On March 8th, amid trending news stories related to Justin Bieber’s arrest and the upcoming March Madness basketball tournament, a Malaysian airliner and its 239 passengers went missing on route to Beijing. With no evidence of a mechanical failure or pilot error, many investigators are treating the disappearance as a case of air piracy. “I can’t think of a single example of a large airplane completely disappearing without seemingly leaving a trace for this many days,” said Hans Weber, a president of Tecop International, a San Diego-based consultant. Needless to say, experts and civilians alike are shocked that something like this could happen. “The fact that an aircraft has disappeared we all find extraordinary,” said Tony Tyler, CEO of International Air Transport Association.
The event is truly agonizing and confusing, so we wanted to provide you with 10 key details to help you make sense of everything out there.
- **As of 9am EST March 15th, Prime Minster of Malaysia, Najib Razak, says that all indications are that flight MH 370’s disappearance is an act of “deliberate action”. The PM making this claim means that it is almost certain that mechanical failure of any sort has been taken off the table. ** But let’s go back to the details:
- Flight MH 370 took off 7 days ago flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 passengers on board. At least 2 of the passengers were flying on stolen or lost passports. They believe these passengers were actually seeking asylum from Iran (aka trying to get out of Iran), however they do not know this to be true. The identities of all the other 237 passengers and crew are being researched now.
- Roughly an hour after takeoff, the plane’s two onboard transponders were shutdown (about 15 minutes apart from one another). The transponders are used to relay information back and forth between the plane and various air traffic control towers.
- At the point the transponders were shutoff, the plane did make a hard turn west, back towards India and the Bay of Bengal.
- For almost 7 hours after takeoff, the plane’s satellite transmitters were active and showed that the plane was operational. It is difficult to track the altitude or speed of the plane via these transmitters, but the fact that the plane did ping a satellite does mean that the plan was at least operational at that point.
- The satellite transmitter on the plane was active for about 7 hours, indicating the plane was operational after its transponder shut down (less than an hour after takeoff). A 777 can cruise at 500 miles per hour or more, meaning the plane may have flown as far as 3,500 miles from it’s last point of contact.
- The initial search area for the plane is roughly the entire red circle area, which represents a 3,500 mile radius, from the last point of contact.
- As of yesterday, due to a single satellite ping, they’ve been able to narrow the search down to the green 20-25 mile wide arc seen on the map below. While this may not seem like a major victory, it actually narrows the search down by hundreds of thousands of square miles.
- While there is no factual indication whether the plane flew south along this arc or north along it, authorities do not understand why the plane would have flown south. There are extremely limited landmasses large enough to land on to the south, and likely would have eventually run out of fuel over the ocean. However, had the plane flown along the northern route, towards Kazakstan, the plane would have had to crossed into monitored airspace of at least 3-4 countries. According to all reports being made public, there are no records of an unidentified flight entering into any airspace in any of these countries. Currently, the USS Kidd, a massive warship, is searching the area along the south of the arc.
- As of 10am this morning the homes of both the pilot and co-pilot of the MH 370 have been searched. While there have been no factual claims that they are behind the disappearance of flight MH 370, bags of items have been removed from their homes.
It does seem remarkable that an aircraft could just disappear in today’s world of satellite technology and communication. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of the 239 missing passengers and we will keep you posted are more news unfurls.