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.


  1. The US and Australia have BIG radars down that way. If in case it did fly south west. It will be interesting to see if data is released first or wreckage is found. I’d assume our military and airforce wont release any data if it was indeed recorded. 1 Orion search plane is already there searching, generally they find things pretty fast as its what they’re set up to do!! I’m kinda liking the shot down theory atm. However who did that? If the plane did come all the way do near Perth the US and the Aussies would have been like whats up with the Malaysians getting so close to our air space!

  2. “cover up attempt (for instance because the aircraft was shot down).”

    You should avoid that kind of speculation.

  3. It occurred to me that if MH370 encountered an air strike that wiped out the flight deck and pilots, the actual controls which are in the electronics bay might have continued to function to some extent. The impact could have altered the autopilot and sent the aircraft on a direct heading elsewhere. There is no automatic sequence to reduce altitude and the ram air would minimize decompression leaving the passengers to freeze to death. I’m trying to recall if the auto landing sequence would be triggered on an out of fuel signal but suspect if it was, the aircraft would have made a soft sea landing where it remains fully intact with little debris. Contrary to gut thinking a fuel empty plane of this type floats like a rock.

    • Time between txpr turn offs? The busses auto divert current to alt busses too. Do you know these paths? I’m sure those elect signal alt paths are being determined and matched against known times the txprs were turned off.

  4. It would be useful to see the inmarsat ping angles for every ping from the time of the last communication. Using cruising speed and last known location I think you could track the likely path.

    • It would be very useful, yet they are not releasing that info. Also, they are not releasing their Malaysian military radar data. The “authorities” keep saying it is most likely in the south but have not presented one bit of evidence that indicates that it went south.

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