A brief survey of the latest theories surrounding the missing airplane

By Kelli Bender and Erin Clements
March 14, 2014 03:00 PM
Binsar Bakkara/AP

What happened to Malaysia Airlines Flight 370? The March 8 disappearance of the jetliner, and the 239 people on board, has led to an urgent and extensive hunt for answers, as multiple nations pour over satellite images, military observations and airplane transmissions in a bid to determine whether the plane kept flying after it dropped off radar early Saturday morning.

Flight 370 is hardly the first airplane to vanish without a trace, but as the days have ticked by, the world has become increasingly obsessed with the mystery: Did Flight 370 turn west after it disappeared? Here’s where the theories stand, as of 2:15 p.m. Friday, March 14:


1. There was likely not a catastrophic explosion, given the data that was later received from two MH370 communications systems. Via ABC News: If Flight 370 crashed into the ocean, as initially suspected, the plane’s two communication systems should have shut down simultaneously. Instead, U.S. officials say the aircraft’s data reporting system and transponder shut down roughly 20 minutes apart. This suggests the units were shut down manually by someone inside the airplane.

2. No wreckage was found where Chinese satellite imagery said it should be. Via USA Today: On Wednesday, China released satellite images that appeared to show several pieces of debris in the vicinity of Flight 370’s disappearance. A later search of the photographed area turned up nothing. Shortly thereafter, Chinese authorities said the images were not of debris and the release of the photos was an accident.


1. The plane reversed course and continued to fly for up to five hours after disappearing from radar. Via CNN: Officials now believe Flight 370 may have made a hard turn west and flown in the opposite direction after dropping off radar, based on several “pings” transmitted from the aircraft to satellites. These “pings” are said to have come from the jetliner’s service data system four to five hours after Flight 370’s last transponder signal. Given fuel records, the plane would have had enough gas onboard to cross the Indian Ocean.

2. The plane crashed to the west of Malaysia, in the Indian Ocean. Via ABC News:

Malaysian authorities have requested the United States move its destroyer, the USS Kidd, previously stationed at the edge of the strait of Malacca, further west to the Indian Ocean. Pentagon officials said the USS Kidd is now sailing towards a location where the Indian Ocean meets the Andaman Sea, where Malaysian officials now believe the plane may have crashed.

3. Once off radar, an experienced flier turned the plane west, raising suspicions of sabotage or hijacking. Via Reuters: New radar data suggests that the plane diverted off course, flying hundreds of miles in the wrong direction. Sources told Reuters that an aircraft, possibly Flight 370, was detected above the Indian Ocean, flying a route that fell outside standard navigational waypoints. This new, carefully-calculated flight path suggests the operator of the unidentified plane was a pilot, or someone who was familiar with flying.

4. A 3 a.m. underwater earthquake Saturday morning could have actually been the plane hitting the ocean floor. Via NBC News: A small tremor was detected on the sea floor early Saturday morning, approximately 95 miles south of Vietnam. “It was a non-seismic zone, therefore judging from the time and location of the event, it might be related to the missing MH370 flight,” Chinese scientists said in a statement posted on the website of the University of Science and Technology of China.

5. Reporters have noted that there are four airstrips in the remote Andaman Islands, located in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Via CNN and Reuters: Radar data suggests the jet’s pilot was following navigational waypoints on a route that would have taken the plane over the Andaman archipelago. There is no indication, however, that the plane flew over the islands, sparking speculation that the plane may have landed there. The theory has already been dismissed outright by a local journalist: “There is no chance, no such chance, that any aircraft of this size can come towards Andaman and Nicobar Islands and land,” Andaman Chronicle editor Denis Giles told CNN.

6. Among the crazy conspiracy theories: The plane is now sitting at a Vietnam airport, abandoned since the war, waiting to be used as a weapon. Via Boston.com: One of the conspiracy theories being floated on the Internet suggests that the plane was taken to a secret Vietnamese airport, where it would be prepped for an attack.

Like us on Facebook for more stories like this!