as contributing factors or causes for each crash. In short, everyone, from the families of the deceased to the regulator and the people of Pakistan, got the closure they needed, but this was too much to ask for in the case of Malaysian Airline flight MH 370.

MH370 families reject Malaysia’s conclusion on plane debris

Two years ago today, 239 people on board Malaysian Airlines 370 disappeared en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. “Good night. Malaysian three seven zero,” was the last voice contact with the flight 37 minutes after takeoff. For the families of those aboard the mystery airliner, the six-and-a-half hour journey is still not over. Though in January 2015, the Malaysian government officially termed the event as an ‘accident’, the families of the missing want the search to continue till they find more proofTill today there has been no sighting of usual post-crash debris, such as the plane’s body parts, lighter objects including lifesaving jackets, seats and luggage, or oil slicks. So far, only two objects associated with the missing jet have been found on the shores of distant islands. One of the parts, known as a flaperon, was found on the shore of the French-governed island Reunion, more than 2,000 miles west from the main search area, and the second piece, believed to be part of the plane’s horizontal stabilizer, was discovered by investigator Blaine Alan Gibson on a Mozambique beach. The second piece of debris is in pristine condition with no barnacles or algae which makes it inconsistent with an object that sat or floated in sea for nearly two years. Last year, a 19-member independent investigation team claimed in its 584-page report that the black-box was impossible to find for the battery in an underwater locator beacon had expired more than a year before the fateful takeoff.

Seeking to end the mystery, the Malaysian government has always been quick to claim any spotted plane debris. Thus far, a hefty sum of $100 million has been spent on scanning 75,000 kilometres of seabed with underwater drones and sonar by an Australian-led multinational team. The probe is set to end in July, whether fruitful or not.


MH370 families issue emotional plea for open-ended search

Waiting for a miracle

The mystery around MH 370 is never heard of in aviation history, except for the missing plane of legendary female pilot Amelia Earhart. Nothing could be found of her 1937doomed solo flight in the vastness of the Atlantic Ocean. Even when Air France’s Flight 447 vanished into the Atlantic Ocean on June 1, 2009, investigators managed to recover the black boxes of Airbus A330 from the ocean floor within two years.

In case of the Malaysian airliner however, there have been no clues as to where the plane might have gone down. This has raised numerous technological queries, one of them being the need to take additional measures for flight tracking. Though there was no major crash in 2015, the jetliner industry, airlines and aviation regulators worldwide have been in introspection mode.

Only 5% of the seabed has been mapped so far. The limits of technology and vastness of planet Earth continue to haunt mankind. The illusion of scientific excellence stands exposed. Even if the Beijing bound plane is found by July, the world may still not know precisely what caused the communication systems to go silent before the plane went down.

MH370 search finds new shipwreck, but no plane

Meanwhile, in Pakistan, planes continue to be flown by pilots high on alcohol and low on professionalism and wrongdoers behind poor plane maintenance continue to risk innocent lives. It’s never a good idea to wait for a disaster like MH 370 to learn simple lessons.

Naveed Ahmad is a Pakistani investigative journalist and academic with extensive reporting experience in the Middle East and North Africa. He is based in Doha and Istanbul. He tweets @naveed360

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