Searching for Answers: Why Stopping the Hunt for Flight 370 is Not an Option
As the search for the missing Malaysian Airlines plane continues, and the costs begin to mount, one thing has become clear: the hunt for the Boeing jetliner that took off from Kuala Lumpur for Beijing, China on March 8 is likely to become one of the most expensive recovery efforts in history and possibly one of the great unsolved mysteries of the 21st century.
While the mood on Monday was decidedly optimistic as Australian officials said they were “very close” to finding the wreckage, the tone was quite different the next day as authorities spoke of “no further contacts” with what had been a faint pinger, possibly from Flight 370, yet Wednesday brought news of more pings and more hope.
Almost 80 years later, we are still seeking closure in the disappearance of Amelia Earhart. Indeed, the original search for Earhart and her Lockheed Electra aircraft ended in failure roughly two weeks after she disappeared. At a cost of $4 million, or roughly $64 million today adjusting for inflation, the air and sea search by the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard was the most costly and extensive in U.S. history up to that point.
Up until now, the costliest search and recovery effort for a lost plane was the search that followed the crash of Air France Flight 447 off the coast of Brazil in 2009. The search to find the plane’s flight data and voice recorders, despite the location of the aircraft being known, took two years and reportedly cost €115 million, roughly $158 million in today’s dollars.
After one month, it’s likely that the cost of searching for Flight 370 has already exceeded this amount and there is no telling how long the various governments and companies that are participating in the effort will continue to shoulder the expense.
While some governments, most notably the Malaysian and Chinese, will be held accountable by their citizens, others, such as Australia, are participating due to geography and the presumed trajectory of the plane.
At whatever point in the future that searchers locate the plane’s wreckage, it would signify the beginning of a second and perhaps equally costly chapter – the recovery of the wreckage and bodies from a depth of almost three miles.
As people ponder the wisdom of continuing the search, it is pertinent to relate a conversation I had with Frequent Business Traveler Editorial Director Jonathan Spira Monday. The plane “has” to be found, its mysteries “must be unraveled,” he said. “Triple 7s simply do not drop from the sky without reason. Without hard evidence as to what transpired that day on Flight 370, we lack the tools that may prevent something similar from happening again in the future. Repayment for this quest for knowledge may turn out to be this knowledge, plain and simple.”
(Photo: Accura Media Group)