Malaysia plane mystery: 6 possible scenarios

2014-03-13 16:50
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Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370: a timeline in pics

A series of photographs following the development of news regarding the disappearance of the Malaysia Airlines flight that went missing over the weekend.

What has happened to the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370? This is certainly the question on everybody’s mind.

How does a commercial plane with advanced communication technology on board just disappear without a trace?

LATEST UPDATE: Missing plane hijacked, 239 passengers and crew could still be alive

A multi-national search, involving 10 countries and more than 70 aircraft and ships, has been underway over the last six days to find the plane and its 239 passengers and crew.

Malaysia Airlines has since retired the use of Flight code MH370, since Saturday’s flight lost contact less than an hour after departing Kuala Lumpur, while flying over the South China Sea en route to Beijing.  

As the mystery deepens, authorities are considering a number of theories of what could have happened to the plane – with some carrying more weight than others - here are six possible scenarios.

1. The plane exploded mid-air

 “A sudden loss of contact is generally associated with a catastrophe. It could have been hit by a missile, there could have been an on board bombing or a fuel tank explosion or some technical failure could have caused the explosion,” says aviation expert Vincent Lessing.

To date reports show there have been no traceable satellite prints of any missiles being fired. A number of sightings of debris floating in the South China Sea and the Gulf of Thailand specifically have turned out to be false alarms.

Additional reports, based on automated data transmitted from the plane’s engines to its manufacturer Rolls Royce indicate the Plane flew for five hours after it lost contact.

Malaysia Authorities have since denied the report based on standard monitoring of Rolls Royce engines, while Rolls Royce has only officially confirmed data readings from the plane’s engines shortly after it left Kuala Lumpur.   

If the plane did in fact fly for a few more hours after losing contact, speculation is rife that the search for the plane’s remnants might be happening in the wrong place – explaining why nothing has since been found.


 2. The plane was subject to a terrorist attack or hijacking

If radar data suggesting the plane veered off course and engine monitoring data readings are correct in showing it continued to fly for a few more hours after losing contact, the likelihood of a terror attack or a hijacking cannot be ruled out.

The Daily Mailreports the CIA is still considering terrorism and counter-terrorism officials say the planes transponders could have been purposefully turned off.

CNN reports John Nance, a broadcast aviation analyst and veteran pilot finds it hard to believe a Boeing 777 would lose all ability via its transponder, without its crew finding some way to communicate - unless its power was deliberately cut off.

“This theory, however calls into question why there was no distress call sent. If the plane was taken over by terrorists or somebody wanting to hijack the plane, then the crew might have had time to send a distress call or manually activate the Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT) signal,” says Lessing.

The ELT can be activated to transmit a distress signal to a satellite, reverting back to the possibility that something catastrophic happened to the plane as an explanation.

3. The plane experienced some sort of technical or structural failure

No signal was picked up from the emergency locator transmitter, which is said to eject from the plane during a crash. This signal however only lasts 24-hours and after six days this is no longer a valid avenue to explore in locating the missing plane.

But a catastrophic power failure resulting in other anomalies are still being considered by analysts.

In 2012 the Malaysia Airlines MH370 Boeing 777 was involved in a prior accidentat Shanghai Pudong Airport, where its wingtip collided with another aircraft and broke off. This had been repaired by Boeing.

IBTimes reports these anomalies will only be cleared up once the plane’s black box has been located.

The tell-all device also has a window period and needs to be found within 30 days, otherwise investigators will face a similar extended search for the air France flight 447, which took more than two years to conclude.

The cause of the Air France crash was later put down to a series of errors by the pilots and a failure to react effectively to technical problems.

According to France's Bureau of Investigation and Analysis, the pilots failed to respond effectively after ice crystals blocked the plane's pitot tubes, part of a system used to determine air speed. This in turn caused the autopilot to disconnect, with the Bureau report stating that the pilots did not know how to react.  The crew responded by over-handling the aircraft, which destabilized its flight path. 

According to the report, had the pilots responded by pointing the nose of the plane downwards, instead of upwards which caused it to stall, the plane might have actually recovered.

3. A pilot error or suicide

As concluded by the Air France crash report, pilot error is a likely theory. The disappearance of the Flight MH370 has brought the cockpit crew under intense scrutiny.

Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah, aged 53, is said to have more than 18 000 flying hours, and his First Officer Fariq Abdul Hamid, aged 27 has more than 2 800 hours of flying.

With their overall experience in question, an Australian television report has since fingered Hamid for breaking aviation regulations by entertaining a South African woman in the cockpit of a flight he co-piloted from Phuket, Thailand to Kuala Lumpur in 2011. Those close to the pilot have since come out in his defense.

Also under consideration is the possibility of pilot suicide, with reports stating two such incidents happened in the 1990s. Malaysian police are said to be investigating whether any passengers or crew on the plane had personal or psychological problems in a bid to rule out this theory.

5. Technology warfare

Rumours that corporate sabotage might be behind the plane's disappearance have also surfaced. Reports show 12 Freescale employees were on board the missing Malaysia Airlines plane. This particular company has been outsourced by Motorola for its chips production.

The report details Motorola's policy, which does not allow that many employees to be on board the same plane at once. Whether Freescale have the same policy remains unclear. 

 6. Plane is stranded in an unknown location and the passengers are currently living out an episode of Lost

A combination of some of the above theories could be in play, with speculation rife that the plane could be at an unknown location – either as a result of an emergency landing after a power or technical failure or a sub-plot to an act of terror still to take place.

Fuelling this theory are signed affidavits by family members of passengers on board the missing flight, who claim passengers' mobile phones continued to ring for some time after the plane went missing, but nobody answered.  

Either way, the mystery remains and the clock continues to tick, as authorities search for the any sign of Flight MH370 and its black box.

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Read more on:    malaysia airlines  |  malaysia  |  flights  |  air crashes  |  malaysia airlines flight mh370  |  aviation

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