Saturday, March 8, 2014

Global Impact: Extensive Oil Slicks Found By Vietnamese Air Force, Only 9% of All Fatal Air Crashes Occur at Cruising Speed

According to The Associated Press, two significant oil slicks spotted on Saturday (March 8) by the Vietnamese Air Force offered the first sign indicator that a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777  carrying 239 people had crashed into the ocean after vanishing from radar without sending a single distress call.

An international fleet of planes and ships scoured the waters between Malaysia and Vietnam for any clues to the fate of the Boeing 777, which disappeared less than an hour after taking off from Kuala Lumpur bound for Beijing.

The oil slicks sighted off the southern tip of Vietnam were each between 10 kilometers (six miles) and 15 kilometers (nine miles) long, the Vietnamese government said in a statement.

There was no immediate confirmation that the slicks were related to Flight MH370, but the government said they were consistent with the kind of slick that would be produced by the jet's two fuel tanks.

COMMENT: The jet's disappearance was especially mysterious because it apparently occurred when the plane was at cruising altitude, not during the more dangerous phases of takeoff or landing.

Just 9% of fatal aircraft accidents occur when an aircraft is at cruising altitude, according to a statistical summary of commercial jet accidents done by Boeing.

Two-thirds of the jet's passengers were from China. The rest were from elsewhere in Asia, North America and Europe.

Asked whether terrorism was suspected, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said authorities were "looking at all possibilities, but it is too early to make any conclusive remarks."

Italy's Foreign Ministry said an Italian national who was listed as being aboard Flight MH370, was traveling in Thailand and was not aboard the plane. It said he reported his passport stolen in August 2013.

The amount of time needed to find aircraft that go down over the ocean can vary widely. Aircraft that crash into relatively shallow areas, like the waters off Vietnam where the Malaysian jet is missing, are far easier to locate and recover than those that plunge deep into undersea canyons or mountain ranges.

Malaysia had dispatched fifteen aircraft  and nine ships into the area where the Boeing 777-200 may have gone down in. Other nations are also sending help in an effort to find the aircraft as soon as possible.

MH said that there were 152 passengers from China, 38 from Malaysia, seven from Indonesia, six from Australia, five from India, three from the US and others from Indonesia, France, New Zealand, Canada, Ukraine, Russia, Taiwan and the Netherlands.

If wreckage is found, a top priority will be recovering the airliner's "black boxes," the flight-data and cockpit-voice recorders that are equipped with "pingers" that emit ultrasonic signals that can be detected underwater. Under good conditions, the signals can be detected from several hundred miles away, said John Goglia, a former member of the US National Transportation Safety Board.

When Air France Flight 447, flying from Rio de Janeiro to Paris, went down in the Atlantic with 228 people on board, the Airbus 330 fell into especially deep water on June 1, 2009. Consequently, it took nearly two years to recover the main wreckage and the black boxes from a depth of around 13,000 feet.

By contrast, much of the Gulf of Thailand is less than 300 feet deep.

A wingtip on the same Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777-200 broke off on August 9, 2012, as it was taxiing at Pudong International Airport outside Shanghai. The wingtip collided struck the tail of a China Eastern Airlines A340 plane. No one was injured.

This report will be updated as soon as possible.