The Curious Case of the Vanishing Airplane
The question on everyone’s mind right now is: where did Malaysia Airline Flight MH370 go? And when I say everyone I mean everyone. It’s all over the news, the social media, every newspaper, and last but not lease on every other person’s mind. People discuss it when they meet, when they have dinner.
Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 was a scheduled international passenger flight that disappeared on 8 March 2014 en route from Kuala Lumpur International Airport to Beijing Capital International Airport. The aircraft operating the service, a Boeing 777-200ER, last made contact with air traffic control less than an hour after take-off. The aircraft was operated by Malaysia Airlines and was carrying 12 crew members and 227 passengers from 15 nations and regions.
Even after ten days of its disappearance the range of possibilities/conspiracy theories to explain the matter are still extremely wide. Some theories are plausible whereas some are highly unlikely. Leave it to the public to propose solutions to a problem that the experts from 26 countries cannot find.
Shot down by a hostile country
This theory suggests that the airplane was shot down by a hostile country after it entered foreign airspace or incurred a missile strike from land or by air. This theory is plausible but with a couple of gaping holes. First of all the missile would have shown on radar especially military radar.
Captain Amjad Faizi, a retired Pakistani aviator, who retired from PIA as a 747 captain and Director Flight Safety, believes that a foreign air object (a missile or some other type of projectile) hit the aircraft and as a result of this the cabin depressurized destroying the aircraft’s tracking systems and resulting in heavy casualties.
Secondly, after being hit, the Boeing 777-200ER has a highly sophisticated system called an ‘electronic locator device’ which turns on automatically transmitting the aircraft’s location. Boeing also monitors all its aircraft via various tracking devices and monitors, if the aircraft was shot down then why didn’t they notify the airline. Again this theory is plausible but there is no evidence so far to support this.
Aircraft crashed into the Ocean
This theory explores the possibility that Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 crashed into the ocean and went straight to the bottom due to its weight. This is highly unlikely because, firstly the Boeing 777-200ER is equipped with highly sophisticated satellite and radar guidance systems that help the pilots fly the aircraft, these systems would notify the pilots of any problems with the aircraft’s path and whether or not it was going to crash into the ocean. Secondly, the aircraft has flotation devices that will keep the plane afloat and bring it back to the surface if it crashed into the ocean, more over in case of a crash the Electronic Locator Device (ELD) would turn on automatically transmitting the plane’s location.
An example of a this type of landing on water would be that of US Airways Flight 1549 that took off from LaGuardia Airport in New York City that, on January 15, 2009, struck a flock of Canada Geese during its initial climb out, lost engine power, and landed in the Hudson River off midtown Manhattan with no loss of life. The plane floated on top of the water, as shown in the photograph taken after the crash.
Air France flight 447 suffered a similar fate when it crashed into the Atlantic Ocean in 2009 killing all 228 passengers and crew on board, the debris floated on top of the water and the plane was located by the authorities. In the case of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 there is no debris floating in the ocean and the plane has not yet been seen floating on the surface of water.
Hijacked by Terrorists
Experts have not said anything about the plane being hijacked by terrorists or any members of the crew, although law enforcement agencies are investigating families of crew members and the passengers. However in case of a hijacking, the hijackers would have to be expert aviators, they would’ve known how to turn off the data systems and the transponder.
A transponder is a device that sends electronic messages from the airplane to radar systems about the plane’s flight number, altitude, speed and heading. Moreover in case of a hijacking the pilot transmits a code informing the ATC (Air Traffic Control) of an ongoing hijacking, the ATC in turn informs the law enforcement agencies.
Conspiracy theorists argue that the message broadcast on the radio by either the co-pilot, pilot or the hijackers that said “All right, good night” is one to raise suspicion after which there was no communication form any of the plane systems including the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS).
The Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System is the onboard computer that collects information and a whole lot of it about the aircraft’s and the pilot’s performance, this information is used by the airlines and the manufacturers to monitor pilot and aircraft performance.
Experts say that the phrase “All right, good night” is said before ending a radio communication as a pleasantry, and that it happens all the time. The biggest hole in this theory is this: A message is transmitted by the hijackers claiming responsibility for their act and state their demands, there has been no such demands in the case of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 nor any terrorist group has claimed responsibility for any such action.
Hijacked by the United States Navy
This theory emerged after a new report circulating the Kremlin(official residence of the President of the Russian Federation), prepared by the Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff of the Armed Forces (GRU) states that the US Navy diverted Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 (MH370) from its intended path to its secretive Indian ocean base on the Diego Garcia atoll. The report also says that MH370 was already under GRU ‘surveillance’ after it received a highly ‘suspicious’ cargo load which has been traced back to Republic of Seychelles in the Indian Ocean.
The report said that the US Navy was able to divert flight 370 to its Diego Garcia base by remote controlling the aircraft, as the Boeing 777-200ER is equipped with a fly-by-wire system that allows the aircraft to be controlled like any drone type aircraft. This reports also notes that the transponder and the ACARS systems would have to be turned off manually, how these systems were turned off is unknown. Suspicious cargo or not someone is very successfully hiding something.
The disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 has given rise to theories that explore one possibility or the other, some bizarre theories even suggest that the plane was abducted by aliens. The events seem to come right out of a Hollywood movie or a suspense novel. These are all theories, theories with a lack of concrete facts and empirical data. The truth will be unveiled when the wreckage, or hopefully the fully intact plane, with all the passengers and crew members alive and well is found. I much prefer that the plane is found with all the passengers and crew unharmed.