National Geographic News
A photo of a person looking out from a rescue ship for the missing Malaysian plane.

Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, carrying 239 people, disappeared off the air traffic control radar on March 8.

PHOTOGRAPH BY HOTLI SIMANJUNTAK, EPA

Laura Parker

National Geographic

Published March 15, 2014

As a 12-nation hunt for a missing Malaysia Airlines plane spread out Saturday across the Indian Ocean and reached over land toward Kazakhstan in Central Asia, some experts raised the incredible possibility that a 250-ton Boeing 777 might never be found.

“If that triple seven flew for four hours, and you look at that four-hour radius, you could spend a lifetime looking and not even cover a fraction of the area you are searching,” said John Fish, vice president of American Underwater Search and Survey, who has been involved in multiple ocean searches for missing aircraft. “But if they can get more information from the navigational system and other satellites, they could narrow the search.”

And if the plane is located and its black boxes retrieved, 40 years of airline accident investigation techniques suggest that the mystery of Flight 370 might be solved in a matter of hours.

Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, carrying 239 people, disappeared from air traffic control radar at about 1:30 a.m. March 8 as it neared the southern coast of Vietnam en route to Beijing.

A map of the Malaysian plane search area.

The transponder, which identifies the plane to air traffic controllers, stopped functioning. The pilots made no distress calls, and data transmissions from onboard computers and radar blips suggest that the pilots or an intruder deliberately diverted the plane from its flight path and then flew a zigzag course for multiple hours.

Black Boxes

Aviation crash mysteries often end once the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder, known commonly as the "black boxes," are mined for the information stored inside. The twin units, which are actually bright orange in color and built to withstand fire and a high-speed crash, are stowed in the aircraft’s tail section, where they are least likely to suffer damage.

The world may never learn what happened at the crucial moment when the plane was diverted from its flight path because the cockpit voice recorder, which operates in a continuous loop during flight, captures only two hours of conversations between the pilots, along with their radio calls to air traffic controllers.

Usually, that's more than enough for an accident investigation.

If the pilots of the Malaysian plane or an intruder spoke in the cockpit toward the end of the flight, their voices will be on the recorder. But if the plane did indeed fly on for multiple hours, whatever confrontation took place that precipitated the disaster will be lost.

Data Recorders

That doesn’t mean investigators would be at a dead end to sort out a criminal motive.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) concluded that the copilot of an Air Egypt jet that crashed off New York in 1999, killing all 216 people on board, had committed suicide. The copilot was heard on the cockpit voice recorder saying “I rely on God” seven times. It was a good clue, but not conclusive evidence.

The flight data recorder revealed that the operation of the flight controls indicated a struggle in the cockpit and a deliberate effort to shut down the engines and crash the plane.

The flight data recorder has become such a sophisticated instrument that its information often solves the case very quickly. It captures more than 1,000 characteristics of nearly every instrument on board, from the engines to lavatory smoke detectors.

The recorder collects data on airspeed and altitude as well as information on flight controls that would reveal if they are operating properly.

In 1996, when an Aeroperu flight crashed off the coast of South America, killing all 70 people on board, the flight data recorder revealed that the plane’s static ports—which convey the plane’s altitude and airspeed data to the cockpit—were not working properly.

The plane had been washed the night before the flight and the ports had been taped over by the maintenance crew, who failed to remove the tape afterward. To confirm the findings, investigators retrieved the piece of the plane that held the static ports but left the rest of the wreckage on the seafloor.

A photo of a the wreckage from Air France Flight 447.
Crew members tow part of the wreckage from Air Bus A330-200, a jetliner that crashed in the Atlantic Ocean with 228 people on board in June 2008.
PHOTOGRAPH BY FORCA AEREA BRASILEIRA VIA LATINCONTENT/GETTY

If the Malaysian plane had been changing altitude erratically in steep rises and drops, as the Wall Street Journal reported Friday, those movements will be collected on the flight data recorder.

Because the whole episode involving the Malaysian plane is unusual, one unknown factor to consider is how effectively whoever was controlling the plane was able to “hide” its activities. If the transponder and other identifying systems were deliberately turned off, could the black boxes also have been disabled? That is unclear.

But the investigation of a 1997 SilkAir flight that crashed in Sumatra, Indonesia, killing 104 people, suggests that scenario is possible. On the SilkAir flight, the cockpit voice recorder stopped working. Investigators suspected, but were unable to confirm, that the circuit breaker for the cockpit voice recorder had been pulled, disabling the device. The official Indonesian accident report never determined the official cause of the accident. But the NTSB concluded in its own report that the crash was the result of one pilot’s suicide.

Clues in the Wreckage

The black boxes don’t always tell the tale.

When the cargo door of a United Airlines plane blew off on a Honolulu-to-Sydney flight in 1989, the plane returned safely to Hawaii but the door lay on the ocean floor for months.

Without that door, the National Transportation Safety Board initially concluded that it had popped open because its lock had been damaged in a previous flight. Once the door was hauled up from the Pacific, investigators found that an electrical failure had forced it open.

“You can’t prove what happened until you’ve proved what didn’t happen,” said Michael Barr, who teaches aviation accident investigation at the University of Southern California.

Barr once investigated a cargo plane that crashed just after taking off from Sacramento, California. When the investigators first arrived to examine the wreckage, they assumed that the plane’s center of gravity had not been calculated, a common practice at the time. Neglecting to do that could upset the weight balance in a plane, causing it to stall on takeoff.

By the second day, they determined the plane held so little cargo that the center of gravity wasn’t relevant.

“They found out part of the tail fell off because the plane had just come out of maintenance, where someone didn’t put a nut on a bolt," he said. "Because of that, the horizontal stabilizer failed."

A photo of the reconstructed TWA Flight 800 plane.
TWA Flight 800 crashed off the coast of Long Island, N.Y. in July 1996. Its wreckage was reconstructed in a hangar in Calverton, N.J.
PHOTOGRAPH BY ED BETZ, AP

Mock-ups and Reconstructions

But even if all of an aircraft’s pieces are recovered and examined, investigators sometimes find they still need to learn more from the plane. Then they reassemble the fuselage, a time-consuming task that's akin to putting together a jigsaw puzzle.

After the terrorist bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988, British accident investigators reassembled the plane’s fuselage in a hangar, in what is still considered the best reconstruction ever conducted.

Their work revealed that the bomb blew a fairly small hole in the 747’s front cargo bay, which at first seemed puzzling. Then investigators learned that the shockwaves from the bomb peeled the aircraft’s skin off the frame, according to a former investigator who worked on the case.

As a result, the plane lost structural integrity and broke up.

Part of a China Airlines 747 fuselage was also reassembled when investigators were at first unable to resolve why the jumbo jet broke up in midair, killing all 225 people on board.

It turned out that a faulty repair to the plane’s tail had caused unseen deterioration for more than 20 years before finally giving way after the plane took off from Taipei in 2002. Investigators found tar on the outside of the fuselage, where cigarette smoke had seeped through tiny cracks.

The Unexpected Is Possible

Airline investigators are a conservative lot by nature and not inclined to chase after exotic theories. The catalogue of accidents over the past four decades falls into well-established patterns of possible causes. There are only so many things that can go wrong.

“If you look at all the aircraft that have disappeared over the past 40 years, there has never been a case of anyone turning off the electronics and sneaking away at lower altitudes," said Fish. "It would be unprecedented."

That doesn’t mean it couldn’t have happened.

FBI agents probing the crash of TWA Flight 800 off Long Island in 1996, killing 230 people, were convinced the 747 was bombed. Until they weren’t.

Tension between FBI agents working the accident and the NTSB has become part of the folklore around the crash. The FBI agents on the case became convinced a bomb explosion broke up the plane because bomb residue was found on the wreckage.

The NTSB investigators were dubious of that from the start because none of the wreckage carried the distinctive signature that a bomb explosion would make on metal. But they weren’t able to prove that the jet’s center fuel tank exploded until they first disproved a bomb was on board.

Finally, after a long search through aircraft records, investigators learned that the residue had been deliberately placed on the plane four weeks before the crash as part of a bomb-detection drill using bomb-sniffing dogs.

“No 747 ever went down because of a spark in the center fuel tank until TWA,” Barr said. “No 767 ever went down because an Egyptian pilot committed suicide. Because the triple seven has a pretty good safety record, this [Malaysian accident] has got to be something new—or a human factor.”

As the search became so impossibly large, Bloomberg News reported Saturday that the last satellite transmission from the plane showed it flew south toward western Australia and may be in the Indian Ocean off of Perth.

“The old search area in the Gulf of Thailand was like looking for an automobile in the state of Ohio,” said Fish. “The new search area would be like expanding that to include all the lower 48 states.”

But the clock is ticking. The pingers on the black boxes that identify their location will run out of battery life and fall silent in less than three weeks.

28 comments
Dave and Harry
Dave and Harry

If a plane of that size crashed, surely it will leave a lot of debris. If their was an act of terrorism involved, the plane could have landed somewhere with the possibilities all passengers still alive. They seem to be making search and rescue waste time searching pulses under the sea floor while the passengers could be kidnapped somewhere?

Syed Husain
Syed Husain

after 1:19:29 hrs the MH=370 was not supposed to be on the frequency of Malaysia Air Traffic Control (ATC), as MH-370 was asked to contact Ho Chi Minh. So how can Malaysian authorities say they lost contact with MH-370?

maureen snowden
maureen snowden

Is there any reason a qualified reporter has not found and questioned the Boeing Flight trainer who trained the pilot of the MH370 how to fly a large new 777, and ask him if he has any insight into what overcame the pilot and/or coerced him to do something against his will?  Not due to terrorists in the cockpit, but due to western contractors and intel operatives that had something on him?  This would be more helpful than all the senseless sky and sea searches and wild theories of which none seem to point in the obvious direction?


Erich Shih, chief reporter at Chinese-language military news monthly Defense International, said the US has more and better satellites but has not taken part in the search for flight MH370, which disappeared about an hour into its flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing in the early hours of March 8 with 239 people on board. Shih claimed that the US held back because it wanted to see what information China’s satellites would provide.  What is Inmarsat of UK, a British satellite communications defense contractor with deep ties to Raytheon and the Pentagon [and with Boeing the producer of the 777 which screwed up mysteriously], withholding from the press of the free world?

December, 2013, the USAtlas V rocket was launched carrying the spy satellite NROL-39 for the National Reconnaissance Office [NRO], an intelligence agency which is often overshadowed by the National Security Agency (NSA), only it scoops data via spy satellites in outer space. The “NROL-39 emblem” is represented by an Octopus a versatile, adaptive, and highly intelligent creature. The emblem boldly states “Nothing is beyond our reach”.This virtually means that the tentacles of America’s World Octopus are spreading across the globe to coil around everything within their grasp.

Inmarsat of UK has long co-manufactured satellites with Boeing.  We should all ask why Inmarsat had so much say in downpowering the search for survivors.  The whole western media genuflected to the royal decree of Inmarsat.  Why???

jon blackmann
jon blackmann

Nan Oldham, Mother of Princeton law grad who went down with KAL007, states her case: [many parallels to MH370 30 years later??]

"So many questions have never been answered. The U.S. said the plane had flown off course. I've flown out of Anchorage plenty of times-how could they lose the plane? Nobody could have lost that plane. I wish I could believe the straying off course was an accident."

From the start, discrepancies arose in accounts of the plane's flight path, and why U.S. and Japanese air controllers hadn't warned the errant plane. Aspersions turned sinister with reports that the pilot had told his wife the flight was going to be unusually dangerous, and she should buy more life insurance. Why had he ordered an extra 10,000 pounds of fuel in Anchorage? The plane's several turns suggested a deliberate attempt to fly into Soviet territory. And the aircraft had reported its position inaccurately, as if trying to be evasive. Why had the pilot ignored the Soviet warning shots? And why did tapes of communications between air controllers given to the U.S. Government before their public release contain erasures?

https://www.princeton.edu/paw/archive_old/PAW99-00/07-1215/1215feat.html

In an effort to build support for a congressional investigation, Nan Oldham appeared on The Phil Donahue Show and other talk programs. "I raised a lot of hell," she says. "I never asserted anything directly, never talked like I am now."

"My theory," she says, "is that our government provoked an incident to make the Soviets look like the evil empire that Reagan was always describing. He needed to sell our defense agenda, to get missiles placed in Germany, where there was a lot of opposition to us at the time. Otherwise, how could this have happened? There was no effort to find the black box because, we were told, it was inside Russian waters. I know Ben died because of a tumor, but to think my own country sacrificed my son. . . . " In the end, Congress declined to conduct an investigation, though the controversy continued, producing several books and articles in subsequent years.

"I see in my mother a deep maternal rage about the loss of her son," says Charlotte. "She has been profoundly damaged. Parents can never completely heal from the loss of a child. The loss of two is unfathomable-it's the horrific overlaid with the anger of not knowing what really happened. She never had a body to bury, never got answers. She feels she's been mistreated, lied to. The U.S. Government has never been forthcoming.

"I believe Reagan knew the plane was off course," Charlotte continues, "and chose not to warn it because it would activate the new system of Soviet radar which our military wanted to observe. It was said later that we got a treasure trove of information from the incident. My mother's anger is a powerful force. It keeps us alive, though it's very disturbing to others."

Ebin Abraham
Ebin Abraham

Hey come on you cant declare that all the passengers are dead. Have they tried searching the nearby area. They have not yet found the debris properly how can they declare that all are dead.


Their have been cases where people have survived, even tho the aircraft was badly destroyed during ditching.


Try understanding the scenario inside the flight- the flight took off at 12.41am from kaula lampur airport, the journey requires 5.40 hours that means 6.20am they were scheduled to reach. Surely the passengers would have understood that there has been some problem. the pilot and the screw would have prepared the cabin for the worst. Passengers will be wearing life jacket etc.During landing the plane had broke into many pieces their are possibilities of passengers to escape out of the fuselage.


scientifically a healthy person can survive without food and water for 8 weeks(under normal conditions). So i personally feel that the hope for survival should not be given up. 


there are rafts, life jackets and many more parts of the plane which can be used as a small floating object. 

Ritu N.
Ritu N.

It's a good idea, Ebin. When GPS is a facility that is included in most of the cell phones we carry today, it can and in fact, should be made an integral feature in aviation. We really are relying on very old technology. 

I don't even know what to hope for; a part of me hopes that all the passengers are still alive, but that would only be possible if terrorists are involved, while, to hope that such an 'attack' or a plan to attack is not underway, would mean to hope that the plane has crashed and there is no survivor.

A real dilemma and a very sad situation.

Let's hope that the effort being taken by the 12 countries or more proves to be fruitful in the end....

Ebin Abraham
Ebin Abraham

Manick, i agree with you, the black boxes must be modified to transmit strong signals which can be easily detected. 


Even the most advance aircraft comes with a system where-in the transponders can be operated manually (ON/OFF). They have their own reasons. to avoid congestion on ATC Screen after the aircraft has landed, or to reduce the difficult for ATC to navigate other aircraft near the air field etc etc etc...


I feel every aircraft should have a unique identification code and should be connected to a sattelite or a GPS System backed by a battery supply, so that they can be traced even if the transponder is switched off or if the electronic systems have malfunctioned or what-ever. This device or the chip should be placed where access from the inside of the aircraft is not possible.

MANICK ROY
MANICK ROY

I just fail to understand why this 777 have been mentioned many times " It is extremely sophisticated Airplane....etc." If so why an old type of "Black Box" (?)  or "Transponder" was used in this version of Airplane? Why transponder was/is not sophisticated so that if pilot manually switches off, it can be remotely switched ON so that it transmit its status from anywhere on the Earth? So why the Black Box is not sophisticated to switch signals strong enough to be captured by Global Satellites or so? This shows one thing that we still have to learn a lot before we start feeling proud of our achievements. Very sad. Even today's highest technology seems unable to help find the fate of 777. If we can communicate with the Rover on the Planet Mars, why can't we find the "Black Box" ???  May be I am thinking Silly.

Ebin Abraham
Ebin Abraham

It seems the theory 1 is what has happened to the flight MH370.. Satellite images have found few debris (not yet confirmed that the the parts belong to MH 370) 2500 km south west the coast of Australia. They need to confirm as early as possible whether the debris belong to MH370. Then they need to understand the ocean current pattern and get an approximate location of the crash. 


Very important, if confirmed, they need to start a search to see if their are any survivors. 


As there was no dis-stress signal from the aircraft during its contact with the water. which means the engines have sunk as soon as the aircraft touched water. (Engines have a system that when they come in contact with salt water or water they send a dis-stress signal.) If the engine gets deep into the water then this signal cannot be emitted. 


So might be the flight has hit hard when the pilot tried to ditch the plane in the ocean. In fact ditching the plane in the ocean is like hitting the plane on a very hard surface. So chances of survival of people might be moderate BUT we cant come to a conclusion and the search for survivors should begin as soon as this news is confirmed.  


May be they should direct all the merchant ships and naval ships to use this route so that it is easy to locate any debris or any survivors. every small island should be searched as the floating object mostly tend to move towards land.If any passengers have used their life jacket or life raft then the tendency of them to move as per the ocean current or towards any piece of land is more.  


and also only 16 days left for finding out the black boxes after which it will be more difficult to locate it as the locator will go out of power (battery). 


Jeannie W.
Jeannie W.

For the plane to travel that long (4-7 hours) after last contact I believe it was taken somewhere and has landed on the ground. If someone wanted to crash it, why bother traveling so far to do so and also bother to avoid detection.


I feel really bad for the families and friends of the passengers and crew. I am hoping for a positive outcome.

Ebin Abraham
Ebin Abraham

Well, i thing their are two possible thing that would have happened with flight MH370.


1) That there could be some technical failure with the flight communication and the navigation system(possibly NOT a decompression because the transponder went out and later after few minutes the pilot spoke to the ATC, if it was a decompression that took of the transponder system then the pilot would have communicated regarding the decompression to the ATC). Due to the faliure in the system the pilots wont know where they are heading. specially it was night so they cant take any land reference. With this condition they travelled towards the indian ocean in search of any land reference and probably as there fuel tank got empty (near by 8.11am) they crash landed in the indian ocean. Could be the pilot tried to ditch the plane in the water and by doing so the plane might have not dis-intrigated into small pieces but into large sections and lately the plane sunk into the indian ocean. ( remember the hudson river crash where the plane was slowly getting filled with water, even tho the plane was in one single piece.)


2) A well plan terorist attach, By switching the transponder off the flight cannot be detected by ATC radars. But can be visible to a military radar (but by flying low or close to any mountains it can go un-noticed by the radars). But after moving off from Malaysian coast, the Adaman had its military radar shut during nights(regular practice of shutting the radar during night as confirmed by the officials) . The flight then might have moved to the bay of bengal from there to the himalayas and then to places like pakistan or afganistan etc. BY FLYING LOW THE FLIGHT CAN BE EASILY MISSED BY THE RADARS.  BUT IF THIS OR SIMILAR HAS HAPPENED WITH THE FLIGHT MH370, YET WE HAVE NOT RECEIVED ANY ORGANISATION TAKING UP THE RESPONSIBILITY OR ANY DEMANDS FOR THE RELEASE OF THE PASSENGERS. 


If the flight had stayed in air till 8.11 Am that shows the flight was capable enough to fly. Now what stands is was it flying blind (as mentioned in theory 1) or was it forced to fly somewhere else in a well planned way(Theory 2). I feel it was flying blind and the pilot might have tried to put the plane in course that can take the flight back to Malaysia but the flight navigation system might have taken it somewhere else. 


Their was a crash that took place in athens where the decompression had took place and the supply of oxygen for passengers and pilots had finished. If this has happened to the plane then the flight navigation system, auto pilot would have corrected the flight course and would have taken it back to its original course or flight path.  

jon blackmann
jon blackmann

It is looking more and more like the KAL007 story, which happened in 1983, KOREAN AIRLINES. Use of shadow plane parallel to commercial jetliner to evade/confuse radar and then the subsequent missle or laser-like or microwave shootdown by suspicious military force[s] when the strategic airspace charade 'probe' went "south" [in USAF parlance it is known as testing the radar/SAT systems of your rival, their reaction time & procedures]. Equally relevant back in 1983 regarding KAL007, the truth can be found by locating the special trainer of the MH370 pilot who went down.  The trainer was most probably BOTH a foreign intel agent and a pilot trainer from outside.

alexander christodoulou
alexander christodoulou

the plane may have been shot down if it did not identify it self when coming into a country air space bye fighter planes

michelle boyd
michelle boyd

Why don't they check the air space between the malysia and north korea, outside international waters and into the korean air zones

Sruthy Sreekumar
Sruthy Sreekumar

I just wish they would find the plane soon....at least its bits so that the people who traveled in it, their families  will know that they are dead. Its better to know that they are dead than to to wait for them for another century.....

I am praying that they will find it soon....

william hall
william hall

If the plane was taken for some nefarious purpose, where would it be taken!

D. Daniel Wu
D. Daniel Wu

God bless the airplane.We are waiting for you.

Emma Shaw
Emma Shaw

If the pilot had landed the plane and taken the passengers hostage then there would be no point if the rest of the world did not know about it

Jean Auxter
Jean Auxter

Maybe the plane landed somewhere, the passengers will start a new community and it will be made into TV series.

Qaiser Mehmood
Qaiser Mehmood

I have seen all the Air crash investigation Mayday Series from season 1 to season 13. My opinion about this plane is that there is a chance that it was hijacked as Ethiopian Air line was. but In this case hijackers flew plane themselves as the may have killed pilots and disengaged Transponder to hide themselves from radar.


Now, after disengaging the Transponder hijacker pilots have no way to know where theyare and since they could not communicate to ATC so they set their own heading.


The 2nd position of the plane was found 2:40 am PULAU Perek. The plane wreckage can be located by simple mathematics of fuel and speed between the point of dis-appearing [SOMEWHERE in sea at 1:30 am] to  PULAU PEREK. This can tell the speed with which the plane was flying. and knowing that hijacker pilots have no way to communicate to ground so the assumption can be made that they flew in a straight line, fuel remaining after PULAU PEREK and Speed calculated previously can tell that where the plane ditched in the sea. That area can be searched for wreckage. I think. 

Joy Saldanha
Joy Saldanha

There are many opinions about the 'gone missing' flight 370, and any one of them could be a factor that is true. But which one ? Every body concerned are doing their utmost to bring this to a conclusion, but meanwhile those families waiting, not knowing anything are suffering most terribly.  My heart goes out to them, with my prayers.  j.e.s..

Pat Rolle
Pat Rolle

With all of the technology which exists to destroy nations, surely either the US or Russia or a EU State could use it to detect a missing commercial airplane. Is locating a four seat airplane which carries drugs more important than locating an airplane with over two hundred people?


We all live on the same globe, unfortunately we all have different interest.


Akash Gill
Akash Gill

i really dont think that 370 is resting in deep ocean somewhere because if you read the information it does not look like a crash in my point of view the clues are given above indicates that the pilot may be intruder

majid bakh
majid bakh

I think it is resting on the ocean floor , deep , somewhere in the indian ocean, like the film:life of Pi.The deepest location on the ocean.

marge yap
marge yap

Any powerful out-of-the-blue lightning that can knock out the electrics and electronic components?

Any weird mega winds that can cause the jet to fly so erratically?

Nick Yeates
Nick Yeates

I have yet to hear why they believe the electronics were turned off. What if a fire burned many things off and then cabin air pressure was decreased slowly, meaning a slowly suffocating pilot became more and more confused (setting weird bearings). After the pilots and passengers lose consciousness, auto pilot kicks in and flys them to sea until fuel runs out. This occurred on a couple of cases, most notably with golfer Payne Stewart's Learjet. It flew 4 hrs from Florida to South Dakota with an unconscious crew that never radioed for help.

The weirdest things in this, to me, are on the Malaysian govt. Why did 3 separate crews of military radar technicians not report the unknown blip on their radars? In the US NAND other countries, when this has occurred, they put fighter jets in the air to observe the plane and watch it crash. Malaysia could easily have done this - they have the ability. Also, why did they let 2 passengers with reported STOLEN passports onto the flight? This was in a modern airport - all passports should be scanned and logged and ok'ed. They would have gone off as stolen. Maybe that system is not as efficient as I would think? It all adds up to 'Lost' (the TV show) levels of weirdness.

Keri Dudas
Keri Dudas

@Nick Yeates They believe the transponder was turned off because the transponder acts like the plane's GPS signal. It pings off of towers and receivers so that air traffic controllers can keep an eye on it and keep it out of the paths of other planes. Each plane and flight has it own special signature that appears on the controllers' screens which allows them to recognize the flight. Not all of the electronics would've been turned off or else the plane wouldn't have been able to fly; the jet engines are what power all the electronic instruments on the plane and since they believe that the plane flew for at least several hours after the transponder was disabled, according to their satellite data from surrounding military bases, it is unlikely that the engines were turned off. 


Also, military radar techs would've noticed the blip but unless the blip is a threat, meaning closing in on their territories, they won't do anything about it. Depending on where the plane was, it may've been open air space and if that's the case, they've no right to interfere. The US military has it's own protocols, the other nations have theirs, it isn't the same in every country how they respond.

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