Former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. Pic: AP.

Or maybe it was Boeing, writes Asia Sentinel’s John Berthelsen

On the night of March 8, at 1:20 Malaysian time, Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 passed from the management of Malaysian air traffic control. The pilots said good night to Malaysia and never said hello to the Vietnamese controllers who were supposed to pick them up and monitor them.

Instead, MH370, somewhere out over the South China Sea, is said to have made a steady climbing left turn up to 14,000 meters, putting the passengers to sleep, apparently for good, as it passed above the rated oxygen limit of the Boeing 777200ER, which carried 12 Malaysian crew and 227 passengers from 14 nations.

Then it dropped back to 3,700 meters, seemingly sought to duck under Malaysian radar and disappeared forever. It may well be the biggest aircraft mystery ever. There has been no flight debris and no crash site has ever been found despite what has been called the most extensive search in history. It is growing increasingly unlikely that anything will ever be found, given the currents where the plane is believed to have disappeared, deep in the Indian Ocean.

But one man believes he has an idea what happened. That is the 88-year-old former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. It was either the CIA or Boeing that did it.

In his blog, Chedet, published yesterday, Mahathir said Boeing in 2006 had received a patent for a system that, once activated, removes all control from pilots to automatically return a commercial airliner to a pre-determined landing location.

He went on to quote a 2006 article by John Croft, now a respected avionics and safety editor with Aviation Week, saying the autopilot could be interrupted either by pilot, by on-board sensors, “or even remotely by radio or satellite links by government agencies like the Central Intelligence Agency if terrorists attempt to gain control of the flight deck.”

It is normal, in delivering a theory like this, to question why either Boeing, the biggest US defense contractor and a major supplier of aircraft to Malaysia, or the Central Intelligence Agency, would wish to take control of a private airliner owned by the government of a country just about to be visited and praised by the President of the United States as a crucial ally.

Mahathir doesn’t bother to theorize what either Boeing or the CIA would get out of either kidnapping or stealing the plane. That isn’t to say either the CIA or the National Security Agency is incapable of messing around and causing mischief inside foreign governments. But the United States views Malaysia as a crucial linchpin in the effort to bring Pacific nations into the TransPacific Partnership trade agreement, which is now in difficulty.

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