Did the perpetrator forget the satellite handshakes?
The Malaysian authorities’ handling of the aftermath was so baffling that it is difficult to know whether it signified ineptitude or a cover-up.
Malaysian Airlines Flight 370, March 8, 2014
MH370 was the overnight Malaysian Airlines twice-daily flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. The twelve-year-old Boeing 777 had a total of 53,460 hours but had been used on relatively long-haul routes and so only had 7,525 cycles, that is takeoffs and landings, which are what age an aircraft in terms of metal fatigue. Bearing that in mind and that it had not been involved in an incident like a tail strike, entailing major repairs, catastrophic failure of the fuselage was most unlikely. So why did it disappear? Could it be a bomb? Or a hijacking, with it spirited away to some faraway place? That theory at least gave the relatives some hope their loved ones were still alive.
Taking off from Kuala Lumpur’s new airport at 00:41 Malaysia time with 12 crew and 267 passengers, it gradually gained height as it flew over the Malay Peninsula to the northeast. At 01:06, just before reaching the coast, its ACARS data link automatically transmitted an update of its status, including the fact that 96,600 pounds (43,800 kilos) of fuel remained and there were no particular faults. Out over the South China Sea, it reached its thirty-five-thousand-feet cruising height.
At 01:19, Kuala Lumpur air traffic control instructed them to switch frequency to that of the Vietnamese Ho Chi Minh air traffic control. The captain of MH370 acknowledged and signed off by simply saying:
Good night, Malaysian Three-Seven-Zero.
These were the haunting last words heard from the pilots.
Tentative Conclusion (Summary)
Taken individually, many of the twists and turns the aircraft made are explainable, but taken as a whole, the coincidences, leading to suspicion it was an intentional act, are too many:
It all started seemingly all too conveniently just after 01:19 Malaysia time at the point where the Malaysian and Vietnamese flight information regions (FIRs) intersect. Having just left Malaysian control, MH370 disappeared from civilian radar without having signed on with the Vietnamese. Not only had the transponder stopped working, the ACARS data link had, too. Though they could have reversed course to get back to Malaysia to make an emergency landing, it also meant the Vietnamese controllers would be looking for them, possibly with primary military radar, in quite the wrong place.
Because they turned left some 150 degrees to Penang, rather than 180 degrees back to Kuala Lumpur, the possibility of the unidentified aircraft being suspected as having been hijacked and about to be flown into the Petronas twin towers, 9/11-style, was avoided.
Turning to the right after Penang to go north up the Strait of Malacca avoided drawing the attention of the Indonesians.
Malaysian military radar tracked them going up the strait until 02:22, after which they turned left on reaching some point above the northern tip of Sumatra, to fly south over the ocean to one of the most remote parts of the world, where, without the satellite handshake data, no one would ever dream of looking. Last satellite contact was at 08:19, seven hours after “Goodnight, Malaysian Three-Seven-Zero.”