Is anyone else following this? Until today, it seemed like a fairly standard story - a jet disappears, the investigation begins, the media goes wild with unwarranted speculation over things that turn out to be insignificant - but today we got a new twist, making this possibly the strangest air crash investigation ever. Until today, we had been told that the plane had lost contact at 1:30 am; now the military says that they tracked the plane from this time, flying in an entirely different direction, until 2:40, but under the altitude for normal radar. Also, the transponder seems to have gone off at the time of the direction change. This is crazy stuff.
I see two main scenarios:
(1) terrorists, or a rogue pilot, got control of the plane, turned off the transponder, and flew it somewhere else, perhaps crashing, perhaps landing at some makeshift airstrip.
(2) the plane suffered a massive mechanical/electrical failure at 1:30 am, and the fact that the transponder went off was part of this; the fact that it flew on after this at a lower altitude is just coincidence. Perhaps the pilots got control of the plane, but it had turned considerably by the time they did so. If the cabin was losing pressure from this point, and they didn’t realise it (because of failing systems), everyone on board could have fallen asleep (and died), resulting in a ghost flight like Helios 522 - and the plane had enough fuel left to go for something like seven hours!
Also, it may yet turn out that the air force is wrong about the post-1:30 flight of the plane, and that it will be found in the area that has been searched from the start. Taking this long to find a crashed plane is far from impossible. If the air force is right, though, we may never know what happened - the flight data recorder only preserves the last 30 minutes. Also sounds like the Malaysians are doing a crappy job of managing the information that comes out.
Will be interesting to see where this goes. Months are likely to pass before we have any real idea; could be years.