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Missing Malaysia flight likened to Rio-Paris crash

AFP/The Local · 11 Mar 2014, 09:00

Published: 11 Mar 2014 09:00 GMT+01:00

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The disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, which on Monday was yet to be located three days after it dropped off the radar, has drawn comparisons with the 2009 crash of Air France flight AF447, which came down in the Atlantic on its wayto Paris from Rio, resulting in  the deaths of 228 people.

The Airbus A330 vanished at night and during a storm on June 1, 2009. It took days before debris was located in the remote equatorial Atlantic Ocean area, and far longer until the wreckage was recovered.

The black boxes were finally located by robot submarines after a search spanning 23 months and costing about 32 million euros ($40 million).

A final report into that crash blamed a combination of technical faults and pilot error

But in the days after the plane disappeared there was widespread confusion about what might have happened, just as in the case of the missing Malaysian Airlines flight, but there are discrepancies between the two cases.

Here are main the similarities and differences betweenthe two cases:

Story continues below…


  • Still missing three days into the search. The Air France plane was located nearly two years after its disappearance. Only a few pieces of the tail were retrieved a week after the crash.
  • Cruising. Airliner was above sea and at cruising altitude.
  • Number of passengers. MH370 had 239 and AF447 had 228, including 12 crew in both cases.
  • Safety. Both the Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777-200 and Air France Airbus A330 have outstanding safety records.
  • No mayday call. Aviation experts say that is not surprising, arguing that in the event of a sudden technical problem the crew's priority is to find a solution.
  • Repairs. Both jets suffered minor damage on the ground and underwent repairs. In the case of flight AF447, it was established there was no correlation with the crash.


  • ACARS. The Airbus had sent 24 automatic messages listing technical "events" in four minutes through the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS). The Malaysian jet was equipped with ACARS but the airline has not yet said whether any messages had been received.
  • Cruise phase. Both planes were cruising when they disappeared but in the case of flight MH370, the cruise phase had just begun, meaning the captain was likely in command of the flight deck. On the Airbus, the captain was resting and only returned to the cockpit moments before the jet went down.
  • Weather. Conditions appeared good on the Malaysian aircraft's path while the Air France flight encountered major turbulence.
  • Radar. Flight MH370 went missing in a busy area for air traffic, likely to be well monitored as it is close to several countries. The Rio-Paris flight went down over the Atlantic, outside of radar coverage.
  • Recovery. The Air France jet crashed further away from the coast and into very deep waters, a complicating factor for the investigation.
  • Relevant authorities. The AF447 crashed in international waters, allowing for French investigators to take the lead. Since the MH370 has yet to be located, it is unclear whether the Malaysians, the Vietnamese or other authorities should be in charge.

AFP/The Local (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

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