Flight 370: Who, what, where, why and how?

Spe­cial fo­cus on find­ing 'black box'

Sunday World - - World -

TWO weeks into the search for Malaysia Air­lines Flight 370, the ques­tions of where, how, who and why re­main unan­swered.

“The one thing ev­ery­one wants to know is the one thing we can’t an­swer. Where the plane is.” This phrase, with slight vari­a­tions, has be­come some­thing of a daily mantra for Malaysian Trans­port Min­is­ter Hisham­mud­din Hus­sein at his press brief­ings.

The ini­tial search fo­cused on the South China Sea, which the plane had been cross­ing when it dropped off mil­i­tary radar.

Sketchy satel­lite and mil­i­tary radar data saw ef­forts switch to the In­dian Ocean-side of the Malay penin­sula where in­ves­ti­ga­tors used the data to iden­tify two gi­ant search cor­ri­dors, run­ning south into the In­dian Ocean and north over South and Cen­tral Asia. Most ex­perts favoured the south­ern cor­ri­dor, query­ing how the plane could have flown un­de­tected over the dozen or so coun­tries in the north­ern cor­ri­dor.

Re­sources were flooded into a re­mote stretch of In­dian Ocean 2 500km south­west of Perth, af­ter Aus­tralia re­leased grainy satel­lite im­ages on Thurs­day that showed what could be pieces of wreck­age.

At the limit of the plane ’ s range, the site lo­ca­tion re­in­forced the be­lief that the plane might have flown on un­til it ran out of fuel.

Chi­nese satel­lites have spotted a new ob­ject in the south­ern In­dian Ocean that could be wreck­age from a miss­ing Malaysian air­liner car­ry­ing 239 people, and ships are on their way to in­ves­ti­gate, China and Malaysia said yes­ter­day. Depend­ing on the cir­cum­stances in which the plane is found – if it is found – de­ter­min­ing what hap­pened could take years.

Mul­ti­ple sce­nar­ios ex­ist, but three dom­i­nate: hi­jack­ing, pi­lot sab­o­tage and a midair cri­sis that in­ca­pac­i­tated the flight crew and left the plane fly­ing on au­topi­lot.

Malaysian au­thor­i­ties main­tain that the plane’s move­ment af­ter it dropped off civil­ian radar, cou­pled with the dis­abling of its au­to­mated sig­nalling sys­tems, points to “de­lib­er­ate ac­tion ” by some­one on board. If the plane did crash in a re­mote area of the In­dian Ocean, the “in­ca­pac­i­tated ” crew sce­nario will likely gain trac­tion.

Many rel­a­tives of the pas­sen­gers have pushed a hi­jack­ing sce­nario in which the plane was landed some­where. But no de­mands have been made.

Back­ground checks on the 227 pas­sen­gers have come up empty.

The spot­light has been on the Malaysian cap­tain and his co-pi­lot. Po­lice searched both pi­lots ’ res­i­dences, but no ev­i­dence has emerged im­pli­cat­ing ei­ther man.

The pri­or­ity re­mains the search for the plane, with a spe­cial fo­cus on lo­cat­ing the “black box ” be­fore it stops emit­ting lo­ca­tor sig­nals af­ter 30 days.

“Of­fi­cials are prob­a­bly quite aware that the win­ter sea­son for the South­ern Ocean is ap­proach­ing,” said Greg Wal­dron, Asia man­ag­ing edi­tor of Flight­global mag­a­zine. “That is go­ing to make con­di­tions more dif­fi­cult, in what is al­ready is a bad part of the world to be mount­ing a search ef­fort.”

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