Mark D. Young on a volunteer project to track down the missing Malaysian airliner
Newly launched volunteer Project370 will test our humanity and commitment to aviation safety
Three years ago on 8 March 2014, a Malaysian Airlines System Boeing 777-200 registered as 9M-MRO, took off from Kuala Lumpur with 239 people aboard for a routine flight to Beijing.
This route was normal, almost rote. Had it landed at6.30amin China, the passengers would have gone their various ways and the world would not have been too aware of the route, flight nor aircraft type.
Sadly, most of humanity have come to know the flight number as the aircraft never made it to its destination. It is missing, declared crashed with the loss of all aboard. The wreckage, however, has not yet been located.
As the third anniversary of the accident comes and goes, however, it seems it has been forgotten.
Officially, in late January 2017, the lead investigators from Malaysia announced that the fruitless, $200 million sea search had been “suspended” pending any new and credible evidence of the aircraft's whereabouts.
It is now almost universally accepted that the aircraft was not found by the search teams as it simply was not as far south in the Indian Ocean as the initial electronic satellite data had determined.
Subsequent to the area to be searched having been defined, floating debris began washing up on the western shores of the Indian Ocean. As with any good detective story, the physical evidence is usually the best lead to follow. And so it has turned out to be.
For many months prior to the suspension of the search, however, a loosely formed group of aviation insiders, meteorologists, retired accident investigators, statisticians, legal professionals and aviation writers like myself had been gathering as much factual evidence as possible about the accident and sharing ideas regarding the most likely location of the remains of the aircraft. Following all the physical evidence, which also included reported debris sightings from search aircraft nearly a month after the accident, many, many roads have led to a relatively small, specific area of sea.
Spurred by the suspension of search efforts, it was decided to formalise the group into a registered non-profit called Project370 Limited. The group is looking to crowd funding models to finance a survey of this new search area.
Due to the voluntary nature of the group, it has no salary bill. The experience and professionalism of its volunteers, all working towards the goal of finding the aircraft, has also shown that it has the advantage of little of the inertia of official, government efforts.
The project team has worked with the most experienced sea survey engineering firm in the world and has a firm quote of only US$4 million to thoroughly scan the area it has under consideration with the most up-to-date proprietary equipment unique to the particular contractor.
Using electronic meeting technologies and other forms of internet co-operation this is truly a world-wide effort by numerous, concerned planetary citizens pooling their experience and skill sets who are intent on plugging the MH370 sized hole in the civil aviation and Boeing 777 safety record.
The obvious question is, why would such a group go to all this effort, gratis, if they are not family members of the passengers or crew?
Quite simply because, until this accident is properly investigated, it could, in theory, happen again,
And perhaps the next flight may have one of our family members aboard. In this era, there can not be any question of the world simply turning its back on the 239 passengers. The aircraft simply must be found.
So, in order to try and make a positive difference, Project 370 launched a website and fund raising exercise on Friday 3 March 2017.
If the millions of words posted on different websites about the driving need to solve the mystery were sincere, and just Five Dollars were to be donated by each of the authors thereof, the survey ships could be at sea within weeks.
It remains to be seen, however, if all the pontification and “they should”s will turn into action.
In effect, Project 370 offers humanity the opportunity to show its best nature and to bring a close to one of the greatest mysteries in aviation.
If the mystery remains unsolved, however, due to a lack of support of, as one un-connected aviation industry luminary commented on the project's twitter pages “...a well organised, transparent, accountable, expertly resourced and effective...” charity vehicle with which to complete the task, then humanity will have shown that its attention span – in real terms – is as fleeting as the morning mist.
It is time for ordinary people to show how extraordinary they can be by doing right by the 239 people lying at the bottom of the Indian Ocean.
The search must go on and we, as a planet, should be able to easily do this.
If we do not, then our much vaunted humanity, and our future as a planetary species, will be the poorer.
Mark D Young is a South Africa investigative journalist and flight safety author. He is the project co-ordinator of Project370 Limited, a worldwide crowd-funded volunteer project set up to to locate and identify the hull of MH370.