KUALA LUMPUR, March 31 ― With no wreckage or debris to be found of the missing Flight MH370 three weeks on, aviation experts said there is a slim chance the Malaysia Airlines jet could have made an emergency landing on water without leaving much debris.
In a joint televised interview with CNN’s chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto yesterday, oceanographer Alexander Babanin and CNN’s aviation analyst Miles O’Brien were asked if the passenger plane could have landed intact on water, to which both men agreed.
Sciutto also pointed out that US Airways Flight 1549 had successfully ditched into the Hudson River near New York in 2009, with all on board surviving the crash landing.
“But it's pretty hard to ditch in the water at night,” O’Brien said in the interview on the American news network.
“So I'm not exactly sure if at that time after that much flying, they were in daylight conditions or darkness. So that'd be a key thing,” the aviation analyst added.
Citing satellite data, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said last Monday that Flight MH370 had ended in the southern Indian Ocean, west of Perth, Australia, after the plane disappeared from civilian radar in the early hours of March 8.
When Sciutto asked why the Malaysian military did not raise an alert after detecting the commercial jet without a transponder on its radar, O’Brien said that governments could be reluctant to talk about the matter because it would mean exposing their defence limitations, or a “lack of responsiveness” in their defences.
“And that's probably why we're not getting much on that front right now, which is unfortunate,” said the aviation analyst.
The Boeing 777-200 jetliner deviated sharply from its Beijing-bound flight path and its communications systems, including its transponder which identifies the aircraft to air traffic control, were switched off.
But the plane was detected on Malaysian military radar northwest from Penang in the Straits of Malacca at 2.15am on March 8.
The Royal Malaysian Air Force has said that the commercial jetliner was not intercepted as it was considered non-hostile.
In the September 11 attacks, however, al-Qaeda terrorists had hijacked passenger airliners to crash into the World Trade Centre in New York City.
CNN’s Sciutto also asked in the interview why Putrajaya or UK commercial satellite firm Inmarsat did not release Flight MH370’s definitive altitude or speed assumptions for the plane’s final leg of the journey.
Babanin from Australia’s Swinburne University said that he has been asking the same question, telling CNN: “For example, not only the distance the plane traveled, but also the direction the plane travelled”.
When asked if shutting off the jet’s Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS), which conveys the plane’s health to MAS, would trigger an alarm to the co-pilot, O’Brien said he did not believe that would happen.
“My inclination is that would not be something that would trigger an alarm,” said the aviation analyst.
The plane’s ACARS signalling device sent its last message at 1.07am, and the next message scheduled for half an hour later never arrived.