Closure is cathartic, but that is not what the family and friends of those missing from Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 have received in the last two years. Flight MH370, which was traveling from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, lost contact with Air Traffic Control on March 8, 2014 with 239 souls aboard. Who knew that just over two years later, there would still be no definitive answers about what happened or why, or even exactly where?
It must be disheartening for those wanting answers not to get any or, worse, to become hopeful only to be disappointed again. To this day, the Associated Press declares the disappearance of Flight MH370 as one of the biggest mysteries in modern aviation.
Everybody knows about airplanes and their “black boxes,” a term which is actually a misnomer, clarifies the National Transportation Safety Board. Almost all aircraft are required by the FAA to have on board a Flight Data Recorder (FDR) and a Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR), that are painted with a bright, easily recognizable orange paint on the outside. FDRs are the center of operational information for an aircraft and help authorities piece together what happened in the event of an emergency or crash.
After Flight MH370 went missing, and as a matter of practice after any flight goes down, authorities immediately begin the search for the FDR. Both recorders are equipped with an Underwater Locator Beam (ULB) or a “pinger” which begins pinging the instant it comes into contact with water. These recorders can withstand extreme circumstances including heat, cold, and ocean depths. But the battery in some older models only lasts for 30 days, as opposed to newer models that can last up to 90 days.
In the case of the Malaysian Airlines plane, neither recorder was ever found, and both recorders were the older model so they stopped pinging at 30 days. Even when they are pinging, their signal can only best be picked up at about a mile distance. As BBC reported just after Flight MH370 went missing, even if the recorders stop pinging, the information on them remains. The caveat, however, is that authorities need to find those recorders.
After Flight MH370 disappeared from radar, extensive searches were done for the recorders and any wreckage itself. The only immediate evidence of a plane crash after the Malaysian Airlines plane disappeared was two large oil slicks found by Vietnamese navy planes.
Since the disappearance of Flight MH370, a lot of debris has been found (which shows how much is in the oceans), although not all of it has been traced back to the Malaysian Airlines plane. However, last July on France’s Reunion Island, a piece of one of the plane’s wings called a flaperon washed ashore. As Reuters reported, authorities were able to verify, via paint color and maintenance records, that it was from the missing Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370. “It is therefore possible to confirm with certainty that the flaperon found on Reunion island on July 29, 2015 corresponds to the one from flight MH370,” the French prosecutor said in a statement last year.
The latest possible debris found from Flight MH370 is what appears to be part of a plane engine with a manufacturer’s logo on it. South African archeologist Neels Kruger found it near the town of Mossel Bay, on South Africa’s southern coast. He was on a walk when he spotted the metal piece, which is just over two feet in width and length. He took photos of it and sent it to a friend of his who is a pilot. When they decided it looked like part of an engine, Kruger told the AP, he alerted the South African Civil Aviation Authority who told him to “sit tight until further instruction.”
In recent months, two possible pieces of debris were found in Mozambique and are being examined. One piece was found by an 18-year-old South African teenager, Liam Lotter, who thinks he may have found a wing from the Malaysian Airlines plane. While Kruger was waiting to hear back from authorities on the engine piece, he contacted Lotter via Facebook. Kruger was instructed to bubble wrap the piece he had found and keep it safe until authorities could get ahold of it.
The recent pieces found are being examined by an international investigation team in Australia. The piece Kruger found, according to the International Business Times, is being evaluated and may be turned over to Malaysian authorities. Hopefully, something will turn up that will lead to the actual location of the missing Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 so family and friends can get the closure they need after all this time. If not, it may remain one of aviation’s biggest mysteries.
[Photo by Kevin Frayer/Getty Images]