Malaysia Airlines MH370

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in re: nymag's jeff wise article. the biggest weakness in his theory is the total lack of a coherent motive for such an elaborate plot. even the most off-the-wall speculative motives seem far too weak to justify the theorized actions. one simply asks why on earth would anyone conceivably do this?

as long as you disregard this glaring hole, his theory hangs together fairly well.

Aimless, Wednesday, 25 February 2015 03:45 (four years ago) link

It's still pretty impossible for someone to do this undetected while crossing over land borders too, even by flying close to territorial boundaries, as Wise suggest.

somewhat related: I've found that it's not a good idea these days to tell cab drivers in Malaysia I'm a reporter. Every single one of them is a Jeff Wise.

Roz, Wednesday, 25 February 2015 08:46 (four years ago) link

xp wise did a q&a on gawker and was asked about motive a couple of times - his response was basically ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

bizarro gazzara, Wednesday, 25 February 2015 09:32 (four years ago) link

that is my motivation for most things so im a believer baby

johnny crunch, Wednesday, 25 February 2015 12:55 (four years ago) link

Tbf, I think he was less :shrug: and more admitting that lack of motive is a major missing component of his theory.

Josh in Chicago, Wednesday, 25 February 2015 14:53 (four years ago) link

seems kinda nuts to dream up an outlandish and insanely detailed theory without also coming up with an answer to the very first question any rational person will ask - 'why'?

bizarro gazzara, Wednesday, 25 February 2015 16:02 (four years ago) link

Well, once you move well beyond the realm of Occam's Razor, I imagine "why" becomes less important.

Josh in Chicago, Wednesday, 25 February 2015 16:05 (four years ago) link

also, when there's no clear indication of who or why, it perhaps makes (or seems to make) more sense to deal with the evidence you do have than to speculate about motives.

describing a scene in which the Hulk gets a boner (contenderizer), Wednesday, 25 February 2015 16:31 (four years ago) link

when you hypothesize a state-funded and state-planned crime on this scale, yet you cannot supply the first idea of what possible benefit they could derive from it, as opposed to the massive risks involved, then you have a deeply, deeply flawed hypothesis. because equipment malfunction followed by a crash does not require a crime, a criminal, or motives, it becomes the most reasonable default explanation.

Aimless, Wednesday, 25 February 2015 16:44 (four years ago) link


bizarro gazzara, Wednesday, 25 February 2015 16:50 (four years ago) link

love the bit about the Kazakh Cosmodrome and the big pile of dirt just exactly right for covering a plane that size with

nashwan, Wednesday, 25 February 2015 18:02 (four years ago) link

As far as I know, Baikonur cosmodrome is actually a really busy "spaceport" full of non-Russian scientists and engineers working to get stuff up and down to the International Space Station and the like--you'd think they'd notice a massive jet landing there and being buried.

as verbose and purple as a Peter Ustinov made of plums (James Morrison), Thursday, 26 February 2015 00:46 (four years ago) link

It's basically the centre of day-to-day space transit.

as verbose and purple as a Peter Ustinov made of plums (James Morrison), Thursday, 26 February 2015 00:47 (four years ago) link

Was the suggestion that something was buried? I thought the implication was that this was a disused temporary way station that got torn down after the plane landed, refueled/etc., and then was flown out somewhere else within Russian-controlled airspace where no one else's radar was going to notice.

Anyway, the topic most here and elsewhere seem to be missing and perhaps part of the reason this was published is that this is supposed to illustrate in passing how easy it is for someone who leans rational and skeptical to fall down the rabbithole of a theory of their own invention. Both this and the theory itself are somewhat unclear on the face of the piece, because it appears to be overly-abbreviated, not necessarily by the author.

Banned on the Run (benbbag), Thursday, 26 February 2015 04:53 (four years ago) link

I'm not saying I agree with the theory by any means, but it's not completely implausible.

Banned on the Run (benbbag), Thursday, 26 February 2015 04:55 (four years ago) link

two months pass...

Search for Missing Plane Spots Unknown Shipwreck

Elvis Telecom, Thursday, 14 May 2015 00:49 (four years ago) link

two months pass...

Debris on an Island Is Examined for Links to Malaysia Airlines Flight 370

A large object that appeared to be an airplane part washed up Wednesday on the shore of Réunion, a French island in the Indian Ocean, prompting speculation that it might be debris from Flight 370, the Malaysia Airlines jetliner that disappeared in March 2014.

A French official with knowledge of the investigation said that the object appeared to be a wing flap, possibly from a Boeing 777, the type of aircraft used on the flight. The official said that the object was about 9 feet long and 3 feet wide, and that it appeared to have been in the water for a very long time.

The French aviation safety bureau, known as BEA, said in a statement on Wednesday that it “is studying the information on the airplane part found in La Réunion, in coordination with our Malaysian and Australian colleagues and with the judicial authorities.” It added that “it is not possible at this hour to ascertain whether the part is from a B-777 and/or from MH370.”

The French official said that the authorities were in the process of designating a laboratory in France where the object would be taken for examination, and that pinning down exactly which plane the object came from may take several weeks.

Agence France-Presse reported that the object was found by people cleaning a beach, and cited a witness who said it was partly encrusted with shells.

Even so, aviation experts who viewed published photos of the object said it strongly resembled a part of a modern jetliner wing known as a flaperon, one of the control surfaces that pilots use to guide the aircraft in flight.

Peter Goelz, a former managing director of the National Transportation Safety Board, said it seemed clear from the photos that the object “is a wing flap, and it’s about the right size.”

Whether it came from a 777 was another matter.

Elvis Telecom, Wednesday, 29 July 2015 23:51 (four years ago) link

They've now found a suitcase, some bottles, and a plane door. All almost certain to be from MH370 but we'll get confirmation by tomorrow at the earliest.

Possibly more debris might have washed ashore in the past few months:

Roz, Sunday, 2 August 2015 07:13 (four years ago) link

"I found a couple of suitcases too, around the same time, full of things," he said, almost in passing.
What did you do with them?
"I burnt them"

daavid, Monday, 3 August 2015 06:49 (four years ago) link

They've just confirmed that the wing part was from MH370. Incredible, really and still so damn sad.

Roz, Wednesday, 5 August 2015 18:08 (four years ago) link

I saw steve ganyard, some retired marine pilot dude, on Charlie rose talk abt how the wear on the wing indicates in his opinion that someone was conscious and poss trying to land as opposed to the plane going nose down into what/where-ever it crashed

johnny crunch, Wednesday, 5 August 2015 18:39 (four years ago) link

yea heres what he said on abc news at some pt I guess

I want to bring in retired colonel Steve ganyard, a pilot himself. I want to take our viewers back to that piece of wing because the angle of that flap and how intact the debris is, as you heard Jim reporting, leading someone to believe that someone might have deliberately done this. What do you think tonight? I think you're right. There are two scenarios. Everybody was unconscious, the airplane went in at a very steep angle. What we're seeing here on this debris is something that's intact which opens the very chilling possibility that there was somebody alive, conscious, and trying to land that airplane after it ran out of gas.

johnny crunch, Wednesday, 5 August 2015 18:41 (four years ago) link

Let's not lose sight of the fact that we're still no nearer finding the bulk of the wreckage, the bodies of the deceased or any answers as to how this tragedy happened.

anthony braxton diamond geezer (anagram), Wednesday, 5 August 2015 19:06 (four years ago) link


difficult-difficult lemon-difficult (VegemiteGrrl), Wednesday, 5 August 2015 22:09 (four years ago) link

four weeks pass...

says the reunion island wing piece is confirmed as MH370

, Thursday, 3 September 2015 15:33 (four years ago) link

five months pass...

More debris being found on Eastern coast of Africa:

Jersey Al (Albert R. Broccoli), Saturday, 12 March 2016 07:55 (three years ago) link

two years pass...

it sounds like experts are working towards a conclusion that the pilot intended to commit suicide and was choosing a path to avoid radar...

omar little, Monday, 14 May 2018 16:54 (one year ago) link

was just thinking about this the other day, did any of that debris mentioned just upthread ever get confirmed as being from the plane?

sleeve, Monday, 14 May 2018 16:56 (one year ago) link

oh n/m it addresses that in the article

sleeve, Monday, 14 May 2018 16:57 (one year ago) link

What seems very weird to me is that, if the whole point was murder-suicide, it could have been accomplished much more simply, directly and easily than what happened. Once you incapacitate the crew and passengers, just point the 777 at the ground and mission accomplished. Why go to such lengths to make the plane disappear when that is not essential to the main plan?

A is for (Aimless), Tuesday, 15 May 2018 01:19 (one year ago) link

Another good detailed article breaking the news that Zaharie's flight simulator had underwater practice runways near the Indian Ocean:

― Jersey Al (Albert R. Broccoli), Monday, March 17, 2014 11:00 PM (four years ago)

Jersey Al (Albert R. Broccoli), Tuesday, 15 May 2018 01:27 (one year ago) link

eleven months pass...

Pretty good summary of where things stand

Elvis Telecom, Monday, 15 April 2019 21:36 (seven months ago) link

Good presentation. Really is a headscratcher.

Ned Raggett, Tuesday, 16 April 2019 00:49 (seven months ago) link

Can't believe I've been covering this story for five years straight.

That's a pretty good video, aside from a couple of minor factual errors (e.g. the Ocean Infinity search took only three months rather than more than a year). I think the original hypothesis - fire/electrical failure leading to hypoxia and hours of flight on autopilot - is probably still the best explanation for what happened, everything else is either too insane or too simplistic.

at this point, it's a matter of identifying where exactly it went down, and finding people with enough money, time, and tech to search. And that's the hardest bit.

Roz, Tuesday, 16 April 2019 03:53 (seven months ago) link

two months pass...

Outstanding Will Langewiesche article:

tl;dr: the pilot did it, but the Malaysian government won't admit to anything because of autocratic embarrassment.

Elvis Telecom, Monday, 17 June 2019 23:39 (five months ago) link

absolutely superb, thanks

godfellaz (darraghmac), Tuesday, 18 June 2019 00:09 (five months ago) link

yeah that was great.

visiting, Tuesday, 18 June 2019 00:32 (five months ago) link


Dan S, Tuesday, 18 June 2019 00:38 (five months ago) link


it’s so sad & sobering to read how it might have played out, but man it is good to read something that feels like it’s based on some kind of solid analysis at least

Squeaky Fromage (VegemiteGrrl), Tuesday, 18 June 2019 00:58 (five months ago) link

Depressing, but this basically has been my top theory for what happened since the main pieces of evidence came to light.

o. nate, Tuesday, 18 June 2019 01:01 (five months ago) link

depressurizing & increasing altitude to kill the passengers was so ;_;

i mean ok cool gentle death is maybe what you would prefer to hear but also gentle death is still a) mass murder & b) wtf

Squeaky Fromage (VegemiteGrrl), Tuesday, 18 June 2019 01:04 (five months ago) link

^^ yeah that was the detail I did not know previously that stood out to me the most

Ambient Police (sleeve), Tuesday, 18 June 2019 02:39 (five months ago) link

That is a great and compellingly written narrative for sure but I still have strong doubts about whether the pilot did it, and I think it's irresponsible that this piece argues so strongly for it, when it goes against everything we know both about the pilot and the surrounding circumstances.

This bit though is otm:

A close observer of the MH370 process said, “It became clear that the primary objective of the Malaysians was to make the subject just go away. From the start there was this instinctive bias against being open and transparent, not because they were hiding some deep, dark secret, but because they did not know where the truth really lay, and they were afraid that something might come out that would be embarrassing. Were they covering up? Yes. They were covering up for the unknown.”

Najib's government was corrupt yes, but more than that, it was incompetent and it hates having to deal with bad news for longer than necessary. It would have been so easy for them to blame the pilot, particularly after his political leanings came to light. He supported the opposition, he was likely upset that opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim had just been jailed again on dubious charges. Early on, it even seemed that the police were eager to pin it on the pilot - they raided his home, they seized the simulator, they leaked info to the press that they were looking deeply into his family background and politics. They let the FBI and other countries get involved, and carried out thorough psychological profiles on all the passengers and crew. And yet, at the end of the day, the investigators were forced to dismiss the conclusion that either of the pilots were involved.

This piece casts doubt on that investigation but unlike other parts of the Malaysian government, the police are very, very good at their jobs. If there was anything at all they could pin on the pilot, trust me, they would have found it, and even if they had tried to hide that evidence, someone would have leaked it. This is just how things work in Malaysia, it's corrupt to the core but nothing stays hidden.

Instead, everything about Zaharie checked out. He was captured on CCTV looking relaxed, smiling and joking with the co-pilot and cabin crew, nothing in his background, finances or medical history indicated that anything was out of the ordinary. The simulator entry that supposedly charts a similar flight path to MH370 was among hundreds of other simulations, and was different enough from the actual flight path of the plane that it can't be persuasively argued that the pilot was following that particular simulation.

Besides, why even risk turning back over land, passing by multiple countries which could have seen this unidentified aircraft flying into their airspace (so many questions for Southeast Asian military/air force that no one's asking btw)? Why not just fly out past the South China Sea straight into the Pacific?

And lastly, analysis of the wing flap recovered from Tanzania (which is huge, I've seen it in person, it's about 14 feet long) suggests that no one was in control of the plane when it went down.

Here's a couple more takes that gets into why the pilot theory isn't compelling enough, when you factor in the country's politics and other evidence:

Thread: Anything Langeweische writes on an aviation disaster becomes the authoritative narrative, and this story will be no different. But given that the Atlantic points the finger squarely at Malaysian political culture, it should have spent more time trying to get it right. 1/x

— Aaron Connelly (@ConnellyAL) June 17, 2019

Another reason that I haven't seen anyone really get into is Malaysian attitudes towards suicide. This is a country where mental illness is poorly understood and treated, but it also has historically low rates of suicide (something like 2-5 out of 100,000), and it's lowest among Malay Muslims who make up the majority of the population.

Outside of extremist jihadist circles, Muslims generally do not look favourably upon suicide. Growing up, I would hear constantly about how people who committed suicide were selfish, that they were cruel to their families, that they were headed for hell. There's a huge stigma too against people whose relatives commit suicide - that they didn't do enough to turn their family member towards "the right path".

Zaharie, a middle-aged, upper middle class, Muslim Malay family man, knew what it would do to his children if he was found to have committed not just suicide, but large-scale mass murder. I don't doubt that he was possibly troubled, lonely, depressed, maybe even suicidal. I just have strong doubts that this would have been the way he would have chosen to do it.

This has never been a case of Occam's razor. It's equally plausible that the odd flight path taken by MH370 was a sign of someone trying to save the plane and failing. Perhaps something went wrong, the pilots couldn't radio for help and tried to turn back but passed out before they could land, activating the autopilot in a last ditch effort to keep the plane in the air. But this too is a possibility that investigators have considered and discounted because there simply isn't enough evidence to say so for sure.

Roz, Tuesday, 18 June 2019 04:43 (five months ago) link

Thanks for that Roz, I always appreciate your contributions.

Jersey Al (Albert R. Broccoli), Tuesday, 18 June 2019 05:28 (five months ago) link

yeah same

Squeaky Fromage (VegemiteGrrl), Tuesday, 18 June 2019 05:35 (five months ago) link

On the question of why the pilot would turn back over land, I’ve read speculation that he wanted to fly over Penang his old hometown one last time. I agree it’s hard to believe anyone would be capable of this, especially someone so outwardly normal. However out of all the scenarios it seems the one most consistent with the otherwise bizarre sequence of events is that someone skilled and very knowledgeable wanted to make the plane disappear forever. The stigma against suicide would have been an incentive to preserve the mystery. We can’t rule out it was someone else on the plane but the pilot had many advantages that would have dramatically increased the difficulty of an already unlikely feat for anyone else.

o. nate, Tuesday, 18 June 2019 15:40 (five months ago) link

Zaharie, a middle-aged, upper middle class, Muslim Malay family man, knew what it would do to his children if he was found to have committed not just suicide, but large-scale mass murder. I don't doubt that he was possibly troubled, lonely, depressed, maybe even suicidal. I just have strong doubts that this would have been the way he would have chosen to do it.

Langewiesche briefly mentions on SilkAir 185 and EgyptAir 990 in his article, but the investigations (and how they were attenuated by government/airline officials) are worth digging into. Again, the only conclusion you can reach is that we'll never find out.

Surprising number of commercial pilot-suicides:

Elvis Telecom, Tuesday, 18 June 2019 22:50 (five months ago) link

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