By Douglas Cohn and Eleanor Clift
WASHINGTON – At this writing, Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, a Boeing 777-200 plane with 239 passengers and crew aboard, has not been found, in part because so much misinformation has abounded – information that apparently sent search planes and ships looking in the wrong areas.
What is known is that the plane took off from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, heading for Beijing early Saturday morning and disappeared from civilian radar at 1:30 a.m., possibly because its transponder was turned off. The plane was then flying over the Gulf of Thailand between Malaysia and Vietnam. Meanwhile, Malaysian military radar, which does not rely on transponders, continued to track what was believed to be the plane, and those authorities state that Flight 370 changed course from north-northeast to due west back over Malaysia and over the Strait of Malacca. The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board has confirmed this, and the White House announced that new areas of search are being explored, clearly meaning the Strait of Malacca, the adjacent Andaman Sea, and the Bay of Bengal, a branch of the Indian Ocean.
With these few facts, investigators are left to surmise the possible causes for the disappearance, including an internal terrorist act by a crew member or an external terrorist act by any number of groups or individuals. The most revealing fact is that the plane dramatically changed direction, which rules out a sudden catastrophic event such as extreme mechanical failure or an explosion, though either of these could have occurred later on.
On June 1, 2009, an Air France Airbus A330 disappeared off the coast of Brazil while en route to Paris, and five days elapsed before floating debris was spotted, including a highly visible tail section. That event is being noted as an explanation of the difficulty in spotting debris in vast oceans, but there is nothing vast about the Strait of Malacca, one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes. This, then, would tend to lead toward the Bay of Bengal as the primary search area for Flight 370, assuming that the plane did actually go down in water.
The Malaysian military radar information reinforces the terrorism theories, but does not explain why no terrorist group has claimed credit. This opens up the possibility that some terrorist organization will yet come forward, possibly after committing other atrocities. Or, it is possible that an unaffiliated terrorist or rogue crew member was involved, and he or she has either hijacked the plane or gone down with it.
We do know that no other nation has come forward to state that its military radar picked up the flight once it re-crossed Malaysia, which, of course, only deepens the mystery. Countries bordering the Bay of Bengal, Andaman Sea, and the western portion of the Strait of Malacca are Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Myanmar (Burma), Bangladesh, India, and Sri Lanka, and several of these nations have joined with the U.S., Malaysia, and China in the search.
However this ends, changes will be made to transmission equipment, transmission monitoring, and nation-to-nation coordination and information sharing. Certainly in this era of satellites and electronic data collection technology, it should be possible to prevent such a disappearance from ever occurring again.
© 2014 U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.
Distributed by U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.