Sarawak Report has obtained a preview of the latest, ground-breaking book on the world’s greatest airline mystery, the alleged vanishing of MH370,
The Disappearing Act, which hits the shelves on the eve of the 7th anniversary of the plane’s extraordinary disappearance between KL and Beijing in the early hours of 8th March 2014, provides shocking but compelling new conclusions about what happened.
Jumbo Jets don’t just disappear explains the author Florence de Changy, who was one of the journalists on the spot at the time (for the French paper Le Monde) and has doggedly followed up all the leads and the evidence over the ensuing years. The result is a comprehensive and detailed account that reads like a thriller and destroys all the conventional explanations and official statements by the Malaysian authorities.
What emerges from the fog of confusion that prevailed throughout the extended drama surrounding the so-called ‘missing’ plane is one clear evidential thread, which is that authorities across the world consistently united to withhold basic information about what really happened while allowing the public to be deceived by misinformation that should have been discredited immediately.
Her shocking analysis, therefore, is that Malaysia engaged in what became a massive global cover-up to hide the true circumstances of a catastrophic mishap that threatened world peace and stability. That was the backdrop and explanation for the bumbling, secretive, inconsistent behaviour and storylines put out by Malaysian ministers and authorities at the time and the almost total clampdown that then took place to hide the actual available evidence.
In particular, all the open source information, such as satellite records, cockpit recordings and numerous official records and reports as well as civilian and military radar data have been put under lock and key for this particular event and also this particular area of the planet during the relevant period, says the journalist. Furthermore, contemporary images and news reports from the immediate aftermath of the disappearance were shortly after pulled from the internet as in the days, weeks and months following the plane’s disappearance relevant authorities across the world appear to have collaborated to deceive the public with information that pointed elsewhere.
Unravelling the story day by day and hour by hour with dispassionate detail, De Changy demonstrates how governments, particularly Malaysia, defied the experts by endorsing a series of complete red herring theories about the supposed changed flight path of the plane. They even on occasion planted and promoted evidence later demonstrated to be plainly false.
Meanwhile, solid reports and evidence can be seen to have been deliberately ignored and suppressed of a crash scene, debris and even bodies (according to two separate MHists, a term coined by the author) being collected from the very position the plane was last recorded flying – over the South Chine Sea, a highly sensitive and militarised zone in which a major three country military exercise (US-Singapore-Thailand) was just about to get underway as the catastrophe unfolded.
The book makes for a detailed but thrilling read as the journalist unravels the story of what actually seems to have happened compared to what was being reported and presented to the public through the spotlight of world news.
Much of what is included in this latest narrative has only emerged from the reports and investigations produced long after most of the world had ceased to follow this astonishing event. It means much of the material de Changy is able to evaluate now was not available at the time when the world public was following the breathless news reports and painfully expensive but fruitless searches in the South Indian Ocean.
And her conclusion? De Changy says MH370 was never found by the multi-million dollar expeditions sponsored mainly by Australia in this vast expanse of ocean, because the plane was never there.
A convincing raft of credible experts are quoted discounting the prevalent theory endorsed by world governments (particularly Malaysia) that the plane turned west then south. De Changy demonstrates that not a shred of hard evidence has been substantiated to uphold the ‘ping’ theory first put forward some days after the incident by a UK based satellite company Inmarsat (whose main client, she points out, was the United States Government).
“It was an article originally by the Wall Street Journal that put forward this radical suggestion that the plane continued to fly for several hours. At first, the main news organisations like CNN reported that their best aviation experts said it simply wasn’t true. I also have a confidential email where a MAS employee states that both Boeing and Rolls Royce told the airline that this news was “false”.
They had simply no evidence of such a flight path. It was only after the White House supported this weird scenario at one of their press conference that everyone started falling in line. Malaysia, to its credit, resisted that theory for a few days.
Yet, suddenly, the whole world started to look in the Southern Indian Ocean and stopped looking along the actual flight path of the plane, which was the most obvious crash zone”
Florence de Changy told Sarawak Report.
The journalist has meanwhile compiled a dossier of evidence showing that contrary to that theory there is copious evidence of sightings and debris found and collected in the sea where the Vietnamese air traffic control was last recorded mentioning to their Malaysian counterparts that the “plane [MH370] is landing“, at 2:38am.
That stunning message, which was transcribed in the official report into the incident published in 2015 remains recorded in black and white. The official report also records the last position being downloaded by the plane as soon as the satcom started working again at 2.25 am, and it locates the plane along the coast of Vietnam, fast approaching the Chinese airspace.
A corroborating Mayday message, sent at 2:43am by the plane, requesting “immediate landing” and stating that “the cabin is disintegrating” had been published and circulated in the early hours of the 8th, well before the official narrative had been articulated.
But this 2:43 am Mayday message, picked by a US plane based in the Thai base of U-Tapao and relayed by the US authoritites to Malaysia, was soon branded “fake” and all traces of it disappeared except on some Taiwanese and Chinese media (where it is still available).
It was only later, De Changy told Sarawak Report, that she got a crucial break:
It’s only when I received evidence from Vietnam that this Mayday had been heard by another plane, whose pilot spoke to the local press the next day, that I finally got the proof that the Mayday call was genuine and that the official records of the Air Traffic control announcing “the plane is landing” were original too.
This proved beyond doubt that the disaster took place around that time and in that region, a very sensitive zone, along the north-east of Vietnam and close to the Paracel Islands and the Yulin Naval base on the Chinese Hainan Island.
Indeed, The jumbo jet could not have physically banked the turn that Inmarsat describes, to begin with according to experts who spoke to De Changy. There are also other under-reported placements of MH370 showing it continued on its original flight-path after it is supposed to have altered west then south.
Significantly, airplanes in the vicinity reported detecting a so-called ‘Tango’ call from MH370 – that is the code alert warning a plane has been hijacked and it would have been put out by the pilot. Another passing plane, alerted by the Vietnamese traffic control reported it made contact with the cockpit for a few seconds and could hear muffled sounds before losing the connection.
Yet, to De Changy it seemed no proof or arguments could change the established Indian Ocean narrative adhered to by governments across the world.
“The investigation really struggled to try and recreate the extraordinary turn the plane was supposed to have done. It was just beyond the capabilities of a B-777 but they needed the plane to perform such an extreme turn to make the rest of the evidence (the Inmarsat pings) work… It’s all very far-fetched.
We have heard very little of the ‘Tango’ signal that the pilots were able to put out from MH370 – that is the code alert that you trigger as a pilot when your plane has been hijacked. But another pilot of MAS mentioned it in a local article the next day and the Malaysian police has interviewed several pilots who mentioned the fact that the Tango code had been activated. This shows that a hijacking of sorts was taking plane and the communications of the plane were being tampered with.
Another passing plane, alerted to the radar disappearance by the Vietnamese traffic control was able to make contact with the cockpit for a few seconds and could hear muffled sounds before losing the connection. The progressive way the ATCs have lost the signal of the plane is another sign that the plane was like progressively cloaked. I was so relieved when I found out how !”
De Changy also goes to considerable lengths to debunk what she says has been a cruel and deliberate attempt to blame and vilify the pilot, Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shad, a man no longer in a position to defend himself. The stories of an unbalanced man, whose personal life had collapsed are all easily proven to be fabricated she says. A close analysis of his final hours shows his wife had not walked out on him as reported, nor was he a deranged political groupie, but rather all evidence points to his record as a cheerful and steady pilot.
Apparent leaks claiming Zaharie’s flight simulator showed he performed earlier ‘practice runs’ of the murderous flight path into the Indian Ocean identified by Inmarsat’s supposed sonic ‘pings’ cannot be true argues the journalist, simply because a simulator demands that a known destination code must be programmed into any virtual flight – and there are no destination airport codes in the middle of the South Indian Ocean that could have been used.
Quite apart from that, Zaharie’s simulator had been broken for some time before the crash and the pilot had been unsuccessfully attempting to repair it.
A family has been traumatised by the attacks on the pilot the journalist opines, as have the families of over 200 passengers who overwhelmingly feel that they have been kept callously in the dark about what happened and had their intelligence insulted by the unbelievable and changing stories put out in place of clear and truthful evidence.
The full history of those deception efforts is steadily unravelled in course of the book. De Changy doesn’t hold back in pointing towards certain suspicious personalities, whom she says clearly muscled in to gain the attention of the media melee only to throw false leads into the general coverage – leads that were then eagerly seized upon by various authorities, most particularly the prime minister’s cousin, the transport cum defence minister Hishamuddin Hussein, who was in charge of matters in Malaysia.
These included a flaperon and other debris in Reunion, which had been mysteriously but conveniently parted from their ID plates and other similar finds by ‘lucky’ beachcombers in Mozambique and Madagascar, which once again proved impossible to confirm were from the missing plane, but if genuine ought to have been.
Yet, in each case Hishamuddin, whom De Changy slams for what she depicts as a totally inadequate, contradictory and evasive handling of the crisis, leapt in to consolidate much vaguer corroboration by authorities in Australia, the US and France, by claiming such items provided solid proof of the theory of southern journey by the aircraft.
Meanwhile, de Changy reports on copious sightings of debris – some with clear Malaysian Airline markings – spotted by satellite combers over the South China Sea instead which were being ignored.
Given the weight of her evidence and her definitive de-bunking of the southern story (she questions a suspiciously hopeless multi-million dollar wild goose chase by Australia into the Southern Ocean) De Changy braves her own compelling conclusion as to what happened that fateful night.
The shameful context for Malaysia is its known status as a hub for terrorism and crossroads for contraband thanks to ‘boleh’ culture – meaning scrutiny and security can be bought off for the right price.
MH370, for example, contained a massive cargo described as ‘fresh mangosteens’ in its hold bound for Beijing. Yet, this was not the season for mangosteens and upon investigation De Changy discovered that the stated source of the fruit on the carnet is not a region where the fruit is even grown.
No action was taken by the Malaysian authorities to pursue the matter. However, on investigation the journalist discovered that similar ‘mangosteen’ cargoes were being regularly transported throughout the year, suggesting forbidden trafficked goods (endangered/prohibited species?) were being routinely masqueraded in this way as they passed through KL to China. In fact, De Changy found that KLIA had long been identified by several NGOs as a major air hub for illicit trade between Africa and China.
However, it is an even more suspicious and unusual cargo that takes de Changy’s ultimate attention with regard to MH370, namely a vast 2.5 ton cargo of ‘Motorola’ equipment that was escorted onto the plane at the last minute on that night without a single security check being made.
According to investigations the load had been transported that day from Penang under a highly unusual security escort (supervised by an unidentified Chinese manager).
The load was stated to contain electronics equipment, despite its unusual size and great weight. Yet, the crate was never scanned on the grounds that it was simply too large to fit through the equipment at the airport. Nevertheless, in defiance of all safety risks and aviation rules, the huge cargo was placed unchecked onto the plane.
It wasn’t the only security slip, airport CCTV footage exclusively viewed by de Changy shows, that at least one booked in passenger (a young Chinese male) was seen to extract themselves unchallenged from the departure lounge thereby failing to board the plane. Two muscular looking Ukranians travelling on false EU passports were also permitted on board.
In consequence, De Changy the concludes that theories that highly sensitive contraband was on the flight and the key to this disaster are the most likely to be correct. Items destined for delivery in Beijing, which represented a potential catastrophic loss of secret technology and was only discovered to be on board after the aircraft had taken off:
“The ‘Motorola’ equipment was loaded so as to be first off the plane. Because it was the time when the US were leaving Afghanistan with mountains of equipment, people have speculated that the plane was carrying some American spy equipment, either stolem by Chinese or destined to be used in Beijing by the US that they later realised the Chinese were ready to intercept. A lot of clues point to a failed interception mission in view of cargo confiscation that went SNAFU (Situation Normal all F* up)” says de Changy.
Whichever scenario, the journalist is certain that shortly after take-off several parties became frantic to abort the flight with consequences that proved embarrassing for all concerned – negligence, theft and murderous incompetence having been displayed on several sides. For the full details behind this compelling argument read her book.
Meanwhile, De Changy steadily points out a simple fact acknowledged by all the experts but nonetheless spectacularly ignored during the course of the MG370 disappearance ‘mystery’.
Nowhere on the planet could a plane this size simply disappear from radar and satellite surveillance, unless it crashed or disintegrated in mid-air. Least of all would this have happened in the super-sensitive geopolitical hotspot region the plane was crossing along the South China Sea over Vietnam and into China.
Indeed, other flights nearby continued to show up on radar. Moreover, largely ignored reports of soundings from the plane were logged up to an hour after the supposed disappearance.
“For 48 hours after the incident the Malaysian authorities were reporting the last signal from MH370 as having been at 0240, which is the exact time of the interchange requesting permission to land, which was acknowledged as genuine by the later official report into the incident. However, suddenly, the Malaysians revised the timing of that last contact to over an hour earlier at 0130 and that new timing was then stuck to in all announcements as the story of the turn down south gained greater credence.”
De Changy records that far from being under-provided in terms of radar and detection equipment this militarised region was bristling with such devices and indeed all forms of military equipment, even more than normal, given that two major military exercises were about to get underway in the region at that time – ‘Cobra Gold’ and ‘Cope Tiger’. Cobra, a three power joint exercise between the US, Thailand and Singapore was due to take place in two days time 10-13 March.
The Americans alone had at least two AWACS reconnaissance aircraft in the area, numerous fighter jets and the Seventh Fleet (including the world’s most advanced battleship, USS Pinckney, all on standby in the area.
De Changy believes that thrust into an emergency situation with a top secret and sensitive cargo an hour away from Chinese airspace a situation of sudden armed panic, turned to chaos and catastrophe.
She together with her team of expert informants agree there is only one way in which a still flying plane could disappear from radar and cease to emit signals in the manner MH370 did that night – and it was not because its transponders and other signals were switched off by the pilot, because the evidence shows that signals did not suddenly cease as has been reported by the media, but rather faded in stages.
This indicates interference, most likely by an AWACS plane which can throw a blanket around an aircraft to block out its signals.
“At that point the only entity the pilot would be able to clearly communicate with would be the AWACS command itself” she says, and if a foreign plane was instructing him to change course or land Zaharie may well have considered himself to be under hijack and refused to cooperate. This accords with the Tango signals that several passing flights picked up from MH370.
As the plane approached Chinese airspace de Changy believes the situation would inevitably have escalated and faced with the uncooperative pilots shots may have been fired from a number of sources, including defensive fire against unidentified incoming aircraft.
A hit would explain the impending disintegration warning that was the last recorded message from MH370 to air traffic controllers in North Vietnam. De Changy says it would appear Zaharie in the end attempted to ditch the aircraft in shallow seas near to the Vietnamese coast to try to save his passengers.
Hence the debris reported on beaches along the North Vietnamese coast over the following couple of days before the search turned south and Vietnam went silent on the story. Those early reports had even included a statement by the Vietnamese navy on the morning of March 8th identifying a crash site in the vicinity of Tho Chu island – a notification that was later simply withdrawn from local reports and the internet.
As ever, it is the attempt to disguise the reality of what happened – that has ended up pointing at the truth, according to the journalist. The evidence and the global cover-up suggest one thing only, that a super-power spat caused a passenger plane to be shot out of the air.
Rather than admit the appalling reality all parties agreed to lie in the full glare of the global media – they did it badly. This was especially in the case of Malaysia who managed the early weeks of the crisis says de Changy. The cover-up was so clumsy and obvious it that it was clear to journalists like herself attending press conferences at the airport day after day, that the authorities were revealing anything but what they knew to be the truth, a situation that left the frustrated families furious.
And whilst Malaysia provided confusing, limited and contradictory information day after day, the United States which possessed so much of the relevant potential information on the incident, went uncharacteristically silent. Years later the super-power continues to withhold mounds of information that would normally be shared, barely communicating on the subject of a missing Boeing 777 jumbo jet.
Despite the low key public stance, Obama stuck up an unusual close relationship with Najib in the ensuing months observes de Changy, whilst time and again the US balked at obvious opportunities to express condolences to China. The Chinese President, on the other hand, lost no opportunities to embarrass Obama by drawing constant attention to Presidents lack of comment on the subject.
Over the ensuing period de Changy notes, China exponentially increased its presence and interference into the South China Sea’s most sensitive and contested regions in a manner barely contested by the United States, which would normally have been expected to vigorously object on behalf of local allies.
The tragedy and the consequences of this ‘disappearance’ and ensuing cover-up therefore remains etched on the world in numerous ways we cannot know, whilst seven years on over 200 families still live with a personal tragedy they have been unable to put to rest.
De Changy is convinced that more witnesses will soon have the courage to speak out to put an end to the agony of the 239 families whose dear ones were onboard. Anyone with further information is invited to contact [email protected]
The full story of the investigation into MH370 and the unravelling of the unique and improbable ‘disappearance’ of MH370 by Florence de Changy can be read in her book “Disappearing Act, the impossible case of MH370″ available in good bookshops and online.