U.S. naval aviators perform preflight checks in the flight station of a P-8A Poseidon prior to a mission to assist in search and rescue operations for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370
Millions around the world are stunned and puzzled by the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, which lost contact with air traffic controllers on March 8. Although the flight was scheduled to land at Beijing Capital Airport around 6:30 AM that same day, radio contact ceased only about an hour after the plane departed from Kuala Lumpur International Airport. Over the past week, authorities from several countries have been conducting an increasingly widespread search for the aircraft and any survivors of a possible crash.
The ongoing saga of flight MH370 is being referred to by many as one of the most baffling mysteries in the history of aviation. With twelve countries utilizing over eighty ships and aircraft to search over 27,000 square nautical miles of land and ocean, it seems almost preposterous that MH370 and its 239 passengers have not yet been found. The search has continued to expand across the Indian Ocean towards the sparsely inhabited Andaman and Nicobar archipelago.
The search for the missing Boeing 777 aircraft has been complicated further in the past week due to myriad false claims and far-fetched theories. Reports included alleged sightings of large oil slicks in the South China Sea, the possibility that the airplane could have flown for hours after losing radio contact, and a suggestion that the plane was deliberately flown off course. Although authorities are looking into all possible scenarios, the constant false hope has been emotionally detrimental to the families of lost passengers.
The 239 people aboard MH370 hail from fourteen different countries, with a majority from China and Malaysia. Other nationalities include Australian, Indonesian, and Indian, among others. The international community was on high alert soon after two individuals listed on the flight manifest announced to the media that they were not on the plane, and that their passports had been stolen two years prior. This led many to believe that terrorism was somehow involved in the mystery. It was soon discovered, however, that two young Iranian men had stolen the passports in an attempt to immigrate to Europe.
While the international response to the disappearance of flight MH370 has been overwhelmingly supportive, long-standing rivalries and disputes between cooperating nations have started to take their toll. Some have suggested that China is deeply suspicious of the United States’ leading role in the search efforts. As the U.S. continues to use its superior technological knowhow to offer up new findings on the missing jetliner, China and other nations in the Asia-Pacific are becoming increasingly wary of heightened U.S. intelligence efforts in the region. Additionally, the numerous territorial disputes in the South China Sea have exacerbated the tensions between nations involved in the search effort.
The United States is not the only country under scrutiny this week, as officials from China, the United Kingdom, Singapore, and Vietnam have harshly criticized the Malaysian government for its handling of the entire situation. On March 10, the Global Times, a state-run newspaper in China, ran an editorial that warned the Malaysian side not to “shirk its responsibilities” and that reproached the government for not acting swift enough. Malaysia Airlines is also coming under fire for its lack of transparency and efficiency in the search efforts.
Overall, the mystery of MH370 remains unsolved. With the fates of 239 people hanging in the balance, many nations have come together to search for the aircraft and its passengers. Despite an outpouring of support and good will, however, search efforts continue to be complicated by misinformation, territorial disputes, and suspicion. The world is watching as authorities continue to work through these difficulties to find answers about what happened to MH370 in the early morning hours of March 8, 2014.
Image Attribution: “U.S. Navy assists in the search for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370” by Official U.S. Navy Page, licensed under CC BY 2.0