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Did Malaysian Airlines 370 disappear using SIA68/SQ68 (another 777)? (keithledgerwood.tumblr.com)
462 points by cloudwalking on Mar 17, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 389 comments

I am not enthusiastic about jumping into speculation land, but I would be interested in knowing if the possibility of this being a accident followed by auto pilot is possible or totally disproven

My default assumption was they took off, an accident occurred that damaged cockpit and forced a turnaround, the damage was so great that the crew were unable to survive and turned on autopilot to stop an immediate crash, which then flew for seven hours till fuel ended, presumably with passengers pounding on the locked and hardened cockpit door.

So whilst I am in wild speculation territory I would like to know if there are some experts who might be able to say "bird strikes cannot disable radios" or "oxygen canisters do not leak" or "stewardesses can open the cockpit door" or some such.

I tend towards cockup not conspiracy myself.

(I recognise I may have missed discussions covering this and apologise if it is obvious)

I'm not familiar with the inner workings of planes, but from what I've gathered, the timing of disabling the two tracking systems, which are on either end of the plane, is just about the same time it takes to get from one end of the plane to the other, and disable the 2nd tracking system (blackbox).

Therefore, it would be a great coincidence that both of these tracking systems would be disabled at the same time. It seems therefore that the most logical explanation is foul play.

I thought/hoped the same as you, that some sort of failure resulted in the tracking systems failing as well, and then the plane crashed, but it sadly doesn't seem as likely given the timing of events.

Where did you hear the black box was turned off?

So you say the pilot does not have switches in the cockpit to turn equipment on or off? They have to WALK through the whole plane to turn devices on or off?! Bollocks.

The black box is in the tail of the plane, it doesn't make any sense to wire it through the whole plane so the pilot can switch it off from the cockpit.

I have no problem with your questioning my logic and my response, as I'm not expert, but keep your bollocks to yourself.

It makes perfect sense when the top priority is being able to isolate electrical systems in case of an electrical fault or an in-flight fire: http://www.askthepilot.com/malaysia-airlines-flight-370/

Why are you referring to the black box at all? ACARS and the Transponder signal the plane's position to the ground, not the black box.

Things that aren't meant to be turned on/off routinely by the pilot? why not? There's enough stuff going on in the cockpit...

I don't think it's supposed to be easy to turn off the tracking mechanisms of planes.

Wishful thinking. Aircraft are designed to be operated by professional crews -- not ex-convicts on work release. So, there are accessible circuit breakers to turn various things off.

It's called a circuit breaker. Just about every system, include the flight recorders, autopilot, and transponders can be independently turned off.

I did some research on this, expecting to find a breaker labeled "CVR" on the diagram of 777 cockpit circuit breakers. Instead I found this: "the practicalities of isolating the power from the CVR fitted to the B777 are not straightforward since the CVR circuit breaker is located in the electronics bay of the arcraft instead of on the flight deck. Access to the electronics bay from within the aircraft is via a hatch in the cabin floor adjacent to the front left door of the aircraft"


@danford was asserting that he didn't think there would be switches in the cockpit that allowed all tracking devices to be turned off. Are you countering his statement? Can you provide a citation?

Apparently the door can be opened.

They enter a code and if the cockpit doesn't reject it within a certain time frame the door opens.

See Helios flight 522.

the pilots were shortly on the radio after the deactivation of ACARS (a signalling system). while this doesn't completely disprove your theory about the autopilot it still hints towards malicious intent.

There would have been calls/texts/tweets/facebook posts from the passengers if they were aware that something terrible was happening whether accidental or intentional.

Do they have satellite phones? Over the ocean there is no cell reception.

If there was indication that something was awry the passengers would have had plenty of time before reaching the open ocean to use various forms of communication.

It is very unlikely (but has occasionally happened) that a cellphone would get reception at 35,000 feet.

The plane reportedly flew under the radar after turning away from Kuala Lumpur.


This is a good question. What are the odds that someone on the flight had a sat cell? If so, would it have worked in those conditions?

Planes have flown for hours without any human intervention. That part of it is entirely feasible.

We are almost on the same page: here's my theory purely based on what I read!

1.Something happened like explosive decompression, Explosive decompression occurs at a rate swifter than that at which air can escape from the lungs, typically in less than 0.1 to 0.5 seconds.Everybody onboard(including pilots) would have died in less than a second due to castrophic mechanical failure which caused explosive decompression.

2.Plane was on autopilot there after ,nobody complained since nobody was alive.Fell silent into the ocean and rests there.

3.Plane blewup and disintegrated just like an endevaour....leaving only ash...nothing was left.

4.I dont know why boeing company is not talking about this much, they just are silent ....the biggest benefactor if pilot theory is right is boeing.Boeing benefits alot if its pilot error which caused the incident.

5.Boeing looses a lot if its mechanical or structural or some design failure...."The longer-range 777-300ER and 777-200LR variants entered service in 2004 and 2006 respectively"...they are relatively new...however malaysian airlines is boeing 777-200ER 1997 release...is it possible to have some structural or design or mechanical failure which caused explosive decompression...even pilots die in less than a second...if it occurs.

6.Boeing 787 Dreamliner: Cracks Found in the Wings of 40 New...this clearly shows even the latest 787 is not safe leave alone an old plane like boeing 777-200ER.

7.If its done deliberately by some pilot why nobody is claiming credit for it...ofcourse he wouldnt have done it for himself.

The whole media is trying to protect the company "boeing" by showing pilot has conspirators...I cannot see even 1% of people questioning boeing the company...

Latest Boeing 787 Dreamliner: Cracks Found in the Wings of 40 New....

All the more we should question boeing...

Nearly half of your "theory" (which isn't based off of any sort of clinically proven fact, btw) is incorrect.

First, the 777 is not an "old" plane. It's a very reliable and advanced aircraft with tons of redundancy; things don't just fail nowadays like they used to. Despite its age, there is absolutely zero reason why there should be a structural or mechanical failure. These aircraft aren't Chevrolets, they're built to stand up to daily abuse that they will likely never experience during their lifetime. Tell that to UPS and FedEx, which are still using 727s from the 70s.

Explosive decompression, even if it did happen, does not kill instantly. See also: Aloha Flight 243. Again, the 777 has very advanced pressurization systems. No reason that it should have killed everyone immediately.

Disintegration should have left debris. There was none.

Also, your statement about the 787 is irrelevant and misleading. The cracks found in the wings are hairline, and are caused by its composite construction. Things like this occur during the birth of an aircraft and get ironed out over the years, just like software. The 787 has nothing to do with the 777, which is a tried-and-true metal aircraft, and as I've reiterated before, age is irrelevant in these types of things. There has not been a single 777 fatality to date except the SFO Asiana disaster last year, which was caused by pilot error. The 777 seems to be a fairly bulletproof aircraft.

Conspiracy theories aren't really the best approach to anything. Boeing has proven itself with the 777, and the 787 is a revolutionary design that will have some problems, just like the first jet engines did in the 50s.

Let's leave the speculation to the NTSB and just tell who we love we love them. It's no use twisting around old evidence or constructing conspiracy theories at this point.

Morbius: Thank you for accepting atleast 50% of my theory was wrong...may be u r conceding that 50% might be right.That's good enough for me.

Here's where I got it almost right: "2.Plane was on autopilot there after ,nobody complained since nobody was alive.Fell silent into the ocean and rests there" The plane according to most was found near indian ocean some 2000 kms...it flew on autopilot for 7 hours.

>>Disintegration should have left debris. There was none. Debris is found some 2500 kms away..now resting in the ocean.

Boeing is being sued by one law firm today:"4.I dont know why boeing company is not talking about this much, they just are silent ....the biggest benefactor if pilot theory is right is boeing.Boeing benefits alot if its pilot error which caused the incident."

>> No "consipracy theory here" its indeed looking more like mechanical failure and the pilots died due to depressurization...boeing should own responsibility.

I might be wrong abt 787 , it was too much stretch to bring two 787 and 777 together but they are from the same company, that is my point,boeing needs to own some responsibility for this kind of failure either mechanical or design failure. They have put an off switch for ACARS?..why did they have off switch in the first place? Is it not design failure?

Finally they have only 2 hours of recording of cockpit in blackbox for an international flight which might be flying 7 hours...?Explain that design failure...how can they only have 2 hour recording...even kid will tell 2 hours is not enough for 250 million price tag.

WRT 787, the cracks were a consequence of two things. The new(ish) production methods involved in the aircraft, and the absurdly aggressive outsourcing of the production. The 787 is (was?) in many ways at the bleeding edge of carbon fiber manufacture. Combine that with the stupid notion their management had of sending out 99% of manufacturing outside of final assembly to dozens of different companies (as a consequence of contractors sub-contracting work) meant that they didn't find the design flaws until late in the game. This particular 787 issue doesn't provide any evidence of potential issues with other aircraft.

I am off mark by bring 787 in this discussion may be but I must say 777 and 787 are same company, I cannot see not one time Boeing guys came out and spoke to media or press, its really disappointing.

We just have 2 companies monopoly of aircraft industry.....I am looking at young startups which will start in aircraft manufacturing industry and change the game.

The folks over at airliners.net have pointed out that the 777's collision avoidance system only works if both planes' transponders are turned on. That doesn't mean this scenario is impossible, but it does raise the level of sophistication required.

Sadly, I feel like whatever happened, the amount of sophistication involved increasingly points toward the involvement of one or more state actors. If that's the case, I'm starting to doubt that we'll ever find out what happened to this plane...

"points toward the involvement of one or more state actors"

I agree ... and so I think it's become useful to identify the skills and knowledge of each of the jet's passengers. You have to assume that, in this case, the plane was hijacked in order to obtain one of the passengers.

Terrorism simply doesn't make sense!

Or they were hijacking a plane to stuff it full of chemical weapons / radioactive material (think dirty bomb) with the intent of flying it over a major city and detonating it. It would be hard to do it in a western nation, but if you were aiming at a city near the "frontier" of India, Pakistan, etc. a bad actor could likely execute the plan before the jets they scramble could intercept the jet. There's a lot of bad stuff you could do with a flying metal tube capable of carrying 200,000 lbs of whatever you can get your hands on.

I don't think it was a state actor though. If it was a state actor, who would it have been? My bets are on Pakistan if it was a state actor; they're one of the only ones with a sophisticated enough intelligence organization to be able to hide a plane like this. In many cases, it's hard to tell where the ISI ends and the Taliban begins. Though the same could be said for Iran and Hezbollah, though the Iranian government has taken a reconciliatory tone with the west as of late and I don't think they'd risk it. It likely wasn't North Korea; the social engineering required would be too high and the North Koreans are largely incompetent at covert operations outside their borders due to their xenophobia. I don't think many other states with the capability to do something like this would risk it; the amount of publicity on this is too high.

If the plane was hijacked and successfully landed somewhere (and that's a big if -- IMO it's just as likely that it's at the bottom of the ocean and will never be found) it was probably a coordinated effort between a terrorist group and rogue elements within the Pakistani ISI. I don't think the older pilot was involved; there's been a lot made of his links to a controversial opposition leader in Malaysia, but his ideology doesn't align with any of the terror groups (Anwar Ibrahim is considered a liberal reformer) and all of the "controversy" around him is corruption-related -- not the type of thing that would cause someone to shift toward radical Islam.

Except your plan has one fatal flaw: assuming the plane was stolen to be used as a missile.

If this were ISI or a state level actor, the absolute riskiest part would be hijacking a plane in flight with passengers. You risk them uprising, getting the word out about the hijacking, and then you'd have to execute them once you land. Why not steal an empty plane at an airport or buy an older plane through an intermediary?

I don't think it was a state level actor. I think the most likely explanation in the event of a hijacking is rogue elements within the ISI (which is pretty common -- there are lots of factions within Pakistan, almost none of whose first loyalty is to the nation of Pakistan) providing cover and funding to a terrorist group. None of this would be unheard of; elements within the ISI protected bin Laden for years.

Stealing an empty plane from an airport would likely get you shot down before you made it 100 miles; air traffic is heavily controlled at passenger airports. If you want to break free of the air traffic system, you do it in the air over a sparsely populated and/or mountainous region. Older planes are expensive, especially large ones in working order with the range and cargo capabilities of a 777 (a working 777 would cost more than $200 million and be accompanied by a lot of paperwork.)

All of this is speculation anyway; we don't even know if it was hijacked or if it even landed if it was. It's just fun to play armchair intelligence analyst in the absence of good information.

Why steal a plane if you could just buy it (assuming state level actors can gain control over a shell company with an air operators' certificate; aircraft cost really isn't an issue when for scrap value you can get old 747s with plenty of range and capacity) or charter it (leaving you with only pilots to dispose of, probably on the ground, if you're looking to do something nefarious)?

The first rule of being an armchair intelligence analyst is to rule out the ridiculously silly, and "maybe they just wanted a 777-200" falls into that category along with "maybe those 9-11 planes were just a cover for a controlled demolition"

If it is ISI it can simply buy a new Boeing plane from the kind of money that US is pouring into Pakistan in the form of aid.

unless you meant "aid in the form of money", I don't see how aid buys you a Boeing.

Why execute them when you can suffocate them at 45,000 feet? This is conspiracy theory gold even though I think it crashed.

My guess is that this bears the traits of the worst disasters, an unforeseeable and unique cascade of system failures that led to the pilots having some control of a crippled plane.

Stop creating FUD. I don't really see why people have a way of connecting everything to Pakistan , To be honest you guys ISI more credit than it deserves. Their on ground "people intelligence" is good but they are not really that tech-savvy.

Also most of my family know about the aviation business ( father was a military Pilot then became a military ATCO now a Senior Civilian ATCO , Several relatives are Commercial Pilots for various Airlines) , And what they all think is that it was either {a fire and plane crashed in the ocean} or {the plane exploded in air} or {both}. Seriously stop watching so much FOX.

I strongly doubt it's either. Both are close allies with China. Chinese passengers made up the majority of that flight.

Is whatever this flight was carrying worth risking fraying their alliances? Highly improbable.

Er, if the ISI wanted a 777, there are much closer places to steal one from and repaint.


If you steal a plane off the ground, it's a stolen plane. If you steal a plane out of the sky, it "obviously" crashed, just like we all thought for the first four or five days of this.

Anything they'd steal from within Pakistan is likely owned by people with strong ties to the Pakistani government. The kind of people who would have the connections to find out who did it and hold them personally accountable. You don't shit where you eat.

Isn't this an awfully complex way to get to one individual? Can't you just nab him at the airport at either end if you're so sure he's on the flight?

If you're trying to get one individual or even a group, STEALING A PLANE out of the air and drawing international scrutiny seems like a terrifically inefficient way of doing it.

Couldn't it maybe have been a piece of cargo that was the target and not a person? Perhaps, something that a passenger was traveling with?

But you'd have to know that cargo was going to be on board beforehand. From the sounds of it, the pilots were well prepared to execute this plan. Assuming of course this is even remotely what really happened.

Passenger lists would be known in advance. My guess is if they wanted some piece of material/cargo enough to pull off an operation like this, they would have just taken the cargo itself. It would presumably be something so valuable/unique that the owner wasn't going to just file a "missing baggage" claim. If it was about cargo, it would also seem that it would be more efficient to steal the cargo, and then blow up the plane. That would make the original owner of the item believe it was permanently lost/destroyed vs. being in this unknown state, and possibly giving the owner time to react or inform other governments.

Provided that the plane was deliberately flown in-tact to an unknown location, my personal guess would be that this was about 1 or more individuals on the plane specifically.

I also doubt it's about the plane itself. This specific plane is now a highly visible piece of equipment, and it would be fairly easy to obtain planes with similar load-bearing capacity in less obvious means.

Good point ... so someone should be going through the cargo manifests. If it was travelling with a person but as luggage, there's no guarantee the airline would know about it.

Satoshi was on board!

As was the Rotschild family!

20 freescale semiconductor employees on board.

And so "they" hijack a plane to get these guys? Wouldn't it be easier to just kidnap them at gunpoint from their hotel?

The freescale connection is a total red herring. Either they intended to land/crash the plane somewhere and failed, or the plane was the target and it's now sitting in some deserted desert airstrip getting retrofitted for whatever mission it is intended for.

All that effort, and still no guarantee that they will actually work with you. Some may be willing to die, others might stealthily sabotage the product, etc. And if you can provide 20 freescale engineers with what they need to actually make something, you can probably just hire people normally.

And? Finish the thought.

Would an embargoed country like Iran consider them worth the risk? It would be a pretty serious international incident if they were found out. And if you hold the passengers too long, you can't claim "some crazy terrorist/spy/actor" was working without authorization and here are your people back.

Wow, thats scary. Some countries would kill to have engineers with specific skill sets. Maybe these guys were worth it.

"UPDATE - Monday, March 17, 2014 - 12:15 PM EST Some have raised the statement that TCAS doesn’t work if the transponder is disabled… this is only partially correct. Other planes TCAS would NOT see MH370 at all. MH370 would not actively query other planes as it’s transponder is off HOWEVER it could still listen to any transponder output from other planes that are actively transmitting. SQ68 would have been actively transmitting while in-range of Subang ATC center.

Even if TCAS on MH370 wasn’t working for some reason, an in-expensive portable ADS-B receiver paired with an iPad and Foreflight app would allow a pilot to receive the ADS-B output being transmitted by SQ68 at that time."

> Even if TCAS on MH370 wasn’t working for some reason, an in-expensive portable ADS-B receiver paired with an iPad and Foreflight app would allow a pilot to receive the ADS-B output being transmitted by SQ68 at that time."


That ADS-B receiver runs about $20-30.

I think the level of sophistication required increasingly points to a much simpler explanation than terrorism.

why do people underestimate what terrorist groups are capable of? Some have training from various countries and quite a few have financial and material backing.

If anything, the common theme on this site was to find every possible explanation other than terrorism. Sorry to be the party pooper, but there are people out there who operate without regard to our beliefs and at times love to exploit the stories we tell ourselves.

Yes, but I think what Herbig is saying is that the increased sophistication of assumptions means decreased likelihood that this was a deliberate hijacking. We get further away from Occam's razor in order to satisfy that.

As of yet we haven't seen any group take responsibility, no claims of hostages or anything remotely indicative of this. So if it was taken by a terrorist group, where is the terrorism they plan to conduct with it?

This is the kind of target that would have someone claiming responsibility. The plane wasn't from a country that's known for disproportionate responses to attacks(i.e. the US or Russia). I would figure that if any group actually did pull this off, they'd be making public announcements that they took down the plane, or were holding it for ransom.

Brace yourself, I'm going to go further into conspiracy land, but there's the possibility the end goal wasn't just to steal a plane for scrap metal, or to use it as a ride for the local fair. If that's the case, you'd want the world to continue thinking it disappeared in the ocean, and you don't want to raise any alarms by taking credit.

The 777 is a fairly common long distance aircraft. Would it be possible to give it a new paint job, and then in similar fashion to the OP, fly in the shadow of an existing flight?

For example, you paint it up like a Lufthansa 777, and then try to follow one of those flight paths at some point between London and New York. If anyone gets a visual on the mystery plane flying into US airspace, it looks like a commercial flight simply not responding. Not quite as suspicious as a jet or military aircraft. Would they shoot down a commercial 777 that's flying a standard route, with no indication of it being hijacked, or a threat?

I'll admit, the above idea is absurd, but this entire situation is making little sense. I hope we get some answers one day.

Edit: A lot of people are saying in other comments that hijacking a plane isn't an effective method of acquiring a 777, or stealing cargo, or kidnapping people. However, it's been 10 days, and we simply know the plane disappeared. That seems pretty effective, a 777, 230 passengers, and cargo, all gone, and no one even knows if they were targeted, or if the plane malfunctioned and crashed in the ocean. If any of the above were of value to someone, it wasn't only effective, it was near perfect.

I've had a feeling for several days, but I don't know if it is technically possible. After reading your post I wonder if it is possible to fly as high as possible until you reach the target and then you nose dive to the ground. I can't help thinking that the summit in The Hague next week would be a perfect opportunity if someone was planning such an act.

Aum Shinrikyo aerosolised and released anthrax for a week. They were caught. They didn't make any announcement about it. Announcing it a few days afterwards would have caused significant panic and distress.

(Luckily they used the "wrong" anthrax, so not much harm done).

The same organisation also did odd things in Australia. They made sarin and VX gas, tested that on sheep, and the. Used the gases in several assassinations.

They released sarin in Matsumoto, killing 8 people and harming 200. They didn't claim that attack.

Aum Shinrikyo are well funded, have smart people working for them, and are happy to murder people.

You mean "was", "had", and "were", since everybody connected with the sarin attacks is now arrested or dead. The rump "Aleph" group is a shadow of its former self, has renounced their predecessor's tactics, and is very heavily monitored.

Also, IIRC Aum never used anthrax (although they did stockpile it), only sarin and VX, which are chemical agents, not biological.

I'm kind of relieved that they are much diminished.

Here are some links to the anthrax stuff:



This attack could have been significantly worse.

Well if anything, we are certainly doing a good job of telling future whack jobs just what to do if they want to try it.

China isn't exactly a country I would mess with, I think they would be about as restrained as Russia. Terrorist would expect a big response from them, or do they see them the same as pre-Bush US?

Even if they got the plane for later use, just trying to use it would be amazingly difficult. However we did tell them how we knew it flew so they do know what to knock out to fly it again.

As for claiming responsibility, disappearing a plane and not claiming it is simply amazing, do it twice and aviation will shut down in that part of the world, do it three times, well hell.

What if it was a heist? With a price tag of ~300 Million dollars it is a tempting target for some sophisticated thieves.

When, on that sliding scale, does a hijacking become a theft?

What would be the point in stealing a 777? There are not that many of them, really, and their history is usually recorded in extensive detail. I think it's unlikely in the extreme that anybody could successfully pass off the aircraft as their own without anybody noticing any inconsistencies.

Maybe the plane wasn't stolen for its intrinsic worth, but what it was carrying.

Not sure if your question is rhethorical, but… a hijacking is when what you are stealing moves on its own (and you use that ability in the process of getting it). If you ask: When does a hi-jacking becomes a theft? as in: it still was a hijacking, but actually should be understood as a theft? Well, depending on what you mean: either when what is being carried inside is more valuable than the carrier (i.e. the hijacking was just a convenient way to get the thing) or, when, oppositely, the carrier is more valuable that what is being carried (and the hijacking was actually the theft of the vehicle, not its content).

In other words: Yes. I’m not sure what you meant, but the answer is yes.

Acts of violence without the "publicity" are not terrorism.

Spot on, why would a terrorist guy hijack a plane, fly under the radar following another planes just to hide itself? They could just hijack the plane and fly straight to the target and crash into it 911 style...

I don't know that it's underestimation so much as Occam's razor

Why do terrorists only get to be guys in caves? What was the difference between a pirate and a privateer in the 19th century? A government endorsement?

Wasn't that always the difference?

I think it's scary to think about the terrorist plots. If terrorist are capable of such feats as an undetected hijacking of an airliner, what else are they capable of? Putting their hands on some amount of nuclear waste? What kind of future plans other then the hijacking itself may include the airliner?

I was lolling my head off. I never understood why a way more complicated explanation is more appealing to people.

For two reasons: simplicity doesn’t really have a good metric to be minimised, not when it comes to unexpected, seemingly daring or irrational behaviour. Batman’s Jocker character provides tons of example of that, but more to the point at stake: some might see a plane cashing without a trace as complex, while others think hiding is hard. Some might see a highly normalised Relational table as simple, because it can be safely explored it it’s entire possibility space, while others prefer to have no norm, and one long list of untyped events, because its assumed structure is straightforward.

When it comes to likelihood and explanations, Dan Ariely has done tremendous work on explaining how a more detailed story, especially one pandering to our anecdotal prejudice, seems more likely: He commonly gives the example of how a shy person seems more likely to become a librarian than a factory worker but… ‘shy’ isn’t very specific trait, and the less glamorous option is ten times more likely overall, making the likelihood for a shy person to be screwing bolts far higher, dozens of times actually, than lending books.

There you have both: Are they terrorists? Are they skilled? Can pilots make mistakes? Both are unlikely events that may or may not match our experience, actually our mediated experience: few people have met active terrorist and lived (well, the same Dan Ariely is a known exception) or been flown by a bad pilot and been able to tell the story.

It's not complexity that they like, as much as a comfortable prejudice, that either Hollywood-grade airplane-acrobatics are common, or that horrible people are very cunning. You can quote statistics, but then again I don’t recommend it: you’ll become tedious, dull and insensitive before you are even done explaining your methodology about average-end-of-quality-of-life (death is too… binary) and how airplane catastrophies are actually generally positive.

I, for one, can’t get out of my head that there is an increasing disparity in every industry, especially all cultural ones, leading to PR becoming overly sophisticated, and that promoting a movie requires connexion to up to News casters (obviously, see all ‘promo’ segments) that might have been upped to pirates (for documenting Captain Philipps) therefore… this must be Liam Neeson promoting his latest action flick. That’s like, such a good idea I can’t believe no one has tried it earlier.

I'm looking at Russia, and thinking that it would be very convenient for them for Ukraine to drop off the news... which it largely did when this broke.

Now what could cause that - perhaps a good mystery. Everyone likes a good mystery.

Baikonur is a pretty f'ing good place to hide something like a 777, and is very proximal to the last possible position. Been there. Middle of nowhere. Airstrip is high security, remote, and has underground hangers. Local populace are very well versed in "I see nothing". It's also jurisdictionally weird, being a bit of Kaz rented to Russia as sovereign territory, meaning that any legal search would be very tricky to arrange to say the least.

Add that to the big old pile of theories.

Wait, you don't seriously think that Russia disappeared a Malaysian airliner (and hundreds of international citizens) to distract the world (?) from Crimea. That's just fucking absurd.

Oh, it's totally absurd - but what about this situation isn't?

It's pretty unlikely, though, given that it was loaded with Chinese nationals, and if they got rumbled... that'd be some fallout, hopefully just diplomatic.

The USA bombed Yugoslavia to distract the world from Bill Clinton fooling around with an intern. Putin plays to win and if he doesn't get caught, what's a couple hundred airline passengers to him?

The US bombed Yugoslavia pursuant to its commitments to NATO, which voted to intervene in the conflict.

Under heavy US influence. You use the tools at hand to achieve the goals you want.

Phil the Lewinsky affair (investigation/media sensation) went on literally for months and months (years?). Sit around long enough and the President of the US will do something that you can say "Look! A big decision. Clearly that's a distracting event!!" It's pretty intellectually weak buddy.

> The USA bombed Yugoslavia to distract the world from Bill Clinton fooling around with an intern.

That's a rather controversial claim. You could probably make the case that, instead, the Clinton Administration exploited the Right's obsession with the Lewinsky affair to drown out any serious domestic criticsm of its policy in Yugoslavia.

It doesn't have to be only a distraction. There could be hostage negotiations happening between governments right now.

I don't hold much value to this theory for now, but it's not totally absurd given how many truthers think 9/11 was run by the US itself. This isn't as bad as that.

> Sadly, I feel like whatever happened, the amount of sophistication involved increasingly points toward the involvement of one or more state actors. If that's the case, I'm starting to doubt that we'll ever find out what happened to this plane...

Indeed. And not just the "what", but the "why" as well.

Why? Three cases of pilots committing suicide with big jets in the last few years. Silk Air 185, Egypt Air 990, LAM 470.

So either (a) it's an act of war by another country or (b) the far simpler a pilot committed suicide.

However, it if was a state actor, would you as the US tell people that? Wars cost trillions. Perhaps just sweep it under the rug.

If you want to kill yourself - you just fly the plane into the ground during landing or takeoff. It is way too elaborate to get to the no mans land and then fly 5 hours and crash somewhere.

Lookup Silk Air 185. Pilot went to lengths to disable CVR and FDR so that there was no record of him incapacitating the FO and directing the plane into the ground. He had an insurance policy he took out that day. Some people don't want to have a wikipedia article saying they murdered 238 people. So, fly it into the middle of no where and no one will ever know. It's working so far.

I'm not at all an expert on the topic but I would guess that people who are willing to commit suicide are emotionally troubled and may not act in predictable or rational ways.

The current administration wants a reason to increase the military budget, so they would tell people. Aside from that, if it likely got out that US officials knew, it would be a scandal of epic proportions.

It's only one vague point of interest among many, but there were twenty Freescale employees on board flight 370. http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/03/09/malaysia-airlines-...

I don't understand what the twenty Freescale employees have to do with anything and I keep seeing this fact mentioned in every discussion about MH370.

How could they be important/valuable/dangerous enough to justify the hijacking or destruction of a commercial airliner containing hundreds of passengers? That sounds completely insane to me.

It would be much much easier to get to any of the passengers while they were still on the ground. Hijacking the aircraft and stealthily landing it somewhere is such a complex plan that it's just too ridiculous.

Really? I don't see any sign yet that the flight 370 hijacking involved unusual danger, difficulty or expense for the culprits: so far, as best we can see, it looks like stealing candy from a baby. Obviously to get people off it alive you'd need manpower and infrastructure, but either a dusty old Soviet-era airbase in metaphorical or literal Kazakhstan, or a ship to pick people up after a ditching in calm water somewhere, would be sufficient. Many state actors could arrange one or both of those without serious difficulty (some non-state actors too). I can't think of a way to kidnap a handful of Freescale engineers all at once from urban China or urban Malaysia that could be described as much much easier.

That said, I think it's highly improbable that the Freescale guys were targeted like this, but mainly because the political consequences of being caught doing something like this would probably be much too painful for most of the states who might really benefit from debriefing those engineers at length.

Yes, really. You are looking at it after the fact. Paying off a pilot who is skilled enough to fly the aircraft evading all radar and land it unassisted at night or early dawn on some remote airbase would be a major expense. Paying someone to kill off the rest of the 220 passengers would be a big challenge as well. And everybody involved would know that and the additional risk and thus demand much more money. You would have to find such an airbase. And you would have people at the airbase to take care of everything, including hiding the jet from satellites. And the airbase would have to be unused and remote. Ditching the aircraft safely into calm waters is even more unrealistic. First of all AFAIK it has never been successfully done with a wide-body aircraft and even in a small-body aircraft it would be a major risk. It would require perfect weather and calm ocean. And it would have happened at night!

There are a ton of risks involved in all of this. How could they hijackers have known that the Malaysian air force wasn't properly looking at its radar? They could have scrambled jets at that point and all of this complicated plan would have been for nothing. What if the flight they allegedly used for the radar shadow would have been delayed or they would have been delayed? What if there had been a military ship with their own radar on an exercise or patrol? After all they flew over one of the busiest water lanes in the world with an active piracy problem. What if ...

You are looking at it after the fact and not from the perspective of someone who had to come up with the plan and evaluate all the risks.

I'm not saying that kidnapping or killing a handful of people on the ground would be easy. But compared to such an unprecedented and skilled aircraft hijacking plan it seems like a piece of cake. Not to forget all the attention that MH370 gets.

> What if the flight they allegedly used for the radar shadow would have been delayed or they would have been delayed?

A ground contact could easily watch for the shadow plane's takeoff and indicate via radio that the operation was a go. It's quite possible that they had multiple windows of opportunity if all they wanted was the plane. Of course if it had to be that particular flight due to passengers or cargo it would be a different story.

> Paying off a pilot who is skilled enough to fly the aircraft evading all radar and land it unassisted at night or early dawn on some remote airbase would be a major expense. Paying someone to kill off the rest of the 220 passengers would be a big challenge as well. And everybody involved would know that and the additional risk and thus demand much more money. You would have to find such an airbase. And you would have people at the airbase to take care of everything, including hiding the jet from satellites. And the airbase would have to be unused and remote.

If you wanted to use one of the actual Malaysian Airlines pilots to divert the plane, I expect you might have great difficulty being confident about approaching the right guy (if any) without first being turned down and reported. Likely nothing else in the above is unduly difficult for a number of state actors. The rest of the passengers might not be killed either.

> Ditching the aircraft safely into calm waters is even more unrealistic. First of all AFAIK it has never been successfully done with a wide-body aircraft and even in a small-body aircraft it would be a major risk. It would require perfect weather and calm ocean. And it would have happened at night!

Perhaps, though if the plane went south to the Indian Ocean SATCOM arc it would apparently have been daylight when it was last pinged. (Source: http://www.airliners.net/aviation-forums/general_aviation/re... ) The primary radar reports seem to suggest otherwise though.

> There are a ton of risks involved in all of this. How could they hijackers have known that the Malaysian air force wasn't properly looking at its radar? They could have scrambled jets at that point and all of this complicated plan would have been for nothing. What if the flight they allegedly used for the radar shadow would have been delayed or they would have been delayed? What if there had been a military ship with their own radar on an exercise or patrol? After all they flew over one of the busiest water lanes in the world with an active piracy problem. What if ...

Flight 370 in all probability was pinged several times by primary radar without any decisive response. Someone whose job was to be well-informed about these things a) might well choose to take the calculated risk that Malaysia would do nothing effective and b) would likely have been right.

> You are looking at it after the fact and not from the perspective of someone who had to come up with the plan and evaluate all the risks.

> I'm not saying that kidnapping or killing a handful of people on the ground would be easy. But compared to such an unprecedented and skilled aircraft hijacking plan it seems like a piece of cake.

On the contrary, I think that any such alternative plan to kidnap and interrogate a handful of the Freescale guys would probably seem at least as risky if you described it in some detail, then looked at it with as much scepticism as you've directed at the flight-370 version.

I think the real primary reason to discount it at the moment is indeed the attention: the political blowback for being caught would be too painful, even if you'd had the minimal good sense not to deliberately kill the Chinese or US citizens on board. It would be a huge causus belli, more or less a second 9/11. Any attempt to misdirect the blame would likely not hold up long. (And a few secondary ones: China is the #1 usual suspect for military-industrial espionage on the US at present, and there are several additional reasons it wouldn't want to, or have to, pull something like this. A state hijacker would presumably be well informed enough not to be caught out by the disabling-ACARS-doesn't-shut-down-SATCOM gotcha. And probably if you pull a random airliner off its course in SE Asia you're quite likely to catch a significant number of interesting-looking people like the Freescale group.)

> On the contrary, I think that any such alternative plan to kidnap and interrogate a handful of the Freescale guys would probably seem at least as risky if you described it in some detail, then looked at it with as much scepticism as you've directed at the flight-370 version.

I doubt it because the aircraft simply adds a huge amount of risk and has little benefit. The only two benefits are that they are all in one place and that they are on a vehicle which can bring them out of the country. But the former could certainly be achieved in another way. Where they on a business trip in Malaysia? That would simplify it a lot because you could get them easily in the hotel or even better on the transfer to the airport.

The latter is almost perfect. You hijack the minibusses used by the transfer company. You load up the unsuspecting employees. Drive them to a hideout and either force them with weapons or by using knock-out gas. Wait a few hours until it's night. And then you can drive them to the coast, load them into a small boat, and bring them to a larger vessel waiting off the coast. There are of course risks, like a random police encounter or someone noticing you loading people onto a small boat. But to me it seems they pale in comparison to successfully hijacking an aircraft, flying it unassisted while evading radar to a hidden location, which is far away from any civilians or foreign military infrastructure, getting rid of 220 people, getting rid of a huge aircraft.

But in the end who would be worth all this attention and money? I guess buying off the person you want would be cheaper. If some country wanted to hire the Freescale guys then promising each $1m/yr would probably be cheaper and significantly less risky.

Twenty blatant murders in China might - MIGHT - make to the sidebar on HuffPo.

Hijacking an airliner has captivated the attention of the entire planet. If they wanted to get rid of these guys stealthily this is not the way.

This is a very important point. I haven't yet seen a satisfactory conspiracy theory that explains why anybody would pursue this sort of action in the full glare of international publicity, and it's hard to imagine someone being good enough to pull this off, yet not realize this would happen. There aren't many conspiracies that benefit from continuous, sustained attention of this scale, or that could plan on absolutely no incriminating piece of evidence being turned up anywhere, by anyone, on such a large scale.

Perhaps a David Copperfield comeback?


>If they wanted to get rid of these guys stealthily this is not the way. //

Isn't it a "hidden in plain site" sort of stealth though.

Everyone assumes that the plane was lost naturally and so there is no-one looking to find those you've taken. Meanwhile you can have the plane melted down, dispose of bodies and cargo and keep whatever it was you wanted without any one (or country) knowing you've got it.


Who assumes that the plane was lost naturally at this point? Almost no one.

it's making a come-back. especially since the Malaysians have revised their timing on the comm-system shutdowns and there are no terror links to the passengers/crew.

Hijacking airplanes after 9/11 is much more risky. Until 9/11, there was never a plot that involved intentionally hijacking an airliner with the intent of using it as a weapon and killing everyone on board. The assumption was "Oh, if we just give them what they want they'll let us all live."

Post-9/11, if anyone tries to hijack an airplane they're going to have every able-bodied male between the ages of 18 and 40 come at them with the expectation that they're fighting for their life. I know I personally would take my chances that they don't have a bomb: if I do nothing, I would assume I am definitely going to die. If I do something, the passengers collectively could overpower them and hope were bluffing about the bomb. If they weren't, it's the same outcome as doing nothing.

>Until 9/11, there was never a plot that involved intentionally hijacking an airliner with the intent of using it as a weapon and killing everyone on board.

Fedex Flight 705 (7 April 1994), before 9/11. Pilot tried to kill other pilots so he could crash plane into FedEx hub and destroy it and employees. Was subdued, barely, by a pilot with cracked skull that then managed to land the plane.

Egypt Air 990 (31 October 1999), before 9/11. Pilot deliberately killed everyone on board, thought it wasn't a weapon.

True, but not necessarily decisive. If you're the pilot, or someone else with a way past that new-and-improved post-9/11 cockpit door, you can likely make it work for you. Or if you have some way of getting an automatic weapon or some other useful tool on board (far from easy of course!) you can still hold off large numbers of desperate, but unarmed, passengers.

Didn't the pilot have a penchant for allowing attractive young girls into the cockpit? That's was front page news here in the UK.

Assuming the hijackers weren't already in the cockpit. It seems to me that the most likely people taking control of the plane in the situation stipulated were the people already in control of the plane when it left the ground.

The majority of hijackings have the original pilot at the controls under duress. In 9/11, it was unusual that the hijackers had done flight training and piloted the planes. That was because the pilots wouldn't have done what those hijackers wanted.

Also after 9/11 every plane would be just blown away from the interceptors.

Because a lot of the people talking about the Freescale engineers are themselves one kind of engineer or another, and THEY are important, so ergo the Freescale employees have to be important.

It's like in other disasters where lots of people get killed but the news focuses on the two Americans standing nearby.

I also doubt that the employees had anything to do with it, but the most likely scenario I can think of that would involve the engineers is a country with sanctions imposed wanting to fabricate chips. On the other hand, any country capable of this probably could manage to get hold of as many chips as they wanted without kidnapping Freescale employees.

If you were a nation-state you could just create a start-up 'front' company, seeded with laundered money, and hire the best of those that apply.

And if you didn't have the money to actually continue funding a start-up, you could create the front, offer to fly all the employees to some destination-team-building exercise and kidnap them from there.

It's a bit Bond/cyberpunk-esque, but one could imagine a scenario where an evil villain could short a company's stock and then kill off 20 extremely valuable employees of said company. Not saying that's what happened here, but 20 of the right employees of a company could be very significant.

Probably not these employees, this company, or this time. NYSE:FSL peaked around $23 and is still around $22. There are 300 million shares, and from the chart it looks like recent volume of a few million, so the potential profit is probably less than what you could simply sell the 777 to the bad guys for.

Most companies with hundreds of billions in market cap would not send many important people on a single plane together. Freescale, not quite that large, arguably made a significant business mistake here, but the market impact so far seems limited.

It's a bit Bond/cyberpunk-esque, but one could imagine a scenario where an evil villain could short a company's stock and then kill off 20 extremely valuable employees of said company

When was the last time you heard of 20 employees of a company being murdered?

To do so by killing 220+ other people makes such a theory even more absurd.

It happened to 13 separate companies on September 11, 2001 (http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/twintowers/). It was sort of not targeted at those companies, but on the other hand it sort of was. And it certainly had huge market impact.

It happened to 13 separate companies on September 11, 2001 (http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/twintowers/). It was sort of not targeted at those companies, but on the other hand it sort of was. And it certainly had huge market impact.

I knew I should have specified something along the lines of "and as part of a criminal fraud or theft or deliberate talent destroying act, or..."

As you say, the sole purpose of 9/11 wasn't to target those specific companies.

Yeah, 10th of April 2010. [2010 Polish Air Force Tu-154 crash wikipedia link]

You'll need to explain that one for me.

Right now, it sounds awfully like you're trying to pin a story on an accepted tragedy. (for me at least...)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2002_Karachi_bus_bombing could qualify (a bit short of the 20 casualties, but not for lack of trying).

Incidentally, this is exactly how you can make a lot of money early on in the GTA V story mode.

That's exactly it why would anybody put this much effort into making a plane disappear and why this plane.

Given all this effort it is very unlikely any of the passengers will be found alive so what would warrant the murder of all the passengers.

Digging should turn up something very interesting.

time to figure out who was on that flight, perhaps it was someone so important that taking a plane full of passengers was worth the cost.

A team of freescale chip engineers for one.

Also, the answer might well be "what" instead of who. Many people have pointed out that the cargo manifest hasn't been published, and that the airline declared 50 less seats as available for boarding than the plane had. This means it had several tons of cargo on board.

While I believe the full manifest has not been published, we do know that there were a few tons of mangosteens present in the cargo.


Mangosteen is delicious, I'll give them that.

totally agree. it must be a what/who scenario by merit of the lengths to which they went to get the entire plane. this is surely a state-level intelligence action.

the blocking off of passenger seats often indicates an especially heavy or oddly weighted cargo.

something else that is notable is that you know several large world governments have continuous satellite tracking of this flight but are not sharing any information about it.

> something else that is notable is that you know several large world governments have continuous satellite tracking of this flight

They do?

If they did, they would know where the plane is and wouldn't be spending the money on the search and rescue efforts.

(Not to join in on the conspiracy theories, but...)

If you were part of the plan to hide this plan, surely you'd go along with the ruse and send some search teams to go look at some empty water somewhere else.

I'd guess the crews on the ships and planes would have to do so many hours of training a year anyway, so them circling about for a while would probably count towards that.

Gold? needs to be something worth stealing a plane for.

Reportedly some 50 seats were blocked off to save weight for extra cargo. Suppose each person plus their baggage weighs 80 kg, that's 4000 kg. Let's say 50% of that is taken up by containers, packing, and security devices, yielding 2000 kg of gold. It comes out to 90MM USD at today's prices. A lot of money, but probably not enough to go to so much trouble.

>50 seats were blocked off to save weight for extra cargo.

Combining this fact with the 20 Freescale engineers that were on board is it possible they were transporting some kind of important prototype chips?

I don't think gold is valuable enough for stealing a whole plane and killing 220 passengers.

Gold, for it's weight, is very expensive. Transporting gold of high enough volumes for it to be worth killing so many people, steal a plane as well as making all of that possible wouldn't be worth it, I would say.

If the plane was carrying a tonne of gold(and could have been carrying more) then that gold would be worth 44 million dollars[1].


The plane itself costs more than $200 million

Yes, but I imagine that you can sell gold a lot easier without having to explain where it comes from,than a Malaysian Airlines branded 777.

The plane itself is worth about 6 tons of gold

Sold where and how?

2 tons of gold are something that a reasonable person can actually expect to be able to convert into money without undue risk to his person. A stolen airplane isn't.

People keep talking about how this needs so much sophistication that it's probably a state action.

All I can see is something that one person with good planning could have done. That is, the pilot or the co-pilot waits until the other guy visits bathroom, climbs high enough and disables pressurization to knock out/kill the passengers and the rest of the crew, then disable communications, turn off transponder, sneak out of controlled airspace behind another plane, land anywhere with an unused strip with a truck waiting, abscond with the cargo.

That requires sophistication and careful planning, but is not beyond the realm of the possible.

a reasonable person can convert 2 tons of gold to cash without undue risk?

Given that 2 tons of stolen gold can't be legally sold, I'd suspect that anyone with that kind of cash on hand might be the kind it would be risky to do business with...

A reasonable person can convert smallish amounts of gold to cash without undue risk, and gold can be easily worked and divided by basically anyone.

If you stole a ton of gold, you could sell it piecemeal for the rest of your life and live like a king.


Who downvotes someone over mangosteens??

It would be much easier to get a person on the ground instead of hijacking a large aircraft and then magically landing it somewhere without being noticed.


>You think that such acts of criminal mass murder are common enough that this is a reasonable question to ask?

When the evidence you have stops fitting the (previously) most likely hypotheses, you have to consider the (previously) less likely hypotheses.

>An as aside: I don't know why reading such flippant comments about possibly murdering 240+ people upsets me so much.

It's not really flippant, it's speculation on the motive. Everyone wants to know why those 240 people were killed, or if they are possibly still alive.

I remember when the first passenger list came out, one was obscured (passenger 84). I thought it may have been because they were unable to contact the family before releasing the name.

Looking into it again, this page [0] seems to suggest it is a Uyghur name?

[0] http://therealsingapore.com/content/who-passenger-84-mh370-a...

I think it's most likely the plane will be used in a terrorist action. For example in the next week there's a nucleair summit being held in The Hague:


It would be a very hard to reach target, though.

As has been pointed out elsewhere, there are literally thousands of disused airframes nestled in various out of the way corners of the globe. If your goal is really to fly an explosive laden jet into something, absconding with a loaded passenger jet is about the least clandestine method imaginable.

And if you decide to go down the route of hijacking a passenger jet, why not hijack one near your intended target?

Chances are there are hundreds of aircraft flying right next to your target everyday, simply hijack one of those on the day and fly it right into your target. 9/11 already proved the viability of this tactic.

Not saying that this is likely, but one explanation is that they want to weaponize the plane first.

I think that hypothesis has been disproven a couple of times at least!

This whole affair is taking such a conspiracy laden turn that it makes me miss Tom Clancy.

Russians building up rhetoric and pushing tensions to a high not seen since the cold war? An airliner that mysteriously disappears with some evidence pointing toward an elaborate hijacking scheme? Tell me that doesn't sound like an outline for one of his books.

I'm not trying to be flippant with the fact that hundreds of people lost their lives or that friends and families are being crushed by the uncertainty. It's just a thought that springs to mind.

I hope you're wrong. If a state was involved that would mean that boarding a plane is extremely dangerous from now on.

This case is really suspicious but I still think this was just an accident.

Not really...

Nations (and other organizations) have been carrying out false flag operations since forever. In the 1960s there was Operation Northwoods - a plan by the US government to bomb US civilian aircraft and plant evidence it was Cuba who did it to justify invading Cuba. The Joint Chiefs of Staff signed off on it and it would have been implemented except JFK wouldn't sign off on it.

So even if this had nation state involvement, it is about the same danger to get on an aircraft as it always has been, or go out in a crowded event, or theater, school, etc... which are also targets for terrorism. Example would be the failed Lavon Affair http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lavon_Affair

So what do you actually believe? That this was a false flag operation and that the plane is fine and parked somewhere, perhaps it never took off?

It's hard to believe to say the least. If such scenario does exist what makes you think that you can figure it out by yourself?

Did you even read what I wrote? I don't believe either. I don't claim to know anything about the plane. I can't even fathom a guess as to what happened to it.

>what makes you think that you can figure it out by yourself?

I don't think I can figure it out myself, nor did I ever claim to or make any attempt to figure it out myself.

I was replying specifically to "If a state was involved that would mean that boarding a plane is extremely dangerous from now on." I was saying if and that is a big if nation states were involved that boarding a plane would not be extremely dangerous from now on. Not any more dangerous that it currently is, as there has always been a history of nation state involvement in aircraft disaster, it just doesn't happen very often.

>and that the plane is fine and parked somewhere, perhaps it never took off

If this was a false flag operation, the plane and its passengers would almost certainly not be fine. They are generally designed to create death.

Yeah, because states were never behind any deliberate downing of a civilian aircraft, either through external hit or from within the aircraft.

Why is this being downvoted? Are people really so naive as to not be aware of this?

Arguments and supporting evidence is much more highly regarded than pithy sarcasm with nothing to back it up.

At the day and age of google, wikipedia, it should be obvious where to look for those, which are public and very widely known events.

I can think of three with no effort: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iran_Air_Flight_655 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pan_Am_Flight_103 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Korean_Air_Lines_Flight_007

Of course, none of these fit the profile of this incident and all of them occurred before 1990, so, hard to draw a comparison here.

> If a state was involved that would mean that boarding a plane is extremely dangerous from now on.

Why, it wouldn't be the first either destruction or hijacking or both of a plane with nation-state involvement, so I don't see how it would change anything?

This is almost exactly how a plot device in Neal Stephenson's REAMDE plays out. In almost exactly the same part of the world. Bizarre.

Googled "Neal Stephenson README" expecting a thriller involving a government agency plot to inject malicious code into a open-source crypto-library, and the final commmit to the github project made by a hacker found murdered in front of the computer in his basement.

Was disappointed.

Reamde not readme

that's probably CryptoLocker in real life - http://blog.malwarebytes.org/intelligence/2013/10/cryptolock...

I have not read REAMDE, but if that's the case - perhaps REAMDE was the inspiration, which makes it not bizarre at all.

I had the same reaction. Actually, first it's disk encrypting malware which requests payment in bitcoin, now this, what next is going to come true?

Stephenson specialises in seeing the possible and articulating it.

The world of Snow Crash and Diamond Age is a very palpable future.

Indeed, though I was a little suspicious about wether this was really possible. Maybe we'll find out soon.

Wow, you're absolutely correct. I read REAMDE about 2 months ago so the plot is still pretty fresh in my mind. It's a great, so consider this a recommendation.

More likely like a modern William Gibson plot. Mystery and modern technology in the same place. Objects that do not want to be tracked. Definitively Gibson style.

No, you misunderstand. Stephenson actually had a hijacked 747 in one of his books shadowing another to avoid radar detection in the same way as described by this article.

In REAMDE, not a 747 but a small private jet.

The story also had the jet ‘disappear’ on the boundary between ATC zones. This was actually the first thing that came to my mind when I heard the first reports about MH370.

Which I've just finally gotten to reading in the past week or so, not realizing the parallels until I ran across them in the story. Pretty bizarre.

One of the first things that went through my head when I heard this update.

There is a realistic possibility that those piloting the plane used this and/or other stealth techniques and landed intact. There are lots of groups around the world that would love to have a working $250M aircraft. Maybe there is a massive airplane chop shop that this went to, or someone wants to load it up with explosives and fly it to some country they disagree with.

Unfortunately, whether it landed or not, the odds that the passengers are alive are very small. A ransom demand would have been made by now.

I think it's highly unrealistic. The plan simply involves too many risks. First of all how could the potential hijackers know that the Malaysian military wasn't properly monitoring the radar? There would have been a huge risk of the Malaysian military discovering it and scrambling jets.

The collision avoidance system only works when the transponder is enabled. So flying in the radar shadow of another aircraft would take some extreme skill. And wouldn't they have to adjust their position according to the position of the several radar antennas? What about potential mobile radar systems, e.g., on military ships? It would have also all depended on perfectly finding SIA68. What if it had a two hour delay? Not unlikely on international flights.

Where would they secretly land the aircraft? It takes a more than 1km straight and wide runway. And it has to be remote enough from any town or military installation. But they would have to bring large amount of supplies like jet fuel. (Which they would secretly get where?) They would have to deal with 240 people on board. Someone who would steal such an aircraft is certainly ruthless but ruthless enough to murder 240 people? They would have to hide the aircraft from satellite surveillance. It would take a ground crew to refuel and maintain the aircraft.

All in all there are so many things which could go wrong. And it's very unlikely that a bunch of amateurs could pull it off.

...it's very unlikely that a bunch of amateurs could pull it off.

The pilot had decades of experience and a flight simulator in his home where he could practice such things. If he was involved, he probably could have pulled it off.

...how could the potential hijackers know that the Malaysian military wasn't properly monitoring the radar?...

We don't know what the contingency plan was, because fighters weren't dispatched. Maybe pulling off this plan was a million to one shot, and they just got lucky.

IMO, the only reason that one would try for stealth in this situation is if their intention was to land the plane somewhere. If their intention was to crash, they didn't need stealth or 7 hours of flying time. They could have pushed forward on the stick for a few seconds and dove the plane into the ocean.

Flying the aircraft isn't the only problem in such a complicated plan. So even if the pilot was exceptional it would still require many other highly skilled people. And there would be huge risks at every step. It would be thousands of details to get right. Maybe they were just lucky. But it's far more likely that they crashed somewhere, maybe as the result of the hijacking.

And maybe we'll never know...

Personally, I find the whole military radar thing to be extremely suspicious. The fact that this plane flew over the whole country without being noticed even though it was tracked on military radar is just too implausible. Yet it happened.

Personally, I think perhaps somebody on duty was involved somehow. Perhaps bribed, perhaps threatened, maybe both, or just a co-conspirator.

It's a crazy idea and pretty unlikely. But to me it seems like the least unlikely scenario, for now.

I don't think it would take too much skill to merge your radar blip with another airliner. Just pull up behind it and slightly above it (to avoid the wake turbulence) and get close. Radar doesn't have superb spatial resolution, so you don't have to pull perfectly in line with the other plane. As long as you're fairly close to it (within a couple of plane-lengths, I would imagine) then the two planes will show up as a single radar contact. Sitting right behind another plane like that while it's cruising would not be too difficult.

Why would you need a 777 when you can probably pick up old Russian cargo planes much easier and for a fraction of the cost and without needing super skilled pilots?

Extreme long range? It was a 777-200ER (Enhanced Range) - that model holds records for distance flying:


Trust me, you can get an aircraft with enough range to get anywhere in the world in a couple of hops for much less than the cost of organizing a highly sophisticated hijacking operation. And your range is much longer when your aircraft is operated by an apparently legitimate charter service that has permission to fly into most countries and don't have to worry about hiding from radar.

By contrast, the effective range of a suspicious phantom plane against fighter jets on high alert is zero.

If we assume that there is some level of outside planning here, with maybe a state actor involved, then getting the plane secretly fuelled up beyond the assumed 7.5 hour range would perhaps not be too difficult.

What are the odds that if you had that plane, you could 'sneak in' to US airspace and pull another 9/11?

That's why I find it difficult to believe that anyone would steal that plane with the goal of attacking the US (or any country with a well developed air defense system).

Until that plane is found I suspect people will be keeping a very close eye on wide body jets approaching and within their airspaces.

It could also be used to attack countries without a well developed air defense system. It might not even be a country in the west.

Depends. If it had been done in the "Huh, that's strange" stage of this mystery, then I'd say the odds are pretty good. But with no communication for this many days, the odds are that whatever the plan was, it didn't work, and the plane is crashed or unable to fly, wherever it is, and that the US, especially, is looking out for an attack.

It's one thing to have a big airplane.

It's another thing to have a big invisible airplane.

The fact that the plane was taken up to 45,000, far above it's recommended limit, bothers me in this regard. What would the effects be on the passengers? Would this have been orchestrated in order to somehow incapacitate them?

I have no idea if the cockpit is pressurized separately from the rest of the plane, or if there's any way to tamper with the deployment of the plane's oxygen masks. It's all speculation on my part.

The pressurisation is not independent, but the emergency O2 is - the cockpit is supplied from tanks and the cabin from chemical generators.

The cabin generators can be disabled by tripping a circuit breaker (and they only last about 12 minutes anyway).

The cockpit isn't airtight - it would be at the same pressure as the rest of the cabin.

The recommended limit around 43,100 ft. 45,000 ft isn't that far above it so it's possible that there may be no impact on passengers at that level (if you're saying 43,100ft is safe, you're going to have a margin for error, it's not going to depressurize at 43,101 ft).

Certainly if it was part of your plan to incapacitate the passengers it seems overly complex, risky and uncertain.

That said, given what happened on Flight 77, if you were hijacking a plane, a plan to deal with the passengers would make a lot of sense. I'm just not sure this plan to do so does.

There are huge safety margins in aviation.

Ascending to 45,000 ft or above is an aerodynamics issue, not a pressurization issue. Pressurization ("cabin altitude") will adjust automatically.

There are not many ways to incapacitate hundreds of passengers.

This is true. When I started thinking about it nothing obvious came to mind.

But that doesn't change the fact that flying at 45,000ft probably wouldn't do it and would be a very risky way of not doing it.

The cockpit isn't pressurised separately. It's possible to alter oxygen masks deployment, I know for sure it must be done landing at some altitude airports like Quito which are higher up than normal cabin altitude.

De pressurizing the plane would be extremely dangerous anyway, even with your oxygen mask on. Among other things the cabin temperature would drop to -50°C or so, the low pressure could induce fatal embolism, loss of consciousness, etc.

its all pressurised under the same envelope. The pilots have oxygen masks.

Who is to say that any ransom demand would have been made publicly? It may well be that one has been made but that we just don't know about it.

The hijackers would probably want to make it public. It's an insurance for their safety right now. A government might simply bomb the parked aircraft and blame it on a crash or the hijackers.

There are ways to cover that - not all the hijackers will be with the plane. All they've got to do is keep some proof of the negotiation for the survivors to publish and that would be easily disprovable.

Besides, if they knew where the plane is to bomb it this would be a hostage situation right now. They might be in a country which wouldn't welcome the incursion but I can't see the Chinese being overly bothered about that given the number of their citizens on-board.

But why not make it public?

Because publicly people don't negotiate with terrorists.

Now we all know that that isn't true so it may be they felt that keeping it quiet (for now at least) would give them a better chance of getting what they want.

>> A ransom demand would have been made by now.

That is exactly what I am scared of. That the intent was never to demand a ransom. Obviously they were after the plane - to use it as a weapon. Or use it as a carrier of some weapon.

In that case, it'd be much less suspicious to purchase a small private jet. No reason to hijack a big airplane everyone would be looking for.

What you get with this plane is huge fuel and cargo capacity not to mention unsupported range.

Neither of which are requirements to do serious damage, and as has been said numerous times before, there are plenty of other planes that meet that criteria that could have been obtained much more easily and not in full view of the public eye.

"Neither of which are requirements to do serious damage"

777-200-er has the range of a tu with hunreds of thousands of pounds more payload and it hold 20x the fuel of a citation x with 10x the mass. It also has double the range of a 777 freighter, with a similar maximum takeoff weight. So these are not interchangeble, but yes they are options.

But they are still not requirements to do serious damage. Do you understand? Someone seeking to do serious damage has much less conspicuous options at their disposal.

"Serious damage" is unspecific and arbitrary.

What makes this obvious?

Can you expand on what groups might be able to orchestrate such a complicated hijacking?

A rogue state like North Korea would have the capability, but they don't really have the motive since they can acquire passenger airplanes by other means. (North Korea's national airline has 27 planes -- if they wanted to make a nuclear kamikaze plane, they'd just use one of those.)

Maybe they didn't want the plane, but someone on the plane. For example, those 20 Freescale Semiconductor employees. North Korea has a history of abducting foreigners, including a South Korean movie director kidnapped by Kim Jong-il to produce films for him.

There's an easier way of getting people. If you want 20 people taking an additional 200 people and an airliner with them seems overly complex compared to, say, hitting them on the back of the head as they're walking home and bundling them in a van.

How is it easier to go around hitting 20 people on the back the the head and then figuring out how to drive them to North Korea at the back of a van without being detected? If your goal is to get a large team of semiconductor engineers against their will, I can hardly think of a more efficient way than simply flying the plane they are on to your country.

It is a lot easier. Of course you would use a ship or even the official Air Koyo flight from KL instead of a van...

The hijacking and stealthily flying it to North Korea are so complex it's beyond ridiculous. There are so many more details which could go wrong and a much bigger international backlash especially from China. And why would they fly back across Malaysia if they wanted to go to North Korea?

How many would come to NK for $1m a year? If I were building a team of engineers in NK that's what I'd be offering rather than an incredibly risky and difficult manuver like this...

And that way you probably get better work out of them than if you're holding them hostage.

On the upside if they are holding a bunch of really smart guys hostage and giving them stuff to build things with then a real Iron Man suit is surely inevitable.

Not to imply I think it's possible, but deniability is an obvious reason not to use your own aircraft.

Deniability would have been a very likely outcome if a convincing crash scenario had been engineered. I suspect that the pilot was supposed to turn off the satcom link at the same time as the transponder. Now that we know that it kept flying for 7 hours and may have been shadowing this other plane, it looks clearly like deliberate theft.

If the last contact of any sort had been the 'good night message', then we would never have known.

Totally unnecessary and melodramatic, in this hypothetical situation all you need is a plane that has no attachment to the nation in question.

Imagine I wanted to kill a person, and I've decided to use a car to do so. I can't use my own car for obvious reasons, so any stolen car will do as long as it doesn't connect to me.

It doesn't make any sense to kill 240 people, including babies and kids. Especially if this is a terrorist act, they could not religiously justify that, especially since these are mainly Chinese people rather than American.

1. Not all terrorists are religious

2. Not all terrorists are after Americans

3. Religious terrorists can find a way to justify anything using their book of choice.

Agree w/ 3. Regarding 1 & 2, I may be somewhat provincial, but is there a non-religious group who has it in for the Chinese?

edit: ... especially one that is capable of this operation and not interested in publicizing their involvement in doing so.

The Tibetans.

This is a plot by a group of violent fundamentalist Buddhist terrorists.


First, before you make statements like that, you need to understand the motivation of the people doing this.

And since we have no idea who did what, where, why and how, its far to early to judge if it made any sense or not.

That is not to say that I condone senseless violence. However to prevent further incidents you must understand the motivations of the perpetrators and understand from their world view. Just saying they are evil isn't going to help you understand why they did it.

After all if you don't understand how desperate they are, you don't know to what level they will stoop.

Note that there was a 'terrorist attack' in China a week or two earlier, in which five Uighur separatists with knives killed 30 random people and wounded hundreds in a crowded train station, before being shot by police. This shows that there are definitely 'terrorists' (not using the scare quotes because I necessarily disagree that they're terrorists, only because I honestly don't know what they are) who are interested in killing large numbers of Chinese people in the name of their cause.

What makes you think these hypothetical terrorists are after Americans, not Chinese? And why is religion the only reason they could be doing this?

did you just use killing of innocent children as a justification against the possibility of this being a terrorist act? Of all the arguments against potential terrorist foundations, and there are many, the action off killing of innocent women and children appears to be the exact thesis for such an action. check, history.

The Chinese are victims to terrorism to;


Terrorists' rationales are often bizarre to non-indoctrinated: witness Oklahoma city bombing or Utøya. Besides if that was a doing of national separatist group in China, they'd have little problem with that.

my guess is that if it was hijacked by terrorists, the act is yet to come. They are after the plane, not the people.

This theory keeps coming up, but it doesn't make much sense.

If your goal is to acquire a working Boeing 777, on a secret airfield somewhere in Western China or Eastern Kazakhstan (see this map for orientation: http://www.airliners.net/uf/109874/phpnIOEWi.jpeg), then you don't have to be particularly smart or rational to realize that hijacking a commercial flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, with 240 people on board, and then attempting to stealthily cross both India and Pakistan, as proposed in the OP, is not your best option.

This leads me to wonder if maybe the cargo was the target. We already heard that the manifest has not been released and that they left 50 seats empty to compensate for the weight.

They just said the cargo was 3-4 tons of mangosteen:


Anything is possible, but my guess is that if they were hijacked, they had a plan that went wrong. It's far more likely, and it's happened before: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethiopian_Airlines_Flight_961

Add to that list:

- A depressurization event, either as a result of an accident or a botched hijacking (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helios_Airways_Flight_522)

- Pilot suicide, with a somewhat unexpected signature (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EgyptAir_Flight_990)

Pretty much anything is possible, indeed. However, I'd recommend this post on airliners.net for a comprehensive sanity check: http://www.airliners.net/aviation-forums/general_aviation/re...

Thanks! That's a good summary post.

This seems the most likely in my opinion. I wonder if the fate of Flight 961 would have been known if the captain hadn't deliberately mislead the hijackers about the direction they were flying in and landed close to a beach?

What i don't get: The aforementioned link to the Ethiopian water landing says: "The incident is the only true water landing of a widebody airliner with survivors."

But: Wikipedia on water landing (ditching) shows a high survival rate http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ditching#Passenger_airplane_wat...

I'm confused.

Most of those are not "widebody airliner". The smaller the plane, the better the chances.

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