It’s been two whole days since a Malaysia passenger jet, carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew members, took off from Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian capital, en route to Beijing. Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 departed at 12:41 am Saturday (12:41 pm Friday ET) and disappeared from the screens of air-traffic controllers in just under an hour, as the plane was flying over the Gulf of Thailand.
What happened since remains a complete mystery. It’s as though the plane has literally vanished into thin air.
The world has no idea what went on in the cockpit around the time the plane lost contact with air traffic controllers. The aircraft, a Boeing 777:1, is considered one of the most popular and safest jets. The weather conditions on Saturday when the plane was airborne were reportedly good. What’s exceptionally mystifying, is that the pilots did not report any issues before losing contact with air-traffic control.
Despite extensive international search and rescue initiatives, there has been no substantive proof found indicating the plane crashed. Since Saturday, teams of searchers from the U.S., Thailand, and Australia, among other nations, have scoured the seas by plane and ship desperately looking for a single bit of evidence that could unearth an answer to this puzzling nightmare.
So far, there have only been false leads. Mistaken reports that a plane door and tail had been spotted turned out to be garbage. An oil slick searchers thought may be from the missing plane was really fuel oil typically used in cargo ships.
What authorities have uncovered however, is that two passengers on the missing flight used stolen passports to board the plane. Under the guise of an Italian and Austrian citizen, two individuals were aboard the plane with passports stolen in Thailand in 2012 and 2013, respectively. According to ticketing records, both of their tickets were one-way and bought Thursday in Thailand by an Iranian Businessman known “only as Mr. Ali”. One ticket’s final destination was Frankfurt and the other’s Copenhagen.
Only a tiny piece of information has been released about the true identity of one of the men using a stolen passport. Malaysian inspector general of police told the media Monday, “I can confirm that he is not a Malaysian, but cannot divulge which country he is from yet.”
Southeast Asia has a notoriously booming market for stolen passports as a way for citizens to gain entrance into Western countries. The false identities could be an inexplicable coincidence or the actual reason behind the plane’s disappearance. The fact that we still do not know which is truly terrifying. Foul-play, including terrorism and hijacking, is still a very viable possibility.
Another generally frightening thing about this story is that Interpol says the stolen passports were in a database after they were reported but no checks were made on them prior to the plane’s disappearance. Interpol Secretary General Ronald K. Nobel said it was “clearly of great concern” that passengers were able to board an international flight with passports listed in the agency’s database.
Commercial plane crashes are horrible tragedies in themselves. But the unanswered fate of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, along with the myriad of unanswered questions surrounding its disappearance, is a whole different beast.
As I sit refreshing the pages of various news sources awaiting updates, I think about the family members and loved ones of the passengers and crew members. I cannot even begin to fathom the agony of their wait. The only thing they can hold on to for the moment while they and the rest of the world wait for answers, is hope.