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To steal Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 out of midair would require a pilot who knew how to elude detection by both civilian and military radar. It would take a runway at least a mile long to land the wide-body jet, possibly in the dark, and a hangar big enough to hide it. All without being seen.

Improbable but not impossible, experts say.

With the search for the missing airliner entering its eighth day, scenarios involving piracy or hijacking are increasingly being talked about as possible explanations for the disappearance of the Boeing 777 with 239 people on board.

Authorities say they're not ruling out other theories, which include a catastrophic structural failure causing the plane to break up, engine failure, or pilot suicide. But a U.S. official gave an intriguing twist to the story Friday by saying that investigators are considering whether the plane's disappearance was due to "an act of piracy" and whether the big jet might have landed somewhere without being detected.

A takeover of the plane seemed to be ruled out a few days ago, when officials discounted any link between terrorism and two passengers who were traveling on fake passports. The piracy theory, however, gained new life when it was reported that the plane's transponders had been turned off, making it more stealthy; and that signals from the plane indicated that it kept flying for several hours after the last radio contact, possibly turning west toward the Indian Ocean.

Scott Shankland, an American Airlines pilot who spent several years as a co-pilot on Boeing 777s, said a captain would know how to disable radios and the plane's other tracking systems. But a hijacker, even one trained to fly a plane, "would probably be hunting and pecking quite a while - `Do I pull this switch? Do I pull that?' You could disable a great deal" of the tracking equipment, "but possibly not all of it."

Some of the plane's data is transmitted automatically from equipment not located in the cockpit, making it even harder to avoid leaving electronic bread crumbs, he said.

John Hansman, an aeronautics professor at MIT who is familiar with the Boeing 777, said it would be possible for an intruder to turn off the transponders, but knowing how to shut down other systems in a bid to be stealthy would be more difficult. Even if 9/11-style hijackers got that far, he said, they would be challenged to keep flying, make a successful landing, and hide the plane.

"If it was a hijacking, it was probably a hijacking gone bad," he said.

Instead, Hansman thinks that there could have been a cascading series of malfunctions or a fire that shut down key systems on the plane and incapacitated the pilots. He compared it to the 1999 crash in South Dakota of a Learjet carrying pro golfer Payne Stewart.

Air traffic controllers couldn't contact the crew shortly after the Learjet took off from Florida; pilots in other planes saw no movement in the cockpit; and eventually the jet ran out of fuel. The National Transportation Safety Board ruled that the crash probably was caused by the pilots passing out for lack of oxygen after a loss of cabin pressure.

Without any wreckage from Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, it's hard to dismiss any theory. A week after the plane left Kuala Lumpur for Beijing, it remains a mystery how a jet with a good safety record and flying in clear weather could just disappear without even a distress call. And without being spotted by radar.

If it was a hijacking, "they would have to be somebody who has detailed knowledge of the plane," said Alan Diehl, a former NTSB crash investigator. "Could they get down below the radar and make a beeline to an abandoned airstrip somewhere? I suppose the short answer is yes. Even today, satellites don't cover every square kilometer of the Earth."

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Butch7 March 15 2014 at 9:34 AM

For this aircraft to have disappeared from air traffic control long range radar and IFF systems (transponder reply), there had to have been very skilled individuals at the controls to have made this happen.

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tmainfam March 15 2014 at 10:24 AM

All planes need to have camera surveillance in the cockpit and the cabin that is streaming live 24/7 to ground control. We have that technology and have no clue why, after 9/11, it wasn't thought of to implement. No more speculating about on-board events, especially during long flights that cross many countries.

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PAT MUZIK March 16 2014 at 12:46 PM

I think after reading all of these comments, I am sick and we should all just wait and see what they find, instead of making it worse with all of these thoughts, the mind can be a terrible thing if left to just guess and we are all reaching, at this point.

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1 reply
WatergirlHawaii PAT MUZIK March 16 2014 at 2:08 PM

Perhaps you should do what's best for YOU ( i.e stop reading and/or mind your own thought processes ); instead of trying to control other peoples thoughts and activities.

Personally, I know that most comments are put forth with the intent of sharing knowledge, ideas (and yes, guesses, and critisisms) because they want to help solve the problem, (even when the comment doesn't appear to be formulated constructively ).

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1 reply
LoadHarvester WatergirlHawaii March 16 2014 at 2:37 PM

I couldn't agree more. I just love all these people who want to shut everybody else up when they have every right to express their ownopinions. If you didn't think a movie was very good then the answer is shut up and not offend everyone else who thought it was a work of Art. If you don't like the way an article is written, then the answer is :well then don't read it anymore. You're just "spoiling it for everybody else". If some performance was was below par if not downright embarrassing, the answer is usually "well I'd like to see you get up there and do that!" As if one must be a chicken in order to be a good judge of eggs. These are the responses of infantile adults who never were told NO.

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Dave or Earl March 16 2014 at 12:40 PM

A masterful hijacking to an unknown country... plane probably to be used in some horrific terrorist plot sometime in the near future... let us all hope that it fails! let us also hope for the safe return of the passengers!

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brendenspicer March 15 2014 at 11:15 AM

Any passengers on board have a pilots license ?

With changes in the flight pattern, knowing the plane would be traced to find it's location, the words, " HIDE IN PLAIN SIGHT" , comes to mind.

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bodilyc March 16 2014 at 12:21 PM

May the crew and passengers not have to suffer, whatever happened. May the families of the missing people, find comfort somewhere, from some source, to get them through this.

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classicconnusa March 15 2014 at 11:28 AM

Again - Ibelieved from the beginning - a Hijacking or Act of Piracy by the pilots or someone on board well trained and familiar with the 777. THis will end up as such I believe. To many "intentional" and highly-techincal things happened for it to be anythnig else. Any failure or emergency wouldn't have shut off so many manual and automatic transponding signals, flown for 4 hours outside radar contact and not attemtped any kind of message. Either the pilots or someone replacing them took control. A safe landing - that remains to be seen but I have to presume that if a plan existed - a suitable landing and storage site must have been part of that plan. This was no "dumb ass" who did this. It was someone with some serious brains and knowledge and is being greatly underestimated for their planning abilities. I pray the people are OK and I eagerly await the conclusion of this mystery. It will be talked about for many years.

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Joebudgie March 15 2014 at 3:55 PM

I'm guilty of the same thing a lot of the people who wrote comments to this article are and that is impatience for answers. Unfortunately it may be months before we find out really happened to this flight and as someone else suggested we are only now piecing together what happened to Amelia Earhart (spelling?) and her co-pilot.

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1 reply
M Joebudgie March 15 2014 at 5:24 PM

Heck, no one has really even found D B Cooper, here in the USA!
Some (few bills) of the money has been found, but nothing more.

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rmcaras520 March 16 2014 at 11:39 AM

And to what end? Piracy usually implies profit. Are there any demands for anything? By this time, if the plane/passengers were secure, something would have been communicated?

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1 reply
plmorris54 rmcaras520 March 17 2014 at 7:28 AM

When Israel has to shoot this plane down then you will understand what the hijackers plan was and why they needed the plane. They can get the weapons but they dont have a delivery system, my take on it anyhow.

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aristars March 15 2014 at 10:07 AM

I wonder why it seems there is no a satelitte system for just recording the tracks of every plane in pictures? this is really beyond ridiculusness! here with all that advanced technology in 2014, and not able after more than a week to locate that airplane? and also why jumping in only one conslusion in the beginning? then diffrent reports! the first thing that should have been done was to look at satellite pictures which came in reports days later!!! sattelite pictures may be the best way to go to find the end of its track.

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