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Malaysia Flight 370: What We Know and Don’t Know

What do we know about the fate of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, which vanished from the sky on the way to Beijing? The short answer: Almost nothing.

So far, all we really know is that the flight is missing. Searchers have already found some probable debris, and the plane almost surely crashed into the sea. Everything else is speculation.

Although no distress calls from the aircraft were heard, radar evidence suggests that the plane had turned around and might have been trying to return to Malaysia or land somewhere. This is a peculiar combination: If the plane was under sufficient control to change course, presumably someone in the crew could have had time to send out a message.

There is no evidence of mechanical failure. The 777 has an excellent reliability record with no hints of any inherent weaknesses. The likelihood of another 777 crash is no higher today than it was last Thursday.

There are hints of possible terrorist takeover or sabotage, based mainly on the knowledge that some passengers boarded with false passports. But again, not enough is known to reach any useful conclusions.

The black boxes have yet to be recovered—a process that may well take weeks rather than days. And even then, officials might not pinpoint the specific cause of the accident.

As usual when a crash like this occurs, some grandstanders will call for all 777s to be grounded; some will gravely warn you to avoid flying on 777s; some will warn against flying on Malaysia Airlines; some may advise that you avoid traveling to Malaysia. At this point, all such advice is hogwash. It’s in our DNA to want to get the facts instantly, but that isn’t likely to happen. Instead, we have to go on with our lives and travels and wait for the probably long investigation to evolve.

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(Photo: How Foo Yeen/Getty Images)

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