How does a Boeing 777 airplane, with 227 passengers and 12 crew members, vanish off the face of the earth? It’s a question that many people now, nine years later, are justifiably asking about Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. It’s one of aviation's most puzzling, frustrating, and macabre mysteries. Traveling by airplane is grounded in this comforting foundation: "planes go up, and planes go down” (a sentiment echoed a few times in the Netflix documentary MH370: The Plane that Disappeared).
We know specific facts from this case that are for sure. MH flight 370 embarked on a routine flight from the Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Malaysia to Beijing in the early hours of March 8th, 2014. As the plane crossed into Vietnamese territory, captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah signed off with a good night before the aircraft was handed off. It’s not shortly after that the plane’s electronic system goes completely dark, and it’s just..gone.
What commences is a frantic search for clues to find where the plane is and the people inside it. A compelling part of director Louise Malkinson’s three-part documentary is the archival and accounts from the families missing family members during that period. We’re talking about mothers, fathers, and children who didn’t get to their destination with no plausible explanation for why that happened. Those left behind are justifiably upset over the lack of answers – a theme that is given the proper time to show.
When you have so little tangible evidence, unfortunately, that leaves room for the most absurd conspiracy theories to fill that space. MH370 highlights people who seemingly have good intentions for finding answers. In particular, a collection of super sleuths called The Independent Group poured over the minuscule data they had to find the most likely possibility. Florida photographer Cyndi Hendry within a group called the Tomnoders, poured over millions of high-resolution shots to claim they saw debris within the South China Sea (the visuals were noted to be inconclusive).
A small amount of satellite data from British company Inmarsat states the plane has unsuspectingly veered off towards the Indian Ocean and possibly crashed there. However, a multi-country collation toured up and down the opposite crash site and found nothing.
So, what happened? The documentary bets on presenting three different theories which, quite frankly, show how minacious time passing can be to the truth (or lack thereof). The first has to deal with captain Shah himself, and this possibly resulted from a long-planned suicide mission. A flight simulator in his house only added to the confusion, but many people attested to this character – so this school of thought seemed farfetched at best.
The following two seem to implicate that different countries had something to do with the disappearance. First, aviator journalist and author Jeff Wise stated his belief that Russian agents hijacked the plan within a cavalcade of events, including the invasion of Crimea and MH17. Yet another Malaysian Boeing 777 being shot down by the country. It feels more action movie than a reality. Another comes from Le Monde journalist Florence de Changy who believes that the United States possibly shot down the plane – to stop unmarked electronics from getting to China. This collides with a similar belief Ghyslain Wattrelos, whose wife and two children on board the flight holds.
MH370 has people that slightly push back on how farfetched an international cover-up could be. It even takes some time to show why people can believe in such things. The families are getting little information from the Malaysian government or some leads from Blaine Gibson, who has the uncanny ability to find pieces of wreckage from the flight.
Sadly, this situation may end up being another unsolved mystery. While MH370: The Plane that Disappeared expands upon these theories, it also (almost accidentally) invalidates them simultaneously. If anything, this documentary shows the pain that comes with the unknown. One surviving family member describes possible wreckage being found in Madagascar as re-opening the door to sadness. People deserve answers – ones that this documentary is no closer to uncovering.