Post title cribbed from this Popular Mechanics article:  “‘How Can An Airliner Just Disappear?”  Of course the answer to that question is “it can’t”.  But even something that large can be very hard to find.




In this case, as in almost all cases, the simplest explanation is the correct explanation.  So, in this case that explanation is that the plane crashed into the ocean.  But there are a couple questions that make me wonder:

Why no debris?  Even if the plane broke up at high altitude there should be some flotsam and jetsam (no pun intended).  Though the search area is large, there should be a debris field of some kind.  To my knowledge there has not been a shred yet recovered.

And second, why hasn’t the ping from the black boxes been heard?  Even when Air France 447 went down in mid-atlantic a few years ago the boxes’ ping could be detected though the wreckage was under 13,000 feet of water.  In the current case the water’s depth is in  the range of hundreds of feet, not thousands.

Currently, modern aircraft (the Boeing 777 is among the most modern) do communicate autonomously with ground crews, but the system used has insufficient bandwidth for large amounts of data such as that collected by the black boxes.  That may change in the future, as a new satellite communication network is under development, written about by me here.

I am not an expert by any stretch of the imagination.  And as I said earlier, the simplest explanation is probably correct.  All we can do now is pray for the passengers, crew and their families.