This weekend marks the one-year anniversary of the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. No physical evidence of the Boeing 777 has been found, and other clues—logs of automated satellite communications and from military radar—have delivered more questions than answers. The 239 passengers and crew on board are presumed dead, and the official stance on the fate of the plane is that it crashed—somewhere—into the Indian Ocean, for unknown reasons.
Flight 370 departed from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for Beijing, China early on March 8, 2014. It disappeared from air traffic control radar a few hours later, before popping up on a few military radar screens and finally disappearing over the Andaman Sea. A comprehensive search was undertaken across tens of thousands of square miles of ocean in a number of different regions, and the current search efforts are focused on the bottom of the Indian Ocean more than a thousand miles southwest of Perth, Australia.
Unsurprisingly, the lack of evidence has spawned a number of theories from all corners of the Internet but, unlike theories surrounding 9/11 or the Kennedy assassination, few can be categorically disproven—even the wackier ones. Here are some of the most interesting, if not the most logical, ideas people have come up with.
The Cockpit Fire: One of our favorite—and the most plausible—theories comes from pilot Chris Goodfellow, who suggests a fire in the cockpit led the captain to turn to the west toward Palau Langkawi, a nearby airstrip. The loss of communication with the cockpit, Goodfellow says, jibes with an electrical fire and the need for the crew to focus on flying the plane rather than radioing in a distress call. He thinks the pilots could have passed out or succumbed to smoke inhalation, with the plane flying for hours until it ran out of fuel and crashed. It’s a great theory, except for the lack of any solid evidence to support it.
Russian Special Ops Took It: An article in New York magazine hypothesizes that nefarious actors could have broken into the electronics-and-equipment bay on the 777, accessed through the first-class cabin. A well-trained hijacker could theoretically have started pulling the plane’s electronics apart and faked some of the satellite data that researchers have used to try to pinpoint the path of the flight.
Jeff Wise claims the plane must then have gone north, into Asia, rather than south over the Indian Ocean, and into Kazakhstan where there are runways and buildings large enough to hide a Boeing 777. It’s a well-researched piece that doesn’t prove anything.
Faked Flight Plan: An email we received suggests that someone on board hijacked the plane, and kept its location concealed by faking a flight plan from an uncontrolled airport. Then, the pilots could pretend to be a small business jet, and proceed to some hidden airfield somewhere with no one the wiser. Except for the fact that it’s tricky to hide a Boeing 777 and several hundred passengers and crew.
US Military Shot It Down: The atoll of Diego Garcia, complete with US military base, is located in the middle of the Indian Ocean. One theory suggests that the plane was headed there on some sort of kamikaze mission and it was secretly shot down by the US military before it could reach its target. The Americans would then have faked the satellite data and scooped up every last bit of debris to keep the fate of the plane and its passengers secret. This one is particularly unlikely since the cleanup of the airplane would have taken way too many people to keep things quiet.
It’s in Pakistan: Rupert Murdoch hypothesized that the plane’s disappearance was part of a jihadist plot to “make trouble for China” and that the fight could have landed in northern Pakistan “like Bin Laden”, whatever that means. Others have said the plane could be outfitted with explosives or even a nuclear weapon for future delivery, as if a big, slow, less than agile passenger jet is the best tool for that.
Supernatural Forces: Thanks to Reddit for theories that the plane could have been snatched out of the sky by aliens, or a wormhole that sent it back in time like once occurred in an episode of The Twilight Zone. Or perhaps a black hole ate the plane, as suggested by CNN anchor Don Lemon.
We’re big fans of Occam’s Razor, which suggests that the theory with the fewest assumptions is most likely to be correct. That means the plane most likely crashed in the gigantic Southern Indian Ocean, and no debris was found because the search for the missing aircraft started in the wrong place. But until—if ever—we get more evidence, that reasonable guess is no more sure than any of these.
Or maybe a meteor hit it?