Why The Search For The Missing Malaysia Airliner Must Continue

Arguably the greatest mystery in the history of commercial aviation, the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 has baffled the world as extensive international air and sea searches for the missing Boeing 777, which veered radically off course on Mar. 8, have failed to turn up a single piece of definitive evidence of its whereabouts.

Exactly eight months since the plane suddenly vanished over the sea between Malaysia and Vietnam, Australian authorities began the next phase of the search for MH370 in the Southern Indian Ocean. According to a BBC News report, on Oct. 8, the GO Phoenix became the first of three ships equipped with special sonar equipment to arrive in a remote part of the Indian Ocean and begin scanning the sea floor for wreckage of the missing airliner.

If you are unfamiliar with the story of MH370, this is what initially happened: around 1:30 a.m. local time on Mar. 8, air traffic controllers lost communication and contact with Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which had 239 passengers on board. The Boeing 777-200ER, which is one of the most advanced and safest commercial aircrafts in the world, had departed Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia at 12:41 a.m., and it was scheduled to arrive in Beijing, China at approximately 6:30 a.m.

At the time it vanished, the plane was flying over the South China Sea. The transponder on the plane, which is used to identify the aircraft and transmits details such as altitude and speed to air traffic controllers, suddenly stopped transmitting. The passenger jet with hundreds of people on board instantly disappeared without any distress call or prior warning. It took nearly four hours after the plane disappeared from radar screens for Malaysia Airlines and the Malaysian government to realize the plane had gone missing and to subsequently deploy search teams.

Eventually, planes and ships from 14 countries began initially searching areas of the South China Sea, the south of Vietnam and the Malaysian Peninsula. However, the search area was soon widened and it shifted locations as it was determined, through analysis of aircraft performance, data sent from the plane to satellites and the British satellite company Inmarsat through so called “handshakes,” that the plane had diverted south.

According to CNN, continued analysis of these “handshakes,” satellite data and a somewhat better understanding of the communication between aircraft and satellite have allowed investigators to further refine the search areas. Using the satellite data, officials from the Australian Transport Safety Board, also known as ATSB, and other agencies from around the globe have refined the search area to conclude the plane ended its journey about 1,100 miles off western Australia in the Indian Ocean along what is known as the “seventh arc.” It is in this area, northwest of the Australian city of Perth, that the GO Phoenix and other ships have begun the underwater search.

As more time passes with no tangible evidence found, many may wonder why the search continues for MH370. Governments and everyday people, like you and me, may have difficulty justifying the continuous time put in to find the plane and, of course, the cost of the search. I would argue in order to ensure another tragedy such as this one doesn’t take place again, it is imperative the search continues until the plane is found, whatever the cost may be.

“Investigators must realize the question here is not how much it will cost to find the airplane and determine the cause to ensure it won’t happen again. Instead, the question should be this: How much will it cost if they don’t?,” David Soucie, a former FAA safety inspector and CNN analyst, said. I believe he said it best with that quotation.

First, the latest efforts to find missing Malaysia Airlines flight 370 are being funded by the Australian government, not the U.S. government. Australian Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss announced in August a $50 million (Australian dollars) contract to fund the new round of searches for the missing airliner. In addition, Truss stated that another $60 million has been appropriated toward the underwater search.

Furthermore, there may be serious consequences if the cause of this tragedy is not established soon. Hundreds of thousands of people, including myself, are flying around on the same type of plane that disappeared earlier this year. The Boeing 777 is an exceptionally safe aircraft with nearly a perfect safety record, and I always feel secure and comfortable flying in the craft. Nonetheless, if there is a systemic problem with the airplanes, it must be corrected and assurance must be given to the traveling public immediately. Doubts about safety can certainly take a toll on the airline industry. However, if there is another tragedy like the disappearance of MH370, more people may be lost, and it will become clear that flyers are at risk.

“Such a turn of events would rock not only passengers’ faith in the airlines’ ability to keep them safe, but also governments’ ability to assure safe air travel,” according to Soucie.

Finally, I would also add that all the family members of passengers on MH370 deserve some kind of closure and resolution to this terrible incident. If I were a passenger on that plane, I would want every effort to be made to bring peace to my loved ones. All of the 239 souls that were on board MH370 ought to be found and brought home, no matter how much the search costs or how long it takes. It is the right thing to do.

In full disclosure, the airline industry has been in my family my entire life, and I consider myself a frequent flyer. I have had the opportunity to fly around the United States and to over 20 countries. As a result, the safety of commercial aviation is an important issue to me.  I believe we should always continue looking for a resolution to this mystery. In order to ensure another tragedy like the disappearance of MH370 doesn’t happen again, the plane, or whatever remains of it, must be found at all costs. We can only hope that the latest search efforts in the Southern Indian Ocean are successful so the mystery of MH370 can possibly be solved. For now, it is remains one of the greatest unsolved mysteries.

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