Malaysia Airlines flight MH 370 disappeared from radar on March 8th. The multinational search and rescue effort is reported to be the largest in history.
It seems clear that the plane should have been found by now. So, it’s time to look at some facts about the flight that some of the media is leaving out.
By now, some people may be aware that there were 20 “senior staff members” of the company Freescale Semiconductor on board Malaysian Airways flight MH 370.
Freescale Semiconductor is an Austin, TX based defense contractor. They build avionics, missile guidance systems, and other defense-related products.
20 is the number of employees on board that Freescale is willing to confirm.
Some reports claim the actual number of Freescale employees was more than that. One report claims the number was actually 70. Another claims “most of the 239 passengers” on board worked for Freescale Semiconductor in some capacity.
What is only known for sure is that 20 “senior staff” members were on the plane.
Freescale confirmed that their senior staff on board were engineers and other experts working to make Freescale Semiconductor chip facilities in Tianjin and Kuala Lumpur more efficient. The company had been streamlining facilities in Tianjin and Kuala Lumpur that are used for testing and packaging microchips.
Freescale declined to give out the names of the staff that were on the plane.
Who owns Freescale Semiconductor?
Freescale Semiconductor Ltd. is primarily owned by the Blackstone Group, which is in turn owned by billionaire Lord Jacob Rothschild. Other Freescale shareholders include the Carlyle Group.
The Rothschilds also reportedly own the Malaysian Central Bank, which has invested heavily in the Malaysian government and Malaysian Airlines.
Freescale was bought out in 2006 by Blackstone Group, Carlyle Group, TPG Capital, and Permira for $17.6 billion. It is one of the ten largest buyouts of all time.
Freescale and Blackstone have been decidedly “mum” about the employees, stating only that 12 were from Malaysia and eight were from China.
Where is the plane?
Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak previously stated that MH370 was diverted deliberately after someone on board switched off the Boeing 777’s communications systems.
Some believe the that MH370 covertly flew to Diego Garcia, a US base near the Maldives. It is a remote island in the middle of the Indian Ocean and it has a runway long enough to land a Boeing 777.
On March 8th, Flight 370 disappeared from “normal” radar and tower communications around 1:21am after making a rather sharp turn-back to the west. It was near Singapore air space.
Subsequent plots indicate the plane flew towards Checkpoint Gival, south of the Thai island of Phuket, and was last plotted heading northwest towards another checkpoint, Igrex, that would take it over the Andaman Islands and towards the Indian ocean.
According to the sources, residents of the Maldive Islands (in Kuda Huvadhoo) said they saw a “low-flying jumbo jet” around 6:15am, on the morning of March 8, 2014. They said that it was a white aircraft, with red stripes across it – which is what the Malaysia Airlines flights typically look like.
According to calculations, it would take about 5 hours to fly from Singapore airspace to Kuda Huvadhoo.
Diego Garcia is south of the Maldive Islands in the Indian Ocean.
According to the magazine Haveeru, satellite data suggests that the last “ping” was received from the flight somewhere close to the Maldive Islands and the US naval base on Diego Garcia.
Also, here’s an interesting fact about the pilot, captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah: He had a home-made flight simulator at his house, and investigators have discovered programs simulating the runways of five airports on it.
The simulation programs were based on runways at the Male International Airport in the Maldive Islands, an airport owned by the United States (Diego Garcia), and three other runways in India and Sri Lanka.
It isn’t 100% clear why the pilot would have flown to The Maldive Islands, and it isn’t 100% clear why Freescale and Blackstone have had such a low-key response.
On a different note, on April 21st members of the International Investigation Team searching for MH 370 stated they are now considering starting from scratch.
Sources within the team (based in Kuala Lumpur) told the New Straits Times that they were revisiting the possibility that the Boeing jetliner had landed somewhere else, instead of ending up in the southern Indian Ocean, west of Australia.
According to a member of the team, “The thought of it landing somewhere else is not impossible, as we have not found a single debris that could be linked to MH370.”
Update: on an interesting side note, Katherine Tee, 41, was sailing from Cochin, India to Phuket, Thailand with her husband Marc Horn, 50, when she saw what looked like a plane on fire crossing the night sky, with a plume of black smoke trailing behind it.
According to the U.K. Daily Mail, that was around the time that the MH370 vanished.