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Malaysian Airlines flight vanishes without a trace.

The date is 8th March 2014, Flight MH370 is scheduled to fly from Kuala Lumpur International Airport to Beijing International Airport. The aircraft is a Boeing 777-200ER registered as 9M-MRO and was around 12 years old.

There were 227 passengers and 12 crew members on board. The flight departed Kuala Lumpur from Runway 32R at 00:41 local time. Approximately 1 minute after departure the flight was cleared to FL180 and instructed to fly direct to IGARI waypoint. This waypoint is just off the North East coast of Malaysia.

Map showing the approximate location of IGARI Waypoint

On route flight, MH370 was handed off to Lumpur Radar and cleared to FL250. Finally at 00:50 just 9 minutes after departure was cleared to its cruise altitude of FL350. The flight seemed to be progressing as normal and reported to be at cruise level at 01:07.

The last contact with MH370 was at 01:19 when a Kuala Lumpur Radar controller instructed the flight to contact Ho Chi Minh Air Traffic Control Centre, “Malaysian Three Seven Zero contact Ho Chi Minh 120 decimal 9 Good Night”. One of the flight crew members replied: “Good night, Malaysian Three Seven Zero.”

A controller in Kuala Lumpur reported seeing the aircraft on radar at 01:21, seconds later it disappeared from radar screens. The transponder was switched off or had failed altogether.

No contact was made by the crew of MH370 almost 20 minutes after being instructed to contact Ho Chi Minh Centre a controller contacted Kuala Lumpur to determine where the flight was.

Reports state the aircraft flew in a westerly direction back over the peninsula of Malaysia before heading northwest. Primary radar showed the aircraft passed along waypoints VAMPI, MEKAR & IGOGU on a section of Airway N571. The last contact on primary radar was at 02:22.

Possible Route of Flight MH370 – Image courtesy of Andrew Heneen

Further data was sent from the aircraft’s SATCOM system and the Inmarsat ground station. The last data was received over 7 hours after the flight departed. but where was flight MH370?

Search efforts where launched.

Aircraft don’t just vanish, search and rescue efforts where launched along its planned flight route across the South China Sea, nothing was located and one week later attention turned to the Southern Indian Ocean.

News reports had been circulating of sighting of a low flying aircraft that matched the description of flight MH370. On the 19th March, reports from fishermen and an oil rig worker and people on the Kuda Huvadhoo atoll in the Maldives saw the missing airliner. A fisherman claimed to have seen an unusually low-flying aircraft off the coast of Kota Bharu, further to this the oil-rig worker 186 miles (299 km) southeast of Vung Tau claimed he saw a “burning object” in the sky that morning. 2 days after these reports a woman claimed to see the downed airliner in the water near the Andaman Islands not far from where the flight was last seen on Primary Radar.

In the period of the 18th March to 28th of April 19 ships and 345 military flights searched for the missing airliner.

US Navy P-8 Poseidon – Photography of Darren Koch

In January 2017 almost 3 years after the disappearance official searches were suspended. Cited as the most expensive search in aviation history. One year later a private US marine exploration company conducted further searches and area of 43,000 square miles were searched and in June 2018 the search was concluded without success.

Unknown Wreckage.

By October 2017 some twenty pieces of unidentifiable wreckage had been recovered from beaches around the West Indian Ocean. Of these pieces, 18 had been identified as very likely or almost certain to have come from Flight MH370. These pieces included a starboard flaperon trailing edge surface. Other parts include parts of the right stabilizer and parts of the right-wing.

Unidentified Wing Parts believed to be from MH370.

Conclusions & Theories

A final report was published by The Malaysian ICAO Annex 13 Saftey investigation team for MH370 on the 2nd July 2018

The team based on all the evidence was unable to conclude the cause for the disappearance.

Some theories include.

  • Passenger Interference – Two men allegedly boarded flight MH370 with stolen Passports
  • Crew Involvement – The pilot and crew backgrounds and financial history was scrutinised during the investigation although the only finding was a flight simulation closely matching the route MH370 flew the night it disappeared.
  • Cargo – 10806kg of cargo was on board the flight of interest was 221kg of Lithium-ion batteries but as they had been packed following IATA guidelines these were not classified or manifested as dangerous goods.
  • Power Interruption – At some point between 01:07 and 02:03, power was lost to the SDU.  At 02:25, the aircraft’s SDU sent a “log-on request”. It is not common for a log-on request to be made in-flight, but it could occur for multiple reasons. As the power interruption was not due to engine flame-out as per ATSB, it may have been the result of manually switching off the aircraft’s electrical system. 
  • Unresponsive Crew or Hypoxia – The theory points to a loss of cabin pressure however there is no consensus amongst investigators to prove this. However, this has happened before in the event of Helios Flight 522 

 

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