I've been following the story of Malaysian flight MH370 with some skepticism; the official story not only doesn't make a lot of sense, but appears to be false. It's not obvious what happened, but it seems clear that the plane did not just disappear without a trace.
Why do I doubt the official story? There are a few reasons. One is that the officials telling us the story are stonewalling. For example, The Straits Times (which claims to be the most widely read newspaper in Singapore) published an article Wednesday March 26th which reports that Malaysian officials told relatives of the missing about "sealed evidence that cannot be made public." The article claims that the sealed evidence includes "air traffic control radio transcript, radar data and airport security recordings."
Another problem with the official story is that it keeps changing. The most recent change occurred yesterday (March 31st) when Malaysia's civil aviation department said the last words spoken by one of the pilots were "Good night Malaysian three seven zero". They had previously said that the last words were "All right, good night." This may not seem like a huge difference, but according to "pilots and aviation experts"
, "All right, good night" is not a standard thing for an airline pilot to say, whereas "Good night Malaysian three seven zero" is exactly the standard thing that they would say. Even if mistakes were made, why did it take 23 days to correct this mistake? This is only the latest change; this Yahoo News article
is one of many in the mainstream press
that mentions contradictory statements
made by Malaysian officials.
The third problem with the official story is that it doesn't fit the facts. They claim that the pilot shut off the communication systems, and the transponder, and that somehow the plane managed to evade the overlapping military and commercial radar systems of Malaysia, Thailand and surrounding countries for hundreds or thousands of miles as it traveled off course. Numerous mainstream articles
have debated and meditated upon various scenarios in which the wily captain could have flown below 5000 feet
, or memorized the capabilities and waveforms of various countries' radar systems, or played other tricks to evade radar. This is unlikely but not impossible. It is conceivable that a talented pilot armed with detailed information about radar systems could have evaded the 19th century technology of radar. None of these mainstream stories have discussed ways that the pilot could have evaded the United States' infrared satellite imaging system. It is well known
that spy satellites
have a resolution of a few centimeters or less, and that they can track a fist-sized object anywhere on Earth. Some mainstream articles attempt to minimize this capability by claiming that the US operates less than 10
spy satellites and that they only cover small areas of the earth, but other apparently knowledgeable sources claim that the US operates hundreds
of spy satellites.
Not so well-known is the fact that infrared imaging is used to watch for missile launches, and to track planes. The engines on a Boeing 777-200ER
put out a lot of heat, the exhaust is approximately 850 degrees Celsius. The United States' SBIRS infrared satellite system
is capable of tracking planes (and much smaller objects such as missiles). A system that can detect and track a missile launch anywhere on Earth will certainly be able to track a commercial jetliner. It is indisputable that the US military knows exactly what happened to flight MH370.
Although the official story appears false, until recently I didn't have any leads to follow, so I didn't do any investigation beyond reading news and opinions on various websites and blogs. The situation changed when a story came out claiming
that Philip Wood, one of the American passengers on the plane, sent a photo and text message from his IPhone after the plane went missing, claiming that he was being held prisoner. This story claims that the Exif data on the photo proves that the message is really from Philip Wood, and that it came from Diego Garcia, a military base near the Maldives. This article
claims that the message and photo were originally posted on 4chan
, which would most likely indicate that it is a hoax. When I interviewed people who knew Phil (see below) they had not seen the "photo" story but believed that his first contact would have been his girlfriend Sarah. This 50-year-old IBM manager is not the typical 4chan poster, and the claim that he posted on 4chan instead of contacting his girlfriend or another relative does not seem credible.
Some writers claim that Exif data is easy to modify. This article
discusses various methods for modifying Exif data. Others say that modifications can easily be detected and that this particular photo was not modified, but these claims were not backed up by evidence, and after searching diligently I did not find any information explaining how to determine whether Exif data on a photo has been modified. If anyone knows how to detect modified Exif data, please speak up in the comments.
Another story claims that Phil Wood never existed
. I searched for him on LinkedIn and found his profile here
. I picked 3 of his "Endorsements" at random and messaged them through LinkedIn. I asked all three to call me to talk about Philip Wood. All three called me, and two told similar stories about Phil. I did not intend to contact any of his relatives, but one of the people I contacted was an in-law who had spoken with him two days before MH370 went missing. Another had been his mentor at IBM for many years, and had heard from him two weeks before the flight. The third asked me to email questions, and has not replied yet, but we may hear from him in an update. If Phil Wood doesn't exist, someone has performed significant work to fake his existence, complete with 184 LinkedIn contacts all prepared to answer questions about him (with matching stories). I am declaring the "Phil Wood never existed" story debunked.
It is not obvious what happened here. The information I got from Phil's LinkedIn contacts neither supports nor disproves the official story, but it raises serious questions with the "photo" story. At this point I see no credible evidence that the "photo" story is true, and it appears to be a hoax. We have a clearly false official story, a debunked conspiracy theory, and another discredited conspiracy theory. The only obvious conclusion is that we have no idea what happened to MH370. Will we ever know?