Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Mystery of MH370 'may never be solved'

Kuala Lumpur - Even if searchers are able to
miraculously pluck Malaysia Airlines flight 370's
"black box" from the depths of the vast Indian
Ocean, experts say it may not solve one of aviation's
greatest mysteries.


Planes, ships and state-of-the-art tracking
equipment are hunting for any trace of the
passenger jet, which Malaysia said crashed in the
forbidding waters after veering far from its intended
course.



They face a huge challenge locating the Boeing
777's "black box", which holds vital clues to
determining what caused the plane to vanish after it
took off from Kuala Lumpur en route to Beijing on 8
March.



But experts believe the flight data recorder and
cockpit voice recorder may not yield answers on the
riddle of how and why the plane diverted an hour
into the flight, and embarked on a baffling journey
to the southern reaches of the Indian Ocean.



The data recorder details the aircraft's path and
other mechanical information for the flight's
duration, and "should provide a wealth of
information", US-based aviation consultancy firm
Leeham Co said in a commentary.


But the cockpit voice recorder - which could reveal
what decisions were made by those at the helm and
why - retains only the last two hours of
conversations before the plane's demise.



That means potentially crucial exchanges
surrounding the initial diversion, which took place
halfway between Malaysia and Vietnam, will be lost.



Exact location
"Clearly, it won't reveal anything that happened
over the Gulf of Thailand - this will have been
overwritten by the end of MH370," it said.



Leeham added that it also remains to be seen
whether the cockpit recorder will contain anything
pertinent about the plane's final two hours, when it
is believed to have either ditched or run out of fuel.



Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said on
Monday that Flight MH370 had gone down in the
Indian Ocean with its 239 passengers and crew,
citing new satellite data analysis.


But its exact location and the circumstances of its
diversion remain a mystery. No distress signal was
ever received.



Three scenarios have gained particular traction:
hijacking, pilot sabotage, or a sudden mid-air crisis
that incapacitated flight crew and left the plane to
fly on auto-pilot for several hours until it ran out of
fuel.



Malaysia has said it believes the plane was
deliberately diverted by someone on board.
But with the travelling public and aviation industry
hanging on every twist in the drama, no firm
evidence has emerged from a Malaysian
investigation to support any of the theories
circulating.



British aviation expert Chris Yates said that even if
the black boxes are found, "it seems unlikely that we
will get that answer" of why the plane ended up
thousands of kilometres off course.
"We still have no idea as to the mental state of the
pilot and co-pilot, we have no idea if somebody
managed to get into the cockpit to seize the aircraft,
and we've certainly had no admissions of
responsibility since this whole episode started," he
told BBC television.



"It is a mystery like no other"
Debris has been sighted far off Australia's west
coast but an international search effort has been
unable to retrieve any for confirmation, and
wreckage could have drifted hundreds of kilometres
from where the plane crashed.



"As investigators, we deal with physical evidence
and right now we don't have any physical evidence
to work with," Anthony Brickhouse, a member of the
International Society of Air Safety Investigators, told
AFP.


The batteries powering the locator signal of the
black boxes will run out in less than two weeks.
A US device capable of detecting that signal even on
the ocean floor was being sent to the scene, but
weather and treacherous sea conditions have
hampered the effort to pinpoint the black box
location.



Paul Yap, an aviation lecturer at Singapore's
Temasek Polytechnic, said that if the black box is not
found, "chances are we are never going to find out
what really happened".
"With the new satellite data, I think we can say it is a
chessboard," he said of the wide search area.



"The question now is to find which grid on that
chessboard to focus on, where the black boxes are."

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