Plot Thickens on Missing Malaysian Plane: Hijacking, Terrorism Gone Bad? (UPDATED)

The facts are so muddied about what happened to Malaysian Airlines flight 370 that I've deliberately steered away from the subject for the past week. But with crazy conspiracy theories still filling the air waves, we are getting some facts that have been around for a couple of days and have yet to be debunked so I'll go ahead and pull the trigger here.

Here's what we think we know: Sometime after takeoff, someone on the airplane deliberately turned off two pieces of the communication system:

US officials believe that two communications systems aboard Malaysian Airlines flight 370 were shut down separately, 14 minutes apart - which indicates the plane did not come down because of a sudden catastrophic failure.

The data reporting system was shut down at 1.07 am and the transponder was turned off at 1.21 am just after the the pilot signed off to Malaysian air traffic controllers with 'All right, good night,'

Right after the transponder is turned off, the plane diverts West towards the Middle East:
Analysis of the Malaysia data suggests the plane, with 239 people on board, diverted from its intended northeast route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing and flew west instead, using airline flight corridors normally employed for routes to the Middle East and Europe
Some are speculating that the plane landed in the Andman Islands, but people familiar with this particular kind of plane say that there isn't a landing strip big enough for the jet to land. Which means that the plane is probably somewhere at the bottom of the Indian Ocean, and not the South China Sea where the search and rescue operation has been looking unsuccessfully for a week:
And a senior U.S. official on Thursday offered a conflicting account, telling CNN that "there is probably a significant likelihood" the plane is on the bottom of the Indian Ocean.
The US and India have both deployed assets to look in the area around the Andoman islands.

Ok, so what we think now is that:
a) Someone deliberately turned off the airplane's communication systems.
b) The plane then banked West, away from its intended course
c) A piece of hardware was last heard "pinging" its corporate headquarters somewhere over the Indian Ocean on a course over the Andoman islands.

The new theory is that is that this was either an act of terrorism or a hijacking gone awry. The implication is that someone on board with commercial flight training -- say, one of the pilots or a passenger who was a pilot -- is responsible.

And remember, just this week at the trial of Sulaiman Abu Ghaith in NYC a witness, Saajid Badat, claims that he met with Malaysian terrorists and gave them one of the shoe bombs that al Qaeda had intended for him to use (he was the second "shoe bomber" who chickened out, Richard Reid was the other). NYT:

Mr. Badat testified in 2012 that some months after Sept. 11, 2001, he met with members of a Malaysian terrorist group who were ready to perform “a similar hijacking to 9/11.”
Now, there is some technical evidence that Richard Reid's shoe bomb would most likely not have brought a plane down unless a variety of other factors went right for him. So, I'm not suggesting a shoe bomb brought down the plane.

But the real insight here is that there are al Qaeda types operating in Malaysia (you know, that bastion of "moderation"). I can't find this at the NYTimes story I linked above, but I heard the author of the piece on NPR the other day and he mentioned that Badat claimed that one of the Malaysians he met with had had some flight training.

So, some kind of hijacking or terrorism? Maybe an attempt to use the plane 9/11 style on an Indian city?

Here's what's missing from this theory: if this was some kind of terrorism, where's the video statement from the 'shahids'? Where's the statement from al Qaeda or its Malaysian sympathizers?

If this was a hijacking: where are the demands for money? Or where are the demands for the release of 'political prisoners'? Or the return of Kashmir to Pakistan?

So far none of the pieces fit together so neatly that we have a clear picture of what happened. Any other theories?

UPDATE: Been busy today. And by "busy" I mean went home after teaching classes and took a nap. But here's some added thoughts I put in the comments and then decided to update the post with.

Interesting thoughts all. Just to lay some facts down:

You can't take over a plane via the intertubez and then fly it "remotely". Just isn't possible. Too much TV people.

Dry run? There's no such thing. Terrorists don't "dry run" anything, they just do it. Often, they fail. The chances for detection double when you practice the act of terror before you do the act of terror. It's why they don't do it. Again, too much TV.

Pakistan? That means the plane flew over India. Indians would have noticed. Also, the Pakistanis have plenty of airplanes. No need to hijack one.

You can't land something like this on a dirt strip. Well, you might land it, but you'd never get it to take off again. The tires, struts, and shocks on these things just aren't built for that.

I've heard a few theories about they took the plane to use it in a terror attack against the US (either in the homeland or Diego Garcia). But ... um ... why the US? Militant Islamists have plenty of targets more proximate than the US. In the region, India is considered the little Satan with Kashmir being the regions Palestinian question. But Thailand is also little Satan. And all the secular and apostate governments in Muslims countries. Etc, etc.

I like John's hypothesis. Someone took the plane with the intention of using it somehow (kidnapping, 9/11 style attack) and then something went wrong and it crashed.

I can see a number of scenarios where this works. The pilots take the plane. It's all good for an hour or so. One of the passengers turns on his GPS and notices they're headed towards India, not China. Word spreads. The passengers revolt, not willing to become fodder in a 9/11 style attack.

Plausible?

Posted by: Rusty at 06:02 PM

Comments

1 Greetings:

At the level of supreme surmise, I'd go with that cute little Islamist beach community of Banda Aceh. Maybe all the post-tsunami kuffar dollars have finally dried up.

Posted by: 11B40 at March 14, 2014 11:11 AM

2 “Which means that the plane is probably somewhere at the bottom of the Indian Ocean…”

Based on…what? Hell, just as likely it could be in Pakistan.

“Here's what's missing from this theory: if this was some kind of terrorism, where's the video statement from the 'shahids'? Where's the statement from al Qaeda or its Malaysian sympathizers?”

Who’s to say they want us to know. A large airplane is an asset - see 9/11/01. Why is it so hard to believe they want to wait and use it for an operation at a later date. I can’t believe nobody is talking about that possibility.

Speaking of 9/11, if that didn’t teach us anything about asymmetrical warfare nothing will. They have 24 hours a day to come up with new and improved ways of conducting terror. It’s their “job”. Not many people thought about airplanes flying into buildings pre-9/11. This maybe a new tactic in the Long War. Our world may have just changed again, in quite a dramatic way.

Posted by: tim at March 14, 2014 11:19 AM

3 Follow on to Tim; Can anyone imagine the next form of security for airline travelers? Cages/Pens for each seat for our safety...

Posted by: dc at March 14, 2014 11:37 AM

4 Best guess: It's in Pakistan being loaded with dirty nuclear material with the intent to fly into a kafir city. Or the brave Chinese passengers took control and brought it down.

Posted by: Rc at March 14, 2014 11:47 AM

5 What we know:

1. A plane disappeared. All indications are that it was by human control and not random destruction.

2. The plane is not still in their air. It either made a controlled landing or crashed. Crashing the plane would have been simple. It may have crashed unintentionally but the simple solution is to assume that was not the plan.

3. People have proposed several theories as to how a plane of that size could land at an outlaw strip, but putting it back into the air would be difficult. Hiding it for any length of time would also be hard to assure. Does anyone truly know how many ways a modern airliner can phone home? From this we must assume that whoever took it did not plan on keeping it.

So why not take the simple, direct solution to the problem. Somebody took a plane but keeping and reusing a plane is much harder than simply taking one. So they didn't want the plane, they wanted what it was carrying. Kidnapping or theft are the obvious motives. Exactly who was on the plane and what was it carrying in it's cargo hold? Answer those questions and see where they lead.

Posted by: John Morris at March 14, 2014 12:07 PM

6
How about a dry run
What is the biggest news in aviation in the last 10 year? Drones. How about some one took over the planes computer and flew it into the ocean. Making it almost impossible to find. Suicide mission but if some one put a program in the planes computer and most newer bigger planes all have internet access, some one sitting in the plane could with a laptop or Ipad take control. Don't know if it possible but if it is it's a scary thought. Compromise a dozen airplanes and simltaniously fly them into what ever. Al Qaeda has always been interested in using planes.The Pacific attempt to bring down multiple planes, our 9/11, cockpits secured theytried shoe, underware and cargo bombs. so why not this? This way they won't need an airforce they would just use our own planes against us. Scary thought. Don't know if it possible but someone should think about making sure it isn't.

Posted by: Scott at March 14, 2014 01:07 PM

7 The most obvious cause of the loss of the aircraft and it's continued flight for several hours is that the crew were overcome by hypoxia.

The switching on or off of the transponder may have been done whilst in a state of delirium or confusion over buzzer warnings telling them that the pressurisation was set to manual or by cabin crew trying to set it to a distress signal.

There is zero reason to believe that terrorism or hijacking are involved and in any case turning off a transponder does not make them invisible.

It is highly unlikely that the aircraft is at a secret airfield, it is certainly not in Pakistan because the Indians would notice it.

Posted by: STV at March 14, 2014 01:24 PM

8 Whatever happened to Adnan el Shikrijumah?

Posted by: Jamie at March 14, 2014 01:38 PM

9 Just between us.....*looks left, then slowly looks right* It was Colonel Peacock, with the Monkey Wrench, in the Lavatory.*nods head slowly*

Posted by: MtTB at March 14, 2014 02:33 PM

10 US wanted Iranian defector with info. Took over control remotely, (http://tinyurl.com/olwrngd) and landed at diego garcia. thats why QQ was showing online, thats why P3 were searching in indian ocean before anyone else.
why is my theory any worse than yorn iz?

Posted by: b at March 14, 2014 02:35 PM

11 Interesting thoughts all. Just to lay some facts down:

You can't take over a plane via the intertubez and then fly it "remotely". Just isn't possible.

Dry run? There's no such thing. Terrorists don't "dry run" anything, they just do it. Often, they fail.

Pakistan? That means the plane flew over India. Indians would have noticed. Also, the Pakistanis have plenty of airplanes. No need to hijack one.

You can't land something like this on a dirt strip. Well, you might land it, but you'd never get it to take off again. The tires, struts, and shocks on these things just aren't built for that.

I like John's hypothesis. Someone took the plane with the intention of using it somehow (kidnapping, 9/11 style attack) and then something went wrong and it crashed.

I can see a number of scenarios where this works. The pilots take the plane. It's all good for an hour or so. One of the passengers turns on his GPS and notices they're headed towards India, not China. Word spreads. The passengers revolt, not willing to become fodder in a 9/11 style attack.

Plausible?

Posted by: Rusty at March 14, 2014 05:55 PM

12 If the passengers revolted wouldn't at least one of them have made a phone call or sent a text message? Or is that not possible being where they most likely were?

Posted by: Adam at March 14, 2014 06:07 PM

13 I've flown on a plane where you were allowed to use your cell phone and that was over the US and you'd get cell coverage for like 15 - 30 seconds at a time, then it'd drop. And that was in a plane that was flying maybe half the speed of a commercial jet. I imagine that there aren't any cell towers over the Indian Ocean, and I don't think any airlines have those old sat phones on the back of each seat that were still around and in use like they had back in 2001.

Posted by: Rusty at March 14, 2014 06:26 PM

14 Total silence from the passengers may be the key. Who wouldn't notice an abrupt turn? Rapid ascends and descends? Who wouldn't get on their phone and start calling family, friends, colleagues? But as far as we know, there was silence.

Posted by: Kalifornia Kafir at March 14, 2014 11:02 PM

15 "The passengers revolt, not willing to become fodder in a 9/11 style attack. Plausible?"

*Definitely*.
If it looks like your time is up, you might as well use the remaining minutes trying to kill the hijacker(s).

You have nothing at all to lose and some fleeting satisfaction to gain by killing the Muzz-slimes.



Posted by: Shadowman at March 15, 2014 03:15 AM

16 trying to think of a scenario in which the passengers are not dead, but it isn't working. Even if a whole control tower crew were in on the deal and shuffled the aircraft into an unannounced landing at some real airport... and if the passengers were knocked out by shutting off the oxygen and opening a window... too many people involved. John's hypothesis is pretty much what i was thinking, that NOTE flying to avoid radar is not as easy as it looked on the simulator.
Splash.

Posted by: Storm Saxon's Gall Bladder at March 15, 2014 09:00 AM

17 If it's not in the ocean, then maybe Myanmar? Alot of opium running out of there, so why not a 777?

Posted by: Birdddog at March 15, 2014 11:43 AM

18
I think Pakistan is a country too far....
You need to look at the area surrounding the Adanan Islands. I saw it on one map used, and that is the particular route comes very close to a remote part of China... the part that is the home of the Uighars. Is there a connection? I am not sure.
We now know for certain that the plane did not disappear in the South China Sea near Vietnam where it was last tracked by civilian air traffic control.
At the same time we know that military radar tracked a low flying aircraft that had turned from its flight path and headed in a separate corridor. In fact we know that the plane flew over parts of Indonesia, in particular over the Aceh province.
None of this makes any sense at all.
There was no mid air explosion because if there had been then there would have been wreckage found, especially in the South China Sea.
This leaves some possibilities:
1. There was more than one Uighar with flight experience on that aircraft and the plane was hijacked and landed in Xianping province China (I hope I have the name of the Uighar province correct). This is the remote Chinese province that is closest to where the plane was last tracked over the Adanan Islands.
2. The captain of the aircraft really did go bad because Ibrahim had his overturn of his sentence overturned again... this is the theory of the Malaysian police that are inferring that the pilot was a political fanatic. (about as fanatical as a conservative member of the TEA movement I suspect!!)
3. The co-pilot got involved in some kind of plot because of his activities during other flights... a bit of coercion against his family or some such might have forced his co-operation (just my wild theory.. and not worth a scrap of attention).
4. The plane came down over the Adanan Islands.
Take your pick out of more crazy theories. The only thing I do know is that the lack of wreckage does not point to an explosion or anything else at the present time.

Posted by: Aussie at March 16, 2014 04:11 AM

19 The talk is that the pilots wife and three kids abandoned their McMansion in the hours preceding flight MH370.

Inspector Clouseau is tracking down all of the leads -- a week too late.

BTW, sleeping/ sleepy passengers are easily fooled if the diversion is by the flight crew. They need only state that there's turbulence ahead.

Even rapid descents entail 1 'g' gravity. With no frame of reference, no-one on board would note anything untoward.

Over the ocean it's pitch black all of the night.

The 777 is fly by wire and can be taken over remotely -- but ONLY by trick software sent upwards from ground controllers with secret (Boeing) protocols. Fly-by-wire also means that it's no longer possible to power dive jumbos into the ocean known tall buildings. These antics are locked out by a ROM database that can't be fiddled with. Any physical attempts to bastardize the computer before take-off cause it to go into a trouble-fault mode -- and never take off in the first place.

The encryption used and the frequencies used make it impossible for a non-state actor to have even the remotest shot at any 'hacking' gambit. That possibility was seen from the start -- and eliminated at the outset.

The fly-by-wire scheme also makes repetition of 9-11 impossible. Forbidden flight space is built into the ROM, too.

These protections were muted on the Internet over a decade ago. Then the authorities dropped a blanket on the entire subject.

%%%

The PERFECT timing is notable. The flight-plan departure occurred exactly at the hand-over point between Malaysia and Vietnam. The transition was so smooth that one must conclude that there was no commotion going on. Such an event required the positive -- non-coerced -- actions of the flight crew. Like a BDSM slave, pilots have code expressions to indicate duress. None were used.


Posted by: blert at March 16, 2014 11:45 AM






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