The hunt is on to find AirAsia Flight 8501, which left Surabaya, Indonesia, en route to Singapore on Sunday and lost contact with air traffic controllers somewhere over the Java Sea. Already, reports have come in of possible oil slicks on the ocean about 100 miles from the last point of contact, and possible wreckage 700 miles away, which seems like a stretch. Experts are expressing caution about even speculating on such reports, given the troubles finding evidence of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH 370, which disappeared on March 8 with 239 people on board (what happened is still unknown). AirAsia is based in Malaysia, but the missing aircraft, an Airbus A320, belonged to an affiliated Indonesian company, according to the New York Times.
In an age in which people worry about being under surveillance, it is hard to imagine how an aircraft can suddenly go down without a clear crash location or cause, but reconstructing such events, and even tracking them when they are happening, is difficult for many reasons. Scientific American has published several articles on technology that tracks or threatens airliners. These articles provide good perspective on theories that experts from around the world will consider in the coming days about what might have happened in the AirAsia case, as well as other airliner mysteries. Links are below.
Mysterious Disappearance of Malaysia Air Flight 370 Highlights Flaws in Aircraft Tracking [explains the holes in the international air-traffic tracking system]
How Do You Hide a Boeing 777? [ways to stymie radar, such as electronic jamming and flying planes close to the ground]
Why Lasers Won’t Protect Airliners [questions over the best way to protect civilian aircraft from surface-launched missiles]