Sequence of Events of MH370 and the probabilities

The mystery of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 continues, as the search area today shifted nearly 700 miles to the northeast following continued analysis of known data of the flight.

Investigative focus also is on the pilot of the flight, while others continue to support mechanical, fire or depressurization theories.

We felt from the second day this was a criminal act of some kind, not some issue with the airplane. The information, we felt, clearly pointed to movements of the airplane as a result of someone in command control of the Boeing 777.

We put together this sequence of events that, to us and apparently also to investigators, that we believe points to no other explanation but human intervention.

 

Sequence MH370

Part of accident investigation is not only to determine what did happen, but also what did not. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famed fictional detective Sherlock Holmes said, “when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” (For those who suggest supernatural causes are responsible for the disappearance of MH370, Mr. Spock from Star Trek also said this in Undiscovered Country.)

Eliminating the impossible

As we considered the possibilities, we couldn’t “eliminate the impossible” but we did eliminate the highly unlikely.

Catastrophic airplane failure

This would have explained total failure of the radios, transponder and ACARS all at once and disappearance of the flight over the Gulf of Thailand, and was the most like explanation in this event. But there was no debris field and no bodies. Also, in this event, there almost certainly would have been a huge fireball, and there was no report of one. Then there was the superb safety record of the 777 itself. So we eliminated this possibility.

Bombing destruction of the airplane

If the plane had been instantly destroyed by a bomb, this amounted to catastrophic destruction. No debris field, no bodies. Eliminated.

Bomb destroys communications and eventually the plane

A bomb might have destroyed communications if in the right place, then the plane eventually broke up. Highly unlikely. There are five radios, two transponders and the ACARS on a 777. Boeing designed the placement of the routing of electronics for the radios in different locations to prevent simultaneously failure, a 777 test pilot told us.  If the plane had been bombed and progressively came apart, it’s likely a radio distress call or a transponder 7700 Mayday signal would have been made–and parts would have been strewn along the flight path. Nothing of the sort happened. Eliminated.

Fire destroys communications, incapacitates the crew and the plane becomes a “ghost” plane.

See the five radios and two transponders comment above. See also our previous writings about the ample smoke and fire detection equipment on the 777 and four previous, in-flight fire accidents we cited in which the crew had plenty of time to radio a distress call: Valujet, Swissair, Asiana and UPS. The flight crew has full-face fire/smoke masks. Radioing is a press of the thumb of a button on the control wheel. A fire of such magnitude would have progressed to destroy the plane without all the turns, altitude changes and another 6-7 hours of flight. Eliminated.

Depressurization incapacitates crew

To buy into this, the plane would have had to go in a straight line like the Helios Airlines or Payne Stewart examples to fuel exhaustion. This didn’t happen. The gyrations of turns and altitude changes demonstrate otherwise. This also assumes the depressurization went undetected by the pilots and they didn’t have the sense to radio a distress call, nor does it explain the total shutdown of five radios, two transponders and ACARS. Eliminated.

Engine failure

This wouldn’t have prevented a distress call. Eliminated.

The improbable possibilities

Eliminating the highly unlikelies leaves us with the possibilities, however improbable.

Human intervention is, for many of us, the only thing left that’s possible. By definition, this would be a criminal act. The question, then, is by whom? The answer is: a rogue pilot or pilots; a hijacker, either taking control of the airplane or forcing the pilots into moves under duress; or a terrorist plot of some kind.

We may never know the answer to this, even if the wreckage is located and the black boxes recovered. We’ve previously written how the Cockpit Voice Recorder will have been overwritten from the time of the event and it may reveal little of use for the last 30-120 minutes of the flight. The Flight Data Recorder should provide a record of the entire event, and would tell us if (in the theory of analyst John Nance) after the airplane turned south on its final journey whether the plane was depressurized and perhaps if this was deliberately done with a flick of the switch. But it wouldn’t tell us who was in the cockpit and whether a rogue pilot was in command or whether he was under duress. Not to be indelicate, recovery of the bodies from the cockpit would tell us if there was an unauthorized person present–if there was anything to recover.

We think investigators will ultimately conclude this was a deliberate act (there have already been statements to this effect) as the Probable Cause, but getting beyond this to the reasons and probable circumstances could well be beyond reach.

55 Comments on “Sequence of Events of MH370 and the probabilities

  1. It amazes me to see how the press is reluctant to consider the captain as the primary suspect when there are plenty of indications that he is probably the perpetrator and the only one. Perhaps this has something to do with the shear atrocity of a suicide/mass murder scenario. It is psychologically difficult to contemplate the idea that a man could have committed such a crime, let alone an airline pilot. But it has happened on a few occasions before. The only difference is that the whole world was not paying attention like this time.

    • Any particular reason you would single out the captain here?
      Having a flight sim doesn’t seem such a bad thing to me, and neither does supporting an opposition party, nor having some (alleged) marital troubles.
      Consider Ethiopian 961 – who’s to say something similar didn’t happen here?

      • I have explained my viewpoint in a previous thread. But I remain open to any possibilities as long as it falls within the context of a deliberate act. But the crew does not necessarily have to be directly involved. Since we have no other clues than the compromising circumstances surrounding the captain’s private life I will stick with this scenario as long as no new information will come in to invalidate it.

    • The press has not been “reluctant” to point the finger at the captain. The coverage of this event has been awful, with endless speculation by the 24-hour news channels.

      This was refreshing:
      “Morning Joe” host Mika Brzezinski wasn’t about to let her co-host Joe Scarborough run wild Monday morning with conspiracy theories about the missing Malaysia jet à la CNN. “Can we go to news school for a second please?” she said.
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tgMxZ29k02E

      • Of course this theory has been widely discussed in the media. But not to the extent it deserves considering the extremely limited amount of overall information we have at our disposal to solve this case.

        As far as I am concerned this theory has little competition. Based on what we know, or on what we think we know, it is hard to imagine what could have happened other than a deliberate act from crew members or rogue passengers. But for the latter there is little information to support a possible scenario, whereas for the former there is plenty of contextual incrimination available.

  2. Anything pilots could have done from the cockpit to disable communication systems could have presumably been done by some destructive event, electrical fire, bomb or meteorite impact in the cockpit or electronics bay, etc., disabling the systems or their power supplies.
    Only Boeing engineers after a thorough HAZOP study could with any credibility confirm it could not have happened and Boeing would not want to admit that their ‘distributed system for safety’ still had such weakness.
    Pilot opinion about this would be based on Boeing sales pitch and good faith belief and cannot be taken as an absolute truth.
    So the possibility that the pilots were flying partially disabled airplane without communication and navigation system at night, flying low and hoping to find a place to crash-land or ditch the plane near some shore still exists and until an independent study by NTSB or similar body working with Boeing can establish that the above scenario was 100% impossible (not unlikely).

  3. Leeham has provided excellent coverage of this mysterious tragedy . There is another facet which has not been explored thoroughly enough but may not be appropriate to present at this point.

    Why has the information from various radar, military, satellite , etc sources been so sparse and often misleading. Are our expectations for complete technological coverage exaggerated and misplaced? Or are there reasons that governments do not wish to reveal their existing capabilities ( or lack of capabilities) or that information garnered from satellites are also highly guarded and not intended to be a public source of information..

    The issue of coverage of international flights and what this particular incident has revealed is worthy of more discussion and a better understanding of the reality that the air travelers rely on as well as the Public expects. Are there international protocols or coordinating bodies that try to assure safety and complete tracking of all commercial flights.

    At the appropriate time an overview of these issues would be worthy of discussion and clarification

    • Why has the information from various radar, military, satellite , etc sources been so sparse and often misleading. Are our expectations for complete technological coverage exaggerated and misplaced?

      Yes, they are.
      Consider this: The ocean floor in the area of Indian Ocean that is currently being searched is less well-explored and cartographed than the surface of the moon.
      Also, this plane wasn’t transmitting any positional data any more – so it’s not that easy to detect whether a blip on your radar screen is actually MH370 or something else completely. Particularly if you initially think that it couldn’t possibly be MH370 because you expected it to have crashed off the Vietnamese coast.
      A comparison I read in forums and on Facebook a lot – and that I heard in the canteen at work a lot, too – was that we can spot and monitor any mobile phone quite easily these days, but that plane could just disappear. Well – if you move outside of the range of mobile phone networks (you’d be surprised how easily that’s done even in rural areas of Ireland, never mind a few hundred kilometres off its coast) and you switch it to flight mode/remove the battery/shut it down, it does become pretty damn hard to still locate your phone.
      So under the circumstances, we have a surprisingly good idea of where MH370 went.

      Or are there reasons that governments do not wish to reveal their existing capabilities ( or lack of capabilities) or that information garnered from satellites are also highly guarded and not intended to be a public source of information..

      Phew.
      Well.
      We’ve seen a lot of blame-laying, particularly from China against Malaysia. Yet, no country has accused any other country of hiding something. Quite a feat considering they’re not exactly all best friends in that region, and even some territorial disputes were put aside for the duration of the search.
      As for capabilities: Firstly, not all satellite data consists of images that are relatively easy to interpret. A lot of satellite data needs way more number-crunching and analysis to make any sense of it.
      Then, there’s coverage. Not all areas on earth are of equal interest to military satellites. There’s no reason to keep the Southern Indian Ocean under the same close surveillance as – say – Sevastopol.

      The issue of coverage of international flights and what this particular incident has revealed is worthy of more discussion and a better understanding of the reality that the air travelers rely on as well as the Public expects. Are there international protocols or coordinating bodies that try to assure safety and complete tracking of all commercial flights.

      Yes.
      Having a transponder transmitting an airplane’s ID and location is part of that. Except this wasn’t operational.

      I’m quite sure that as a result of MH370, we’re going to see some changes to, say, whether a transponder can be turned off, whether additional transponders will be required, whether a real-time black box is possible (some major legal hurdles there, as well as some technical), etc.
      But I would suggest that we should first try and find the plane to determine what happened, before jumping to any conclusions regarding whether international protocols require any change (and if so, what change).

      • Thanks for the prompt and informative response.

        I think the Press has contributed to some confusion and misunderstandings and, like your posting, there will be a better understanding of the strength and weaknesses of the international “patchwork” in the future. With every failure comes the opportunity for better understanding and improvement .

        This has drawn such worldwide attention that it begs for a review and methods to insure that the system will be improved

    • I believe the US Navy has the capability to know where every ship and submarine are in the pacific, and this is based on acoustic data. I would think radar coverage is similar. But each time one reveals data from that knowledge, others understand the capability. It is a quandary.

      I do think there should be transmission of the flight data and cockpit voice from all flights, it could be encrypted. Control of the transmission of this data should be remote – the only remote control of the aircraft, just this transmission.

  4. Does the autopilot system allow for turns to be programmed in &/or elevation changes, or just a heading / altitude. Does anyone know if there was internet on the plane like go-go inflight. When did this shut down, I would think it is a different system. I would think the cabin was quiet thru the turn and all, if aware of a problem a lot of people would have tried to send text or call, some would have made it. Can the oxygen mask deployment be turned off in the cockpit.

    I too think like Normand that the Pilot or CP would be the most likely criminal, the other was in on it or incapacitated. Flying high and depressurizing would be a good way to fix the passengers. But if no mission to accomplish, why not just dive.

    • Yes turns can be programmed and this is precisely what happened a few minutes before the last radio call when the captain, presumably, programmed the FMS to initiate a turn. This was indeed one of the first suspicious elements that came to light early in the investigation.

      When the oxygen masks are deployed the pilot would normally have to initiate a descent as fast as possible for the oxygen supply is quite limited for passengers because in their case the oxygen is generated in real time by a chemical reaction. So the question of being able to prevent mask deployment from the cockpit is purely academic

      For the crew the supply would last much longer because it comes from storage tanks and crew members have to remain conscious as long as possible to mend the airplane and take care of the passengers.

  5. Excellent summation, Scott. In a dozen paragraphs you covered everything that CNN churned into endless, 24/7 babble for the past three weeks.

  6. Yes, Scott is much more concise and accurate than many press reports (he has been cited one more time the last days in french media). But the good safety record of the 777 doesn’t mean anything for me. I’m very doubtful about deterministic theories which lead to conclude that because of a good record in the past, the future is clear of any problem. There is a first time for everything.
    But, that doesn’t change anything to the fact that, for many other reasons, a mechanical failure is, if not impossible, very very unlikely.

  7. I have seen a lot of speculation about the pilot killing the passengers by depressurizing the plane and then himself by taking off his mask.

    can the pilot actually command the plane to depressurize at altitude? I would have thought this would be a WOW restricted event

  8. Yes it can be done, but bells and whistles would start screaming instantaneously and these would have to be silenced quickly because they can be quite unnerving.

  9. I think the analysis of Scott is very sound but I wonder if a less sinister solution may eventuate.
    I once lost all radio transmission facilities over South Australia even though I could receive.
    Natural instinct led me to turn round and head for home.
    A very alert ATC worked out the problem and vectored me to a safe landing after working out I was not able to transmit.
    Maybe an event occurred aboard the aircraft and they turned around, and just maybe the event that triggered the comm failure caused other issues and the last 6 hours of flight was a repeat Helios?

    • “…the last 6 hours of flight was a repeat Helios?”

      With the scant information that is available to us at this time I would dare to say that indeed it was a repeat Helios. Except that in the latter’s case it was due to a control switch that had inadvertently been left in the manual position by a technician who had performed a ground test prior to the flight. In the case of MH370 a similar switch may very well have been selected in a way that would have switched off the pressurization of the aircraft. But this time it would have been moved not by a technician but by a pilot, and not accidentally but intentionally.

      At high altitude when the cabin pressure is lost it takes only a few seconds for passengers to start falling unconscious and a few more minutes for them to die. The oxygen masks would only defer this for a couple minutes. WIth the aircraft set on autopilot it could still fly for hours until it runs out of fuel; and once the engines are starved the aircraft will plunge into the ocean.

      So in a scenario like this we can imagine that everyone on board would have been dead hours before the actual crash. We can also presume that if the captain was behind all this he may very well have been the last one to die. For after a first decompression everyone on board would have been killed except the captain who could have don his oxygen mask. He would then presumably have selected a course that would head the airplane for the middle of the ocean. And after another intentional cycle of depressurization he would not this time don his oxygen mask so that he could put a smooth end to his misery.

      If this description of potential events corresponds to what really happened to MH370 it would mean that we literally had a ghost plane flying over the ocean for a prolong period of time. With all due respect for the victims and their families, we can already imagine what the title of the movie would be: The Ghosts of Flight 370.

  10. One extremely relevant item that is has not been put in the technical issues or emphasized to speak of, is this all took place at night, deep night. The last turn or turns that occurred after radar contact took place well before dawn.

    To quote a very good old saying “Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astair did, but she did it backwards wearing heels”

    Unless you have flown at night or on instruments in a aircraft, there literally is no way to understand how disorienting that is and what vertigo really is and means. No amount of non moving simulator time will prepare you for that.

    So when a hostile takeover is postulated, put that in both the timeline of how fast all those events occurred, the maneuvering of the aircraft and the rapid punching in of at least the initial course changes is the equivalent of Dancing Backwards wearing heels on an ice sheet.

    There is a limited set of people who are capable of that.

  11. After wading through all the Pixie Dust and Fairy Tales, I still believe as I wrote in my comment of the 18th, the 777 suffered a catastrophic pressurization failure as it levelled off following the climb out from Kuala Lumpur, and shortly after the final radio call from the crew.
    Until we are able to recover the flight and cockpit voice recorders, no-one can tell us with any certainty just what happened, all we have is speculation and wild rumors that we should all be ashamed of, we simply do not know what happened and I for one hope fervently the crew did nothing wrong and it was just one of those terrible accidents that do sometimes happen!

    • We don’t believe this happened. A rapid descent is SOP and the airplane reportedly went from 35,000 to 12,000 ft while on the “return” to Malaysian. SOP would be 10,000 ft. Then over the Strait of Malacca, a right turn, a left turn and another left turn happened and a return to cruising altitude, speeding up in the process. This doesn’t sound like the cockpit crew was incapacitated. The only question is whether the crew was in command or under duress.

  12. “the 777 suffered a catastrophic pressurization failure as it levelled off following the climb out from Kuala Lumpur, and shortly after the final radio call from the crew.”

    How can you say that? There is absolutely no proof for that theory, contrary. IMO we should refrain from wild speculation and let the specialists do their jobs.

    😉

    • – If we should refrain from wild speculation and let the specialists do their jobs what’s the point then for having this thread?

      – And what do you mean exactly by wild speculation?

      If you have in mind UFO abduction or Bermuda Triangle kind of theories I would have to agree with you. But when it comes to hypothesis involving catastrophic failures I don’t think we can characterize theses as wild speculation. Although we have no elements to support this theory it remains legitimate even though I don’t adhere to it based of the informations that we have at this time.

      On the other hand, if by wild speculation you have in mind the kind of theories that would involve crew members based on rumours circulating in the press then I would have to agree with you. It is the kind of speculation that I would normally avoid doing as much as possible. But in this case we don’t have much of a choice.

      I happen to believe the rumours that involve the captain of the aircraft. Early in the inquiry I was rather leaning towards the co-pilot because of his unprofessional conduct. But as soon as I heard the first reports about the captain’s private life he became suspect number one in my mind.

      If you go through all the various informations that have been circulating about Flight 370 the only thing that stands out are the rumours about the captain’s private life. You have to keep in mind that we are not only looking for a cause here but we are also looking for a motive. If all that is reported about the captain is true, and I have no reason to doubt it, we have there the perfect storm.

      It would not be the first time that a highly intelligent individual momentarily looses his mind over personal issues. This phenomenon is well documented in the medical literature. Under certain circumstances the emotional pressure can be so intense that the individual will start behaving in an uncontrolled way. In other words he can no longer keep his emotions in check.

      If what caused the demise of MH370 was a catastrophic failure it might very well be a human one.

  13. This is not really the “elimination of the impossible” but rather, the “elimination of the improbable”. We cannot have known every possible failure modes, right? Nothing can be ruled out given the scant information we have, but I agree that the hijacking scenario is the one that best fits at the moment and that must be looked at more closely.

  14. If someone said on September 10, 2011, that four USA airlines’ planes would be commandeered and ran into U.S. skyscrapers, people would say that’s improbable, and maybe even close to impossible. If someone said before the Silk Air and Egypt Air pilot suicides that this could never happen, again people would say – not likely on the flight I’m on.

    Even a relatively new Swiss Air MD-11 fire would be hard to imagine, let alone a fuel starved B767 crashing off the coast of Africa with survivors.

    Consequently, just hearing that the latest debris found in the water is probably unrelated to the crash, I have to surmise that little is still truly known as a fact. The pings and radar readings might even be misleading.

    I think the scant evidence might point to a criminal act. But I wouldn’t be totally surprised if MH370 was never found again; or it landed in Beijing with some 200 angry passengers.

    • In the early days of aviation there were many aircraft accidents and most of them could be classified as mechanical problems, weather conditions, or pilot error, to name a few. But as aviation expanded the safety record improved. The two curves are actually inversely proportional. We have arrived at a point in history where aircraft accidents are extremely rare. And they cannot easily be classified because each one is unique.

      Take Flight 447 for example, there was no precedent. Most likely Flight 370 will also turn out to be unique. Yet I find similarities between the two:

      1- Both aircraft involved had an extremely good safety record.
      2- Both accidents happened at night.
      3- Both accidents happened over the ocean.
      4- Both accidents occurred during the early part of the flight.
      5- Both accidents occurred shortly after the last radio call.
      6- Both aircraft sent us a few last signals via satellite.
      7- Both sets of black boxes never sent a signal (so far).
      8- Both accidents sent a shock wave throughout the aviation community.

      The only meaningful pattern we can extract from this is that due to the similarity of the environment and the circumstances we can expect that like for AF447 it could take a long time before we find the black boxes for MH370.

  15. When one considers the first day’s events, one could and would consider that the plane was flown back to malaysia and landed in north western malaysia so the cash strapped MAS could eventually make an insurance claim. it is the only reasonable theory left. the malaysian AF commander initially blurted mil radar picked up the MAS flight flying above the malacca straits, when he was promptly shut down by the malaysian government. I believe the plane never crashed or someone, some satellite would have discovered the debris by now.

    • The satellites may not have spotted actual aircraft debris yet, but some of them have picked up ADS-C signals from the aircraft and those signals bring the aircraft very far from Malaysia. So much for your conspiracy theory.

  16. If a “Deliberate Act” is assumed from the outset, IMJ the BPT (Blind Pax Theory) solves convincingly (elegantly ?) the HOW (Modus Operandi) of both (1) the black-out; and (2) taking control of the aircraft … but it remains weak as to explaining WHY.

    1. BPT + “Flying Malay” ghost flight (south-bound) until flame-out … ? equates to foul play gone wrong; however this avenue must lead to a wreck and – time being – we have no wreck ?
    2. BPT + controlled (piloted) escape flight SB + sub-marine rendez-vous + successful ditching + pilot pick-up … ? either equates to a devilish attempt at “MEDIA DIVERSION” (Crimea ?), or is absolutely meaningless ; whatever, this avenue ends with an integer aircraft ie one that sinks in one piece, leaving no trace on the ocean surface, which fits in perfectly with observed facts, so far ?

    1. and 2. above both build upon IPT (Inmarsat Ping Theory) being correct, but if we reject IPT as possibly flawed (relativistic Doppler-shift in radiowave Pings, privileging the ‘Southern Arch’ ?) then we have various other OUTSIDER scenarii re-entering the realm of ‘possibles’, all connected to the NAT (the ‘Northern Arch Theory’).

    Any NAT-based scenarii are much easier to explain WHY (generic factors) : greed (eg valuables in cargo manifest ?), terrorism (some new 9/11 in the pipe, or worse ?) …. but as mentioned, Inmarsat scientists said ‘No, we discard NAT !” ?

      • It is certainly something that would be worth investigating, but personally I would wait to hear what the Inmarsat specialists have to say about this before I dismiss their estimate of the location of MH370.

        • It would be interesting if Inmarsat could test and validate their theories by performing similar projections with actual aircraft that are flying with their transponder on and assisted by GPS location.

          • I thought that’s exactly what they did to determine with certainty that the southern track fits the frequency profile while the northern track doesn’t.

  17. I fail to understand why you dismiss the usefulness of the CVR. Even if it has no recording of the initial event, it still could provide valuable info. It may have recorded cockpit warnings, it may record the voice of the “pilot” or anybody else in the cockpit just before impact.

    • We don’t dismiss the prospect of telling us what happened during the last 30-120 minutes, assuming it was functioning. It certainly would detail any fuel exhaustion warnings, etc. But that’s already a given. And yes, if there was anyone alive in the cockpit, or in the passenger cabin, this would be known, as would complete silence if all on board were dead (by hypoxia, being the prevailing theory on this point). But none of this would tell investigators what happened at the start of the event.

  18. At this point, every available sonar detector capable of “hearing” the black boxes should be accessed and put in all areas no matter how remote the possibility of finding something. Stat!

  19. Scott Hamilton

    Unfortunately there is nothing what so ever mentionen in your report about the “Oil Rig Worker Thinks He Saw Malaysia Air Flight 370 Go Down in Flames” at: http://www.thewire.com/global/2014/03/oil-rig-worker-says-he-saw-malaysia-air-flight-370-go-down/359093/#disqus_thread

    I do hope that this might change your picture …

    RGDS
    Bo S.

    Catastrophic airplane failure

    This would have explained total failure of the radios, transponder and ACARS all at once and disappearance of the flight over the Gulf of Thailand, and was the most like explanation in this event. But there was no debris field and no bodies. Also, in this event, there almost certainly would have been a huge fireball, and there was no report of one. Then there was the superb safety record of the 777 itself. So we eliminated this possibility.

    • All the data show the airplane turned left while over the Gulf of Thailand, went to Malacca and then south to the Indian Ocean. If the plane had blown up in flames, there would have been debris spotted; there has been none.

    • This testimony contradicts satellite data which indicate that the airplane has flown a total of close to eight hours. It implies that the airplane would have flown another seven hours or so with a raging fire onboard. That would not be possible.

      In addition to that the subsequent manoeuvres were seemingly intentional, like if there was someone in control of that aircraft after the first turn was initiated. It doesn’t add up. There are too many important aspects that are left unexplained with this purported observation.

      • The fire observed could have been a meteorite, a small part of which could have hit the plane disabling communication and navigation systems, Even very low probability events still can happen!
        The pilots then descended rapidly and were trying to return and land/ditch the airplane at night and without navigation at some place they never found.
        This theory explains most of the key hard facts. Some pieces of info that do not fit could be result of erroneous assumptions.

        • About thirty years ago while I was driving on the highway past midnight I saw a huge ball of fire streaking down the sky. Because of my background I immediately thought this was an aircraft on fire. Then I realized that because of its trajectory this could only have been a celestial phenomenon.

          Afterwards I discussed this sighting with an astronomer and he said that what I had seen was probably a bolide. That is a fireball of at least magnitude 14 in astronomical parlance.

          But a phenomenon like this has to have been seen by many people and it does not seem to be the case here.

          • The sighting was reported by an ocean oil-rig worker near the area where the plane turned back, away from populated area. The only other people in the area would have been the other oil workers and they would have to be looking in the same direction. Even without a credible sighting a micrometeorite impact is not impossible.
            Most catastrophic plane failures that happened were deemed unlikely until they happened and most affected planes had excellent safety record until the unexpected unlikely failure occurred.

  20. The problem facing everyone seems to be that what we “know” is very little, and what we “think” is very large. The authorities are filtering the information, and the primary sources are not being made available for independent analysis. We know it was a 777 with a certain number of people on board. We know the plane went missing at the handover point between Malaysia and Vietnam. We know it had limited fuel on board and would have to have landed within seven or eight hours of disappearing. Almost everything else is second hand information. Of this information from Inmarsat regarding the ping responses has been most detailed. I can accept that pings were received for seven hours because that fits with what we know about the fuel load in the plane. The two arcs, and the preference for the southern arc is educated conjecture based on unproven mathematical modelling of propagation delays. No confirming wreckage has been found in two weeks of searching. So we don’t know it went south. One US blogger has suggested, based on the last reported radar sightings and correlated with FlightRada24 info, that it rendezvoused with and shadowed a Singapore Airlines 777 heading to Europe. This seems just as likely as all the other theories to me. We need more primary facts, which are not being released. Someone has something to hide, maybe?

    • I am confident that the authorities know a lot more than we do about what happened. But I don’t think they know much more than we do about the location of the wreckage and the black boxes. So even if they had already made up their mind as to what might have happened they wouldn’t be able to prove it.

      In the meantime it doesn’t mean we cannot have discussions about what we think might have happened. It may actually help the victims who badly need an explanation for this. In that respect they can go around the Internet and try to find a bit of hope or solace. And if they are lucky enough to land here it might actually help them to make sense of this tragedy.

      Let me conclude with this John: You cannot stop people from thinking and talking, it’s in our nature. And for some reason most people everywhere on earth are desperate to find out what happened. I find this truly amazing and cannot explain this unexpected engouement.

      • Discussion is inevitable, and informed discussion is good; it not only helps examine the possibilities, it may inspire new theories not previously envisaged. My point is, Norman, that we are being denied the information we need for an “informed” discussion. We need to keep rigorously evaluating the quality of the information we have. And pressuring the authorities for more.

  21. Initially I assumed mechanical failure, then when the left-turn-back-over-Malaysia evidence came up fire+hypoxia seemed more likely. But given the deduced track we later got I agree that someone either flew or programmed the plane to fly in the way it did.

    On the other hand, I am not quick to turn that into “deliberate act” in the sense of malicious intent.

    Something which came up early in the affair but was quite quickly forgotten again (although someone recently brought it up on airliners.net) was the very different backgrounds of the two pilots. Given the support from the captain for the opposition, the family connections with the ruling party for the first officer, the very divisive nature of Malaysian politics and the court case which had just concluded on the same day, I would say friction between the pilots was very likely to arise!

    The airliners.net poster postulated something I’d also considered a possibility: what if a fight broke out, one of them got hurt and then the other panicked? Don’t want to deal with the authorities just yet so switch off comms. First instinct is to turn back. Then start to consider the consequences of your actions… not sure you want to face the music back home, keep flying and turn NW to stay away from Indonesian territory while you think for a bit. Now realise you’ve backed yourself into a hole and will be in a lot of trouble… or maybe the other person is recovering… or maybe the flight attendants or passengers are getting antsy… Whatever it is, your last choice is to incapacitate everyone and head out to sea.

    Not that I think this is what happened, but I think some kind of non-intentional chain of events on board should also be considered.

    • These are interesting considerations, but I don’t think there was enough time for such a scenario to unfold. The initial turn was a smooth one and was programmed minutes before the last radio call. And we have to keep in mind that all this took place in a busy and relatively short period of time after take off.

      On the other hand the above mentioned considerations about politics and possible conflicts between the captain and co-pilot would fit well with the theory that says that the captain had to get rid of the co-pilot before he committed suicide. But in that case the potential conflict between the captain and co-pilot would only be accessory and not be the actual root cause per say.

      • But why does everyone assume it’s the pilot? Why not the co-pilot?

        • To expand on that – I could imagine a younger person whose father is actually a local goverment representative of the ruling party might be less controlled if things got heated…

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