Malaysia Airlines flight MH-370's disappearance is still a mystery despite a new book that claims to resolve the case. Image: Facebook

Florence de Changy has republished her 2016 book Vol MH 370: La disparition on the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 in a new English version called The Disappearing Act: The Impossible Case of MH370 with a new concluding chapter. 

The book, originally published in French, is billed as the “definitive work” that “at last demystifies the world’s greatest aviation secrets.” 

MH-370 was on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8, 2014, when en-route control lost contact with the aircraft. While some parts from the aircraft have been allegedly found, they showed up more than a year after the crash and their positive identification remains open to question. Thus the mystery that the book supposedly demystifies.

However, the book does no such thing. In fact, the author’s thesis – that there was some sort of conspiracy between the United States – namely the CIA and the White House – and Beijing, along with Malaysia, Vietnam and Australia, seems to be pure bunkum.  

De Changy suggests that MH-370 was approached by two US AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control System) aircraft – one on each side – that jammed its communications and then, in a botched operation, to try and get it to divert to a US-controlled airfield.

It was destroyed when the pilot failed to comply, or perhaps even respond, since this is not clear from the scenario proposed. How it was destroyed is not explained.

For the record, there are a few cases of aircraft being shot down when the pilot refused to respond to a demand either from ground control or intercepting aircraft. The most famous of these was a Korean Air Lines Boeing 747 airliner shot down by a Soviet Air Force Su-15 interceptor on September 1, 1983. 

AWACS not a radio jamming plane

Exactly why the Russians decided to shoot the plane down is far from clear and remains controversial. It is known that the Russian Air Force radioed back to base and then to Moscow asking for instructions. It is quite possible the South Korean pilots never saw the Russian fighter jet.

Ten years earlier, in 1973, a Libya airliner, Flight 114, was a regularly scheduled flight from Tripoli, Libya, via Benghazi to Cairo, but ended up over Israel. It was intercepted by two Israeli F-4 fighters. The plane refused to land and was shot down.

An AWACS plane and fighter jets. Photo: AFP/Zakaria Abdelkafi

It isn’t clear if the pilots were contacted by radio or by signaling from the fighter jets. The US AWACS, properly called the E-3A, is an airborne radar platform, not a jamming plane. 

The E-3s were built to provide long-range radar surveillance and identification of threats and to direct friendly fighter aircraft to go after the threats in a war scenario. Typically, the E-3’s orbit outside of missile range and enemy aircraft, often hundreds of miles away from the targeted area. 

Built on a modified Boeing 707 platform, the last E-3 was manufactured in 1992. However, since then the radars and computers of the E-3 have been improved, GPS has been added, and a number of additions such as Link 16 have also been integrated into the aircraft. The E-3A does not carry any armament.

If a Malaysian airliner was approached by a US fighter jet and told to follow and land at a different location, it is unlikely the pilot would resist such an order. While US-Malaysian relations were none too good in 2014 (since improved), a US fighter jet is a formidable machine. 

A hoax or a decoy

The airline pilot would have to respect any order coming from a lethal fighter jet. The notion promoted by de Changy that the airliner pilot bravely flew on and resisted US fighter planes – if that is what she thinks was there – does not make sense. Nor does her argument that it was the AWACs planes that jammed MH-370’s radios.

De Changy wants us to believe that the search for MH-370 was a sort of hoax or decoy to cover up the real crash of the MH-370 in the Gulf of Thailand or thereabouts. The alleged reason for the cover-up was that MH-370 was carrying cargo (Motorola electronics) to Beijing that was very sensitive and may have been stolen.

The US wanted to stop the aircraft from getting to its destination and tried to get the pilot to divert. When he refused, the plane was allegedly shot down (somehow). In short, the operation was allegedly bungled, but for various reasons, a number of countries, including China, were willing to conspire with the US to cover up the incident.

FILE PHOTO: Men watch Malaysia Airlines aircraft at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang, Malaysia, in this picture taken March 2, 2016.  REUTERS/Olivia Harris/File Photo
Men watch Malaysia Airlines aircraft at Kuala Lumpur International Airport, March 2, 2016. Photo: Agencies

That does not mean that everything in the book is wrong.

But the author became so convinced she was being given the runaround and that witnesses were being intimidated, that she seems to have concluded that something else was behind the loss of MH-370. Yet for all the immense detailed research that went into de Changy’s research effort, there were some glaring oversights.

For example, despite the numerous references to Motorola electronics in the cargo, the author did not ask Motorola for a detailed accounting of what was shipped by them. Instead, the author complains that Malaysian Airlines was not forthcoming about anything and was deliberately misleading the press and the families of the missing passengers.

The author rightly points out there was other cargo put on board MH-370 that surely was not what the paperwork said it was, namely mangosteens. But as de Changy also noted, smuggling stuff to China was a big business and dodgy paperwork was part of the system.

Iranians and Uighurs

Similarly, the two most important clues – two Iranians flying under false passports, and at least one alleged Uighur, did not get any attention in her narrative.

A Uighur group called the East Turkestan Independence Movement actually did take responsibility for what happened to MH-370, and claimed it was carried out by a 35-year-old Uighur man. Malaysia’s Harian Metro paper claimed the man had taken flight-simulator training in Sweden in 2005.

One would think this is a powerful claim that should have been pursued. The second clue involves the Iranians. 

It is well known there were ISIS and al-Qaeda terrorist cells operating in Malaysia. There also were Shia terrorists operating in Malaysia, which may explain why Massoud Sedaghtzadeh had fled Thailand and arrived in Kuala Lumpur on February 15, 2011, where he was arrested. There were also a number of other radical Islamist terrorists under arrest there.

ISIS has spread its wings far and wide. Photo: AFP/Mohamad Maruf/Sputnik

For the record, ISIS and al-Qaeda are Sunni Muslim radical organizations, but today we have evidence that Iran was working with these groups in order to cause trouble for “the Great Satan,” namely the United States. Their cooperation and overlap in operations in Malaysia or Thailand or elsewhere is, therefore, quite possible, especially if backed by the Iranian regime.

As I wrote at the time, “Massoud was part of an Iranian team who tried to kill Israeli diplomats in Bangkok.” Two of the team, one whose legs were blown off in a related “work accident,” were arrested. Two others, one man and one woman, escaped, as did Massoud.

Terrorist scenario

At the time of the disappearance of MH-370 in 2014, Massoud was under arrest in Malaysia and was appealing his extradition to Thailand. 

One possible theory is that the “capture” of MH-370 by a colleague of Massoud would have created a potential for a trade whereby the passengers on the plane would be released in exchange for Massoud and perhaps the two others under arrest in Bangkok. (Two additional terrorists, one the alleged bomb-maker, Norouzi Shayan Ali Akbar, and the other, a woman named Leila Rohani, are believed to have escaped and returned to Tehran.)

One of the possible reasons why Ms de Changy found the Malaysian government not forthcoming and, perhaps deceptive, could be related to a terrorist scenario. If the Malaysian government was contacted and urged to make a deal to get their passengers back, they may have tried to do so, only to find out later that the terrorists did not have the passengers in their control and that the plane was lost.

As I wrote at the time: “No government ever wants to admit it was duped, especially a government that was already in a lot of political trouble at home.”

Then Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott (6/R) with leaders of international military operations based in Australia searching for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, in front of a Royal Australian Air Force P-3C Orion search aircraft. Photo: AFP/Jason Ree

Where the plane actually ended up remains unknown and its flight path as understood by some Inmarsat calculations could be way off the mark. The report that MH-370 was seen on fire and another that the pilot may have reported that the plane was about to break up, should not be dismissed and represents useful research by de Changy. 

The author does a good job in clearing the pilot of the plane, who some suspected may have been either intending to divert the plane to some unknown final destination or who was on some kind of suicide mission. There isn’t a shred of evidence these allegations were ever true and de Changy proves that with her interviews with the pilot’s family, colleagues and friends.

It is popular these days to accuse the US government of being a sinister puppet master, even getting top Chinese leaders to go along with a cover-up that killed many of their citizens. This is a case where there is no evidence to support such a thesis.

MH-370 remains lost and The Disappearing Act does not solve the mystery.