Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 was not sucked out of the sky by aliens. We know this because we're reasonable people who consider real-world explanations for life's mysteries before turning to science fiction. And yet, while the days since Flight 370 disappeared have certainly allowed for some batty conspiracy theories (the Pitbull/Shakira link, for one), not all of the explanations are so easy to dismiss. Some are actually informed, thoughtful, and in some cases, downright believable, even if they do not hew exactly to the slow trickle of official information, which has included a fair amount of backtracking and contradictory evidence along the way. Refuse to accept that the boiling cauldron of stupid we call the internet could produce nuanced explanations for Flight 370’s disappearance? Read on to be proven wrong, even if you don't come away with all the answers.
Flight 370 flew in another jet's shadow
This suggestion comes from the Tumblr of hobby pilot Keith Ledgerwood, who suggests that the plane kept flying after its transponder was turned off and avoided detection by flying close enough to another plane that they showed up as a single blip on radar.
“After looking at all the details, it is my opinion that MH370 snuck out of the Bay of Bengal using SIA68 as the perfect cover. It entered radar coverage already in the radar shadow of the other 777, stayed there throughout coverage, and then exited SIA68’s shadow and then most likely landed in one of several land locations north of India and Afghanistan.”
There was an inflight emergency that incapacitated the pilots
A fire, most likely, suggests pilot Chris Goodfellow. In an explanation posted to Google+, Goodfellow imagines a scenario in which Flight 370's pilot was forced to attempt an emergency landing. Tapping into every pilot's knowledge of "the closest airport of safe harbor," those in the cockpit of Flight 370 made a left turn toward the 13,000-foot runway on the Malaysian island of Pulau Langkawi. They never made it, Goodfellow says.
“For me the loss of transponders and communications makes perfect sense if a fire. There was most likely a fire or electrical fire. In the case of fire the first response if to pull all the main busses and restore circuits one by one until you have isolated the bad one. ...What I think happened is that they were overcome by smoke and the plane just continued on the heading probably on George (autopilot) until either fuel exhaustion or fire destroyed the control surfaces and it crashed.”
The pilot committed suicide
Redditor FrequentFlyerPilot proposes a suicide plot orchestrated by Flight 370's captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah in the form of a story, "based on the information provided over the last several days." Shah, as the story goes, settled on crashing a plane in the place where it would be nearly impossible to find, which would make his plot difficult to uncover and allow him to retain some dignity. Avoidance of radar is explained with suggestions that Shah took a circuitous route on his way to Diamantina Deep, a spot in the Indian Ocean where the water is almost 25,000 feet deep.
“After another approximately 5 hours of flight time, with Captain Shah alone with his thoughts in the cockpit, the flight reaches the destination he has so carefully planned. He begins his preparation to ditch the plane and have it sink into the deepest waters available to him, in a direction 180 degrees opposite from his original flight plan.”
The first turn of the plane was programmed by a computer, the New York Times reports, putting focus back onto the pilots, although suicide remains an open question.
One American safety expert, John Cox, a former airline-union safety official, said that someone taking such pains to divert the plane does not fit the pattern of past cases when pilots intentionally crashed and killed everyone onboard.
“There’s an inconsistency in what we’ve seen historically,” he said, comparing the disappearance of Flight 370 with two murder-suicides, on an EgyptAir flight off Nantucket Island in 1999 and a SilkAir jet in Indonesia in 1997. In those crashes, he said, the pilot involved simply pushed the nose of the plane down and flew into the water. The authorities searched the homes of the pilots in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday, seizing a flight simulator that one of them had in his home.
The plane broke
Put forth on a blog created for the Flight 370 disappearance, this theory comes from Kurt Seidensticker, an aerospace engineer who says he once worked for NASA's Johnson Space Center. Seidensticker cites an FAA paper on cracking in the lap joints of the Boeing 777 and suggests that's what happened here. The cracks led to sudden cabin depressurization, leaving the pilot unconscious and the plane in a free-fall. But it didn’t immediately crash.
“As the plane descended on its own, (without auto-pilot and unconscious pilots) it would continue to pick up speed to a point where the increasing speed creates more and more lift over the wings. When more and more lift is created, this force causes the plane to pitch up. The plane may have descended to 23,000 feet before it began the pitch up maneuver. At that point, the aircraft is pitched up and begins a climb. It will continue to climb until the atmosphere becomes thinner and thinner and less and less lift is produced over the wings. This would typically occur at 45,000 feet. This roller coaster ride would continue between those two altitudes until the aircraft no longer has fuel to power the engines.”
The pilot stole the plane
One of the top posts on the nascent MH370 section of Reddit, known for its creativity if not its accuracy amid investigations, comes from WalterWhiteRabbit. It suggests that Flight 370's pilot pulled off a plan to steal the Boeing 777 to use it later in a 9/11-style terrorist attack. A key point of this theory includes the pilot intentionally depressurizing the cabin and ascending to 45,000 feet in order to kill the passengers. Then he landed in "Australia, Indonesia, or somewhere close."
“After landing, the plane will be immediately painted over and 're-branded' so to speak. The transponders will be swapped/updated, and the plane will essentially be ready to fly again with no links to MH370.”
Rupert Murdoch, while much more conspiratorial and less technical in tone, concurs:
World seems transfixed by 777 disappearance. Maybe no crash but stolen, effectively hidden, perhaps in Northern Pakistan, like Bin Laden.— Rupert Murdoch (@rupertmurdoch) March 15, 2014