The disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH 370 has topped the news in recent days. As of this time, no wreckage from the Boeing 777 has been found. It can take months or even years, but once the wreckage is found and examined, experts should be able to determine the cause of the crash. Other airliners have disappeared in open water and have been difficult investigations.
Air France Flight 447 disappeared over the Atlantic Ocean on June 1, 2009. Like Flight MH 370, it went missing over open water and the exact location of the crash was not known. The flight originated in Rio de Janeiro and was destined for Paris. Five days after it went missing, the first bodies were found around 600 miles off the northern coast of Brazil. According to the Aviation Safety Network, a submarine discovered pieces of wreckage on the ocean floor on April 3, 2011. The flight data recorders were recovered in early May 2011, along with 104 more bodies. The information on the recorders survived being submerged for over 23 months. France’s Bureau of Investigation and Analysis (BEA) determined the cause of the accident was an equipment malfunction, which caused the autopilot to disengage. The Airbus A330 stalled and plummeted 38,000 feet in three minutes and 30 seconds. There were no survivors of the 228 souls on board the aircraft.
TWA Flight 800 crashed into the Atlantic Ocean near East Moriches, NY on July 17, 1996. The flight departed New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport and was en route to Paris. It took four years for the NTSB to conclude its investigation. According to the NTSB report, the official cause of the accident was the explosion of the center wing fuel tank (CWT). The report states, “The source of the ignition energy for the explosion could not be determined with certainty, but, of the sources evaluated by the investigation, the most likely was a short circuit outside of the CWT that allowed excessive voltage to enter it through electrical wiring associated with the fuel quantity indication system.” Conspiracy theorists believe that missiles, perhaps fired by the Navy and covered up by the FBI, brought down the Boeing 747. According to some eyewitnesses, streaks of light were seen heading toward the aircraft right before the explosion. The accident killed all 230 souls on board the aircraft.
AdamAir Flight 574 crashed into the sea off the coast of Pambauang, Indonesia on January 1, 2007. The Boeing 737 disappeared during a domestic flight from Surabaya to Manado. According to the Aviation Safety Network, some debris was recovered on January 11, including part of the aircraft’s tail. On January 25, signals were detected from the flight recorder. The flight recorder was found more than eight months later on August 27, 2007, and the cockpit voice recorder was discovered on August 28. The fuselage is still on the ocean floor. The National Transportation Safety Committee of Indonesia (KNKT) investigated and found the cause of the accident to be that the crew was occupied in troubleshooting problems with the Inertial Reference System and did not recognize that the autopilot disengaged; the aircraft banked sharply, then broke up and crashed into the sea. All 102 souls on board the aircraft died.
Pan Am 944 is an early example of an airliner that crashed into water and the cause was never found. Pan American Airways Flight 7-known by the airline as PAA-944-disappeared into the Pacific Ocean on November 8, 1957. According to the Aviation Safety Network, the Boeing 377 Stratocruiser was en route from San Francisco to Honolulu on a 10-hour flight. Bodies and parts of the wreckage were found on November 14, 90 miles from the intended flight path. Like Malaysian Airlines Flight 370, the airliner was off course, with no distress call made. There was insufficient evidence to determine the cause of the accident. There were mysterious circumstances surrounding this accident, including evidence of carbon monoxide in the body tissue of some of the passengers. There were also stories of explosions, mechanical problems, and a suicidal member of the flight crew. This accident remains unsolved. All 44 souls on board the aircraft died.