Review – Malaysia Airlines Flight 370: Why It Disappeared—and Why It’s Only a Matter of Time Before This Happens Again
Soucie’s goal in this narrative was to explore the mystery of the disappearance of Malaysia Flight 370. He writes in an easy professional style for a knowledgeable audience. With deft skills he details the facts known about the disappearance of Flight 370. He tackles this task with concise reasoning coupled with statistical analysis of the facts of this flight and their inferences. He does not offer conjectures. He relies on the facts in developing the narrative and he challenges the readers “…to make an informed judgement about the fate of Flight 370. The facts speak for themselves.”
Here is what we know (as of 2015, the year of this book’s copyright). Flight 370 departed Kuala Lumpur Airport at 0041, 8 March 2014, outbound to Beijing, China. On board were 227 passengers and twelve crew members. The captain was Zaharie Ahmad Shah, 53 years old, who had 18,000 flight-time hours. The copilot was Abdel Hamid, 27 years old, with 2,700 flight-time hours.
The aircraft was a Boeing 777-ER (Extended Range). It had last been maintained on 23 February 2014. Its range was about 8,000 nautical miles, and its cruising speed was Mach 0.48 (640 mph). The Boeing 777 aircraft have had an excellent safety record.
After liftoff, Flight 370 progressed routinely. At 0119, Lumpur Radar transmitted, “Ma- laysian three seven zero, contact Ho Chi Minh one two zero decimal nine. Good night.”
Captain Shah responded, “Good night. Malaysian three seven zero.”
This was the last voice transmission from Flight 370. At 0121, Kuala Lumpur Area Traffic Control Center radar observed Flight 370. Five seconds later, the Model S-Enhanced transponder on Flight 370 ceased transmitting to air traffic control radar and disappeared from the screen. No May Days, no distress transmission, nothing. This model transponder transmits in- formation regarding aircraft identification, altitude, roll, track, ground speed, air speed, magnetic heading, and rate of climb/descent, concurrently. Flight 370’s radar glyph vanished from the ra- dar at Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam, ACC. Immediately afterwards, the aircraft appeared to have changed course—it was now heading west.
Regarding “why” Malaysia Flight 370 disappeared, the author posits two assumptions:
- “Either the aircraft was commandeered by one of the pilots or an assailant, or
- there was a fire in the cockpit or in the equipment and electronic compartment.…”
No need to relay the details of Soucie’s investigation. It’s compelling, chronological, and cogent. I was particularly impressed with his posting in Chapter 26 a comprehensive timeline from the transponder failure on 8 March to 18 June 2014, when an Australian research vessel joined the search in the Indian Ocean.
Soucie’s recurring theme in his narrative is, “Aircraft want to be seen. They do not just disappear.” Civilian and military radar and satellites track aircraft.