Backpacking (and eating) my way around the world!
Please check the final paragraphs of this blog for the most recent updates and my ultimate theories. Also be advised that the following thoughts are based predominantly on pure speculation and represent my own personal opinion.
Even though I am currently battling flu, I woke up this morning to learn that Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing has mysteriously vanished over the Gulf of Thailand, not far off the coast of Vietnam. This was a flight operated by the very reliable Boeing 777-200 aircraft (specific registration 9M-MRO, which actually suffered some supposedly incidental wing damage at Shanghai last year – see photo further down). Until the fate of Asiana Airlines Flight 214 last July, which crash-landed at San Francisco killing a mercifully small number of people on board, the B777 had an unblemished record. An international search operation is continuing in the days to come to locate the wreckage and scout for the unlikely presence of survivors. For a list of 5 possible causes of the crash, this site backs up a lot of my own permutations.
The Gulf of Thailand and the nearby South China Sea can get very choppy with all the tropical storms around, and this can cause turbulence for planes overhead. I once flew on Singapore Airlines from Singapore to Tokyo and most of the flight was heavy turbulence with the seatbelt turned on the whole way. It was not an enjoyable flight by any means, but at least I lived to tell the tale. The passengers of Flight MH370 are not going to be so lucky.
Before I go any further, I want to mention that The Straits Times in Singapore has by far the best information on the whole issue and is a great resource to use to learn more about recent developments.
What startles me is that the plane initially went missing at around 02.40 local time, yet the search did not begin until around 6 hours later. The arrivals board at Beijing Capital Airport simply listed MH370 as “delayed” for several hours. It seems a very slow response from the authorities, although now Malaysia Airlines on their Facebook page supposedly 80% of the families to those on board have been notified of the planes apparent disappearance. However, as I expected, many media outlets are criticising the slow response from MH.
Here is the official statement from Malaysia Airlines.
There were reports soon after the plane was declared missing that it had landed safely at Nanning Airport in China, but this has not been confirmed and I am pretty sure it was a red herring. A plane the size of a B777-200 that has been missing for over 12 hours, flying over a busy shipping lane, and carrying 239 passengers on board – including two infants – does not just secretly land somewhere and then not tell anybody about it afterwards. Even if it was a terrorist/hostage situation, the hostage-takers would still need to make their demands at some point, at which point their location would have long since been revealed.
Alas, it seems Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 has been lost to the sea, with hundreds of fatalities. I hope I am wrong, but the plane has long since run out of fuel so it cannot be still in the air, so it is either in the sea or on land somewhere. Unfortunately, the former is much more likely. There have also been reports that a Vietnamese Navy Admiral claimed he had been notified of wreckage being found off the coast of Vietnam, however he later retracted his statement. I find it unlikely to suggest pilot suicide as the pilot in question was a trusted and respected Malaysia Airlines veteran who has been working for the airline since 1981, so this is something I cannot contemplate at this juncture. The only other options were terrorism or a fatal structural problem with the aircraft itself, as MH370 was flying in good weather conditions at the time, with no reports of storm or moderate turbulence.
Less than 18 hours since the plane went missing, there were reports coming from the US Embassy in Taiwan who had picked up an SOS call from MH370 who were complaining of “disintegration of fuselage” and requesting a place to land. Quite why the US Embassy picked up this distress call and nobody else did is a mystery to me, but at this juncture it does seem like something went wrong with the plane. This has since been revealed as a hoax.
Until we retrieve the Flight Data Recorder and Cockpit Voice Recorder, I fear we can only speculate about what happened to the poor souls onboard MH370. We need to understand that if the FDR and CVR carried on recording until the point of impact, then it would indicate a gradual decline in the aircraft caused by such factors as technical problems or bad weather (or possibly eventual pilot error like with Air France Flight 447 in 2009). If, however, the FDR and CVR had a sudden loss of data then it would imply that a catastrophic explosion occurred in the air, and whilst this is clearly all speculation at this point, I would not rule out terrorism.
There is additionally the mystery of why the passports of an Italian and an Austrian passenger were used to let two other people board the plane. Those passport holders are safe and sound, and they did not board the plane. They have long since reported their passports stolen, and it is clear that a couple of passengers have been trying to get to Beijing with fake identities. But then that asks us another question: were they actually trying to get to Beijing (or their reported final destinations in Europe on onwards tickets), or was it their intention to blow up the plane mid-flight? After the horror of the Kunming Massacre only days before the demise of MH370, it is clear that terrorism is now a real threat for Chinese nationals, both at home and abroad.
Debris and oil slicks are being found off the coast of Vietnam, including a piece of debris that looked like a door frame by the Vietnamese Navy. However, samples of the oil slick have came back from the lab negative – it does not match the fuel used in MH370. There is also speculation that the aircraft simply disintegrated at 35000ft which would have been a horrible end for the passengers, and further adds credence to the thoughts that terrorism is a real possibility here. In fact, on March 10, we are now seeing the search and rescue efforts relocate to the Andaman Sea, which is completely the opposite direction to where the plane was heading, and where the last known location of the plane was. Now, if the authorities are searching the Andaman Sea then they clearly know something that they have not made public yet. The transponder on MH370 was suddenly switched off (presumed a mid-air catastrophe) over the Gulf of Thailand heading towards Vietnam, and yet 3 days later the search efforts are focussing on the Andaman Sea in the opposite direction? Clearly something caused the transponder to be switched off and yet the plane was able to continue flying in any direction it wanted, deliberately unseen by radar. This actually now looks like a hijacking. What a terrible state of affairs. IF this was true – and I have no evidence, I am only speculating of course – then how is this even possible in this day and age to get in the cockpit?
Recent updates from CNN that the guy who paid for the tickets for the two ‘aliens’ on board using stolen passports, was of Iranian origin and paid for both of these tickets in cash. Also reports now that one of the ‘aliens’ boarding the plane was of African origin. I have no idea if these rumours will come to anything. CNN have been known to be wrong before.
As of 11/03/14, my personal opinion based on all the evidence I have is that MH370 was hijacked over the Gulf of Thailand around 1 hour into the flight, at which time the transponder was turned off, thus disappearing from radar. There is currently NO EVIDENCE that any communication from the plane was made since this point. However, radar picked up an identified plane off the coast of Sumatra not long after contact with MH370 was lost. For the aircraft to reach this point from its last known position to Air Traffic Control required without any shadow of a doubt a human agency of some kind. Whether this was the pilot, the first officer, or alien hijackers is anybody’s guess at this point. It is also a guess where MH370 has ended up. Has it crashed into the Indian Ocean? Where was it heading? Did either of the MH370 cockpit crew have connections in Pakistan, Iran, Somalia? Why did the pilot of MH370 have a flight simulator in his house? Was he practicing something in advance? Did the Indonesian or the Malaysian military shoot down the plane over Pulau Perak (this is where radar picked it up in the Malacca Strait)?
I have no answers to any of those pertinent questions, but it is not unlikely that the plane could have been hijacked and intended to be flown to a country, where it could be situated in a hangar somewhere in the middle of nowhere (say Karachi) getting a new paint job. If this means a B777-200 is now in the hands of a terrorist organisation, and nobody knows they have it (for sure), then it spells trouble for the international community. And what of the poor passengers of MH370? Well, in the likelihood of my permutations ringing true, then I cannot see a positive end for them as they are simply surplus to requirements once the aircraft has been delivered, but I really hope I am wrong.
Now, The Sydney Morning Herald reports that there was a Chinese Uighur passenger onboard MH370 who had received flight training in Sweden. If the Chinese authorities knew about this due to communication with the cockpit as it entered their airspace they would not have allowed another 9/11 to happen over their territory. Perhaps a deliberate shoot-down? But would they ever admit this?