On March 8, 2014, less than an hour after departing the Kuala Lumpur International Airport on a routine flight to Beijing, Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 blipped off the surveillance radar, never to reemerge. In the days that followed, the Boeing 777 aircraft was declared missing. Its 227 passengers and 12 crew were presumed dead. In the months that followed, investigators, foreign aviation authorities, and a noisy congregation of journalists, theorists, and science pundits worked to untangle the mystery of the missing plane.
A year later, the plane has still not been found, but that hasn't stopped major media from speculating the most likely reason for its vanishing—much of it is well reported, and perhaps drags us closer to the real answer. The best pieces, starting just days after the disappearance, are below:
By Sean Flynn, GQ
From the piece: "If the loss of MH370 was implausible—when a hundred-dollar phone can pinpoint its position, how could a $269 million aircraft get lost?—then the reason for that loss, in the ether of unverifiable speculation, could be equally implausible. The blankness of the investigation became an enormous canvas upon which any fear, rationally considered or raving lunacy, could be sketched into a workable, and not disprovable, theory. Ten percent of Americans, according to a CNN poll, believe the disappearance of an enormous aircraft involved nothing more complicated than an alien abduction."
The Political Mystery of Malaysia Flight 370
By Amy Davidson, The New Yorker
Published March 13, 2014
From the piece: "The families waiting at the airports are, as always, left to test the mechanisms of transparency, accountability, and press freedom in their own countries or someone else’s. They are like desperate dissidents who really don’t care if they get in trouble for shouting out unwelcome questions or calling a powerful man a liar. What more can they lose? When they stare at maps, what lines, beyond borders, do they see?"
A Routine Flight, Till Both Routine and Flight Vanish
By Philip P. Pan and Kirk Semple, The New York Times
Published March 22, 2014
From the piece: "People familiar with the calls, describing them for the first time, said they were calm, even laconic. The pilots trying to reach the airliner had no reason to believe it had suffered anything more than an ordinary radio malfunction.
But those initial attempts to find a plane in the skies would soon evolve into an urgent multinational search operation spanning land and sea in two hemispheres. They signaled the start of what has become perhaps the most perplexing case in modern aviation — one that investigators say may take years to solve, or could remain a mystery forever."
How Crazy Am I to Think I Actually Know Where That Malaysia Airlines Plane Is?
By Jeff Wise, New York Magazine
Published February 23, 2015
From the piece: "The MH370 obsessives continued attacking the problem. Since I was the proprietor of the major web forum, it fell on me to protect the fragile cocoon of civility that nurtured the conversation. A single troll could easily derail everything. The worst offenders were the ones who seemed intelligent but soon revealed themselves as Believers. They’d seized on a few pieces of faulty data and convinced themselves that they’d discovered the truth. One was sure the plane had been hit by lightning and then floated in the South China Sea, transmitting to the satellite on battery power. When I kicked him out, he came back under aliases. I wound up banning anyone who used the word 'lightning.'"
Malaysia Airlines Flight 370: From Mundane to Mystery
By Euan McKirdy, CNN
Published March 3, 2015
From the piece: "Communications registered nothing out of the ordinary--transcripts reveal ordinary chatter until that final handoff: 'Good NIght Malaysian Three Seven Zero.'
Then a deafening silence that has lasted a year."
To Explain Missing Malaysia Airlines Flight, ‘Rogue Pilot’ Seems Likeliest Theory
By Michael Forsythe and Keith Bradsher, The New York Times
Published March 5, 2015
From the piece: "But the 'rogue pilot theory,' as investigators call it, has emerged as the most plausible explanation among several. Many, but not all, of the investigators and experts who have reviewed the limited evidence say Mr. Zaharie, or perhaps the co-pilot, Fariq Abdul Hamid, is the likeliest culprit, though they caution that the evidence is limited and circumstantial, and that the theory is full of holes, like lack of a motive."
My Crazy Theory About MH370 Went Viral Around the World. Here’s What I’ve Learned Since.
By Jeff Wise, New York Magazine
Published March 6, 2015
From the piece: Of course, the real purpose of publishing the piece in New York was to prove to my wife that I hadn’t wasted the last eight months of my life on sheer folly. Once, she’d told me there was a 5 percent chance my theory was right; later, she’d revised that downward to zero percent. This afternoon, I asked her what she thought the odds were that the Russians really had taken the plane.
'I don’t know,' she said.
Which, I think, is actually the most reasonable answer."
Amy Schellenbaum is the Digital Editor of Travel + Leisure. Follow her on Twitter at @acsbaum.