Technology may hold key to answers about MH370

Technology may hold key to answers about MH370
The MV Swift Rescue vessel being prepared on Sunday before departing to assist in the search for the missing plane. The truth of what befell Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 might well depend on specialised vehicles like the Singapore vessel, which is equipped to search underwater.

IT IS too early to speculate, but in the absence of a distress call, investigators looking into the sudden disappearance of the Malaysia Airlines' (MAS) Boeing 777-200 plane over the South China Sea are already working on two distinct theories - a catastrophic electrical failure or a mid-air explosion.

Ominously, the plot has thickened since it was discovered that at least two men, an Italian and an Austrian, who were listed among the 239 passengers and crew, both had their passports stolen more than a year ago and are still very much alive.

There have been two cases of airline sabotage in Asia over the past four decades - the crash of a Cathay Pacific Convair 880 in Vietnam's Central Highlands in June 1972 and the downing of a Korean Air Boeing 707 over Myanmar's Gulf of Martaban in November 1987.

I covered both, first as a young Bangkok Post staff member and later as a Far Eastern Economic Review correspondent in South Korea.

The circumstances may have been different, but both produced the same tragic result, taking the lives of 196 innocent passengers and crew.

In some ways, there is an eerie similarity between the Cathay Pacific case and the MAS incident.

Flight 700Z took off from Bangkok bound for Hong Kong. It was only a few minutes of flying time from the Vietnamese coast when it went down in an active war zone.

The two British air crash investigators sent to the scene by helicopter quickly found a jagged hole punched in the central fuselage and other telltale evidence that showed a bomb had exploded in the cabin at 29,000 feet, causing the plane to break into three distinct parts as it plunged into the jungle below.

Investigators Vernon Clancey and Eric Newton knew something about sabotage. Five years earlier, in an amazing piece of detective work, they had determined from a single waterlogged cushion floating in the Mediterranean that a bomb had brought down a British Airways jetliner off the Isle of Rhodes.

The two men told me in an interview back then that cushions and bodies were "wonderful for collecting things".

In that disaster, they were dust-size fragments of metal, not normally found in an aircraft, which were calculated to have been travelling at a velocity of 10,000 feet per second.

Purchase this article for republication.
Your daily good stuff - AsiaOne stories delivered straight to your inbox
By signing up, you agree to our Privacy policy and Terms and Conditions.