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Every Popular Theory You’ve Heard About Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 And Why They’re Probably Wrong

Just because they sound good doesn’t mean they are remotely close to being accurate or helpful.

The “Stolen Passports” Theory

CNN released this photo showing the two consecutive tickets purchased by the two passengers with stolen passports. Twitter: @cnnbrk

What’s the theory?
Following the revelation that two passengers used stolen passports to board Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, there were concerns that there were terrorists involved in the plane’s disappearance.

Is it wrong?
This one was the first theory to be debunked. Officials reported last week that the two Iranian men who boarded with stolen passports had no known terror connections.

Made popular by:
Official reports from investigators were picked up by most major news outlets; The Times of Israel is still connecting the disappearance to Iran.

The “Deep Sea Crash” Theory

A member of a rescue team in the Strait of Malacca. Stringer/Indonesia / Reuters

What’s the theory?
Perhaps this is the theory that’s held up the best in the almost two weeks since Flight MH370 disappeared. The plane encountered some kind of issue and it crashed into the ocean and sank. That angle on the disappearance became even more believable when, due to the discovery that MH370 changed course, the search radius for the plane was extended into the Indian Ocean. And the Indian Ocean may be completely impossible to search.

Is it wrong?
Except that it’s not: It’s totally searchable. The issue here is that with a search area of over 2.97 million square miles, there’s a lot of ground to cover. So even with the help of a lot of people — like Courtney Love — crowdsourcing satellite data, it will still take a lot of man hours to find out one way or another if the plane sank.

Made popular by:
CNN, Reuters, The Guardian

The “Mid-Air Disintegration” Theory

Vietnamese military personnel looking out of a helicopter during a search-and-rescue mission off Vietnam’s Tho Chu Island. Athit Perawongmetha / Reuters

What’s the theory?
This is another theory formed very early on in MH370’s disappearance. According to what many outlets referred as a “senior source” involved with the investigation, MH370 very possibly disintegrated after reaching a cruising altitude of 35,000, which would explain the lack of debris still yet to be found.

Is it wrong?
It may not be, but there isn’t enough information to say it did or it didn’t happen. The theory explained away the lack of debris along the plane’s flight path. But that leap was made before it was discovered that MH370 changed course, expanding the search area to a much larger 2.97 million square miles.

Made popular by:
CNN, the Daily Mail, Reuters, BuzzFeed

The “Startlingly Simple Cabin Fire” Theory

Passengers rest in their seats as a cabin crew member serves snacks on board Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200ER Flight MH318 shortly after takeoff en route to Beijing. Edgar Su / Reuters

What’s the theory?
There was a cabin fire and Pilot Zaharie Ahmad Shah, according to military radar, then flew southwesterly back across the Malay Peninsula into the Strait of Malacca in hopes of landing the plane. According to a pilot who wrote a very viral Google Plus post, Ahmad Shah headed toward a 13,000-foot runway at Pulau Langkawi airport. The premise being, if something went wrong, where would the captain head?

Is it wrong?
What makes this seemingly reasonable theory so tidy is that it answers a lot of loose ends about the disappearance. Except it doesn’t. There’s a fairly massive argument going on at the moment over how it lists dozens of things a pilot of a trans-oceanic 777 wouldn’t do in the case of a cabin fire.

Made popular by:
Chris Goodfellow, a Canadian pilot with 20 years’ experience, whose post was republished by Wired.

The “Sabotaged Computer” Theory

A man watches a large screen showing different flights at the departure hall of Kuala Lumpur International Airport on March 13. Damir Sagolj / Reuters

What’s the theory?
The Malaysian Prime Minister issued a statement saying that new details pointed to a very deliberate disabling of the communications on board Flight MH370. The last message received by air traffic control was from Fariq Ab Hamid, 27, the plane’s co-pilot, who said, “All right, good night.” The plane then, however, seemingly flew off radar for another seven hours, according to satellite data.

Is it wrong?
The premise of this isn’t actually wrong. Yes, according to investigators, the communications system was deliberately turned off, and yes, the plane did ping a satellite seven hours later. The theories many have extrapolated from this bizarre detail are where things get problematic, however.

Made popular by:
CNN, USA Today, Reuters, Mashable, BuzzFeed

The “Hijacking” Theory

Inspired by the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, an instructor from the Tianjiao Special Guard/Security Consultant bodyguard training camp pushes a student’s jaw as trainees watch him demonstrate close-quarter combat skills during a special course on flight safety. Jason Lee / Reuters

What’s the theory?
Simply put, the plane was hijacked. They took it off radar and it flew for seven hours in a communications blackout. It changed its course. And the hijackers either stole the plane or crashed it somewhere.

Is it wrong?
Well, there are a lot of unknowns about this. And the open-ended nature has led to a lot of other larger theories. But keep in mind, Pakistan, India, and the Taliban all have said they knew nothing about the plane. Also, after almost two weeks now, no terrorist group has claimed ownership of the plane or announced their involvement. But to be fair, the 9/11 attacks went unclaimed by a terrorist group for months.

Made popular by:
CNN, Mashable, Fox News

The “Pilots Were in on It” Theory

Pilot Zaharie Ahmad Shah, 53, and co-pilot Fariq Ab Hamid, 27. Facebook: ZahariePilot

What’s the theory?
Investigators discovered a flight simulator in the home of the pilot, Zaharie Ahmad Shah. Also, according to The Daily Mail, Ahmad:

“Is related to a jailed Malaysian opposition leader”
• Has a daughter that “fled Australia”
• And is a “‘fanatical’ missing airliner pilot pictured wearing political slogan T-shirt.”

Is it wrong?
Well, once again, there are a lot of unknowns and background checks that need to be finished. An investigation into the pilots of MH70 revealed nothing suspicious. Also, in the aviation community, deleting data from a flight simulator is not unusual.

Made popular by:
The Daily Mail, CNN, ABC News

The “Shadow of a Plane” Theory

File Photo/Associated Press

What’s the theory?
This is another theory that was taken from someone’s blog. This time around, the author was a hobby pilot and aviation enthusiast. He connects MH370’s disappearance from radar with another Boeing 777, Singapore Airlines Flight 68, flying in the area at the time. MH370 flew under or above the other 777, which wouldn’t have been detected because of an exploit in the two planes’ traffic collision avoidance system.

Is it wrong?
Not confirmed, but it’s full of incredibly tenuous details. Not only would MH370 have had to fly at exactly the right pace to stay in the radar shadow of the other plane, the theory doesn’t explain how MH370 could have left the shadow of the plane undetected and been able to land.

Made popular by:
This Tumblr post, first picked up by Mashable

The “Phantom Call” Theory

CNN

What’s the theory?
Families of passengers desperately trying to contact their loved ones noticed that the phones weren’t going straight to voicemail. They were still ringing. Many pointed to the ringing as a hopeful sign that the plane had not crashed.

Is it wrong?
According to most experts familiar with how cell phones work, the ringing is unfortunately meaningless. The ringing happens when a phone within a network tries to reach a phone unable to connect to a network. The ringing is just one phone trying to send a signal to the other phone. It doesn’t mean it’s reached it.

Made popular by:
CNN, AFP, USA Today, Mashable

The “Pilot Suicide” Theory

College students light up candles as they pray for passengers of the missing Malaysia Airlines MH370 plane in Yangzhou, Jiangsu, province. China Stringer Network / Reuters

What’s the theory?
There’s not a tremendous amount of data for this one. A CIA source told reporters that they were investigating the psychological profiles of the pilots. They told the press that they hadn’t ruled out suicide as a possibility.

Is it wrong?
Once again, this hasn’t been proven wrong, but it’s based on almost nothing other than a comment that a CIA source made in passing.

Made popular by:
The Daily Mail, Washington Post

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