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Flight MH370: How researchers uncovered what happened


On the 8th of March 2014, the world was sent into a state of shock. A Boeing 777 aircraft carrying 239 people lost communication with air traffic control, never to be found again. Such was the fate of Malaysian Airlines flight MH370.  Ever since, millions of dollars have been spent in attempts recover the remains of the aircraft. No wreckage was ever found.

A group of researchers claim to have found an explanation of what happened to flight MH370 in its final moments. Through a series of mathematical modelling and simulations, these researchers were able to recreate five possible ways in which the aircraft might have crashed into the ocean.

This team of researchers concluded that the aircraft probably crashed into the Indian ocean with a vertical nose dive. They claimed that if the plane crashed with a nose dive, it would sink into the ocean in under a minute. The fact that no wreckage has been found on the surface of the ocean further supports this claim.

flight mh370 nosedive entry simulation

Simulation of a nosedive water entry for flight MH370 by the researchers [Courtesy: cdn.phys.org]

In each simulation, the plane was made to crash by the varying pitch angle as well as the angle of approach. The gliding approach US Airways Flight 1549 took during the Miracle on the Hudson has also been included as a possibility. It is hoped that the wreckage left in these simulations would provide answers to the fate of flight MH370.

Gliding  water entry simulation for flight MH370

A simulation of the gliding approach similar to the one executed by US Airways Flight 1549 [Courtesy: sciencealert.com]

In the paper, it writes, “Aviation experts generally agree that how the airliner enters the water determines its breakup, which then yields major clues and directions of the search operations,” However without any wreckage to work with, it is almost impossible to pinpoint exactly what caused the plane to disappear and eventually crash into the ocean.

“The true final moments of MH370 are likely to remain a mystery until someday when its black box is finally recovered and decoded,” said Goong Chen, the team leader of this research. “But forensics strongly supports that MH370 plunged into the ocean in a nosedive.”

 Flight MH370 simulation of pressure distribution in nosedive water entry

Mathematical modelling of the pressure distribution in a nosedive water entry for flight MH370 [Courtesy: h3maths.edublogs.org]

In the paper, the writers also went on to highlight the importance of modelling and simulation on flight safety for the upcoming future. It writes, “We show how computational mathematics and mechanics can help us understand the physical nature of an aircraft emergency water landing, how to model and compute it, and how this knowledge is helping safe civil aviation.”

Source: Science Alert

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