MH370 was 'shot down by US military', claims former French airline boss

Published time: 22 Dec, 2014 14:16

Flight lieutenant Jayson Nichols looks at a map as he flies aboard a Royal Australian Air Force AP-3C Orion aircraft searching for the missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 over the southern Indian Ocean on March 27, 2014 (AFP Photo / Pool)
A former French airline CEO Marc Dugain claims that the US may have shot down Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 and then covered it up, adding to a rash of conflicting theories about the missing plane.
In a six-page article published by French weekly Paris Match, Dugain claims that the Boeing 777 may have got into trouble and as it was approaching the US military base on the British territory of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, it was shot down. US forces may have feared the plane was attempting a 9/11 style attack on the base, Dugain said.
“It’s an extremely powerful military base. It’s surprising that the Americans have lost all trace of this aircraft. Without getting into conspiracy theories, it is a possibility that the Americans stopped this plane,” Dugain said, English-language website The Local reported Friday.
Dugain said there were witness in the Maldives, the nearest islands to Diego Garcia about 500 kilometers to the north, who claim to have seen a “huge plane flying at a really low altitude” with Malaysian Airlines colors flying toward Diego Garcia.
A graphic of the area being searched for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 (AFP Photo/ Pool / Greg Wood)
In August, the UK Daily Mirror reported that the MH370 was heading for the tiny Indian Ocean atoll of Diego Garcia, but the US Embassy in Kuala Lumpur denied this. A spokesperson for the US Embassy in Malaysia told the local Star newspaper at that time that there was “no indication that MH370 flew anywhere near the Maldives or Diego Garcia.”
He added: “MH370 did not land in Diego Garcia.”
Dugain writes that the aircraft, which disappeared on March 8 with 239 people on board, while on a scheduled flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, could have been hijacked remotely and then steered toward Diego Garcia.
Another explanation, he says, is that an onboard fire forced the crew to turn off all electronic devises without damaging the plane’s exterior, allowing it to continue on autopilot with everybody on board asphyxiated.
A Chinese relative (R) of passengers on Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 prays in front of candles as he takes part in a prayer service at the Metro Park Hotel in Beijing (AFP Photo / Wang Zhao)
The testimonies of witnesses in the Maldives have been suppressed, Dugain claims, adding he was approached by a British intelligence officer, who warned him he would be taking “risks” by trying to find out what really happened to the MH370. As the British own the island, it would figure they would cover up any incident, Dugain said.
The US has consistently denied it has had any knowledge of the fate of the airliner, but Dugain doubts the US, which is “equipped with the best technology in the world” could have completely lost track of “a 63-meter-long object.”
Sir Tim Clark, CEO of Emirates Airlines, the world’s largest, said in October that he thought information on what happened to the doomed airliner was being withheld by some people and that even with all its electronic communications systems turned off the plane would still be traceable by powerful military radar.
There have been a host of theories about what could have happened to the missing airliner, some them seemingly more the stuff of thrillers than air crash investigators.
British journalist and author Nigel Cawthorne said that it may have been shot down by military exercisesbeing conducted by Thailand, Japan, Indonesia, the US and personnel from China in the South China Sea.
Even more far-fetched is that MH370 could have been flown north in the shadow of another plane and would have avoided detection on radar before branching off and landing at an airfield in north east China, Kyrgyzstan or Turkmenistan.
A third claims there could have been a botched hijack attempt. Analysis of radar data shows the plane began to fly erratically and climbed to 45,000 feet before dropping to a very low altitude.
The pilots could have flown like this to disorientate the hijackers or the hijackers themselves could have flown the plane up to this altitude to kill the passengers by starving them of oxygen by depressurizing the cabin, while they had access to another oxygen supply. Under this theory the attempts fails and the hijackers accidentally kill themselves.
In October, the investigation was focused entirely around an underwater search. As of December 17, 11,000 square km of the seafloor had been searched. The search of the southwest Indian Ocean is being conducted by three vessels and is expected to be completed by May 2015.

Wreckage Could Dim Hope of Survival

A piece of aircraft wreckage discovered on a remote island in the Indian Ocean has raised hopes that it may be from the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. But the possibility was not greeted with joy by all.
Sarah Bajc's boyfriend, Philip Wood, was on the Boeing 777 before it disappeared on a flight from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing with 239 people on board on March 8, 2014.
"My initial reaction was I wasn't sure whether to believe it because there have been so many false alarms," Bajc said in a statement to NBC News Wednesday.
"If it is from the plane than any hope that I might have had that this plane landed safely somewhere is harder to believe," she said. "My thread of hope goes away."
The wreckage was found Wednesday on the coastline of rugged Reunion Island, a French territory east of Madagascar off the southern tip of Africa. The wreckage has not been confirmed to have been a part of Flight 370.
A policeman and a gendarme stand next to a piece of debris from an unidentified aircraft found in the coastal area of Saint-Andre de la Reunion, in the east of the French Indian Ocean island of La Reunion, on July 29, 2015. YANNICK PITOU / AFP - Getty Images
Sources told NBC News that Boeing investigators have looked at photos of the piece of debris and believe it appears to have come from a Boeing 777. There is only one 777 missing in the world right now — Flight 370, also called MH370.
Bajc was preparing to move from Beijing to live with Wood, a 50-year-old Texas native and IBM Malaysia employee, in Kuala Lumpur at the time of the tragedy.
Bajc said that if the wreckage is determined to be from Flight 370, the confirmation would bring closure and perhaps some insight into why the passenger plane went down. She does not believe Malaysia has been tough enough in its response.
"I am still very angry at the country of Malaysia for their lack of efforts to hold anyone responsible for this," Bajc said. "They have failed the world."
Search crews from around the world have scoured the vast region for any sign of the missing plane, but no debris confirmed to have come from the aircraft has ever been found.
NBC News

Debris looks like Boeing 777, could be MH370, says source

(CNN)Debris found in the western Indian Ocean on Wednesday appears to be part of a Boeing 777, the same model as Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 that disappeared in 2014, according to a source close to the investigation.
The source said there is a unique element to the Boeing 777's flaperon, a wing component, that Boeing observers believe they are seeing in photos.
The debris was found Wednesday off the coast of Reunion Island, a French department in the western Indian Ocean. It is being examined to see if it is connected to flight MH370, a member of the French air force in Reunion said Wednesday.
The debris was found off the coast of St. Andre, a community on the island, according to Adjutant Christian Retournat.
Officials conducted an initial assessment of the debris using photographs.
The source said stressed the observations are preliminary.
    The debris was found off the coast of St. Andre, a community on Reunion Island, according to Adjutant Christian Retournat.
    Earlier, Retournat said the debris appeared to be a wing flap and had been taken to the island, located about 380 nautical miles off the coast of Madagascar.
    The Malaysian government has dispatched a team to Reunion Island to investigate the debris, Malaysian Minister of Transportation Liow Tiong Lai said in New York.
    "We need to verify. We have wreckage found that needs to be further verified before we can further confirm if it belongs to MH370. So we have dispatched a team to investigate on these issues and we hope that we can identify it as soon as possible," the minister said.
    Police carry a piece of debris from an unidentified aircraft found off the coast of Reunion island.
    CNN analysts say there are indications that the airplane part could be from a Boeing 777, and if that's the case, it's likely from MH370.
    Making the determination should be "very simple" because the serial numbers riveted to numerous parts of the plane can be linked to not only the plane's model, but the exact aircraft, said CNN aviation analyst Les Abend, who flew 777s during his 30 years as a pilot.
    This means crash investigators may be able to figure it out from photographs of the part -- which could be an aileron, a flap or a flaperon -- even before arriving on the island, he said.
    There are at least three elements of the discovery that are consistent with MH370, said CNN safety analyst David Soucie. The first is that the part appears to have been torn off of the aircraft.
    Airplane debris is being examined to see if it's connected to MH370.
    "This is from a sudden impact, it looks like to me," Soucie said.
    There also is a seal on the top of the part that "is consistent with what I would see on an inside flap on a triple 7," he said, and the barnacles on the part are consistent with the "parasitic activity" that would take place from being under water so long.
    However, the part appears to be coated in white paint, which would run counter to Soucie's other observations in that the 777's parts would be coated in zinc chromate, not paint. Soucie acknowledged, however, that the part could be coated in something from the ocean.
    "If it is a part from a triple 7, we can be fairly confident it is from 370 because there just haven't been that many triple 7 crashes and there haven't been any in this area," said CNN aviation analyst Mary Schiavo.
    Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, with 239 people aboard, disappeared after a late-night take off from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on March 8, 2014, bound for Beijing.
    Authorities have said they still don't know why it turned dramatically off course over the sea between Malaysia and Vietnam, or where exactly its errant journey finished.
    An international team of experts used satellite data to calculate that the plane eventually went down in the southern Indian Ocean. Search teams have been combing a vast area of the seafloor in the southern Indian Ocean, hunting for traces of the passenger jet, about 2,300 miles (3,700 kilometers) from where the debris was found.
    The Malaysian government eventually declared the loss of Malaysia Airlines flight 370 an accident and all of its passengers and crew presumed dead.

    If That Wreckage Is Really From MH370?

    HANG ON TO your tin hats, here comes MH370 again. A piece of airplane has been found on a small island in the Indian Ocean, and to some, it looks very much like it came from the same model of commercial airliner that infamously disappeared without a trace in March 2014.

    The section of wing was found on a beach in Réunion Island, a territory of France about 580 miles southeast of Madagascar. According to Xavier Tytelman, an airplane security expert based in France, a group of ecologists found the wreckage while doing a beach clean-up. 

    A journalist on the island sent Tytelman photos of the wreckage, so he’s done some armchair sleuthing. But investigators from Boeing and French aviation authorities are already working to determine for sure whether this is part of the missing plane by analyzing plane designs, part numbers, and weather patterns.

    In case you missed it, Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 was a Boeing 777 carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew that went missing March 8, 2014, while en route from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to Beijing. 

    It lost connection with ground control about an hour after takeoff, and a months-long search over thousands of square miles of ocean turned up nada. If this wing section does belong to the crash, it will dispel many theories, and bring the world a lot closer to closure.

    To Tytelman, the wreckage—now in the hands of local authorities—looks like a flaperon, a movable foil on the back of a wing. Best case scenario for linking the part with MH370 would be to find a number on it that’s unique to the plane. 

    “Every manufacturer puts a data tag, or data plate, on every part that goes on an airplane,” with the exception of things like screws, says former NTSB investigator Greg Feith. 

    That can include a part number, serial number, bar code, or other information. “If that data plate is there, it’s relatively easy” to match it with the type of plane it’s from, says Feith. A serial number would link it to a specific jet. 

    Tytelman says he found two letters and three numbers, BB670, on the part, which he thinks might be part of a serial number—though it doesn’t match that of the missing aircraft.

    You want it to be what you're looking for, but you have to put that aside and look at the facts of the case and you have to make a judgment.

    In the absence of verified serial or part numbers, the best place for investigators to start is figuring out what kind of plane the part comes from, and using circumstantial evidence to trace the wreckage back to a specific crash. Given the size of this wreckage—it’s about six and a half feet long, according to Agence France Presse—it should be easy to figure out whether or not it came from a Boeing 777.

    “All airplanes are unique, they have very distinctive features,” says Richard Gillespie, director of the The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) in Pennsylvania. An inspector would look at the metal’s thickness, its rivet pattern, and for other distinctive structures to try to link it to a specific model. 

    Since receiving the pictures of the wreckage, Tytelman has been looking for matching parts. “In the beginning we didn’t find anything that was correct,” he says. Then a Boeing investigator sent him a black and white schematic of a 777’s flaperon. 

    The drawing clearly shows the actuator fitting—the motor that moves the flap up and down—which Tytelman says perfectly matches the pictures. That would mean the wing came from a Boeing 777, and because exactly one Boeing 777 has ever been lost at sea…

    Not so fast. “When looking at something like this you have to be as objective and unbiased as possible,” says Gillespie. 

    “You want it to be what you’re looking for, but you have to put that aside and look at the facts of the case and you have to make a judgment.”

     He would know—he and TIGHAR have spent decades investigating scraps of metal purported to have come from Amelia Earhart‘s lost Model 10 Electra.

    Inspectors will have to compare the flaperon’s structure with that of many different aircraft before they can be absolutely sure it came from MH370. There’s a good chance we’re looking at a totally different jet, Feith says. 

    A Yemenia Airways Airbus A310 crashed in the ocean not far from Réunion in 2009, so “it could be part of that aircraft, or MH370, or some other wreckage from even some old airplane, who knows.”

    “Maybe now that there’s a big buzz about this, somebody someplace will find that it fits an Airbus,” says Tytelman. “For me, it’s finished.”

    If the flaperon is indeed from a Boeing 777, the inspectors would turn to circumstantial evidence to see how likely it is it came from MH370. 

    “If it’s from a 777, then it has to be a 777 that went in the water,” says Gillepsie. And MH370 is the only Boeing 777 ever lost at sea.

    But that doesn’t mean the inspectors will light up their Gauloises and retire to the café for celebratory champagne (or whatever it is French inspectors do to celebrate) once they confirm the plane’s model. 

    They’ll still need to confirm the piece of wing spent the requisite time at sea, and will want to get a better idea of how it made its way from wherever MH370 went down (still a mystery) to Réunion.

    That’ll be the tricky part. This particular beach is about 4,000 miles from the most likely MH370 crash sites. If this flaperon did come from MH370, it would probably have been carried by the Indian Ocean gyre, which moves clockwise. 

    (If the wing had traveled by gyre, there would have to have been some insulation or trapped air to keep it afloat.) To check that theory, the inspectors would have to check the flaperon’s paint and metal for corrosion, expecting to see damage that looked about a year old. 

    Tytelman points out that the wing section does not have any sea grass on it, suggesting that it had not been at sea for long.

    Boeing declined to comment for this story, but said it’s helping French officials with the investigation—along with countless computer chair sleuths around the globe.


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