News agencies reported this week that an Australian defense vessel has picked up signals consistent with those emitted by the black box of the MH370 Malaysian Airlines flight that went missing last month.
It has been more than 30 days since the airplane went missing.
The news is troubling for the 44 international students at Union who fly frequently back to their home countries during school breaks — five of whom are Malaysians.
“Today I can report some very encouraging information which has unfolded over the last 24 hours; the towed pinger locator deployed from the Australian vessel Ocean Shield has detected signals,” said Angus Houston, head of the Australian agency coordinating the search on April 7. “Significantly this would be consistent with transmissions from both the flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder.”
Hishammuddin Hussein, Malaysia’s minister of defense and acting minister of transport, said authorities may be one step closer to finding the aircraft but many steps still must be taken before signals can be verified.
Andrew Tan, junior engineering major from Malaysia, said the tragedy is heart-wrenching because of so much speculation about what may have caused it.
“New speculations unraveled with each passing day, causing more confusion than sense,” said Tan, who added the tragedy will not affect his plans to travel home because he mentally prepares himself for what could happen while traveling.
Cherish Lo, sophomore economics major, also said she is not too worried about traveling in the future, even though the incident occurred.
“I think any time I fly there is a risk element involved anyway, and if I want to go home this is what I would have to do,” said Lo.
Being far away from one’s home country also increases anxiety for family members.
Tony Lee, father of both Michelle Lee, senior business administration major, from Malaysia, and Union alumnus Jessica Lee, said that he pleads with the Lord to keep his daughters safe while they are abroad.
“God has shown himself to be faithful all the time, and we have been praying,” said Lee.
Jessie Poon, mother of Anna Loi, junior English major, said she knows the necessary risks involved with sending her child abroad to study.
“I think if parents are willing to let their children study overseas then they must be prepared for anything to happen, not that they wish it,” Poon said. “I know that God loves [Anna] more than I ever could and he has the best for her in mind, so I should not worry excessively.”
Loi said it is worrisome to her that officials from so many countries are looking for the plane but cannot find it.
At 2:40 a.m. March 8, flight MH370 was reported missing by local air traffic control in Malaysia.
The Boeing 777-200 aircraft was carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew members en route from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing, China.
The flight departed Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Malaysia at 12:41 a.m. March 8 and was scheduled to arrive at 6:30 a.m. on the same day in Beijing International Airport in China.
However, at 7:30 a.m., Malaysian Airlines confirmed through a media release that it had lost all contact with the flight.
Seventeen days later, on March 24, family members and relatives of the passengers onboard were told by the Malaysian Prime Minister Mohd Najib Tun Razak that the plane went down somewhere in the Southern Indian Ocean.
“It is therefore with deep sadness and regret that I must inform you that, according to this new data, flight MH370 ended in the Southern Indian Ocean,” said the prime minister at the press conference.
Razak said newest data analysis showed that the last position of flight MH370 was in the middle of the Indian Ocean and it was a remote location, far from any possible landing site.
He said that based on the Inmarsat and AAIB data analysis, officials have concluded that flight MH370 flew along the southern corridor and its last position was in the middle of the Indian Ocean, west of Perth, Australia.
The Inmarsat is a British satellite telecommunications company that was working along with the United Kingdom Air Accidents Investigation Branch in the search for the location of the missing aircraft.
Emotions ran high as family members cried out in anger and grief upon hearing the news; some had to be taken out on stretchers because they were physically unable to walk as they heard the news.
On March 26, Acting Minister of Transport Hishammuddin Hussein also revealed that Australian, Chinese and French officials have released satellite images believed to show objects from the plane.
In addition, the Malaysian Remote Sensing Agency also received new satellite images of 122 potential objects of different sizes from Airbus Defence and Space based in France.
The massive search and rescue efforts — involving 26 countries and numerous deployments of ships, helicopters, aircrafts, submarines, jets, experts and officials — are still unable to pinpoint the exact location of the plane or what exactly happened to the aircraft.
Hussein said the current search area consists of 2.24 million square nautical miles.
“The search and rescue operations have taken on a new international dimension,” Hussein said on the March 18 press conference held in Kuala Lumpur. “The search is still coordinated by Malaysia, but our partners have taken an increasing role in organizing and carrying out operations, both within their own territory and also within agreed search sectors.”
Search efforts have been initially divided into two corridors, the northern and southern corridors and with countries like Malaysia, Australia, Indonesia, China and Kazakhstan leading the search.
However, the efforts have now been narrowed to focus on the Southern Indian Ocean in attempts to find debris from the plane.
The countries involved in the search are Malaysia, China, Australia, India, Indonesia, Japan, Maldives, Nepal, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, United Arab Emirates, Kazakhstan, Thailand, Vietnam, France, the United Kingdom and the United States.
The Royal Malaysian Air Force primary radar showed that the MH370 aircraft made a turn back to peninsular Malaysia near the border between Malaysian and Vietnamese air control, which was a change from the original flight path.
Also, the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System on flight was disabled just before the aircraft reached the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia.
Shortly after that, the aircraft’s transponder was switched off.
The 239 passengers onboard the MH370 flight include 14 different nationalities, with the highest number being Chinese, 153 (including an infant).
The flight was piloted by Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah, a 53-year-old Malaysian who has logged 18,365 flying hours.
Investigative efforts were carried out by the royal police force of Malaysia on pilots, passengers, crews and ground staff involved in the MH370 flight but there were no conclusive findings.
“We may never get all the answers unless we succeed in retrieving the black boxes, but we need to carry out a full investigation because the families [of MH370 passengers and crew] need answers,” Razak said. “I know that until we find the plane, many families cannot start to grieve, I cannot imagine what they must be going through, but I can promise them that we will not give up.”