Into thin air: 239 people missing after plane vanishes

Maggie McDonald

On March 8th, Malaysia Airlines flight MH370  disappeared over the South China Sea, out of range of  air traffic control radars, starting an international manhunt to find the aircraft.

The Boing 777 disappearance has left expects confused and government officials embarrassed after a slew of false reports and information cover ups have complicated the search. As with all mysteries, there are conspiracies surrounding the plane’s disappearance that span from sabotage by the chinese government to alien abduction. The more likely cause was human error or sabotage.

The plane lost contact with air traffic control 1-2 hours after leaving Kuala Lumpur when it’s transponders stopped responding. The plane was suspected to be flying north over the South China Sea, but five days after the planes disappearance, Malaysia’s military revealed that the plane turned west for maybe hundreds of miles over the Indian Ocean, a senior officer told Reuters.

Both India and Pakistan, after reviewing reports from march 8th said that there was no undocumented aircraft found on their radars. The US has joined the search for the plane and has reviewed images from spy planes and satellites which monitor the area.

According to aviation experts, the transponders had to be manually turned off by the pilots in order for flights to go off the radar and continue flying. This information has shifted the investigation away from a possible weather or engine related crash and to sabotage by the crew or passengers.

“This is a significant recalibration of the search,” said Malaysia’s acting Transportation Minister Hishammuddin Hussein.

The pilots, who had the ability to turn off the transponders without releasing a distress signal, are being heavily scutinized. Malaysian officials have also reviewed the flights inventory to find that there were no suspicious items allowed on to the plane, but Malaysian officials are still investigating the planes passengers.

“There are still a few countries who have yet to respond to our request for a background check,” said Khalid Abu Bakar, inspector general of the Royal Malaysian Police Force. “But there are a few … foreign intelligence agencies who have cleared all the[ir] passengers.”

The majority of the passengers on the flight were Chinese, the flight was suppose to land in China, but there were also passengers from Malaysia, Vietnam, Australia, France, Canada, India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Ukraine, New Zealand, and America. Of the three Americans onboard, two were children.

Two of the passengers on board were flying with stolen passports. Both men are Iranian and, as reported by BBC, were looking for a better life in Europe. The men are not considered to be a terrorist threat.

As of publication, March 17th, there have been no new developments regarding the planes disappearance.