Missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370: Piracy, suicide, terrorism - the theories so far

 

Pilot suicide

When Malaysian authorities disclosed this weekend that flight MH370 was deliberately steered off course and the equipment sending out its location disabled (or the subject of an unlikely malfunction), attention focused on the Boeing 777’s pilots.

Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah, 53, the "loving and generous" father of three, reportedly travelled on the day of the flight to the court where Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim was jailed on what his supporters say were trumped-up sex charges. Shah was a committed supporter of Ibrahim but his friends have denied he was a "fanatic".

The theory that the fate of the plane was sealed from within its cockpit also raises questions of the second pilot, Fariq Abdul Hamid, 27, who was yesterday confirmed as saying "all right, good night" when the aircraft signed off from Malaysian air traffic control for the last time. He posted the online comment "Time to take passion to next level" before the flight.

Searches of both men's homes, including the confiscation of Capt Shah's flight simulator, have revealed no obvious clues such as a suicide note. But there are precedents for pilots destroying their own aircraft. In a finding disputed by the Egyptian authorities, it was concluded that EgyptAir flight 990 crashed into the Atlantic in 1999 as a result of the actions of co-pilot Gameel al-Batouti, killing all 217 on board.

Piracy

Whoever may have turned off MH370's location technology - the transponder that interacts with radar and the Acars maintenance computer which sends data via satellite - knew how to make an aircraft disappear from most tracking systems. Anonymous US officials have advanced the theory this could be evidence of an "act of piracy".

When combined with the idea that the Boeing 777 could have descended to an altitude of 5,000ft and undertaken the sort of " terrain masking" manoeuvres more normally associated with agile military jets, the idea is born that MH370 is sitting on an unknown runway with its passengers and crew held hostage.

The idea that one of the "pings" received by satellites after the loss of contact with the jet could have been from the ground has fuelled this particular area of speculation.

Terrorism

The Pakistan Taliban said on Monday it had nothing to do with the disappearance of MH370 but wished it had the resources and knowledge to hijack such a plane. The existence of a bomb on board the plane or a hijacking ending in a fatal crash cannot be excluded. But intelligence officials say there has been no "chatter" in extremist circles.

Read more: Did "terrain masking" allow the pilots to elude radars?
Simon Calder answers your questions
Grace Dent: If this really is terrorism then it is a new level of terrifying
Did jetliner fly into area controlled by Taliban?
Ordinary lives of flight crew

A rogue passenger

Malaysian police are investigating Mohd Khairul Amri Selamat, a 29-year-old aviation engineer flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing to carry out work on a plane in China. As a flight engineer Selemat, would have had some of the technical knowledge required to fly an aircraft. But the Malaysia-based technician would not have had knowledge specific to the Boeing 777.

Mechanical failure or pilot error

72 per cent of air disasters are caused either by mechanical failure or a mistake by the pilot. Sudden, catastrophic failure is diminished by the evidence that the plane changed direction and continued flying for several hours.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
Adnan Januzaj and Gareth Bale
footballManchester United set to loan out Januzaj to make room for Bale - if a move for the Welshman firms up
News
Young Winstone: His ‘tough-guy’ image is a misconception
people
Arts and Entertainment
Ellie Levenson’s The Election book demystifies politics for children
bookNew children's book primes the next generation for politics
News
Outspoken: Alexander Fury, John Rentoul, Ellen E Jones and Katy Guest
newsFrom the Scottish referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams' “Happy” was the most searched-for song lyric of 2014
musicThe power of song never greater, according to our internet searches
News
i100
Sport
Tim Sherwood raises his hand after the 1-0 victory over Stoke
footballFormer Tottenham boss leads list of candidates to replace Neil Warnock
Arts and Entertainment
L to R: Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Captain America (Chris Evans) & Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) in Avengers Assemble
film
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
Arts and Entertainment
Sink the Pink's 2013 New Year's Eve party
musicFour of Britain's top DJs give their verdict on how to party into 2015
Sport
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
News
Nigel Farage: 'I don't know anybody in politics as poor as we are'
i100
Voices
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers
voicesIt has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Roffey says: 'All of us carry shame and taboo around about our sexuality. But I was determined not to let shame stop me writing my memoir.'
books
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015