Crucial search

June 27, 2014 - 5:51:25 am

The latest discovery in the investigation into missing flight MH370 may generate some hope for locating the aircraft. 

The search for MH370 has shifted some 800 kilometres further south in the southern Indian Ocean, adding to the mystery of the most difficult aircraft search operation in aviation history. Australian authorities, who have been leading the search off the island nation’s coast, will now focus on an arc of water 650 km long and 93 km broad. Known as the ‘7th arc’ this sliver in the giant ocean will be scoured by submarines which will resume the search in August.  The Malaysia Airlines aircraft disappeared one hour into flight after take off from Kuala Lumpur airport for Beijing on March 8. Most of the 239 people on board were Chinese citizens and the incident sparked a war of words between the two countries. Chinese relatives of the passengers pressured their government to tell Malaysia to expedite the search which, even after a week, was nowhere close to a result. The disappearance of the Boeing 777-200ER attracted global attention and was to soon become a subject of speculation. From pilot suicide to a botched hijack were being blamed for the incident. Meanwhile, relatives of passengers kept up the pressure on the Malaysian government, which was being blamed for not doing enough to locate the plane. 

The misguided search operation reached the southern Indian Ocean after a number of attempts by countries as far removed from the original route of the plane as Pakistan and India, to locate it. By this time, the search mission had become complex with Britain-based International Maritime Satellite (Inmarsat) finding that the plane diverted from its flight path and kept flying for hours after last contact with air traffic controllers. 

After more than 100 days and millions of dollars, the search has shifted yet again, this time further south. But authorities and self-proclaimed experts seem more convincing than ever this time. The latest theory says that MH370 was on auto pilot before it crashed as it was following an orderly path. Investigators have zeroed in on the “highly likely” presumption that the crew suffered from hypoxia or lack of oxygen, which happens at high altitudes. This, they say, could have rendered the pilots unresponsive so that the aircraft kept flying for hours after it veered off course. This implies that the Boeing 777, which is a huge aircraft generally used for long-haul flights, ran out of fuel before crashing when its engines flamed out. Investigators have come out with this theory with more certainty than ever. Based on the premise that the communication system tried to log back into the satellite network once the plane lost all power because of lack of fuel, investigators say it generated an “electronic handshake” picked up by the satellite. 

 The search, it is hoped, will resume on a better note after the ocean floor has been mapped during the three-month hiatus. Till then, families of the victims and their loved ones will keep hoping against hope.