How a Plane Can Just Vanish
Experts answer questions after Malaysian Airlines disappearance
By Matt Cantor, Newser User
Posted Mar 11, 2014 12:32 PM CDT
A vessel is seen from a Vietnam Air Force aircraft during a search for a missing Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 over the Gulf of Thailand between Malaysia and Vietnam on Tuesday, March 11, 2014.   (AP Photo/Na Son Nguyen)

(Newser) – The disappearance of a Malaysia Airlines flight is raising plenty of questions beyond "where is it"? For instance, how, in an age of constant tracking, could it have vanished? And how could it have fallen from the sky? A look around at some of the answers being offered up:

  • The Washington Post explains how it might have dropped off the grid. Radar can only reach so far. Passengers' cell phones can't necessarily connect to networks in the air. And Malaysia Airlines doesn't seem to carry WiFi. As for the maps passengers see on the backs of seats, those track planes' activity via ground stations and would probably lack any information we don't already have.

  • What about the black box? Businessweek wonders. Why is that data kept inside a plane where we can't get to it, rather than transmitted from the plane? Mainly because of cost, the site explains. It would cost an airline $300 million per year to send out all that data. And airlines aren't likely to spend that money as disasters become rarer.
  • But how did the plane fall mid-flight, anyway? NPR notes a few factors that can affect a jet while it's in the air. One is mechanical stress from the cabin's pressurization and depressurization. But maintenance usually addresses that, and the Boeing 777 in question had recently been inspected. Technical failure is unlikely in today's aircraft, which are protected with back-up systems. Human error remains a possibility, but the most common issue while in flight is sabotage, an expert says.

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Mar 23, 2014 1:30 PM CDT
Let's ask Amelia...
Mar 12, 2014 3:07 PM CDT
I seen a special on tv about, some parts of the ocean having gases that come out of the water and rise up, that can make airplanes malfunction when flying through it. Another, on the ocean's floor were there are cliffs that go below the floor and maybe it could of got sucked down below of being seen. Just a thought.
Mar 12, 2014 2:28 PM CDT
The aircraft has: An ELT which is activated by accelerometer (can also be manually activated) and a salt water beacon, which begins to "ping" upon contact with salt water. The salt water beacon requires listening with Sonar in passive mode.