: The fate of the Boeing 777-200 aircraft belonging to Malaysia Airlines (MAS) from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing which has been missing since early Saturday morning is still unconfirmed.
What had befallen the airplane that was carrying some 239 passengers and crew had already been speculated by many who started off their weekend with this shocking news.
Most media reports had said the aircraft is believed to have crashed in the South China Sea, based on the last known coordinates of the plane traced via its flight communications system.
But why are the authorities not confirming such reports?
“For sure, anyone can say in general that the plane had crashed landed but if it did, where is the wreckage?
“Only if a wreckage has been discovered can we declare the craft as having been crashed,” an aviation expert told Astro AWANI.
The expert, who wants to remain anonymous, has had years of experience in traffic control and search and rescue operations.
The MH370 flight had cut off all communications with the Subang Air Traffic Control Centre at about 2.40am, early Saturday, two hours after it took off from the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA). It was carrying 239 passengers, including two babies and 12 crews, from 14 countries. It was supposed to land at the Beijing International Airport at 6.30am.
Asked on how the plane could have disappeared from the radar, the expert explained that there was a big possibility that the plane was flying at a low altitude, less than 500 feet above sea level.
“There are two types of radars that are being used; primary surveillance radar and secondary surveillance radar,” said the source.
The primary surveillance radar can only measure the reach and the compass direction by tracking the a blinking signal on the screen. The secondary surveillance radar, on the other hand, not only detects the same information but it is able to detect other information such as flight height and the identity of the aircraft.
The expert added that although communications with the traffic control centre was lost, the location of the aircraft can still be traced if it crashed because it was equipped with a emergency locator beacon that will emit a signal during a crash.
“This system is water proof. Meaning, if the plane were to crash into the sea it would be traceable,” he said.
He explained that once the airplane hits either the ground or the surface of water, the system will automatically issue the signal.
Among aviation industry observers, the MH370 is reminiscent of the Air France Airbus 330-203 tragedy where the plane crashed into the sea off Rio de Janeiro on June 1, 2009. Its wreckage was only found two years later.
The MH370 was piloted by Captain Zaharia Ahmad Shah, 53, who has logged 18,365 flight hours experience. He joined MAS in 1981. Zaharia was assisted by First Officer Fariq Ab Hamid, 27, who joined MAS in 2007.