Malaysia Airlines: Just how many incredible theories?

Mathilde Tarif translated by Amy McCarthy
18 Mars 2014

The disappearance of the Malaysia Airlines flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, vanishing somewhere between the east coast of Malaysia and South Vietnam, remains a mystery. But one thing is certain, the whole affair has dominated the headlines.

Malaysia Airlines: Just how many incredible theories?
Throughout the world, it is the signal for battle. Led without great success, the search for the Malaysia Airlines plane continues intensely from the South China Sea up to a 100 mile radius from where air traffic control lost all contact with the aircraft. The sparse pieces of debris found in these waters and suspected to be related to the accident, are continuously found to be futile as the investigators struggle to find anything of significance, particularly as the Gulf of Thailand is a place of intense maritime traffic.
Dozens of ships, planes and helicopters were mobilized by nine different countries, including France, the United States, and even Vietnam and the Philippines. Whilst China has sent 10 high-resolution satellites to help the rescue mission and aid navigation, the United States sent two destroyers carrying helicopters and a surveillance aircraft equipped with long distance radar. The American federal police and the National Transportation Security Board (NTSB) have also sent technicians, investigators and specialists from the Boeing company. Not to be outdone, the Philippines have just announced sending three naval patrols and a patrol aircraft southwest of the Vietnamese island of Phu Quoc.

Unconvincing theories

An explosion of the aircraft due to a decompression during the flight continues to be the most plausible and realistic theory. It is indeed possible that cracks can form at the windows, which can lead to decompression causing a violent explosion.  However, the American authorities seem to have attentively examined the images from their spy satellites, which cover a large area of the search region, to find proof of an explosion yet nothing is visible on the snapshots. But if the plane had exploded in the sea on impact with surface of the water, the investigators would have easily been able to find a significant amount of debris within a limited area.
Terrorism theories are far from gaining any unanimity. Interpol has put forward serious reservations about such theories, claiming there is no evidence to support them.  As it is possible the plane could have exploded during the flight, these theories have been fuelled by the on board presence of two passengers flying with false Italian and Austrian passports. The two men, of Iranian nationality, had also used false passports on an earlier flight from Doha and Kuala Lumpur. According to the Thai police, an Iranian individual could have organized the purchase of the men's tickets through a travel agency in Pattaya, a coastal resort in Thailand. Nevertheless, according to Interpol, not a single piece of evidence supports theories of a terrorist attack, and the idea that the two asylum seekers were looking to immigrate to Germany seems much more convincing. However, another detail throws the theories out of balance and supports the idea of a terrorist motive: five passengers checked in for the flight to Beijing, but were not present at the boarding. Given the weak reputation of security at Kuala Lumpur's international airport, the checked-in luggage could have made it on board the plane without its owners, due to complacencies of airport staff. But if the disappearance of the aircraft was due to an act of terrorism, why has no one claimed to be behind it?

Grey areas and incredible theories

So, accusations begin to fly as the confusion remains. For its part, China has not held back its criticisms, seeing as 153 Chinese nationals were onboard the aircraft. China reproached Malaysia for its lack of reaction and deficient management of the operation by the authorities and the Malaysia Airlines company.  Global Times, the nationalist daily newspaper in China, declared in an editorial that "the Malaysian authorities cannot escape their responsibilities. The initial response from Malaysia did not come quick enough." For its part, the spokesperson for the minister of foreign affairs has declared that despite its sincerity, Malaysia should have "intensified its efforts".
Friends and family of the Boeing passengers, nationals from China, France, Malaysia, Indonesia and even Australia, also express their anger towards Malaysia Airlines, accusing them of negligence, and to the Malaysian and Chinese authorities for releasing a limited amount of information, most of which is vague. The families of the Chinese nationals on board refused the financial compensation of 5,000 dollars per person offered to them by Malaysia Airlines.
In addition, a number of specialists express their skepticism towards the information provided by the authorities in charge of the investigation. Considering the Boeing is one of the weakest aircrafts in the world, these doubts are reasonable. If there are examples of mysterious disappearances in the history of aviation, it seems that there has never been a case involving a modern flight loosing contact so suddenly. What’s more, for about ten or so years, all aeroplanes have been fitted with an ADS-B surveillance system which emits a discontinuous position of an aircraft thanks to satellite positioning. So how then can we explain the brutal disappearance of the Boeing 777? When the Air France flight to Rio de Janeiro crashed in June 2009, a number of automatic messages called ACARS were sent during the minutes preceding the crash.  The Malaysia Airlines flight was equipped with an ACARS system but the company has not being able to give proof of a single message from the plane before it lost contact. Furthermore, not one black box has been found, despite the fact that they continue to emit signals for more than 30 days following a crash, and the waters of the search zone are not as deep as those of the Atlantic Ocean, where the Air France accident occurred.
These bewildering and doubtful fragments of information can only lead to implausible theories, also fuelled by even more confusing details.  According to the Washington Post, many of the passenger's telephones were ringing without a response as their loved ones tried to contact them. So how is it not surprising to hear some Malaysians talk of a conspiracy theory orchestrated by America trying to cover up accidentally shooting the plane with a missile? Or even the theory that the Boeing 777 could be landed in North Korea, to join the North Korean aircraft fleet whilst passengers are still alive and being detained by the authorities? Or in Vietnam or elsewhere, where the kidnappers are planning to use the plane as a weapon of mass destruction in a future terrorist attack.
Seemingly, assumption we are left with is that the plane has flown into a break in space and time. Why not?