It’s an eerie coincidence, two Malaysian Airlines flights going down within a span of five months. MH370, the plane that vanished without a trace, may never be found, while investigations into last week’s shooting down of the second one, MH17, are still on. Incredibly, a book, Flight MH370: The Mystery, is out already about the March incident. Nabanita Sircar spoke to its author, Nigel Cawthorne, at the British Library in London. Excerpts:
How did you write the book so soon after the incident?
From the day it disappeared, it seemed to me that it was going to be an intriguing story and it certainly is, as they haven’t found it. It took me three weeks to persuade the publishers to do it and then I did it in just over two weeks.
Did you allow yourself enough time to research for something that is this serious?
Well, no other theories have developed since then. My job was to debunk theories rather than come up with any explanation. It was something that touched the whole world. I have been doing interviews in how many countries I don’t remember.
What did you base your theories on the flight’s disappearance?
I have no theory at all. Remarkably, though a number of theories have been put forward, none fits all the facts. What I have essentially done is gone through the theories and compared those and what we know, the little we know about what happened, and examined previous cases of planes that have been shot down or crashed or somehow disappeared.
“We’ll probably know the truth about MH17, but then does one know the truth about Lockerbie yet?”
In your book, you talk about the possibility of a US-Thai training drill gone horribly wrong?
I was looking through all the news reports and this came out quite early on. It was the last theory in the book, which was picked by The Sydney Morning Herald and it immediately said that I had said it was shot down by the Americans. Whereas, the book says that I do not believe in the story reported. Anyway, after that it was said around the world that I had reported but no one actually looked at the book or bothered to call me and ask.
What are the other theories that you touch on in your book?
The other theories covered include hijacking, terrorism, bombing, mechanical or structural failure, decompression, a fire in the cargo hold, pilot suicide, kidnapping, and detention in Diego Garcia.
What about some reports about Islamic extremism behind the disappearance?
There were theories but there was nobody on board that seemed to fit any terrorist profile. There were theories that there was something in the cargo that caught fire, but then why didn’t they have the time to make a mayday call, why were there strange manoeuvres going on? People also thought it was alien abduction, but I think that’s very unlikely!
What do you feel could be the most plausible, probable cause?
As I say, none of the theories fit all the facts. This is the real puzzle here. If I knew, I would phone the Malaysian government and tell them.
What do think about the tragedy of MH17?
Well again, it seems clearly plain that it was shot down but we won’t know that for some time, until proper investigation is made. The Russians are insinuating that it was shot down by the Ukranian air force, but one doesn’t know. We will probably know the truth about the crash, but then does one know the truth about Lockerbie yet?
In the case of MH17, there was the issue of the black-box and the rebels wanting to give it to Russia. Do you think it has been tampered with?
As far as I know, it is very difficult to tamper with them, and you wouldn’t have time to put a new scenario into it. You could destroy some of the evidence that was in there but you couldn’t make it say something it didn’t say already.
How do you think these two tragedies will impact air travel?
Certainly with MH370, they are changing procedures, black-boxes so that batteries last longer. If the passengers had paid an extra $10 they would have known exactly where the plane was. So all those systems are being upgraded on all airlines, so that it won’t happen again. And after MH17, I think the routings of the planes are changing so that they won’t be flying over war zones.