The mysterious fate of Flight 370

One month since the Malaysia Airlines plane disappeared, believed to have crashed into the Indian Ocean

The world is on the verge of finally locating Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, believed to have crashed into the Indian Ocean west of Australia last month.

This week, two search vessels have recorded “pings” that could be coming from the Boeing 777’s black box transmitter —just days before the battery on the boxes was expected to run out, silencing the aircraft forever.

Today marks a month since the doomed flight was reported missing, and all over the world people were aghast at the idea that in the technology era of the 21st century, an airplane can simply disappear.

The 777 is a reliable aircraft: prior to this event, it has only be in one fatal crash since it was placed in service in 1995. That incident, in San Francisco in 2013, is thought to have been caused by pilot error.

Just to recap, Flight 370 left Kuala Lumpur for Beijing just before midnight local time on March 7. Not long after, air traffic control in KL spoke to the pilot, who signed off for the night as the plane left Malaysian air space. There was no indication that anything was amiss.

What happened in the airplane shortly after, we may never know for certain. The subsequent investigation has found that the vastly experienced pilot, Zaharie Ahmad Shah, turned the plane around soon after that last communication.

With search efforts now focused on the deep and turbulent Indian Ocean west of Australia, officials believe the plane flew until it ran out of fuel, and then crashed into the sea.

239 people were on board. All are presumed dead.

Theories range from the wild and controversial to the tragic and desperate. The theory that rings the most true to me — and of course, with all news stories reported to the extent of this one, we must all make up our own minds — is that of Canadian pilot Chris Goodfellow.

Goodfellow suggests that Zaharie Ahmad Shah would have known the location of every airport in the vicinity should something have gone amiss during the flight, and would have turned the plane to the Langkawi aiport, with an approach over water and no obstacles for an easy landing.

Goodfellow’s theory is that an electrical fire took out the communications on the plane, and prompted the pilot to turn the plane. But, he suggests, the crew may then have been overtaken by smoke or the cabin may have been depressurized, causing a loss of consciousness or proving fatal for those onboard. The plane was then left to fly itself until it crashed.

Although Hollywood may have us predisposed to look for the most dramatic explanation to major catastrophes, in real life it is often the most ordinary theory that proves to be true.

For those of us who fly long-haul often — I can’t even count the number of times I’ve flown on a 777 — this entire story is terrifying. It’s easier not to think about what may have happened inside that cabin — whether passengers were aware, whether they lost consciousness around the same time, and such horrible thoughts that will torment the friends and family of the lost for many, many years.

Perhaps because it’s such a horrible tragedy, many people have chosen to focus on one question: how is it possible in 2014 for an airplane to go missing?

I have an app on my smartphone that shows me on a map the location of a plane in flight. Last Christmas, when my sister-in-law’s flight from Vancouver was unable to land in Cranbrook because of fog, I watched on the map as it approached the Kootenays, then I watched as it turned and headed back to Vancouver.

So how did air traffic control “lose” Flight 370? Apparently once planes fly over the ocean, radar is no longer able to track them. Instead, pilots use high-frequency radio to “check in” at certain recording points. Air traffic control knows the plane stopped communicating between two of those points.

Similarly, GPS would have told the pilots where the plane was, but with the communications system knocked out, the crew would not have been able to report that to anyone on the ground.

Whatever happened to Flight 370, whatever caused it to disappear over the South China Sea, the world has learned a difficult lesson. Even with all of the safety precautions surrounding air travel, the worst still can and does happen. And that is a realization that won’t leave any of us in a hurry.

Sally MacDonald is a reporter at the Cranbrook Daily Townsman.

Just Posted

The Kimberley Refugee Resettlement Group is active again after a few years off and are working to find a home for Gloria in Kimberley. Photo taken at a KRRG fundraiser several years ago. Bulletin file.
Kimberley Refugee Resettlement Group active once more

KRRG working to find a refugee a safe place to live in Kimberley

The Kimberley Aquatic Centre is set to reopen its doors to the public on July 6, after being shut down due to the pandemic in March, 2020. The Centre will be initially operating with reduced occupancy and limited program offerings. Bulletin file.
Kimberley Aquatic Centre set to re-open July 6

New safety infrastructure, limited guests and programming allow facility to open again

Interior Health is reporting a COVID-19 exposure at Selkirk Secondary in Kimberley. Bulletin file.
COVID-19 case identified at Selkirk Secondary in Kimberley

Interior Health is conducting contact tracing

The Kootenay International Junior Hockey League met for their AGM and announced a number of new initiatives, new awards and changes in their executive committee, as well as the starting date for the 2021-22 season. Paul Rodgers file.
KIJHL announces start dates for 2021-22 season

Season set to begin Oct. 1 with league still following all health guidelines

Calvin Dickson photo.
Severe thunderstorm watch in effect for East Kootenay

Conditions favourable for the development of thunderstorms, hail and heavy rain

People watch a car burn during a riot following game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver, B.C., in this June 15, 2011 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Howe
10 years ago: Where were you during the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots?

Smashed-in storefronts, looting, garbage can fires and overturned cars some of the damage remembered today

(Black Press Media file)
Dirty money: Canadian currency the most germ-filled in the world, survey suggests

Canadian plastic currency was found to contain 209 bacterial cultures

(pixabay file shot)
B.C. ombudsperson labels youth confinement in jail ‘unsafe,’ calls for changes

Review states a maximum of 22 hours for youth, aged 12 from to 17, to be placed in solitary

Grace (left), a caribou that was born in a maternal pen north of Revelstoke, is alive and well said the province. It appears she even has a calf. Maternity pens aim to increase caribou calf survival by protecting them from predation until they are older and less vulnerable. (Contributed)
For the first time in years, caribou numbers increasing near Revelstoke

North herd growing but south herd still concerning

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Eleonore Alamillo-Laberge, 6, reads a book in Ottawa on Monday, June 12, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Parents will need to fight ‘COVID learning slump’ over summer: B.C. literacy experts

Parents who play an active role in educating their children this summer can reverse the slump by nearly 80%, says Janet Mort

Kelowna General Hospital. (File photo)
COVID-19 outbreak at Kelowna General Hospital declared over

Three people tested positive for the virus — two patients and one staff — one of whom died

The border crossing on Highway 11 in Abbotsford heading south (file)
Western premiers call for clarity, timelines on international travel, reopening rules

Trudeau has called Thursday meeting, premiers say they expect to leave that meeting with a plan

Most Read