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Mystery of Malaysia Flight 370 explored on Smithsonian Channel program

 In this handout image provided by the U.S. Navy, The Bluefin 21, Artemis autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) is hoisted back on board the Australian Defence Vessel Ocean Shield after successful buoyancy testing April 1, 2014 in the Indian Ocean.
In this handout image provided by the U.S. Navy, The Bluefin 21, Artemis autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) is hoisted back on board the Australian Defence Vessel Ocean Shield after successful buoyancy testing April 1, 2014 in the Indian Ocean. (Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Peter D. Blair/U.S. Navy via Getty Images)

The mystery of the disappearance of Malaysia Airline Flight 370 is being explored on a Smithsonsian Channel special debuting on Sunday, April 6, 2014 (9 p.m. ET/PT), according to a media announcement emailed on April 3. "Malaysia 370: The Plane that Vanished" offers an in-depth analysis about the airplane's disappearance and the disaster's impact on the future of aviation.

The fate of Malaysia 370, which disappeared mid-flight on March 8, 2014, is one of the great aviation mysteries of our time At a time when speculation is rife, the special dives deep into the detail of the Boeing 777, the technologies involved in the search, and aviation procedures that may be transformed in the aftermath of this disaster.

Smithsonian Channel has produced a number of series that look at the world of aviation, including: "Air Disasters," Dangerous Flights," Mighty Planes" and "Terror in the Skies." Experts from Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, the National Transportation Safety Board and the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics weigh in the mystery of Malaysia 370, paring away rampant speculation to examine hard evidence and the science of aviation.

Andrew K. Johnston, Geographer, Center for Earth and Planetary Studies, National Air and Space Museum, who explains the limitations of satellite imagery: “The problem with looking for pieces of debris in the open ocean is that you have an area that is not high contrast…You have got objects that are maybe floating in the ocean that might be just beneath the surface, you have got sun reflecting off the waves, so it’s not an environment where it is really easy to pick out small objects that might be floating there.”

With all the communications technology equpping modern aircraft it is surprising that a commercial airliner with 239 passengers can just vanish. "Malaysia 370: The Plane that Vanished" uses the mysterious disappearance to examine the inner-workings of today’s and tomorrow’s aircraft.

Bob van der Linden, Chair of Aeronautics Department, National Air and Space Museum, discusses possible sources of the problem: “Highly unlikely that an aircraft would be changing its direction as it did without some intervention from somebody........someone turned off the equipment.......someone programmed the computers to fly the plane in a different direction. Airplanes don’t do that themselves.”

Aviation experts look at recent major air disasters, Black Box tracking technology , airiport security scanners, air traffic control and data systems. The experts also discuss what systems could be improved and the future of aviation technology.

Roger Connor, Curator, Curator of Vertical Flight, Instruments and Avionics, National Air and Space Museum, discusses potential future technology, stating: “There’s now a lot of interest in having a new generation of systems where possibly the aircraft will actually eject a recording unit before impact. So the aircraft would have some sort of system that would recognize that there’s an excessive rate of descent and a crash would be imminent and then it would eject a unit…as well as a recording of the critical advance of the aircraft before impact.”

"Malaysia 370: The Plane that Vanished" s produced by ITN Productions for Smithsonian Channel. Producers are Dick Bower and Karen Walsh. Executive Producer for ITN is Ian Russell. Executive Producers for Smithsonian Channel are David Royle and Charles Poe.

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