MH370 wreckage: The debris is from the missing plane – but there are still unanswered questions

Without the plane's black box recorder, there's some questions to which we may never know the answer

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The Independent Online

Putting an end to almost 18 months of speculation over the fate of MH370, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has confirmed that the plane debris that washed up on the island of Reunion in July does indeed come from the missing plane.

French prosecutor Serge Mackowiak essentially confirmed the Prime Minister's claims - he said there was a very strong chance that the debris was from MH370, but said he could not confirm it directly until the experts' investigations into the piece of wreckage were complete.

It will provide some closure to the families of the victims, who have been totally clueless about the fate of their loved ones since last year's disappearance.

However, while this major discovery can tell us about the final fate of the plane, there are still a lot of unanswered questions.

How come MH370 went so far off course?

MH370 was meant to be flying from Kuala Lumpur from Beijing when it disappeared, on 8 March last year.

Shortly after taking off, the plane seemed to to turn in the opposite direction - turning around over the South China Sea, before flying back over Malaysia.

It was last spotted on radar while flying over the Andaman sea, to the north of Indonesia, way off its planned route.

This last sighting of the plane came just over two hours after take off, meaning the plane could have flown for many more hours before running out of fuel.

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At first, the area where it last made contact was searched, but eventually advanced satellite data was used to conclude that the plane came down somewhere in the Indian Ocean, to the west of Australia.

This enormous search zone is almost 5,000 miles away from Beijing, in the complete opposite direction.

Quite how the plane went so far off course is unknown, and we're unlikely to ever find out unless the black box flight recorder is found - and even then, there could still be questions.

Why did it crash?

Again, since the plane went down without a trace, taking the lives of all 239 people on board with it, the series of events that lead up to the crash are unknown, and are likely to stay that way.

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French prosecutor Serge Mackowiak said that investigators are looking into terrorism or manslaughter as possible explanations

Speaking at a press conference, French prosecutor Serge Mackowiak, who is part of the MH370 investigation, said that officials are looking into manslaughter, terrorism and hijacking as possible reasons for the crash.

However, while analysis of the limited amounts of wreckage may be able to tell us a lot - such as where it crashed - the series of events on board that led to the crash are likely to remain a mystery.

Why were the plane's communications systems switched off?

MH370's Acars system, which is used to communicate with the ground, was switched off as the plane travelled out of Malaysian air traffic control's jurisdiction and into Vietnamese airspace.

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Police officers on Reunion island carry away small pieces of metallic debris, that will be examined to see if they are from MH370

There seems to be no rational explanation for this, and is a major piece of evidence in theories that say the disappearance of MH370 was malicious.

Again, without black box recordings from the cockpit, we are unlikely to know why this essential piece of equipment was turned off.

Did the pilots have anything to do with it?

After the plane's disappearance, there were some suspicions that the plane's pilots, Zaharie Ahmad Shah and Fariq Abdul Hamid, could have been behind the disappearance.

After the tragic Germanwings crash, in which mentally ill co-pilot Andreas Lubiz deliberately crashed the passenger jet into a mountain, fears grew that MH370 could have suffered a similar fate.

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Flying Officer Marc Smith from the Royal Australian Air Force searches for MH370 in March 2014.

However, extensive investigations, including searches of the pilots' homes, computers and research into their backgrounds cleared both of suspicion.

Whether MH370's crash was the result of terrorism, a hijacking, or a simple tragic accident, without the flight recorder, it will be difficult to know exactly what went on during the flight.

How can a plane just disappear?

We live in a time where missing mobile phones can easily be tracked down, and people across the world can be contacted instantaneously. Many people are baffled that a passenger aircraft with hundreds of people on board could just have vanished without a trace.

 

This technology is available now, but the Boeing 777 came into service in the mid-1990s. It is possible to fit older aircraft with newer technology that could give real-time updates on the plane's location, but it is very difficult - meaning that aircraft tend to run on the same technology for the length of their service.

Naturally, the fact that the plane's communicator was turned off as it passed into Vietnamese airspace made it difficult to detect. But whether MH370's disappearance was due to poor communication between air traffic controllers, a freak accident, or some kind of malicious attack, without more solid information, it's impossible to know.

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