What Could Have Happened to Malaysia Airlines FL370: A Clancy-esque Conspiracy Theory

I recently flew with Malaysia Airlines during a trip to Singapore and Kuala Lumpur (only a couple of days before the Flight 370 incident) as part of my activities attending a procurement event (ProcureCon Asia) and meeting with a number of procurement organizations and one of the top regional tech/solutions providers. It’s a well-run airline and highly regarded in the region – which makes the mystery of where FL370 is all the more puzzling.

As an aviation enthusiast, I thought I'd make a speculative prediction. I wouldn't be surprised if the crew intentionally diverted the plane.


Well, a plane like that, if it crashes into the ocean – and remember that Captain "Sully" is the only pilot ever who has successfully completed a water landing of a commercial jetliner – the debris would be everywhere. Many plane parts float, such as seat cushions and possibly luggage. So a water crash seems unlikely to me, because the plane would disintegrate, not sink intact like in the movies.

The options left are a land crash or a landing. If a crash, then there would be enough time for the crew to communicate with someone before hitting ground. It takes a long time to glide from 30,000 feet to ground level, so the silence is suspicious. A hijacking would also likely at least take long enough for the pilots to issue some kind of mayday.

So, my Tom Clancy novel scenario goes like this:

The crew (at least one of the pilots) is in on this. After “disabling” any opposition in the cockpit, the remaining crew cuts the transponder (which lets ATC and others track the plane) and takes the plane as low as possible and makes a 90-degree beeline for some location where they can set down the plane - flying as low to water as possible to remain below radar. A military pilot can easily fly a jetliner at cruise ship observation deck levels. I've been on such a flight myself in my distant military past, and modern aircraft is likely even better at skimming the waves.

Why would someone do this? I suspect that there's a passenger who has highly valuable info, and the hijackers want to get this info and make use of it before anyone knows they have it. Thus the lack of ransom demands or bragging rights claims.

Only time will tell – and I bet that regardless of outcome, we will see this story recreated by Hollywood as well as on the NYT bestseller list. Can't let a crisis go to waste – as the saying goes. Remember to give me creative credit for this idea!

More important, fingers crossed for a non-lethal outcome of course.

I suppose you see why we write about and advise on procurement for a living and have not yet gotten a contract for writing a screenplay – at least not yet. Now back to our regularly scheduled Spend Matters programming (and my day job, at least until Hollywood calls).

Disclaimer: This is entirely speculative and not intended as a smear or otherwise accusation of the actual crew.

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Voices (3)

  1. Thomas Kase:

    Looks like my conspiracy theory might be quite close to the truth:

  2. Alicia:

    I almost agree with you Thomas. Except that the final communication was the radio hand-off to China ATC. We know they never came up on China ATC frequency…so it is possible they had dialed in the wrong frequency (or had preset it wrong in the flight computer) then experienced a catastrophic failure at this point and any mayday calls were lost. I do agree that CFIT* into water rarely ends up as well as Sully’s ditching. If they broke up in air debris would be spread in a large area and likely found by now. If they hit the water intact there wold be less debris and harder to find…but the black boxes ping in water like an EPIRB…so these should have been picked up. I figure it leaves two possibilities. Like you said, they went somewhere else and landed. Malaysia’s military said primary radar showed a likely return matching them traveling in the reverse direction. I don’t know if they have shared altitude information but even if it wasn’t flying low like you said, primary radar coverage is not homogenous – they could easily disappear. But someone is likely to notice an unscheduled 777 landing at any strip big enough to accommodate such an aircraft. I feel it is more likely they went somewhere else and crashed, and they haven’t been found as the searchers are looking in the wrong places. *Controlled Flight into Terrain

    1. Alicia:

      Correction – contact was lost on handover to Vietnamese ATC, not China.

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