One of the great aviation mysteries of modern times is the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 (MH 370), a flight en-route from Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia to Beijing, China. The aircraft was carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew.
MH 370, a Boeing 777 operated by Malaysia Airlines, departed Kuala Lumpur on schedule soon after midnight local time on 8 March 2014, taking a northeast course that should have resulted in an arrival at Beijing around five and a half hours later. However after some routine radio contact between the aircraft and Lumpur radar, communication was lost about 25 minutes after takeoff, and the aircraft was never seen or heard from again.
After several attempts to re-establish radio contact with the flight the Kuala Lumpur Aeronautical Rescue Coordination Centre (ARCC) was notified and a massive investigation was initiated.
Despite an international search lasting more that two years and involving several nations, including Australia, the final resting place of MH 370 has not been determined. It has been the most expensive search in aviation history.
More than a year later, in 2015, some tantalising clues emerged when some MH 370 debris were discovered on Reunion Island in the western Indian Ocean, and then again, in 2016 off the coast of Mozambique.
Many theories have been advanced as to the cause of the disappearance, with four likely causes suggested.
- The first possibility, passenger involvement, raises the possibility of a hijack, when it was discovered that two Iranian men boarded the aircraft travelling on stolen passports. However it is now believed that the two men were refugees and not terrorists.
- Crew involvement is a second possibility, with the Captain, Zaharie Ahmad Shah named as a suspect. It has been suggested that for some reason Captain Shah decided to commit suicide and deliberately flew into the ocean. However his family strongly deny that there were any issues in his life that could have triggered such a course of action.
- The third possibility involves cargo – in this case a consignment of lithium-ion batteries that was aboard the aircraft. These batteries can cause intense fires if not packaged correctly.
- Finally there is the possibility of a mechanical failure – such as a cockpit fire or depressurisation event that disabled the crew.
The search for MH 370 continued into 2018, some 4 years after the disappearance. A private US company is continuing to search – approved by the Malaysian government until June this year. However payment will only be made if the crash site is positively identified.
Image: The missing aircraft photographed taking off from Charles de Galle Airport in 2011, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.