Malaysia Airlines Flight 370: The Most Puzzling Disappearing Act In The World

Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 Flight Path
Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 debris on display at an exhibit

You don’t know my dad but if you did, I guarantee you would love him because he’s just like me. In fact just the other night my mom told us that we’re so much alike it’s annoying. I take that as a compliment. I bring this up because there is once difference between myself and the patriarchal figure of my family. Airplanes. Yes, airplanes. My dad loves them. Loves looking at them, loves learning about them, loves watching them fly, loves everything about them. I on the other hand, hate them. Sure, they are cool to look at but not so cool to be on them. But I already mentioned how I dislike flying in my article about the Munich disaster, so I really didn’t need to bore you all with this introduction. Even though I’m scared of flying I’m drawn to air disasters. I love learning about them and lately I’ve been on a roll with them. I guess that’s just the way my brain works. I just know I’m going to end up scarring myself for life and decide to take a boat everywhere when I travel. But I hate boats too, so I’ll just become a recluse and stay inside my house.  

Anyway, I bring you yet another tragic and very mysterious air disaster. *Tips hat* I do hope you enjoy it. *Clears throat* Not that you should enjoy tragedies and people dying but you know what I mean.

In March 2014, Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 (MH370/MAS370) disappeared while en route to Beijing Capital International Airport in China. I’m not joking the Boeing 777 literally vanished without a trace. It was like David Blaine pulled off the most insane magic there ever was. In this article, I will tell you how the event unfolded and then discuss possible theories of what could have occurred on that fateful day. It might be a little all over the place because all the research I did bounced around substantially. That’s not surprising given the frantic nature of the tragedy that occurred eight years ago.

Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 took off at 12:42 a.m. (local time) on March 8, 2014, from Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Malaysia. It was a calm, quiet, and moonlit night when the plane climbed to its assigned cruising altitude of 35,000 feet (10,668 meters). The flight to Beijing Capital International Airport was expected to go smoothly. Fariq Abdul Hamid, a 27-year-old first officer, was flying the airplane. This was considered a training flight for him it was the one required for him to become fully certified to fly this kind of aircraft. Hia trainer Zaharie Ahmad Shah was a 53-year-old pilot in command. He was incredibly experienced and was one of Malaysia Airlines’ most senior captains. In 2009, he clocked just under 1,500 less than Captain Chesley Sullenberger at the time he made his famous landing on the Hudson River. While in the cockpit, Fariq would have been deferential to him, but Zaharie was not known for being overbearing.

10 flight attendants, all Malaysian citizens, worked in the cabin. They have a total of 227 to care for, 5 of which were children. The passengers were from Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia, India, France, the United States, Iran, Ukraine, Canada, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Russia, and Taiwan. Back in the cockpit, while First Officer Fariq flew the airplane, Captain Zaharie manned the radios. This arrangement is a common aviation protocol. Whichever pilot is not currently flying the plane takes over the radios and communicated with the air traffic control and their towers. Despite being clear Captain Zaharie’s transmissions seemed a bit unusual. At 1:01 a.m., roughly 20 minutes into the flight, he radioed that they had leveled off at 35,000 feet (10,668 meters). This was deemed an unnecessary report in radar-surveilled airspace where the norm is to report leaving an altitude, not arriving at one. At 1:08 a.m. the flight crossed the Malaysian coastline and set out across the South China Sea towards Vietnam. Zaharie once again reported the plane’s level at 35,000 feet (10,668 meters).

Approximately 11 minutes later, as the airplane closed in on a waypoint near the beginning of Vietnamese air-traffic jurisdiction, the controller at Kuala Lumpur Center radioed, “Malaysian three-seven-zero, contact Ho Chi Minh one-two-zero-decimal-nine. Good night.” Zaharie answered, “ Zahiare replied “Good night. Malaysian three-seven-zero.” He did not read back the frequency, as he should have, but other than that the transmission sounded normal. Those were the last words the world heard from MH370. The pilots never checked in with Ho Chi Minh or answered any of the subsequent attempts to reach them. The captain of another aircraft attempted to contact the crew of Flight 370 shortly after 1:30 a.m. using the International Air Distress (IAD) frequency, to pass on Vietnamese air traffic control’s request for the pilots to contact them. The captain said he was able to establish communication but only heard “mumbling” and static. Calls made to MHS370 at 2:39 a.m. and 7:13 a.m. went unanswered but were acknowledged by the aircraft’s satellite data unit (SDU).  

At 1:20 a.m. Malaysian time, Flight 370 was seen by staff manning the radar at Kuala Lumpur ACC as it passed the navigational waypoint IGARI in the Gulf of Thailand. Five seconds later, the Mode-S symbol on disappeared from the radar. At 1:21 a.m., MH370 dropped off the radar screen at Kuala Lumpur ACC and was lost at roughly the same time on radar at Ho Chi Minh ACC, which reported that the aircraft was at the nearby waypoint BITOD. Air traffic control uses a secondary radar, which relies on a signal emitted by a transponder on each aircraft. Since the plane dropped from the radar this meant that the ADS-B transponder on Flight 370 was no longer functioning after 1:21 a.m. The final transponder data indicated that the airplane was flying at its assigned cruising flight altitude and was traveling at 471 knots (872 km/h, 542 mph) true airspeed. Some clouds started to appear at this time but there was no rain or lightning nearby. Later analysis estimated that MH370 had 41,500 kg (91,500 lb) of fuel when it disappeared from the secondary radar. At the time the transponder stopped functioning, a military radar showed Flight 370 turning right, but then beginning a left turn to a southwesterly direction. I told you guys this was a bit all over the place but I hope it makes some sense. Just bear with me.

From 1:30 until 1:35 a.m., military radar showed Flight 370 at 35,700 feet (10,900 meters) with a speed of 496 knots (919 km/h, 571 mph). The aircraft continued across the Malay Peninsula, fluctuating between 31,000 and 33,00 feet (9,400 and 10,100 meters) in altitude. A civilian primary radar at Sultan Ismail Petra Airport with a 60 nmi (110 Km, 69 mi) range made 4 detections of an unidentified aircraft between 1:30 and 1:52 a.m. Tracks of the aircraft are “consistent with those of the military data”. At 1:52 a.m., MH370 was detected passing south of the island of Penang. From there, the plane flew across the Strait of Malacca, passing near the waypoint VAMPI, and Pulau Perak at 2:03 a.m. It continued along air route N571 to waypoints MEKAR, NILAM, and possibly IGOGU. The last known radar detection was from a point near the limits of Malaysian military radar at 20:22 a.m., after paying waypoint MEKAR. This waypoint is 237 nmi (439 km, 273 mi) from Penang and 247.3 nmi (458km, 284 mi) northwest of Penang airports. The aircrafts altitude was 29,500 feet (9,000 meters).

Some countries were reluctant to release information collected from military radar because of sensitivity about revealing their capabilities. Indonesia has an early-warning radar system, but its air traffic control radar did not register any aircraft with the transponder code used by Flight 370, even though the aircraft possibly could have flown near, or over, the northern tip of Sumatra. Indonesian military radar tracked MH370 earlier when it was en route to waypoint IGARI before the transponder is thought to have been turned off. No information was provided on whether or not the plane was detected afterwards. Both Thailand and Vietnam also detected Flight 370 on radar before the transponder malfunctioned. Vietnam’s deputy prime minister of transport Pham Quy Tieu stated that Vietnam had noticed MH370 turning back toward the west and that its operators had twice informed Malaysian authorities of this incident on March 8th. Thai military radar spotted an aircraft that might have been Flight 370, but it is unknown at what time the last radar contact was made, and the signal did not include any identifying data. The flight was never detected by Australia’s conventional system or its long-rang JORN radar system. The latter was not in operation on the night of the disappearance.

At 2:25 a.m. Malaysia time, the aircraft’s satellite communication system sent a “log-on request” message. This was the first message since the ACARS transmission at 1:07 a.m. The message was relayed by satellite to a ground station, both operated by satellite telecommunications company Inmarsat. After logging on to the network, the SDU aboard the aircraft responded to hourly status requests from Inmarsat. The final status request occurred at 8:10 a.m., about 1 hour and 40 minutes after the flight was scheduled to arrive in Beijing. At 8:19 a.m. the aircraft sent another log-on request, the ground station responded with a “log-on acknowledgement”. This acknowledgement is the last piece of data available from Flight 370. The plane did not respond to a status request from Inmarsat sent a 9:15a.m. We are going to backtrack a little again, I’m sorry this is the way information was given when I researched. At 1:38 Malaysia time, Ho Chi Minh Area Control Center contacted Kuala Lumpur Control Center to figure out the whereabouts of Flight 370. The two centers exchanged four more calls over the next 20 minutes with no new information. At 2:03 a.m., Kuala Lumpur ACC replayed to Ho Chi Minh ACC that they received information from Malaysia Airline’s operations center that Flight 370 was in Cambodian airspace. Ho Chi Minh ACC reached out to Kuala Lumpur ACC twice in the following 8 minutes asking for confirmation that MH370 was in Cambodian airspace. At 2:15 a.m., the watch supervisor at Kuala Lumpur ACC made contact with Malaysia Airline’s operations center, which informed them that it could exchange signals with Flight 370 and that the airplane was in Cambodian airspace. Kuala Lumpur ACC then contacted Ho Chi Minh ACC to ask whether the planned flight path for the flight passed through Cambodian airspace. Ho Chi Minh ACC responded that Flight 370 was NOT supposed to enter Cambodian airspace and they had already reached out to Phnom Penh ACC (which controls Cambodian airspace), which had no communication with MH370. Damn, are ya’ll following all this bouncing around? Basically, nobody knows what the hell is going on with this flight.

At 2:34 a.m., Kuala Lumpur ACC contacted Malaysia Airline’s operations center, inquiring about the commination status with Flight 370. They were informed that the flight was in normal condition based on a signal download. At the request of Ho Chi Minh ACC another Malaysia Airline aircraft (Flight 386 bound for Shanghai) attempted to contact MH370 on the Lumpur Radio frequency, the same frequency on which Flight 370 last made contact with Malaysian air traffic control. Flight 386 also attempted contact using an emergency frequency. Both attempts were unsuccessful. At 3:30 a.m., Malaysia Airlines’ operations center informed Kuala Lumpur ACC that the locations it had given them earlier were “based on flight projection and not reliable for aircraft positioning.” Over the next 60 minutes Kuala Lumpur ACC contact Ho Chi Minh ACC asking whether they had signaled Chinese air traffic control. At 5:09 a.m., Singapore ACC was asked for more information about Flight 370. Hey, you can’t see these people aren’t doing their damn jobs. At 5:20 a.m. and unknown official contacted Kuala Lumpur ACC requesting information about MH370 because per his opinion based on known information, “MH370never left Malaysian airspace.” The watch supervisor at Kuala Lumpur ACC activated the Kuala Lumpur Aeronautical Rescue Coordination Center (ARCC) at 5:30 a.m. This was more than 4 hours after communication was lost with Flight 370. The ARCC is a command post at an Area Control Center that coordinates search-and-rescue activities when an aircraft is lost.

Malaysia Airlines issues a media statement at 7:24 local time, 1 hour after the scheduled arrival time of the flight at Beijing. In this statement they explained that communication with Flight 370 had been lost by Malaysian ATC at 2:40 a.m. and that the government had initiated search-and-rescue operations. The time when contact was lost was later corrected to 1:21 a.m. Neither the crew nor the aircraft’s communication system issued a distress signal, indications of bad weather, or technical problems before vanishing. On March 24, 2014, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak appeared before the media to give a statement about Flight 370, during which is announced that he had been briefed by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch and that it and Inmarsat had concluded that the aircraft’s last position before disappearing was in the southern Indian Ocean. Since there were no possible places where the plane could have landed, it must have crashed into the sea. Just before Najib spoke, an emergency meeting was held in Beijing for the relatives of Flight 370 passengers. Malaysia Airlines announced that MH370 was assumed lost with no survivors. The airline notified most of the families in person or via telephone. Very few received a text message informing them that the aircraft had likely crashed with no survivors. Shit, I can’t even imagine going through that. I get goosebumps just thinking about it. So terrible.

On January 29, 2015, the Director-General of the Department of Civil Aviation Malaysia, Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, announced that the status of Flight 370 would be changed to an “accident”, following the Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation, and that all passengers and crew are presumed to have lost their lives. An accident? That is more than an accident, bruv. That shit vanished right out of the sky. Ala Kazam! Gone! A search-and-rescue effort was launched in Southeast Asia soon after the disappearance. Following the initial analysis of communications between the aircraft and satellite, the land search was moved to the southern Indian Ocean one week after the tragedy. Between March 18th and April 28th, 19 vessels and 345 sorties by military aircraft searched over 1,800,000 sq mi (4,600,000 Km2). The last phase of the search was a bathymetric survey and sonar search of the seafloor, about 1,100 mi (1,800 km) southwest of Perth, Western Australia. On March 30, 2014, the search was coordinated by the Joint Agency Coordination Center (JACC), an Australian government agency that was established specifically to manage the effort to locate and recover Flight 370, and which mainly involved the Malaysian, Chinese, and Australian governments. On January 17, 2017, the official search for Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 was suspended after yielding no evidence of the aircraft other than some marine debris on the coast of Africa. In January 2018, the private American marine-exploration company Ocean Infinity resumed the search for MH370, using the Norwegian ship Seabed Constructor. The search area expanded during the search, and by the end of May 2018, the vessel had searched a total area of more than 43,000 sq mi (112,000 km2). Their contract with the Malaysian government ended soon after and the search ended without success on June 9, 2018.

Now I’m going to break down the different searches for you by date and geographical location. I know it may seem redundant but when I was researching this stuff it got very confusing. It might be a little confusing for you guys as well and I just want to make sure you understand all of the information. But you are smart cookies so you probably already do.  

Southeast Asia

March 8, 2014 – The Kuala Lumpur Aeronautical Rescue Coordination Center was activated at 5:30 MYT, four hours after communication was lost with the airplane. Search efforts started in the Gulf of Thailand and the South China Sea. By the second day of the search, Malaysian authorities discovered that records indicated that Flight 370 might have turned around before vanishing from radar screens. The search was expanded to include the Strait of Malacca. On March 12th, the chief of the Royal Malaysian Air Force announced that an unidentified aircraft had traveled across the Malay peninsula and was last seen on military radar 230 mi (200 nmi, 370 km) northwest of the island of Penang, search efforts were increased again to include the Andaman Sea and Bay of Bengal. Records of signals sent between the Flight 370 and a communications satellite over the Indian Ocean revealed that the plane had continued flying for almost six hours after its final sighting. On March 15, 2014, authorities announced that they would abandon search efforts in the South China Sea, Gulf of Thailand, and Strait of Malacca to focus efforts on the two corridors. Northern Thailand to Kazakhstan was quickly taken out of the equation since the aircraft would have passed through heavily militarized airspace, and those countries claimed that the military radar would have detected an unidentified aircraft entering their airspace. The emphasis of the search was shifted to the southern Indian Ocean west of Australia and within Australia’s aeronautical and maritime search and rescue regions. Australia agreed to manage the search from Sumatra to the southern Indian Ocean.

Southern Indian Ocean 

March 18, 2014 – From March 18th to March 27th, the search effort focused on an area approximately 1,600 mi (1,400 nmi, 2,600 km southwest of Perth, Australia. Australian prime minister, Tony Abbott, called the search area “as close to nowhere as it’s possible to be”. Satellite images of the region were analyzed; several objects of interest, and two possible debris fields were identified on images made between March 16th and March 26th. None of the objects noted in the images were found by aircraft or ships. On March 28th, new estimates of the radar track and the aircraft’s remaining fuel caused the search to be moved 680 mi (1,100 km, 590 nmi) northeast of the original search area. Another shift in the search area occurred on April 4, 2014. Between April 2nd and April 17th, an attempt was made to detect the underwater locator beacons, attached to the plane’s flight recorders. A sonar search of the seafloor near where the detections were carried out resulted in no signs of Flight 370. In a 2015 report, it stated that the battery of the flight’s data recorder might have expired in December 2012 and as a result may not have been capable of sending signals as well an an unexpired battery. In late June 2014, details of the next phase of the search were announced. Officials have dubbed this phase the “underwater search” despite the previous seafloor sonar survey. Some of the equipment used in the underwater search is known to be most effective when placed 650 ft (200 M0 above the seafloor at the end of a s6 mi (9.7 km) cable. In late June 2014, details of the next phase of the search were announced. Officials have dubbed this phase the “underwater search” despite the previous seafloor sonar survey. Some of the equipment used in the underwater search is known to be most effective when placed 650 ft (200 M0 above the seafloor at the end of a 6 mi (9.7 km) cable.

Underwater Search

October 6, 2014– Malaysia, China, and Australia governments made a joint commitment to thoroughly search 46,000 sq mi (1200,000 km) of the seafloor. This phase of the search began on October 6, 2014. Authorities used three ships equipped with towed deep-water vehicles that use side-scan sonar, multi-beam echo sounders, and video cameras to locate and identify aircraft debris. A fourth ship was brought in for the search between January and May 2015, using an AUV to search places that could not be effectively searched utilizing the equipment on the other vessels. After the discovery of the flaperon on Reunion, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) reviewed its drift calculations for debris from the aircraft. The JACC found that they were satisfied that the search area was still the most likely crash site. Reverse drift modeling of the debris, to determine its origin, also supported the underwater search area. But these methods were very imprecise over long periods. On January 17, 2017, all three countries announced the suspension of the search for Flight 370.

2018 Search

October 17, 2017– On October 17, 2017, Malaysia received proposals from three companies, including Dutch-based Fugro and American company Ocean Infinity, offering to continue the search for the aircraft. In January 2018, Ocean Infinity stated that it was planning to resume the search in the narrowed 9,700 sq mi (25,000 km) area. The search was approved by the Malaysian government, provided that payment would be made ONLY if the wreckage were found. I would have backed out; my stingy ass requires all payment UP FRONT. Pay me or I walk! Ocean Infinity worked with the Norwegian ship Seabed Constructor to perform the search. In late January 2018, it was announced that the AIS tracking system had detected the vessel reaching the search zone. The ship started searching for the most likely crash site according to the drift study by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO). By the end of May, the vessel had searched a total area of over 43,000 sq mi (112,000 km). Malaysia’s new transport minister, Loke Siew Fook, announced on May 23, 2018, that the search for MH370 would conclude at the end of the month. On May 31st, Ocean Infinity announced that its contract with the Malaysian government had ended. Damn, Ocean Infinity did all that work and didn’t even get paid cause they didn’t find shitake mushrooms.

In March 2019, the Malaysian government stated that it was willing to look at any “credible leads or specific proposals” regarding a new search effort. Ocean Infinity stated that it was ready to resume the search on the same no-fee, no-find basis, and in March 2022, the company committed to resuming its search in 2023 or 2024, pending approval by the Malaysian government.

By October 2017, eighteen pieces of debris believed to be from the missing flight had been recovered from beaches in the Western Indian Ocean. The first item of debris to be positively identified as originating from Flight 370 was the right flaperon. It was discovered in July 2015 on a beach in Saint-Andre, Reunion, an island in the western Indian Ocean. It was found approximately 2,500 mi (4,000 km, 2,200 nmi) west of the underwater search site. The flaperon was sent to Toulouse, France, where it was examined by France’s civil aviation accident investigation agency. In September 2015, French officials announced that serial numbers found on internal components of the flaperon linked it “with certainty” to Flight 370. After the discovery, French police conducted a search of the waters around Reunion for additional debris and found a damaged suitcase that might have come from Flight 370. In late February 2016, an object containing a stenciled label of “NO STEP” was found off the coast of Mozambique. The part was found on a sandbank in the Bazaruto Archipelago off the coast of Vilanculos in southern Mozambique. The part was sent to Australia, where experts identified it as almost certainly a horizontal stabilizer panel from MH370.

In December 2015, A man named Liam Lotter found a grey piece of debris on a beach in southern Mozambique. Mozambique seems to be the hot spot when it comes to finding stuff. His family waited to alert the authorities until March 2016, after reading about the discovery of the horizontal stabilizer panel. This piece was also sent to Australia for analysis. It had a stenciled code on it, 676EB. This identified it as being part of a Boeing 777 flap track fairing, and the style of the lettering matched stencils used by Malaysia Airlines. The locations where the objects were found were consistent with the drift model performed by CSIRO. This further confirmed that the parts were most likely from Flight 370. On March 7, 2016, more debris was found on the island of Reunion. Ab Aziz Kaprawi, Malaysia’s deputy transport minister, said that “an unidentified grey item with a blue border” might be linked to the missing plane. On March 21st, South African archaeologist Neel Kruger found a grey piece of debris on a beach near Mossel Bay, South Africa. On it was an unmistakable partial logo of Rolls-Royce, the manufacturer of the missing aircraft’s engines. Another piece of possible debris was found on the island of Rodrigues, Mauritius, in late March. On May 11, 2016, Australian authorities determined that the two pieces of debris were “almost certainly” from Flight 370.

On June 24, 2016, Australian transport minister Darren Chester announced that a piece of aircraft debris had been found on Pemba Island, off the coast of Tanzania. It was given to authorities so that experts from Malaysia could find out its origin. On July 20th, the Australian government released pictures of the piece, which was believed to be an outboard flap from one of the plane’s wings. On September 15th, Malaysian authorities confirmed that the debris was from the missing plane. On November 21, 2016, families of the missing victims announced that they would search for debris in December on the island of Madagascar. On November 30, 2018, five pieces of debris found between December 2016 and August 2018 on the Malagasy coast and believed by victims’ relatives to be from MH370, were given to Malaysian transport minister Anthony Loke. Goong Chen a mathematics professor at Texas A&M University made the argument that the plane may have entered the sea vertically; as any other angle of entry would have broken the airplane into many pieces, which would have necessarily been found already.

I know a lot of this sounds like I’m repeating myself but like I said; this shit is so confusing. I feel like the information is all over the place. So, just hang in there. Please and thank you.

Possible in-flight events

Power interruption – The SATCOM link functioned normally from pre-flight until it responded to a ground-to-air ACARS message at 1:07 a.m. Ground-to-air ACARS messages continued to be transmitted to Flight 370 until 2:03 a.m. when Inmarsat’s network sent numerous “Request for Acknowledge” messages that got no response from the plane. Somewhere between 1:07 and 2:03 a.m., power was lost at SDU, and at 2:25 a.m., the aircraft’s SDU sent a “log-on request” which is not something commonly made mid-flight. However, it does occur and an analysis of the characteristics and timing of these request suggests a power interruption in-flight is the most likely culprit.

Unresponsive crew or hypoxia– An analysis by the ATSB comparing the evidence available for Flight 370 with three categories of accidents: an in-flight upset, a glide event, and an unresponsive crew or hypoxia event, concluded that an unresponsive crew or hypoxia event “best fit the available evidence for the five-hour trip the flight made as it traveled south over the Indian Ocean without communication, likely on autopilot. The study of the flaperon showed that the landing flaps were not extended, supporting the spiral dive at high-speed theory. In May 2018, the ATSB confirmed that the flight was not in control at the time it crashed. “We have quite a bit of data to tell us that the aircraft if it was being controlled at the end, it wasn’t very successfully being controlled.” Ya think?

Passenger involvement– Two men with stolen passports boarded Flight 370. This of course raised immediate suspicion in the aftermath of the flight’s disappearance. Interpol states that both passports (one Australian and one Italian) had been reported stolen in Thailand two years prior. Interpol stated that both passports were listed on its Stolen and Lost Travel Documents database. Okay, so how did they even get on the plane? Malaysia’s Home Minister, Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, criticized his country’s immigration officials for failing to stop the passengers travelling with the stolen passports. The two passengers’ one-way tickets were booked through China Southern Airlines. It was later reported that an Iranian had ordered the cheapest tickets to Europe via a telephone in Bangkok, Thailand, and paid with cash. Both passengers were later identified as Iranian males, one nineteen years old and the other twenty-nine years old, who had entered Malaysia on February 28th, using valid Iranian passports. They were believed to be asylum seekers. The Secretary General of Interpol stated that the organization was “inclined to conclude that it was not a terrorist incident.” US and Malaysian officials reviewed the background of every passenger on the flight. On March 18th, Chinese officials announced that they checked all of the Chinese citizens on the plane and ruled out any possibility that any were involved in “destruction of terror attacks”. One passenger, who worked as a flight engineer for a Swiss charter company, was briefly under suspicions as a potential higher because he was thought to have the appropriate “aviation skills”.  

Crew involvement – United States officials believe that the most likely explanation for Flight 370’s demise is related to someone in the cockpit. Specifically, the person who programmed the aircraft’s autopilot to travel south across the Indian Ocean. Police searched the home of both the pilot and co-pilot, seizing financial records for all twelve crew members, including bank statements, credit card bills, and mortgage documents. On April 2, 2014, Malaysia’s Police Inspector-General announced that more than 170 interviews had been conducted as part of Malaysia’s criminal investigation, including interviews with family members of pilots and crew. Media reports claimed that Malaysian police had identified Captain Zaharie as the prime suspect, if human intervention were proven to be the cause of Flight 370’s disappearance. In March 2015, a preliminary report released by Malaysia stated that there was “no evidence of recent or imminent significant financial transactions carried out” by any of the pilots or crew, and that an analysis of the behavior of the pilots on CCTV footage showed “no significant behavioral changes”. In 2018, Captain Zaharie’s sister said that the safety investigation report on MH370 showed “nothing negative” about her brother flying the plane. According to the report, “There were seven ‘manually programmed’ waypoint coordinates that, when connected together, will create a flight path from KLIA to an area south of the Indian Ocean through the Andaman Sea. But a forensic report concluded there were no unusual activities other than game-related flight simulations.” 

Cargo– Flight 370 was carrying 23,823 pounds (10,806 kg) of cargo, of which four ULDS (unit load device
) of mangosteens (a fruit or something) weighing 10,066 pounds (4,566 kg) and 487 pounds (221 kg) of lithium-ion batteries were of most interest, according to Malaysian investigators. The mangosteens were loaded into the AFT cargo bay of the aircraft at Kuala Lumpur International Airport, and inspected by officials from Malaysia’s Federal Agriculture Marketing Authority before being loaded onto Flight 370. Head of Malaysian police, Khalid Abu Bakar, stated that the people who handled the mangosteens and Chinese importers were questioned to rule out sabotage. The lithium-ion batteries were held in a consignment and were being shipped from Motorola Solutions facilities in Bayan Lepas, Malaysia to Tianjin, China; the rest of the consignment consisted of walkie-talkie chargers and accessories. The batteries were assembled on March 7th and the consignment was sent to the Penang Cargo Complex, operated by MASkargo, where it was loaded onto a truck for transfer to Kuala Lumpur International Airport and onwards by plane to Beijing. At the Penang Cargo Complex, the consignment was inspected by MASkargo employees and Malaysian customs officials but didn’t go through a security screening before the truck was sealed for transfer to the airport. The consignment did not go through any additional inspections at KLIA before being loaded onto Flight 370; it was separated among two pallets in the forward cargo bay of the plane and one pallet that was placed in the rear of the cargo bay. The batteries were packaged per IATA guidelines. They were not regulated as dangerous goods. If they overheat lithium-ion batteries can cause intense fires, which has led to strict regulations on their transport aboard an aircraft. A fire fueled by lithium-ion batteries caused the crash of UPS Airlines Flight 6 in September 2010 and is suspected to have caused a fire that resulted in the crash of Asiana Airlines Flight 991 in July 2011. Both were cargo aircraft. Most airlines have stopped carrying bulk shipments of lithium-ion batteries, citing safety concerns.

A month after the disappearance, Malaysia Airlines’ chief executive Ahmad Jauhari Yahya acknowledged that ticket sales had declined but did not provide specific details. This may have partially resulted from the suspension of the airline’s advertising campaigns following the disappearance. During an interview Ahmad stated that the airline’s “primary focus…is that we do take care of the families in terms of their emotional needs and also their financial needs. It is important that we provide answers for them. It is important that the world has answers, as well.” Ahmed further said he was not sure when the airline could start rebuilding its image, but that it was adequately insurance to cover the financial loss stemming from the Flight 370 tragedy. On March 14, 2014, Malaysia Airlines retired the MH370 flight number and replaced it with MH318. This is a common practice among airlines after a notorious accident occurs. Flight 318, Malaysia Airline’s second scheduled daily service to Beijing was suspended seven weeks later, on May 2nd. This was supposedly due to a lack of demand. 

In March 2014, Malaysia Airlines was given $110 million to cover initial payments to passengers’ families and the search effort. Remarks from the lead reinsurer of the flight, Allianz, indicated that the insured market loss on Flight 370, including the search, was about $350 million. At the time of Flight 370’s disappearance, Malaysia Airlines was struggling to cut costs to compete with the new low-cost carriers in the region. Many analysts and the media suggested that Malaysia Airlines would need to rebrand and repair its image and/or require government assistance to return to profitability. I don’t think the airline ever rebranded its image. The lack of evidence in determining the cause of Flight 370’s disappearance, as well as the absence of any physical confirmation that the airplane crashed, raises many issues regarding responsibility for the accident and the payments made by insurance agencies. Under the Montreal Convention, it’s the airline’s responsibility to prove lack of fault in an accident and each passenger’s next of kin is automatically entitled, regardless of fault, to a payment of approximately $175,000 from the airline’s insurance company. This amounted to a total of approximately $40 million for the 227 passengers on board.

The airline was also very vulnerable to civil action from passengers’ loved ones. Compensation awarded during civil cases was likely to vary widely among passengers, based on the country where the trials were to take place. An American court could be expected to award around $8-10 million, while Chinese courts would likely award a small fraction of that amount. Despite the conclusion that the flight ended in the southern Indian Ocean, it was not until January 25, 2015 that the Malaysian government officially declared Flight 370 and accident with no survivors. This announcement would allow compensation claims to be made. Soon after the Flight 370 incident, Malaysia Airlines offered ex gratia condolence payments to families of the passengers. In June 2014, Malaysia’s deputy Foreign Minister Hamzah Zainuddin said that the families of seven passengers were awarded $50,000 advance compensation from Malaysia Airlines, but that full payout would come after the aircraft was found, or officially declared lost. Which as stated above did happen in January 2015. 

The airline was also very vulnerable to civil action from passengers’ loved ones. Compensation awarded during civil cases was likely to vary widely among passengers, based on the country where the trials were to take place. An American court could be expected to award around $8-10 million, while Chinese courts would likely award a small fraction of that amount. Despite the conclusion that the flight ended in the southern Indian Ocean, it was not until January 25, 2015, that the Malaysian government officially declared Flight 370 an accident with no survivors. This announcement would allow compensation claims to be made. Soon after the Flight 370 incident, Malaysia Airlines offered ex gratia condolence payments to the families of the passengers. In June 2014, Malaysia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Hamzah Zainuddin said that the families of seven passengers were awarded $50,000 advance compensation from Malaysia Airlines, but that full payout would come after the aircraft was found, or officially declared lost. As stated above did happen in January 2015.

In the days following the disappearance of Flight 370, family members of those on board became increasingly frustrated at the lack of news. On March 25, 2014, about two hundred relatives of the Chinese passengers protested outside the Malaysian embassy in Beijing. Loved ones who arrived in Kuala Lumpur after the incident continued with their protest, accusing Malaysia of hiding the truth and harboring a murderer. They also wanted an apology from the Malaysian government for its poor initial hanging of the disaster. On March 7, 2016, a day before the second anniversary of the disappearance, twelve Chinese families with relatives on board the missing flight filed a lawsuit in Beijing. In Kuala Lumpur, lawyer Ganesan Nethi reported that he had filed a joint lawsuit on behalf of the families of thirty-two passengers, explaining that most were Chinese, along with an American, and a few Indians. In July 2019, Beijing-based relatives of some MH370 victims received notice from Malaysia Airlines that from that time onwards, MAS would discontinue the “Meet the Families” discussion sessions in Beijing, China. This occurred after roughly fifty sessions had taken place.

Some protestors boycotted all things Malaysian, including holidays and singers. In late March 2014, several major Chinese ticking agencies: eLong,, Qunar, and Mango, discontinued the sale of airline tickets to Malaysia and several large travel agencies reported a fifty percent drop in tourists compared to the year before. Movie star Chen Kun posted a message on Weibo stating that he would be boycotting Malaysia until the government told the truth about the disaster. Television host Meng Fei told the media that he would join the boycott.

The fact that a modern-day airplane could disappear in a digitally connected world was met with surprise and disbelief by the public. While changes in the aviation industry can often take years to materialize, airlines and air transport authorities responded quickly to take action on several measures to reduce the likelihood of a similar disaster. In January 2015, the US National Transportation Safety Board cited Flight 370 and Air France Flight 447 (this Flight crashed into the Atlantic Ocean in June 2009, and there were no survivors) when it issued eight new safety recommendations related to locating aircraft wreckage in remote or underwater locations. The disappearance of Malaysia Flight 370 has been described as “one of the biggest mysteries in modern aviation history”.

I’m happy to tell you that I have been on a few flights since 2014 and none of them have disappeared. But sometimes before I board a plane or when my mind has nothing else to think about, I’m pulled back to March 2014 when an airplane vanished from the sky with no rhyme or reason. That could be the raging anxiety that I have trouble controlling sometimes. Sometimes I wonder about the victims’ loved ones and how they cope with not knowing what happened to their family and friends. I don’t know how I would go on if something like this happened to Nick, my brother, or my parents. For me not having closure would be the most difficult part of all. Will the discovery of Malaysian Flight 370 be the next major world event? I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.


“Malaysia Airlines Flight 370” – Wikipedia

“Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370: Where Is It?” – The Atlantic

“Malaysia Airlines Flight 370” – CBS News

“Biggest Mystery In Aviation” – YouTube


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