‘MH370: The Plane That Disappeared’ Explained: What Were Florence de Coigny & Other Proposed Theories?


MH370, the Malaysia Airlines flight that mysteriously disappeared from the face of the earth, has caught the attention of the entire world and has evidently become the subject of multiple discussions and theories. The Netflix documentary “MH370: The Plane That Disappeared” is a detailed account of the missing flight; it points at the data gathered by the Malaysian government as well as the various hypotheses that individuals from varied professions proposed after studying the data. In three episodes, the documentary series investigates the proposed theories and their limitations.

Why Was The Malaysian Government Held Responsible For The Mishap? What Did The Data Collect By The Government Propose?

On March 8th, 2014, flight MH370 departed from the airport in Kuala Lumpur around midnight and was set to arrive in Beijing at dawn. With 227 passengers and 12 crew members, the Malaysia Airlines flight climbs to cruising altitude and heads over to the South China Sea. The moment the flight left Malaysian airspace and was about to be transferred to the Vietnamese air traffic controllers, something went terribly wrong. Ninety seconds after the pilot, Zaharie Ahmad Shah, bid goodnight, MH370 suddenly disappeared from the radar. As the flight went completely dark, it was impossible to track it electronically.

The emergency team, headed by the former crisis director of Malaysia Airlines, Fahd Sharuji, contacted and requested Thailand, Hong Kong, and Vietnam to try and establish contact with MH370. After five hours of no contact, the emergency team knew that something had gone way too wrong. The news of the disappearance became public; every major television channel was covering the news, social media started to blow up with theories, and the family members of those on board were left clueless. Even after four days, the case remained unsolved, and the Boeing 777 was not found. Several groups started to emerge who studied the case and tried to come up with a conclusive explanation. The course of the study completely changed when the Malaysian government officially announced that the plane had turned back over to the Malaysian peninsula. The South China Sea operations were stopped.

The government received the data from Inmarsat, a satellite communication service, after tracing a satellite terminal from the plane that communicated with the satellite device located in the central Indian Ocean. The data indicated a broad location range within which the flight could have been when it made contact with the satellite. The service provided by Inmarsat focused on satellite communication for planes when they were beyond the available radar system. MH370 continued to be detected by the satellite up to six hours after all communications were turned off. The Inmarsat data indicated two possibilities: either the plane headed north and landed in one of the Central Asian countries, or it went south into the Southern Indian Ocean and crashed after running out of fuel.

The disappearance of MH370 was now considered a criminal case, and the home flight simulator used by the pilot, Zaharie, was taken for investigation. Meanwhile, the engineers at Inmarsat concluded after intricately studying the data that the flight had headed south. The information was passed to the Malaysian government, and they focused on searching the southern Indian Ocean for the debris of MH370. All this while, the families of the passengers were hopeful that maybe their relatives were alive in some corner of the world, but when the government announced that the plane had crashed in the ocean, the families knew it was all over.

The common people were extremely disappointed in the Malaysian government for their inactivity in searching for the missing flight. They had declared 239 people dead without conducting a thorough search. The constant change in their statement further infuriated the public. There were several doubts regarding the statement made by the government, and no one was there to clarify the doubts.

What Were The Theories Proposed That Explained The Disappearance Of MH370?

At a time when the government was not doing enough and the families needed answers to their questions, people with varied expertise started working on the case independently. An independent group was formed, and an ex-member of the group, journalist Jeff Wise, proposed the theory that pilot Zaharie Ahmad Shah was responsible for the plane crash. He was confident that such a well-planned execution could only be conducted by someone well-versed in the system, and Zaharie was a seasoned pilot. According to his theory, Zaharie started to execute his plan once he had crossed the Malaysian air space and was in the gray zone. He pictured that Zaharie must have asked his co-pilot to bring him some refreshment, and as he stepped out, Zaharie locked the cockpit. He then turns off all the electronics to remove the plane from human radar. He then heads back to the Malaysian peninsula, and while doing so, he realizes that he needs to be in complete control of the plane, so he depressurizes the cabin. Zaharie’s oxygen generator is way more sophisticated than the passengers’, and he survives until the very end and flies the plane to the southern Indian Ocean. The plane crashes once it runs out of fuel. Jeff Wise believed that it was a planned mass murder-suicide conducted by Zaharie Ahmad Shah. But Jeff contradicts his theory by stating that it was strange that Zaharie took six hours to commit the mass murder-suicide, considering he could have done so in the first few hours. Florence De Changy, an author and investigative journalist, studied Zaharie’s life and concluded that there were no reasons to hold Zaharie responsible for the mishap.

Jeff Wise came up with a second theory after the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 case became prominent. The flight that took off from Amsterdam was shot down near the Russian border, over Ukraine, and Wise started to connect the two cases, and he concluded that the disappearance of MH370 was the work of the Russians. After going through the Inmarsat report, Wise noticed that there was a paragraph that discussed how the satellite device was initially turned off when all communications were turned off but were later turned on again. This made Wise wonder if the Inmarsat data could be trusted, considering that someone had knowingly turned the device back on to mislead those searching for the plane. He further learned that the device that was turned on was not accessible to the pilot since it was present in the main equipment center. His doubt became firm when he discovered that the main equipment center was under an unlocked hatch in the first-class cabin, under a piece of carpet. Therefore, it was essentially accessible to anyone.

According to his second theory, the three Russian passengers who had boarded the flight were involved in its disappearance. Since Russia was in the news after it invaded Crimea, he believed they did it to divert attention. He imagined that the plane had been hijacked by the Russians. Two of the Russian passengers created a ruckus in the washroom area to grab the attention of the cabin crew while the third member entered the electronics bay. He then goes ahead and plugs into the computer of the flight control system of the plane. The Russian agent then turns off the visibility of the plane and makes it disappear from the air traffic controller’s radar system. He takes control of the direction of the plane and heads it over to the left. After changing the course of the plane, the Russian agent depressurizes the aircraft and cuts off the emergency oxygen systems of the pilot. After turning the flight towards the northwest, he intentionally altered the Inmarsat data to make it look like the plane had headed south, whereas it went to the north. The plane was then flown to the deserts of central Kazakhstan.

After Wise laid out his second hypothesis in public, he faced massive backlash, especially from the Independent Group, since they were certain that the plane went south, and that the data could not be tampered with as easily as Jeff Wise suggested. Inmarsat was quite surprised by Wise’s suggestion since it was the first time that the Inmarsat data was used to locate a flight, and it was simply strange that the hijackers predicted such a possibility even though there was no history to support their activities. Jeff Wise had suggested in his theory that a hijacker flew the plane to Kazakhstan from the electronic bay, something that was logically impossible to do.

What Was Florence de Coigny’s Theory? Does the MH370 Continue to Remain Unfound?

A flaperon from a Boeing 777 was found on La Reunion Island, and later several pieces were found by adventurer Blaine Gibson. The discovery of the debris caught the attention of Florence De Changy. The Malaysian government soon confirmed that the part of the wing that was found, in fact, belonged to MH370. The debris confirmed that the Inmarsat data was correct and that MH370 had headed to the southern Indian Ocean and crashed. Gibson followed the instructions of the oceanographers he contacted and headed to Mozambique in the hopes of finding more debris. Within twenty minutes of searching the sandbank, Gibson found debris. The Malaysian government admitted that the debris found by Gibson was, in all likelihood, part of MH370. While it was thrilling for Gibson, many doubted his story. Jeff Wise tried to connect him with his Russian theory due to his past Russian connection, while Ghyslain found it quite unbelievable that he alone was able to retrieve so many pieces of the missing aircraft within two hours of heading to the beach and found it even more surprising that there were English media outlets to cover his news.

Florence pointed out that the Australian report on the debris found by Gibson stated that it was “highly likely” to be from MH370. Indicating that it was a possibility, but there was no confirmation. It was only the flaperon that was confirmed to be part of MH370. She started studying the flaperon, and from an inside source, she found out that it was missing its ID plate. The ID plate is a metallic part that is attached to the parts of the aircraft, and it is expected to sustain all kinds of damage. The ID plate could only be missing if it was deliberately removed while dismantling a plane. Several serial numbers found on the flaperon were sent to match the records. Out of the twelve serial numbers sent for investigation, only one matched with MH370. She further added that there was no other proof, apart from the Inmarsat data, that the plane flew to the southern Indian Ocean. She found it strange that none of the countries over which MH370 flew could produce any radar image of the plane. What further added to the strangeness of it all was the fact that the plane had flown over the Australian air base at Butterworth. She is perplexed as to how a commercial Boeing 777 flew over an air base with no interceptions or alerts. She points out that during the time when MH370 disappeared, there had been two major military exercises in the South China Sea involving the US. Therefore, even with a heavy military presence, she found it impossible to believe that a Boeing 777 was lost unless it was purposefully done.

Florence goes on to further state in the documentary series that she studied the Inmarsat website and learned about their allegiance with the United States Government. She was confident that the data provided by Inmarsat was to cover up something related to the United States. She believed that MH370 never took a U-turn and that the real story unfolded somewhere in the South China Sea. She then collaborated with Cyndi of the Tomnod group, who had stated at the very beginning of the case that she had noticed debris in the South China Sea via the satellite images that were uploaded on the platform. Not only that, there was the testimony of an oil rig worker who stated that he had seen a fire in the sky that night, along with the Cathay pilots who saw a large debris field.

When Florence tried to understand the purpose of the coverup, she studied the cargo list and found that 2.5 tons of electronics, including lithium batteries, walkie-talkies, and such, were being carried in the plane. What caught her attention was that this cargo was brought in under escort and was loaded onto the flight without being scanned. She assumed that maybe the cargo was carrying highly sensitive US technology in the field of surveillance that China wanted to acquire. She assumed that when the US found out about the cargo MH370 was carrying, two of the US ASWACS planes tried to interrupt the flight. The ASWACS planes were known for their jamming technology, and they used it to remove MH370 from the radar. She imagined that the US military had requested that Zaharie land the plane so that they could inspect the cargo, but he had refused. They had no other choice but to blow up the plane over the South China Sea, either with a missile strike or by midair collision. While Florence is confident about her theory, many dismiss it due to a lack of facts and data. Gibson states that if Florence’s theory were true, there would have been debris all across the South China Sea and the Gulf of Thailand, but nothing was found there. He added that Florence’s theory was essentially dismissing the little data and evidence that was collected in the case.

After two years and ten months, the government of Malaysia stops all its efforts to find MH370. The search had drained an extreme amount of resources, and they decided to only continue if they found any further evidence. After four years and four months, the Malaysian investigative team released an official report of the investigation, which clearly states that the pilot was found to be not involved in the incident and that, ultimately, the investigation remains inconclusive. While the Malaysian investigation is over, Ghyslian continues to build the case by gathering evidence in France. There continues to be enough reason to believe that there was some external interest that led to the disappearance of MH370, but it remains an unsolved case. It is important to find MH370 for the families of the passengers since, even after nine years, they never got closure. They could not bury their loved ones, and they did not get the opportunity to understand what happened to their families in the last few minutes of their lives. By bringing together family members, theorists, experts, and Malaysia Airlines employees, the Netflix documentary series “MH370: The Plane That Disappeared” tries to bring together the logical, emotional, and theoretical aspects of the case.

“MH370: The Plane That Disappeared” is a 2023 Documentary series streaming on Netflix.

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Srijoni Rudra
Srijoni Rudra
Srijoni has worked as a film researcher on a government-sponsored project and is currently employed as a film studies teacher at a private institute. She holds a Master of Arts degree in Film Studies. Film History and feminist reading of cinema are her areas of interest.

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