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True modern mysteries: in a world of continuous surveillance, the disappearance of flights seems impossible

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The Last Flight

There is virtually no place to hide on this planet. Someone in some place is always watching, tracking and predicting. The worldwide web, high definition cameras, artificial intelligence, high speed computers and GPS tracking devices make it nearly impossible for any human to go missing. Now, how might one possibly conceal a huge Boeing 777 with more than 200 people on board for almost two months? After all this is indeed the twenty first century. In a massive global civilization, officials have unrestricted access to countless satellites, radars, aquatic and airborne vessels. To make an entire jet airliner with all its crew and passengers vanish into thin air without any trace is beyond belief, but so too is the ocean. No nation has come forth to divulge the plane’s hidden whereabouts. No terrorist group has put forth a pricey ransom for the lives of the crew and passengers. No remote island has been found where flight MH370 made an emergency landing. No crew member or passenger on the flight has made any technological effort to communicate with the rest of the world. Despite absurd conspiracy theories, logical issues with the Boeing 777 ranging from human error, to mechanical error, to possible unfavorable weather conditions and everything in between point to the revelation of what happened on March 8th, 2014. Furthermore, during the flight of any airplane, it is common knowledge that thousands and thousands of problems could occur which would simply demolish the airborne object. A combination of a host of unfortunate events are most certainly responsible for the bizarre disappearing of Flight 370 from Kuala Lumpur, to Beijing and the heartbreaking deaths of all those onboard. Based on the knowledge of tragedies of missing flights in the past, the official preliminary Malaysian report, and the given detections from various aquatic vessels and satellites, flight MH370 is in fact deep under the Indian Ocean. As to why and how the massive plane never reached Beijing will remain unknown until critical wreckage of the jet airliner is recovered.

Throughout the history of aviation, more than dozens flights have mysteriously disappeared with hardly any traces left behind. The famous Amelia Earhart, and the many missing aircraft around Bermuda Triangle are historic examples of this phenomenon, and they are not alone. These cases and other horrific incidents of missing planes presumed to be in the ocean shed light on the current situation of flight MH370. It is important to understand that more than 70% of our planet is covered by the ocean and the average depths measures up to 3,795 meters (Kindersley, 2011). These vast measurements allow not only jet airliners, ships and human remains to be concealed, but also provide an environment where no wreckage can be recovered since our technology has yet to work under these harsh conditions. For example, in March of 1962, Flying Tiger Line Flight 739 was never seen or heard from again after officials in Guam attempted to communicate with the flight after its coordinates were given (CAB Aircraft Accident Report). These coordinates of 13 40’N and 140 00’E are many miles off the Philippines’ coast and directly over the Pacific Ocean (CAB Aircraft Accident Report). The current satellite information of flight MH370 points to a similar dismal fate of that of Flying Tiger Line Flight 739 (Official Preliminary Malaysian Report). Another missing but more bizarre airplane accident happened back in 2003, which also points to the same fateful destination; the ocean. On May 25th, 2003 a registered Boeing 727-223 was stolen from the airport in Angola by Ben Padilla (Wright, 2010). According to the Sydney Morning Herald “the control tower tried to make contact with the Boeing 727-233, but there was no response, and the tracking transponder was shut off. With the lights turned off on the plane, it took off heading southeast over the Atlantic Ocean and was never heard from again.” Despite the hazardous circumstances of the Boeing 727-233 and the crooked character of its last pilot, the given reports strongly suggest that its whereabouts are in the deep Atlantic Ocean. The historically tragic flight of the 739 from Guam, and the strange disappearance of the Boeing 727 in 2003 all do in fact share painful similarities to that of the missing Malaysian flight. These overlaps of events include lack of knowledge of exact geographical location, and hardly any communication between pilots and air traffic control centers. These series of events and ultimate unknown whereabouts can conclude that the final destination is the ocean floor for all these aviation disasters, but as of how or why will remain a mystery unless strong evidence from the plane itself is resurfaced.

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In the ongoing search for the missing flight MH370, this past Thursday on May 1st, the Malaysia Transport Ministry finally released to the world an official document stating the exact sequence of events that ultimately led to the disappearance of flight MH370. The terribly brief but succinct five page preliminary report shows pivotal errors that are certainly related to the missing flight.

“At 01:21:04 [Malaysian Standard Time] MH370 was observed on the radar screen at Kuala Lumpur Air Traffic Control Centre [KLATCC] as it passed over waypoint IGARI. At 01:21:13 the radar label for MH370 disappeared from the radar screen at KLATCC. At 01:38 Ho Chi Minh Air Traffic Control Centre made query on the whereabouts of MH370. Thereafter KLATCC initiated efforts involving MAS OPS Center, Singapore ACC, Hong Kong ACC and Phnon Penh ACC to establish the location of MH370. No contact had been established by any ATC units and thus Rescue Coordination Centre was activated at 05:30.”

MINISTRY OF TRANSPORT MALAYSIA MH 370 PRELIMINARY REPORT

Two main facts are given by the official Malaysian preliminary report. One is clearly confusion between air traffic control, and the second is delay both of which significantly contribute to the utter tragedy. As the report states, more than 15 whole minutes passed and no air traffic control center had any information on the condition, or location of flight MH370. 15 minutes is an extremely long time for fast traveling objects such as Boeing 777. Then, after four hours with no communication from flight MH370 nor any radar knowledge of its whereabouts was at last Search and Rescue activated. This short, but concise information given by the preliminary report gives un-parallel insight as to what happened early that fateful morning, but as to where the location of flight MH370 and why is it there still remain a painful unknown. Although human intervention seems to be suggested as the cause of the disappearance due to the long delay and confusion.

Nonetheless, due to the technological advances of the twenty-first century, the plane itself as well as satellite information has provided important clues of the watery location of flight MH370. The preliminary report states: “On 24 March 2014 further analysis of the Inmarsat satellite data, using the changes in the satellites communication signal frequency (signal using the Doppler Effect) indicated that MH 370 flew the southern corridor and ended its flight in the southern part of the Indian Ocean.” Thanks to the participation of many countries, there have been notable but yet inconclusive attempts to locate the location of flight MH370. Thanks to the ingenuity of aerospace engineers detections of the “black box” were believed to have been made two weeks ago when Ocean Shield detected sonar pulses as “pings” and the search then was narrowed by the Australian Navy vessels over a 9 mile square area in the same vicinity as the satellite information describes (Peng 2014). The unknown high seas have not only sent forth sonar clues which would allow investigators to pinpoint the missing plane’s spot but also the acquisition of an “object of interest” off the coast of Australia have all narrowed in to the recovery of Flight 370 (Sorensen, 2014). Additionally large oil slicks consistent with the chemical composition of jet fuel have been discovered in the waters (Sorensen, 2014). These dismal factors are without a doubt, a result of poor human judgment coupled with the vast ocean and its horrifying ability to envelop almost anything in a dark and dangerous unknown abyss.

As the search for flight MH370 approaches the two month mark, more advanced technology will be utilized, more countries will participate, and more expenses will rise. It has been reported that the most promising lead for the search is the unmanned submarine Bluefin 21, which will begin a detailed oceanographic mapping of areas where the jet airliner’s resting area is presumed to be (NBC News, 2014). Once the location has been triangulated, the number one difficulty remains; how will the Boeing 777 be extracted from the ocean floor? Of course countless more questions need answering with regards to why flight MH370 never reached Beijing and ended up far off the coast of Australia. Tragedies like this do however, have positive outcomes as they have in the past. Additional tracking, and communicational efforts will certainly be put in place in airliners. This experience will serve as a valuable lesson for all the international aviation community. Likewise, more understanding of our ocean and its environment will be gained due to the intense interaction. But still, the grief and pain left on the families in friends of the passengers and crew on the missing flight will last forever. It is such a painful shame that the price for more safety measures on all planes and detailed oceanographic knowledge costs the lives of so many innocent people.

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