The MH370 mirage

This first appeared as a Comment in the 3 June issue of Flight International

Existence for the relatives of passengers and crew lost with Flight MH370 continues to be a nightmare. Every time information is released about the missing Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 they comb it for something – anything – to provide either hope or ­closure, but they receive neither.
And thus it has been this time. Within a 48h period two pieces of information were released, but neither provide any cause for optimism. The release by the ­Malaysian authorities of the raw satellite data from which calculations of the final oceanic search area were made is likely to add nothing to the sum total of knowledge about this awful event. Indeed, it was released as proof of their commitment to information transparency, rather than as anything actually new.
While this allows independent communications experts to scan columns of figures for clues that Inmarsat might have missed, there has been silence so far.
The announcement by the Australian co-ordinators of the oceanic search that the wreckage of MH370 is definitely not in the sea area where acoustic signals were picked up is the latest blow. It is an admission of what was suspected at the time – that the pulses came not from MH370’s “black box” recorders, but from some other source. The search team had no choice, however, but to carry out the extensive and lengthy trawl.
There is still some slight comfort to be taken from the fact that the French-led team that searched for the wreckage of Air France 447 in the deep south Atlantic found it after two years. But they had more reliable data on where the aircraft went missing, and they also had the massive psychological advantage of having ­recovered floating wreckage from the surface.
There is no doubt that the world will not tolerate this surreal absence of information again, so the industry will have to adopt, as soon as possible, a reliable ­system for universal flight tracking in non-primary-­radar areas, which means most of the world.
That will not stop events like this happening, but it will mean the world can find the wreckage quickly if and when they do. However, the world will also be able to watch in horror as the data disappears from the screen. The belief that modern technology can enable ­society to regulate every aspect of daily life has been revealed as an illusion.
There is no light at the end of the tunnel, so the only choice available is to continue in the darkness. That is what the multi-national search teams plan to do.

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