Researchers believe this is the most likely crash scenario. Photo / Supplied
Researchers believe this is the most likely crash scenario. Photo / Supplied

Researchers identify 'most likely scenario' for MH370 crash

THE disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 has been an enduring mystery since the plane lost contact with air traffic control on March 8, 2014, en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

Now a team of researchers at Texas A&M University at Qatar believe they have solved an important puzzle, simulating the plane's most likely crash scenario.

The team, led by Texas A&M mathematician Goong Chen, concluded that a nosedive crash into the ocean at a 90-degree angle would explain the lack of any sign of debris or oil around the suspected crash site.

"The true final moments of MH370 are likely to remain a mystery until someday when its black box is finally recovered and decoded," Chen says.

"But forensics strongly supports that MH370 plunged into the ocean in a nosedive."

In a paper for the American Mathematical Society, the team detailed their theory of what happened to the flight that vanished, carrying 239 people.

They say a crash of this type, with the plane entering the water like a diver, would create the least resistance and mean the aircraft would not break up into small pieces on the ocean surface.

Rather, large parts of the aircraft would have remained intact and sunk to the sea floor, leaving little evidence behind.

They ran computer simulations on a supercomputer to test five different crash scenarios and found that this was the most likely reason no debris was found even after extensive searches.

"The nosedive water-entry or a water-entry with a steep pitch angle, is the most likely scenario," the researchers wrote.

"This particular assertion is speculative but forensic, based mainly on the observations of the computed data in the prior section, combined with the understanding of aviation precedents, atmospheric and ocean surface conditions."

They add that studying the MH370 crash is important to increasing understanding of mathematics and engineering in relation to aviation.

"The crash of an airliner into ocean is a profoundly tragic event," they wrote.

"But on the mathematical and engineering side, there should be significant interest in its modelling and computation so that one can understand the physical mechanisms better in the hope of improving aircraft crashworthiness and survivability.

"On any given day, there are hundreds of thousands of people traveling by air worldwide. Air travel has never been safer and continues to become even safer.

"There are always bound to be unfortunate and tragic incidents. However, it is to be expected that data generated by numerical simulations will further improve passenger survival in emergency water landings."

The team's research paper was published in the April 2015 issue of Notices of the American Mathematical Society.

A simulation of the most likely crash scenario can be viewed here.

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