Missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370: Now we know the plane came down and hopes are extinguished, what task will be ahead?

 

Travel Correspondent

Investigations into aviation disasters are based on previous calamities, looking closely at similar losses to created hypotheses about the cause. In the past decade, there have been crashes with which MH370 shares some elements: in 2005, a Helios jet flew on across Greece on autopilot until it ran out of fuel and crashed, and in 2009 a large Air France aircraft was lost in the ocean, mid-cruise. But the circumstances of the Malaysia Airlines plane are so far beyond the experience of the aviation community that the search for clues becomes all the more critical.

As the relatives of the people aboard the lost Boeing 777 learned that their hopes had been extinguished, tangible evidence of the lost aircraft remained elusive. Military and civil aircraft continue to sweep the ocean west of Australia, with ships moving towards the search zone.

The search for traces of Air France flight 447, which crashed in the Atlantic between Rio and Paris, was challenging – but MH370 is an order of magnitude more challenging. The distance from the shore is much greater, the sea conditions much heavier and the clues about possible locations much less certain. 

A United Nations of ships, aircraft and satellites are focusing on the area: military aircraft and executive jets from Australia, a wide-bodied plane from China, naval vessels from Australia and the US Pacific Fleet as well as a Chinese icebreaker and European merchant shipping. Those are the assets we know about; they may be supplemented with intelligence from submarines, if that can be achieved without revealing the location of the clandestine vessels and their sophisticated instruments.

 

Once a fragment of debris is found, whether a seat cushion or a fragment of cargo, the search area can be narrowed down. While that goes on, the debris will be minutely examined for clues about the loss. When the crash site is finally located, the recovery of the remains of the aircraft – and the 239 people on board – can begin.

The recovery teams will home in on the flight data recorder, which keeps details of commands from the flight deck, and the cockpit voice recorder. The latter, though, may not yield many clues since it has only a two-hour capacity, and therefore cannot reveal what happened over the Gulf of Thailand.

READ MORE:  MISSING JET 'ENDED FLIGHT IN MIDDLE OF INDIAN OCEAN'
'WE ARE NOT GIVING UP', SAY OFFICIALS 
SPOTTER PLANES FAIL TO FIND ANY SIGN OF JET 
DEBRIS IN INDIAN OCEAN SPOTTED BY SATELLITE 
FOLLOWING IN THE TRAIL OF THE LOST PLANE

While the search gains intensity, so too do the theories about the cause. While some early speculation – that MH370 was shot down by a missile, or downed by a terrorist bomb – have been ruled out, conjecture is rife about the possible reason for an abrupt change of course.

One of the leading theories is that a fire broke out, and the crew responded by turning the aircraft in a bid to reach the nearest landing strip. If they were then incapacitated before broadcasting a Mayday message, the cabin crew would be unable to access the flight deck due to the locked cockpit door. Yet the fire would then need to have extinguished itself, rather than downing the aircraft.

Others point to the presumed course of the plane, which looks as though it could have been designed to minimise the chance of detection.

Yet if a human hand was involved, and passengers became aware of a sinister development, some would presumably switch on their mobile phones – a few of which would be expected to register on networks, even while briefly flying over the Malayan peninsula.

While the search continues, the mystery of MH370 is becoming to the early 21st century what the JFK assassination was to the 20th century.

News
Russia Today’s new UK channel began broadcasting yesterday. Discussions so far have included why Britons see Russia as ‘the bad guy’
news

New UK station Russia Today gives a very bizarre view of Britain

News
people
News
people
Voices
Left: An illustration of the original Jim Crowe, played by TD Rice Right: A Couple dressed as Ray and Janay Rice
voices

By performing as African Americans or Indians, white people get to play act a kind of 'imaginary liberation', writes Michael Mark Cohen

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Hand out press photograph/film still from the movie Mad Max Fury Road (Downloaded from the Warner Bro's media site/Jasin Boland/© 2014 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.)
films'You have to try everything and it’s all a process of elimination, but ultimately you find your path'
Arts and Entertainment
Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter films
books

New essay by JK Rowling went live on Pottermore site this morning

News
people

Top Gear presenter is no stranger to foot-in-mouth controversy

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch at the premiere of The Imitation Game at the BFI London Film Festival
filmsKeira Knightley tried to miss The Imitation Game premiere to watch Bake Off
News
i100
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Sales Manager - Commercial Cable & Wire - UK

    £60,000 - £75,000: Recruitment Genius: As a top tier supplier to the major Aer...

    ORNC Visitor Experience Volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary work: Old Royal Naval College: Join our team of friendly volu...

    Junior Application Support Engineer (ERP / SSRS)

    £23000 - £30000 per annum + pension, 25days holiday: Ashdown Group: An industr...

    IT Systems Analyst / Application Support Engineer (ERP / SSRS)

    £23000 - £30000 per annum + pension, 25days holiday: Ashdown Group: An industr...

    Day In a Page

    The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

    The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

    Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
    The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

    Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

    Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
    Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

    Fall of the Berlin Wall

    It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
    Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

    What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

    Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
    A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

    Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

    Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
    Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

    'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

    A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

    Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

    The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
    Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

    Paul Scholes column

    Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
    Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

    Frank Warren column

    Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
    Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

    Adrian Heath's American dream...

    Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
    Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

    Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

    Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
    Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

    A Syrian general speaks

    A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
    ‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

    ‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

    Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
    Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

    Fall of the Berlin Wall

    History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
    How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

    Turn your mobile phone into easy money

    There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes