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ATW Editor's Blog

MH370 one year on: Never give up on finding the answers

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We are now one year on from when Malaysia Airlines MH370 disappeared from radar early in its scheduled flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, and then inexplicably vanished.

Had you asked me last spring, even as it became apparent that the Boeing 777-200 veered way off its flightpath and likely crashed into the deep and inhospitable waters of the South Indian Ocean, I would not have thought we would still be looking for debris – any debris – of the aircraft a year later.

But that is where we are, making the loss of MH370 and the 239 people onboard the most tragic unsolved commercial aviation incident of all.

I still believe we will ultimately find some part of MH370 and that we will ultimately have some better answers than we have today as to what happened and why.

This week, as we enter the second year of searching for those answers, we should focus on why that is so important. First, it’s because the families and close friends of those onboard are owed an explanation. This is primarily a human tragedy. The cause, although not known, is likely to have been human. The pain to those who lost loved ones and have no explanation and no closure is unimaginable and unquestionably human.

Second, the global air transport industry is only as superlatively safe as it is because it never gives up on learning from its accidents and mistakes. Every incident, however tragic, brings the industry together and takes it another step higher in its safety standards. Aircraft and engine design flaws; crashes into unseen other aircraft or mountains; aircraft brought down by icing or wind shear. These were once common perils in commercial aviation and each has been addressed by better understanding of the issue, awareness of the dangers, and application of technology and training.

To apply that same process to MH370, industry still needs the first part – a better understanding of what happened. That is why the search for whatever remains of the aircraft is a critical endeavor that must continue.

An important step has been taken, of course, via the IATA-led initiative to improve continuous tracking of commercial airliners throughout their flightpaths. Some have criticized this effort as not addressing the cause of the crash. But that misses two important truths. We don’t yet know what caused the crash. And while continuous tracking technology might not have prevented MH370’s crash, it could well have led to alerts about its flightpath divergence much earlier and helped pinpoint the aircraft’s whereabouts. Both pieces of knowledge would have been invaluable to search & rescue teams, investigators and, most important of all, to the families and friends left in a vacuum of despair and false hope.

So let’s take this week to recognize and encourage those who are still committed to the mission of tracing MH370 and solving this mystery. And, of course, to hold in our thoughts those who lost so much that day on MH370 and who yearn for answers.

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