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How (or Why) Does a Plane Just Disappear?

Mixed signals ... the flight track of Malaysian Airlines flight 370. Source: AFP

Mixed signals … the flight track of Malaysian Airlines flight 370. Source: AFP

Stephen: If they can pinpoint what an individual is doing from way out in space these days, how can a whole plane just vanish? One only has to look at 9/11 and the fact there was no plane wreckage at either the World Trade Center nor the Pentagon to see the possibilities here. My gut is telling me that no matter what story we’re being told by the authorities and the airline, the stolen passports (even whether they were really stolen) and the five ‘non-boarders’ – see below –  (the details of which have been almost buried within most mainstream media stories) are critical to this tragic mystery. Either that, or maybe someone who WAS on the plane. But could this incident  become an excuse to create fear as the authorities again rigidly tighten passport controls?  Or is this headline-making plane scenario a cover for something far larger now underway?

From Agencies – March 10, 2014

Officials have revealed that five passengers checked in to fly on missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 — but didn’t board the plane. Their luggage was taken off the plane but it is not clear how they fit in to the mystery of the vanished jet.

Speaking at a press briefing in Kuala Lumpur today, the director-general of Malaysia’s Department of Civil Aviation said a huge international search had failed to find any wreckage from the Boeing 777, let alone the plane itself.

Azharuddin Abdul Rahman said authorities were mystified after a search involving 34 planes, 40 ships and more than 100 people had been unable to locate any trace of the aircraft.

“We have not found anything that appears to be an object from the aircraft, let alone the aircraft,” he announced.

He said countries from around the region and the world were contributing to the search effort and it would continue until they had answers.

“Every second, every hour, we are looking at every inch of the sea,” he said.

“We are looking at all angles of what could possibly happen on that flight,” Mr Rahman explained when asked if there could have been an explosion onboard.

“Also there is talk about possible hijack and this is not discounted. We are looking at every angle. We are looking at every aspect of what could have happened.”

He said the Malaysian authorities were “equally puzzled” — as all aviation experts were — about what had happened to the plane.

“A mystery is how you can put it,” he said.

Mr Rahman would not comment on the ongoing investigation into two men who travelled on the flight using stolen passports.

There are reports that a Malaysian government minister has confirmed that the men using stolen Italian and Austrian passports were of Asian appearance but Mr Rahman would not be drawn on this.

“The authorities concerned are investigating the case. The investigative team is now, as we speak, is going through all the reports, going through all the video footage and once we get any report from them we will inform to all of you,” he said.

He also confirmed that five passengers who checked in for the flight did not end up flying and their baggage was removed from the aircraft under flight regulations before take-off.

“Yes there are issues about passengers that did not fly on the aircraft. There are five of them,” Mr Rahman said.

“All baggage of passengers not flown on that particular morning was removed from the aircraft.”

Intelligence agencies around the globe have joined the so-far fruitless search for answers to the mysterious disappearance — with the threat of terrorism unable to be discounted.

More than two days after the plane carrying 239 people, including six Australians, lost contact with air traffic controllers, reports emerged of a door being spotted by aerial search teams in waters of the Vietnam coast.

However, Mr Rahman confirmed that any such debris did not come from the missing aircraft.

Investigators are also now probing whether the plane attempted to turn back in the last moments before it vanished enroute from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on Saturday.

As the desperate search operation continues over a widening expanse, intelligence agencies, including the FBI, are focusing their efforts on two passengers who boarded the aircraft with stolen passports.

So far there is no evidence of terrorism, with a source telling America’s NBC News that no electronic “chatter” had been detected linking any known terror group to the likely disaster.

And while several alternate theories have emerged — including that the plane simply disintegrated in mid-air — authorities continue to reiterate that they simply do not know what happened and are looking into every possibility.

missing plane

There was hope early today that Vietnamese searchers had spotted possible aircraft debris.

“We received information from a Vietnamese plane saying that they found two broken objects, which seem like those of an aircraft, located about 80 kilometres to the southwest of Tho Chu Island,’’ said an official from Vietnam’s National Committee for Search and Rescue, who did not want to be named.

The island is part of a small archipelago off the south-western tip of Vietnam, and lies northeast of Malaysia’s capital Kuala Lumpur, from where Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 left early Saturday bound for Beijing.

The deputy chief of staff of Vietnam’s army, Lt. Gen. Vo Van Tuan, was quoted in the state-run Thanh Nien newspaper as saying that searchers had spotted what appeared to be a door from the missing jet.

“From this object, hopefully (we) will find the missing plane,” Tuan said.

However, Mr Rahman said such reports could not be confirmed and no debris or wreckage from the plane had been found.

He said the search — involving eight nations — would be intensified. The search region has already been widened from 20 nautical miles (37km) to 50 nautical miles (92.6km) of the last point of contact of the plane.

Late Sunday, Malaysian officials said that MH370 may have inexplicably turned back towards Kuala Lumpur in its final moments as they tried to shed light on the mystery of what may have caused a reliable aircraft model with no known safety issues to slip off the radar.

“There is a distinct possibility the aeroplane did a turn-back, deviating from the course,” said Malaysia’s air force chief, General Rodzali Daud, citing radar data.

But Malaysia Airlines (MAS) chief executive Ahmad Jauhari Yahya said the Boeing 777’s systems would have set off alarm bells.

“When there is an air turn-back the pilot would be unable to proceed as planned,’’ he said, adding authorities were “quite puzzled’’ over the situation.

The plane, captained by a veteran MAS pilot, had relayed no indications of distress, and weather at the time was said to be stable.

The search zone has been extended after military radar showed a possibility that the plane made a “turn-back” and the area for the search and rescue now includes the Malacca strait.

Authorities say they are using both the military and civil radar in their probe and “trying to make sense of it”.

A team of American experts is en route to Asia to assist in the investigation, including officials from the National Transportation Safety Board, as well as technical experts from the Federal Aviation Administration and Boeing. The FBI is also being sent, although officials stressed there was no evidence of terrorism yet.

Concerns have been expressed that the flight may have been targeted by an anti-Chinese group such as the Uighur militants from China’s restive Xinjiang province in the country’s northwest but, again, there is no evidence or claim of responsibility so far.

In fact, sources told NBC News that only “wackos” had so far claimed to be behind the incident, as often happens in the wake of global catastrophes.

Known terror groups such as al Qaeda traditionally seek credit after perpetrating attacks but have stayed quiet, with no “chatter” — or intercepted communications — picked up by intelligence agencies about the plane.

Questions are still being asked about how the two passengers managed to board the ill-fated aircraft using stolen passports.

Interpol has confirmed it knew about the stolen passports but said no authorities checked its vast databases before the jetliner departed Saturday en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

Warning that “only a handful of countries’’ routinely make such checks, Interpol secretary general Ronald Noble chided authorities for “waiting for a tragedy to put prudent security measures in place at borders and boarding gates”.

Last night, officials revised the number of people travelling on fake passports on the plane from four to two. There was confusion after one officer said it was four but later another official said it was definitely only two.

The duo were captured together on CCTV from check-in to boarding and the vision is being examined by investigators desperate to find out what happened to the flight.

Mr Rahman would not confirm the nationalities of the two men or their origins.

Unofficial reports state two European names — Christian Kozel, an Austrian, and Luigi Maraldi of Italy — were listed on the passenger manifest but neither man boarded the plane, officials said. Both had their passports stolen in Thailand over the past two years.

Thai police said they were investigating a possible passport racket as flight information gave new details about bookings made in Thailand with the two stolen European passports.

The tickets booked in Maraldi and Kozel’s names were made on March 6 and issued in the Thai city of Pattaya, a popular beach resort south of Bangkok.

The e-ticket numbers for their flights are consecutive and both were paid for in Thai baht. Each ticket cost $690.

“Kozel’’ was booked to travel from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on MH370, then on to Amsterdam and Frankfurt. “Maraldi’’ was booked on the same flights until Amsterdam, where he was to continue to Copenhagen.

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