As the search goes on for the missing Malaysian Airlines plane that vanished while on a flight from Malaysia’s capital Kuala Lumpur en route to Beijing earlier this month, rescuers have offered a possible glimpse of the aircraft’s fate after a pallet was spotted floating in the Indian Ocean.
As more than twenty countries have pooled resources together via air and sea to look for any sign of Flight MH370, extending from Kyrgystan in the north to Australia and New Zealand in the south, a search plane from New Zealand which had been flying over a remote stretch of the Indian Ocean spotted a pallet and numerous other floating objects on the ocean’s surface. Though the plane’s pilots were not able to investigate fully themselves, they passed the information onto rescue headquarters in the countries taking part in the search for the airliner. Extra ships and planes have been scrambled to search for the pallet and its associated debris.
A Chinese satellite photo of a chunk of what appeared to be plastic or painted metal found floating in the southern reaches of the Indian Ocean about 4,000 kilometres from Australia’s western coast. Second image, created by a Wikipedia contributor, shows the last known detected location of MH370 (now disproved) and the sighting of objects allegedly linked to the plane.
The pallet’s discovery has given a new lease of hope to rescuers, as the mystery of what happened to MH370 which was carrying 227 mostly Chinese passengers and twelve Malaysian Airlines crew, continues to intensify. Various theories have come forward, including that the plane was hijacked either by a pilot or a passenger with flying experience or knowledge of airplane technology. Sightings have been reported off the coast of Vietnam and over a remote island in the Maldives.
After the announcement of this latest discovery, Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbott said “Obviously we have now had a number of very credible leads and there is increasing hope – no more than hope, no more than hope – that we might be on the road to discovering what did happen to this ill-fated aircraft.” PM Abbott was hosting a press conference on search efforts for the Malaysian flight hosted by the Australian government for journalists covering the ongoing search operation.
The pallet was described as being surrounded by several other objects including what appeared to be a ‘strapping belt’ in material of different colours, according to British newspaper Metro, reporting today. No pictures have yet been made available of the objects.
It is not yet fully known if the pallet indeed came from Flight MH370. This part of the Indian Ocean is a commonly used shipping lane for trade between Australasia and the rest of the world, and pallets and debris are often blown off from passing ships due to the area’s unsettled weather conditions. Malaysian Airlines have said that they believe the plane was not carrying any pallets, and spokesman Mike Barton of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority has also expressed reservations on the pallet’s origins.
“We went to some of the expert airlines and the use of wooden pallets is quite common in the industry,” he said.
“It’s a possible lead, but we will need to be very certain that this is a pallet because pallets are used in the shipping industry as well.”
Earlier in March, Chinese satellite operators spotted other alleged debris from the plane while doing an aerial sweep of the same ocean. The unidentified object was measured at about 22 metres in length and was white in colour, however the images of the object are of a low resolution making identification difficult. Ships and aircraft were also scrambled to search for the object, but the search has been hampered by stormy weather and the 59,000 square kilometres (22,800 miles) of the two zones identified. The zones are a four-hour flight from the nearest available air base and sea conditions mean that the object could have been carried by currents over a distance of as much as 600 kilometres in a day. Planes are only able to search for two hours before flying back to base to refuel.
9M-MRO (Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370), the missing aircraft, taking off in 2011 at Charles de Gaulle airport in Roissy, France.
Flight MH370 was a scheduled international flight operated by Malaysian Airlines, which has had a good track record for airborne safety. The flight last made contact with air control less than an hour after its takeoff. The last message picked up was from one of the two pilots operating the aircraft, who allegedly said “All right, good night”. The plane’s transmitters were turned off shortly afterwards, leading some to suggest that MH370 was hijacked, while American authorities claim to have received satellite detected ‘pings’ from the vanished Boeing 777 for seven hours after voice communications were lost. As soon as the plane went missing, search efforts began in the Gulf of Thailand and the South China Sea. As the weeks passed by, and the plane was believed to have been diverted hundreds of miles from its intended route, the search widened to both sides of the Malayan peninsula, before extending further into the Indian Ocean.
Metro on Facebook LINK
“Missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370: Search efforts intensify as floating pallet spotted in Indian Ocean” – Evan Bartlett, Metro/Associated Newspapers Limited (23 March 2014) LINK
“Malaysia Airlines Flight 370” – Wikipedia/Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. LINK
“File:Chinese satellite image of possible debris of MH370.jpg” – SASTIND via ‘TheAirplaneGuy’, Wikimedia Commons (22 March 2014) LINK
“File:Map of satellite images of possible debris from MH370.png” – Soerfm, Wikimedia Commons (22 March 2014) LINK
“File:Boeing 777-200ER Malaysia AL (MAS) 9M-MRO – MSN 28420 404 (9272090094).jpg” – Laurent Errera, Flickr via russavia and Wikimedia Commons (26 December 2011) LINK