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Sunday, March 30, 2014
Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 Mystery March 30 , 2014 -- Day 23 ...... MH370: Chinese relatives arrive in Malaysia to demand answers Two dozen family members fly into Kuala Lumpur to meet 'highest officials' as search for missing plane still draws blanks ......MH370 Lost in Indian Ocean: Australia hopeful as more items pulled from sea ......... MH370 crash: Deep-sea search tools ready for deployment ....... Are the searchers looking in the right location - when does anyone consider alternative destination for Flight 370 or the reports from witnesses on Kuda Huvadhoo ( Maldives ) ?
MH370: Chinese relatives arrive in Malaysia to demand answers
Two dozen family members fly into Kuala Lumpur to meet 'highest officials' as search for missing plane still draws blanks
More than two dozen Chinese relatives of passengers on Flight 370 arrived in Malaysia on Sunday to demand to meet top officials for more information about what happened to the airliner that has been missing for more than three weeks.
Two-thirds of the 227 passengers aboard the Malaysia Airlines plane that disappeared 8 March en route to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur were Chinese, and Beijing has urged Malaysia to be more open about the investigation.
As the 29 family members arrived in Kuala Lumpur, the search for the missing airliner was continuing with 14 aircraft from seven different countries scouring an area in the southern Indian ocean about the size of Norway.
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) said an Australian navy ship with a US-supplied "black box" locator on board had been dispatched to the area 1,800km west of Perth.
Debris sightings by Chinese, Australian and New Zealand planes on Saturday did not yield any solid clues in one of aviation's greatest mysteries, compounding the frustration of families who have been waiting more than three weeks to discover the fate of their loved ones.
The relatives of the Chinese passengers were ushered through a VIP area at the airport when they arrived in Kuala Lumpur and led onto two large buses that drove them to a hotel about half an hour away.
About 30 Malaysian volunteers in pale blue polo-shirts led the relatives from the buses to the hotel. Some of the volunteers linked arms to prevent reporters from getting near and nudged cameramen aside.
The Chinese were mostly reticent. Some wore white T-shirts with light blue Chinese characters that said "Praying that MH370 returns home safely."
A man named Jiang Hui said the relatives would speak at greater length later.
"Now that we've come here, we will disseminate comments in a unified way. We don't reject the media, but please give us a bit of time."
Another man who gave only his surname, Xu, said in brief comments that the relatives want to meet officials "at the very highest levels."
In Beijing before they boarded the flight, one relative said they would demand to meet the prime minister and the defence minister, who is the chief spokesman for the government.
"We have questions that we would like to ask them in person," said Wang Chunjiang, whose younger brother, lawyer Wang Chunyong, was on flight MH370.
"We know what we can do is insignificant, but we will do whatever we can do for our beloved ones," said Wang, who was unable to make the trip because of a family issue. "We want to know what could have happened to them in the six hours the plane kept flying, and if they had to endure any mental and physical pains."
He said some relatives were hoping for a miracle. "It cannot be completely ruled out before we see the wreckage of the plane or the bodies of our loved ones."
When Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak confirmed on March 24 that based on radar and satellite analysis the plane had crashed somewhere in the southern Indian ocean, there were lingering questions because there was no physical evidence.
That wariness on the part of the relatives has been fuelled by the missteps at the beginning of the search, which started in waters off Vietnam, then swung to areas west of Malaysia and Indonesia, and then as radar and satellite information was further analysed, to southwest of Australia and now to a second zone farther northeast.
Later Sunday, Ong Ka Ting, the Malaysian prime minister's special envoy to China, went to the hotel to greet the relatives.
"I'm sure in Beijing they've already had a lot of discussions and we understand their feelings, and we know that definitely by coming over here there will be a lot more discussions and meetings," Ong said. " So we try our best to assist them."
In Perth, Australia, where the search is based, Australia set up a coordination centre for the multinational operation. Possibly in anticipation that wreckage of the plane will be found, officials said the centre will also be a contact point for the families, including interpreter services and counseling.
PERTH, Australia: Australia’s prime minister said he was hopeful a clue will emerge soon to narrow the hunt for Flight 370, as more objects were pulled from the southern Indian Ocean and checked to see if they were part of the plane that went missing more than three weeks ago.
But so far, even though more ships are scouring the area off western Australia, none of the recovered items has been connected to the Malaysia Airlines plane that crashed March 8 with 239 people on board.
“My understanding from this morning is that there has been no discrete debris associated with the flight,” Australian Navy Commodore Peter Leavy told reporters.
In Sydney, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott described the “intensifying search effort” as positive because objects “have been recovered from the ocean.”
The Australian Maritimes Safety Authority said 10 planes took part in the search today, leaving in staggered times from the western city of Perth. Eight ships were on the scene, including the Australian navy supply ship HMAS Success, which is to store any wreckage found.
The ships are trying to locate and identify the objects sighted by aircraft over the past two days.
Leavy, the commander of the search task force, said the operation was made more difficult because the particular area being combed is in a shipping lane littered with potentially more floating objects.
AMSA said there were light showers and low cloud in the area, but not enough to disrupt the search, which is about 2 ½ hours flying time from Perth, allowing the planes five hours of searching time before they have to return to base.
Among the objects spotted over the last day were three by a Chinese Ilyushin IL-76 plane that were white, red and orange, according to a report from China’s official Xinhua News Agency said. The missing Boeing 777’s exterior was red, white, blue and gray.
In Kuala Lumpur, several dozen Chinese relatives of passengers on Flight 370 arrived Sunday to demand to meet top officials for more information about what happened to the airliner.
Newly analysed satellite data shifted the search zone on Friday, raising expectations that searchers may be closer to getting physical evidence that the plane crashed into the Indian Ocean.
The change came after analysts determined that the Boeing 777 may have been traveling faster than earlier estimates and would therefore have run out of fuel sooner.
That would narrow the hunt for the wreckage and the plane’s black boxes, which should contain clues to what caused the plane to be so far off-course.
An Australian warship with an aircraft black box detector was set to depart today to join the search. It will still take three to four days for the ship, the Ocean Shield, to reach the search zone — an area roughly the size of Poland about 1,850 kilometres (1,150 miles) to the west of Australia.
“The ship will take part in the surface search until the debris is positively identified and an underwater search area is then predicted,” U.S .Navy Captain Mark Matthews told reporters in Perth.
The Ocean Shield will be equipped with a black box detector — the U.S. Navy’s Towed Pinger Locator — and an unmanned underwater vehicle, as well as other acoustic detection equipment.
But even if investigators can determine that the plane went down in the newly targeted search zone, recovery of its flight data and cockpit voice recorders could be complicated.
The sea floor within the search area is covered in squishy sediment and generally flat, save for a steep slope and trench near its southern end.
Unless the plane’s fuselage went down the slope or into the trench, the underwater geography should not hinder the search.
The area is dominated by Broken Ridge, a plateau where depths range from as shallow as about 800 meters (2,625 feet) to about 3,000 meters (9,843 feet).
At the edge of the plateau closest to Antarctica is the Diamantina trench, which sea floor mappers have found is as deep as 5,800 meters (19,000 feet), though it could be deeper in places that have not been measured.
Matthews said the Navy’s ping locator has the “capability to do search and recovery operations down to a depth of 20,000 feet.”
Data on the black boxes may help investigators solve what has become one of aviation’s big mysteries — what happened to Flight 370, with speculation ranging from equipment failure and a botched hijacking to terrorism or an act by one of the pilots.
Abbott also announced that former Australian defence chief, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, will lead a new centre in Perth to coordinate the international search effort. --AFP
Australian Navy Vice Admiral Ray Griggs (left), Commodore Peter Leavy (centre) and U.S. Navy Captain Mark Matthews (right) hold a news conference in front of the Australian Defence Vessel Ocean Shield at HMAS Stirling naval base near Perth. Matthews is in charge of the operation to deploy a U.S. Navy Supervisor of Salvage and Diving (SUPSALV) towed pinger locator, an undersea drone capable of exploring waters nearly 15,000 feet deep that will be towed by the Ocean Shield, to help locate the black box pinger from the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 in the southern Indian Ocean. REUTERS PHOTO
The side scan sonar imagery collected by the Bluefin Robotics deep-sea search submersible is capable of capturing great detail.
PETALING JAYA: International search and rescue efforts are still scouring the vast surface of the Indian Ocean for debris, but when the time comes for a deep-sea underwater search, the tools for it are ready for deployment.
It has been 23 days since Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 went missing, and 26 nations have contributed both manpower and technology to find the wreckage of the Boeing 777 aircraft, which was said to have ended its journey in the sea.
However, the need to locate the aircraft's flight data recorder - the so-called black box - is growing, and time is fast running out as its on-board batteries are said to be able to last for 30 days before it stops emitting locator pings.
However, what exactly will be used in the event of a deep-sea, underwater search?
Phoenix Towed Pinger Locator 25
According to the US Navy, which operates the Towed Pinger Locator or TPL-25, it is a 29kg system which "meets the Navy's requirement for locating emergency relocation pingers on downed Navy and commercial aircraft down to a maximum depth of 20,000 feet anywhere in the world", according to its page on the official Navy website.
The US Navy's TPL-25 Towed Pinger Locator.
The website explains that the TPL-25 consists of the tow fish, tow cable, winch, hydraulic power unit, generator, and topside control console.
"Navigation is accomplished by using algorithms incorporating the amount of cable in the water, the depth indication from the pressure sensor and other parameters. The generator provides electrical power for the system or power from the support platform can be used if it is compatible. The tow fish carries a passive listening device for detecting pingers that automatically transmit an acoustic pulse," it adds.
The official page adds that most pingers transmit every second at 37.5kHz, although the TPL can detect any pinger transmitting between 3.5kHz and 50kHz at any repetition rate.
"The Pinger Locator is towed behind a vessel at slow speeds, generally from one to five knots depending on the depth. The received acoustic signal of the pinger is transmitted up the cable and is presented audibly, and can be output to either an oscilloscope, or signal processing computer. The operator monitors the greatest signal strength and records the navigation coordinates," it said.
Bluefin-21 autonomous underwater vehicle
The Bluefin-21 is a 750kg, 4.93m-long "modular autonomous underwater vehicle able to carry multiple sensors and payloads at once" according to the Bluefin Robotics website.
The Bluefin-21 autonomous underwater vehicle is launched from a ship.
"It boasts a high energy capacity that enables extended operations even at the greatest depths. The Bluefin-21 has immense capability but is also flexible enough to operate from various ships of opportunity worldwide," said Bluefin Robotics on its official page.
Bluefin Robotics added that the Bluefin-21 is used for off-shore survey, search and salvage, archaeology and exploration, oceanography, mine countermeasures and unexploded ordnance searches.
'Abyss' type deep-sea submarine
Three deep-sea submarines used to search for wreckage of the crashed Air France Flight 447 have also been sent to aid in the search for MH370.
The three "Abyss" type submarines can dive to depths of 6,000m and stay submerged for up to 24 hours.
Two researchers stand behind the "Abyss" deep-sea submarine in this file picture. - EPA
They are used by two organisations, the Helmholtz Oceanography Institute in Kiel, Germany, which owns one and the Woods Hole Institute in Massachusetts in the United States which owns the other two.
The Abyss submarine has bathymetry, temperature, water velocity, salinity, sound speed, sidescan sonar, sound speed, optical backscatter and flourescence sensors, among others.
According to its official page on the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute website, "the deep ocean version, known as Semi-Autonomous Mapping System (SAMS), dives to 6,000m and can be operated from most any research vessel or ship that can accommodate a portable lab."
From before - wonder what really happened with this investigation ?
Published: Wednesday March 19, 2014 MYT 1:01:00 PM
Updated: Wednesday March 19, 2014 MYT 1:03:32 PM
Missing MH370: Maldives police probe reports of plane sighting
NEW DELHI: Police in the Maldives are probing reports that islanders in the tourism paradise saw a "low-flying jumbo jet" on the day the missing Malaysia Airlines plane vanished.
In a statement released late Tuesday, police said they were investigating a report on the Haveeru news website that local residents had spotted a large plane flying over the remote southern island of Kuda Huvadhoo on March 8.
"The police are looking into the reports in the media saying that a low-flying airplane was sighted above Kuda Huvadhoo," the statement said.
Several alleged sightings of the Boeing 777, which vanished en route from Kuala Lumpur with 239 people on board, have proved to be false alarms and reports of debris at sea have also turned up nothing.
Haveeru said witnesses on Kuda Huvadhoo had seen a white aircraft with red stripes flying towards the southern tip of the Maldives.
"I've never seen a jet flying so low over our island before. We've seen seaplanes, but I'm sure that this was not one of those. I could even make out the doors on the plane clearly," the website quoted one witness as saying.
Haveeru journalist Farah Ahmed said several witnesses had given similar accounts.
"These people first heard a very loud noise from a plane flying unusually low and they came out to see it," Ahmed told AFP by phone from the Maldives capital Male, whose international airport daily handles dozens of wide-body jets bringing in thousands of tourists.
The hunt for the missing passenger jet now focuses on two vast search areas - a northern one spanning south and central Asia, and a southern corridor stretching deep into the southern Indian Ocean towards Australia.
The Maldives, located far from both arcs, is not among the 26 countries currently involved in the massive international search operation. - AFP
and just a refresher - amazing how after 23 days we still don't really have a clue as to what happened ......
Did Missing Flight MH370 Land In The Maldives Or Diego Garcia: The Full Updated Summary
Well over a week after the disappearance of flight MH370 - which now is the longest official disappearance of a modern jet in aviation history - with no official trace of the missing plane yet revealed, the investigation, which as we reported over the weekend has focused on the pilots and specifically on Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah, earlier today revealed that on his home-made flight simulator had been loaded five Indian Ocean practice runways, among which those of Male in the Maldives, that of the US owned base at Sergio Garcia, as well as other runways in India and Sri Lanka - all notable runways as all are possible landing spots based on the flight's potential trajectories. TheMalay Mail Online reported, "The simulation programmes are based on runways at the Male International Airport in Maldives, an airport owned by the United States (Diego Garcia), and three other runways in India and Sri Lanka, all have runway lengths of 1,000 metres."
“We are not discounting the possibility that the plane landed on a runway that might not be heavily monitored, in addition to the theories that the plane landed on sea, in the hills, or in an open space,” the source was quoted as saying.
At this point the facts in the case are about as sketchy as any "data" on US Treasury holdings, but here is what was said on the record:
"Although Malay Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein denied yesterday that the plane had landed at US military base Diego Garcia, the source told the daily that this possibility will still be investigated based on the data found in Zaharie’s flight simulator software. The police had seized the flight simulator from the 53-year-old pilot’s house in Shah Alam on Saturday and reassembled it at the police headquarters where experts are conducting checks."
Previous reports indicated that the plane flew towards Checkpoint Gival, south of the Thai island of Phuket, and was last plotted heading northwest towards another checkpoint, Igrex, used for route P628 that would take it over the Andaman Islands and which carriers use to fly towards Europe.
Still, the Maldives news is of particular note since earlier today, Haaveru Online, quoted locals who said they had seen a "low flying jet" whose description is approximate to what flight MH370 looked like. From the source:
Whilst the disappearance of the Boeing 777 jet, carrying 239 passengers has left the whole world in bewilderment, several residents of Kuda Huvadhoo told Haveeru on Tuesday that they saw a "low flying jumbo jet" at around 6:15am on March 8.
They said that it was a white aircraft, with red stripes across it – which is what the Malaysia Airlines flights typically look like.
Eyewitnesses from the Kuda Huvadhoo concurred that the aeroplane was travelling North to South-East, towards the Southern tip of the Maldives – Addu. They also noted the incredibly loud noise that the flight made when it flew over the island.
"I've never seen a jet flying so low over our island before. We've seen seaplanes, but I'm sure that this was not one of those. I could even make out the doors on the plane clearly," said an eyewitness.
"It's not just me either, several other residents have reported seeing the exact same thing. Some people got out of their houses to see what was causing the tremendous noise too."
A local aviation expert told Haveeru that it is "likely" for MH370 to have flown over the Maldives. The possibility of any aircraft flying over the island at the reported time is extremely low, the expert added.
So did the pilot hijack the plane, reprogram the flight path, turn off the transponder, and fly low above the surface and below radar all the way to the Maldives, or alternatively, US airbase, Diego Garcia, where Captain Shah promptly offloaded 20+ tons of still unknown cargo? Some experts opine on just this, by way of the Telegraph:
If the Maldive lead turns out to be a strong one, then the next question is: could the plane conceivably have flown to Somalia? Or somewhere in the southern Arabian peninsula or Iran? Somalia seems a much more likely destination for a hijacker with its known al-Qaeda connections.
Theories about what happened to missing Malaysia Flight MH370 now span a 2 million-plus square mile area of open ocean and southeast Asian land, including one mysterious island in the Indian Ocean known as Diego Garcia.
While aviation experts and armchair theorists continue to come up with plausible locations, the jet could have landed or crashed. Many theories have included Diego Garcia as a notable landing strip.
The island atoll is a British territory in the central Indian Ocean and is home to a United States Navy support facility — not exactly a U.S. base, but a home for 1700 military personnel, 1,500 civilian contractors, and various Naval equipment.
The island — named after 16th century Spanish explorer Diego Garcia de Moguer — gained some notoriety in the past 10 years after reports claimed that the U.S. used Diego Garcia to transport and detain alleged terrorists.
Expect the US military to have zero official comments on the matter, and even less if indeed MH370 landed there, or merely used the base as a transit stop on its route further west, potentially to Africa.
* * *
There are other theories of course, some of which involve none other than such aviation experts as US politicians.
Michael McCaul, a Republican congressman from Texas, who chairs the House Homeland Security Committee, said that the plane may have actually landed and could be used by terrorist groups.
John Cornyn, a senator from Texas, helpfully tweeted a link to possible runways where the plane could have landed.
Peter King, a Republican congressman representing New York, suggests the Chinese have doctored some of their satellite images to hide the sophistication of their systems.
But Mr King said he was not aware of terrorist "chatter". He said on This Week:
QuoteNo, there's been no terrorist connections whatsoever. There's been no terrorist chatter. There's nothing out there indicating it's terrorists. Doesn't mean it's not, but so far nothing has been picked up by the intelligence community from Day One.
I still have questions about the two Iranians who were on the plane, but again, that could be a side issue. The fact is nothing has come up indicating a terrorist nexus.
Going back to what is known, here is a full and updated timeline of all events that took place, by way of BBC:
The search operation is now concentrating on huge areas to the north and south of Malaysia, after locational 'pings' detected by a satellite appeared to indicate the plane was somewhere on an arc stretching either north up to to Central Asia, or south, to the Indian Ocean and Australia.
Flight MH370 departed from Kuala Lumpur International Airport at 00:41 on Saturday (16:41 GMT Friday), and was due to arrive in Beijing at 06:30 (22:30 GMT).
Malaysia Airlines says the plane lost contact less than an hour after takeoff.
No distress signal or message was sent.
The ACARS - a service that allows computers aboard the plane to "talk" to computers on the ground - was silenced some time after 01:07 as the plane crossed Malaysia's east coast.
At about 01:19 the co-pilot was heard to say: "All right, good night".
The plane's transponder, which communicates with ground radar, was shut down soon after this final communication, as the aircraft crossed from Malaysian air traffic control into Vietnamese airspace over the South China Sea.
At 01:37 the next ACARS transmission was due, but never sent.
What happened next?
The plane's planned route would have taken it north-eastwards, over Cambodia and Vietnam, and the initial search focused on the South China Sea, south of Vietnam's Ca Mau peninsula.
But evidence from a military radar, revealed later, suggested the plane had suddenly changed from its northerly course to head west. So the search, involving dozens of ships and planes, then switched to the sea west of Malaysia.
MH370's last communication with a satellite, disclosed a week after the plane's disappearance, suggested the jet was in one of two flight corridors, one stretching north between Thailand and Kazakhstan, the other south between Indonesia and the southern Indian Ocean.
The timing of the last confirmed communication with a satellite was 08:11 (00:11 GMT), meaning that the Boeing continued flying for nearly seven hours after contact with air traffic control was lost.
Investigators are making further calculations to establish how far the plane might have flown after the last point of contact.
Who was on board?
Muhammad Razahan Zamani (bottom right), 24, and his wife Norli Akmar Hamid, 33, were on their honeymoon on the missing flight. The phone is being held by his stepsister, Arni Marlina
The 12 crew members were all Malaysian, led by pilots Captain Zaharie Ahmed Shah, 53 and 27-year-old co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid.
Police have searched their homes and a flight simulator has been taken from the captain's home and reassembled for examination at police headquarters.
It is now believed that co-pilot Hamid spoke the last words heard from the plane, "All right, good night" - but it it not clear whether this was before or after the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) had been deliberately switched off.
There were 227 passengers, including 153 Chinese and 38 Malaysians, according to the manifest. Seven were children.
Other passengers came from Iran, the US, Canada, Indonesia, Australia, India, France, New Zealand, Ukraine, Russia, Taiwan and the Netherlands.
Among the Chinese nationals were a delegation of 19 prominent artists who had attended an exhibition in Kuala Lumpur.
With so many of their nationals aboard, the Chinese Government has been very involved in the search, expressing barely-concealed frustration with the lack of progress.
Malaysia Airlines said there were four passengers who checked in for the flight but did not show up at the airport.
The plane was deliberately diverted, the Malaysian PM told a news conference
The aircraft's change of direction was consistent with "deliberate action on the plane", the Malaysian authorities said.
But it remains unclear whether the course change was carried out by the air crew or flight-trained hijackers onboard.
So far no known or credible terror group has emerged to claim responsibility.
Initial investigations concentrated on two passengers found to be travelling on stolen passports.
The two Iranian men - 19-year-old Pouria Nour Mohammad Mehrdad and Delavar Seyed Mohammadreza, 29 - were later found to headed for Europe via Beijing, and had no apparent links to terrorist groups.
Other theories for a crash
A Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200ER taking off from Narita Airport near Tokyo, Japan, last year
Some initial theories suggested that the aircraft could have suffered a disastrous mid-air decompression, but Malaysian authorities say they are now almost entirely focused on the actions of the crew.
Captain Zaharie Ahmed Shah, who had more than 18,000 flying hours behind him, had been employed by the airline since 1981.
Weather conditions for this flight were good.
Malaysia Airlines has a good safety record and the jet, a Boeing 777-200ER, is said to be one of the safest because of its modern technology.
* * *
Finally, for those who still have lingering questions, here also from the BBC, is a compendium of 10 theories attempting to explain the fate of the missing airliner.
1. Landed in the Andaman Islands
The plane was apparently at one stage heading in the direction of India's Andaman and Nicobar Islands, the most easterly part of Indian territory, which lies between Indonesia and the coast of Thailand and Burma. It has been reportedthat military radar there might not even have been operating, as the threat level is generally perceived to be low.
The editor of the islands' Andaman Chronicle newspaper dismisses the notion that the aircraft could be there. There are four airstrips but planes landing would be spotted, he told CNN. He also believed monitoring by the Indian military would prevent an airliner being able to land there unnoticed. But this is an isolated spot. There are more than 570 islands, only 36 of which are inhabited. If the plane had been stolen, this might be the best place to land it secretly, says Steve Buzdygan, a former BA 777 pilot. It would be difficult, but not impossible, to land on the beach, he says. At least 5,000ft (1500m) or so would make a long enough strip to land on.
It would be theoretically possible but extremely difficult. With such a heavy aeroplane, using the landing gear might lead to the wheels digging into the sand and sections of undercarriage being ripped off. "If I was landing on a beach I would keep the wheels up," says Buzdygan. But in this type of crash landing, the danger would also be damage to the wings, which are full of fuel, causing an explosion. Even if landed safely, it is unlikely the plane would be able to take off again.
2. Flew to Kazakhstan
The Central Asian republic is at the far end of the northern search corridor, so the plane could hypothetically have landed there. Light aircraft pilot Sylvia Wrigley, author of Why Planes Crash, says landing in a desert might be possible and certainly more likely than landing on a beach somewhere. "To pull this off, you are looking at landing in an incredibly isolated area," says Wrigley. The failure so far to release a cargo manifest has created wild rumours about a valuable load that could be a motive for hijacking. There has also been speculation that some of those on board were billionaires.
But the plane would have been detected, the Kazakh Civil Aviation Committee saidin a detailed statement sent to Reuters. And there's an even more obvious problem. The plane would have had to cross the airspace of countries like India, Pakistan and Afghanistan, which are all usually in a high state of military preparedness. But it's just possible that there are weak links in the radar systems of some of the countries en route to Central Asia, Wrigley speculates. "A lot of air traffic control gear is old. They might be used to getting false positives from flocks of birds and, therefore, it would be easy to discount it."
3. It flew south
The final satellite "ping" suggests the plane was still operational for at least five or six hours after leaving Malaysian radar range. For Norman Shanks, former head of group security at airports group BAA, and professor of aviation security at Coventry University, the search should therefore start from the extremes of the corridors and work up, rather than the other way around. He thinks the southern corridor is more likely for a plane that has so far avoided detection by radar.
The southern arc leads to the huge open spaces of the Indian Ocean, and then to Australia's empty northern hinterland. Without knowing the motive, it is hard to speculate where the plane's final destination was intended to be. But the plane may just have carried on until it ran out of fuel and then glided and crashed into the sea somewhere north of Australia.
4. Taklamakan Desert, north-west China
There has been speculation on forums that the plane could have been commandeered by China's Uighur Muslim separatists. Out of the plane's 239 passengers, 153 were Chinese citizens. One possible destination in this theory would be China's Taklamakan Desert. The region - described by Encyclopaedia Britannica as a "great desert of Central Asia and one of the largest sandy deserts in the world" - has no shortage of space far from prying eyes. The BBC's Jonah Fisher tweeted on 15 March: "Being briefed by Malaysia officials they believe most likely location for MH370 is on land somewhere near Chinese/Kyrgyz border."
But again, this theory rests on an extraordinary run through the radar systems of several countries.
5. It was flown towards Langkawi island because of a fire or other malfunction
The loss of transponders and communications could be explained by a fire, aviation blogger Chris Goodfellow has suggested. The left turn that the plane made, deviating from the route to Beijing, could have been a bid to reach safety, he argues. "This pilot did all the right things. He was confronted by some major event onboard that made him make that immediate turn back to the closest safe airport." He aimed to avoid crashing into a city or high ridges, Goodfellow argues. "Actually he was taking a direct route to Palau Langkawi, a 13,000ft (4,000m) strip with an approach over water at night with no obstacles. He did not turn back to Kuala Lumpur because he knew he had 8,000ft ridges to cross. He knew the terrain was friendlier towards Langkawi and also a shorter distance." In this theory it would be assumed that the airliner did not make it to Langkawi and crashed into the sea.
But Goodfellow's theory has been disputed. If the course was changed during a major emergency, one might expect it to be done using manual control. But the left turn was the result of someone in the cockpit typing "seven or eight keystrokes into a computer on a knee-high pedestal between the captain and the first officer, according to officials", the New York Times reported. The paper says this "has reinforced the belief of investigators - first voiced by Malaysian officials - that the plane was deliberately diverted and that foul play was involved."
6. The plane is in Pakistan
Media tycoon Rupert Murdoch has tweeted: "World seems transfixed by 777 disappearance. Maybe no crash but stolen, effectively hidden, perhaps in northern Pakistan, like Bin Laden." But Pakistan has strenuously denied that this would be possible. The country's assistant to the prime minister on aviation, Shujaat Azeem,has been reported as saying: "Pakistan's civil aviation radars never spotted this jet, so how it could be hidden somewhere in Pakistan?" Like the Kazakhstan theory, this all seems far-fetched, not least because the junction between Indian and Pakistani air space is one of the most watched sectors in the world by military radar. And despite the remoteness and lawlessness of northern Pakistan, the region is watched closely by satellites and drones. It seems scarcely believable to think an airliner could get there unspotted.
7. The plane hid in the shadow of another airliner
Aviation blogger Keith Ledgerwood believes the missing plane hid in the radar shadow of Singapore Airlines flight 68. The Singaporean airliner was in the same vicinity as the Malaysian plane, he argues. "It became apparent as I inspected SIA68's flight path history that MH370 had manoeuvred itself directly behind SIA68 at approximately 18:00UTC and over the next 15 minutes had been following SIA68." He believes that the Singaporean airliner would have disguised the missing plane from radar controllers on the ground. "It is my belief that MH370 likely flew in the shadow of SIA68 through India and Afghanistan airspace. As MH370 was flying 'dark' without a transponder, SIA68 would have had no knowledge that MH370 was anywhere around, and as it entered Indian airspace, it would have shown up as one single blip on the radar with only the transponder information of SIA68 lighting up ATC and military radar screens." The Singapore Airlines plane flew on to Spain. The Malaysian jet could have branched off. "There are several locations along the flight path of SIA68 where it could have easily broken contact and flown and landed in Xinjiang, Kyrgyzstan, or Turkmenistan," Ledgerwood argues.
Prof Hugh Griffiths, radar expert at University College London, says it sounds feasible. But there is a difference between military and civilian radar. Civilian radar works by means of a transponder carried by the aircraft - a system known as secondary radar. The military use primary radar and this "ought to be higher resolution". So how close would the two planes need to be? He estimates about 1000m (3300ft). It is possible military radar would be able to pick up that there were two objects, he says. "It might be able to tell the difference, to know that there are two targets." If this happens, though, there's then the question of how this is interpreted on the ground. Is it a strange echo that would be discounted? When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, although the US radar operator detected the incoming aircraft, they were dismissed as US bombers arriving from the mainland.
8. There was a struggle
One of the hardest things to account for so far with an innocent explanation is the way the plane was flown erratically. It went far above its "ceiling", flying at 45,000ft (13,716m) before later flying very low. Big fluctuations in altitude suggest there might have been a struggle, says Buzdygan. Post-9/11, cockpit doors have been strengthened against the possibility of hijack but there are still scenarios where access could be gained. Pilots talk to each other "over a beer" about how they'd deal with hijackers, he says. Buzdygan would have had no qualms about flying aggressively to try to resist a hijack. "I'd try to disorientate and confuse the hijackers by throwing them around," he says.
9. The passengers were deliberately killed by decompression
Another theory circulating is that the plane was taken up to 45,000ft to kill the passengers quickly, former RAF navigator Sean Maffett says. The supposed motive for this might have been primarily to stop the passengers using mobile phones, once the plane descended to a much lower altitude. At 45,000ft, the Boeing 777 is way above its normal operating height. And it is possible to depressurise the cabin, notes Maffett. Oxygen masks would automatically deploy. They would run out after 12-15 minutes. The passengers - as with carbon monoxide poisoning - would slip into unconsciousness and die, he argues. But whoever was in control of the plane would also perish in this scenario, unless they had access to some other form of oxygen supply.
10. The plane will take off again to be used in a terrorist attack
One of the more outlandish theories is that the plane has been stolen by terrorists to commit a 9/11 style atrocity. It has been landed safely, hidden or camouflaged, will be refuelled and fitted with a new transponder before taking off to attack a city. It would be very hard to land a plane, hide it and then take off again, Maffett suggested. But it can't be ruled out. "We are now at stage where very, very difficult things have to be considered as all sensible options seem to have dropped off," he says. It is not clear even whether a plane could be refitted with a new transponder and given a totally new identity in this way, he says. Others would say that while it is just about feasible the plane could be landed in secret, it is unlikely it would be in a fit state to take off again.
The even more far-fetched
Many of the above theories might seem far-fetched but there are even more outlandish-sounding ones out there.
If the plane had flown up the northern corridor, experts maintain it would probably have triggered primary radar. Key countries whose airspace it might have crossed are Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, China, Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam, or Thailand. After 9/11, an unidentified airliner entering sovereign airspace is likely to lead to fighters being scrambled, says Maffett. "If the plane is in the northern arc it could easily have been shot down." It's a theory circulating on some forums. The notion is that no-one would want to admit shooting down an airliner full of passengers, Maffett says, and thus might currently be concealing the event.
But there are a host of holes in the theory. Firstly, the plane would still have had to avoid numerous radar systems before finally triggering one. And the nation responsible would be trying to keep secret the fate of the world's currently most-searched for object. Covering up the incident for so long would arguably make the shooting down look far worse.
A completely different thread of conspiracy theory assumes a sympathetic regime. The scepticism about flying undetected through radar changes somewhat if the hijackers are in cahoots with a country's government. There are several authoritarian regimes within the aircraft's range, but the conspiracy theory doesn't even require a government's co-operation - the hijackers could just be in cahoots with radar operators. Again, this seems to be a conspiracy of incredible complexity to be kept secret for this length of time. And what would the motive be for those colluding?
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Motive? We don't know. But then again, neither we nor anyone else appears to have seen the full cargo manifest yet, which as we said early last week may hold all the answers, and frankly we find it surprising that in a case of such magnitude this most critical unknown has been largely left untouched by everyone.
Let me state from the outset that I totally agree with the press statements by Malaysia’s Defence Minister and Acting Transport Minister, Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein that “we have conducted ourselves fairly, responsibly and history will judge us for that.”
And to a mischievous and presumptuous question from a correspondent of the Financial Times, Datuk Seri with confidence and integrity rightly said without any fear of contradiction that, “I don’t think we could have done anything different from what we have already done.” Well done!
The Financial Times, CNN and other foreign media ought to pose similar questions to the US and its intelligence services and stop insinuating that Malaysia has not been transparent and/or engaged in a cover-up. Foreign media should stop engaging in dirty politics!
It is my hope that following the publication of this article, Malaysian mass media will focus on questioning the integrity of the US’s assistance to Malaysia in the first three weeks of the SAR mission, notwithstanding its recent offer of more assistance.
I take comfort that my reservations about the US and its intelligence services as well as other intelligence services closely linked to the US, especially British secret service, have been more than vindicated by Reuters in its news report on 28th March, 2014 entitled Geopolitical games handicap hunt for flight MH370
The search for flight MH370, the Malaysian Airlines jetliner that vanished over the South China Sea on March 8, has involved more than two dozen countries and 60 aircraft and ships but has been bedevilled by regional rivalries.
… With the United States playing a relatively muted role in the sort of exercise that until recently it would have dominated, experts and officials say there was no real central coordination until the search for the plane was confined to the southern Indian Ocean, when Australia largely took charge.
Part of the problem is that Asia has no NATO-style regional defence structure, though several countries have formal alliances with the United States. Commonwealth members Malaysia, Singapore, New Zealand and Australia also have an arrangement with Britain to discuss defence matters in times of crisis.
As mystery deepened over the fate of the Boeing 777 and its 239 passengers and crew, most of them Chinese, it became clear that highly classified military technology might hold the key.
But the investigation became deadlocked over the reluctance of others to share sensitive data, a reticence that appeared to harden as the search area widened.
“This is turning into a spy novel,” said an envoy from a Southeast Asian country, noting it was turning attention to areas and techniques few countries liked to publicly discuss.
Ultimately, the only country with the technical resources to recover the plane – or at least its black box recorder, which could lie in water several miles deep – may be the United States. Its deep-sea vehicles ultimately hauled up the wreckage of Air France 447 after its 2009 crash into a remote region of the South Atlantic.
While Putrajaya has been forced to reveal some of the limits and ranges of its air defences, the reluctance of Malaysia’s neighbours to release sensitive radar data may have obstructed the investigation for days.
At an ambassadorial meeting in the ad hoc crisis centre at an airport hotel on March 16, Malaysia formally appealed to countries on the jet’s possible path for help, but in part met with polite stonewalling, two people close to the talks said.
Some countries asked Malaysia to put its request in writing, triggering a flurry of diplomatic notes and high-level contacts.
‘It became a game of poker in which Malaysia handed out the cards at the table but couldn’t force others to show their hand,“ a person from another country involved in the talks said.
As in the northern Indian Ocean, where Chinese forces operate alongside other nations to combat Somali piracy, current and former officials say all sides are almost certainly quietly spying on and monitoring each other at the same time. (emphasis added)
WantaChinaTimes, Taiwan reported,
The United States has taken advantage of the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight to test the capabilities of China’s satellites and judge the threat of Chinese missiles against its aircraft carriers, reports our sister paper Want Daily.
Erich Shih, chief reporter at Chinese-language military news monthly Defense International, said the US has more and better satellites but has not taken part in the search for flight MH370, which disappeared about an hour into its flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing in the early hours of March 8 with 239 people on board. Shih claimed that the US held back because it wanted to see what information China’s satellites would provide.
The above is the reality which we have to confront. Therefore, desist any attempt to label the above mainstream media articles as a “conspiracy theory”. Reuters has let the Genie out of the bottle!
Malaysia’s Minister of Transport Datuk Seri Hishammuddin gave hints of Malaysia’s difficulties (as his hands were tied by intelligence protocols and or refusal by the relevant foreign intelligence services and diplomatic reluctance) but our local media failed to appreciate the nuances of his statements by not directing their questions at those parties that have failed Malaysia as their neighbour and in their duties under various defence treaties and arrangements.
Malaysian media, please read at the minimum three times, the sentences in bold AND WAKE UP TO THE REALITY that our country has been badly treated even though our country put all its national security cards on the table so that countries whose nationals are passengers on flight MH 370 could come forward with sincerity to assist in resolving this unfortunate tragedy which is not Malaysia’s making.
Malaysia is but a victim of this tragedy whose plane, MH 370 was used for a hidden agenda for which only time will reveal.
In my previous article posted to the website on the 27th March, 2014, I exposed how Israel is exploiting the tragedy to create public opinion for a war against Iran, a Muslim country that has close ties with Malaysia.
At the outset of the SAR Mission, all concerned stated categorically that every scenario, no matter how unlikely would be examined critically with no stones left unturned – terrorist hijacking, suicide mission, technical failures, inadequate security, criminal actions of the pilot and or co-pilot etc.
Given the above premise, families of the passengers and the crew of MH 370 have every right to ask the following questions of the US and other countries that have sophisticated technologies to track and monitor airplanes and ships in all circumstances.
Such questions should not be shot down by those who have a hidden agenda that such queries amount to “conspiracy theories”. Far from being conspiracy theories, we assert that the questions tabled below and the rationale for asking them are well founded and must be addressed by the relevant parties, failing which an inference ought to be drawn that they are complicit in the disappearance of MH 370.
Let us begin.
1) Was the plane ordered to turn back, if so who gave the order?
2) Was the plane turned back manually or by remote control?
3) If the latter, which country or countries have the technologies to execute such an operation?
4) Was MH 370 weaponised before its flight to Beijing?
5) If so, what are the likely methods for such a mission – Biological weapons, dirty bombs?
6) Was Beijing / China the target and if so why?
7) Qui Bono?
8) The time sequence of countries identifying the alleged MH 370 debris in the Indian ocean was first made by Australia followed by France, Thailand, Japan, and Britain via Immarsat. Why did US not offer any satellite intelligence till today?
9) Prior to the switch of focus to the Indian ocean, was the SAR mission in the South China seas, used as a cover for the deployment of undersea equipment to track and monitor naval capabilities of all the nations’ navies competing for ownership of disputed territorial waters? Reuters as quoted above seems to have suggested such an outcome.
10) Till to date why was there been no focus, especially by foreign mass media, on the intelligence and surveillance capabilities of Diego Garcia, the strategic naval and air base of the US?
11) Why no questions were asked whether the flight path of MH 370 (if as alleged crashed in the Indian Ocean), was within the geographical parameters of the Intelligence capabilities of Diego Garcia? Why no planes were deployed from Diego Garcia to intercept the “Unidentified” plane which obviously would pose a threat to the Diego Gracia military base?
12) The outdated capabilities of the Hexagon satellite system deployed by the US in the 1970s has a ground resolution of 0.6 meters; what’s more, the present and latest technologies which boast of the ability to identify objects much smaller in size. Why have such satellites not provided any images of the alleged debris in the Indian Ocean? Were they deliberately withheld?
13) On April 6th, 2012, the US launched a mission dubbed “NROL-25” (consisting of a spy satellite) from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The NROL-25 satellite was likely rigged with “synthetic aperture radar” a system capable of observing targets around the globe in daylight and darkness, able to penetrate clouds and identify underground structures such as military bunkers. Though the true capabilities of the satellites are not publicly known due to their top-secret classification, some analysts have claimed that the technology allows the authorities to zoom in on items as small as a human fist from hundreds of miles away. How is it that no imagery of MH370 debris was forwarded to Malaysia, as this capability is not classified though other technologies might well remain classified? (Source: Slate.com)
14) Could it be that the above capabilities were not as touted?
15) However, in December, 2013, the USAtlas V rocket was launched carrying the spy satellite NROL-39 for the National Reconnaissance Office, an intelligence agency which is often overshadowed by the notorious National Security Agency (NSA), only it scoops data via spy satellites in outer space. The “NROL-39 emblem” is represented by the Octopus a versatile, adaptive, and highly intelligent creature. Emblematically, enemies of the United States can be reached no matter where they choose to hide. The emblem boldly states “Nothing is beyond our reach”. This virtually means that the tentacles of America’s World Octopus are spreading across the globe to coil around everything within their grasp, which is, well, everything (Source: Voice of Moscow). Yet, the US with such capabilities remained silent. Why?
It cannot be said that it is not within the realm of probabilities that the US may not want the plane MH 370 to be recovered if rogue intelligence operators were responsible for the disappearance of MH 370.
If the above questions have been posed to the US and other intelligence agencies and answers are not forthcoming, I take the view that the Malaysian government ought to declare publicly that our national sovereignty and security have been jeopardized by the disappearance of MH 370 and that the relevant intelligence agencies have been tacitly complicit in the disappearance of MH370.
By coming out openly to explain the predicament faced by our country, Malaysia may prevent a hostile act against a third country.
I therefore call upon Malaysian mass media to be courageous and initiate such queries as only the US and other intelligence agencies can give definitive answers to the above 15 questions.
It is futile to demand answers from Malaysia as we are not in any position to supply the information as we do not have the capabilities of the global and regional military powers.
Malaysians must unite behind the government so that our leaders need not feel that they are alone shouldering this enormous burden.
Matthias Chang is a prominent Malaysian lawyer and author, who served as political secretary and adviser to former Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohamad.