In theory, it seems it should be nearly impossible to lose track of a commercial airplane in flight: with sophisticated radar and satellite tracking, it would take a catastrophic series of system failures for a flight to simply disappear without a trace.
Even if a flight could simply vanish, surely it wouldn't take more than a few days - or even a few weeks - to find a Boeing 777, with dozens of planes, submersibles, and ships searching for it.
Yet three months have now passed since Malaysian Flight 370 veered off course soon after it left Kuala Lumpur, and its fate remains unknown despite extensive searches costing between $33 and $42 million. As days turned to weeks anguished relatives of the victims hurled insults and even protested, accusing officials of not doing enough to find the plane.
So what went wrong? Many factors contributed to the prolonged search, but by far the most important was false and incomplete information directing searchers in the wrong areas. Initial information suggested that the plane went down in South China Sea, along its original route, but as new information was analyzed (including from spy satellites that rival countries were cautious about sharing), the search area shifted again, and then again.