In the face of emerging radar data and a week of fruitless searching, Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Razak announced on Saturday that his country believes missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 was deliberately taken off course.
Where unnamed officials earlier in the week leaked that the plane might have flown for four hours after its last official communication, Malaysian authorities said today that the Boeing 777 could have traveled for as much seven hours after its last known position.
The official confirmation by Malaysian authorities that the working hypothesis now revolves around hijacking/sabotage instead of mechanical or pilot error links with news reports from the past few days that stated the plane had ascended after its last communication and traveled along an established western route across the Indian Ocean.
Still, Malaysian authorities did not say where exactly they think the plane ended up. Though all leaked information since the disappearance has indicated that Flight 370 headed west after it vanished from radar, Malaysia released a map today that allows for the possibility that it actually headed south.
— Chico Harlan (@chicoharlan) March 15, 2014
Those red lines signify the two routes officials believe the plane followed. The northern route takes the plane over mainland China and up towards Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. The southern route would have taken Flight 370 past the western coast of Australia and over the part of the Indian Ocean where basically nothing exists.
At his press conference, Najib said that his country has "refocused their investigation on crew and passengers aboard" the aircraft. That digging has started with the plane's captain, 53-year-old Zaharie Ahmad Shah, whose home was searched shortly after the completion of Najib's remarks.
Whoever flew the plane away from its intended destination had a deep working knowledge of the Boeing 777. The Wall Street Journal reports that disabling the plane's transponder would have required someone accessing a circuit breaker behind an overhead panel in the cockpit. The paper also reports that officials are investigating whether someone would have had to climb down into the plane's lower deck to access an electronics bay in order to stop the plane from pinging its location to satellites.
If there is any concrete evidence of where the plane might be or why it was commandeered, officials haven't yet let it out either officially or anonymously through the press. So, of course, most theories are still plausible, except perhaps for this one:
World seems transfixed by 777 disappearance. Maybe no crash but stolen, effectively hidden, perhaps in Northern Pakistan, like Bin Laden.
— Rupert Murdoch (@rupertmurdoch) March 15, 2014
Thankfully, it's not like that guy owns a news network or anything.