The Flight That Never Landed


Image of Boeing 777-200ER, the same plane that flew MH370. Courtesy of Kentaro Lemoto.

On March 8, 2014, Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 departed. The plane never landed in its planned destination. Although nine years have passed, there is still no sign of the plane nor its passengers. There were 227 passengers and 12 crew members on board. As none of the passengers have been found since, there are 239 presumed fatalities. 

The international passenger flight took off from Kuala Lumpur International Airport (Selangor, Malaysia) for Beijing Capital International Airport (Beijing, China). According to The Guardian, “At 1.19am, MH370 approached the end of Malaysian airspace.” When a plane exits the airspace of one country, it disconnects with the air traffic control of that country until it enters the airspace of another country. At that time, the pilot in command successfully answered the radio. He was supposed to check in with the control tower in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam when the flight entered Vietnamese airspace. However, the flight could not be contacted. Right after the plane crossed the Vietnamese borders, the plane disappeared. Pilot Zaharie Ahmad Shah’s “Good night, Malaysian three-seven-zero” was the last time anyone heard of the plane. 

According to The Guardian, there was a “delayed confusion, on the part of Malaysian controllers and the airline. Shock, as officials scrambled to find the aircraft and loved ones waited in Beijing for a flight that never arrived.” The search for the aircraft and those on board would stretch much longer than anyone would have expected. Most investigators focused on tracing the plane’s tracks to locate where the plane ended up. Unfortunately, as the plane was unable to be contacted nor tracked, it is extremely difficult to do so. 

Regardless of the lack of information, there have been many theories made regarding the disappearance of the flight. Among them, there is one that seems most plausible, as it is supported by hourly reports by a satellite. According to this theory, as soon as the plane crossed the Vietnamese airspace, it made an abrupt turn and headed southwest (instead of continuing northeast). Afterwards, it allegedly flew around the Penang Island of Malaysia before changing its course again, this time northwest towards the Indian Ocean. The area where it was last spotted before dropping off the radar was by the Andaman Sea (near Myanmar and Thailand) at 2.22am. Experts theorize that the plane plunged into the sea not long after. However, it is believed that those on board did not drown. Instead, the person flying likely depressurized the cabin beforehand, “killing everyone on board before MH370 dropped into the sea.”

Although this is the most probable theory regarding the sudden disappearance, the plane is yet to be found. Authorities officially stopped searching for the plane in 2017, though numerous independent investigators are still trying to solve the mystery. In March 2023, MH370: The Plane That Disappeared was released on Netflix. Like Louise Malkinson, the director of the docuseries, said, “This is a world where we have mobile phones and radar and satellites and tracking, and so to be nearly nine years down the line … and to still have so little is extraordinary.”