What happened to flight MH370, which disappeared midway on 8th March 2014, has become one of the world’s greatest aviation mysteries. If you don’t know details about how the flights went missing and the events following, you can read here. Investigative authorities from Malaysia and the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) have conducted innovative and expensive research in the past 4 years to find the flight. Here’s the lab report of their experiments.
The ATSB hypothesised the search area of MH370 between 39° south to 32° south—encompassing about 120,000km2. Experiments were conducted to locate the plane in this area.
- A part of the flight’s wing, the flaperon found ashore the Réunion Island in the western Indian Ocean.
- Bathymetric survey and sonar search through which the South China Sea, Malaysia, and the Gulf of Thailand, Andaman Sea and Strait of Malacca were searched.
- Data on ocean currents, collected by satellite tracking buoys, to analyse the impact of water and wind on the debris.
- Seven satellite signals received by the air traffic control, minutes before MH370 went missing.
- UWA computer simulations to calculate the probability by which debris would wash up on any other shore.
- Debri drifting – Experiment 1
To better understand what other factors might be at play, Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) conducted an experiment called debris drifting. They created life-size replicas of the plane’s flaperon and left them in the ocean.
Using information from buoys to analyse the movement of the replicas, scientists could understand how objects moved in the ocean. This experiment helped them refine their findings from the UWA model. They realized that the location of the plane was at least 1o north than the current search area.
- Debri Drifting – Experiment 2
Researchers got their hands on an original flaperon from the Boeing 777 and reformed it to mirror the damage seen on the one found ashore Réunion Island. What was the key difference here? The replica flaperon from the first experiment was made out of wood and steel, whereas the real one was made from a mix of materials like fiberglass, carbon fiber and plastic.
Thus the impact of ocean currents and wind on the wooden flaperon was different than that on the original one. This changed the probable location of the remaining debris again.
The extensive expedition, however, yielded no trace of the missing MH370. Each experiment led to new findings with no certainty of its precision. It mostly just generated conspiracy theories, each more complex than the last. As a result, the Malaysian government decided to suspend investigations in May 2018, four years after futile efforts to find the flight.