Did the Chinese accidentally shoot down Flight 370? - and other speculations

Charlie Martin writing at PJ Media has an intelligent analysis of the various scenarios of what happened to Flight 370. Charlie is an aviation buff and knows his stuff.

He dismisses most of the more popular theories, and concentrates on a little discussed notion that the plane - off course, or being flown by hijackers - crossed into Chinese air space and was accidentally shot down.

The story opens with the plot to take the plane, and the precipitating event — what Syd Field called “plot point 1″ — is when the hijackers take control. They’re now flying the plane, and they want to land successfully but don’t care about taking off again.

It turns out that arc includes a good bit of Xin Jiang province — which is where the Uyghurs live — as well as Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Pakistan. But to get to those places, you have to fly across a good bit of China.

So, there’s the flight, trying to tiptoe along the frontier to get to a -stan. No transponder, but they’re picked up by primary radar response from Chinese air defenses. CAPT Li, the officer on duty, calls COL Wang, the unit commander. “OMG there’s an unidentified” — transponder’s off, remember — “big plane crossing into our air space.”

In the U.S., we’d intercept and have a look. I’ve got no idea what the terms of engagement might be in the People’s Liberation Army Air Force, but I’m betting they are a little sensitive about unidentified aircraft coming in from the whole Vietnam/Myanmar/South China Sea area. It think it’s entirely possible that COL Wang on his own authority says “so shoot it down.” PLAAF intercepts it and shoots it down, leaving debris and bodies scattered over the terrain.

Then someone, maybe someone in Beijing, puts two and two together — possibly after someone has gotten to the debris field and found something that identifies the plane. Now what?

It’s going to be terribly embarrassing to admit to shooting down a hijacked passenger plane. It would cause everyone involved to “lose face” — and as horrible a cliché as that is, “losing face”, 丢脸 diu4 lian3, “humiliation,” is a very bad thing in China.

Let’s recall that not too long after the disappearance, “unauthorized” satellite pictures were released showing what was said to be debris. That sent searchers off for at least a half day on what turned out to be a wild goose chase.

In my thriller-movie plot, that time would have been spent sending a whole division of the People’s Liberation Army to the crash site, and policing up the debris field.

As with every other theory, it answers some questions while raising others. Charlie's analysis is based on a lot of what we know for sure about the incident, which he details nicely at the beginning of the article.  Is his theory any more or less plausible than others? In one sense, it answers more questions than some others, but it also raises some questions that make the whole scenario seem pretty far fetched. The bit about a division of PLA soldiers cleaning up the debris field is not plausible, given there would be satellites that would pick up such a massive movement of men and material. Would China take the chance of incurring the wrath of the world - and their own people - by exposing the coverup so easily?

Some interesting speculation in the comments to that post:

Personally, I think at least our Government and the Chinese know where it's at. They're not saying because they want to get them back.

In the lines of the Jethro Tull song "Princes Gate Avenue" about the SAS Raid on the Iranian's London Embassy: "Somewhere there are Brownings in a two-hand hold, cocked and locked, one up the spout. There's nothing for it but to sit and wait, for the hard men to get me out."

Keep your fingers crossed that the SAS, Delta, or their Chinese equivalents are even now ready to go and that they pull it off.

Is this one any more farfetched than others?  If the US government knows there are hostages, obviously they wouldn't jeopardize their lives by letting the kidnappers know they're on to them. But how long could a secret like that be kept? The bin Laden operation was kept from the press for months, so it's at least plausible that our government knows a lot more about the plane's disappearance than they are saying.

It will be a huge disappointment if we never find out what happened. For years afterward - just like the DB Cooper hijacking - people will come forward with their version of "the truth." But buried in some island jungle somewhere or at the bottom of the Indian Ocean, the story may be waiting to be told.

And what a story it's likely to be.

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