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MISSING JET: PIRACY WOULD REQUIRE SPECIAL SKILLS



BY DAVID KOENIG

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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filliperogers March 15 2014 at 3:32 PM

Somebody show me the cargo manifest please?

Flag Reply +1 rate up
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.

Flag Reply +3 rate up
jerachrome March 15 2014 at 6:41 PM

Based upon the above narrative, the suspect is obvious. It would be a dismissed professional pilot with experience flying the Boeing 777. Investigators would be wise to find out who had been recently fired by the airlines or who had been forcibly retired without sufficient funds to sustain their lifestyles.

Flag Reply +6 rate up
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.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
trstngjesus704 March 15 2014 at 7:39 PM

Sounds like the TV series Lost.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
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.

Flag Reply +10 rate up
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.

Flag Reply +3 rate up
mark.farago March 15 2014 at 10:07 AM

A song of peace for the passengers of Flight MC 370 http://www.youtube.com/edit?o=U&video_id=KofqKPbdibs

Flag Reply +1 rate up
Gregg March 15 2014 at 10:05 AM

I'm convinced it was a very clever hijacking. Most searching has been north and east which would be logical if it crashed due to mechanical failure but if a hijacking occurred then it could have gone in any direction. Try looking south of the take off area.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
dklaczko March 15 2014 at 10:05 AM

Is it just me or does anyone else find it quite odd that the pilot had his own flight simulator at his house????? It's been excused as a hobby, Really???

Flag Reply +9 rate up
2 replies
mrelan dklaczko March 15 2014 at 10:35 AM

Good Point!
Anyone smart enough to build their own "flight Simulator" in their house, would probably know how to
emulate just about every and any flight situation, including evading radar, and disabling any on-board
communication devices!

Flag Reply +1 rate up
mafazyt dklaczko March 15 2014 at 10:39 AM

Terrorists are obsessed, odd, and irrational.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
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