Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Ten Days Later, Still No Answers on Whereabouts of Missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370

More than ten days after a Malaysian Airlines 777-200 vanished from radar, investigators are no closer to finding the missing airliner than they were the weekend Kuala Lumpur to Beijing Flight MH370 disappeared. Apparently the first three days were spent looking for signs of the downed airliner in the wrong ocean, as both the Malaysian and Thai military radar tracked an unidentified aircraft on a westward trajectory across the Malay peninsula shortly after air traffic controllers in Malaysia and Vietnam had lost track of MH370.

Since the March 8th disappearance, every new development has seemingly been a false lead or raised more questions than answers. Theoretically the aircraft could be on the bottom of the Indian Ocean or at a remote landing strip anywhere between Kazakhstan and the Australian Outback, but there have been no signs of the missing flight since March 8th. My pet theory about the plane being hijacked or intentionally crashed by Islamists working on behalf of Uighurs in western China seems to be not farfetched enough.

However, searchers were erroneously directed to a debris field in the South China Sea after media reports began circulating that a Chinese satellite had snapped images of what appeared to be wreckage and debris on the water- presumably from MH370. Investigators are now convinced that the missing flight banked left and continued westward in an erratic pattern long after the transponder was disabled, heading in the direction of India's remote Nicobar Islands when it was last tracked by radar. According to avionics data that was sent to the engine's manufacturer via satellite, the missing airliner was aloft for at least another four hours. However, the signals sent via satellite could not be used to pinpoint the aircraft's exact location.

Over the weekend, Malaysian officials ruled that Flight MH370's disappearance was due to a deliberate act and was treating the disappearance as a hijacking. Aviation officials believe that the aircraft flew as high as 45,000 feet- beyond the manufacturer's recommended cruising altitude- and at times as low as 4900 feet once it pivoted west.

Villagers along Malaysia's eastern coast reported to local police that they had heard what sounded like a low-flying jet the same night MH370 went missing. Authorities in the Maldives are also investigating a report that fishermen on the southern island of Kuda Huvadhoo saw a white 'jumbo jet' with red stripes flying overhead at a low altitude shortly after dawn- colors consistent with the Malaysia Airlines paint scheme.

Currently, 26 nations- including the USA- are involved in the search for the missing airliner. More than 150 of the 239 passengers and crew on board the vanished airliner were from China and that country has undertaken a search of their western territories in the event that MH370 resumed a northbound trajectory after vanishing.

Investigators are also looking at both the pilot and co-pilot. Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah had more than 30 years flight experience and had built a home-made flight simulator at his suburban Kuala Lumpur residence. On Monday, police raided Shah's residence and were combing through the flight simulator for any possible clues. Shortly after the plane's disappearance, an Australian TV report claimed that MH370's co-pilot, Fariq Abdul Hamid, had allowed an Australian woman and her friend into the cockpit during a December 2011 flight from Phuket, Thailand to Kuala Lumpur, representing a major security breach.

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