Missing MAS flight: Experts grappling in the dark

PETALING JAYA - The sudden disappearance of MH370 has left aviation experts "grappling in the dark" as it happened during the safest part of the flight, said CNN's Richard Quest. 

The news network's aviation expert said that the plane would have been on auto-pilot mode and making good progress at the time when it was initially reported to have lost contact with the Subang Air Traffic Control at 2.40am yesterday.

"This is the conundrum. Any time we lose contact with a plane at this altitude and in cruise mode, this causes great consternation because it is the safest part of the flight," said Quest to Piers Morgan during CNN's coverage of the incident yesterday.

In addition, he said MAS, the country's national carrier, was an "extremely experienced" operator of the B777-200 model as it was one of the earliest airlines to get that aircraft.

He said MAS owned 15 B777-200 aircraft with an average age of 13 to 14 years old, adding that this particular aircraft was delivered to MAS in 2002, making it just shy of 12 years old.

Commenting on rife rumours on social media about the fate of the flight, he stressed there was absolutely no way anyone could have any idea what had happened.

"We are grappling in the dark for reasons, possibilities or prospects," he said, noting that the B777-200 aircraft itself enjoyed "an enviable safety record".

New York Times aviation correspondent Matt Wald also told Morgan that it would not be possible for anyone to know what had happened to the plane just yet.

He said that in the event the plane had crashed, one way for crash investigators to find out the cause was via the black box, which comprises the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder.

"Usually, in crashes, you don't know what happened unless you get hold of the black box or examine the wreckage," he said, adding that the black box was likely to end up in Washington given that the plane was manufactured by American company Boeing.