(Photo: Reuters/Edgar Su)
Clues as to what happened to Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 remain few and far between as of Tuesday night, with the status of the plane still a mystery. Potential debris and oil slicks initially spotted in recent days have all led to dead ends as the international search for the Boeing 777 intensifies. By Tuesday night one Malaysian official had suggested that Flight 370 may have been hundreds of miles off course, flying in the opposite direction from its destination before it disappeared.
The latest developments were reported by a senior Malaysian air force official on Tuesday, and indicate that someone in the cockpit – a pilot or passenger – may have deliberately directed the aircraft away from the route towards its scheduled destination in Beijing.
Former managing director of the National Transportation Safety Board Peter Goelz has said, "This kind of deviation in course is simply inexplicable," according to CNN.
The senior Malaysian Air Force official refused to publicly identify himself as he was not authorized to speak to the media on the case, however, he reported to CNN that the plane's transponder appeared to stop transmitting its signal at a similar time when air traffic control officials lost contact with the flight, as the plane approached Vietnam. That occurred at about 1.30 a.m. local time - less than an hour after the flight took off from Kuala Lumpur at 12.41 a.m.
However, even without the transponder the flight was reportedly still able to be detected by radar, and the Malaysian Air Force allegedly lost track of the plane at 2.40 a.m. in the Straight of Malacca – hundreds of miles off course, and the other side of Malaysia.
If true that would mean the flight would have had to cross back over Malaysia, flying in the opposite direction to its original route and away from Beijing.
The report has led some to believe that someone may have purposely turned off the plane's transponder to hide the route of the plane. However, others suggest there is still relatively little information to begin to confirm that, and many remain convinced that mechanical issues are still the most likely culprit for the plane's disappearance.
One scenario being touted that could explain what happened is that a "catastrophic failure" knocked out all systems on the plane, including communications devices and the transponder – explaining the loss of contact near the coast of Vietnam at about 1.30 a.m. The pilots then decided to turn back to try and return to where it had taken off less than an hour before. However, with no flight equipment and in total darkness over the sea, it would not be unthinkable to believe the plane lost its way and crashed way off course, such as in the Straits of Malacca where the plane allegedly disappeared from the Malaysia Air Force's radar.
However, with still no sign of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, all suggestions remain little more than speculation at this time.