On Saturday, the Malaysian government concluded that missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 was likely the result of a hijacking, good news for the families of the 239 people on board, 159 of which are Chinese. Though the mystery of the plane’s disappearance continues, the news of a possible hijacking is more desirable than the conclusion of U.S. officials, who had seemed to be leaning toward the possibility that the plane crashed into the Indian Ocean, after ruling out pilot error and mechanical failure.
The Boeing 777’s flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing lost communication within the first hour after takeoff on March 8. Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak reported that it was still in contact with satellites until 8:11 a.m., seven and a half hours after takeoff, and that the plane’s Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) had been disabled near the eastern coast of Malaysia and Vietnamese airspace when the transponder was switched off. While officials are examining all theories, the circumstances do not seem to point to a catastrophe.
As of Sunday, the Federal Aviation Administration, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board and Britain’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch helped Malaysia confirm that an unidentified radar trail was actually the mystery flight as it crossed the Malaysian peninsula, heading west. The plane then proceeded to climb to an altitude of 45,000 feet, perhaps to cut further communication with the passengers’ cell phones, and was steered to avoid detection by radar, according to experts.
The path of the Malaysia mystery plane was originally believed to either be heading north into Thailand toward the Kazakhstan-Turkmenistan border, or south from Indonesia toward the Indian Ocean. After breaking communication, there was enough fuel to last another five hours, widening the possible locations of the flight’s destination. If the presumed course was indeed north into central Asia, officials are confused about its lack of detection across protected airspace from countries like Burma, Pakistan and India, as well as western China and the U.S. Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. Just to be safe, Israeli air defenses have been notified and incoming civilian aircraft is being scrutinized early.
On Sunday, at the request of Kuala Lumpur’s government, India halted its search, which was focused on the Nicobar and Andaman Islands, as well as the Bay of Bengal. Malaysia declared that it would cease looking in the Gulf of Thailand and the South China Sea. Malaysia Transportation Minister Hishamuddin Hussein reported that they were still searching across 11 countries, and aviation experts identified over 600 runways and a range of about 3,000 miles where the mystery flight could have gone. The plane’s pilot, Zaharie Ahmad Shah, who has worked for Malaysia Airlines for over 30 years, and his co-pilot, Fariq Abdul Hamid, were both targeted by investigators, along with all of the passengers, for the sake of ruling out the possibility of their involvement.
For now, the families connected to Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 are hoping that their loved ones are hostages rather than the alternative possibility of the plane crashing into the ocean.
By Elijah Stephens