Manfull: Flight MH370, one year later

BY ERIN MANFULL | MARCH 11, 2015 5:00 AM

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One year ago, I sat stunned, jaw stuck open, as I watched the headlines roll across the news: “Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing has vanished.” I couldn’t fathom an entire Boeing 777 just vanishing out of thin air; to be honest, I still can’t.

We live in a society in which we have apps to find our lost phones; yet, we can’t find an entire plane carrying 239 people. It’s hard to not question how, or why, a year later —we’re still searching for an understanding of the very basics of this tragedy.

In the interim report that was released Sunday, the only new information released was that there was a dead battery for the locator beacon in the data-recording black box. Apparently, the battery had expired well before the flight vanished.

What’s troubling to me is that this wasn’t one of the first things inspected before takeoff — the little black box is designed to last through a crash and serve as evidence after the crash. Although to this day, no débris have been recovered, it’s the sheer principle that the battery for the black box was completely overlooked, when it should have been, according to the interim report, replaced in December 2012, an entire year before take off.

As of Jan. 29, the Malaysian Airlines officially declared the vanished plane an accident. However, there are many speculations surrounding the flight staff. Were they “rogue,” did they have alternative missions when they took off? There was even talk about a terrorist plot. Since the disappearance, the airline has reassured skeptics that all psychological and physical attributes of the pilots were normal, and officials had determined that the vanishing plane was not pilot error, rather an accident.

In 2014, flight MH 370 wasn’t the only airline to make headlines. In fact, three large commercial planes struck disaster that year. At the time, I was studying abroad, relying heavily on foreign airlines, and after I realized that entire planes could vanish, I was startled with every bump in turbulence.

My whole life, I’ve been told that flying is the safest form of travel and that the likelihood of a plane crash, according to PBS, is 1 in 11 million for the average American (compare that with 1 in 5,000 killed in a motor-vehicle accident). Although the odds are in our favor when it comes to plane crashes, I can’t help but be overly skeptical when it comes to maintenance checkups, equipment reviews, and flight-staff observation. It can’t hurt to double- or even triple-check when it comes to the lives of hundreds of people.

One year later, and the search team has covered about 40 percent of the 23,000-square-mile area of the southern Indian Ocean; it is expected to end its search in May. But one year later, we’re no closer to the answers the family members so desperately deserve. Will we ever know what happened to Flight MH 370? I sure hope so, for the families’ sake.

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