What happened to Flight MH370?

More than a year since Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 vanished without a trace, there is still no explanation as to what happened to the ill-fated flight. The Boeing 777-200ER jetliner with 239 passengers and crew is now the source of countless wild conspiracy theories. An international team of researchers joined the fray with the aim to shed forensic light into one of the aviation industry’s biggest mysteries.

The team consisted of interdisciplinary experts, including computational scientists, mathematicians and engineers. The group employed mathematical models to develop a plausible forensic theory explaining the disappearance. According to a report published in Notices of the American Mathematical Society, the researchers recreated the possible events surrounding the plane’s point of entry into the sea using computer simulations. This allowed the team to determine the most scientifically likely impact rationalisation.

Texas A&M University at Qatar

Texas A&M University at Qatar

The researchers concluded that flight MH370 took a vertical nosedive into the ocean. This account adds another expert hypothesis into the debate about what happened to Flight MH370. It is widely believed that the way a jetliner plunges into the water has a direct effect on how it disintegrates. Aviation accident investigators analyse debris to come up with an idea of what took place. The search effort conducted by the multinational response teams focused on searching the surface of the Southern Indian Ocean based on this premise. However, their collaborative efforts when in vain, thus creating more questions than answers.

Examining water entry scenarios

The experts believe that if the airliner nose-dived into the ocean at a 90-degree angle its tail and wings would have undoubtedly been ripped off. On the other hand, the fuselage would have most likely sunk quickly, which explains the absence of oil or debris on the ocean surface close to the assumed point of impact. This deduction is based on computer simulations examining five possible water entry scenarios. The researchers considered the structural specifications of a Boeing 777-200ER to try to uncover the truth about what happened to Flight MH370.

The simulations explored various angles of approach and pitch angles in addition to a glided ditching (skimming the surface of water). Although the conclusion is a valid forensic report, the interdisciplinary team of specialists opted to call it speculative but forensic. The real events behind the jumbo jet’s disappearance can only be unravelled when the black box is found and decoded. The researchers are convinced that modelling and computation can contribute to safer air travel. Mechanics and computational mathematics have the capacity to help aviation experts understand the physics behind an aircraft’s emergency water landing.

Texas A&M University at Qatar

Texas A&M University at Qatar

MH370 conspiracy theories

While the computational scientists, mathematicians and engineers worked tirelessly to find forensic explanation to the tragedy, the rumour mill was awash with conspiracy theories. When the world woke up to the news that an interim report released by investigators revealed that they suspected that whoever was in control of flight MH370 intentionally avoided detection, conspiracy theorists went into overdrive. The theories ranged from aliens, elaborate life insurance scams, secret military missions to the involvement of sinister world leaders.

The scarcity of information from the Malaysian officials helped spawn wild speculation. The tragedy of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 shot down while flying over eastern Ukraine added fuel to the assumptions. It was later reported that relatives of some passengers aboard the ill-fated flight offered a $3 million reward for anyone with verifiable information about what really happened. The relatives were increasingly impatient with the authorities. They believed that there was massive cover-up as regards the fate of the airliner. Many people wondered how a country with advanced radar systems could lose track of a modern jetliner.

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