“For the aircraft to go missing just like that…as far as we are concerned, we are equally puzzled as well.”
It is rare for a commercial airliner to disappear in mid-flight, as Flight MH370 did three days ago; however, it wouldn’t be a first.
Five years ago in June 2009, Air France Flight 447 disappeared with 228 people on board. It wasn’t until 2011 that the wreckage was found in the Atlantic Ocean in a deep under-water mountain range. A year after that, in 2012, the final report on the accident was released.
Family and friends of those on board the Malaysian flight want answers, as do the general public, but it’s still early in the search and investigation and, as Air France taught us, it could take a while. There are too many missing clues as of right now.
A big question begins the investigation: What happened after take-off?
After Flight MH370 took off from Kuala Lumpur at 12:41am Saturday morning, air traffic controllers lost contact with it around 50 minutes later as it was flying over the sea.
While it’s not unusual for pilots to not send a distress call – their hands may be full of keeping control of the plane – there was no indication of any problems at all to the tower during the first 50 minutes of the 6-hour flight to Beijing.
Based on radar data, Malaysian military officials have suggested that the plane changed course and turned back to Kuala Lumpur, although the pilots never indicated that to the tower.
According to Peter Bergen of CNN, there could be a range of possible reasons the airliner disappeared: pilot actions, mechanical failure, or terrorism.
But until the flight data recorders are discovered, many clues will still be unanswered.
Another question is: Where is the airliner?
Flight MH370 was last reported cruising at 35,000 feet over the Gulf of Thailand and and heavily forested mountain areas. Even if the plane engine fails, this type of aircraft – a Boeing 777 – can glide approximately 120 miles from that altitude. That leaves a wide search area for investigators.
On a positive note, the depth of the Gulf of Thailand only reaches a maximum of 260 feet, making recovery of any underwater wreckage easier. However, it still could be years before all the answers are reported due to the fact that no wreckage has been found.
On Sunday, Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, director-general of the Malaysian Department of Civil Aviation, said, “We have not found anything that appear to be objects from the aircraft, let alone the aircraft.”
But there is another question that has everyone confused: What about the stolen passports?
Two passengers on Flight MH370 were traveling with stolen passports. The passports were stolen from Austrian Christian Kozel and Italian Luigi Maraldi who were actually not on the flight because their passports had been missing since 2012 when they were stolen in Thailand.
The tickets purchased using the two stolen passports were one-way, continuing to Amsterdam from Beijing. One ticket then continued to Germany and the second to Denmark.
When asked what the two men who held the stolen passports looked like based on what he had seen from security footage, director-general Rahman said they looked like Italian football star Mario Balotelli. “Yes” they were black, he said but did “not want to dwell” on that question.
Interpol Secretary General Ronald K. Noble said it was “clearly of great concern” that no checks were made on the passports and that the two passengers were even able to board the international flight with passports that were already listed in the database of stolen passports.
In a statement on Sunday, the agency said, “No checks of the stolen Austrian and Italian passports were made by any country between the time they were entered into INTERPOL’s database and the departure of flight MH 370. At this time, INTERPOL is therefore unable to determine on how many other occasions these passports were used to board flights or cross borders.”
Investigators are also checking to see if any others on the flight were traveling under fake passports.
The passengers on Flight MH370 included 154 from China or Taiwan, 38 Malaysians, 5 Indian nationals, and 3 U.S. citizens. Five of the passengers were under 5 years old. Five passengers ended up not boarding the airliner at all on Saturday.
Officials say that family members waiting for news “should prepare themselves for the worst.”
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