By Wesley Satterwhite,
International News Writer
Two weeks ago, Malaysian Airlines flight 370 took off from Kuala Lumpur with a final destination of Beijing. It never made it to China and is now the longest missing civil aircraft disappearance in history.
MH 370, a Boeing 777- 200ER, took off 24:14 local time on March 8, 2014. 227 passengers were onboard, along with a crew of 12. At 01:17 the aircraft made its final data transmission. At 01:19, Co-Pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid told Malaysian air traffic controllers, “All right, good night.” The final transponder contact with MH 370 was at 01:21, and then it was turned off. No other contact was made since then.
Unconfirmed media reports claim that the aircraft climbed to 45,000 feet after it lost radar contact. This altitude is well above the maximum altitude for a Boeing 777 aircraft. It then descended to 23,000 feet and is believed to have been flying at 29,000 when final contact was lost.
Following MH 370’s disappearance on March 8, the search began in the Gulf of Thailand. It was there that the Vietnamese navy claimed to have seen oil slicks. These oil slicks tested negative for aviation fuel. On March 9, more debris was found south of Thailand’s Thổ Chu Island. This too proved to be inconclusive.
What has followed has been arguably the largest ever multinational air and sea search. The total area involved in the search is an estimated 30 million square millions, a tenth of Earth’s total land area. Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has said that 14 countries, 43 ships, and 58 aircraft are involved.
The disappearance has led to numerous theories. Everything from terrorism, hijacking and meteorites has been discussed.
At the beginning of the investigation, the focus was on the passengers. 15 nationalities are represented on MH 370, with two-thirds of the passengers coming from China.
Following the disappearance, it was discovered that an Austrian and Italian national were on board. It turned out that these were stolen passports after Austrian citizen Christian Kozel and Italian Luigi Maraldi were surprised to find out that they were dead, having reported their passports missing in Thailand. Two Iranian men used their passports to board the flight. It is thought that the two were looking to seek asylum in Europe, their final destinations.
The focus then shifted to the pilots. It takes expertise and training to turn off an aircraft transponder, making those in the cockpit possible suspects for foul play. The plane’s flight management system was also altered to change the course of the aircraft. This system is in between the captain and first officer in the cockpit.
The Malaysian government has stressed that the Captain, Zaharie Ahmad Shah, was a “political fanatic” of jailed opposition leader Anwar Ibrahin, a pro-democracy figure in Malaysian politics. Many see this as an attempt to smear Shah, who is related to Ibrahin.
A flight simulator was taken from the home of Shah, but has not come up with all interesting data. Shah is an 33-year veteran of the airline with over 18,000 flight hours.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, Mar. 25 print edition.
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