Disappearance of MH370 a grim reminder of 2009 incident

PETALING JAYA - The mysterious disappearance of Flight MH370 is a grim reminder of another similar tragic incident of Air France Flight 447, which plunged into the Altantic Ocean in June 2009, killing all 228 passengers on board.

The flight took off from Rio de Janeiro to Paris, made its final radio transmission in the early hours of June 1, but later disappeared from radar and lost all contact.

The mystery of flight AF447 took three years to resolve, when France's Bureau of Investigation and Analysis (BEA) search teams finally retrieved one of the two black box flight recorders in 2011.

The AF447 also failed to issue any emergency calls.

The Airbus A330-203 was equipped with the automated fly-by-wire system, which is designed to reduce human error by letting computers control many aspects of the flight.

The search and rescue operation, involving air, naval and underwater operations, had covered an estimated 17,000 square km of uncharted sea waters to depths of 4,700m, demonstrating the challenges of search and rescue operations.

The wreckage of the plane was so remote when the airliner went down, it reached the equatorial waters between Brazil and Africa while it took five days before the first body of the victims were recovered by authorities.

The final report blamed the crash on a combination of technical failures and crew error.

A local aviation industry expert, who wanted to remain anonymous, said despite the Boeing 777-200ER being equipped with emergency locator transmitter, the search operation for flight MH370 could still take a while, as was the case of the Air France flight incident.

"One must take various possibilities into account in the event of the crash or emergency landing. If it plunges into deep water, it could take some time to find the wreckage," he said.

He also noted that the trajectory of the plane and how it went down would play a big role in finding it.

"If it crashes into the sea, the wind and wave conditions could spread the wreckage over a big area."

The expert also pointed out that the Boeing 777-200ER has a good safety track record when it started its flying operation and known for its capability of flying long range.