'What about the possibility of structural failure?'

Susan Loone

Modified 31 Mar 2014, 2:39 am

MH370 A well-known computer scientist from India is urging investigators into the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 to consider the possibility of structural failure of the aircraft.

Chandra Kant Raju, a lecturer in history and philosophy of science at the Albukhary International University, said theories have been floated about the possibility of a hijacking or terrorist attempt, or  pilot involvement.

At a press conference in Penang on Saturday alongside Consumers Association of Penang president SM Mohamed Idris, he however urged attention to the likelihood of structural failure, metal fatigue and quality of materials used to built the aircraft.

Raju was quick to say that he is not an authority on the matter, but said the right answers to questions posed would save lives in future.

He urged the authorities to zoom in on the design and structure of the aircraft, and whether structural stability had been compromised to make the plane lighter in order to make it travel further with less fuel and to carry more passengers.

"For example, using aluminium alloy instead of steel, when steel is stronger. Perhaps they used steal or titanium only in some places. Perhaps most of the parts are aluminium, which corroded and can break apart," he said.

"The designers and builders would have come up with a technological solution but it can fail after many years as the plane would be weaker.  Once an aircraft is purchased for millions of dollars, companies would keep them to extract as much (use) as possible from them."

If investigators can probe computers and the simulator belonging to the pilot, he said, they should do a similar job on companies which produce aircraft, to see what knowledge they have and how they design the planes.

He noted that questions surrounding structural failure had come up in the early stages after Flight MH370 went missing on March 8, but that the focus had then shifted to the human factor, including unfounded allegations involving the pilot and co-pilot.

Idris (right) recalled a case where Southwest Airlines Flight 812, using a Boeing 737-300, had been forced to make an emergency landing at a military base in Arizona after a five-foot hole was discovered on its roof on April 1, 2011.

"Such technological failure would also raise questions about the design of the aircraft and whether the company concerned knew about these possible defects," he said.

"Accordingly, we feel it is important to point out that the issue of technological failure has been relatively neglected and remained in the background, although this has all along been a key possibility.”

Despite an international search-and-rescue operation over the last three weeks, there has been no trace of Flight MH370, which was carrying 239 passengers including 12 crew-members, from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.