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Was Malaysia Airlines Flight #MH370 hijacked and hidden?

Cross posted from Frederick Leatherman Law Blog

For the following reasons, I suspect some persons unknown hijacked MH 370 with the intent of flying the aircraft to a specific destination.

(1) The 14-minute Gap.

CNN reported last night:

An ABC News report added another twist to the mystery Thursday evening. Citing two unnamed U.S. officials, the network said two separate communications systems on the missing aircraft were shut down separately, 14 minutes apart.

The officials told ABC they believe the plane’s data reporting system was shut down at 1:07 a.m. Saturday, while the transponder transmitting location and altitude was shut down at 1:21 a.m.


If the plane had disintegrated during flight or had suffered some other catastrophic failure, all signals — the pings to the satellite, the data messages and the transponder — would be expected to stop at the same time.

Now, experts are speculating that a pilot or passengers with technical expertise may have switched off the transponder in the hope of flying undetected.


‘This is beginning to come together to say that …this had to have been some sort of deliberate act,’ ABC aviation analyst John Nance told CNN’s Erin Burnett.

Note from the video that someone familiar with the inside of the Boeing 777-200 would have to have been involved in order to know how to turn off the data reporting system. Curiously, it was turned off before the transponder.

(2) The Emergency Locator Transmitters did not send out an emergency signal.

In the same report, CNN also said,

And there’s another confusing twist. An emergency beacon that would have sent data if the plane was about to impact the ocean apparently did not go off, the official said. The beacons, known as Emergency Locator Transmitters, activate automatically upon immersion in fresh or salt water, but must remain on the surface for a distress signal to transmit.

The failure of the beacon to activate could mean that the plane didn’t crash, that the transmitter malfunctioned, or that it’s underwater somewhere.

(3) The route the aircraft followed.

The Independent reports this morning that two unidentified sources familiar with the investigation provided fresh details on the direction in which the unidentified aircraft was heading.

The sources said it was following aviation corridors identified on maps used by pilots as N571 and P628. These are routes taken by commercial planes flying from Southeast Asia to the Middle East or Europe.

The first two sources said MH370’s last confirmed position was at 35,000 feet about 90 miles (144 km) off the east coast of Malaysia at 1.21am, heading towards Vietnam, near a navigational waypoint called ‘Igari.’

From there, the plot indicates the plane flew towards a waypoint known as ‘Gival,’ south of the Thai island of Phuket, and was last plotted heading northwest towards another waypoint called ‘Igrex,’ on route P628.

This would take it over the Andaman Islands, which carriers use to fly towards Europe.

The time was then 2.15 am – the same time given by the air force chief on Wednesday.

(4) Radar capability along the route taken by the aircraft is limited.

The Independent reports:

A fourth source familiar with the investigation told Reuters this position marks the limit of Malaysia’s military radar in that region.

ABC News is reporting:

Hishammuddin said Malaysia was asking for radar data from India and other neighboring countries to see if they could trace the plane flying northwest. There was no word Friday that any other country had such details on the plane, and they may not exist.

In Thailand, secondary radar, which requires a signal from aircraft, runs 24 hours a day, but primary surveillance radar, which requires no signal, ordinarily shuts down at night at some locations, said a Royal Thai Air Force officer who asked not to be named because he was not authorized to talk to the media on the issue.

Air Marshal Vinod Patni, a retired Indian air force officer and a defense expert, said radar facilities in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands area don’t work around the clock, either.

(5) The Andaman Islands were not the final destination

CNN reports:

Denis Giles, editor of the Andaman Chronicle newspaper, says there’s just nowhere to land such a big plane in his archipelago without attracting notice.

Indian authorities own the only four airstrips in the region, he said.

‘There is no chance, no such chance, that any aircraft of this size can come towards Andaman and Nicobar islands and land,’ he said.

(6) No indication that the pilot hijacked the flight

CBS News reports that the pilot and copilot are “humble and safety conscious.”

Based on the story, I am not persuaded that the copilot can be ruled out as a potential hijacker.


The circumstantial evidence indicates that more than one person hijacked MH 370. At least one of them would have to have known how to fly the Boeing 777-200, turn off the the plane’s data reporting system at 1:07 am and the transponder at 1:21 am and take advantage of regional radar vulnerabilities.

Other individuals would have to have controlled the passengers or executed them to prevent someone from using their cell phone.

I do not believe the airplane was hijacked just to crash it because there would be no point to continue flying it for four hours.

CNN reports:

James Kallstrom, a former FBI assistant director, said it’s possible the plane could have landed, though he added that more information is needed to reach a definitive conclusion. He referred to the vast search area.

‘You draw that arc and you look at countries like Pakistan, you know, and you get into your Superman novels and you see the plane landing somewhere and (people) repurposing it for some dastardly deed down the road,’ he told CNN’s Jake Tapper on Thursday.

‘I mean, that’s not beyond the realm of realism. I mean, that could happen.’

I fear the worst for the passengers.

My conclusion is just a theory, of course, and we will have to wait and see what happens.

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Frederick Leatherman

Frederick Leatherman

I am a former law professor and felony criminal defense lawyer who practiced in state and federal courts for 30 years specializing in death penalty cases, forensics, and drug cases.

I taught criminal law, criminal procedure, law and forensics, and trial advocacy for three years after retiring from my law practice.

I also co-founded Innocence Project Northwest (IPNW) at the University of Washington School of Law in Seattle and recruited 40 lawyers who agreed to work pro bono, assisted by law students, representing 17 innocent men and women wrongfully convicted of sexually abusing their children in the notorious Wenatchee Sex Ring witch-hunt prosecutions during the mid 90s. All 17 were freed from imprisonment.