Going Direct: The Disappearance of Malaysia 370

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A panel of experts assembled by the television magazine show 60 Minutes Australia has come down with its verdict on what happened to Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 on March 8, 2014. The mystery riveted a world audience wanting to know what had happened to the plane and its 239 occupants and generated a number of possible scenarios, including a few wild conspiracy theories that don’t merit further detail here.

The two major theories were these: The Boeing 777 suffered a catastrophic mechanical failure that depressurized the plane and killed everyone aboard while sparing the plane’s autoflight capability, which flew the plane until it ran out of fuel thousands of miles later, whereupon it crashed into the Indian Ocean.

Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777
Experts believe the crash of a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777, similar to the one pictured above, was intentional. Photo by Laurent ERRERA from L'Union, France [CC BY-SA 2.0] via Wikimedia Commons
The second theory—and this is the one I’ve subscribed to and helped formulate—was that the disappearance and crash was a deliberate act, a suicide and mass murder. Under this scenario, one of the pilots would have depressurized the plane, disabling or killing everyone aboard and then flying the plane until it ran out of fuel and was crash-landed in the Indian Ocean.

The latter theory is the one that the 60 Minutes Australia panel settled upon. That’s not a big surprise, as it was always the theory that made the most sense with the least number of magic bullet explanations required.

In the weeks and months after the disappearance, I made dozens of appearances on television news shows, most regularly on CNN, where I explained the greater likelihood of the intentional act theory. Some of the basic tenets of my argument drive thinking today, including that when the plane began diverting from its flight path without any communications with ATC while not flying randomly away from the filed flight plan but by overflying other waypoints, something it’s hard to explain if mechanical failure were the culprit.

The 60 Minutes panel, which included experienced 777 pilots and accident investigators, discussed a few new or at least little-discussed pieces of evidence, including that the plane banked twice as it was overflying the captain, Zaharie Ahmad Shah, of the plane’s home town. Experts also discussed the fact that the plane avoided airspace for neighboring countries, indicating that it was being deliberately flown to avoid radar detection. But perhaps the most compelling piece of evidence was a part of a wing leading edge that would have been crushed in a nose down impact but was instead nearly pristine, which strongly suggests that when the plane did crash into the ocean, it was under human control.

While there have been parts of Malaysia 370 recovered over the last two years, the crash site has never been located, though efforts continue.

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