The most dangerous parts of a flight are traditionally the takeoff and landing, but the missing jetliner disappeared about two hours into a six-hour flight, when it should have been cruising safely around 35,000 feet.
A flight falling from cruising altitude is incredibly rare and usually a sign of a catastrophic event.
“It never happens, an airplane does not just drop out of the sky,” ABC News aviation consultant Col. Stephen Ganyard said.
Additionally the missing flight was a Boeing 777-200, which is considered a very safe model. That model of plane has been flying commercially for 20 years and only had its first recorded deaths last year after an Asiana Airlines flight crashed, killing three passengers.
“We’ve seen a recent mishap in San Francisco, the Asiana crash, which involved a triple-seven, but in that case it’s pretty clear that that was due to pilot error,” Ganyard said.
The Malaysian aircraft is 11 years and 10 months old and did not have any major safety issues. In 2012 its wingtip was damaged after clipping another airplane at an airport.
The last plane to crash at altitude was Air France Flight 447, which crashed during a thunderstorm in the Atlantic Ocean en route from Rio De Janeiro to Paris. That flight, an Airbus A330, was found to have crashed due to a combination of a technical malfunction and pilot error.