It’s the aviation mystery that’s baffled the world with theories so wild — it feels like fiction. But now, 22 hidden minutes in the air could finally find MH370.
It’s the aviation mystery that’s baffled the world and produced conspiracy theories so wild – it feels like fiction.
The whereabouts of MH370 is a “mystery within a mystery”, with theories surrounding how and why the Malaysian Airlines flight vanished haunting experts for almost eight years.
Disappearing on March 8, 2014 – killing 239 people on board, including six Australians – claims the carrier disappeared in the jungle, or got sucked into a black hole are just the beginning of the theories.
But now, one former Qantas pilot believes the key to the Boeing 777’s location lies within a 22-minute ‘holding pattern’ – detected through an invisible ‘WSPR trail’.
‘I believe the Captain was responsible’
During the Sky News documentary MH370: The Final Search, which aired on Wednesday night, top aviation experts shared their theories on what exactly happened on the flight bound for Beijing.
Some believe the loss of MH370 was no accident – and that the aircraft was in fact brought down in a murder-suicide plot.
“My theory has always been that it was the captain who is responsible … probably as a political protest,” aviation writer and former Qantas Captain Mike Glynn said of senior Malaysia Airlines Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah.
“I think the evidence is pretty overwhelming that the aeroplane could not have flown the route it did with all the respective turns without that being a commandeered manoeuvre,” Aviation safety investigator and retired pilot, John Cox added.
Mr Glynn’s theory around Mr Shah is linked to the distant family relationship he had with Anwar Ibrahim, Malaysia’s Opposition leader at the time of the crash. Mr Ibrahim was convicted of sodomy just one day prior to MH370’s disappearance – with experts believing Mr Shah was “upset” by the verdict.
“He was active in the party … again no claim or responsibility in any of this … but that’s one lead,” author and journalist Ean Higgins told the investigation.
“Again, would it be enough for him to take such drastic action without saying he did it, that’s difficult to say.”
Mr Glynn added that the 53-year-old’s Facebook was a treasure trove of political activity and anti-government sentiment.
“There’s a case to be made there,” he added.
Mr Shah, who had 18,000 flying hours under his belt and was a father of three, would often make flying videos in his spare time using his own flight simulator.
But despite the theory surrounded Mr Shah’s motivation, Malaysia Airlines Crisis Director Fuad Sharuji said he does not believe one of the airline’s senior pilots would intentionally hijack and bring down a passenger plane.
“I don’t see him as a person who could do that,” Mr Sharuji said.
“He has been flying as a Captain on a 777 since 1998 … so a very senior captain.”
MH370’s mysterious 22-minute ‘WSPR trail’
The last point of control tower contact with MH370 was over the South China Sea, which is where the search initially launched following the disappearance.
But after further investigation in the hours and days following, it became apparent that the aircraft turned back towards Malaysia before entering Vietnamese airspace several hours after take off.
Once the plane flew over the Malay peninsular, it went around the island of Penang and up the Malacca Strait and eventually over the southern Indian Ocean – which is where extensive searches have concentrated.
Mr Glynn, who wants another search for MH370 to be launched in light of recent developments, says he believes a modern technology network may be the new key to find the aircraft.
Using the Weak Signal Propagation Report (WSPR), which is a network of radio signals across the globe using amateur or hand radios, Mr Glynn says further details about the flight have quickly been uncovered.
Typically, these radios are for people to talk to each other around the world.
Mr Glynn says the hand operators who send out signals to see how far it can travel is received by another operator, the interaction is logged into the WSPR data base. Currently, records of this sort of correspondence go back to 2009.
“People started thinking that with the knowledge of aircraft passing through these links … that sometimes they change the signal and that could be picked up,” he explained, noting the ‘signals’ act like trip wires.
Essentially, if an aircraft flies through a signal – that aircraft can then be tracked. With the signals being sent out every two minutes, the system is precise – even when determining the final resting place of the doomed flight.
“This is a game-changer,” Mr Glynn said.
“It introduces a whole new way of thinking about what actually happened.”
But Mr Glynn says there’s one moment in the signal system where the aircraft enters a 22-minute “holding pattern” at 3.12am in the morning. It’s a clue, two and a half hours after take off, he says would reduce the distance the aircraft could travel.
“There’s no reason to do that,” he said, noting the 22 minutes might have been the time of “possible negotiation” between the pilot and someone else possibly on the ground.
“I think you’ve got to take into account … Anwar was locked up five hours before they left. If I had to speculate, I’d say there was a negotiation going on there.
“So that’s a possibility.”
The search area for MH370 has previously concentrated around 120,000sq km search area in the Indian Ocean, but they never had an exact spot. That’s why the 22-minute holding pattern is so crucial – being 33.177°S and 95.900°E.
“I have no reason to disbelieve [this site],” Mr Glynn said.
“This is the only game in town, there’s nothing else happening.
“I think it’s been shown from the tests we have done that it [WSPR] can be used for this … we have got to give it a red hot go.
“It could be done in a few weeks … and it brings the [search site] further north.”
Australian Danica Weeks, whose husband was on board the flight, said learning of the 22-minute holding pattern revelation was “overwhelming”.
“What were they doing in that 22 minutes …? Was there negotiations with the pilot?” she questioned.
“We should be told about it … we should know what happened for 22 minutes … Was there an on-board fight with the pilots and the passengers … was it another September 11 … but 22 minutes is a long time to be going around in circles.
“He [Captain Shah] must’ve been talking to someone … it’s just a complete cover up.”
Watch MH370: The Final Search on Sky News on Foxtel or stream on Flash