Hijacked Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 shadowed other airliners to escape detection?

According to the satellite data the hijacked MH370 was last spotted flying towards Pakistan or Indian Ocean. But if it took the northwestern route there was only one way to be invisible to radars.

More than one week since the flight disappered from the sky, Malaysian authorities are now almost certain that Malaysia Airlines MH370 was hijacked: even though it’s impossible to say what happened aboard, the transponder and other communication equipment aboard the Boeing 777 9M-MRO were deliberately switched off to prevent identification by Air Traffic Control radars.

Even more interestingly, based on data coming from satellites, the aircraft could have taken two different routes: a northernwestern one, towards Pakistan/China, and a western one towards the Indian Ocean.

The northwestern route would have brought the plane somewhere along a route from the last recorded radar position west of Malaysia to a point on a great circle stretching from northern Thailand toward the Kazakhstan-Turkmenistan border. In other words, MH370 might have crossed some of the most heavily guarded airspaces without being noticed.

Weird, isn’t it?

A Boeing 777 flying at 25,000 feet for seven hours crossing airways used by airplanes flying from Europe to Asia and vice versa and several airspaces surveilled by military and civilian radars, would leave a trace (and risk a mid-air or two on the way…)

The fact that it flew with a switched off transponder didn’t make it invisible: Air Traffic Control radars might have not noticed it (even if it is unlikely), but military air defense sites in most countries (Malaysia is probably not among them) do pay attention to primary returns that could be the sign of an unknown (or enemy) aircraft.

Provided the plane really went northwest, how did it pass unnoticed through the Indian or Pakistani airspace?


INMARSAT positions

Image credit: Office of Malaysia’s PM


Even though I still consider it quite unlikely, one of the possibilities is that the Boeing 777 shadowed another plane it encountered along the route.

Closing on another liner is not a common procedure, nor is it easy to perform with a large plane. But it is not completely impossible and, above all, such a daredevil maneuver worth an action movie, would have made the MH370 invisible to military radars.

Since the hijacking was very well executed and planned, 8 days after it went off radar with no idea where the plane crashed or landed, we can’t completely rule out the possibility that the operation foresaw a rendez-vous with another plane unaware of MH370, that could provide the shield to the Malaysia’s 777 hiding behind it.

Obviously, the Indian route is more likely, making research much more difficult and raising a question: why did the hijackers brought the plane westwards? Where did they plan to bring it?

As I said on Twitter earlier today, regardless of its crash or landing site the whole story will eventually highlight either impressive negligence (by air defenses of Malaysia and several other nations) or cover up attempt (for instance because the aircraft was shot down).

All the articles about MH370 can be read here (scroll down).

As a side note: the whole story reminds me of Lost drama fiction’s Oceanic 815 (incidentally, a Boeing 777) crash on an unknown island.

Image credit: Tomasz Bartkowiak, Reuters


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About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.


    • As they are supplied power, they have to be switchable and controlled by the pilot. They need a like a battery powered unit or EPIRB that can be activated remotely.

      The worst thing is the ability of the pilot to dump cabin pressure. Is there a reason for that?

      • This reason does not justify the possibility of a plane becaming impossible to be identified and tracked because of pilot or hijacker decision.

        At this point the pilot or hijacker must be made incapable of such an action.

        Acar was still powered why in the world should a pilot of commercial Arline be able to switch off transmission and still have it powered?

        Also floating black boxes with last GPS location like those installed on the full fleet US Navy F18s could have helped in all the airline accidents happened over water.

        • My point was there has to be a power cut off on any supplied device. I added that there might be alternatives.

          Just like 911, no one anticipated this incident (that two commercial pilots would steal the plane).

          I’m concerned this plane was being set up to deliver a nuke.

    • what they need to do is to build a key to break fire glass alarm which generates a alarm signal and gps of a attempt to access the transponder.

  1. As we operate in intelligence matters with the precept there are no “coincidences”, it must be noted that the missing airliner disappeared about the same time as Mr. Putin’s adventure in the Ukraine. I know the Chinese and the Russians are best comrades forever, and the FSB would never do anything bad to another state, but inquiring minds…

    • Well, loads of things were going on around the time of disappearence: Venezuela cut ties with Panama, Niger deports son of al Ghadaffi to Lybia, Rwanda and South Africa get in each other’s hair, Maoist rebels in India, disputes in the South China Sea continue… Surely solely timing isn’t enough reason to link the two?

    • It wouldn’t be much use as diagnostic data if you couldn’t tell which aircraft the data was from.
      Of course, when an engine is installed into a new aircraft, presumably there’s a lot of paperwork that might be filled out wrongly.

    • 440 pounds of Lipo batteries on-board. This plane was not hijacked, it was simply the Lipo batteries getting set off by something and the gasses released killing everyone on board. It is clear the Pilot and Co-Pilot did what they could and attempted to extinguish a fire by climbing above 45,000 feet which may have worked however by then the systems have already either been shut down and the fire probably took them out, the gasses being released by that many batteries would have filled the plane and there was nothing they could do about that. This obviously happened within minutes of the last communication and the new course being set, they may have been able to control the plane for who knows how long but with communications down and the gasses filling the plane there was no way to let anyone know what danger they were in. The plane then simply ran out of fuel with everyone on board already dead.

      This probably has already been posted by someone one else but this is my theory.

      Everyone is overthinking this simple catastrophe

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