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March Theory - Malaysian Flight 370

The following is a hypothesis, attempting to answer the mystery surrounding the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. This is based upon the best information available from media sources. The writer of this hypothesis is trained in Land Navigation. As the son of a pilot, he has also spent a lifetime around aviation and pilots and studied aviation many years in preparation for flight school.  

derivative work: Greg A L
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Disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, A Boeing 777

(When this essay mentions the pilot, it means pilot and co-pilot. They would have been working as a team.)

On March 8th, 2014, about forty minutes past midnight, local time, Malaysia Airlines flight 370 flew northwest from Kuala Lumpur on route to Beijing, China. After a final communication with the tower before transferring to the next flight controller, communications ceased. The information on what follows is sketchy, but apparently the plane climbed to very a high altitude, descended to a lower-than-normal altitude, and then climbed again to a very high altitude. During this ascents and descents or after the ascents and descents, the plane turned west and flew a number of miles before, according to Fox News, it turned north, northwest for a short period of time, and then turned west, northwest again. 
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Hypothesis: I believe Malaysia Airlines flight 370 experienced a fire, which caused a catastrophic, cascading electrical systems failure. I believe this cascading failure first caused radio communications failure and then caused failure of the two transponders over a fifteen to twenty-minute period.

I believe the pilot attempted to turn his crippled aircraft around to fly back to Kuala Lumpur in the blind, without instruments or landmarks. 

I believe the pilot miscalculated his turn and flew in a westerly direction, thinking he was flying southwest to Kuala Lumpur. 

I believe the pilot, when reaching where he believed Kuala Lumpur was and not finding the lights of a city, concluded he was east of that city. I believe he then turned right (west, northwest) to reach the city. 

I believe when the pilot did not find the city, he turned left again in an attempt to find Kuala Lumpur or a land mass of any kind. 

I believe the seemingly erratic flight pattern was due to a pilot trying to find his way home while flying in the blind, without instruments or visual clues. 
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NOTE: Although the Boeing 777 has redundant systems, it is a mechanical device, a very complicated mechanical device. Therefore, like any mechanical device, it is possible to eventually fail, even catastrophically. 
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I believe this electrical failure caused a system-wide instrument failure as well as killing communications, robbing the pilot and copilot of flight information. I believe they had limited knowledge of their flight attitudes, speeds, direction, and altitude (Flight attitude refers to climb, dive, wings level, etc).
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I believe when the fire caused the system failure, the pilot, now cut off from the world while flying over a large dark ocean, decided to climb to a high altitude to snuff the fire.
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Without instruments, it would be difficult to determine one’s true altitude. Instead of flying up to maximum altitude according to the flight manual, I believe he flew his aircraft higher than he intended. Fear would have driven him to fly higher and higher, if he believed the thin air could snuff the fire. 
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NOTE: The ability to put a fire out by climbing to the thinner air at high altitude is not the issue. The issue is what the pilot might have concluded as he faced an in-flight emergency according to his available options or lack thereof. 
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I believe for whatever reason, the fire subsided, and the pilot descended to lower altitudes. 
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NOTE: Without instruments, the pilot is now flying by the seat of his pants, using the stars to indicate his horizon-line. This could answer why his descent was stair-stepped. He would not want to descend too fast, because he might over-speed the aircraft. (The power failure could have also turned off his lights, or he could have turned the lights off himself to better see the stars for his horizon-line). Without instruments, the pilot will not know his altitude, attitude, or air speed. If the plane descends to fast, a pilot could loose control in an over-speed situation. So, the pilot would descend a little, level off, and then descend again—this is the aircraft's behavior as reported. 
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I believe the pilot would not want to fly his crippled aircraft over Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos, three countries less likely to aid his recovery than his own, Malaysia. I believe the pilot decided to turn around and fly back home.
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Without instruments, he will not be able to accurately turn his ship the full 180-degrees to his back azimuth. He would use his watch to time the turn, however, he would have to guess at his turn-rate. Over the water, he would have no reference points, except the stars, if he were practiced at using the stars to guide himself. This is not usually taught. 
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NOTE: If the plane’s nose had drifted into a more easterly direction during the assent maneuvers before the turn, his 180-degree turn would have started on a misaligned flight path.
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I believe instead of turning a true 180-degrees to his rear (called a back azimuth), the pilot stopped his turn too early and took a more westerly flight path.
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NOTE: The distance from the shoreline on the original flight path and the distance to the shoreline on the westerly flight path are nearly the same.
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The pilot would have seen the lights of the shoreline on his outbound path. After his turnaround, on the westerly route, he would have seen the shoreline at the appropriate time, according to his watch. 
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Therefore, on this westerly path, if he had seen the lights along the shoreline, it would have been confirmation in his mind he was on a true flight path back to Kuala Lumpur. There are fewer lights along the far western shoreline on this westerly route, making it difficult to distinguish when he had flown back out over water. The configuration of lights on the ground for his original path and his turnaround path are similar, although, if he were on a true course, he should have shortly seen the lights of Kuala Lumpur.
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Without instruments and without visual clues, the pilot is dependent upon his watch to time his flight back to Kuala Lumpur. If he flew, say, three hours out, the flight back should be around three hours.
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He would have expected to see the city lights below. But since he took a westerly flight path, he is now over the ocean and sees nothing in the darkness below.
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NOTE: Look at the flight path below (figs 1 and 2). The distance from Kuala Lumpur to turnaround is the same distance from turnaround to the point he turned right over the Malacca Strait (According to the flight path reported by Fox News).
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I believe the pilot would believe, at this point, that he might have taken a more southerly flight path than the southwesterly flight path to Kuala Lumpur. In his mind, this would have put him east of Kuala Lumpur.
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Therefore, he would have turned right in an attempt to reach his start point, Kuala Lumpur.
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After flying a short while, he would see nothing below, since he is in fact somewhere over the Indian ocean. He would, therefore, turn left again, back on the flight path he had previously been flying.
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Thereafter, I believe he would have flown an irregular flight path, trying to locate himself and find Kuala Lumpur or any land mass.
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Hypothesis Overview—I believe:

  1. A fire causes a system-wide, catastrophic, cascading electrical failure.
    1. The plane lost communications, transponders, and flight instruments.
  2. The pilot flies to high altitude to snuff the fire as the only option he sees availably to him at the time.
    1. He is cut off from any external help.
    2. He must do something, anything, to try to put out the fire.
    3. Right or wrong, it might have appeared his only option.
    4. The pilot, flying in the blind, flies higher than the flight manual allows. 
  3. The first assent did not appear to have extinguished the fire.
  4. The pilot climbs again to extinguish out the fire.
  5. Due to the pilot’s actions, or for whatever reason, the fire goes out.
  6. The pilot descends each time in a stair-step maneuver to prevent possibility of over-speed due to flying in the blind.
  7. During or after the above actions, the pilot turns around for home to avoid Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos, three countries that might not have equipment sophisticated enough to aid him in this emergency.
  8. The pilot, due to flying in the blind, fails to turn completely 180-degrees around and instead takes a west, southwesterly course.
  9. He times his supposed return flight with his watch to know when he should look for Kuala Lumpur.
  10. At the appropriate flight time, he crosses the coast.
    1. He thinks it is the coast he passed over during his original flight path.
    2. In reality, it’s the coastline farther north.
  11. At the appropriate time, he does not see the city lights of Kuala Lumpur.
  12. He now believes he has flown a more southerly route, which, if correct, would have put him east of Kuala Lumpur.
  13. He decides to turn right to correct his supposed southerly flight path, which, if he were correct, should take him to Kuala Lumpur.
  14. In reality, he is now west of Malaysia, over the Malacca Strait. Therefore, in reality, his right turn takes him in a northerly or on a north, northeast direction, toward the Andaman Sea.
  15. After a short flight time, he still cannot see the lights of Kuala Lumpur, so he turns left again as the only logical direction, which, if he were right, would take him over the large land mass southwest of Singapore, which is, as he supposes, to his west, southwest.
  16. Thereafter the pilot will start flying an erratic course, trying to find Kuala Lumpur or any land mass.
    1. In reality, however, he is flying farther out over the Indian Ocean.

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I do not believe this incident was pilot error. I believe the pilot was doing the best he could to bring a crippled aircraft home. 

This hypothesis does not speculate on the cause of the fire, Lithium batteries, malfunction, or act of terrorism.

I believe the pilot decided flying home his best option after loosing his radio, transponders, and instruments—autopilot, altimeter, compass, attitude indicator, airspeed indicator, etc…

It is possible, if the pilot’s landing lights still worked or if the sun had risen, for the pilot to fly until he became low on fuel and then descend for a water landing. It is possible survivors from Flight 370 are somewhere out in the Indian Ocean still awaiting rescue.

Although Boeing 777s has many redundant systems, this aircraft is still a mechanical device and subject to failure like all mechanical devices.

This hypothesis is based upon the aircraft’s two assents to 45,000 feet and the actual flight path. The former indicates a possible attempt to put out a fire. The latter suggest an attempt to return to the pilot’s home base, Kuala Lumpur. Both events while flying in the blind.

I believe the final destination before bingo fuel would have been north or northwest of last known location. After hours in the air, he might have tried to make for the landmass north, at his best guess, which he might suppose should be Thailand, Cambodia, or Vietnam. If he flew for seven hours from take off, the sun would have risen before he ran out of fuel. The pilot may have made a water landing or crash landing in some South East Asian jungle during daylight conditions.
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Fig 1: The image above shows the actual flight path as reported by Fox News. The original flight in blue, and the route taken after loosing contact in red. Notice the red-route's right turn over Malacca Strait is nearly the same distance from the turnaround point as the turnaround point is to Kuala Lumpur. (All routes and distances indicated are approximate for both maps.)

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Fig 2: By moving the actual flight path on the map to show a flight path from the turnaround point back to Kuala Lumpur, the image below shows the flight path the pilot may have believed he was flying. When the pilot had reached the appropriate time in route and not found Kuala Lumpur, he could have believed himself too far east and turned west to find the city lights. This is the greatest indication the pilot was in charge of a crippled aircraft, trying desperately to bring his bird safely home. I believe the odd and erratic flight path was the result of the pilot flying in the blind. 
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Images designed using Google Maps.
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The media indicates the focus of the investigation for the missing aircraft is terrorism or piracy. This is a natural reaction, due to recent historical events. However, if the focus is on terrorism, then the mindset just might blind investigators to other logical, possible explanations. When a situation or event makes no sense, get out of the box and think, think, think. 
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