News / Asia

Search for Missing Malaysia Plane Poses Challenges

Co-Pilot, Flying Officer Marc Smith, turns his Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) AP-3C Orion aircraft at low level in bad weather whilst searching for the missing Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 over the southern Indian Ocean, March 24, 2014.
Co-Pilot, Flying Officer Marc Smith, turns his Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) AP-3C Orion aircraft at low level in bad weather whilst searching for the missing Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 over the southern Indian Ocean, March 24, 2014.
Australian authorities Tuesday suspended the search for MH370 for 24 hours, citing bad weather and rough seas in the southern Indian Ocean. So far, authorities have not found any debris from the plane, despite numerous possible leads. Reporter Rebecca Valli spoke with Jason Middleton, aviation professor at the University of New South Wales, about the search process and the challenge of determining what happened to the flight.

(Q) What is going on at the moment with the search mission?

(A) “Firstly the basic technology is to try and identify debris in the ocean, which is done by satellite. Then trying to locate it with airplanes, and then have it picked up with ships. Unfortunately there have been no pieces of airplane yet picked up. At this stage no ships have actually picked up pieces of debris which can be identified as being part of the airplane.”

(Q) What happens after the debris is picked up?

(A) “It has to be identified as being part of the airplane and there are Australian investigators that certainly could do that task immediately in Perth. Then what would happen is the search would then intensify, they would try to estimate where the currents had been taking the debris in the last two weeks and try to back track where that debris came from. That would then be the search point for the sunken debris of the airplane.”

(Q) What sort of technology can be used when a search point is located?

(A) “For starters they would need to have a pinger locator because the flight data recorder, the black box has an underwater pinger. While the battery on there is still going they are going to be able to identify where the crash is from that. Unfortunately it generally has about a month of battery and already half of that time has been taken out. So they'll have to try to get instrumentation out there as quickly as possible, to try and see if they can hear the pinger. Of course it is a very big ocean and the pinger doesn't ping very far, probably only tens of kilometers so they have to be quite close to the wreck before they can in fact find it.”

(Q) Authorities say that the search mission has moved into a recovery and investigation phase. What should we expect from that investigation?
(A) “The Malaysian investigators will be seeking advice as they do from all of the experts around the world, from the British Aviation Accident Investigation Branch, from the National Transportation and Safety Board in the United States, from Rolls Royce, from Boeing, and the ATSB the Australian Transportation Safety Bureau. Investigations like these are always a team effort, so people can have confidence that there will be investigators from probably ten or fifteen different organizations, all looking at all the evidence, so they probably can have confidence that the team will be thorough in their investigation.”

(Q) Relatives of the passengers in Beijing say that Malaysian Airline and the Malaysian government have covered up information and are “cheating them.” What is your opinion on how they handled the situation?

(A) “This is an unprecedented accident, usually an airplane is found very close to the point where it was last heard, and the Malaysian authorities did the right things. They built the search around the area that they thought was most likely, which was the gulf of Thailand. That was a very sensitive thing to do, they extended the search when they could not find it directly there, they extended it wider and wider. And then only recently with this additional information from the satellites has the search been moved wider. None had any idea that the wreck could be in the Southern Indian Ocean, nobody had that idea two weeks ago. I think they have done a professional job of handling the investigation, how they handled the crowd is a different matter. Handling the relatives is a very difficult thing to do, because you have grieving relatives and they are very concerned and it is very difficult to satisfy them when you don't have any information.”

(Q) There has been lots of speculation about the causes of this accident, some suggesting foul play by individuals on board, or even a suicide attempt by the pilot. Based on the information we have so far, can we make an informed guess on the cause of the crash?

(A) “No, I am afraid we can't. That's the sad thing, no conclusion can be reached yet. You could makes lots of different hypothesis but really there is not enough hard data to stand behind any of them. Eventually I think they will find the airplane and they will find the reasons, but I am afraid we are a long way off that yet, and that is going to be very frustrating for the relatives.”

You May Like

Guatemala Mudslide Death Toll Rises to 86

Death toll is expected to continue to rise as emergency crews dig through tons of earth for an estimated 350 people still missing More

Goodbye Pocahontas: Photos Reveal Today's Real Native Americans

Weary of stereotypes, photographer Matika Wilbur is determined to reshape the public's perception of her people More

Debris Found in Search for Missing Ship

Objects located Sunday have not yet been confirmed to be from the 240 meter container ship, El Faro, which disappeared in the eye of Hurricane Joaquin, according to US Coast Guard More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Lou from: Atlanta
March 26, 2014 8:08 AM
To me, it sounds like it was out of control. Either it had massive electrical and communications failure or it had been taken control by nefarious individuals.
Parachuting into freezing water is not a good idea.

by: arif from: indonesia
March 25, 2014 9:20 PM
I think, if Inmarsat have other ping reception data from more than 1 satellit (maybe from 2 or even 3) the location of the plane can be reduced to the smaler area or even to pin poin it

by: Mark from: Virginia
March 25, 2014 11:20 AM
Parachutes on commercial planes...? Never gonna happen. First, it is too expensive to equip a fleet of jets with 200+ parachutes. Second, weight. Each parachute weighs about 50 pounds, add that to the total weight of fuel, passengers, cargo, etc. and airlines would lose money. Third, training. Not only the crew but each passenger would require training. You just can't strap it on and jump, and there will always be passengers with physical needs and small children that would make parachuting difficult and/or impossible.

Finally, time. If a jet is going down out of control, it will descend very fast. It could lose 10,000 feet in less than five minutes and its speed will be well over 300 mph. The people on the plane would have less than ten minutes to put on parachutes, line up at a door (even if they could get the door open with the pressure holding it shut), and then they still have the incredible turbulence in the air from the falling jet, the jet exhaust itself and most severely, the cold and lack of oxygen above 15,000 feet that would certainly kill most of the jumpers less than a minute after jumping.

Sure, it could be done in the movies (Air Force One, comes to mind), but that is highly unrealistic and dangerous. Bottom line; like everything else in life, flying has its risks, and while it may be safer to fly than drive, accidents do happen no matter what form of conveyance you use to get from point A to point B.

by: Ken
March 25, 2014 9:41 AM
Malaysian Airlines does require their security measures to be audited by a professional body ensuring the safety of all passengers. At the same time tracking their aircraft needs to be reviewed whether in flight or on the ground in a foreign country.

by: Mike from: USA
March 25, 2014 7:27 AM
They should take extra security steps before letting people on planes. One is to pass a law that requires people to know how to parachute! They should also higher a guard on duty.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs