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Three Things We Aren't Being Told About Missing Malaysia Airlines Plane

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Published at 10:01am 11th March 2014 (Updated 10:11am 11th March 2014)

Search and rescue teams are expanding their search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, but they remain baffled about the disappearance of the plane.

The new search area includes a vast stretch on the west peninsula of Malaysia at the Straits of Malacca.

But there is still no sign of any wreckage - leading some to question how this is possible.

Here are five of the most difficult questions facing investigators...

What Has Happened To The Black Box Recorder?

The black box recorder on a plane is not actually black - it is bright orange to make it easier to spot in the wake of a disaster.

But this black box has not been easy to spot at all.

That is despite being specifically constructed to survive almost anything that could happen onboard. It should survive any high impact crash, be able to withstand extremes of heat and deep sea pressures.

The moment it comes in contact with water the device should activate a homing beacon - allowing teams to target its location and retrieve it.

No such transmission has been detected. So, has it broken, somehow been disabled or suffered another fate that aircraft engineers had not been able to predict?

The tracker is detectable for thirty days at a distance of up to two miles. It could be that the search operation, covering thousands of miles of ocean, simply has not got close enough to detect its signature.

We Know Where The Plane Disappeared - So Where Is The Wreckage?

According to investigators, the last known position of MH370 before it disappeared off the radar was 065515 North (longitude) and 1033443 East (latitude).

They also know its elevation and airspeed, allowing them to make a calculation on the rough area any crash could have happened.

The search operation is now being conducted with the help of Australia, China, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, Vietnam, the Philippines, and the United States.

Nine aircraft and 24 ships are currently deployed - but there is no sign of any wreckage.

In the event of a plane crashing into the sea, parts of it would naturally float to the surface.

In fact some safety briefings even mention that seat cushions can be used as a flotation device.

How Could A Hijacking Cause It To Disappear?

A hijacking onboard a plane does not cause it to disappear.

It would be technically possible for a hijacker to disable some of the tracking equipment onboard a plane.

But this would take time and would not stop surface-based radar from functioning.

Investigators say they do not think there were terrorists onboard the flight.

A missle strike on a plane would leave some signatures that would be detectable.

None have been found - and a missile strike would also leave large amounts of wreckage.

No distress calls were sent from the aircraft, leading experts to assume that whatever happened to the plane occurred quickly and left the pilots little time to respond.

So, What Has Happened?

"All angles are being looked at. We are not ruling out any possibilities," a spokesperson for the airline said.

"Apart from the search in the sea, search on land in between these areas is also conducted."

Back in 2009, when an Air France flight crashed into the Atlantic, it took two years to find the black box.

A working hypothesis had been established that flight 447 had suffered a technical fault.

However, the discovery of the data revealed that the crew had, in fact, unsuccesfully attempted to navigate their way through a major storm.

Whatever the explanation for the disappearance of MH 370 it is sure to raise questions about how aircraft are tracked.

In the 21st century, when some passengers can use WIFI in the cabin and it is possible to track a stolen mobile phone to a precise street, it will come as a surprise to many that there is not a constant stream of data being fed back to air traffic control from every plane in flight.

The technology to achieve this has not yet been invented - but the most recent disappearance could prompt calls for that to change.

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