MH370: When Tech Isn't Enough: Page 2


"People have this sense that I can do this because if I get in trouble, I hit a magic button and someone comes and picks me up," Connor said. "There is a disconnect between our perception of capability and what is actually possible."

The remote search area and rough weather will likely push both humans and technology to the edge, he added.

"This is about the worst place to lose an aircraft. It's not regularly traversed, the seafloor is deep and rugged. The hardware is not designed for that environment, once you get below 10,000 feet you run into limitations."

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As with any big technological disaster, the mystery of Flight 370 will likely push technology in new directions. Already, as Vertesi noted, analysts from the British satellite firm Inmarsat used a new method of analyzing data to project the plane’s flight path.

And Connor said that the aviation industry will be forced to adopt changes; perhaps streaming data instead of recording it or fixing gaps in air traffic radar coverage that still exist in many parts of the world. Maybe new inventions will result.

"This is going to be seen as one of the biggest challenges to the aviation sector in quite a while,” Connor said. "There are going to be a lot of people who will be inspired to come up with creative solutions."

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Vertesi said technology is also political. Big countries with bigger budgets, military know-how have the advantage. The search for MH370 is forcing regional rivals in southeast Asia to work together.

"So many nations that don't have reasons to share data or military resources have banded together and shared technology in an effort to solve this problem," Vertesi said. "That takes time but I have seen a lot of innovation, which is exciting."

Still, both experts say the hunt for MH370 may end up relying more on a bit of luck and calm seas.

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