By Jake Maxwell Watts
Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 is unlikely to have disappeared without a trace even if it crashed in water, said Shukor Yusof, an aviation analyst at Standard & Poor's.
The fate of the Boeing 777-200ER airliner, which lost contact with air-traffic controllers early Saturday, is still unclear despite a Vietnamese state-media report that it may have crashed in the sea about 153 nautical miles (283 kilometers) off Vietnam's coast.
Based on previous experience, Mr. Yusof said, the aircraft "would reveal itself in the form of debris emerging from the water."
"I think this incident would present a significantly difficult challenge, " Mr. Yusof said, given that Vietnamese authorities have limited resources and a potential language barrier in dealing with an incident that now involves several countries.
Flight MH370 was en route to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur and was scheduled to arrive at its destination at 6:30 a.m., according to Malaysia Airlines. It was carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew, including 154 Chinese and Taiwanese, 38 Malaysians and seven Indonesians.
"It is rare for an aircraft of such size, with the technology that's available in many of the planes that are flying today, that it wasn't detected," said Mr. Yusof. As the aircraft moved into Vietnamese airspace it should have been in contact with air-traffic controllers in both Malaysia and Vietnam, he said. "For it to disappear for this considerable length of time is quite odd."
Malaysia Airlines said it is rushing a 160-member team led by a senior executive to China to support the ground staff there as the families and friends of many passengers gather in Beijing, anxious for news.
Mr. Yusof added that if authorities manage to locate the aircraft, it may take a long time before the cause of disappearance is known. He likened the incident to the crash of an Air France jetliner en route from Brazil to France in 2009, which sank in the Atlantic Ocean.
The crash of the Airbus A330 killed all 228 people on board and triggered sweeping changes to pilot training at Air France and other carriers around the world. Experts say, however, that Malaysia Airlines has an "excellent" safety record, as does the Boeing aircraft it operates, while the two Malaysian pilots on board MH370 were both highly experienced.
Referring to the Air France crash in 2009, Mr. Yusof said: "Let's not forget that the wreckage for that aircraft wasn't recovered or rather salvaged until almost two years after. It shows the tremendous challenge involving search and rescue operations where they happen in the sea."