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.
5. A fire caused the plane to crash while attempting an emergency landing
The newest theory to make the media rounds comes from an actual pilot, who believes the plane experienced an electrical or landing gear fire. In a situation like that, training and procedure would lead a pilot to shut down all electrical buses in an attempt to find the source, and locate a nearby airstrip free of obstacles. Such a scenario would account for almost all of the strange details surrounding the plane’s disappearance, including the sudden turn back toward the western coast of Malaysia, toward a 13,000-foot airstrip the pilot speculates the plane never made it to.
6. Someone with advanced aviation experience flew underneath radar
With more than 20 satellites now focused on locating the missing aircraft, Malaysian media recently reported that new satellite evidence reveals the plane could have flown at a dangerously low altitude of 5,000 feet to avoid radar detection. The technique is widely used by smugglers, and it wouldn’t put any additional strain on the aircraft other than burning more fuel at a faster rate. Officials speculate it could have flown at low altitude along two vast corridors, including a northern area stretching from the border of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan to northern Thailand, and a southern range stretching from Indonesia to the southern Indian Ocean.
7. The Malaysian Airline Boeing 777 hid from radar behind another plane
In a more James Bond, Mission Impossible-esque theory put forth by another pilot, Flight 370 could have shut off its location systems and flown behind a Singapore Airlines 777 close enough that the two would appear as a single radar blip. The Singapore flight, which was in the area at the time, would not have been alerted to the trailing jet due to Flight370’s transponder being switched off. Once clearing military radar over India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, Flight 370 could have broken away from the “shadow” of SIA68 and proceeded to the hijacker’s intended destination – likely a hidden landing site somewhere.
8. A meteor struck the plane
Around the time Flight 370 took off from Kuala Lumpur, a meteor was reported in the plane’s intended travel area, leading some to speculate a strike that could have annihilated the Boeing 777 in mid-air. Given subsequent evidence of the plane’s possible erratic flight path and an extremely low probability to begin with, this appears highly unlikely.
I don’t see why they don’t just come out and say flight 370 was abducted by aliens. It’s so obvious that that’s the case here.
— Brandon (@BrandonCox54) March 17, 2014
There’s only 1 possible explanation for flight 370 #aliens
— Christoph Vühl (@chris_v93) March 17, 2014
Flight 370? One word. Aliens. Remeber this tweet.
— Amanda Williams (@Williamzamanda) March 17, 2014