Mystery surrounds the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370. Here’s what is known about the flight and its disappearance and the passengers who used stolen passports.
Where and when did the plane go missing?
- Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 was scheduled to fly from the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur, to Beijing in China on Saturday March 8.
- It disappeared two hours into the scheduled six-hour flight.
- Two hours into the flight on a bearing of 023 degrees, the aircraft should have been in the vicinity of Vung Tau, Vietnam.
- The plane last had contact with air traffic controllers when it was over the Gulf of Thailand at 2:40am local time on Saturday (5:40am AEDT).
- At that time the aircraft went missing the plane was 120 nautical miles off the town of Kota Bharu, on Malaysia’s east coast.
- Flight tracking website http://www.flightaware.com showed it took off, flew to the north-east whilst climbing to 35,000 feet (10,670 metres) and was still climbing when it vanished from tracking records and radar screens.
- Earlier today Malaysian military sources are suggesting that an uncconfirmed aircraft was noted over the Straits of Malacca. Malaysia’s air force chief is now denying remarks attributed to him that a missing Malaysia Airlines plane was tracked by military radar to the Strait of Malacca, far from its planned route.Rodzali Daud said such reports in local media were untrue, but it is possible the plane had turned back.
Was there any sign of trouble?
- No distress signals were received before the plane disappeared, and there were no reports of bad weather.
- Royal Malaysian Air Force chief Rodzali Daud says radar data shows the aircraft may have turned back from its scheduled route to Beijing.
- “We looked back at the recording and there is an indication, a possible indication, that the aircraft made a turn-back and we are trying to make sense of this,” he said.
Were there any suspicious circumstances?
- Two passengers on the plane were travelling on stolen passports, which added to the mystery surrounding the plane’s disappearance.
- However, Interpol secretary general Ronald Noble says he does not believe the disappearance of the plane was a terrorist incident.
- “The more information we get, the more we are inclined to conclude it is not a terrorist incident,” he said.
- Persons travelling of invalid travel documents in itself is not an indication of anything other than they were travelling on stolen pasports.
Who was travelling on the stolen passports?
- One of the men travelling on the stolen passports has been identified as Pouria Nour Mohammad Mehrdad, an Iranian citizen who Malaysian police say was trying to migrate to Germany illegally.
- Authorities say he is not likely to have been a member of a terrorist group. His mother was expecting him in Frankfurt.
- They say both men travelling with stolen passports arrived in Malaysia on February 28.
- The other man was also Iranian; his identity has not been released to the public.
- The stolen passports had belonged to Austrian Christian Kozel and Italian Luigi Maraldi, neither of whom was on the plane.
- Both men have said their passports were stolen in Thailand – Mr Kozel’s in 2012 and Mr Maraldi’s in 2013.
- The men using the false passports bought their tickets together in Thailand and were due to fly on to Europe from Beijing, meaning they did not have to apply for a Chinese visa and undergo further checks of their bonafides.
- The fact that men were on this flight does not mean they were terrorists.
- Interpol maintains a database of more than 40 million lost and stolen travel documents, and has encouraged countries to make greater use of it to stop people from using false ID to cross borders.
- It confirmed that Mr Kozel’s and Mr Maraldi’s passports had both been added to the database but said no country had consulted the database to check either of them since the time they were stolen.
- Malaysian officials have launched a review of the country’s airport security screening processes.
Have any traces of the plane been found?
- Malaysian investigators say they have not found anything of signifance or anything that could be parts of the missing plane.
- Two large oil slicks, which authorities suspected may have been caused by jet fuel, were detected off the coast of Vietnam but tests have shown the oil was a type used by ships.
- Dozens of military and civilian vessels have been criss-crossing waters beneath the aircraft’s flight path, and Australia has committed two RAAF P-3C maritime surveillance aircraft to help with the search.
What could have happened to the plane?
- Malaysian civil aviation chief Azharuddin Abdul Rahman says officials are not ruling out any possibility, including hijacking.
- A lack of a distress call suggests the plane either experienced an explosive decompression or was destroyed by an explosive device.
- Geoffrey Thomas, the editor of airlineratings.com stated “There are not very many options here as to what could’ve happened. It’s either a bomb or it’s structural failure.”
- A source involved in the investigations in Malaysia told Reuters the fact no debris had been found “appears to indicate that the aircraft is likely to have disintegrated at around 35,000 feet”. The source said that if the plane had plunged intact from close to its cruising altitude, breaking up only on impact with the water, search teams would have expected to find a fairly concentrated pattern of debris. Asked about the possibility of an explosion, such as a bomb, the source said there was no evidence yet of foul play and that the aircraft could have broken up due to mechanical causes.
- Jason Middleton, the head of the School of Aviation at the University of New South Wales, suggests the following possible causes:
- Weather and environment – very unlikely, as the weather seemed benign. Space junk or asteroid strike are also very remote possibilities.
- Pilot error – very unlikely in cruise unless some serious malfunctions occurred – although this iswhat happened to Air France flight AF447
- Technical failures – probably more likely than 1 or 2
- Illegal interference – probably more likely than 1 or 2
How can a modern plane just disappear?
- It is very that a Boeing 777 (or any other plane) would just disappear without a hint of what went wrong.
- A Boeing 777 is very much like the Airbus 340 in that the plane transmits data acollected from system status checks which is constantly sent back to the airlines and manufacturers operations centres.
- The Boeing 777-200 is a very sophisticated aircraft with triple redundancies.
- Failure to transmit data is a significant event, otherwise there would be transmissions made to base.
- There was no known mayday call. Further, no distress or hijack transponder codes were sent or received.
Has anything like this happened before?
- The disappearance of this aircraft is disturbingly similar to that of Air France Flight 447 that crashed into the South Atlantic on June 1, 2009, killing all 228 people on board.
- In this case debris from Flight 447 was found within 24 hours, but it took nearly two years to find the CVR and FDR flight recorders and the remains of the wreckage.
- Data recorders are redundant, aircraft data should be streamed in real-time to operators and manufacturers operations centres.
- What value are CVR/FDR equipment if they cannot be recovered – or if they are, the data cannot be properly read because the equipment is damaged.
What do we know about the plane and crew?
- The missing plane is an 11-year-old Boeing 777-200ER registered 9M-MRO, powered by two Rolls-Royce Trent engines.
- The Boeing 777 is a popular wide-body aircraft, with an enviable safety record of any commercial aircraft in service.
- Its only previous fatal crash came on July 6 last year, when Asiana Airlines Flight 214 struck a seawall on landing in San Francisco, killing three people.
- There have been three hull loss incidents involving the B777-200
- Malaysia Airlines says MH-730 had a senior and experienced crew. The pilot was captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah, a Malaysian aged 53. He has a total of 18,365 flying hours and joined Malaysia Airlines in 1981.
- First officer Fariq Ab Hamid, a Malaysian, is aged 27. He has a total of 2,763 flying hours and joined Malaysia Airlines in 2007.
Who was on board?
|China/Taiwan||153 (1 infant)|
|USA||3 (1 infant)|
|Italy||1 (stolen passport)|
|Austria||1 (stolen passport)|
Source: ABC TV (as edited)