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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones