Four years on, we still know very little about what happened to the Malaysian flight MH370. The things we have learned tell us nothing about the MH370, but something about airline travel and the industry in general. Despite the dead ends and lack of information in this age of data, somethings will improve in the air. Let’s take a look.
The MH370 story so far
On the 8th of March 2014, flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing MH370 vanished with 239 people on board. At 2.30am that day, Fuad Sharuji in emergency response, got a phone call to say the plane had gone missing from the radar. The four other planes in the vicinity were still visible.
Thirty minutes later Sharuji declared a code red emergency. He was nervous about doing so as a CEO usually needs to do this. However, it really wasn’t soon enough. Half an hour after the plane was meant to land, CNN had realised something was wrong. They called him for answers.
He had no answers to give them, or the families asking about the popular $300 million Boeing 777. As searches began and the day ended, he arranged the families’ hotel accommodation. They would still be there two months later, none the wiser.
Where is MH370 now?
Initially, the search turned up absolutely nothing. Volunteers logged on online to seach images for debris but nothing showed up. In July 2015, the right-wing flaperon was spotted on a beach on Reunion Island, the left outboard flap was found in May 2016 in Mauritius. In June 2016, the right outboard flap washed up June 2016 in Tanzania. All three parts have been declared genuine.
Other parts such as the engine nose cowling segment featuring the Rolls Royce emblem, and a closet panel, are ‘maybes’. The American lawyer, Blaine Gibson, has also found several pieces of ‘maybes’ after going on his self-funded expeditions. Essentially, this tells us the MH370 did not land somewhere in one piece.
The MH370 Report tells us – we know nothing
At the beginning of 2018, an Australian report was released on the plane and the search. It concluded that we know nothing and won’t know anything without the fuselage. It hints that as other parts have ben found, this will never be found. It also tells us Air Traffic control made many mistakes.
International ATC is not infallible
We do know the plane turned around at least once and did so manually. And when this happened, it became confusing as to which ATC was in charge. Ho Chi Minh flight controllers failed to notify Chinese ATC when the plane did not make contact with them. Malaysian Air Traffic Control failed to follow official procedures and emergency protocols six times as it passed into their airspace again.
However, no one knew about these failings until it was too late. Essentailly, they were only discovered because something went wrong. Many have speculated, these are not isolated events. They were only noticed because something went wrong.
But what happened to MH370?
In short, no one knows. The report tells us it can’t rule out third party illegal interference. This means, although the issue could have been mechanical – perhaps the pilots tried to turn back – it may have also been a hijacking.
Changes are needed
In 2016, the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) announced reforms that would begin tracking planes in real time. Their new system would send a ping back every minute and record cockpit conversations for longer. This would enable ATC to see almost immediately if a plane begins acting strangely. They could then contact the pilot and find out why.
In the meantime, ATC employees will likely face prosecution and passengers will still be worried. We know more now than we did before, but we still don’t really know what happened.