From dis­as­ter to mys­tery ...De­spite the black box, we may never know why Flight 370 dis­ap­peared

Daily Trust - - DIGEST -

In spite of promis­ing pings thi ast week, the search for and pos­si­ble re­trieval of the black box and other re­mains of Malaysian Air­ways Flight 370 may con­tinue for some time. A 24-hour news cy­cle cou­pled with an over­con­fi­dence in mod­ern tech­nol­ogy can lead us to ex­pect clo­sure and an­swers just around the cor­ner.

His­tory and logic teach a dif­fer­ent les­son. Ter­ri­ble ac­ci­dents can re­main mys­ter­ies for decades or more, and mod­ern foren­sic tech­niques are no panacea.

When the ocean liner Ti­tanic went down af­ter col­lid­ing with an ice­berg in 1912, the lo­ca­tion of its sink­ing was wit­nessed by hun­dreds of sur­vivors watch­ing from lifeboats. Still, it took un­til 1985 for the wreck­age to be lo­cated in the 12,000-foot-deep wa­ters of the North At­lantic.

The seven decades of failed at­tempts be­tween ac­ci­dent and dis­cov­ery were at­trib­uted to such fac­tors as er­ro­neous lo­ca­tion data sent out by the crew as the ship sank. When the wreck­age was fi­nally lo­cated by means of un­der­wa­ter cam­eras, it proved to be more than ten miles away from the pre­sumed lo­ca­tion.

When, and if, the wreck­age of Malaysia Air Flight 370 is found, we can ex­pect it will be gone over with a fine-tooth comb in a search for clues as to what might have hap­pened to the air­craft’s struc­ture. Metal fa­tigue will un­ques­tion­ably be looked to as one of the pos­si­ble mech­a­nisms by which the fuse­lage might have been sud­denly de­pres­sur­ized.

The con­stant cov­er­age is giv­ing false hope that Malaysian Air­lines Flight 370 will be found soon, but his­tory has taught us that dis­as­ters of this na­ture can re­main mys­ter­ies for decades.

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