The disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 on March 8, 2014 is speculated to have launched the largest international effort. The plane left Kuala Lumpur International Airport en route to Beijing Capital International Airport. What was supposed to be a standard five hours and 34 minutes planned flight turned to one of the biggest mysteries in airline mysteries to date. The airplane took off at 12:41 a.m. local time but by 1:21 a.m, the radar transponder was turned off. The last verbal communication from co-pilot Fariq Hamid to Malaysian air traffic controllers occurred two minutes earlier with the simple words “All right, good night.”153 of the passengers were Chinese citizens; the whole crew was Malaysian. Other passengers came as far as the United States (3), Canada (2), Australia (6), France (4), India (5), the Netherlands (1), Hong Kong (1), Indonesia (7), Iran (2), Russia (1), Taiwan (1), and Ukraine (2).
It had 53,465 hours on 7,525 flight cycles. A flight cycle is one takeoff and one landing. The plane’s last maintenance was on February 23, 2014.
CNN aviation and airline correspondent Richard Quest said the transporter provides information to air traffic controllers regarding the flight’s altitude, speed, heading, and flight number.
“If there is radar there, the radar will see a blip, but they won’t know who it is, where they are going. They will just now know it’s there,” Quest explains.
The plane was travelling west but this is not found out a week after the disappearance. The last signal radar the military captures places the aircraft off the coast of Malaysian state of Penang.
The Chinese, Australian, and Malaysian officials made a joint statement, leaving passengers’ families distraught and anger at the decision. It is estimated that approximately $150 million was spent in the search by the three countries.
“Our final recommendation is way more precise than I dreamed we would be able to achieve,” says CSIRO’s team leader of the oceanographic study, Dr. David Griffin.
“But that is doomed because of the distances involved. We stumbled upon something that gave much more certainty about the whereabouts of the plane than we anticipated,” he says.
It started with the discovery of a piece of wing, the flaperon, found in in July 2015.
The scientists used a replica of the wing from another Boeing 777 to follow and study how quickly the debris travelled across the Indian Ocean.
“For our work, the value was knowing that many things are drifting,” Griffins says.
“There was only one place that explains the absence of findings on the West Australia coast while being consistent with other factors. It was the only chance of precision. It leapt out of the page,” the report found.
The United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Global Drifter Program deployed hundreds of buoys to study the area and measure water temperature, wave height, and dominant wave period.
“For MH370, it’s the later half of the buoys’ lives which are interesting to us because, when they’ve lost their drogue (anchor) they become an item floating on the surface just like a piece of aircraft,” he says.
Taking wind and wave force into account, particularly how it affects floating debris was explored further.
“To get to the bottom of that, we built some replicas of the plane parts using Boeing diagrams and information gathered by the French authorities,” Griffin explains. “We put them into the water next to oceanographic buoys and compared how quickly they moved. And that came up with same fascinating results.”
“Once we had that information we could use the thousands of buoys that are out there in the ocean now and over the past 20 years to calibrate our model and then change that slightly so that it can simulate a flaperon,” he reveals.
The flight took off from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil heading to Paris, France. It crashed in the Atlantic Ocean.
“We have a much more detailed model of the global oceans, a much greater ability to analyse the satellite data measuring sea levels, and a clearer picture of ocean surfaces,” Dr. Griffin says.
Nonetheless, the findings has not prompted for the investigation to re-open.
Nonetheless, the report has been shared with Malaysia.
Chester went on to say he was confident the search was “conducted with the highest standards of Australian Public Service governance and probity.”
Still, Griffin is confident the new search area should be closer to the African waters.
“It is causing a lot of grief for the families of the 239 people on the flight and it has captured the imagination, perhaps ghoulish curiosity, we have for these disasters. We don’t like mysteries,” Griffin admits.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been so completely consumed by a scientific question, applying to a mystery that so many people are so desperately wanting to solve,” he reveals.