BY HUGO ODIOGOR
Seventeen days after it went missing, mystery still trailed the missing Malaysian Boeing 777 aircraft as Prime Minister Najib Razak announced that a new analysis of satellite data received yesterday indicated that flight MH370 crashed in the southern Indian Ocean
The global search for the Malaysian plane with 230 persons on board still remains nerve wrecking as the location of the plane has not been found.
No fewer than 26 nations have pored over radar data and scoured a wide swath of Asia for weeks with advanced aircraft and ships in a deeply frustrating attempt to find the plane.
The search for the missing plane was the biggest since the 2009 massive hunt for Air France 447, which crashed into the sea with 228 persons.
In a brief press statement yesterday Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said the information on the plane was based on an unprecedented study of data from a satellite that had received the final known signals from the plane.
The location of Flight 370 itself still unknown, most likely somewhere at the bottom of the sea, profound questions remain about what brought down the aircraft and why. But the statement was the first major step toward resolving a 2-week-old mystery that has consumed the world.
The Malaysia Airlines plane which went missing on March 8, 2014 was found to have crashed into a remote corner of the Indian Ocean.
Agonies, frustrations and relief welled up as families of the unfortunate victims of the flight and the search teams from Asia, Europe and America that have deployed all that technology could offer to resolve one of the most nerve wracking searches for air mishaps.
Officials have said the plane automatically sent a brief signal — a “ping” — every hour to a satellite belonging to Inmarsat, a British company, even after other communication systems on the jetliner shut down.
The pings did not include any location information, but an initial analysis showed that the location of the last ping was probably along one of two vast arcs running north and south.
Najib said Inmarsat had done further calculations “using a type of analysis never before used in an investigation of this sort,” and had concluded that the plane’s last position was “in the middle of the Indian Ocean, west of Perth.”
He gave no indication of exactly where in the Indian Ocean the plane was last heard from, or what the next step in finding it would be. The grueling hunt could take years, or the plane’s main fuselage may never be found at all.
The plane’s disappearance shortly after takeoff from Kuala Lumpur on a routine flight to Beijing has baffled investigators, who have yet to rule out mechanical or electrical failure, hijacking, sabotage, terrorism or issues related to the mental health of the pilots or someone else on board.
The news of the discovery of crucial information on the missing plane brought the dreaded reality to families with persons on the flight. In Beijing, relatives of the crash victims sobbed uncontrollably as their grief came pouring out after days of waiting for definitive word on the fate of their relatives aboard the missing plane.
Speculations abound on what may have happened to the air craft which investigators are looking possible terrorist attack. In fact no less personality than media mogul Rupert Murdoch was among those who supported the theory that the plane may have been diverted.
Two passengers were believed to have travelled with stolen Italian and Austrian passports. Malaysian authorities have said that evidence so far suggests the plane was deliberately turned back across Malaysia to the Strait of Malacca, with its communications systems disabled.
Yesterday, planes and ships from Australia to China were crisscrossing the southern part of the ocean after multiple satellites had detected objects that could have been possible remains of the lost airliner.
The search is now considered a race against time because of the battery life of the “pinger” in the black box, which may run out in the next two weeks.
An Australian Defence official said a navy support vessel, the Ocean Shield, left Perth yesterday heading toward s the search zone and was expected to arrive in three or four days. The ship is equipped with acoustic detection equipment that can search for the black box.
The U.S. Pacific Command said it is also sending a black box locator in case a debris field is located.
The Towed Pinger Locator, which is pulled behind a vessel at slow speeds, has highly sensitive listening capability that can hear the black box pinger down to a depth of about 20,000 feet .
U.S. Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes yesterday stopped short of saying the U.S. had independent confirmation of the status of the missing airliner. He noted the conclusion of Malaysian authorities that the Boeing 777 had plunged into the Indian Ocean and said the U.S., which has been assisting the search effort, was focused on that southern corridor of the ocean.
Earlier yesterday, Malaysia’s police chief, Inspector General Khalid Abu Bakar, reiterated that all the passengers had been cleared of suspicion. But he said the pilots and crew were still being investigated. He would not comment on whether officials had recovered the files that were deleted a month earlier from the home flight simulator of the chief pilot.
Conspiracy theories surrounding Flight MH370
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak raised the prospect of hijacking more than a week ago based on the belief that someone in the flight deck had turned off all communications under duress.
This can possible be ruled out following the latest announcement – why would a hijacker order a Malaysian Airlines jet to fly to the southern Indian Ocean?
Media magnet, Rupert Murdoch was among the notable figures that linked the missing plane to a possible Al-Qaeda attack. The discovery that two passengers had stolen passports issued by Austria and Italy strengthened this theory but at press time, everyone on board has been cleared of terrorist backgrounds and what was the purpose without a political or terrorist group claiming responsibility?
This theory became strong when it was alleged that computer was used to divert the plane from its course and it flew below radar detection. The puzzle now it whether a passenger with a laptop computer was able to hack into the aircraft’s controls and render it useless in the hands of the pilot?
Experts argue that this would have been a complex scheme that would require a computer genius with a knowledge of that particular aircraft’s controls – but why use those seemingly impossible skills to send the plane off on a flight to nowhere?
There is the angle of whether the aircraft developed a mechanical fault and the pilot decided to return to base. But the fact that no distress call was made and there was a communication blackout before the plane could enter Vietnam’s airspace puts a hole on this theory. Another potential explanation is that everything broke down except for the ‘clever’ aircraft’s autopilot that kept it on a westward course, away from any country’s radar, until it ran out of fuel and plunged into the Pacific Ocean.
A SUBTLE CRACKING OF THE AIRCRAFT FRAME
This could have lead to a slow decompression that rendered everyone unconscious after putting them in an incapacitating daze.
This, included in a warning by Boeing that said corrosion might occur on some models of the jet, might account for the pilot on another plane hearing the mumbled voice of Fariq over the air waves. This condition, hypoxia – oxygen starvation – might have led to the pilots fumbling with the controls, making mistakes and being unable to issue a MAYDAY before they passed out, turning MH370 into a ghost flight.
Another convincing theory.
One or both of the pilots – Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah and co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid – had deliberately shut down the communications and set the jet on a course into the Pacific.
This can again potentially be ruled out as it again raises the question – for what purpose?
Another theory is human error, although the 53-year-old pilot, Zaharie Ahmad Shah, has more than 18,000 flying hours and has been flying for the airline since 1981
Did one of the pilots subdue the other in a determined attempt to kill himself along with all on board? Nothing in their personalities shows that – but if he was going to do that, why not send the aircraft into a death plunge shortly after take-off? Why keep on flying for up to seven hours until the aircraft ran out of fuel?
THEFT OF THE AIRCRAFT
Another theory is that the captain practised landing on a remote airstrip on his home-based flight recorder after being offered a fantastic sum of money by a criminal group who planned to repaint the aircraft and use it for a terrorist attack.
Nothing has been found to incriminate the captain – and what were the thieves going to do with more than 200 angry passengers? This can again possibly be ruled out following the latest announcement.