MH370 Mystery: Goodnight Malaysian Three Seven Zero
On March 8th 2014, 227 passengers board a boeing 777-200ER in Kuala Lumpur International Airport. 10 cabin crew and 2 pilots are onboard the flight destined for Beijing Capital International Airport.
It last made contact with air traffic control around 38 minutes after takeoff. The last words heard from the pilot were “Goodnight Malaysian three seven zero” and it was never seen again.
An extensive search was launched that lasted 1046 days, but turned up nothing.
239 people were on board, these were people of 14 different nationalities, most of them were Chinese, others came from Malaysia, the Netherlands, Taiwan, New Zealand, Russia, Indonesia, India, Australia, America, Iran, Canada, France and France.
The passengers ranged in age from 1 to 79 years old.
The youngest passenger on board was Wang Moheng, he was taken to Malaysia by his parents and grandparents to escape the “bad Beijing air”. Wang Moheng was almost 2 years old and one of 5 young children on board between the ages of 2 and 4.
These were real people, travelling for a variety of normal reasons.
There was a Canadian couple who went on holiday to Vietnam and never made it back to their sons, who were only 8 and 3 at the time.
A group of 24 Chinese artists and 5 of their staff members, were coming home from a cultural exhibition.
There were people who were going to begin new jobs, people who had children and spouses at home.
Paul Weeks, who had been living in Perth, Australia, had left his young sons his wedding ring and his watch, telling his wife that if anything happened to him the first one to get married would get his ring and the second would get his watch.
4 Australian friends who had taken a trip of a lifetime to Nepal after retirement.
Entire generations were lost. 6 members of one family including a 4 year old girl and a 2 year old boy.
One man was met by French diplomats as he was waiting to be reunited with his family, to be told the flight was missing. His wife had been on a beach holiday with her teenage sons aged 17 and 14, and her eldest sons girlfriend aged 18.
20 coworkers from a tech company, 8 from China and 12 from Malaysia.
A recent engineering doctorate and newly wed.
10 members of cabin crew, 2 pilots.
239 people were lost. There is no way to summarise their lives and the loss felt by those who loved them in any amount of words.
The search for MH370 has been the most expensive aviation search in history. Over £122 million was spent on a massive search operation lasting 1046 days.
Every detail and possible motive and clue that might lead to the location or the cause of the crash has been investigated. From backgrounds of passengers and crew right down to the species of barnacles found on debris that washed up from the flight.
As with every mystery and unsolved case there is a lot of misinformation and speculation.
Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 was a passenger flight. The route it took was travelled twice daily. It left Kuala Lumpur International Airport on March 8, 2014 at around 12:41am.
It was scheduled to land at Beijing Capital Airport around 6:30am. There were 239 people on board.
It reached a cruising altitude of 10,700m or 35,000 feet 19 minutes later.
At 01;19am, 36 minutes after takeoff, one of the pilots checks in with air traffic controllers as it leaves Malaysian airspace and enters Vietnamese air space.
The air traffic controller tells them the frequency of Ho Chi Minh air traffic control and MH370 responds “Alright, goodnight, Malaysian Three Seven Zero”.
2 minutes later the aircraft vanishes from ATC secondary radar at Kuala Lumpur.
About 10 minutes after that at 01;30am, another aircraft attempts to make voice contact with the pilots of MH370 at the request of Ho Chi Minh ATC, mumbling and static are all that can be heard.
At the same time Malaysian military and civilian radar track the aircraft as it turns back and south west over the Malay Peninsula, it then turns northwest over the strait of Malacca.
Another 10 minutes pass before Ho Chi Ming ATC contact Kuala Lumpur ATC to inquire about MH370 as verbal contact was not established and the flight vanished from radar. This was about 20 minutes after MH370 should have been in Vietnamese airspace.
By 2am Kuala Lumpur ATC informs HCM ATC that MH370 is in Cambodian airspace. Contact is still not established despite many attempts on many frequencies.
2:15am an unidentified object is detected by the Malaysian Military flying west over the Andaman sea. It is thought to be MH370. The plane disappears from radar off the coast on Penang.
At 6;30am the flight is scheduled to arrive in Beijing.
Automated hourly “handshake” signals are still being sent by the aircraft to Inmarsat satellite communications. 5 more “handshakes” or log-on requests are made over the next 6 hours before a partial log on request at 08;19am.
This is thought to have been caused when the fuel ran out and the emergency generator came on. The aircraft sends a log-on acknowledgement at 08:19am and this is the final transmission from MH370.
A search and rescue effort was initiated and focused on south east Asia and Andaman seas on the morning MH370 disappeared.
On March 9th search efforts are launched in the Andaman sea because the aircraft was known to have turned back towards Malaysia.
Between March 9th and 11th staff at Inmarsat analyse the data received from flight 370 to determine whether or not they can assist the search. They find that the plane travelled for several hours after losing contact with air traffic control.
Analysis of the automated communication with Inmarsat satellites showed that the plane travelled further than originally thought, towards the southern Indian ocean. They discover this using a series of innovative calculations to create arcs that show possible locations along the plane's flight path, after it disappeared from military radar off the coast on Penang.
These arcs were generated by measuring the time it took for pings to go to and from the aircraft, they used the speed of the pings to determine where the plane was, when it sent data to the Inmarsat satellite.
There was a lot of criticism of Malaysia in their handling of the investigation.
The government were majority shareholders in Malaysia Airlines and some accused them of trying to cover themselves.
After looking at the arcs developed using the data from Inmarsat they relocate the search to the Indian Ocean.
The search is lead by Australia, starting on March 18th. The search was assisted by resources from over 25 countries and is the most expensive aviation search in history.
On March 24th the families of those on board are told that the plane is believed to have crashed in the southern Indian ocean and that it is beyond reasonable doubt that there are no survivors.
They scoured the surface and seabed, covering over 120,000 square kilometres and as deep as 6,000 meters.
The search continues for 1046 days after the flight vanished and ends in January 2017.
Ocean Infinity, a US based company started a second search, they spent 90 days canvassing 112000 sqaure kilometers of the south Indian ocean but found nothing. That search was suspended in May 2018
There were many instances of bad weather which postponed the searches but also probably displaced any evidence of the wreckage if they plane had indeed crashed into the Indian Ocean.
The Malaysian ministry of transport released a 1500 page report on the search for MH370 in July 2018 but it had no definitive answers as to what happened to the plane or those on board.
Investigators believe that the diversion of the plane off course was intentional, they believe that it could not have been done on auto-pilot as the manoeuvre would have had to have been done manually. They also believe the transponder was turned off. They find no indication of who might have done this or why.
Their investigations conclude that the pilot and co-pilot were not under any apparent emotional, psychological or financial pressure. They did say that were was some evidence pointing towards what they called “unlawful interference” and that they could not rule out a third party. Over the last 6 years there has been very little found of MH370, only 3 pieces of debris found were confirmed to have been from the aircraft. These were;
A flapperon, found July 2015 on Reunion Island.
A wing fragment, found May 2016 in Mauritius
A wing flap, found June 2016 on Pemba Island
Another 3 pieces were considered to be highly likely.
The debris has shown us a few things.
The fact that the first piece washed up on an island in the Indian ocean proves that the search was focusing in the right place, or at least the right ocean.
Other pieces were found on the west coast of Africa.
Analysis of the flapperon indicated that the plane did not make a water landing, also known as a “ditching” but some experts think the plane could still have been carefully landed on the water.
But, if it had been ditched it would have likely been found in the search and rescue missions because it would have been floating.
We know that the plane ran out of fuel at a likely altitude of about 30,000 feet, this is what caused the final partial log on request. When the fuel ran out and systems failed the emergency generator came on, this may have allowed the plane to glide as it crashed into the sea, keeping a lot of the plane intact rather than it crashing from 30,000 feet and smashing into many pieces.
These pieces would have likely been found. There were satellite images of a lot of items floating on the surface of the Indian ocean but by the time search and rescue got there there was nothing to be found.
Every aspect of the crash has been investigated. There were background checks of every passenger on board, the species of barnacles found on debris that washed up were analysed to try and determine where it came from. Every avenue was exhausted.
Where there is a lack of facts there will always be speculation and theories. Humans are curious creatures, we have an inherent want to know what happened. Even in 2022, when we have infinite technological possibilities, we are still unable to locate MH370 and the 239 people on board.
A lot of these theories are harmless presumptions, some are accusatory, some are based off of expert analysis. There are real people waiting and wondering where their family members are.
Passenger Philip Woods girlfriend Sarah Bajc spoke of the impact of the lack of concrete evidence on the relatives in an interview with BBC news saying she believed the ocean search was a distraction from what actually occurred after a number of supposed experts contacted her on her finding Philip Woods facebook page saying they believed the plane was taken, not crashed.
The vacuum left by the lack of factual information has created a cesspit of speculation and absurd conspiracies. Hopefully one day the families of those lost get the answers they have been searching for.