MH370: Some of the craziest theories so far...
Aliens, a new Bermuda Triangle and a Snowden connection are among just a few bizarre theories surrounding the plane's disappearance
As the search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight moves into its eleventh day, theories surrounding what has become of flight MH370 are continuing to gather momentum.
While some of these theories as to how a flight carrying 239 people could have just disappeared have not been discounted by authorities, others have tended towards the unusual, bizarre and downright ridiculous.
Here are five theories currently raising eyebrows among the more sceptical readers.
The Bermuda Triangle
The long debunked Bermuda Triangle was blamed after a Malaysian politician decided the triangle had simply moved to Vietnam waters, tweeting that: "New Bermuda Triangle detected in Vietnam waters, well-equipped sophisticated devices are of no use!"
Meanwhile, viral Facebook posts claiming the missing Malaysia Airlines MH370 flight had been found near the Bermuda Triangle were in fact pieces of malware and links to fake surveys posted by hackers, who profited from the public’s growing interest in the story.
The posts contained videos that appeared legitimate and claimed the plane had been found in various places, with many stating its passengers are “alive” or “saved”.
The Snowden Connection
Reddit user Dark_Spectre then entered the debate into the jetliner’s fate by theorising that Chinese or American authorities may have kidnapped the plane to gain access to the employees of Texas-based Freescale Semiconductor, who were believed to be aboard.
Dark-Spectre claimed there was an Edward Snowden connection in all of this because of the people he insisted were among the passengers.
“So we have the American IBM Technical Storage Executive for Malaysia, a man working in mass storage aggregation for the company implicated by the Snowden papers for providing their services to assist the National Security Agency in surveilling [sic] the Chinese.. and now this bunch of US chip guys working for a global leader in embedded processing solutions (embedded smart phone tech and defence contracting) all together..on a plane..And disappeared.. Coincidence??”
No, says Dark-Spectre, this was not a coincidence. The only probable explanation is thus: “US intelligence got late wind that their flying brain-trust of 21 were going to be arrested/detained and interrogated upon landing in China and the US intelligence community deemed the risk too great to their Asian based espionage programs and took appropriate action to "sanitize" the plane in flight.”
A list of conspiracy theories would not be complete without the obligatory alien abduction narrative. Alexandra Bruce, of Forbidden Knowledge TV, has used flight mapping website Flightradar as an example of extra-terrestrial involvement in the disappearance of MH370.
Pointing to a video by “intrepid citizen reporter” YouTube user DAHBOO7, Bruce claims radar readings in the clip “captured signals from what for now, can only be termed a UFO”.
The video recreates the plane’s final moments and shows a “mystery object” flying at an accelerated speed which is in fact marked as the Korean Airlines Flight 672.
Others however have needed less convincing on the alien-as perpetrator forefront.
Passengers were taken to Pyongyang
With hijack theories abound, one of the most popular has proved to be that North Korea had taken over the plane - with many now arguing that China's decision to deploy 21 satellites to assist with the search somehow suggests this supposed event is still on the table.
They did it in 1969, points out Reddit user nickryane, so why not now?
Passengers are still alive
Desperate family members of missing passengers have reported being able to ring the mobile phones of their loved ones days after the plane had disappeared, leading to speculation that they are still alive somewhere in the world.
Some were able to find their relatives on a Chinese instant messenger service, suggesting their phones were still online.
So-called phantom calls led many to assume the flight has not crashed, and others have gone so far as to counter that the phone calls are the work of the supernatural.
Tech experts dispelled these rumours, explaining that phones which have been switched off do not always go straight to voicemail, depending on the network and location.
Flew to Kazakhstan
The Central Asian republic is at the far end of the northern search corridor, so the plane could hypothetically have landed there. Light aircraft pilot Sylvia Wrigley, author of Why Planes Crash, says landing in a desert might be possible and certainly more likely than landing on a beach somewhere. "To pull this off, you are looking at landing in an incredibly isolated area," says Wrigley. The failure so far to release a cargo manifest has created wild rumours about a valuable load that could be a motive for hijacking. There has also been speculation that some of those on board were billionaires.
But the plane would have been detected, the Kazakh Civil Aviation Committee said in a detailed statement sent to Reuters. And there's an even more obvious problem. The plane would have had to cross the airspace of countries like India, Pakistan and Afghanistan, which are all usually in a high state of military preparedness. But it's just possible that there are weak links in the radar systems of some of the countries en route to Central Asia, Wrigley speculates. "A lot of air traffic control gear is old. They might be used to getting false positives from flocks of birds and, therefore, it would be easy to discount it."
The plane is in Pakistan
Media tycoon Rupert Murdoch has tweeted: "World seems transfixed by 777 disappearance. Maybe no crash but stolen, effectively hidden, perhaps in northern Pakistan, like Bin Laden." But Pakistan has strenuously denied that this would be possible. The country's assistant to the prime minister on aviation, Shujaat Azeem, has been reported as saying: "Pakistan's civil aviation radars never spotted this jet, so how it could be hidden somewhere in Pakistan?" Like the Kazakhstan theory, this all seems far-fetched, not least because the junction between Indian and Pakistani air space is one of the most watched sectors in the world by military radar. And despite the remoteness and lawlessness of northern Pakistan, the region is watched closely by satellites and drones. It seems scarcely believable to think an airliner could get there unspotted.
The plane hid in the shadow of another airliner
Aviation blogger Keith Ledgerwood believes the missing plane hid in the radar shadow of Singapore Airlines flight 68. The Singaporean airliner was in the same vicinity as the Malaysian plane, he argues. "It became apparent as I inspected SIA68's flight path history that MH370 had manoeuvred itself directly behind SIA68 at approximately 18:00UTC and over the next 15 minutes had been following SIA68." He believes that the Singaporean airliner would have disguised the missing plane from radar controllers on the ground. "It is my belief that MH370 likely flew in the shadow of SIA68 through India and Afghanistan airspace. As MH370 was flying 'dark' without a transponder, SIA68 would have had no knowledge that MH370 was anywhere around, and as it entered Indian airspace, it would have shown up as one single blip on the radar with only the transponder information of SIA68 lighting up ATC and military radar screens." The Singapore Airlines plane flew on to Spain. The Malaysian jet could have branched off. "There are several locations along the flight path of SIA68 where it could have easily broken contact and flown and landed in Xinjiang, Kyrgyzstan, or Turkmenistan," Ledgerwood argues.
Prof Hugh Griffiths, radar expert at University College London, says it sounds feasible. But there is a difference between military and civilian radar. Civilian radar works by means of a transponder carried by the aircraft - a system known as secondary radar. The military use primary radar and this "ought to be higher resolution". So how close would the two planes need to be? He estimates about 1000m (3300ft). It is possible military radar would be able to pick up that there were two objects, he says. "It might be able to tell the difference, to know that there are two targets." If this happens, though, there's then the question of how this is interpreted on the ground. Is it a strange echo that would be discounted? When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, although the US radar operator detected the incoming aircraft, they were dismissed as US bombers arriving from the mainland.
The passengers were deliberately killed by decompression
Another theory circulating is that the plane was taken up to 45,000ft to kill the passengers quickly, former RAF navigator Sean Maffett says. The supposed motive for this might have been primarily to stop the passengers using mobile phones, once the plane descended to a much lower altitude. At 45,000ft, the Boeing 777 is way above its normal operating height. And it is possible to depressurise the cabin, notes Maffett. Oxygen masks would automatically deploy. They would run out after 12-15 minutes. The passengers - as with carbon monoxide poisoning - would slip into unconsciousness and die, he argues. But whoever was in control of the plane would also perish in this scenario, unless they had access to some other form of oxygen supply.
The plane will take off again to be used in a terrorist attack
One of the more outlandish theories is that the plane has been stolen by terrorists to commit a 9/11 style atrocity. It has been landed safely, hidden or camouflaged, will be refuelled and fitted with a new transponder before taking off to attack a city. It would be very hard to land a plane, hide it and then take off again, Maffett suggested. But it can't be ruled out. "We are now at stage where very, very difficult things have to be considered as all sensible options seem to have dropped off," he says. It is not clear even whether a plane could be refitted with a new transponder and given a totally new identity in this way, he says. Others would say that while it is just about feasible the plane could be landed in secret, it is unlikely it would be in a fit state to take off again
MH370 captain practiced Diego Garcia landings
Some very strange reports about MH370 are appearing, including one claiming that police have found that the captain of the missing Boeing 777-200ER was practising Indian Ocean landing field approaches including to the US Diego Garcia military base.
That report isn’t however as surprising as this in the EU Times claiming, among other things, that a secret cargo consignment on board had caused China authorities to plan to divert the Beijing bound flight with 239 people on board to one of its military fields, only to see it diverted by the US military toward the Indian Ocean.
Should such reports be dismissed out of hand? Arguably they shouldn’t, as there may be something in them that is true and relevant. The difficulty for readers who don’t sign up for conspiracy theories is in attempting to guess what is real, and what is unreal.
The MalayMail Online report is carefully qualified as to the claimed Indian Ocean data base on the MH370 captain’s sophisticated home made flight simulator. If that data base was found, it doesn’t necessarily prove anything. But the problem is that his flight is believed by authorities to have been deliberately diverted to an unknown destination, and that as Day 12 of the mystery begins, Australia is leading a very serious and increasingly well resourced search of the southern Indian Ocean.
There are a number of other well argued theories as to what happened to MH370 claiming that a fire or explosion created a crisis shortly after the ‘all right good night’ radio contact with the Malaysia Airlines flight was made at 1.19 am on Saturday 8 March early in its flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.
Common to those theories is that the pilots struggled to get the flight back to Kuala Lumpur from where it had departed 39 minutes earlier, only to be overcome by oxygen starvation in the depressurized airliner, after which the jet flew on until its fuel was exhausted some time after 8.11 am local time when it sent its last electronic trace to a satellite providing communications services to airlines.
The theories are considered well argued by persons with airliner and operational experience. But they come with serious flaws. One such flaw is evidence that the jet flew a cleverly constructed course to minimise the risk of detection after Malaysia’s defence radar tracked it to a point near Phuket in Thailand.
The other is that a fire or explosion in an airliner would be so damaging to the fuselage and systems onboard MH370 that it could not continue to fly for at least another 6 hours 52 minutes as recorded by standby pings from the jet to an Inmarsat parking in geosynchronous orbit high above the western Indian Ocean.
The ability of MH370 to fly for the eight hours for which it carried fuel on departure would be very adversely affected by excursions in which it flew under the radar at low altitudes, or climbed to say 45,000 feet. It is known to have been in the air for a total of at least 7 hours 31 minutes, when the last satellite ping was recorded.
A report that a jet which may have been MH370 flew low over the Maldives on the morning of 8 March should be relatively easy to confirm or deny based on primary (non transponder) radar records before today is over.
You might be interested