Its been more than a week since Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 took off from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing around midnight March 8 and virtually disappeared, losing all confirmed contact and disappearing without a trace.
It’s an airline mystery search experts have called “unprecedented.”As the investigation continues, there’s been no shortage of theories as media outlets, political pundits and aviation experts weigh in on possible leads and disputed evidence between the more-than 20 nations conducting the search.
To cut through the confusion of so much speculation, we’ve assembled a collection of our preferred theories – some for plausibility, others for creativity.
1. Flight 370 crashed en-route to Beijing
Shortly after news of the airline’s disappearance went global, an oil rig worker off the southeast coast of Vietnam reported seeing a burning plane flying at high altitude perpendicular to the region’s standard air routes, which disappeared shortly after, leading the man to suspect the plane crashed. Vietnamese officials combed the area in the South China Sea after confirming the letter, but found no trace of the aircraft.
2. The plane flew on for hours and landed somewhere in the Indian Ocean
According to data obtained by U.S. authorities automatically transmitted to the ground by the plan’s Rolls Royce engines, Flight 370 flew on for another 5-7 hours after losing contact along established air travel routes over the Middle East, Thailand, and the Indian Andaman Islands. Such an endeavor would have required significant flight experience, and from there theories branch out to the plane landing on an island for refueling before taking off again, or being stored for possible terrorist use later.
3. Malaysian Airlines pilots intentionally concealed the Boeing 777
During a search of the homes belonging to pilot Zaharie Ahmad Shah and co-pilot Farq Ab Hamid, Malaysian authorities discovered an advanced flight simulator in the former’s upscale home. As a highly experienced pilot with 18,000 hours of flight time, investigators are questioning Shah’s need for such a device after U.S. authorities were reportedly steering their investigation toward “those in the cockpit.” The aircraft’s satellite-based flight data system was also shut down before co-pilot Hamid signed off from Malaysian air traffic control with an “All right, good night.” Shortly thereafter, the plane’s location transponder also went offline.
4. Flight 370 was hijacked by terrorists posing as passengers
This was one of the first theories to emerge after Malaysian authorities discovered two of the 227 passengers aboard the aircraft were flying with stolen passports. But they were identified as Iranian migrants seeking passage to Europe illegally. No terrorist group has claimed responsibility for the hijacking.