Maybe because it is the easy story, or maybe it is because Malaysian aviation officials are so good about confounding reporters, but the “news” this week that more debris has been identified as coming from Malaysia 370 is a big ho hum, and that’s frustrating for anyone who really cares about what happened two years ago to the flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.
The world already knows that the airplane with the registration 9M-MRO flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8, 2014, inexplicably went down far off course in the South Indian Ocean about 7 hours after takeoff.
Engineers at Inmarsat were able to determine the general direction of MH 370
This general location was established within a week of the disappearance based on satellite signals sent from the plane. It was confirmed 16 months later when the first debris, a part of the airplane’s wing was found on Reunion Island and confirmed again this week when more recovered wreckage including a piece of Rolls-Royce engine cowling was said to be from the missing jetliner by Malaysia’s Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai.
The real question that has gone unanswered by Liow or anyone else in Malaysia is what else is new in the investigation?
The missing plane has given the Malaysian aviation authority a jumbo jet sized excuse for making no apparent progress in resolving one of the world’s most curious aviation mysteries. They insist they can’t do anything until the airplane is found, even though there’s evidence in abundance right there in Malaysia. Not everything disappeared with the airplane.
In writing my book The Crash Detectives, which includes my own theory about what happened to Malaysia 370, and which will be published by Penguin in September, I put many questions to officials at the Civil Aviation Bureau and the airline. I never received a reply. They’re not talking.
I am just one one of many who wonder what is being learned from the evidence on the ground. This includes the airplane’s maintenance history and cargo on the flight, whether any communication signals transmitted or received from the hundreds of cell phones on the plane provided any useful information. What has been learned about the curious first loss of power on the airplane which happened early on in the flight and ended sometime around 2:25 a.m. Malaysia time? We know that means the plane experienced a total loss of power and then regained it. Why?
I asked several people who have paid attention to the halting progress in this case, to make their own suggestions about what information the Malaysians should release so that we may get a step or two closer to understanding the mysterious flight of Malaysia 370.
Nearly a year after the first wreckage was discovered, former airline captain and safety consultant John Cox wonders about that flaperon found on Reunion Island. “What did metallurgical analysis of the fracture surfaces show? Could a determination of (its operating) position be made?” he wants to know.
Jeff Wise, a private pilot and freelance writer who proposed an alternative theory and wrote a book about it is also focused on the flaperon. What information is there he asks “about the species and distribution of barnacles, their length (and) results of oxygen isotope analysis?”
These men and several others think there has to be more information than what’s been released from the various radar zones through which the airplane passed before disappearing.
“I’m curious that we haven’t seen any greater tracking by Malaysian military radar,” airline pilot and safety specialist, John Gadzinski said. “Assuming they kept recorded tapes of their radar it would have provided a pretty good picture of the event, at least until it travelled out to sea.”
And Victor Iannello a scientist and entrepreneur who has been part of a loose group of MH 370 citizen investigators is doubtful that the Malaysians have been rigorous about the accuracy of the information they used to track the plane across Malaysia.
“There are anomalies surrounding this radar data that need to be explained,” he wrote in an email.
Armchair investigators, experienced outsiders, alternative theorists and book authors, we all have our reasons for wanting to know more. But it is Sarah Bajc and the others who lost loved ones on Flight 370 who have the emotional investment. When asked what she wants the Malaysians to share about their probe, she does not limit her answer.
Radar, background on the flight crew, actions of the air controllers and the airline, cargo, discrepancies in the reports already issued by the authorities are some of the areas she wants information about.
“The list is endless,” she said.
Frustrated family members and members of the international air safety community may find the suggestion of Peter Fiegehen, an Australian air traffic control specialist and former accident investigator, worth considering. He believes the time has come to create an independent team of professional investigators to give the case fresh perspective.
“Considering the complexities, massive expenditure and possibility of group-think, peer or other pressure or false hypothesis,” Fiegehen says, a small team not previously connected to the investigation could be effective.
The silence of the Malaysians leads me to wonder if the officials there really don’t want to know what happened to the plane being operated by the government-owned airline. If the media would stop focusing on non-news as if it was big news that might be another question worth asking.