More on the Missing Plane

This whole situation still continues to fascinate me, and by a process of elimination I reckon I’ve figured out what has happened.

I think it is safe to assume the plane was hijacked, or deliberately flown off course by one or both of the pilots.  It does not seem credible to me that the plane suffered a malfunction or some sort and the pilots were unable to get a message out of some sort, if indeed they kept flying for several hours after radar contact was lost.

I think it is reasonably safe to assume the plane did not crash in the Gulf of Thailand, Malacca Straits, or the Andaman Sea.  These areas are chock-full of shipping, fishermen, and other craft and debris would have been spotted by now, and somebody would have seen or heard something.

I think it is also fairly safe to assume that nobody pinches a plane full of passengers for the purposes of disappearing quietly.  Precedent suggests that plane hijackings are quickly followed by political demands or spectacular collisions with iconic buildings.  The lack of either occurrence suggests the first part of the plan was carried out, but not the second.  I don’t buy the argument that the plane was hijacked in order to be used later: there are several ways to obtain a 777 without raising an international plane-hunt involving 239 missing people; if you want a flying bomb, a cargo plane would do just as well.

Therefore I think the most likely scenario is one whereby a pilot, or both pilots, carried out instructions to divert from their normal course before losing their nerve; or being overpowered by the other pilot, in the event only one was in on it.  Or somebody else –  either passengers, stowaways, or a combination of both – took over the plane and either lost their nerve or were overpowered.  If the people in control of the plane were overpowered after a struggle, then the plane would have come down wherever it happened to be at the time.  But if somebody lost their nerve, or found the second part of the mission could not be completed for whatever reason, I can envisage a scenario whereby those in control fly the plane as far out into the deep ocean as they can before the fuel runs out, thus minimising the likelihood of wreckage and the black boxes being found.  This course of action would serve two purposes: it would save the faces of those who have lost their nerve (I can’t imagine al-Qa’eda gives second chances to operatives who have bottled out); and also destroy as much evidence as possible thus helping to protect the rest of the network back in Malaysia and elsewhere who organised it.  The US might have congressional debates on whether water-boarding constitutes torture and a media which frets over the mishandling of a Koran, but I expect anyone who fell into the hands of the Chinese investigating team would be singing like a canary in pretty short order.

I therefore expect that the plane has come down miles into the Indian ocean somewhere, well out of sight of land or shipping, and at some point in the future bits and pieces will wash ashore or come up in a fishing net, which will lead to the black boxes being eventually found.  The only thing I cannot for the life of me work out is what cause is advanced by somebody hijacking a Malaysian plane filled mostly with Chinese citizens.  It’s that question which has me stumped over and above any other.

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33 Responses to More on the Missing Plane

  1. Bardon says:

    Okay a bit of a pick up on the radar bit. Radar is not generated from an aircraft, you cant switch radar off from an aircraft as it doesn’t emanate from it. You may try and avoid it but you cant control if from an aircraft. I might add that it is is very weird that nobody is asking about the back box, does anybody remember those things?

    As for the motive for a Malaysian plane flying to China. Here are two for consideration. Malaysia and China have recently been strengthening their relations on the economic and political front, this incident has obviously created friction and could be contrived as driving a wedge in between them. Chinese authorities have been very public in their level of discombobulation at the Malaysian authorities handling of this incident as are the affected Chinese nationals.

    Malaysia has already been classed as recalcitrant in the western world with their consistent and vocal criticism of most Western backed organisations and their relative corporate impartiality. The pesky Malaysian War Crimes Commission whilst lacking the western media recognition, is very embarrassing to the west especially since they continue to name big names.

  2. Tim Newman says:

    Malaysia and China have recently been strengthening their relations on the economic and political front, this incident has obviously created friction and could be contrived as driving a wedge in between them.

    China has been strengthening its economic and political ties with pretty much everybody in recent years…even Taiwan and Japan. And Sino-Malaysian relationships are hardly significant in the grand scheme of things.

    Chinese authorities have been very public in their level of discombobulation at the Malaysian authorities handling of this incident as are the affected Chinese nationals.

    The Chinese have never liked the Malaysians, mainly due to the treatment of the ethnic Chinese by the ruling Malays. I think this incident is more likely to confirm existing prejudices than derail a new era of cooperation and respect.

    The pesky Malaysian War Crimes Commission whilst lacking the western media recognition, is very embarrassing to the west especially since they continue to name big names.

    I suppose this is true for one value of the term “embarrassing”, but I think it’s safe to say that if it is not being covered by the western media then it is not something of such importance that hijacking airliners is seen as an appropriate response.

  3. Bloke in Germany says:

    That’s a compelling argument, except that no cause is advanced by hijacking a Malaysian plane full of Chinese, which is why I continue to think the plane is intact, on land, serviceable, and either contains articles or persons of interest to the hijackers, or will be used again by someone who doesn’t care about collateral damage to the passengers. The Chinese muslims are not organised enough (they can’t even seemingly get firearms into China) or friendly enough with an al-Qa’eda-like organisation that could pull off this stunt.

    I think the passengers are all dead – this is why the plane was taken as high as it could physically go for a few minutes – long enough to suffocate everyone in a decompressed cabin, oxygen masks for the hijackers.

    It was taken as being a soft target, with a turned pilot handily on board, not because the passengers are valuable as hostages or murder victims. Having some kuffar to send to hell (if that is what those behind the hijacking care about) is merely a fringe benefit.

    It’s also likely that a State is behind this, backing terrorists with possibly very different motives. The only real candidates to me are Iran (plausibly deniably nuke Tel Aviv), Russia (get another news story on the front page), and North Korea (even God doesn’t know what they are thinking or why they do anything), in approximately that order of probability. I doubt the chaotic and introverted former-Soviet Neverheardovitastans are capable of this, though it’s looking likely the plane is parked somewhere in one of them.

  4. Tim Newman says:

    It was taken as being a soft target, with a turned pilot handily on board, not because the passengers are valuable as hostages or murder victims. Having some kuffar to send to hell (if that is what those behind the hijacking care about) is merely a fringe benefit.

    Yeah, it’s really a question of whether hijacking a plane full of passengers simply in order to obtain an aircraft is more credible than hijacking a Malaysian plane full of Chinese for *any* purpose. Neither seems to make much sense.

  5. dearieme says:

    We can be confident that she’s not still flying around like a latter-day Marie Celeste. There’s little more we can be confident about, apparently. Your guess sounds plausible, Tim.

    One difficulty is knowing whether there’s anything trustworthy coming out of Malaysia. I’m still puzzled as to why the NSA doesn’t just tell us all what happened.

  6. Tim Newman says:

    One difficulty is knowing whether there’s anything trustworthy coming out of Malaysia.

    I’m sure the Yanks are being fed their info. from the Singaporeans, who I suspect can track a gnat across the Malaysian peninsula having loaded up with American kit.

  7. Bardon says:

    “I’m still puzzled as to why the NSA doesn’t just tell us all what happened.”

    Okay so lets just say that they have good reasons to keep what they know quiet and they also don’t wont to give us the radar pings but at the very least they could tell us the exact location of the passenger mobile phones that were ringing.

  8. I have not the slightest idea what is going on. I haven’t heard a single explanation that would have struck me as remotely plausible before this event occurred. *Something* has gone on, and I have no idea what.

    Black boxes are still extremely extremely important, and investigators go to a lot of trouble to find them after a crash. It wasn’t until they found the black boxes from Air France 447 that they were able to put the final pieces together as to what happened in that accident, and they didn’t find them for a couple of years. However, you need to know roughly where the plane went down, and in this incident it is “somewhere on planet Earth”, roughly. Assuming it went down.

  9. Tim Newman says:

    It wasn’t until they found the black boxes from Air France 447 that they were able to put the final pieces together as to what happened in that accident, and they didn’t find them for a couple of years.

    And it turned out there was a mechanical failure (of sorts), and the French pilots decided to ignore established procedures and do their own thing instead. In hindsight, knowing what I now know, this is as surprising as Christmas.

  10. dearieme says:

    It was still very odd, Tim. You’d have thought that a frozen pitot is such a common occurrence that all pilots would have been trained how to react. What’s the implication of the “wotcha expect from them Frogs?” explanation: don’t fly Air France?

  11. Bardon says:

    “And Sino-Malaysian relationships are hardly significant in the grand scheme of things.”

    They could be significant if the increased military ties with China were considered a lost opportunity to the US.

    http://www.ibtimes.com/china-malaysia-boost-defense-economic-ties-domestic-crises-us-could-mean-lost-opportunity-region

    “Observers believe that the arrangement underscores the growing influence of China in the region at a time when the U.S. is struggling to cope with its own internal political and fiscal crisis. ”

    “President Xi Jinping told a news conference in the Malaysian administrative capital, Putrajaya: “We have agreed to strengthen our partnership with . This will create a sound environment for peace and the prosperity of both countries.”

    “[Malaysia] is on the frontline in the US-China contestation. This is why China is similarly wooing Malaysia extensively,” Bridget Welsh, a political science professor at Singapore Management University told Quartz, an online publication. “Malaysia wants the best of two worlds. They enjoy being ‘fought over’ and are taking advantage in multiple-track engagement.”

  12. >And it turned out there was a mechanical failure (of sorts), and the
    >French pilots decided to ignore established procedures and do their own
    >thing instead.

    It was a mixture of equipment failure, bad weather, and pilot error. Several things independently went wrong at the same time, which is usually the case in situations such as this. Totally non-mysterious, at least. For the first day or two after the accident it did appear to be mysterious, though, which is why for a couple of days after MH370 disappeared I was waiting for it to become less mysterious rather than more.

    (To risk going off at a tangent, I always find the “Gimli Glider” incident in Canada in 1983 to be a fascinating one. The two things that went wrong at the same time there were a faulty fuel gauge and an imperial/metric mixup which led to the plane running out of fuel in mid flight. The pilots then located a disused runway nearby, and landed the plane successfully without any engine power whatsoever, doing so little damage that the plane was back in service a few days later. Amusingly, the pilots were both disciplined (for making the imperial/metric mixup) and commended (for exemplary flying in a crisis situation) by their employer afterwards.

  13. Tim Newman says:

    What’s the implication of the “wotcha expect from them Frogs?” explanation: don’t fly Air France?

    In my experience, some of which cost me dearly, I would not expect precedents, prior agreements, contracts, procedures, specifications, codes of conduct, or simply doing the right thing to determine the actions of a Frenchman working within a French organisation and pushed into making a decision. From what I’ve seen, these are too often ignored in favour of “I’ll do what I want because I am in charge and therefore I know better” or “I’ll do whatever is most convenient for me personally”.

    I fly Air France because generally speaking I trust the French as much as I trust any nationality who is offering reasonably priced tickets!

  14. Bardon says:

    Last quote omitted this bit, some of the things that they were trying to head off, have just occurred between the two countries.

    “We have agreed to strengthen our partnership with naval defense, joint military exercises to combat terrorism, transnational crime and promote security. This will create a sound environment for peace and the prosperity of both countries.”

  15. Tim Newman says:

    They could be significant if the increased military ties with China were considered a lost opportunity to the US.

    The US wants to protect its military ties with…Malaysia? Please.

  16. Bardon says:

    No one said that, it said that Malaysia was in the frontline for US-China contestation.

  17. Tim Newman says:

    No one said that, it said that Malaysia was in the frontline for US-China contestation.

    More so than the new Chinese air defence zone? Or Taiwan? Or the Chinese claims in the South China Sea?

    Sorry, but Malaysia is about four echelons back from the frontline.

  18. Tim Newman says:

    That’s some fine research there! Even if he’s wrong, hat’s off for the research.

  19. Tim Newman says:

    Most plausible I’ve yet seen.

    It sounds plausible, but that area is full of people, they’ve been scouring the waters for over a week, and not a trace of debris has been found. By now somebody somewhere would have come forward as having seen something, or a fisherman would have hauled something up in his net by now. I’ve never heard of a large passenger aircraft crashing in the sea as a result of an accident and nobody having a clue where it came down. They found the tailplane of that Air France plane floating around after a couple of days.

  20. dearieme says:

    The Air France plane had kept on course. The Canadian chappy thinks that MH370 had been turned off course to make for the nearest long enough runway, and then flew on until she ran out of fuel. If she came down in deep ocean rather than on a continental shelf, there might well be few fishermen about.

  21. Tim Newman says:

    Yeah, but he said it was supposedly aiming for Langkawi…no deep ocean between there and where the plane left its original course.

  22. dearieme says:

    Hm, but that’s not where he thinks it came down. He thinks it carried on out over the Bay of Bengal/Indian Ocean.

  23. Bardon says:

    Come on guys, it smoko time down under and I came here for my daily theory update and the cupboard was bare. I want another one!

  24. Tim Newman says:

    Hm, but that’s not where he thinks it came down. He thinks it carried on out over the Bay of Bengal/Indian Ocean.

    Aye, but that doesn’t tally with their trying to land at Langkawi.

  25. Well, if the wreckage sighted in the Southern Ocean overnight is in fact the plane in question, it appears that it flew on the southern path rather than the northern one until it ran out of fuel and crashed into the ocean. The extreme remoteness of the location would explain why it has taken so long to find anything. With respect to what happened between the plane going missing and it crashing, who knows? The black boxes are several kilometres down, no doubt. Retrieving them is going to be hard work.

  26. dearieme says:

    “Aye, but that doesn’t tally with their trying to land at Langkawi.” It might if they were all dead from smoke before they could land at Langkawi. His proposition was that the pilot aimed for there, but too little time was left.

  27. Bloke in Germany says:

    The limited fire incapacitating/killing everyone but not bringing down the plane is plausible. Unfortunately like all the theories it has a big hole in it, and that is the second turn made once it went off the Malaysian radar and headed either north to Kazakhstan or south into the middle of nowhere. The second hole is that the pilot did not start dumping fuel. Taking the aircraft up to or beyond its normal flight ceiling fits, in that you might try to starve a fire in the cargo bay of oxygen. To do that you would have to depressurise and deploy the oxygen masks.

    If the pilot was heading for that airport on the wast coast of Malaysia, I suppose he could have programmed the second turn (perhaps preparing to line up with the runway) before losing consciousness, but would he bother? Wouldn’t you be flying manually by that stage?

    This also makes me wonder, if you have a huge plane which can only land on big and hence usually very busy runways and all your comms are out, how do you signal that you want a clear runway for an emergency landing? Do you just get in pattern and hope that someone on the ground notices something is wrong? Or is there some procedure, perhaps a manoeuvre which you can use as a distress signal?

  28. Bardon says:

    BIG, I would imagine if the pilot was attempting an emergency landing incommunicado then he would quite happily take the chance that the Air traffic Controllers would see him, figure out that you were attempting an emergency landing and clear other aircraft out of his way, leaving only the ones on the tarmac for the pilot to worry about.

  29. dearieme says:

    OK, Bardon, he drove it into a black hole and kpoof!

    Or God reached down to turn them all into angels.

  30. Bardon says:

    Alien abduction is not something I have previously considered.

    My favourite one at the moment is that a Chinese Kilo class submarine, surfaced but stayed keel down to avoid radar and shot it down south of Vietnam, similar to the Iranian Kilo class submarine that shot down the Air France jet in 09!

    Its all to do with the massive differing faction struggles within Chinese politics.

    But at least this time the Good Guys were in the vicinity and struck back, with USS Pinckney (DDG-91) blowing the sub clean out of the water, hence the original diesel oil slick on the satellite imagery.

    The author also has the direct phone number of the situation room in Washington.

    I don’t know if you ever go over to TNA’s place but he also has a pretty good un.

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