PETALING JAYA: The annals of aviation history will likely record the disappearance of MH370 as an incident unlike any other. No large aircraft has ever totally flown off the radar without a single trace for so long.
Most foreign news reports yesterday on the missing Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200 anchored on comments by Department of Civil Aviation director-general Datuk Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, who described the incident as an “unprecedented aviation mystery”.
“There is no record of big planes simply disappearing, although they may take some time to find,” the New York Times reported in a “Question and Answer” article on the disappearance of MH370.
The closest thing to the MH370 mystery was the tragic 2009 incident involving Air France Flight 447, which plunged into the Atlantic Ocean en route from Rio de Janeiro to Paris.
“A few pieces of debris from Air France Flight 447 were spotted floating in the Atlantic a day after the plane crashed,” the article said.
Many key parts of the aircraft were only found in 2011 and the final report on the crash was issued a year later.
Steve Marks, a United States-based aviation lawyer who has represented families in two previous cases where an airliner plummeted from cruising altitude, was quoted in the Washington Post as saying there could have been a mechanical problem that caused the pilot to be unable to report the problem, with the aircraft being lost on radar as a result.
However, he said the failure of all communications from MH370 made it “the most mysterious” crash in his recollection.
The Christian Science Monitor newspaper also compared the circumstances between Air France Flight 447 and MH370.
“In both cases, there was no ‘mayday’ or distress call from pilots. The planes just ‘disappeared’ from the sky,” the report said.
Meanwhile, Time Magazine’s website ran an article on “Six Mysterious Airplane Disappearances in Aviation History”.
Most of the other examples given in the article, however, involved much smaller aircraft that went missing in the 1940s to 1960s, well before the advent of modern day radar and communications gear, which the state-of-the-art B777-200 was equipped with.
The closest example other than Air France Flight 447, which the article highlighted, was 1972’s Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571 which crashed into the Andes mountains in poor weather.
The story of the plane crash and its aftermath was made into the 1993 film Alive.
The most famous case in aviation history was the 1937 disappearance of pilot Amelia Earhart as she was navigating her aircraft over the Pacific Ocean in an attempt fly around the world.
No trace of her aircraft was found and she was declared dead two years later.
Many foreign newspapers also led off their reports yesterday with Azharuddin’s comments on the nature of MH370’s disappearance.
“Missing Malaysia Airlines flight – Disappearance of MH370 plane is an ‘unprecedented mystery’,” read the headline in the UK Daily Mail.
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