The disappearance of Flight MH370 has been one of the biggest questions on people’s minds since the plane’s disappearance in March 2014.
Why can’t MH370 be found? Nobody can find MH370 because of the number of variables surrounding its disappearance. We know where the plane last had contact with Air Traffic Control (ATC) and that the plane crashed into the Indian Ocean. Nobody knows why the airplane disappeared or where the wreckage is located.
The plane managed to stay in the air for six hours with its navigation, and satellite systems turned off. Although Malaysia, China, and Australia put a lot of resources into trying to find the plane, the search lasted just shy of three years.
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Why Can’t MH370 Be Found? Some of the Most Common Theories
The search for this plane was the largest, most expensive underwater search effort to date. However, even with the most cutting-edge technology in use, searchers failed to find the plane.
Australia’s transport minister, Darren Chester, cited limited available data that hindered search efforts. However, there were later concerns that the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) made errors that had the search effort focused in the wrong area.
The Independent Group (IG) includes a network of aviation experts, engineers, pilots, and scientists that have analyzed the information available to the public. IG members include professionals from these nations:
- Hong Kong
- New Zealand
- The U.K.
- The U.S.
The ATSB and the IG’s findings have mostly synced with each other. However, there are many unanswered questions.
What Determined the Search Area?
Initially, searchers looked for the plane within a 60,000 sq km area, determined by the last known radio and satellite communications. The ATSB began their underwater search in October 2014, almost six months after the plane’s disappearance.
The ATSB and IG had diverging viewpoints on when MH370 turned south. Primary radar from the Malaysian military found the plane traveling northwest across the Malacca Strait at 2:22 am local time. Inmarsat confirmed the location through their satellite data.
After 2:22 am, the plane disappeared from the radar without any explanation. Satellite data at 3:41 am showed the plane changing course to a southerly direction.
The ultimate location of the plane will depend on when the aircraft turned south and how far it was able to fly before exhausting its fuel. At 2:39 and 2:40, the operational center of Malaysia Airlines called the plane’s satellite phone and received no answer after non-responsiveness by radio.
According to the ATSB, the plane had probably gone south when the first attempted call was made. However, the IG believes that the turn could have taken place much later.
The IG’s conclusion was that the plane was descending 2,000 ft a minute by 2:39 am. This plane could have turned south as late as 2:36 am, marking an hour after the attempt to reach the plane by phone.
The assumption is that if the plane were descending, the plane would have spent its fuel and crashed 827 km north of the northernmost part of the ATSB’s search area. When the ATSB issued a report in June 2014, the agency admitted uncertainty about the satellite data.
Did an Expanded Search Area Reveal Anything?
By April 2015, only 40% of the priority area had been searched. Searchers announced that the search zone would be expanded by an additional 60,000 sq km.
This search area was a remote part of the ocean 2,500 km off the coast of Western Australia. To put things into perspective, the 120,000 sq km total area is almost twice the size of Tasmania.
Eight search vessels searched to depths of up to 6 km for almost two and a half years. These vessels operated in conditions that could sometimes include 20 m waves.
The ATSB acknowledged that the search was the most challenging larger one in maritime history. Ultimately, searchers from this agency concluded that the plane was not in the search area.
One of the conclusions was that the plane is in an area of Australian territorial water called “the seventh arc.” The ATSB resolved to search a 40 nm area of seafloor on either side.
In September 2014, thirteen of the IG members recommended reducing the search area’s width but extending the length northward.
What About the Glide Theory?
One of the ATSB’s more controversial ideas was called the “glide theory.” This theory states that based on the plane type, it traveled an additional 100 nm after it used the last of its fuel.
However, satellite data from Inmarsat put this theory to rest. Instead of gliding, the plane went into a rapid descent, possibly dropping 15,000 ft a minute.
The ATSB only accepted the Inmarsat data late in 2016. According to this data, the wreck would be no further than 15 nm from either side of the seventh arc.
When some debris was found on the east coast of Africa and Réunion Island in the Indian Ocean, the seventh arc search was going on at the same time.
What Happened Toward the End of the Search?
The ATSB had confidence that it was searching the correct area up to the end. A report released after a summit in Canberra, Australia, expressed confidence the plane was in a 25,000 sq km area north of the seventh arc.
The Malaysian, Chinese, and Australian governments declined to expand their search area in July 2016, barring credible information pointing to a specific location.
Has Malaysia’s Investigation Hindered Finding the Plane?
The IG, as well as the passengers’ families and many journalists, have criticized how the Malaysian government handled its investigation. The IG received a leaked 1,000-page report than Malaysian police tried to keep confidential.
A lack of cooperation by Malaysian authorities has made the ATSB’s work more difficult. Don Thompson, a Belfast-based IG member, openly criticized how Malaysia handled the investigation.
Malaysia’s air force chief had shown a graphic to passengers’ family members in March 2014 that showed the flight’s deviation from its path. Despite this graphic making an early appearance, it was never a part of Malaysian investigations.
Could a Hijacking of MH370 Have Been Involved?
Jeff Wise is a journalist who has promoted a controversial idea about MH370 being hijacked. Wise’s theory is that the plane was hijacked and is in Kazakhstan.
Wise’s idea resulted in his removal from the IG in 2015. This former IG member’s assessment was that the ATSB conducted its search activity as a way of saving face.
However, investigators have yet to find evidence of a hijacking. This lack of evidence decreases the chances of a hijacking being the reason for not finding the plane.
What is Continuing to Hinder Finding MH370?
Experts who have been involved with the search point out that ignorance of the next most likely location, a lack of capability, and little evidence are not hindrances to learning the truth. The most common reason given for this decreased interest is apathy.
Once something has disappeared from the news cycle, most people aren’t thinking about the incident very much anymore. The family members of the passengers are unlikely to see answers unless the disappearance becomes part of public attention again.
Why is finding MH370 so difficult?
The plane is a relatively small object relative to the size of the planet. Also, because the ocean is so deep, it isn’t easy to search.
Is anyone still searching for MH370?
Ocean Infinity, a robotics company, has committed to a new search in an effort to find MH370. The company’s goals include beginning the investigation in 2023 or 2024.
What happened when MH370 disappeared from radar?
The last contact from the flight was a regular voice contact. After two minutes passed, the plane’s transponder turned off, and the flight disappeared from the secondary ATC radar.
Was the MH370 mystery ever solved?
This plane’s disappearance has become one of the greatest all-time aviation mysteries. None of the searchers have ever been able to learn what happened, despite the time and expense devoted to searching for the aircraft.
There are many reasons why MH370 can’t be found. Unless new evidence comes to light, this missing flight will remain a mystery.