It has been nearly a decade since the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. Despite multiple investigations, search efforts, and theories, there are more questions surrounding the tragic event than answers. The flight, commonly referred to as MH370, has been the subject of podcasts, influenced fictional series («Manifest«), and inspired several documentaries, like Netflix’s «MH370: The Plane That Disappeared,» which released on Netflix on March 8.
«MH370: The Plane That Disappeared» examines the mysterious disappearance of the flight, highlights evidence that points to a number of mistakes made during the initial investigation, and dives into a handful of theories that attempt to make sense of the tragedy. Here is the true story of the puzzling, missing MH370 airplane.
What Happened to Flight MH370?
In the early morning of March 8, 2014, a Boeing 777 plane, MH370, departed Kuala Lumpur International Airport carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew members. Upon its departure at 12:42 a.m., the plane headed toward its destination of Beijing Capital International Airport. At 1:08 a.m., the flight traveled over the South China Sea toward Vietnam, at which time the pilot in command (PIC), Zaharie Ahmad Shah, relayed to air traffic control (ATC) a second time that the plane had leveled off at 35,000 feet, an unusual remark given the fact that altitude information is typically issued when a plane is leaving a certain level, as reported by The Atlantic.
11 minutes after MH370 was seen on the radar over the South China Sea, an air traffic control (ATC) worker messaged in and issued the following message to Shah and his co-pilot, Fariq Hamid, «Malaysian three-seven-zero, contact Ho Chi Minh one-two-zero-decimal-nine.» At 1:19 a.m., Shah responded to the controller saying, «Good night Malaysian three seven zero,» according to CNN. This was the last known correspondence between ATC and MH370 before the plane’s transponder stopped sending its position to ATC and disappeared off the primary radar at 1:21 a.m.
Despite essentially vanishing into thin air, MH370 was tracked at different points throughout its journey through the air on the morning of March 8. ATC in Vietnam noticed the plane in their airspace, but it quickly disappeared off the radar. At this time, controllers made several attempts to get in contact with MH370, all of which were unsuccessful. When Vietnamese ATC notified controllers in Kuala Lumpur, 18 minutes had passed. Military radar across different countries, including Malaysia and Thailand, tracked MH370 at various points, and the plane’s last known coordinates were somewhere over the Indian Ocean, per The Guardian. At 6:32 a.m., an emergency search-and-rescue effort was launched, and the search for the missing plane began.
What Was the Response to Flight MH370″s Disappearance?
Nearly five hours after the last transmission from MH370, the emergency response, consisting of 34 ships and 28 aircrafts from seven different countries, focused its efforts on the South China Sea between Vietnam and Malaysia. No sign of MH370 was uncovered from the search, but an investigation into the flight records revealed that shortly after it disappeared off the radar at approximately 1:12 a.m., the plane » turned sharply to the southwest, flew back across the Malay Peninsula, and banked around the island of Penang. From there, it flew northwest up the Strait of Malacca and out across the Andaman Sea, where it faded beyond radar range into obscurity,» as reported by The Atlantic.
On March 24, 2014, the Malaysian government concluded that MH370 crashed somewhere in the Indian Ocean, but evidence of the plane’s unusual route puzzled investigators, broadly expanded the search area, and opened up a world of theories.
Regarding response efforts, a few notable groups have been responsible for investigating the disappearance: the Independent Group and Ocean Infinity. These efforts were large-scale and have hypothesized explanations, weighed the evidence, and established timelines based on anything from radar and satellite records, ocean currents, flight physics, and more. Along with organizational efforts, individuals have also been dedicated to solving the mystery of MH370, including Blaine Gibson, who conducted his own independent search efforts and found pieces of the plane on the shores of Mozambique and Madagascar in February and June of 2016, per The Daily Mail.
What Are the Theories Behind Flight MH370’s Disappearance?
There are endless conspiracy theories surrounding the disappearance of MH370, ranging from the plane being shot down to getting sucked into a black hole. Little evidence supports those theories, however. PIC Zaharie Ahmad Shah, however, has been at the center of several proposed theories.
Per The Atlantic, Shah was 53 years old at the time of the MH370 disappearance and an accomplished pilot. As the Malaysian government investigated all aspects of the case, Shah was constantly regarded as an experienced pilot and a stable family man with a wife and three children. Shah notably had an elaborate flight simulator system in his home and was known to use it frequently.
On the surface, Shah appeared to be squeaky clean, but as more information was revealed during the various investigations, it appeared that he wasn’t what he seemed to be. It turns out Shah was in the midst of separating from his wife, had fallen in love with a married woman, and turned to social media for companionship. According to the people that knew him, he appeared to be depressed. Most notable of all the evidence collected during the investigation was a profile eerily similar to that of the MH370 track on his flight simulator system.
Though it has not been objectively proven with 100% certainty, one central theory posed by The Atlantic writer and former pilot, William Langwiesche suggests that Shah switched off the autopilot settings, depressurized the cabin, and quickly turned and ascended to 40,000 feet, depriving all cabin passengers of oxygen and killing them within minutes sometime after MH370 disappeared off the radar. According to evidence found throughout the various investigations, the plane remained in the air for six hours before eventually running out of fuel and plummeting at a rate of 15,000 feet per minute into the Indian Ocean.
However, all of the evidence and proposed theories put the various pieces of this mysterious puzzle together without creating a clear picture.
Watch «MH370: The Plane That Disappeared» to form your own hypothesis about what happened to the doomed airplane and catch the trailer below.
Image Source: Getty / Rahman Roslan