Three official investigations have failed to determine the probable cause behind the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines flight 370, a Boeing 777ER carrying 239 passengers and crew. Originating in Kuala Lampur on March 8, 2014, the flight was bound for Beijing, China.
As William Langewiesche reports in The Atlantic, what has been discovered to date is that the Malaysian government, concerned about a blemish to the reputation of their prestigious national airline, has been less than forthcoming about what they know about the crash — even to the point of deliberately allowing searchers to scour the ocean for debris in locations they knew were far from MH370’s final descent. The plane made a series of turns away from Beijing and flew for more than six hours before descending into the Indian Ocean at high speed after running out of fuel.
Perhaps the only saving grace is that it is believed that the passengers had all long since passed peacefully because someone had deliberately depressurized the aircraft. Was it a foreign government? Hijackers? Or was it a pilot with marriage problems who led an existence outside the cockpit described by people who knew him as “lonely and sad”?
Less than a week after the disappearance, The Wall Street Journal published the first report about the satellite transmissions, indicating that the airplane had most likely stayed aloft for hours after going silent. Malaysian officials eventually admitted that the account was true. The Malaysian regime was said to be one of the most corrupt in the region. It was also proving itself to be furtive, fearful, and unreliable in its investigation of the flight.
Accident investigators dispatched from Europe, Australia, and the United States were shocked by the disarray they encountered. Because the Malaysians withheld what they knew, the initial sea searches were concentrated in the wrong place—the South China Sea—and found no floating debris. Had the Malaysians told the truth right away, such debris might have been found and used to identify the airplane’s approximate location; the black boxes might have been recovered.
A close observer of the MH370 process said, “It became clear that the primary objective of the Malaysians was to make the subject just go away. From the start there was this instinctive bias against being open and transparent, not because they were hiding some deep, dark secret, but because they did not know where the truth really lay, and they were afraid that something might come out that would be embarrassing. Were they covering up? Yes. They were covering up for the unknown.”
The Malaysian report was seen as hardly more than a whitewash whose only real contribution was a frank description of the air-traffic-control failures—presumably because half of them could be blamed on the Vietnamese, and because the Malaysian controllers constituted the weakest local target, politically. The report was released in July 2018, more than four years after the event. It stated that the investigative team was unable to determine the cause of the airplane’s disappearance.