MH370: The plane that disappeared

An insightful Netflix documentary was recently released coinciding with the ninth anniversary of the day Malaysian airline MH370 was last in contact. A number of journalists, investigators, aviation experts and family members are still in their quest for answers and what has been gathered so far is eye-opening.

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The release of the documentary MH370: The Plane That Disappeared has resurrected aviation’s reigning mystery and inevitably raised a tide of speculation and interest. The documentary delves into the events that took place and put forth different theories, each striving to explain the possible truth.

The ‘greatest aviation mystery of all time’ as meticulously put by Louise Malkinson, has left investigators, aviation experts, and journalists puzzled. A decade has gone by since the fateful night and only one consensus has been achieved: the official narrative is not the entire truth and none of the events that followed were an accident.

A brief history of Flight MH370

On 8th March 2014, Malaysian Airline flight MH370, Boeing 777, departed from Kuala Lumpur at midnight and was scheduled to arrive Beijing at dawn. There were approximately 227 passengers on board along with 12 crew members. The flight took off at 12:41 am as scheduled and flew as per routine. Upon leaving the Malaysian airspace the air traffic controller and the pilot, Zaharie Shah, bid each other, what has now become the infamous, ‘Goodnight MH370’ after which all radar communications were lost. At 1:21 am, the boeing777, not just metaphorically but literally, vanished into thin air, never to be found till date.

The initial assumption

The loss of communication was unusual as commercial flights remain in contact through many different channels. MH370 disappeared off the radar from every form of communication and was very unsettling as it implied 2 occurrences:

  1. The plane faced a massive catastrophe that ceased all forms of communication immediately.
  2. The communication was turned off from inside the cabin by either the Pilot or the co-pilot, which means that they did this purposely with the intent of a blackout from the outside world.

Read more: MH370 hunt may resume if new evidence found: Malaysian PM

Why did the plane disappear?

Three different theories surrounding the disappearance have riveted the world since almost a decade.


The pilot

There were 2 pilots on this flight, the pilot in command, Zaharie Ahmed Shah, had years of experience co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid, was one flight away from receiving full certification.

After losing all radar communication and relying on satellite data, it was gathered that seconds after MH370 entered Vietnamese airspace it deviated from its original route, abruptly turned back towards the Malay peninsula, and headed towards the Indian ocean. This triggered the emergence of a plethora of unanswered questions. Why did the pilot make that ill-fated turn? Was he given external orders? Did the pilot have malicious intent?

The route that the plane had supposedly taken had no landing space for miles, thus the probability was that it ran out of fuel and crash-landed in the southern Indian ocean. This made the matter criminally inclined and questioned the pilot’s motives. In 2016, US investigators reported that Zaharie’s personal flight simulator, recovered from his house, showed a path similar to the one MH370 had supposedly taken. Thus, giving rise to the theory of deliberate mass murder/ suicide.

Read more: Five years on, five theories about MH370’s disappearance

Eventually, the military found proof, via the Inmarsat satellite company that proved it had been airborne for approximately 6 hours after its disappearance. However, information related to its exact coordinates, and where and how it met its final destination was not available.

Despite indications of a mass murder-suicide, the documentary poses a lot of questions regarding this theory. Why did Zaharie fly for 6 hours and wait till the plane ran out of fuel to crash? Why didn’t the co-pilot make note of the route diversion and try to send out a signal? This also raised questions regarding the authenticity of the Inmarsat data, and many were left unconvinced by this theory. The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) deflated the theory on the grounds of a lack of evidence.

The hijackers

The document also explored the possibility of a hijack. Four months after the MH370 disappeared another Malaysian Airline MH17 was shot down by surface–to–air missiles over Ukraine killing almost 300 people instantly. Some considered this as ‘an act of war’. This tragedy brought forth immediate speculation about whether the fate of both planes was somehow linked.

Further on, it is revealed that while all the supposed communication devices were turned off on the MH370, one of these devices turned back on. The aviation journalist, Jeff Wise, delved into the mechanics of these devices and came across a shocking discovery. Pilots are not taught how to turn these devices on/off, they are not given the training for this because airlines don’t want them to alter them. This leans more towards the possibility that while this still may be an inside job, it may very well be the work of hijackers as these devices are easily accessible.

The interception

One of the wildest but somewhat logical theories suggests that the plane was intercepted by external forces. Florence De Changy, a French journalist, informed that two US AWACS were airborne at the time and in the same vicinity as the misfortunate MH370. What is more compelling is learning of the AWACS phenomenal jamming capabilities. It is believed that the MH370 was carrying 2.5 tonnes of “suspicious” cargo which had been ‘escorted’ and loaded on to the plane without being scanned. Hence, De Changy theorizes that the US upon learning of this ‘escorted cargo’, sent AWACS that could have blocked the communication systems of the plane and the pilot’s refusal to submit to external orders (US orders) may have led the plane to its unfortunate final abode.

Read more: Search for bodies, clues after Ethiopian Airlines Boeing crash

Though far-fetched and a little biased, this theory seems logical and may also be linked with the above-mentioned ‘act of war’ by the other supreme power of the world. However, the theory was debunked on the grounds of a lack of enough evidence. Moreover, believing this theory would mean disregarding all other proof that has been dug so far.

The inconclusive conclusion

Each theory seems closer to the truth till the next is heard. What seems most probable is that the plane might have crashed, but the lack of debris raises a lot of eyebrows. Some plane debris was found 2 years later but its authenticity is under question. Was this a mass murder-suicide? Was the plane hijacked? Did the plane travel into another dimension? Was it aliens? Did they search for the right places? Will the families ever find closure?

The fact that there are no definite answers, is gutwrenching. However, this documentary is keeping the mystery alive, raising awareness and questions that the concerned authorities need to address.

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