Airlines

Officials Say Malaysian Jet's Disappearance Likely Deliberate

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What you need to know about Flight 370's disappearance, Saturday, March 15, 2014:

Today Malaysia's Prime Minister said that whoever or whatever caused Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 to head off course was likely due to "deliberate action" by somebody on board.

Whether that means the flight was actually hijacked he is still not willing to say.  From CNN:

"Evidence is consistent with someone acting deliberately from inside the plane," Prime Minister Najib Razak said, officially confirming the plane's disappearance was not caused by an accident.

"Despite media reports that the plane was hijacked, we are investigating all major possibilities on what caused MH370 to deviate," he said.

Military radar showed the jetliner flew in a westerly direction back over the peninsula before turning northwest toward the Bay of Bengal or southwest into the Indian Ocean, Najib said.

"Up until the point at which it left military primary radar coverage, these movements are consistent with deliberate action by someone on the plane," he said. 

Malaysian officials have released the map below showing the last known possible locations of the jet based on its final satellite transmissions, hours after final radar contact:

 

CNN notes that the home of the pilot, outside Kuala Lumpur, was searched by Malaysian authorities.

Analyzing the mystery:

The New York Times takes note of where the northern arc would take the plane:

The northern arc described by Mr. Najib passes through or close to some of the world's most volatile countries, home to insurgent groups, but also over highly militarized areas with robust air-defense networks, some run by the American military. The arc passes close to northern Iran, through Afghanistan and northern Pakistan, and through northern India and the Himalayan mountains and Myanmar.

An aircraft flying on that arc would have to pass through air-defense networks in India and Pakistan, whose mutual border is heavily militarized, as well as through Afghanistan, where the United States and other NATO countries have operated air bases for more than a decade.

Air bases near that arc include Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan, where the United States Air Force's 455th Air Expeditionary Wing is based, and a large Indian air base, Hindon Air Force Station.

The Times is not unsubtly suggesting that there's a high likelihood of the jet being spotted if it had taken the northern arc, making the southen arc the more likely possibility.

Over at Wired, Brendan I Koerner considers the possibility that if the plane were hijacked, it may not have been part of a well-orchestrated plan to engage in acts of terrorism:

With the hijacking theory growing more plausible by the hour, it's time to wonder how such an epic crime might have occurred–and how it might have ended far more tragically than its perpetrator envisioned.

If MH370 was seized by passengers or a crew member, the hijacking would the third so far this year—in addition to the Ethiopian Airlines episode, there also was the bizarre Pegasus Airlines incident of early February, in which an apparently intoxicated Ukrainian man demanded passage to Sochi but was instead taken to Istanbul. This clustering of hijackings shouldn't be surprising. The crime always has been highly viral in nature; each hijacking tends to be influenced by the last, in terms of modus operandi or other key details. A perfect example of this phenomenon is how "parajacking"–hijackings in which the criminal flees by jumping out of the plane–evolved in the early 1970s. Though most folks only remember the infamous D.B. Cooper hijacking of November 1971, there were numerous other incidents in the ensuing months in which the hijackers became increasingly more adept at getting away from the authorities–at least for a few days. (Cooper himself may have been a copycat, inspired by a farcical Air Canada hijacking.) Perhaps one of MH370's pilots had been inspired by the Ethiopian Airlines hijacking, and thought he could fly his way to a better life on distant shores.

It also is important to remember that, unlike the highly organized 9/11 terrorists, most hijackers through history have been scatterbrained, sometimes to a comic degree. In the midst of manic episodes or afflicted by paranoia, they often can be quite good at planning minor details of their crimes, yet quite deluded about how the endgames will play out. This certainly was the case with Roger Holder, the principal hijacker of Western Airlines Flight 701 in June 1972. An Army veteran who had served four tours in Vietnam, Holder cooked up a clever ruse by which he convinced the crew that he was accompanied by four members of the Weathermen, at least one of whom was armed with a bomb. But he also hijacked a short-range Boeing 727 by accident, thereby making it impossible for him to reach his intended destination of Hanoi.

If MH370's hijacker was in a mental state similar to Holder's, he or she might have had the psychological wherewithal to figure out how to disable the plane's communications systems, but not to realize that reaching, say, Western Europe was not a feasible goal. The hijacking could even have been an impulsive act, as many such crimes were during America's "golden age" or air piracy. Ricardo Chavez Ortiz, for example, who commandeered a Frontier Airlines jet in order to get a radio crew to broadcast his rambling 34-minute speech, claimed to have decided to hijack the plane only after it reached cruising altitude.

The plane would have been running low on fuel by the time it sent its last satellite transmission, so even if it was hijacked, officials may still be looking for a crash scene.