Unraveling the Mystery of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370
So, what may have happened to Malaysia Airlines flight MH370? We asked APC members to comment on some of the popular theories, including the more crazy ones, which have been circulating in the media.
What we do know, based on the last satellite “ping” detected, is that the plane was still operating roughly six hours after takeoff. We also know that less than an hour into the flight the plane took an unscheduled left turn away from its destination in Beijing. Latest reports say that two unidentified objects were spotted by satellite early Wednesday morning floating in the Indian Ocean, 1,500 miles west of Perth, that could possibly be debris from the missing plane, but the search is still in effect.
Here’s our take on seven popular theories:
Scenario 1: Electrical Malfunction/Fire
Due to an electrical malfunction, the plane was flown toward Langkawi Island, but crashed into the sea before arrival.
Known as the simplest though most disputed explanation yet comes from aviation blogger, Chris Goodfellow. Goodfellow theorized that the pilot of Flight 370 changed course seeking the safety of the nearest airport. In an effort to locate the cause of an electrical fire, Goodfellow posits that the pilot pulled all of the busses, explaining why there was no communication from the plane.
“Plausible, even the best explanation since there is no obvious terror motive here,” said one pilot. Although there were some concerns about the intentionally programmed and executed a flight plan and the possibility of “better emergency divert fields on the mainland without having to cross the peninsula,” says an APC member.
Scenario 2: Flight Path Manipulated Intentionally
The plane was pre-programmed to steer off-course via air traffic controllers.
A U.S. official told CNN that the flight path was manipulated intentionally, whether before or after takeoff, and by whom, remain unknown. APC members, however, contend that this sort of manipulation is simply not possible.
“The big problem here is that the plane seemed to be on AP flying a new FMS route that had nothing to do with the original flight plan. Consensus seems to be that a trained 777 pilot would be required to make this change. It's possible the crew did this to head back to land but really more expert analysis is needed to determine the when and how of the FMS changes,” a pilot told APC.
Scenario 3: Stolen by Terrorists
The plane was stolen by terrorists, is hidden, and will take off again to be used for a terrorist attack.
Our readers find this theory unlikely as well. “If [someone] were going to do this they would have turned the plane as quick as they could fuel it rather than wait around for someone to find (and finish) them,” said one pilot.
Scenario 4: Shot Down
The plane was shot down somewhere along the Northern Arc, somehow avoiding all but one radar system. Jeff Wise of Slate offers that many nations do not monitor their airspace as closely as one might expect. If the plane was indeed shot down in defense by a particular nation, they have yet to come forward.
Scenario 5: Landed in the Andaman Islands
Unlikely but not impossible, it’s theorized that because the plane was at one point headed in the direction of India’s Andaman Islands, there is a chance it could have landed there. The nature of landing on the beach would have likely led to either damage of the undercarriage or an explosion. Andaman Chronicle editor Denis Giles refutes the idea that the plane could have landed there without being spotted. “There is no such chance,” he told CNN.
Scenario 6: Hijacked by Uighur Muslim Separatists
The plane was taken over by China’s Uighur Muslim separatists, landing in an expansive desert near the Chinese/Kyrgyz border.
“To pull off a landing, particularly at a remote, possibly small runway would really require a trained 777 pilot,” says an APC member.
Scenario 7: Shadow of Singapore Airlines Flight 68
The plane hid in the shadow of Singapore Airlines flight 68, going undetected. As flight 68 continued on to its destination in Spain, blogger Keith Ledgerwood suspects that the two planes diverged and flight 370 landed in Xinjiang, Kyrgyzstan, or Turkmenistan. Radar expert Professor Hugh Griffiths told BBC News that this would be possible if the planes flew roughly no more than 3300 ft. apart.
Again, our members are not buying it. “[This would be] very difficult to pull off without military radar (or GCI) and high-speed sprint capability. Phenomenal luck would be required just to achieve the intercept and then it would take a skilled pilot (probably with military experience) to stay close enough,” a pilot told APC.