Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 went missing on March 8, 2014, en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board. The official investigation was unable to determine conclusively what happened to the aircraft, but it is believed to have terminated its journey in the southern Indian Ocean with all souls lost. It is also believed that the Boeing 777 200-ER was hijacked by someone familiar with flying commercial aircrafts. There are a number of reasons why investigators believe the plane was hijacked, and a key reason is the initial u-turn.
After MH370 disappeared from civilian air traffic control radar it continued to appear on primary radar belonging to the military.
From this radar, the plane can be seen passing waypoint IGARI ‒ the last checkpoint within Malaysian airspace ‒ at around 1:21am local time.
Then, the plane took a sudden 180 degree turn and started flying back in the other direction towards the Malay peninsula.
This u-turn was so aggressive that many people, including science journalist Jeff Wise, thought it had to have been flown manually.
The plane then climbed and accelerated to the limit of its flight envelope.
What was interesting about its flight path as it flew back towards Malaysia and then turned northwest up the Malacca Strait, is that it was almost always flying between two Flight Information Regions (FIRs).
This means the plane was flying right along the boundary between Malaysian and Vietnamese-cotnrolled airspace, and then between Malaysian and Thai-controlled airspace, and each time both countries thought the other was in charge of it.
Taking all this into account, aviation journalist David Learmount told 2019 Channel 5 documentary ‘Flight Mh370’ that it must have been hijacked because it “couldn’t have happened any other way”.
He said: “I believe that what happened to this aeroplane was not an accident, it was planned.
“It was carried out by somebody on board. Somebody on board did that, because it couldn’t have happened any other way.”
He added: “The aircraft almost turned back on itself and flew along the division of airspace between Vietnam and Malaysia, so each thought the other was in charge of it.
“To you that might be a coincidence, for me that was incredibly deliberate, because the accuracy of the flying was remarkable.
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“And there was, in this aircraft, no pre-programmed ‒ ie automatic pilot ‒ piece of software which would have done that.”
Mr Wise, meanwhile, told the documentary that the plane was flown “aggressively” ‒ in order words, higher and faster than a plane normally would ‒ and this showed “signs of evasion and signs of escape”.
This aggression also, he argued, demonstrated that the person in charge of the plane was familiar with the controls of the airliner.
Mr Learmount agreed, adding that it had to be a “highly qualified human being, well-trained in the workings of the 777” behind the operation.
Whoever hijacked the plane also had to have an understanding of FIRs and how air traffic control works to know that the plane could be taken in the way it did.
Suspicion initially landed on the pilot, who it turns out had a flight simulator in his basement that had a number of waypoints programmed in that were suspiciously similar to the calculated flight path of the doomed MH370 flight.
However, these were just seven points out of hundreds of others that were seemingly unrelated and investigators could not rule out that it was simply a coincidence.
Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah had also suffered with mental health issues and marital problems but, according to risk management consultant Dr Sally Leivesey, he still did not fit the “psychological profile” of someone who would carry out a serious workplace suicide.
Nor, apparently, did co-pilot Fariqu Abdul Hamid.
While the co-pilot had previously flouted rules about having guests in the cockpit, he was rising up in his career and did not seem to fit the profile of someone who would carry out such a heinous act.
In the end, the hijack theory seems most likely, although who exactly was behind it is unknown.
However, there are countless other theories too, and none have yet managed to be proved conclusively.
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