JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Since the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, the whole world has been watching and speculating -- but now, investigators are convinced the plane went down in the Indian Ocean.
Three things pilots are taught from day one: aviate, navigate and communicate. The third element, communication, is what appears to be missing in this story.
Sam Fischer, a pilot and flight instructor at Florida State College at Jacksonville, said the explanation behind the lack of communication from the Malaysia Airlines Flight will ultimately be found in the plane's flight recorder, or black box.
"The only thing we're going to have to go on is what that flight recorder tells us," Fischer said.
The black box carries 25 hours of information -- information investigators are hoping to recover from the depths of the Indian Ocean.
Fischer said what will be critical is what the last few hours of cockpit voice communication reveal.
"Since the plane flew for so long after we lost communications, it's doubtful that we'll know what initially happened," said Fischer. "However, if after seven hours it's dead quiet in that cockpit, we know nobody was awake."
Malaysian authorities say the last transmission from the Boeing 777 showed it was heading back toward Beijing, and military radar tracking shows it changed altitude after making a sharp turn over the South China Sea.
When a plane takes a sharp turn, Fischer said it could be the pilot in command is doing something, or somebody has taken the flight controls. If it's a really sharp turn, it also could be the auto pilot system is just making a U-turn.
Fischer said it's common for pilots to enter a backup flight into the system just in case of mid-air emergency.
"So lets say we're taking off from Cecil and we're going to Atlanta, but I have an emergency. And we take off and we're up in the clouds. It behooves me to have the return back to Cecil programmed and pre-set up in the system so I've got a way to get back," explained Fischer. "They may have simply had an emergency, punched in return and the plane started flying the new course, but it wasn't a surprise, it was something they planned."
It's standard protocol to alert the tower if there's an emergency, but Fischer said there's a possibility the crew was unable to because they were incapacitated.
"That's what we're starting to think, is that there may have been some type of electrical fire, maybe small in nature, that may have disabled some of the electrics, caused the systems to drop off as we've seen, incapacitated the crew but did not incapacitate the airplane," said Fischer.
Another important fact, Fischer said, was that the plane was flying at 12,000 feet, about 2.5 miles in the sky. Fischer said if there was a decompression event on board, getting the plane down to 12,000 feet would get them back down to the thick air, where passengers would've been safe and could breathe.
The cause of the accident remains a guessing game as the search over the Indian Ocean continues.
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