At a press conference this morning, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak made the announcement that Malaysian Airlines flight 370 "ended" its journey in a "remote location" of the southern Indian Ocean.

From ABC News:

"This is a remote location, far from any possible landing sites. 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," a somber Razak said during a media briefing.

Officials say this new information:

...came from British satellite maker Inmarsat, which used a new type of analysis never before used to try and pinpoint the plane's last known location, Razak said.

"[Inmarsat] has been performing calculations on the data using type of analysis never before used in an investigation of this sort and they have been able to shed more light on MH370. Based on the new analysis, Inmarsat and the (British) Accidents Investigation Branch have concluded that MH370 flew along the southern corridor and that it's last position was in the middle of the Indian Ocean, west of Perth," Razak said.

And, as of this writing, that's where we stand. After the plane vanished on March 8th with 289 people aboard, there have been far more questions and speculation than hard information on the fate of the plane. However, amid all the noise and guesswork, ABC News has gathered some rather interesting bits of information during the investigation.

Some of their discoveries include:

  • Some parts of the Indian Ocean can reach 25,000 feet deep. That's 20 times the height of the Empire State Building, which measures 1,250 feet tall.
  • Brain death can occur at 45,000 feet in the air. Airplane oxygen masks can only provide about 10 to 15 minutes of air for passengers, which is more than enough time for a pilot to return a plane to lower altitude.
  •  Intense focus has been placed on finding the plane's black boxes, consisting of a cockpit voice recorder and a flight data recorder. Both are bright orange and each about the size of a coffee maker. Searchers only have about 30 days to find the boxes before the box stops pinging, making it much more difficult to locate. Even after the pinging stops, the batteries last for years and the data should be intact.
  • The flight data recorder will detail the last 25 hours of the plane's activity, from engine performance to the position of flight control surfaces, while the cockpit voice recorder tapes the sounds on the flight deck and cycles after two hours.
  • Both cockpit voice and flight data recorders work to an ocean depth of 20,000 feet, with a signal range of about 2 nautical miles, depending on variables like sea conditions. The signals are located using a device operated on the surface of the water or towed to a depth. The deeper the water the more difficult it will be to detect the pings.
We're not only learning more about the Indian Ocean than we ever knew before, but also a lot about the internal workings of the modern jet liner. Let's tack on a few more about aviation in general:
  • Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, is the world's 28th busiest airport with a yearly estimated traffic of more than 37 million travelers. Atlanta, Ga., ranks first, with more than 92 million people passing through and second is Beijing's Peking Airport with more than 78 million.
  • Flying is still one of the safest methods of transportation. On average, travelers would need to take one flight a day for about 10,000 years before they would involved in a fatal crash.
  • The European Transport Safety Council (ETSC) estimates 90 percent of aircraft accidents worldwide are survivable.The best option to maximize your chances of walking away from a plane crash is to sit in the rear end of the plane. One study found those sitting near the plane's tail are 40 percent likelier to survive than those in the first few rows.
Two more notes about the Indian Ocean, since the term "roaring forties" is being used extensively in the media:
  • The search is taking place in an extremely remote part of the Indian Ocean between Australia and the Antarctic known as the "roaring forties" for its sharp westerly winds and rough waters.
  • The ocean surface current in the Indian Ocean close to the equator is around 1 to 2 knots. A drifting object in the water around the equator can shift between 26 to 52 miles a day (728 miles in 14 days). But around 200 miles further from the equator, the current is much weaker at less than 0.5 knots.
We'll have to wait and see if the latest pronouncement from the Malaysian government pans out. I just can't imagine what it must be like for friends and family members of the passengers and crew. Between the uncertainty and around-the-clock speculation, their collective nightmare isn't even close to being over.


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