The latest revelations about the missing Malaysia Airlines 777 suggest that the jet was seized by someone who knew how to fly it and intentionally hide it from radar, and then flown toward (or to) an as-yet-unknown destination.
The fact that the latest “ping” from the jet’s satellite communication system was picked up 7 hours after the plane’s transponder was switched off suggests that the plane could have flown about 2,000 miles from its last known position, a range that could have taken it into central Asia (or, via a southern route, toward islands in the southern Indian Ocean).
It seems highly unlikely that someone would go to the trouble of seizing, hiding, and then flying the jet for 7 hours if the goal was merely to kill everyone on board and commit suicide by crashing it into the ocean. Once the person or people involved had control of the plane, if the intention was merely to destroy it, this would have been easy.
Instead, the person or people who took control flew the plane in a specific direction for at least 7 hours. Whether they reached their intended destination or not remains unknown. But it seems increasingly conceivable that they might have — and that the plane might now be in the hands of people who have another mission for it in mind.
What might the plane’s destination have been?
WNYC put together the map below of all the runways on which the 777 could have landed that are within the plane’s estimated range at its last point of contact.
If the plane was indeed seized with the intention of being flown to a destination, that destination could well be on this map. And it’s also possible that the jet could have landed in a desert, or anywhere else with 5,000 feet of straight, flat ground that could be used as a runway. (If the goal was for the plane to take off again, it would need about 9,000 feet).
Jeff Wise at Slate argues persuasively that the plane might have been headed toward — and reached — a destination in central Asia. This seems much more logical than the southern route.
But why steal a plane a fly it somewhere? And what of the passengers and crew?
If the goal was to transport someone or something from Malaysia to somewhere, this seems a mighty complicated way to do it. If mere transportation was the goal, moreover, we might have already gotten some indication of what happened to the plane and crew.
If the goal was to use the passengers as hostages to demand something, it also seems likely that the initial demands would have been heard by now. (A whole week has gone by, and the more time elapses between the first part of a plan and the second part, the more likely the plan would be to be foiled. Especially when the plan might involve holding 235+ people and using them as hostages.)
Some have speculated that the next mission for the plane might be an attack of some sort. If the plane has indeed been flown somewhere undetected that was ready to receive it, this speculation seems reasonable. And the questions that would follow, of course, would be 1) an attack on what? 2) when?, 3) how? (with a bomb on board — or just the plane?), and 4) with or without the passengers?
If you assume that this plan was drawn up and executed with extreme care, which it would have to have been for even the first part to have carried out successfully, it is reasonable to assume that the second part of the plan would have been equally well thought out. So, unfortunately, it does not seem inconceivable that, at some point in the near future, the world might be confronted with the choice of shooting down a 777 loaded with most of its passengers and crew… or allowing it to continue to fly on toward whatever destination it is headed for.
Or the plane might have already crashed somewhere in the deep ocean, where it might never be found.
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