Malaysia Airlines flight 370 disappeared a year ago this week and still hasn’t been found.
The official (if inconclusive) verdict on what’s been called the greatest aviation mystery of all time is that the Boeing 777 experienced a crippling event of some sort that causes it to veer off course and fly for hours until it ran out of fuel and crashed in the remote Indian Ocean.
No wreckage has been found, despite a massive search effort, so naturally the official verdict continues to be questioned.
Aviation commenter Jeff Wise has argued that MH370 didn’t crash in the Indian Ocean but was rather hijacked flown to a remote airfield in Kazakahstan, for reasons related to Russia’s antagonistic relationship with the West.
Now Wise has taken a look a new batch of data released by the Malaysian government and cranked out an analysis for New York Magazine, which published his earlier exploration of the Kazakahstan theory.
It isn’t so much an advancement of the MH370 story as an advancement of the theories about what happened to MH370.
To his credit, Wise is a snappy writer. Again at NY Mag, he boils the theories down to three:
The first one, which I’ll called Suicide Pilot, imagines that the pilot locked himself in the cockpit and flew the plane into the southern ocean. This is, at present, the default scenario; on Saturday, the New York Times wrote a long story outlining its merits. The second theory, the Spoof, proposes that the plane was taken by a highly sophisticated hijack and flown north to Kazakahstan, as I outlined in this magazine last month. The third I’ll call Hero Pilot. It’s a version of a scenario laid out last March by Chris Goodfellow, who suggested that an accidental fire (or maybe unexpected depressurization) had rendered the pilots unconscious, so that the plane flew on into the southern ocean as a ghost plane. This idea was revisited last weekend at the Daily Beast by Clive Irving.
That’s it. These are the only three options that are currently making the rounds. If other scenarios are conceivable, no one is actively articulating them. These three theories all match the data to one degree or another, but they all have gaping holes. It’s like a baby beauty contest where all the contestants are ugly. The question is, which baby is the least ugly?
Wise then tries to correlated the new data with the main theories. He wraps it all up by suggesting that still more information coming from the crash investigation will provide “all the clues we need” — and by “we” he presumably means the community of amateur MH370 investigators who have been conducting their own freelance explorations of the fate of the flight.
Wise doesn’t actually seem like he really wants to be part of this community anymore. But he’s also sort of stuck with it.
His own fate is as surreal as that of MH370’s.
It’s incredibly disturbing that we don’t know what happened to the plane, its passengers, and crew. Jumbo jets just aren’t supposed to vanish without a trace.
And because we’re disturbed, we fill the void with stories that attempt to stitch together the available facts into a plausible narrative. But we’re also impatient. We want to know what happened to the plane!
So instead of the investigation being pushed forward, it’s the competing theories that are being elaborated. The actual investigation, has reached a very difficult point. With no wreckage, no black boxes, and a bunch of abstract datapoints that sometimes connect and sometimes don’t, it could take years to find the truth. And the full truth may never be known.
Some hard facts may appear to provide investigators with a break. But until then, Wise is right: we’re all groping for clues.
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