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Malaysia Airlines mystery: Course alteration 'deliberate,' so where's the plane?

Malaysian authorities announced Saturday that data suggests that the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 had changed course in a "deliberate" manner and seemed to have even followed established flight paths while flying hundreds of miles off course. The latest information revealed by the Malaysian government would seem to indicate a possible hijacking, but the descriptive term was never used by the Prime Minister or any other spokesmen, government or military, while describing the circumstances of the missing plane.

The Christian Science Monitor reported (via Yahoo News) March 15 that Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Razak, speaking at a news conference, stated that the Boeing 777 carrying 239 passengers and crew went off course under control, deliberately flown away from its point of destination after the jet's communications and tracking systems had been shut off.

The Prime Minister said that Flight MH370's unusual deviation toward the west (it was originally headed northeast) was “consistent with deliberate action by someone on the plane.” He added that Malaysian investigators “have refocused their investigation into the crew and passengers on board."

Part of that refocusing was an intense reexamination of the flight manifest of passengers aboard and the search of the plane's pilots' -- Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah and First Officer Fariq Abdul Hamid -- homes. According to AFP, the number of countries searching for the missing plane jumped from 14 to 25 by Sunday.

Experts believe that only those with specialized knowledge of the Boeing 777 communications equipment could have shut it down.

American intelligence is also intensifying its efforts with regard to the pilot and co-pilot.

"One thing we do know, this was not an accident," insisted Michael McCaul, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, when speaking with Fox News. "It was an intentional, deliberate act, to bring down this airplane. And the question is who is behind that."

Prime Minister Najib said authorities had determined that the plane's last communication with a satellite -- after the last radar contact found it off the west coast of Malaysia -- was in one of two possible "corridors." One was a northern route from northern Thailand through to the border of Kazakstan and Turkmenistan, the other a southern path from Indonesia to the southern Indian Ocean. Speculation that the plane may have been flying toward the Andaman Islands, a series of hundreds of small islands about 1200 miles off India's eastern coast, was viewed as unlikely after subsequent satellite data prompted a reevaluation of the Malaysia Airlines plane's course.

However, one American official told CNN Thursday that there was a "significant likelihood" the plane was at the bottom of the Indian Ocean.

The mystery behind missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 began Saturday morning, March 8, shortly after its takeoff from Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, its destination Beijing, China. However, over the South China Sea, the plane suddenly disappeared from tracking radars. There was no warning, no distress call, and, more ominously, no transponder communications from the plane.

It was immediately assumed that the missing plane may have suffered the same fate as Air France Flight 447 that suddenly disappeared when it crashed into the Atlantic Ocean. The search for the missing plane began.

Then the Malaysian military discovered that they had tracked the massive Boeing 777 off the west coast of Malaysia, at the top of the Strait of Malacca. But how to explain the plane being hundreds of miles off course, far west of the location where it was last detected?

Theories abounded, of course, from the fantastical -- UFO interference and Bermuda Triangle-like conditions -- to the terroristic -- hijackings and (name a Middle Eastern country of your choice) piracy. Then there were the simple and the catastrophic systems mechanical failures theories. But only a few of the theories accounted for the plane flying so far off course.

So where is Flight MH370?

Given that the experts say that the Boeing 777 could fly for up to eight hours on the fuel she left Kuala Lumpur with, and that the last satellite signal received from the plane was over seven hours after take-off, the plane could be anywhere within tens of thousands of square miles of the Malaysia mainland. It would be almost impossible to find without some indication of its true direction. But if it was hijacked or taken in an act of piracy, there is no telling where Flight MH370 might have ended her journey.

But at least with the hijacking and piracy scenarios, the families of those that were on board the Boeing 777 can still hold on to a vestige of hope that there are survivors.

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