Why has lost Malaysia flight 370 taking over every news feed in the world every time any new billionth of a clue to its whereabouts is found? The batteries on the data recorder sending out locator pings have certainly run out after months since the flight disappeared, yet every time a piece of debris, a new theory from a top aviation expert, or any debris on the seafloor from the plane is spotted it classified as “breaking news”.
On March 8th, at 12:41 a.m. local time, Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing took off from the Malaysian capital. At 1:19 a.m., someone in the cockpit, probably pilot Zaharie Ahmad Shah, sent the message “Good night Malaysian three-seven-zero.” to Malaysian air traffic controllers. That was the last communication from the plane. At 1:22 a.m., the flight’s onboard transponder, that sends out signals indicating the location, altitude, etc, was turned off or stopped working. At 2:15 a.m., Malaysian military radar last detected what was believed to be the plane, over the small island of Pulau Perak in the Strait of Malacca, hundreds of miles off course. Investigators now believe that after making the turn the plane flew for seven hours along a southern corridor and then crashed into the southern Indian Ocean. Several pings have been heard, but now after, silence investigators had taken the search underwater. After no success, private contractors were hired and now have seen something they think is significant in the Bay of Bengal, but it is doubted the plane ended up in the northern Indian Ocean.
Recently, many theories have been investigated, the most likely of which include mechanical error or deliberate action by the pilots or others somehow in the cockpit. There are many ridiculous ideas such as a black hole or an alien abduction. But why is the disappearance such a big deal? 239 people are gone into thin air, probably dead. But every day almost ten times that amount of people die from cancer in the USA alone. What makes this group of (probably) dead people so special?
Well, first of all, the plane carried, among its passengers, 2 Iranians with stolen passports, adding an element of mystery and Western interest. But those passengers were deemed unlikely to be responsible for the disappearance. Many passengers were under 5, so their lives have been cut off. That’s sad, but many other causes kill many other children under 5. Also, the plane seems to have disappeared completely, a rarity in our digital world, and many people think it is not at the bottom of the ocean (but the FBI thinks most likely it is). But also, unlike other vanished planes, Flight 370 was off its flight path when last detected. Now the authorities have pieced together a story that makes it likely that the plane crashed in the southern Indian Ocean, northwest of Perth, Australia, the control center of the new search which has evolved from the South China Sea to the Indian Ocean and contractors in the Bay of Bengal.
Perhaps we are unsettled that we cannot google “where is flight 370” and get a detailed satellite image or the coordinates of the plane. The existence of the internet, Google, Facebook and that there is a full Wikipedia page on many, many events and mysteries has us the public very unused to NOT knowing something. Then there is the fact that this multinational search is the largest in known history.
Now, private contractors in the Bay of Bengal think they’ve found the plane. But many are doubtful the plane ended up there (off India instead of Australia).
For sure this has been an extremely large, expensive, and false-excitement-inducing search– what would happen if it came to an end? And what would happen if it didn’t, and dragged on for another year–or more?