Malaysia Airlines Flight 370: Where's the body of evidence?
PAF plane joins search for missing Malaysia jet. The crew of a Philippine Air Force C-130 plane based in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan flies over the southwest part of the West Philippine Sea to help in the search of the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370. Several countries have joined the search for the plane which disappeared on March 8 while on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. Wescom-PAO
Nearly a week after Malaysia Airlines flight 370 jet vanished, no definitive evidence has yet been uncovered as to its final fate.
A dozen countries with 42 ships and 39 aircraft are currently on the hunt, searching 100 nautical miles from where the plane had disappeared. Search parties were also sent to the Strait of Malacca in the possibility that the plane turned back after they lost contact.
Numerous partial reports have been presented, false leads debunked, conspiracy theories aired. Yet the question remains unanswered: What happened to MH370?
Disintegrated or plummeted?
For lack of any conclusive evidence, a host of theories have emerged over the possible causes of the plane's disappearance. Among them are pilot error, mechanical malfunction, and terrorism.
But whatever the cause, there are only two likely outcomes: either the plane disintegrated mid-air or nose-dived into the sea.
An infographic by the South China Morning Post showed that disintegration caused by an explosion or a technical failure may have led small debris to spread over tens of kilometers of extended area. These remains would be more difficult to find.
"Without a concentrated pattern, (it would be) difficult to spot the wreckage," the SCMP explained.
On the other hand, if the plane plummeted nose first into the sea, the debris would be confined to a small area and will be easier to find.
In a previous report, pilots and aviation experts said an explosion on board appeared to be the likely cause of the disaster. The plane was at cruising altitude, the safest phase of flight, and likely would have been on autopilot.
"It was either an explosion, lightning strike or severe decompression," said a former Malaysia Airlines pilot. "The 777 can fly after a lightning strike and even severe decompression. But with an explosion, there is no chance. It is over."
The fact that no distress signal was sent from the lost plane also seems to indicate a sudden catastrophic failure or explosion.
However, a mid-air explosion should have been detected by satellites. The United States extensively reviewed imagery taken by spy satellites for evidence of a mid-air explosion, but saw none, a US government source said. The source described US satellite coverage of the region as "thorough."
On the other hand, if MH370 didn't explode in mid-air and instead plummeted directly into the sea, it remains a mystery why the crew did not issue a distress call in the minutes before impact.
Also, how come such a large object as a 209-foot-long (63.7m-long) Boeing 777-200 airplane could not be found despite intensive search efforts.
Late Wednesday, March 12, the Chinese government released satellite photos of three objects in the waters between Malaysia and Vietnam that were initially believed to be wreckage from the plane. However, as of late Thursday, China's civil aviation chief, Li Jiaxiang, said there was no proof that the objects were connected to the missing aircraft.
Meanwhile, a CNN report pointed out that search efforts have been expanded beyond the most probable areas of the plane crash.
“Authorities began focusing on a stretch of sea around the mouth of the Gulf of Thailand, near the plane's last known position. But they have since expanded search efforts farther west, off the other coast of the Malaysian Peninsula and north into the Andaman Sea, part of the Indian Ocean. And the more time passes, the more ocean currents will move things around, complicating the investigators' task,” the report said.
The search area has been expanded from 50 nautical miles to 100 nautical miles from where the plane disappeared. Search teams have also been deployed to the Strait of Malacca, in case the plane turned southward.
Until the debris of the plane has been found, what happened to the MH370 flight will likely remain a mystery.
Similarity to Air France Flight 447
The Malaysia Airlines disappearance is dubbed an 'unprecedented mystery', but the incident is closely compared with the Air France Flight 447 disaster that killed 228 people on board. The Airbus330 was set to fly from Rio de Janeiro to Paris, but plunged into the Atlantic Ocean in 2009.
A Time report said that it took a full five days before search and rescue teams found the wreck and another three years for investigators to report that ice crystals had caused the autopilot to disconnect.
Both Malaysia Airlines and Air France jets were at cruising altitude of 35,000 feet, where aviation experts have said that catastrophic accidents are rare. Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777-200 and Air France Airbus A330 have good safety records, CTV News reported.
However, there were no storms reported on Malaysia Airlines' MH370 path when the plane lost contact on Saturday. The Air France flight, on the other hand, had run into bad thunderstorms and stalled.
The Air France jet crashed farther away from land, while the Malaysia Airlines jet seems to have disappeared closer to land.
The final report into the Air France disaster said that it was was doomed by a combination of ice buildup, mechanical failure and pilot error, the CTV News report said. — TJD, GMA News