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What if the missing Malaysia plane is never found?



WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) -- The plane must be somewhere. But the same can be said for Amelia Earhart's.

Ten days after Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 disappeared with 239 people aboard, an exhaustive international search has produced no sign of the Boeing 777, raising an unsettling question: What if the airplane is never found?

Such an outcome, while considered unlikely by many experts, would certainly torment the families of those missing. It would also flummox the airline industry, which will struggle to learn lessons from the incident if it doesn't know what happened.

While rare nowadays, history is not short of such mysteries - from the most famous of all, American aviator Earhart, to planes and ships disappearing in the so-called Bermuda Triangle.

"When something like this happens that confounds us, we're offended by it, and we're scared by it," said Ric Gillespie, a former U.S. aviation accident investigator who wrote a book about Earhart's still-unsolved 1937 disappearance over the Pacific Ocean. "We had the illusion of control and it's just been shown to us that oh, folks, you know what? A really big airliner can just vanish. And nobody wants to hear that."

Part of the problem, said Andrew Thomas, the editor-in-chief of the Journal of Transportation Security, is that airline systems are not as sophisticated as many people might think. A case in point, he said, is that airports and airplanes around the world use antiquated radar tracking technology, first developed in the 1950s, rather than modern GPS systems.

A GPS system might not have solved the mystery of Flight 370, which disappeared March 8 while flying from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing. But it would probably have given searchers a better read on the plane's last known location, Thomas said.

"There are lots of reasons why they haven't changed, but the major one is cost," he said. "The next-generation technology would cost $70 to $80 billion in the U.S."


Experts say the plane's disappearance will likely put pressure on airlines and governments to improve the way they monitor planes, including handoff procedures between countries. Flight 370 vanished after it signed off with Malaysian air-traffic controllers, and never made contact with their Vietnamese counterparts as it should have.

And if the plane is never found, liability issues will be a huge headache for courts. With no wreckage, it would be difficult to determine whether the airline, manufacturers or other parties should bear the brunt of responsibility.

"The international aviation legal system does not anticipate the complete disappearance of an aircraft," said Brian Havel, a law professor and director of the International Aviation Law Institute at DePaul University in Chicago. "We just don't have the tools for that at present."

The families of the missing, of course, would face the most painful consequences of a failed search.

"In any kind of death, the most important matter for relatives and loved ones is knowing the context and circumstances," said Kevin Tso, the chief executive of New Zealand agency Victim Support, which has been counseling family and friends of the two New Zealand passengers aboard the flight. "When there's very little information, it's very difficult."

Tso said the abundance of speculation about the plane's fate in the media and elsewhere is not helpful to the families, who may be getting false hope that their loved ones are still alive.

It has been nearly 50 years since a plane carrying more than two dozen people vanished without a trace, according to a list of unexplained aviation disappearances tracked by the Flight Safety Foundation. An Argentine military plane carrying 69 people disappeared in 1965 and has never been found.

Earhart, the first female pilot to cross the Atlantic Ocean, vanished over the Pacific with Fred Noonan during an attempt to circumnavigate the globe. Seven decades later, people are still transfixed. Theories range from her simply running out of fuel and crashing to her staging her own disappearance and secretly returning to the U.S. to live under another identity.

There is also an ongoing fascination with the Bermuda Triangle, where several ships and planes disappeared, including a squadron of five torpedo bombers in 1945. Studies have indicated the area is no more dangerous than any other stretch of ocean.

More than two dozen countries are involved in the effort to find Flight 370 and end the uncertainty, with dozens of aircraft and boats searching along a vast arc where investigators believe the plane ended up, judging by signals received by a satellite.

Gillespie and other experts said they expect the plane will eventually be found, even if investigators have to wait until some wreckage washes ashore.

"We all expect we're going to find this plane and the chances are probably pretty good that we'll find something. But you know, I think everyone thought that about Amelia Earhart as well," said Phaedra Hise, a pilot and author of "Pilot Error: The Anatomy of a Plane Crash." "We know there's a chance that we may never find out what happened. Which is a little scary, isn't it?"

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gmgpjandon March 19 2014 at 8:07 PM

What a typical stupid American question. If it's never found, it will stay loss. Little wonder this country is on it's way down.

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1 reply
itsmegp46 gmgpjandon March 19 2014 at 11:19 PM

Jealous of Americans huh? Typical foreigner. So what third world country are you from?

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Kay March 19 2014 at 4:32 PM

I think the pilot took this plane to Iran, or Pakistan, or Turkistan, or another country and it is hidden under a huge hanger. I don't know what they did to the passengers, but I hope that they are keeping them alive. I think they will use the plane as a huge weapon of mass destruction by loading it with some bomb and exploding it over the U.S. or Israel. I think it will be a huge disaster and we had better screen the planes coming over here better and our pilots over here better too. If Malaysia won't screen better than they can't enter our airspace.

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2 replies
kirkmrc Kay March 19 2014 at 4:40 PM

i agree

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lettyb Kay March 19 2014 at 5:34 PM

trust the passengers are not alive: mindful the plane went to 45,000 feet and if the cabin was depressurized doubtful that without oxygen they survived.
No terrorist is going to have empathy for 230 passengers if he is engage in some sinister activity. He had that choice when he was flying the plane.

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Dennis Gilpin March 19 2014 at 4:15 PM

They keep on saying that there were no "known" terrorists flying on that plane, We all know they don't have to be known as this was proven in the past. Could it be used as a " flying bomb" if it is refueled and flies under the radar. Just resurface the plane in a normal flight lane when the air traffic is at it's highest. The terrorists planned the attack on the towers on 9/11 which was date hard to forget. Memorial day would be one I would think would definitely stick in the mind of many if something should occur. This is all conjecture ( as much of this is ), Suicide doesn't make sense as it could have been carried out anytime. I can't see anybody programming a plane for a suicide. If it was taken for a hostage situation it sure got the worlds attention. What's scary is that a person with technical skills had a plan and few know what it's purpose was. Not anxious to find out.

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mcd8009 March 19 2014 at 4:50 PM

One of the things that make the incident horrible to think about is in that passenger load there had to have been one or more Satellite cell phones. Yet we have no had word of any attempt to transmit from a cell phone. To me that indicates some act, so immediate and so deadly, did not give any passenger the chance to even try to send a message. Decompression has been mentioned but even that would have given the passengers 3 minutes or more to put on the oxygen mask that would have automatically deployed. I doubt even the flight crew had the means to cause an immediate decompression. A slow pressure loss would have just put everyone to sleep but still the oxygen masks would deploy. A lot is being made of how little radar coverage exists in the area where the plane vanished. There are a few intel satellite systems that operate over that area. The US, Russia, China, India have the technology to place in orbit platforms to monitor movements. All these systems are non geocentric and have limited maneuver ability and are normally controlled to focus on specific areas. Even if one of these platforms did record this 777 it is questionable if that information would be passed along. If this aircraft is on the ground, it has a cabin full of dead passengers. I would like to read or hear the explanation as to why not one single attempt to make a phone call was made. One or more of those business people had a sat phone.

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2 replies
you hot hunk mcd8009 March 19 2014 at 5:29 PM

sorry but their are no cell phone towers in the indian ocean if you want to make a phone call over the ocean you would need a satlelight phone . And they are not allowed on international flights the plane bluetooths the cell phone signal to a satelight and that can be turned off with the flip of a switch

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kdlebeouf mcd8009 March 19 2014 at 5:39 PM

Another day, another piece of information! From what I read today, it's possible if the plane was either flying too high for any antenna to accept a cell call. As for the one board phones, evidently that system can be turned off in the cockpit.

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GT313 March 19 2014 at 2:09 PM

I find it hard to believe that over 200 passengers with cell phones were unable to make a call about their situation.I fear they must have been incapacitated in some way and I fear for the worst.

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2 replies
Hi Al GT313 March 19 2014 at 2:58 PM

What part of no cell towers over the ocean do you not understand?

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2 replies
chris h Hi Al March 19 2014 at 5:08 PM

morse code

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chris h Hi Al March 19 2014 at 5:09 PM

someone could put a message in a bottle and break the window!

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laucog GT313 March 19 2014 at 3:35 PM

except for that issue with getting a cell phone signal at 45,000 feet in the middle of an ocean......

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Linda March 19 2014 at 1:33 PM

IF this is a terrorist attack, and if the plane is never found, and if they got away with successfully and quietly plotting and carrying out such a despicable plan, then God help us all. This could be the first of many more to come. May the families of all on board find courage and strength to get through this.

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WILLS March 19 2014 at 2:21 PM

They might do better if they get their act together. They presently have search aircraft from apan sitting on the runway because they cant Malaysia to grant permission to take off. I don't blame China for gettingf ticked off as it's been a slo-mo investigation and poorly coordinated. They have had ample opportunity to enlist aid from more experienced players but chose to remain in charge and all they have to show for this action has been mis/delayed information resulting in more confusion in conducting the search. So much time has passed that if there was a debris field it is likely dispersed and hundreds of miles from any impact. Yes, it is quite possible that this will go down as "missing with no answer".
Comparing a modern jetliner to Earhart is doing apples to oranges while flight 19 and the five avengers would be closer. The blog mentions this but left out the PBY search plane that also went missing - 6 in total. The search for those aircraft is the largest one ever conducted by the U.S. Navy and none have been found to date.
If this aircraft is not at the bottom of a deep part of the sea than someone has managed to do what has been considered impossible - the complete theft of a commercial jet aircraft. I know this remains a theory but than the next question is how do you hide it followed by for what purpose? The logistics of landing, re-fueling, getting it airbore and into someone's airspace without being spotted will prove impossible - especially when all nations are on the alert.

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YourFtr March 19 2014 at 1:54 PM

The unknown loss of the Passenger jet
should result in the installation of a 3rd black box
which would be inaccessible to the crew; and which could not be 'turned off'.
This black box would automatically transmit the gps coordinates of the plane if it deviated from it's assigned flight path and/or if a new flight path was coded in after take off.

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w7riy March 19 2014 at 1:13 PM

has anyone looked at the airport on socotra a yemen island, perhaps welcoming a plane
for ransom

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Lisa A. Santos March 19 2014 at 1:55 PM

What if this pilot with the simulator in his house has been training other pilots to make these maneuvers!

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2 replies
savannahswithgod Lisa A. Santos March 19 2014 at 2:23 PM

Stay off a plane or know when something is afoul and have a plan to enter the cockpit, kick some ass and crash the thing yourself. You might want to get your own simulator so you could maybe say 'land it'? If this is a terrorist act let them jump up and down and do cartwheels as on 9/11, have their fun but they know they cannot enslave people very long to their way. And that is because it isn't right for Man/Woman to be enslaved. Let's toss the Gods out of it.

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1 reply
Jim Lew savannahswithgod March 19 2014 at 4:18 PM

Excuse me but what did you just say? This sounds a bit like an strange rap. Somewhat incoherent and mentally unstable.

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#1fisherman Lisa A. Santos March 19 2014 at 2:28 PM

thats what i've been saying all along.click on osomas son in laws trial,and read that.

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