The Mystery of Flight 370 [Updated]

Now and then there is a news story so fascinating that I really want to write about it, but there is one catch: I don’t know any more about it than the average man in the street. That is the case with the most mysterious story of the day, the fate of Malaysian Airlines flight 370. But how can anyone resist indulging in a little speculation?

The big news, of course, is the Malaysian military’s revelation that its radar indicates that the airplane made almost a U-turn at about the same time that its transponder stopped sending signals. The airplane was last spotted at around 29,000 feet, a little less than normal cruising altitude:

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Assuming that information is correct, it appears clear that a human being, either the pilot(s) or one or more hijackers, deliberately turned off the transponder and diverted the airplane from its intended route. But there are obvious problems with either hypothesis. If one of the pilots intended to commit suicide (remember the Egypt Air crash), why did he continue flying the airplane in a southwest direction for more than an hour? Why not just plunge into the sea? And what happened to the co-pilot? On the other hand, if the airplane was hijacked, why haven’t we heard anything from the hijackers?

Then, of course, there is the presence on board of two Iranians traveling with stolen passports. Currently we are being assured that this is mere coincidence, and they had no known terrorist connections. Well, of course not: if Iran were to send a team to hijack an airliner, they would undoubtedly choose operatives with no paper trail in the West. Is the presence of these Iranians really a mere coincidence?

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The first order of business is to find the airplane. That may take some doing: the Boeing 777 is a long-range aircraft. Currently the Strait of Malacca is being searched, but the airplane had enough fuel to fly deep into the Indian Ocean, or maybe…somewhere else. Once the wreckage of the airplane has been located and we have some idea what happened, we can speculate more intelligently about why it happened. Stay tuned: this is no routine air disaster.

Feel free to add your own speculation in the comments.

UPDATE: Malaysian authorities now say they aren’t sure whether the plane identified on military radar was Flight 370 or not, nor are they certain whether the airplane turned around as previously reported. Using satellite photographs, the Chinese have identified what they think looks like wreckage in the ocean between Malaysia and Vietnam, close to Flight 370′s intended route. I can’t say that the objects in the photos look much like wreckage, but it is very hard to tell. Nor is it clear why, if those are indeed remnants of the Boeing 777, they haven’t already been found, since this appears to be the area that was originally searched. In short, the mystery continues to deepen.

FURTHER UPDATE: This morning’s bombshell from Rolls Royce discussed here.

STEVE speculates: I am certain the Koch brothers are responsible. :)

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