Missing MH370: What could have happened

Missing MH370: What could have happened
Military personnel work within the cockpit of a helicopter belonging to the Vietnamese airforce during a search and rescue mission off Vietnam's Tho Chu island March for the missing MH370 aircraft.

SINGAPORE: Nearly three days after it disappeared while en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, mystery still shrouds the fate of flight MH370 and the 239 people on board.

No debris from the MAS Boeing 777-200ER has been recovered despite an international search involving the navies and air forces of several Asian nations as well as the United States.

Following are some questions surrounding the disappearance and the search, and answers by industry experts who spoke to AFP:

Q: Could the plane have disintegrated in mid-air?

The failure of the plane's pilots to send a distress signal has given rise to speculation there was a sudden catastrophe - possibly caused by a mechanical failure or an explosion.

The lack of wreckage recovered so far also suggests a high-altitude disaster which spread debris across an area too wide to be easily detected.

"If it had been an impact at sea level of the whole craft, chances are more debris will be found immediately," said Chris de Lavigne, an expert on aerospace and defence issues at business consultancy Frost & Sullivan.

Sudden, accidental structural failures are considered extremely unlikely in today's passenger aircraft. This is especially so with the Boeing 777-200, which has one of the best safety records of any jet.

Authorities said the plane was at cruising altitude, 35,000 feet (11 kilometres) above sea level, when it last made contact.

"It's the safest point in the flight," de Lavigne said. "It's an extremely safe aircraft with very, very few incidents in its history. This is just overly puzzling."


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