Missing in Flight: the Mystery and Destiny of Flight MH370

by Esther Sabina de Varona

Five days after its disappearance, authorities now began their search for the missing aircraft westward toward India. On Thursday, Malaysia said that it may have flown for several hours after its last contact with the ground. Authorities are considering several possibilities. Among them, that the plane and its 239 passengers were diverted to an undisclosed location with the intention of using it later for another purpose

The Malaysian military acknowledged on Wednesday that after recording and also, ignoring, radar signals over Malaysia, that could have elicited a mission of interception to track missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370.  Their acknowledgement now vastly expands the region where the missing in flight airliner could have veered to.

The newly acknowledge radar point to the possibility that Flight MH370 changed its course toward Beijing.  The radar signals also perceived the course of an unidentified plane heading west across Malaysia, and out into the Indian Ocean.  This unidentified aircraft was last spotted by radar at least hundreds of miles to the west of where search and rescue efforts were initially focused.

Five days after its disappearance, authorities in Malaysian now began their search for the missing aircraft westward toward India.  On Thursday, Malaysia said that Flight MH370 may have flown for several hours after its last contact with the ground. A possibility that raises the question of how a seasoned crew on the plane could have been on a diverted aircraft’s course for such a long stretch, after having said good night, all clear, in its last oral communication with the ground.

It was the Wall Street Journal that quoted U.S. investigators who suspect that the plane remained on the air for about four hours after its last confirmed contact.  The data cited came from the plane’s engines that automatically and routinely transmit to the ground.  Malaysian authorities, however, initially believed in the possibility that the aircraft disintegrated in mid-flight.

Whatever possible scenario, the fact is that the United States has confirmed that it is beginning to search in the Indian Ocean for debris, instead of the South China Sea.  The USS Kidd is said to be in transit to the Indian Ocean for this endeavor. Malaysia is expected to request radar information from India and other neighboring countries to see if the aircraft could be traced flying North West.

Aside from any radar information India may share, New Delhi is expected to dispatch both planes and ships to the Southern section of the Indian Ocean. 

In the meantime, two U.S. destroyers, the Kidd and the Pinckney, continued to patrol the eastern waters.  There were also ships from China, Malaysia, Vietnam and other countries. There are a total of  42 ships and 39 aircraft from a known 12 countries participating in the search operations, according to Malaysia’s acting transportation minister, Mr. Hishammuddin.

If the jet had sufficient fuel to fly up to Beijing it also had ample fuel to fly deep into the Indian Ocean, or as far north as Thailand, Myanmar/Burma, Cambodia and Bangladesh.

Experts point out that the transponders, which are used to identify an aircraft to civilian radar systems, and other planes in proximity, could possibly not have been working due to a massive failure knocking out its electrical systems.  According to aviation experts, this is highly unlikely. There is another possibility, which would require the transponders being switched off deliberately, but the pilot or a passenger, in an attempt to fly undetected.

Adding to the mystery of the Malaysian flight, two passports stolen in Malaysia and Thailand were used to board the flight in Kuala Lumpur.  The two men traveling with stolen passports were using the documents of Christian Kozel, a 30-year-old Austrian, and Luigi Maraldi, a 37-year-old Italian.  It was determined that the mystery fake-passport holders on flight MH370 were Iranian nationals, hosted in Kuala Lumpur by an Iranian friend of one of the men, after they arrived from Tehran in the days prior to their Beijing flight.  The Iranian friend in Kuala Lumpur said that the men had bought the fake passports because they wanted to migrate toEurope.

Confounding the story, a “Mr. Ali” emerged at the start of the week as a key figure in the vanished flight.  An owner of the Grand Horizon travel agency in the resort town of Pattaya;  Benjaporn Krutnait said she had booked the men’s tickets at the request of an Iranian middleman, whom she knew only as “Mr. Ali.”   She also said that “Mr. Ali” as a regular customer she has dealt with for the past three years.  The Financial Times reported that “Mr. Ali” had a friend pay cash for the tickets after ordering them Thursday. 
“Mr. Ali” could not be reached through a Tehran cell phone number provided by Krutnait.

Another possibility could be a North Korean missile gone wrong.  Last Friday China complained toNorth Korea that one of its missiles came too close to a civilian jet earlier in the week.  There were 220 civilians on that flight, which crossed paths with a North Korean missile.  The airplane in question had departed Tokyo’s Narita airport en route toShenyang in China. 

Among the possibilities heard in the halls of the UN, is the remote one of reprisals linked to Syria: that Chinese support for Damascus in the Security Council, could have provoked the ire of Muslim groups in Malaysia and in the region which favour the rebels in Syria.  Hence, the terrorism scenario discussed among some analysts.
The agony of not knowing what has happened for to 239 people for nearly a week, has some in the counterintelligence community wondering, according to the, “…if US counter-terrorism teams are now pursuing the astonishing possibility that the plane and its 239 passengers were diverted to an undisclosed location with the intention of using it later for another purpose'”.

In the case of the Malaysian flight from Kuala Lumpur, James Nye and Richard Shears argue that, “Government terrorism experts are now examining the possibility that the pilot or somebody else turned the plane's transponders off to avoid detection and flew it to another country. A total flight time of five hours upon leaving Kuala Lumpur means that the Boeing 777 would have been able to remain airborne for an additional 2,200 nautical miles at its air-speed – which put the border of Pakistan and the Arabian Sea within its reach.”

Up to now, planes have been controlled in the cockpit. Whatever has happened to Malaysia Flight MH370 and for whatever reasons, opens the question to what would happen to an aircraft if a terrorist state or a terrorist mind were able to break the code for an in flight computer, successfully transferring the control of an aircraft, in this specific case a Boeing 777, to anywhere in the world or anyone not on that plane.
The results of this investigation and the success of finding out what happened to Malaysia Flight MH370 could very well ultimately impact aviation, global markets, the world’s interconnected economies.

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