Tracking the Mystery Flight

UPDATE: The BBC caught the “10 Theories about Flight MH370’s disappearance” meme around the same time as Gazeta Wyborcza (discussed below), so I would be remiss to not refer you to their piece, which of course is in English and also extensive (and fanciful, in places).

It’s amazing to realize that, come Friday, it will be a full two weeks since Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370’s complete disappearance from Southeast Asian skies, with a “Good night” from the co-pilot (local time was just past midnight) the very last message received, some forty minutes in. With some sources saying that finding the plane could still be a matter of weeks, one can only marvel at the patience of those actually sailing in or flying over the areas of the Indian Ocean now being searched, gamely putting up with what must be an excruciatingly boring needle-in-a-haystack ordeal.

What’s more, there is as yet no sort of confirmed explanation for what exactly happened. But at least accessing the foreign press can help one plug into that greater “hive mind” out there in the world to at least start evaluating possibilities.

10 hipotez – that’s 10 hypotheses, the ten most-likely possibilities for the story behind Flight MH 370 based upon facts and analysis Piotr Cieśliński of the Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza has been able to gather.

(I know, I know: “What’s the Polish for ‘listicle’?” By the way, the picture at the very top of that Gazeta piece, of a Japanese searcher looking out at the vast ocean from his airplane window, will give you a good idea of the seemingly impossible task these personnel face.)

But here the ten scenarios are, often incomplete and/or contradictory – but this is a messy incident:

  1. Fire on board: Might be a reasonable explanation: fire broke out, and that shut down the electronics, including the transponders. In desperation the pilots then made that radical turn to the West, looking for some airfield at which to land. Yet satellite information now seems to indicate that the plane kept flying a further 7.5 hours after that turn.
  2. Political gesture or suicide: OK, it seems the 55-year-old pilot was a “fanatical” follower of the leader of a Malaysian opposition party – that would be Anwar Ibrahim – who just before take-off, was sentenced to prison for sodomy, something considered by many a trumped-up charge pursued for political reaons. So maybe this pilot wanted to show his displeasure in a very dramatic way. But why no accompanying statement?
  3. Terrorists: Everyone’s favorite explanation. There were a lot of Chinese on that flight that was headed to Beijing, after all, and unfortunately some folks who don’t like the Chinese, for example the Turkish Uygurs in the far West of the country. And you may have picked up on reports that the co-pilot had a habit of opening the cockpit door to invite outsiders – if they were female and attractive – inside.
  4. “Flying Dutchman”:The favorite hypothesis of Wagner aficionados. This follows on from the observation that, just after turning off its transponders, Flight MH370 ascended to a higher altitude than usual for commercial airliners. Perhaps – no matter what the original motive, no matter what they thereupon intended to do – that action turned out to be a mistake in that the airplane could not handle the decreased air pressure any more, so that everyone in the aircraft lost consciousness and – after flying for a while on autopilot – it finally fell somewhere into the sea.
  5. Hijacking to Afghanistan: It was the Taliban! At least that is what one supposed aviation expert has suggested. Taliban spokesman (not “spokesperson”; there are no Taliban “spokeswomen”) Zabihullah Mujahid has publicly denied that they had anything at all to do with Flight MH370 – but he would say that. By the way, this “expert” also came up with the theory that Flight MH370 was able to hide for so long from any radar observation by “shadowing” (flying just behind) another commercial flight – SIA68, Singapore to Barcelona – on its way to the West. (Although you would think that the personnel on board SIA68 would notice they were being followed; does their radar only point forward?)
  6. Shot down by rocket, hit by meteorite or a fragment from a falling satellite: A rocket is not plausible – Who fired it? Why? – but being hit by fragments from above would seem to be. But how then is it possible that many radars and satellites seemed to have caught at least glimpses of the plane many hours after its transponders went off?
  7. Life insurance fraud: Simple: somebody – even among the passengers – needed to die so that his family or whoever else could get that desperately needed insurance money.
  8. Dangerous cargo: Something that could either blow up the plane, because someone packed it/handled it incorrectly, or could send incapacitating gases up through the partition to disable passengers and crew and create the “Flying Dutchman” scenario.
  9. Valuable cargo: We’re starting to get rather fantastical here. This theory is about something very valuable in the hold – gold, for example; gold escaping an unstable Ukraine for safekeeping in China, for a more particular example that Cieśliński gives here. But then someone else found out about it, made a grab for it, and some sort of chaos ensued.
    Now, there was no gold on the official cargo list, Cieśliński writes, but there was loaded there between 3 and 4 tons of Garcinia, a highly-prized, delicious and somewhat costly tropical fruit . . . no, I’m not even going to pursue this . . .
  10. Science fiction: That’s the label for the 10th and final item on Cieśliński’s list, but it’s not that far out. Let me quote him here directly:

    On board the Boeing were 20 employees of the American firm Freescale Semiconductor, experts in the newest technologies. Some therefore speculate that someone wanted to intercept or liquidate them. Or you can encounter tales that these engineers tried to test out some pioneering technology, which obviously went out of control.

Separately, as an additional aid, there is this from Denmark’s Berlingske Tidende:

The Danish headline reads “Here’s where the mystery-flight may have landed,” and the accompanying map of Southeast Asia-with-the-measles depicts all the known airports where Flight MH370 might have ended up – if it indeed landed at any airport. (That map is credited to “New York radio station NWYC” – they must mean WNYC.) For the sake of the passengers’ families we would hope that it did safely come to earth somewhere – but, then, presumably the world would have known about that long before now.

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