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Malaysian Flight MH370 still a mystery

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Disappeared off the radar 1:30 a.m., early Saturday morning March 8, the frustrating search for Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 with its 239 passengers and crew continues over a large swath of ocean, over 27,000 square miles, from the South China Sea, Gulf of Thailand and now into the Indian Ocean and Andaman Sea near the Gulf of Bengal. Causing more difficulties for multinational search and rescue crews, the Malaysian government has asked the U.S. to broaden its search into the Indian Ocean. “We have an indication the plane went down in the Indian Ocean,” said a senior Pentagon official, confirming that the USS Kidd has been deployed to the search-and-rescue efforts. Pentagon officials believe the plane flew for a few hours after it dropped of the radar early morning March 8. Malaysian Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein confirmed the search still goes on in the South China Sea.

Radar reports of a possible “turn back” also baffle search-and-rescue crews, broadening the search to the vast ocean east Malaysia in the Indian Ocean. While the “main focus has always been in the South China Sea,” said Hishammuddin, Malaysia has asked the Pentagon to deploy assets to the Indian Ocean. “We are working very closely with the FAA and NTSB on the issue of a possible air turn back,” said Hishammuddin, involving the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation and Safety Board. Since the flight’s disappearance March 8, it’s completely baffled aviation experts, prompting China’s finger pointing, whose 153 of the 239 passengers onboard. Chinese satellite images showing a debris field in the South Chin Sea so far haven’t panned out. Malaysian authorities have pulled out all stops to locate the lost Boeing 777 passenger jet.

Under growing pressure from China, Malaysian officials have asked the Pentagon to widen the search into the Andaman Sea and Indian Ocean. Operating on the possibility that the plane kept flying after dropping off the radar, Hishammuddin asked the Pentagon to widen the search. Most aviation experts believe that had the plane been taken down by a bomb, it would have left a debris field with at least some objects floating on the surface. When Air France Flight 447 disappeared over the South Atlantic en route from Rio de Janeiro to Paris June 1, 2009, it took only two days before Brazilian search-and-rescue crews found the first bodies and crash debris. What puzzles experts about Malaysian Flight MH370 is that there’s been zero debris from the presumed crash fueling rampant speculation. Some experts still entertain the possibility of a hijacking and safe landing at an undisclosed location.

Widening the search to the western side of the Malaysian peninsula stemmed from the possibility that the plane kept flying after it dropped off the radar March 8. “Under the circumstances, it is appropriate to conduct the search even if the evidence suggests there is a possibility of finding a minor evidence to suggest . . . that the aircraft would have been there,” said Hishammuddin. Going back to square-one, Hishammuddin discounted Chinese satellite images showing some debris in the South China Sea. “I’ve heard of many incidents from many sources. Like we have said from the start, we have looked at every lead and in most cases—in fact all cases—that we have pursued, we have not found anything positive,” Hishammuddin, confirming that the search into the Sea of Andaman and Indian Ocean could prove fruitless. Malaysian authorities ruled out earlier Chinese satellite reports about crash debris.

Malaysian officials dismissed reports from the Wall Street Journal that Rolls Royce, the maker of the Boeing 777 jet engines, indicated that signals from the motors proved they ran for several hours after the plane fell off the radar. Officials from Rolls Royce said they received no signals from the plane’s jet engines. While Malaysian authorities widened the search to the Sea of Andaman and Indian Ocean they admit it may turn up nothing. Exhaustive land searches over Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia have turned up nothing. “They have indicated to us that based on the information given by the Malaysian authorities they—being the FAA and NTSB—the U.S. team was the view that there was reasonable grounds for Malaysian authorities to deploy resources to conduct search on the western side of the peninsula of Malaysia,” said Hishammuddin, proving Malaysia’s due diligence

When geographers report the scientific fact that the earth is covered by 75% water, they’re not kidding. Deploying the USS Kidd to the Indian Ocean shows just how small a Boeing aircraft is in the scheme of things. If the plane crashed into the water intact, it would leave no debris fields, forcing search-and-rescue crews to search the ocean’s depths for any clues. “The aviation community is more puzzled than the general population because we know more of what could cause the accident and we still have no clue,” said Jason Rabinowitz, a self-described aviation geek. “I keep going to sleep every night and hoping that I wake up with some shred of good news but it isn’t happening,” furthering the frustration for all involved. Sending the USS Kidd out to the Indian Ocean isn’t a goose chase because all other leads have gone flat. Sooner or later, something’s going to turn up.

About the Author

John M. Curtis writes politically neutral commentary analyzing spin in national and global news. He’s editor of OnlineColumnist.com and author of Dodging The Bullet and Operation Charisma.

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