The theories behind the disappearance of flight MH370, the plane from the latest Netflix documentary
The tragic disappearance of the Malaysia Airlines flight is still unexplained, but it has sparked a number of possible explanations.
It is nearly a decade since Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 set off from Kuala Lumpur towards Beijing, never to be seen again. The shocking incident sparked a 30-month multinational search and but none of the 239 victims aboard were ever found.
The case has been back in the news recently with the release of a new Netflix documentary, entitled ‘MH370: The Plane That Disappeared’. The documentary brings together accounts from investigators, scientists and journalists involved in the story, as well as the experiences of the family members of those on board.
What do we know about flight MH370?
The flight set off from Kuala Lumpur on 8 March, 2014, heading towards the Chinese capital of Beijing. Flight records show that the plane stayed on course for nearly an hour and the last voice contact with the flight was made at 1.19am Malaysian Standard Time.
Three minutes later the plane disappeared from the air traffic control radar, suggesting that the plane’s transponder stopped functioning over the South China Sea. The final words captured were an individual, thought to be either the pilot or co-pilot, saying: “Good night Malaysian three seven zero”.
Military radars continued to track the flight, however, and we know that it suddenly deviated from the flight path and began to head west towards the Malay Peninsula. At 2.22am the flight reached the edge of military ranger and soon after it disappeared entirely, with no distress calls or signals.
It is thought that the flight could have continued for around six hours before running out of fuel. Malaysian government investigators have since concluded that the plane most likely crashed in the southern Indian Ocean.
Three theories on what happened to flight MH370
The most widely accepted explanation for the tragedy was that the plane simply crashed into the sea, potentially due to a mechanical fault. In the subsequent years there have been three pieces of debris positively identified as being from MH370, with a further 30 potential pieces also found.
The main bulk of the plane has not been found, nor have the bodies of those on board. However Goong Chen, a mathematician from Texas A&M University, has suggested that a vertical descent into the sea could explain the lack of crash wreckage.
He said: “Simply put, a plane hitting the water at an angle would scatter its parts across the surface of the water. But one hitting at a near-vertical angle would shoot into the water with minimal damage and zoom straight to the bottom.”
Conspiracy theorists have claimed that the disappearance of MH370 could have been the work of hijackers. One theory forwarded in the documentary claims that Russian hijackers may have taken over and crashed the plane to distract from the annexation of Crimea.
In fact Dr Kok Soo Chon, author of an official Malaysian government report into the disaster, told reporters in 2018: “We cannot rule out unlawful interference by a third party.”
However it is considered unlikely that any hijackers or terrorists would have gone to such effort and potential risk to carry out an attack of this scale without later claiming responsibility. Furthermore, no clear evidence of foul play has been found.
The Netflix documentary also goes into the possibility that the incident may have been a “murder-suicide plot” carried out by pilot Zaharie Ahmad Shah. Investigators found that his home flight simulator had previously been used to fly a route similar to what the MH370 is thought to have carried out that fateful night.
However the official report dismissed this possibility, saying: “We have examined the pilot and the first officer and we are quite satisfied with their background, with their training, with their mental health.”
“We are not of the opinion that it could have been an event committed by the pilot.”
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