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What brought down flight MH370?

March 10, 2014

Published on Mar 10, 2014

Missing passengers and stolen passports raise fears

The mysterious disappearance of flight MH370 has led to several theories about what could have caused the plane to go missing. And the biggest fear of all, is terrorism.

Despite the incident not appearing to bear the usual hallmarks of a terrorist attack – most notably a claim of responsibility – it has been suggested that MH370 could have been brought down deliberately.
The theory was given weight following the discovery that two of the passengers initially listed as being onboard – men from Italy and Austria – are both alive and well, having had their passports stolen in Thailand.

Xinhua reported on Saturday that US officials are helping their Malaysian counterparts to investigate the possibility of a terrorist attack. And if terrorism was the cause, could it have been directed at China?

Only last month, China was the victim of a terrorist attack when Uighur separatists from Xinjiang region killed 29 people and injured more than 100 at Kunming Railway Station. The Wall Street Journal reported on Saturday that one of the passengers aboard flight MH370 was an ethnic Uighur (although there is no evidence to suggest he had any involvement with the separatist movement).

But while the group has been implicated in aviation incidents before (a domestic Beijing-bound aircraft was forced to make an emergency landing in 2008, when a group of men tried to take control of the plane), bringing down an international flight would mark a significant escalation in the group’s activities.

Another likely cause would be technical failure.

The Boeing 777 aircraft type Malaysia Airlines used to operate flight MH370 was also involved in the Asiana Airlines crash at San Francisco Airport last year (albeit a -200 model, rather than a -300).
But far from proving the aircraft to be unsafe, incidents involving this long-haul workhorse are actually extremely rare.
Prior to the Asiana crash (which has been attributed to pilot error rather than any technical malfunction) no passengers had ever died aboard a B777 in its 19-year history. Given the fact that more than 1,100 B777s have been operated by airlines around the globe since it entered service in 1994, this makes the B777 one of the safest aircraft in the history of aviation.
Boeing issued a brief statement in Saturday, saying it is “assembling a team to provide technical assistance” to the Malaysian investigation.
In the absence of terrorism or technical failure, bad weather is the most usual cause of an air crash, but conditions in the area at the time were reported as being fair.

So until the aircraft is discovered and the flight data recorders analysed, the cause of the incident is likely to remain a mystery.

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