It’s one of aviation’s greatest mysteries—and PR disasters—of the modern era. On March 8, 2014, a commercial aircraft took off from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing only to vanish off radar screens. Four months later, another aircraft was shot down over eastern Ukraine by Russian forces. So, after the disappearance of MH370 and the destruction of MH17, how on earth is Malaysian Airlines still operating?
The missing plane is the subject of Netflix’s MH 370: The Plane That Disappeared documentary, which debuted nine years after the Boeing 777 seemingly dropped off the face of the earth with 12 crew members and 227 passengers onboard. A multi-national investigation into the incident was launched and the streaming giant interviewed aviation journalists and online sleuths to deliver their opinions.
Is Malaysia Airlines still operating?
Is Malaysia Airlines still operating? Yes, but it experienced significant losses after two devastating accidents in close succession. In March 2014, flight MH370 disappeared a mere 40 minutes after take-off with 239 souls on board.
Then, in July 2014 MH17 flight from Kuala Lumpur to Amsterdam was shot down by Russian-controlled forces while it flew over eastern Ukraine. All 283 passengers and 15 crew members were killed instantly. With two serious disasters in such a short period of time, the value of the airline, and indeed public perception with regard to safety, plummeted. But it had been financially struggling for years prior. In 2015, the BBC reported the airline was “technically bankrupt” and that the disasters were the “final straw” for the already struggling airline.
So considerable were the company’s financial losses that the Malaysian government actually bailed them out with a $1 billion investment and took full control of the company through stock buyback and restructuring operations in an attempt to restore confidence. “Malaysia Airlines was already sleepwalking and ignoring the competitive threat from the low-cost market when AirAsia set up shop,” Saj Ahmad, an analyst with StrategicAero Research in London, told the New York Times in August 2014. “Given that Malaysia Airlines is government-owned, as is the sovereign wealth fund that is now looking to take on 100 percent ownership, the problem is that rebranding does nothing to stop customers from staying away from a tainted entity.”
Two years after MH370’s ill-fated flight, relatives of the passengers accused the Malaysian government of legal maneuvering that could’ve denied them compensation. “The government is trying to protect one of its businesses instead of allowing its citizens access to justice,” Grace Nathan, a lawyer in the capital, Kuala Lumpur, whose mother was on the aircraft and who represents Voice 370, told the New York Times at the time.
In an article for Reuters published in 2020, the newswire observed that analysts and lessors said the airline has been beset by high costs, a messy strategy and a bloated workforce even after the restructuring. “We’re at this stage because the airline has run out of money, run out of ideas and the government seems to have run out of patience with it,” said Shukor Yusof, an analyst at Endau Analytics.
Did They Ever Find Malaysian Airlines Flight 370?
Did they ever find Malaysian Airlines Flight 370? The bulk of the plane’s hull has never been found but pieces of debris that washed up on an Australian beach in October 2020 were believed to be pieces of MH370. Parts of the wreckage have also been found on African coastlines and Islands in the Indian Ocean. In January 2023, British aerospace engineer Richard Godfrey completed an analysis of such debris and confirmed it to be pieces of the missing plane.
“The location of where the piece of debris was found in Antsiraka Beach in Madagascar, where a total of 20 items of floating debris from MH370 have been found in Madagascar and 4 on the same Antsiraka Beach, confirms the likelihood that this new item of floating debris is also from MH370. Out of the items washed ashore in Madagascar and officially analyzed, six items have been determined to be almost certain, highly likely or likely from MH370 by the authorities,” he said per Airline Ratings.com.
What happened to Malaysian Airlines Flight 370?
What happened to Malaysian Airlines Flight 370? Unfortunately, it’s likely we’ll never know for sure. The plane took off from Kuala Lumpur at 12.41 am local time and around three minutes later, it lost all contact with traffic control. Officials say the plane’s transponder was turned off over the South China Sea. The last voice contact was at 1:19 am Malaysian time and at 2:22 am, about 230 miles from Penang, it disappeared.
Cyndi Hendry, who worked for Tomnod, a satellite imagery company, says in the Netflix series that she was randomly assigned satellite imagery by Tomnod. ‘The satellite images were empty. It was just the blackness of the sea. Then you press next, more black scans. So much black. And then finally, there’s something white,” she said.
“Good night, Malaysia 370,” Shah told air traffic controllers as they ready to relay communications duties to the Vietnamese. Those were his final words before the plane lost all radar contact less than two minutes later. The docu-series takes another look at the evidence found on Shah’s computer in 2016, which showed that he’d done a simulation of the plane’s suspected flight path a mere month before MH370 took off. It’s not exactly a smoking gun, though.
“It’s very odd you would have a simulation end with fuel exhaustion in the Southern Indian Ocean,” Mike Exner of Independent Group, a watchdog of aviation experts that was established to figure out the flight’s final moments, admitted to the New York Post in March 2023. “I don’t think taking the simulator data by itself proves a whole lot … The simulator data is not the whole puzzle, it’s just one piece in the puzzle that fits.”
Aviation journalist Jeff Wise, whose theories on the missing flight were considered controversial among experts, said the Shah suicide theory would require an “aggressive and sophisticated” plot to overpower and lock his co-pilot out of the cockpit and cut radar communications. The final report on MH370 found that “there is no evidence to suggest any recent behavioral changes for the [pilot].”
The second theory is that Russian hijackers took control of the plane. Journalist Jeff Wise suggested in the Netflix show that three Russian passengers were seated close to an electrical hatch and managed to create a distraction so that they could take over the plane. Malaysia Airlines’ former crisis director, Fuad Sharuji, doesn’t see the theory as credible. “Anyone who gets into the hatch can disable the transponder and disable the communications systems,” Sharuji said. “But it is impossible to fly the aircraft from the avionics compartment.”
The final theory is that the United States had something to do with the tragedy but obviously, it’s just a theory. The plane was apparently carrying a huge amount of electronics and the idea is that the American military shot it down in a bid to seize the equipment which was bound for China—a diplomatic rival. French journalist Florence de Changy says MH370 had 2.5 tons of electronic devices on board. “It’s public knowledge that China was very eager to acquire highly sensitive US technology in the field of surveillance, stealth, drone technology,” she said. “This could be at the heart of what happened to MH370.”
Harry Hewland, the producer of the Netflix documentary on MH370, says, “More than anything, we want to pull the hidden truths about MH370 out from the carpet under which they’ve been swept, and remind people that this is still a story with no ending, a mystery that hasn’t been solved, that somebody out there knows more than the world has been told.”
MH370: The Plane That Disappeared is available to stream on Netflix.
Richard Quest, CNN’s Aviation Correspondent, was one of the leading journalists covering the story. In a coincidence, Quest had interviewed one of the two pilots a few weeks before the disappearance. It is here that he begins his gripping account of those tense weeks in March, presenting a fascinating chronicle of an international search effort, which despite years of searching and tens of millions of dollars spent has failed to find the plane.
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