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 a passenger flying to Hawaii, I noticed at one time almost directly below 2,000 ‘ or so away was another aircraft slightly behind us and cruising at the same speed. I would think the following aircraft would trigger the ACAS unit… I’m wondering if the plane in front has radar pointing to the aft of the aircraft?
      Good point BTW…

      • Tcas works by close range airplanes fly 2000 feet below and some 1000 feet if the aircraft is certified rvsm if they get closer then that 1000 feet then Tcas goes off

    • No it would not because they had both mode s transponders turned off .Tcas requires a mode s on both aircraft working

  1. The difference between success & failure is usually a meticulously planned operation. If this was as well planned as I suspect it was, then the other plane rendez-vous was all pre-planned to the split second.

    Rumours of “33 tons of gold bullion” on board may be completely false, but the OTT reaction from China right from the start suggests there had to be something on board the plane that it considered “valuable”. I don’t think “senior executives” cut the ice either. If you want to write the movie script it might have to be a small packet of “ice” in its original meaning.

    I don’t think flight MH370 will ever actually be seen again. Although spare parts from it might find their way onto the black market in a couple of years time. Heavens knows what happened to the poor innocent passengers.

  2. Daily mail…
    Doomed airliner pilot was political fanatic: Hours before taking control of flight MH370 he attended trial of jailed opposition leader as FBI reveal passengers could be at a secret location

    Police investigate data from home flight simulator of captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah, 53
    Investigators speak of his ‘obsessive’ support for opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim
    Police officers fear Ibrahim being jailed could have left Shah profoundly upset
    Flight MH370 disappeared more than a week ago with 239 people on board
    Despite a huge multinational search effort, no signs of the plane or a crash have been found

    Malaysian Prime Minister said yesterday that the plane was deliberately steered off course
    FBI experts say disappearance could be ‘act of piracy’, suggesting passengers are being held

    • Although I don’t dismiss the possibility the pilot was an obsessed political fanatic, I take it with a grain of salt because my own American “news” media would very quickly and easily label ME as an obsessed political fanatic… because I am a gun-owning, pro-life fiscal and social conservative. Having a political view and attending the trial of a politician friend does not an obsessed political fanatic make. So because his friend was sentenced to jail he is going to spontaneously steal a plane and then 1. crash it or 2. successfully land it in another country without any plans or conspirators? Nah, not buying it.

  3. Update: The reason why we assume that other equipment may also have been used during the AWACS mission, of which flight 370 was a victim, is explained in this 2006 article on a Boeing patent. “Boeing is, of course, not the first autopilot technology in existence, but this one has been designed with counterterrorism first and foremost in mind. Not only is it ‘uninterruptible’ — so that even a tortured pilot cannot turn it off — but it can be activated remotely via radio or satellite by government agencies.” This means and proves that commercial airplanes can be controlled remotely by lets say… the CIA and Mossad! Therefore there’s no need at all for an agent to be on board of the airplane to ensure it can be taken over and taken to an alternative destination, as the agencies see fit for their operation. The AWACS would certainly provide perfect cover and would hide most traces of the airplane’s signals. As is the case with flight 370.http://www.4key.net/false-flags/malaysia-airlines-flight-370-awacs-hijacking-sabotage-and-propaganda/

    • AWACS or E-3 Sentry’s all scheduled for phase out soon. Yeah chicom’s AWACS should have found the MH370 because they’re more sophisticated.

      New U.S. Navy’s P-8A Poseidon can probably match the chicom’s AWACS because they’re armed with Hellfires and homing torpoedos in case it needs to sink Ms Liaoning. :-)

    • A 777 would be pretty easy to spot for any AWACs system, even Chain Home would probably have done a good job.

      Thing is, nobody would have been watching a perfectly normal scheduled flight.

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