Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 vanished seemingly without a trace 15 months ago, and there have been a wide variety of theories as to what happened to the missing plane — and how a Boeing 777 Jumbo jet with 239 people on board could simply disappear. But now, a math professor leading an interdisciplinary team of researchers from several top research institutions says that he’s solved the puzzle.
At least, says Professor Goong Chen of Texas A&M University, he and his team have come up with an explanation that best fits the forensic data.
And that explanation, as determined by elaborate computer simulations of several possible scenarios Flight MH370’s final moments, says that the plane entered the waters of the remote Indian Ocean at a 90 degree, vertical angle — like this.
Chen admits that there’s no way to know for sure what happened to the Malaysia Airlines plane, but his math says that the “vertical entry” theory best explains why no debris from Flight MH370 has ever turned up, despite a multi-million dollar, international search effort.
“The true final moments of MH370 are likely to remain a mystery until someday when its black box is finally recovered and decoded… But forensics strongly supports that MH370 plunged into the ocean in a nosedive.”
For readers who may be mathematically inclined, Chen’s entire paper — published in the April 15 edition of Notes of the American Mathematical Society and titled “Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370: Water Entry of an Airliner” — can be read and downloaded in PDF format at this link.
The study — which involved six other researchers from Penn State University, Virginia Tech University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the Qatar Environment and Energy Research Institute — ran computer simulations of five different possible ways the Malaysia Airlines 777-200 could have ended its rogue flight after taking a still-unexplained sharp westerly turn off of its regular route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.
The scenarios included the possibility that the plane’s pilot deliberately landed the plane on the water and allowed it to them sink to the bottom of the sea, fully intact.
That theory was proposed in a book published last year titled Goodnight Malaysian 370: The Truth Behind The Loss Of Flight 370, which said that the Malaysia Airlines pilot hijacked his own plane in an elaborate murder-suicide plot.
But Chen and his team say that under their computer simulations, the water landing theory is unlikely, given the fact that not a single piece of debris has turned up.
“Ditching a large airplane on the open Indian Ocean generally would involve waves of height several meters or more, easily causing breakup and the leak of debris,” the study concludes.
Australia, which is leading the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, said recently that the search for the plane would be curtailed if no evidence turns up from a search of a newly expanded area in the Indian Ocean.
[Images: ChinaFotoPress and Rufus Cox / Getty Images]