Missing MH370: What actually happened?

Missing MH370: What actually happened?

BANGKOK - Nearly five days since it disappeared while en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, there is still no trace of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.

Conflicting information, false alarms over debris and confusion over the focus of the search have produced more questions than answers.

Here, we take a look at the possible scenarios being weighed up by industry experts as the world waits for clues as to the fate of the Boeing 777, which has one of the best safety records of any jet.

Theory: Explosion on board

Why: According to Malaysian authorities, the plane was cruising at 35,000 feet (11km) above sea level when it last made contact and vanished without making a distress call, pointing to the possibility of a sudden catastrophic event.

The presence on board of two suspect passengers travelling on stolen passports fuelled fears of a terrorist attack.

It was revealed Tuesday they were probably just Iranian migrants, but CIA Director John Brennan said a terror link had not been ruled out.

Other possibilities include a strike by a missile or military aircraft.

Expert View: "I don't believe it is anything to do with the serviceability or the design of the aircraft," Neil Hansford, chairman of leading Australian airline consultancy Strategic Aviation Solutions, told AFP.

"The way I see it there are three scenarios. There was a bomb on board... the aircraft was hit by a military aircraft or a rogue missile; or...the captain is locked out of the cockpit and the plane is put in a dive," he said.

Theory: Technical difficulties

Why: The sudden disappearance could also point to a technical problem that could have led to a rapid descent.

Reports from the Malaysian authorities that the jet may have made a sharp turn west before it lost contact, possibly pointing to the pilots struggling to rectify a problem, have bolstered this theory.

Expert View: "To me that (the veer) suggests there was a stall," says former Inspector-General of the US Department of Transportation and aviation lawyer, Mary Schiavo.

"That doesn't mean you lose your engines. It means that you're losing your air flow over your wings, sufficient speed to keep the plane in the air...it would lose altitude really dramatically."

She compared the possible scenario to the fate of Air France 447 - which crashed into the Atlantic Ocean in 2009 after its speed sensors malfunctioned - in an interview with Australia's ABC television.

If the plane did crash, a combination of technical difficulties and pilot error would be a likely scenario, Frost & Sullivan Asia Pacific aerospace consultant Ravi Madavaram said.

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