March 14th, 2014
10:03 AM ET

Missing Plane: Could It Have Landed?

Yet another theory is taking shape about what might have happened to missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370: Maybe it landed in a remote Indian Ocean island chain.

The suggestion - and it's only that at this point - is based on analysis of radar data revealed Friday by Reuters suggesting that the plane wasn't just blindly flying northwest from Malaysia.

Reuters, citing unidentified sources familiar with the investigation, reported that whoever was piloting the vanished jet was following navigational waypoints that would have taken the plane over the Andaman Islands.

The radar data doesn't show the plane over the Andaman Islands, but only on a known route that would take it there, Reuters cited its sources as saying.

The theory builds on earlier revelations by U.S. officials that an automated reporting system on the airliner was pinging satellites for hours after its last reported contact with air traffic controllers. That makes some investigators think the plane flew on for hours before truly disappearing.

Aviation experts say it's possible, if highly unlikely, that someone could have hijacked and landed the giant Boeing 777 undetected.

But Dennis Giles, editor of the Andaman Chronicle newspaper, says there's just nowhere to land such a big plane in his archipelago without attracting notice.

Indian authorities own the only four airstrips in the region, he said.

"There is no chance, no such chance, that any aircraft of this size can come towards Andaman and Nicobel islands and land," he said.

The Malaysian government said Friday it can't confirm the report.

And a senior U.S. official on Thursday offered a conflicting account, telling CNN that "there is probably a significant likelihood" the plane is on the bottom of the Indian Ocean.

Regardless, Indian search teams are combing large areas of the archipelago. Two aircraft are searching land and coastal areas of the island chain from north to south, an Indian military spokesman said Friday, and two coast guard ships have been diverted to search along the islands' east coast.

The jetliner, with 239 people on board, disappeared nearly a week ago as it flew between Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and Beijing. The flight has turned into one of the biggest mysteries in aviation history, befuddling industry experts and government officials. Authorities still don't know where the plane is or what caused it to vanish.

Suggestions of what happened have ranged from a catastrophic explosion to hijacking to pilot suicide.

Malaysian officials, who are coordinating the search, said Friday that the hunt for the plane was spreading deeper into both the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea.

"A normal investigation becomes narrower with time, I understand, as new information focuses the search," said Hishammuddin Hussein, the minister in charge of defense and transportation. "But this is not a normal investigation. In this case, the information we have forces us to look further and further afield."

On Friday, the United States sent the destroyer USS Kidd to scout the Indian Ocean as the search expands into that body of water.

"I, like most of the world, really have never seen anything like this," Cmdr. William Marks of the U.S. 7th Fleet told CNN of the scale of the search. "It's pretty incredible."

"It's a completely new game now," he said. "We went from a chess board to a football field."

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soundoff (6 Responses)
  1. Darlene

    did it occur to anyone that maybe instead of going down, it was beamed up?

    May 17, 2014 at 8:50 pm | Reply
  2. Giles Bury

    Why do we still rely on black boxes in this digital age? Can't the information be beamed to a cloud device? Then we would have a real time account of what goes on in each plane.

    March 26, 2014 at 8:19 am | Reply
  3. Raj Grover

    But Dennis Giles, editor of the Andaman Chronicle newspaper, .... aircraft of this size can come towards Andaman and Nicobel islands and land," he said.

    It is Andaman & NOCOBAR Islands.

    March 19, 2014 at 10:53 pm | Reply
  4. Susan Griffin

    To speed up finding the plane, a reward should be put up for finding it. There would be a lot more people looking for it on land and sea.

    March 17, 2014 at 6:17 pm | Reply
  5. Patrick

    If someone from CNN reads this, please tell your people to stop saying that flying at 5000 feet will not be seen by radar. That is absolutely ludicrous. I worked on radar for 10 years of my life. Granted it was the Cold War stuff. My first place I worked was in Florida with the USAF. Some of you may remember the Cuban pilot that flew a Mig-17 that landed at Homestead AFB, FL. He had to fly that plane just above the waves to avoid radar.

    Not only that, but military radar has what it called IFF (Identification Friend or Foe). If you fly a plane that big over land that has a limited air space, that plane will be shot down. I believe that if it flew over land, some country's air force shot that plane down. If not, then it is in the middle of Indian Ocean never to be found.

    I don't use facebook, or twitter, or instagram. I an not interested in being on TV. I just want the truth to be known. Stop saying this stuff about the pilots, because you don't know.

    March 17, 2014 at 9:01 am | Reply
  6. DSWood

    More than half of the passengers would be carrying cell phones for international travel. I am guessing that part of what was shut down by the pilots was any kind of internet or cell phone communication capability? It is not likely that a 100 percent canvass of the passengers would have removed every cell phone so if the plane landed and a land-based cell tower could be accessed, wouldn't there be cell tower pinging by some of the passengers? Maybe the area is so remote that there aren't any cell towers, on the other hand, some of these areas are densely populated. Given the determination of people to live and the comm capability these days, it doesn't seem that this plane has landed, sadly.

    March 16, 2014 at 5:03 am | Reply

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