Malaysia Flight 370 Not the First Plane to Disappear for Unknown Reasons
From the vanishing of Amelia Earhart in 1937 to the loss last month of Malaysia Flight 370, an airplane disappearance is a rare yet dramatic event which captures the world’s attention. Although it is hard to believe that something as large as a commercial jet airliner could go missing, the Boeing 777 lost in Malaysia flight 370 is not the first plane of such a size to vanish. A Boeing 727 disappeared in Angola in 2003 and was never seen or heard from again. In 2009, an Air France flight of an Airbus A330 en route to Paris from Rio de Janeiro disappeared over the Atlantic Ocean, and the wreckage from the plane was not recovered until nearly two years later. The fact that wreckage was eventually recovered, including many bodies and the flight recorders, leaves hope that the fate of Malaysia Flight 370 may someday be known.
Although the cause of the Malaysia disappearance is not yet known, it is possible to speculate based on what we do know about plane crashes. Well over 1,000 airplane accidents and incidents, resulting in hundreds of fatalities, are reported by the National Transportation Safety Board each year, yielding volumes of data and statistics. When looking at the causes, it is clear that one-half of all aviation accidents are due to pilot error. Mechanical error is the second leading cause, which accounts for another one-fifth of all airplane crashes. Mechanical error can include design flaws or manufacturing defects, as well as inadequate maintenance that causes tragic mechanical failures. The remaining approximately 30% of airplane crashes can be attributed to a number of causes, including air traffic controller error, fires in the cabin or cargo hold, fuel starvation, weather and lighting strikes, sabotage and hijacking, and even bird strikes, which continue to account for several crashes every year.