MH370 disappeared ten years ago and search for the plane may be renewed. Here’s what we know about one of aviation’s biggest mysteries

People look at a banner with good wishes for the passengers of missing Malaysia Airlines plane MH370 at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in 2014. Photo by Edgar Su/Reuters

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Ten years ago on March 8, a Malaysia Airlines flight disappeared without a trace, becoming one of aviation’s biggest mysteries.

Investigators still don’t know exactly what happened to the plane and its 239 passengers. But the Malaysian government said on Sunday it could resume the hunt for MH370 after a US maritime robotics company that tried to find the plane in 2018 proposed a new search.

A large-scale multinational search in the southern Indian Ocean, where the plane is believed to have crashed, turned up nothing. Apart from some small fragments that washed up later, no bodies or wreckage were ever found.

Here’s what we know about the deadly aviation tragedy.

What is known about the disappearance of MH370?

The Boeing 777 plane disappeared from air control radar 39 minutes after it left Kuala Lumpur en route to Beijing on March 8, 2014.

The pilot sent a final radio call to Kuala Lumpur before leaving Malaysia – “Good Night Malaysian Three Seven Zero” – but failed to check in with air traffic controllers in Ho Chi Minh City as the plane entered Vietnam’s airspace.

Minutes later, the plane’s transponder – a communications system that transmits the plane’s location to air traffic control – was disabled. Military radar spotted the plane turning around and flying over the Andaman Sea before disappearing. Satellite data showed it continued flying for hours, possibly until it ran out of fuel. The plane is believed to have crashed in a remote part of the southern Indian Ocean.

READ MORE: Five years later, Malaysia is open to proposals to resume the hunt for MH370

Theories about what happened on board range from hijacking to loss of oxygen in the cabin to power outages. But there was no distress call, no ransom demand, nor bad weather or indications of technical glitches. Malaysian security investigators cleared everyone on board in a 2018 report, but did not rule out “unlawful interference.”

The Malaysian government has said someone deliberately cut communications with the ground and diverted the plane.

WHO IS ON THE PLANE?

The plane was carrying 227 passengers, including five young children, and twelve crew members. Most of the people on board were from China, but there were also people from other countries, including the United States, Indonesia, France and Russia.

The passengers included two young Iranian men who used stolen passports to seek a new life in Europe; a group of Chinese calligraphy artists returning from an exhibition of their work; 20 employees of the American technology company Freescale Semiconductor; a stunt double for actor Jet Li; families with young children; and a Malaysian couple on a long-delayed honeymoon. Many families lost several members in the tragedy.

WHAT EFFORTS HAVE BEEN MADE TO FIND THE AIRPLANE?

Dozens of ships and planes from several countries started the search between Malaysia and Vietnam in the South China Sea, before moving to the Andaman Sea and the Indian Ocean.

Australia then led, along with Malaysia and China, the largest and most expensive underwater search ever undertaken, covering some 120,000 square kilometers (46,000 sq mi) of seabed off the coast of Western Australia, using aircraft, ships equipped to pick up sonar signals, and robotic submarines.

READ MORE: After three years, the hunt for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 is suspended

Search ships detected ultrasonic signals possibly coming from the plane’s black box and shipwrecks believed to be 19th-century merchant ships, but never found the plane. In July 2015, a fragment later confirmed as a flaperon from Flight 370 was found on the French island of Réunion in the western Indian Ocean, the first hard evidence that MH370 ended its flight in the Indian Ocean. Later, several more pieces of debris were found washed up on the east coast of Africa. The search was suspended in January 2017.

US marine robotics company Ocean Infinity picked up the search in January 2018 under a “no find, no fee” contract with Malaysia, focusing on an area north of the earlier search, identified through a debris drift survey . But it ended unsuccessfully a few months later.

WHY IS THE SEARCH SO DIFFICULT?

One reason such an extensive search yields no clues is that no one knows exactly where to look. The Indian Ocean is the third largest in the world and the search was conducted in a difficult area, where searchers encountered bad weather and an average depth of about 4 kilometers (2.5 miles).

It is not common for planes to disappear into the deep sea, but when they do, the remains can be very difficult to find. According to the Aviation Safety Network, dozens of aircraft have disappeared over the past fifty years.

WHAT’S NEXT?

The Malaysian government has consistently said it will only resume the hunt if there is credible new evidence. It is now considering an Ocean Infinity proposal for a new search using new technology, although it is unclear whether the company has new evidence of the plane’s location.

Many families who have lost people in the disappearance remain steadfast in their search for answers. They argue that the mystery must be solved, not only to achieve personal closure, but also to prevent future disasters.

The disaster also contributed to the improvement of aviation safety. From 2025, the International Civil Aviation Organization will require fighter jets to carry a device that broadcasts their position every minute if they encounter trouble, so authorities can locate the plane if a disaster strikes. The devices are activated automatically and cannot be turned off manually. But the rule only applies to new jets — not the thousands of older planes still in service.

Leave a Comment