Shortly after 1am on 8 March 2014, Malaysia Airlines flight 370, a Boeing 777 jet designated MH370, disappeared while flying over the South China Sea.

“Good night. Malaysian three-seven-zero” said Zaharie Ahmad Shah, the 53-year-old pilot in command. That was the last known communication at 1.19am to Malaysian Air Traffic Control just before it left Malaysian airspace to enter Vietnamese airspace.

The plane was flying from Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia to Beijing in China, with 239 people on board, made up of 12 Malaysian crew members and 227 passengers from 14 different nations.

The flight disappeared from the air traffic control radar after it entered Vietnamese airspace, but was tracked by military radar turning sharply left, away from its planned north-eastern course and heading west, until it left the range of the military radar at 2.22am while over the Andaman Sea in the north-eastern Indian Ocean.

Data released by the Malaysian authorities appeared to confirm that the plane crashed in the Indian Ocean, south-west of Australia.

It sparked a huge search operation, led by Australia, which scoured 46,000 square miles of the southern Indian Ocean and cost an estimated £100m, before being called off in January 2017. Nothing was found, but small remnants of debris from the plane were washed up on islands in the Indian Ocean and the African coast.

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The aircraft’s fate remains shrouded in mystery.

“It’s the greatest aviation mystery of all time,” Louise Malkinson, the director of MH370: The Plane That Disappeared, the new Netflix series on the disappearance, told The Guardian.

There are a range of different theories as to what happened, from a mass murder-suicide plot by the pilot, to the US military shooting it down and covering it up.

Mass murder-suicide by pilot

Mr Ahmad Shah was a well-respected veteran pilot who joined Malaysia Airlines in 1981, and had more than 18,000 hours of flying experience. He was a father of three and lived with his wife in Kuala Lumpur.

His home flight simulator was found to have mapped a similar path to the one MH370 took, according to the radar and satellite data. There was speculation that he could have locked his co-pilot, 27-year-old Fariq Abdul Hamid, out of the cockpit before crashing the plane. His family has long denied he was suicidal.

An independent investigation led by Malaysia, which was released in July 2018, said there was no evidence of abnormal behaviour or stress in the two pilots.


The next key theory is that the plane was hijacked. The 2018 investigative report found the plane’s course was changed manually, but they did not name a suspect and raised the possibility of “intervention by a third party”.

The hijacking theory was put forward by American aviation journalist Jeff Wise, who believes that Russian operatives were ordered to steal MH370 by Vladimir Putin.

Mr Wise claims there were three “ethnic Russians” among the passengers on board – one of whom was sitting near the hatch leading to the electronics compartment. He noted that MH370’s disappearance coincided with the start of the annexation of Crimea by Russia.

The satellite data does not support this theory, but Mr Wise suggests it may have been tampered with.

Other people speculate that it could have been hijacked by the Taliban or another terrorist group, although none have come forward to claim responsibility.

US Military cover up

Former airline CEO Marc Dugain claims the plane may have been shot down by the US military and that there was a cover up.

Mr Dugain wrote an article for Paris Match in which he speculated that the US shot it down because they feared an attack on a US military base on the island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean.

The US government has repeatedly denied that the plane came anywhere near the island. But Mr Dugain cited witnesses in the Maldives who reportedly saw a “huge plane flying at a really low altitude” towards the island.

Other theories also claim it was shot down deliberately or by mistake during military exercises.

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