I have been following the Malaysia 370 search with great interest. The most compelling evidence of the plane’s location was from sophisticated analysis of the pings emitted from satellite located over the Indian Ocean. By analysing the doppler effect of the pings that indicated whether the pings were coming from a source moving towards the satellite or away from it, a theory was propounded that positioned the plane on a course toward the mid Indian ocean, several hundred miles west of Perth, Australia. By analysing the fuel supply on the plane, a probable crash site was fixed.
A search of that area, that is ranther large, by the way, found floating debris is several places. Ships were dispatched to pick up this debris to see if it was from 370. That caused my to recall my several hundred hours as a forward lookout on the USS Greenwich Bay as it crossed the Atlantic, Mediterranean Sea, Red Sea, Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean. The later being the area of the presumed crash. What I recalled was that I spotted debris fields on nearly every watch. I saw boxes, barrels, foam pieces, wooden pallets, and pieces of what sailors call flotsam, stuff that floats, everywhere. So I was not impressed by having such articles spotted by satellites. It also seems that ocean currents tend to congregate flotsam in debris fields that can be enormous. Trying to find and examine every piece of flotsam west of Perth is an overwhelmingly difficult task that may not ever reveal the end of 370.
I certainly hope that we find out what happened to this plane, and, if it crashed, 370 flotsam will certainly be present, but to chase down every bit floating in the ocean seems to be a frustrating search. A still pinging black box is our best chance, but we only have five more days before the batteries are drained of power.
Updated: This leaves open the possibilty that the plane did not crash and that the search for debris is a classic red herring. A recent article claims a passenger photographed the landing strip on Diego Garcia, a US Naval Base south of the equator in the Indian Ocean. Doppler analysis of the pings referred to above are consistent with this location. By the way, I visited Diego Garcia when on the Greenwich Bay when it was a copra plantation.
The big question today about MH 370 is the degree to which one or both pilots were involved in the plane’s disappearance.
John Hinderaker, with whom I have discussed this issue at great length, has pubished this article in Powerlineblog.com.
It is clear that Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 was hijacked by an experienced pilot who knew
how to operate a Boeing 777. This report in the New York Times supports what was already an
The first turn to the west that diverted the missing Malaysia Airlines plane
from its planned flight path from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing was carried out
through a computer system that was most likely programmed by someone in
the plane’s cockpit who was knowledgeable about airplane systems, according
to senior American officials.
Instead of manually operating the plane’s controls, whoever altered Flight
370’s path typed seven or eight keystrokes into a computer on a knee-high
pedestal between the captain and the first officer, according to officials. The
Flight Management System, as the computer is known, directs the plane from
point to point specified in the flight plan submitted before a flight. It is not
clear whether the plane’s path was reprogrammed before or after it took off.
Suspicion has focused on pilot Zaharie Ahmad Shah and first officer Fariq Ab Hamid for one
obvious reason: they were the only people on board the airline who, as far as is publicly
known, knew how to fly it. Certainly the airplane could have been taken over by one or more
Islamic terrorists, but it would have to be someone far better trained than those who carried
out the September 11 attacks–someone at or close to the level of a commercial airline pilot. A
list of the passengers on the flight has been made public, but little or no information about
them is known. China has said that it conducted background checks on the Chinese nationals
who were on board (around two-thirds of the passengers) and found no links to terrorist
groups. That at least reduces the likelihood of Uighurs being responsible.
There is another possibility that I have not seen discussed: here in the U.S., it is common for
airline employees to hitch rides on their airline’s flights when seats are available. Could there
have been another Malaysia Airlines pilot “deadheading” to Beijing on Flight 370, perhaps one
with links to extremist groups? I have seen no discussion of that possibility. Thus, while we
cannot rule out the possibility that there was another skilled pilot on board the airplane, at
present there is zero evidence to support that supposition.
Which brings us back to the pilot and co-pilot. As the only people on the airplane known to
have the skill and experience demonstrated by the hijacker(s), they are the prime suspects.
That said, nothing that has come out about Zaharie Ahmad Shah or Fariq Ab Hamid adds
materially to the case against them. Shah had a flight simulator in his home? So what? His
wife and children left home the day before Flight 370 took off? OK, but did they flee the
country or go to visit grandparents? He was a supporter of a prominent Malaysian politician
who opposed the current government? That cuts in the other direction; Shah supported a
“normal” political party, not a terrorist group. As former El-Al security chief Isaac Yeffet said ,
Shah does not fit the profile of a terrorist.
Neither does first officer Hamid. He was 27 years old and engaged to be married. No one has
described any connections with radical Islamic or other potentially terrorist groups. As with
Shah, no one has brought forth any evidence to suggest that Hamid may have been suicidal.
Attention has focused on Hamid because he allegedly spoke the last words from the
airplane–”all right, good night”–at around the time the transponders were turned off. If it
really was Hamid, and if the communication came after at least one of the transponders was
switched off, it would suggest that Hamid was most likely the hijacker. But there has been
confusion about the exact timing of the message, and it is not clear why officials at Malaysian
Airlines say they think the voice was Hamid’s. Even if one assumes they could distinguish
Hamid’s voice from Shah’s, it is not clear how they could confidently distinguish Hamid’s
voice from that of an unknown hijacker.
There was no known connection between Shah and Hamid, and apparently they were
randomly assigned to Flight 370. It is therefore extremely unlikely that both were involved in
the hijacking. If one of the pilots was the culprit, it appears that he would have had to
disable, in some way, the other pilot.
The case against the pilots, in short, is weak. But they will remain the prime suspects–really,
the only suspects–unless and until it comes to light that there was someone else on board
capable of flying the aircraft at a professional or near-professional level.
Meanwhile, the central mystery of Flight 370 remains: where is the airplane? Until we know
where the airplane was flown, we can only speculate about why it was hijacked. Until we
know why it was hijacked, we can only speculate about who did it. Finding the airplane may
or may not solve the puzzle of what happened to it, and why; but until the airplane is found,
any theory we can put forward will be speculative at best.
I posted Here on March 13 that the missing airliner is somewhere between Northern Pakistan and Northern China. I now suggest that the evidence indicates that the plane left its course for Beijing, flew west and picked up the route from Kuala Lumpur to Calcutta or New Delhi and followed that course, one that would not alarm anyone, and then departed near Bangladesh to enter central Asia. I has landed and is in one piece, if the landing was successful.
That raised the question of how many landing strips there are within the 777’s range that could accomodate such a landing.
In this post from WNYC and the Telegraph, Here it is suggested that there are 634 such landing strips within the planes range. Open the link, read down to the map. It doesn’t answer any questions, but does add evidence to the hijacking theory as it makes the end game almost limitless.