In March, 2014, a Malaysia Airlines plane that was carrying over 200 passengers mysteriously disappeared from radar. No debris has ever been found.
I can remember the day well when I found out about MH370 going missing. I was in bed at the time as it was the middle of the night in the UK. But I got a notification on my iPhone from BBC News that a plane had gone missing in the South China Sea (in fact, one week later I was scheduled to fly to Singapore from London, so this kind of scared me a little). At the time, I feared the worst but hoped it would be found in tact and with all passengers and crew alive and well. Possibly a hijacking and hostage scenario? In fact, we heard rumours early on that the plane landed at an airport in southern China, although this was proven to be false. As the days and weeks (and now months) went past, the likelihood of a hijacking has all but been removed, and now MH370 has been believed lost at sea with all onboard having perished. But why has no debris been found?
We do, however, know the following information as FACTS:
- US Officials believe the plane was deliberately flown west
- Malaysian PM states the plane’s communications equipment was turned off on purpose
- MH370 had the fuel to fly for 7 hours after losing contact in the South China Sea
The lack of a crash site, lack of debris, and a poor public relations effort from first Malaysia Airlines and then the Malaysian Government (who still have not revealed all the facts) has led to a number of conspiracy theories being bandied around. Some of them hold water, whereas some of them are more on the banal side! But here I take a look at some of the most important conspiracy theories:
There were people on the plane who were capable of flying aircraft (or at least one), as well as at least two passengers who boarded with stolen passports. In addition to a claim from a terrorist organisation in north western China that they had hijacked the plane, the guys flying with stolen passports could have been terrorists.
This is by far the most likely scenario for me, although it may never be proven. In fact, it almost certainly won’t ever be proven. How can it be? It has been revealed that the pilot was in a bad place psychologically due to a break up in his marriage, as well as one of his close friends being imprisoned for a political “crime”. It was also revealed that the pilot did not make any social plans after the date of the crash. After the confiscation of his flight simulator from his home, it was also found that he had been practicing landing on a small island in the southern Indian Ocean, although these practice flights had been deleted from his simulator beforehand, and presumably only discovered by the investigation team due to it remaining on the equipment’s registry. It is not considered possible that the pilot achieved this in real life, as MH370 would have been detected by satellite long ago if it was still on land. It is feared that the aircraft ran out of fuel and dumped into the ocean, probably laying somewhere on the seabed, never to be found.
Let’s face it: something could have gone wrong with the electronics or mechanics of the aircraft, which left the pilot and his co-pilot with no control. Sometimes (though thankfully very, very rarely), things do go wrong, such as an engine failure, but the pilots are trained to overcome this and land at an alternate airport for safety reasons. If something had gone wrong onboard MH370, you would have expected the pilot at some stage to make a call over the radio to inform of a May Day scenario and an emergency ditch, presumably into water. However, over the South China Sea, radio contact was lost completely, and the pilots were never heard of again. This led a lot of people to believe that the fatal explosion of sorts occurred there and then, off the shores of southern Vietnam. However, after the first few days of searching in the South China Sea, the search and rescue team was refocused on the other side of peninsula Malaysia, this time in the Andaman Sea, off the coast of Penang. So, although the communication to the cockpit was severed over the South China Sea, MH370 still flew ‘silent’ back across the whole Malaysian peninsula to another ocean altogether! And supposedly nobody picked it up on radar?! At least in the first part of the flight, we can rule out mechanical error, as it is general consensus that the cockpit communications were switched off manually by either the pilot or the co-pilot, which leads us back to pilot suicide (see above).
If you believe that aliens exist, then abduction by extra-terrestrial species is certainly a possibility for the disappearance of MH370, although nobody in the industry seriously believes to be the case. One “boffin” from the UK received his 5 minutes’ of fame in a tabloid newspaper for reportedly finding MH370 on the surface of the moon. That must be some telescope! He also believes the aircraft was abducted by aliens and dumped in space, although he gives no reason why the aliens would do this.
There has been some fuel to the flames that Thai or Indonesian military jets accidentally shot down MH370 in the Andaman Sea during routine training exercises. It is highly unlikely that they would ever admit to such incompetence though, as the legal ramifications would be too severe – not to mention the risk of retaliation from Malaysia! But, again, where is the evidence of a crash site or the debris? The search operation has been focusing on that area for months now, and nothing has appeared, not even one single piece of debris, or even a relevant oil slick.
Malaysia Airlines have not been very forthcoming with what kind of cargo was on the plane. At first, they refused point blank to say what was onboard the plane in the cargo hold, and when pressed later they revealed that a bunch of “mangosteens” were in fact the plane’s cargo. Does this sound believable to you? Was MH370 really carrying fruit? Many conspiracy theorists believe that something flammable (or valuable: see Invisibility, below) was in the cargo hold, but it seems that neither Malaysia Airlines nor the Malaysian Government are at liberty to reveal what it was, perhaps in the interests of national security. It could very well be that the cargo exploded, either deliberately or unintentionally, and thus brought MH370 crashing down – but where?
It has been mooted that MH370 was carrying some form of newfound technology or highly-secret source codes for a kind of invisibility paint, which allows commercial airliners to operate under a cloak of stealth to avoid detection by all-known radars. If this was the case, then MH370 would be a very valuable flight that many people (or companies, or nations) would have an interest in, in order to access the codes to the invisibility. Planes coated in this paint could fly anywhere undetected and even be used in acts of terrorism in the future without arousing suspicion as it flew to its target. But who would want to do such a thing, and why have we not heard from them yet?
As we continue to offer our condolences to the families of those ill-fated passengers of MH370, all eyes remain on Malaysia Airlines to see what they reveal next, but in the mean time what would be your most likely conspiracy theory?
For some more conspiracy theories that go into much more detail than what I have wrote, please check out this informative article over at TheWeek.co.uk.