At 16:41 GMT on Friday March 7, 2014, 227 people boarded Malaysia Airlines flight MH370. They have not been seen since.
What began as an ordinary flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing has turned into one of the most peculiar aviation mysteries of our time. During the flight, with no radio transmissions from the pilot to indicate anything was wrong, the airliner’s transponder went dark, and the Boeing 777, carrying a total of 239 persons, vanished from radar. This occurred at 17:30 GMT on March 7.
This disappearance has been called “unprecedented,” leading to an international search to locate the missing airliner. 10 countries have dispatched search vessels and aircraft to the seas near Vietnam, including the Gulf of Thailand and the South China Sea, and China has deployed satellites to assist.
Nothing of the plane itself, or its passengers, has been found to date, despite brief glimmers that turned out to be completely unrelated: two oil slicks, a “moss-covered cap of cable reel,” a tied-up bunch of logs, and a rectangular object that looked like an airplane door.
There have been other strange occurrences, as well, most of which are unverified. Some just add to the confusion:
The cell phones of the passengers could still be ringed when called (although I’ve read this can happen, regardless).
A group of fisherman discovered a damaged life raft off of Port Dickson, Malaysia, which reportedly sunk into the ocean when they attempted to hand it over to authorities.
Two men aboard the plane had used stolen passports, and their tickets were paid for by a mysterious Mr. Ali, whose true identity remains unknown. There were also media reports that the Malaysian Air Force had tracked the airliner over the Strait of Malacca hours after it went dark, but these reports were quickly denied.
And, finally (for now), an email was sent to Vietnam’s air traffic management by an oil rig worker who claimed to have witnessed a burning object some 300 km southeast of Vung Tau. A plane has, at this time, been sent to investigate.
There’s also an interesting write-up over at The Conversation that seems to leave us with this conclusion: 1.) something happened to render the airliner’s communications and electronics unavailable; 2.) the airliner diverged from its expected flight path; and 3.) crashed in an unknown location. What may have happened to disable the flight’s communications is unclear.
For now, we’re still left with nothing more than speculation and a flurry of confusing updates.
And this, as you can imagine, has led to a number of theories.
Conspiracies in the Air
There’s no doubt that the hunt for Flight 370 has been… less than ideal. Even the official reports have been hit by contradictions and retractions. This has left the door wide open for a number of bizarre conspiracy theories, many involving a cover up of some kind.
Hit the social networks and you’ll even find comments about a possible “mid-air alien abduction” or other extraterrestrial shenanigans.
However, while the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 remains a mystery, there’s no reason (yet) to assume anything malicious or extraordinary is at work. If you’re interested, head over to the Professional Pilots Rumour Network, a forum where actual pilots are currently discussing the various possibilities.