Malaysia 370, Day 10: One Fanciful Hypothesis, and Another That Begins to Make Sense

            The Atlantic’s James Fallows shed light on the most current and controversial issue of the missing Malaysia 370 flight by debunking one hypothesis and supporting another. The article entitled “Malaysia 370, Day 10: One Fanciful Hypothesis, and Another That Begins to Make Sense” begins with a straightforward stance of the author, saying “Did the airplane hide in a “radar shadow”? Probably not. Did the flight crew act like heroes? Possibly so.” The author first brings up the “Radar Shadow” Hypothesis, which speculates that the Malaysian plane might have avoided radar detection by deliberately flying next to another 777 so that the radar operators could see only a single blip from this ad-hoc formation flight. Several reasons are then given to support this hypothesis. For instance, the other Singapore Airlines flight would not have known that the Malaysia flight was right behind it because MH 370 had already turned off its transponders, cutting all the signals that could be sent to the onboard collision-warning system of the Singapore plane. Meanwhile, the transponder of the Singapore plane is still working, so it is possible for the Malaysian flight to track the position and follow in the shadow of Singapore airplane before peeling off at some point to its intended destination. Unexpectedly, the author debunks all the assumptions he just mentioned by saying that they are neither likely nor plausible. The evidence which shows that there are two planes following exactly the same course across a series of aerial way points is not strange, and rather routine for normal air traffic control. He finishes the first hypothesis by calling it “fanciful” and insists that the mystery of this missing plane is caused by something else.

The next hypothesis called “The Pulau Langkawi possibility” states that the pilots may have been caught by surprise by an inflight fire, a major systems failure, or some other genuine emergency. Then, they tried to head for what they knew to be the nearest very long runway on the Malaysian island of Pulau Langkawi. To support this assumption, the author quotes the experienced pilot who ensures that all pilots will do the same things if such incidents occur. But the pilots never made it. Before getting the plane down, they could have been incapacitated and the plane would then fly on until it ran out of fuel.  Far from being villains or schemers, the flight crews were in fact heroes, struggling until the last to save their aircraft, themselves, and the 237 other souls on board. The author reveals his leaning towards this hypothesis by saying that he can see it happen in this way and later deriding the thought of crew takeover and radar avoidance by comparing it with stories in the “fiction”.

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