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MH370: The Plane that Disappeared – the three major theories explained

Netflix's brand new documentary is out now

mh370 netflix
Francesca Shillcock
Senior Features Writer
Updated: March 20, 2023
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If there's one thing Netflix does well, it's brilliantly gripping documentaries about real-life crimes, stories and mysteries. The streaming giant's latest offering – which has been sitting comfortably in the trending shows – is MH370: The Plane that Disappeared.

The three-part documentary delves into what happened to Malaysian Airlines flight 370 which disappeared from air traffic control's radar on 8 March 2014. The plane took off from Kuala Lumpur and was headed to Beijing but, tragically, the plane, and the 239 people on board, never landed in China.

The documentary seeks to explore the mystery and puts forward three different theories on what might have happened on that fateful day. Check out the video below to see the trailer ahead of tuning in…

WATCH: The gripping trailer for Netflix's new documentary on MH370 

Journalists, aviation experts, and investigators are clearly still striving to get to the bottom of the mystery and the documentary outlines three theories that have been put forward so far. However, the series has sparked some controversy as many are unhappy about the show giving a platform to conspiracies that have not been proven accurate. For those who are yet to tune in, we've outlined the three theories put forward in the documentary below.

Theory one: the pilot was responsible

The first point of call that government officials and experts turned to when beginning to investigate what happened was the pilot. One aviation journalist who features heavily throughout the three episodes is Jeff Wise who outlines his first theory in episode one.

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plane radar shown in cockpit© Photo: Netflix

MH370: The Plane that Disappeared is on Netflix now

The theory states that pilot Zaharie Ahmad Shah deliberately took down the plane. He states that rather than heading north to Beijing, the pilot turned the plane around and headed south, removing the oxygen from the plane by depressurising the cabin and the cockpit before eventually running out of fuel.

Jeff initially seemed convinced that this was the answer. But, there has been little evidence to prove this was the case, therefore it's not a conclusive idea. Not only that, another incident threw a curveball. This brings us to theory two…

Plane in the air© Photo: Netflix

Three mains theories were proposed in the three-part series

Theory two: the plane was hijacked

In July 2014, just four months after MH370 disappeared, a shocking update was brought to light. A second Malaysia Airlines plane, MH17, was shot down in Ukraine near the Russian border. Over 300 people were tragically killed. US Intelligence concluded it was shot by a surface-to-air missile.

The incident then brought forward the idea that MH370 was the victim of an "act of war" through hijacking. Jeff then outlines his hypothesis in episode two that international spies managed to get on board the flight before heading into the electronics bay underneath the plane where the computers that control the plane's flight system are kept.

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MH370 debris found on beach© Photo: Netflix

Debris was found in the Indian Ocean

From there, the theory continues that they were able to remotely cut the power in the cockpit, which meant that all communication from the pilot to air traffic control was lost making the plane "disappear" from radar. From there, they would have had full control of the plane and been able to tragically end its journey.

However, aviation experts then went on to pour cold water on this theory, which Jeff admitted was "farfetched." Experts stated that controlling the plane from the electronics bay would have been "impossible." This brings us to theory three…

Theory three: the plane was intercepted

This one, for us, is a little more complex. The contributors in the documentary claimed that if the plane wasn't hijacked electronically by people on the plane, nor the pilot, then another theory points toward the plane being intercepted by external forces.

Florence De Changy – a French journalist who features heavily in the documentary, put forward her main theory in episode three that it was NATO or US Air Force planes with AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control System), who potentially "jammed" MH370's communication system after picking up suspicious cargo on board.

In episode three, she states that once MH370 merged away from Malaysian airspace before reaching Chinese airspace, it was in the "no-mans-land" area, a prime opportunity for interception. From here, the AWACS supposedly swarmed the plane and ordered it to make an emergency landing but the pilot, perhaps unaware of the unregistered cargo, ignored the calls before the plane then met its fate.

This theory, however, was also debunked by experts, who claimed it was "far-fetched". 

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MH370 cockpit recreation© Photo: Netflix

The mystery remains unsolved

At this point, viewers would do well to remember that the theories are exactly that: theories. Meaning there are many loose ends and unsubstantiated ideas within each notion about what happened to the plane.

The documentary provides balance from a number of other aviation experts, data scientists, and investigators who also poured cold water on Florence's theory.

The series producer Harry Hewland explained the aims behind the documentary despite it providing no conclusive ending: "More than anything, we want to pull the hidden truths about MH370 out from the carpet under which they've been swept, and remind people that this is still a story with no ending, a mystery that hasn't been solved, that somebody out there knows more than the world has been told."

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