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Western Michigan University flight expert discusses missing Malaysian plane

A Boeing 777.
A Boeing 777.

KALAMAZOO (WKZO) -- Authorities in Malaysia this week confirmed that missing Flight 370 crashed into the Indian Ocean, and a Western Michigan University aviation expert says it'll be difficult to find the wreckage. Captain Dave Powell is the Dean of the Western Michigan University College of Aviation, and says that officials can estimate roughly where the Malaysian Airlines plane went down because they know how much fuel it must have been carrying.

"What they do is they plot how long that airplane could fly at different altitudes because the lower you fly, the more fuel you burn," Powell told WKZO. "They take that, plus the track of the satellite that they pull the data off of, and just make an arc. Find where the arc is, and where that fuel exhaustion point might be, and it's just pure mathematics."

Captain Powell added that it is possible to envision a scenario in which the plane simply isn't found, at least not for a long time. Malaysian authorities on Monday confirmed that the Boeing 777 had gone down in the Indian Ocean somewhere off the Australian coast, and that there were no survivors. The plane was carrying 239 people.