The story of the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 grabbed me from the first moment I heard about the planes disappearance. I think this was for a few reasons – one, most of us get to fly quite regularly now and know that it is quite safe. The likelihood of this happening is so rare it’s almost like out of a movie. Because most of us fly from time to time if not very often, imagining that it could have been us on the plane or someone we know – makes us empathise more with the victims and their families, and makes us try to find a common ground for understanding. Two – the mysterious nature of this case is incredibly intriguing and surreal. I do admit to being a fan of the show ‘Air Crash Investigators’ because you get to see how a mystery unfolds and is solved.
I’ve been following the story from more of a security studies perspective and have been trying to unravel possible scenarios (like we all have probably). I discounted terrorism pretty early on for a few reasons. Terrorism is a method used for changing behaviour through intimidation and fear (if you don’t remember my two posts detailing what terrorism actually is or if you missed them – you can check them both out here and here). Terrorists fight for a cause – be it a political or a religious objective. They want this reason to be known. It isn’t actually about the victims of terror themselves, it’s about using the world stage to be noticed and heard. This is why after an attack – a particular group will claim responsibility for the violence. These groups are usually known about and hence people know what they stand or are fighting for. Every now and then, particular groups will actually claim responsibility for violence they didn’t cause, just to get some credence. This is usually found about about eventually though. No group claimed to be responsible for the hijacking – so this pretty much discounts terrorism as a cause. It is possible that the pilot was a lone ranger, fighting individually for a particular cause, but this also seems very unlikely as you would think that if that was so, he would also have wanted to highlight this cause on the world stage and not to disappear without a trace (that would be a bit of a fail). Early on in the disappearance, it did look possible that the two Iranians travelling on stolen passports were implicated – but I had seriously doubts about that two. Using stolen passports in that region is not uncommon at all. We would like to believe that governments are all powerful and things are within their control (especially big states like China, the U.S. etc) but one important factor I took away from my security studies is that the world is chaotic in many respects. States want us to believe that they are all powerful and that they are the only ones that can protect us in this big bad world. That’s what makes them relevant. Irregular migration is a big factor in the connected world that we live in and it usually takes place within the shadows.
So what other possible scenarios are left? Considering that the plane hasn’t been found yet, wasn’t detected my most sophisticated radars, means that it was flown by someone with considerable skill and knowledge. It’s highly possible that it was the pilots themselves who hijacked the plane. Most hijackings are perpetrated by unstable or mentally ill persons who have irrational demands, however are usually subdued eventually. Clive Williams wrote up a piece about this on SMH recently and you can read more about those types of hijackings here (he was actually a past lecturer of mine) and their characteristics – it’s a really interesting article. On the rare occasion, hijackings will occur by individuals seeking asylum or political refuge (sometimes extreme measures are taken if regular routes for claiming asylum are road blocked). That seems unlikely in this case, even though the head pilot had been supporting opposition parties in Malaysia. It seemed that he had quite a bit of personal freedom, also stemming from his own personal wealth and status as a greatly experienced pilot. Unless he was directly involved in politics, it’s a possible scenario but also pretty unlikely.
Could it have been pilot suicide? This is another possibility that has emerged. Mental health isn’t always taken seriously within particular professional fields (be it cultural reasons etc) and this can have grave consequences. I read another interesting article about pilot suicide here – but it seems odd that if the pilot wanted to commit suicide, why he would put in allll of that effort to conceal the plane and only then crash it. Another theory is that the plane was transporting something incredibly valuable. In the Polish media, I have heard of theories stating that they could have been transporting gold worth millions. It would have to have been something incredibly valuable to make the pilots essentially give up their own ‘safe’ lives back in Malaysia and go on the run. Also, if this was the case – then someone else besides the pilots themselves would have had to help get that cargo onto the plane. Smuggling routes and black markets are difficult to trace – but it is possible and I believe that this is where some of the investigation may be leading. If other individuals know the cause of this planes disappearance – then this will eventually come to light (if not now, in years to come).
I read a highly interesting blog post by Keith Ledgerwood where he theorises that MH370 not only used skilled manoeuvring by the pilots to fly around radars etc in order to avoid detection, but that the plane also followed another aircraft in its shadow to avoid detection (hence why they were travelling in well known flight corridors). Wouldn’t have the other plane noticed it was being followed? Not necessarily – especially if MH370’s basic radar equipment had been disabled. I also take into consideration that the plane didn’t make it’s final destination. I don’t think it’s crazy to suspect that during this highly risky trip that was extremely well thought out – that a mistake could have been made. After all, being under such unprecedented pressure and with adrenaline kicking, no theoretical training could have prepared the pilots for every scenario. Perhaps they flew to high for to long and everyone lost consciousness eventually (if the pressure in the cabin changed suddenly and drastically, oxygen masks would have been released, however planes only carry a certain amount of oxygen and it wouldn’t have lasted for hours. I believe I read that pilots have more oxygen stored in their cabin, but also, this isn’t a great amount which would have lasted for an hours) and thus crashed into the ocean? If they did land somewhere, I believe it may have been Turkmenistan, Mongolia or Kazakhstan. India, Pakistan and Afghanistan are highly militarised and I doubt someone would not have noticed them by now. Mountainous terrain would have also made it incredibly difficult to land etc. Turkmenistan, Mongolia and Kazakhstan have wide open plains, state control is not strong throughout the states and crime is prolific (especially in Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan) so if they did manage to land somewhere unnoticed – that’s where I’d be beating.
Those are my thoughts and theories atm – feel free to tell me yours, I’d be very interested to know! This whole mystery is just incredible but also so sad. By some miracle, I really hope someone survived the disappearance/foul play! We can only hope and pray they solve this quickly.