Was MH370 shot down by the US?

Fact checked

As the search for Malaysia Airlines MH370 officially widens its scope again, new facts about the circumstances surrounding its disappearance suggest it may have been shot down like its sister aircraft MH17.

In one of several documentaries about the disappearance, British TV’s BBC’s Horizon strand  investigated the possible whereabouts of Flight MH370. The programme is touted as having new information which would bring the actual fate of this mysterious story into clearer perspective. But the BBC investigation misses some glaring clues which suggests something very sinister may have happened to the unfortunate passengers and crew of Flight MH370.

Here’s why. What the BBC Horizon programme failed to examine properly amongst many oversights were the flight characteristics of a 777, the fuel load this particular plane was carrying and the way the autopilot behaves in an emergency.

First of all – the fuel/range calculation. A Boeing 777 can carry an absolute maximum of 45,000 US gallons of fuel which gives it a range of 8,000 km. MH370 was only loaded with 16,000 US gallons for its intended flight of 4,300 km to Beijing. This gave it a range of 5,000 km. Enough to make the flight with the required FAA safety margin of 10% and a bit more. This allows for take off and climb to an efficient cruising height of 35,000 where the plane will have already used up 25% of its fuel load.

On any long-distance airliner this means there is not enough fuel left for error, perform steep turns and manoeuvres or, most importantly, make a drastic change of height. Not until you are on final approach and you glide in with the engines throttled right back. Remember the height factor.

Second, the automatic pilot is a complex computer which will not work fully in an emergency. This is designed to help the crew, not hinder them. What happens if there is a systems failure or a fire, absolutely any kind of problem, is that the autopilot jumps out of full auto. On auto the little box flies the plane to the next navigational “landmark” or waypoint then makes an adjustment to its direction to the next one and so on til you land. These days a plane can fly itself completely automatically from after you are lined up to take off til your wheels touch down at the other end.


TWA Flight 800 reassembled post crash – shot down over New York?

Pilots don’t choose to do this to give themselves more to do and keep their hand in. But in an emergency, and assuming the navigation systems aren’t part of the problem, the autopilot which is guiding the plane on a given height, direction and speed will stop controlling direction. This is so the pilot can make instant course adjustments in an emergency without having to worry about fighting with the autopilot, pressing any buttons or looking down.

Modern planes, including the Boing 777 – 200 like Flight MH370, which has been in service for 19 years, are extremely safe. They are designed and tested like you would not believe. If someone so much as strikes a match anywhere on a 777, the pilot will know. All its control systems – and it has three complete sets like all modern airliners – are installed a minimum of 3 metres apart.

About the only thing which could have knocked MH370 out of the sky before Pilot Shah or Co-Pilot Hamid had a chance to issue a Mayday would have been a sudden explosion, or a very large fire…or a missile. Yes, it was carrying 200 kg of Lithium Ion batteries tightly packed in the hold. Yes, they have been responsible for an amazing 74 flights declaring emergencies before. But they declared an emergency and landed. Not one crashed.

Let’s look at the timeline here. The plane is heading due north to Beijing and is told by Kuala Lumpur Air Traffic Control approximately 10 minutes after it takes off at 00:40:30 am to adjust its course and route to the east slightly over Igari, a familiar waypoint. No known reason is given for the adjustment. At 01:21:04, MH370 passes directly over the waypoint.

This was only 3 minutes after the last spoken communication with forward ATC in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam. By now MH370 is no longer visible on Kuala Lumpur radar. It is however still there as a four digit number – its squawk or transponder code. It lasts much longer as a target on what’s known as secondary radar rather than primary radar. Horizon got that bit right but this is where they – and the world’s dim media – missed a huge trick. Military radar sites in Malaysia and Vietnam are localised and powerful. That plane was on the scopes of as many as a dozen different military and civilian potential locations – and that’s not allowing for any US or Chinese airborne early warning systems.

When the transponder of MH370 disappeared nine seconds later, the Malaysian and Vietnamese military played dumb for a month and withheld critical radar data allegedly showing the plane’s position after it “disappeared”.

It took four hours to even start looking – because they were waiting for daybreak – and yet the immediate search in the area where the plane should have been yielded nothing. 500,000 pounds of plane fully loaded and 16,000 gallons of fuel, oil and literally acres of surface area of the plane disappeared apparently without trace. When British satellite data company Inmarsat were given the planes automatic much-discussed “handshake” data (and how many weeks was it before the media even discovered such a thing even existed?) they should have been able to plot its course to the point where it dropped out of the sky.

Inmarsat attempted to work out the distance anywhere in a circle the plane could have been from the satellite each time it pinged. Inmarsat were among the same search team who failed to find the remains of Air France A330 Flight 447 for two years, even though the tail section – the size of half a tennis court – was located in just two days. The sort of find the MH370 search teams can only dream about.


Wreckage from Air France Flight 447

According to Inmarsat, the last ping would have given a one dimensional fix, ie distance only, in a theoretical circle of 5,000 km. Remember the numbers game from earlier? This conveniently was the credible absolute maximum possible range of MH370 with its half full tanks. The curve of the plotted course was derived from measuring the distance from the satellite calculating the micro second it would have taken between the ping and the acknowledgment by the satellite. If MH370 had flown on using autopilot (virtually impossible) with no one at the controls and it had headed due south it would have described that circle claimed by Inmarsat as it continued to ping.

Why? Its inertial navigation system would have possibly been set say due south. As it moved over the earth’s surface for five hours that straight line would appear as a curve to us as the scenery was moving east below.

According to the Malaysian military data which Inmarsat “stumbled on” with a bit of prodding by the US  the plane turned left and dived to 5,000 feet then climbed to 45,000 feet (virtually impossible with a full passenger load even with half a tank of fuel as that is the very highest altitude a 777 will achieve on a good day, light and empty). This manoeuvre would have burned perhaps another 20% of its available fuel. As a result even if this data were true it would never have been able to fly on for the claimed seven hours and 4,000 km more. And anyway to do so it would have needed to have a human controlling any updates to its height, speed and direction.

The crew and passengers in theory had five hours to do something about it. No one called anyone. No one saw the plane apparently. Here’s the final kicker. The plane had a new tracking system called Automatic Dependency Surveillance Broadcasting, a direct satellite link which records its position every second. It can pinpoint a plane’s location and height anywhere in the world – even radar deadspots – BUT it ceases to function when the Transponder is switched off. So either someone deliberately switched off both with the intention of evading detection – if the pilot was hellbent on suicide and wanted to take everyone with him in a mysterious end location. Or it was because it and everything else stopped working simultaneously in a cataclysmic explosion. The sort of explosion which blows a plane into tiny bits.

This story, because of the stops and starts and false leads, has all the hallmarks of one big lie. Can you recall there ever being so much confusion or attention around a plane crash? The sudden disappearance nine seconds after MH370 reached an unscheduled point, the lack of any Mayday call, the failure to locate the black box voice and flight data recorders conveniently and the contradictory data and the plane’s post disappearance invisibility in this surveillance-obsessed world, possibly point to one outcome. The plane was shot down.

A naval ship was perhaps waiting at the waypoint, its missile radar warmed up and locked onto its target.  It would take about ten seconds for a surface to air anti-aircraft missile to reach 35,000 feet from sea level (they run at between 3,500 and 5,000 kph). A well-rehearsed military clean up operation in a relatively small area of a known trajectory would be relatively easy to contain. A sprinkling of Corexit oil dispersant (like the stuff BP used in the Gulf of Mexico post Macondo), wreckage salvaged, bodies and flotsam floating recovered.

And an agent could have already immobilised the blackboxes and disconnected their locator beacons before the plane took off. And bypassed the systems failure warnings circuit boards so the crew would not notice anything was amiss. Theses systems are accessible from outside the nose of a 777 without having to be on board and the access panels are not lockable.

So while the Malaysians are stumbling around around in the wrong area, someone’s military finish the clean-up job at their leisure. They would have had all the time they needed under the guise of a standard military exercise perhaps with a “classified” blanket on the surrounding countries. Meanwhile the search is being sent in the opposite direction. It’s almost like the basis for a comedy.

There are any number of motives for shooting down MH370.

There were 20 Freescale Semiconductor employees on board on their way to Beijing to meet with Chinese representatives. The people in question on board were either Malaysian or Chinese themselves. One of their biggest clients, an American who worked for US software systems giant IBM, was travelling with them. Freescale are at the forefront of secret semi-conductor design, missile guidance systems and radar jamming systems. Technology the US would not want to fall into Chinese hands.

The US regularly reprimands the Chinese Ambassador in Washington for continuing Chinese industrial espionage. And consider the data blackout from the Malaysian military on the radar information they claimed to have on MH 370. They weren’t exactly forthcoming were they? Neither were the Chinese or the US.


Korean Airlines 747 shot down by Russia

If this seems far-fetched and unbelievable, consider this: it wouldn’t be the first time a civilian airliner has been shot down by the military. It happened to a Korean Airlines 747 over Russia when everyone on board was killed. It has happened near Moscow. The jury is still out on TWA 800 out of New York. And these are amongst the ones we are aware of. The unconnected disappearances and crashes which have never been attributed to military intervention I suspect are in the hundreds.





Simon Ludgate
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Simon Ludgate

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Simon Ludgate
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