Since discussing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 requires a lot of assumptions, let me start by making one about you: you’re probably a MH370 junkie who can’t get enough of the theories. Therefore, I won’t bore you with all of the navigational details, timelines, and maps of satellite arcs that you’ve seen on CNN more than Wolf Blitzer.
There are a million things we don’t know about what happened that night, but there are few things that we do know:
- The pilots were seemingly pretty good guys. With most of the world looking, the most damning thing we’ve found is that one supported a political candidate and the other once invited good-looking girls into the cockpit.
- The pilots did not ask to fly with each other that day.
- All passengers on the plane have been cleared.*
- A good deal of skill was required to accomplish the flight maneuvers that have been reported.
- There is no evidence of a fire or mechanical failure.
- The plane made a series of odd turns and altitude adjustments.
- The plane flew for a very long time.
There are plenty of theories that can be made to fit into this set of things we know. Most of them, like the “startlingly simple” theory about the fire aboard, have some fatal flaw to them. That said, I’m an Occam’s Razor kind of guy (sorry ladies, I’m married). This principle basically says that in any situation where there are many possible explanations, the simplest one is almost always the right one.
Students from an international school in east China city Zhuji pray for the passengers onboard Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 by lighting candles on March 10, 2014 in Zhuji, China. Malaysia Airline flight MH370 from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing and carrying 239 onboard was reported missing after the crew failed to check in as scheduled while flying over waters between Malaysia and Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam. ChinaFotoPress/Getty Images
With that in mind, consider:
A pilot with no prior red flags and nearly 20,000 hours of flight time suddenly deciding to commit suicide or sabotage a plane is not simple.
A mechanical failure that shut down all possible reporting systems first is not simple.
The jet shadowing another plane across multiple borders and landing safely is not simple.
A plane being shot down in the air by a government and then covered up is not simple.
So, what is simple?
This is not a new theory, but many have discounted it because of the skill apparently required to perform the flight maneuvers made after the transponder went off. I agree with that, so let’s not call it a hijacking and instead give it another name, like the “Coerced Pilot Theory.”
One of the seven facts that I laid out at the start of this piece had an asterisk. That’s because all of the passengers have not, in fact, been cleared. While this might be resolved at any moment—thereby making this theory garbage—as of this writing there are still three passengers who haven’t yet been cleared.
More on them in a moment, but for now let’s put on our thriller novel hats, make a lot of wrong assumptions, and paint a scenario that does not violate any of the things we know for sure.
Photos of the pilots. Credit: CNN Screenshot.
Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 takes off and all is well. At some point after the climb something goes wrong. Maybe an attractive girl makes her way to the cockpit where co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid is more than happy to open the door for a photo. Maybe one of the pilots has to use the bathroom and the laughable barrier of the drink cart is the only thing blocking access. Either way, once the cockpit door opens the hijackers enter the flight deck.
The plane’s first movements are a direct result of this breach. After explaining their demands to the captain (or, more grimly, killing him and leaving the 27-year-old Hamid to fly), the plane embarks on a series of strange maneuvers. The hard left turn. The increases and decreases in altitude. The waypoints being programmed into the flight management system. The last words, which most experts believe were said by Hamid, the co-pilot, might even bolster this theory in that “all right, good night” was apparently a very casual remark for Asian pilots.
In this scenario, all of this was done under severe duress. Maybe there was a bomb—or a claim of one—a knife, poison gas, or any one of a million other makeshift weapons. Whatever the case, the pilots thought they were doing the right thing by following instructions.
The main problem with a scenario like this is that it only works with a motive. So, who on the plane had one? How about two Ukrainian men angry at the recent Russian aggression. Remember those three un-cleared passengers? Two of them are Ukrainian (the other is Russian).
This graphic released by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority Tuesday, March 18, 2014 shows an area, left bottom, in the southern Indian Ocean that the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) is concentrating its search for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 on. Manager of AMSA response division John Young has identified their search will cover a massive 600,000-square kilometers (232,000-square miles) area, saying it will take weeks to search thoroughly. (AP Photo/The Australian)
Could it be a simple coincidence that a few people on a missing plane are from country’s in the midst of severe tensions? Absolutely. In fact, it’s very likely that’s all it is and that this theory is all nonsense. But it’s at least interesting to consider the idea that Ukrainians have a motive. The flight disappeared on March 8—two days after the Supreme Council in Crimea decided to accede into the Russian Federation.
We—meaning Google and I—don’t seem to know a whole lot about the two Ukrainian men other than their names and that they are both 45 years old. They may or may not be related—one account infers they are but no details are offered.
It’s probably a safe assumption that these two guys have already been analyzed extensively by the actual investigators, especially considering that in early February a different 45-year-old Ukrainian man attempted to hijack a plane with a fake suitcase bomb and cellphone and divert it to Sochi.
So, in this theory, what happened to the plane itself?
Well, after following directions for a time it’s possible the plane’s pilot finally had enough. Maybe he realized that the hijackers’ plan would result in more deaths on the ground—something akin to a Sept. 11, 2001 style attack. Maybe there was eventually a struggle in the cockpit. Maybe the hijackers realized their plan had failed and they ditched the plane. Maybe it just ran out of fuel. No matter the reason, my contention is that plane can currently be found in the ocean—not on some makeshift runway in Eastern Europe.
Why hasn’t a terrorist group “claimed credit” for this yet? Well…because they failed. Standards may be low, but I don’t think forcing an airliner down into the ocean is anything a terrorist group wants to take credit for.
People write messages on a 60-meter long banner, with the Malaysia Airlines logo, filled with signatures and well wishes for all involved with the missing Malaysia Airlines jetliner MH370 at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, Sunday, March 16, 2014 in Sepang, Malaysia. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)
The hijack theory has plenty of flaws, too.
How did they access the cockpit? What weapons or threats of weapons did they use? Why would the pilots follow directions to turn everything off? Why would they not send any kind of distress signal? Why, if these Ukrainian men actually had anything to do with it, would it not yet be public knowledge?
The only way this really works is if the men had some history of fanaticism, and perhaps also some experience with aviation. It’s hard to believe that someone with no flight training would’ve even known what to instruct the pilot to do given the complexity of the maneuvers and the reporting difficulty in shutting down ACARS.
A final note: If the analysis of the Captain’s flight simulator’s hard drive finds a bunch of deleted files where he practiced the route MH370 flew that night then please forget you ever read this.
And I’ll forget all about Occam’s Razor.
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