The missing Malaysia Airlines flight 370 was hijacked on the orders of Vladimir Putin and secretly landed in Kazakhstan, an expert has claimed in a wild new theory.
Jeff Wise, a U.S. science writer who spearheaded CNN's coverage of the Boeing 777-200E, has based his outlandish theory on pings that the plane gave off for seven hours after it went missing, that were recorded by British telecommunications company Inmarsat.
Wise believes that hijackers 'spoofed' the plane's navigation data to make it seem like it went in another direction, but flew it to the Baikonur Cosmodrome, which is leased from Kazakhstan by Russia.
However Wise admits in New York Magazine that he does not know why Vladimir Putin would want to steal a plane full of people and that his idea is somewhat 'crazy'.
'If Russia has the savvy to plan an insanely complex special operation, they also have a track record of implementing such schemes,' Wise wrote on his website.
'Kazakhstan lacks the means and technical savvy to carry out a sophisticated hijack, the same is not true of Russia.
'Russia is (arguably) the only country that stands apart from the West and yet is as technically advanced in the aerospace industry as the United States.'
Wise admits he does not know why Vladimir Putin would want to steal a plane full of people and that his idea is somewhat 'crazy'.
'Maybe he wanted to demonstrate to the United States, which had imposed the first punitive sanctions on Russia the day before, that he could hurt the West and its allies anywhere in the world,' Wise wrote in New York Magazine.
'Maybe what he was really after were the secrets of one of the plane's passengers.
'Maybe there was something strategically crucial in the hold.
'Or maybe he wanted the plane to show up unexpectedly somewhere someday, packed with explosives.
'There's no way to know.'
Wise also noted there were three Russian men onboard the flight, two of them Ukrainian passport holders.
The theory follows a new documentary that claims MH370 was deliberately flown off course by someone in the cockpit.
Aviation disaster experts analyzed satellite data and discovered - like the data recorded by Inmarsat - that the plane flew on for hours after losing contact.
Careful examination of the evidence has revealed that MH370 made three turns after the last radio call, first a turn to the left, then two more, taking the plane west, then south towards Antarctica.
According to Malcolm Brenner, a world's leading expert in the causes of aviation disasters, those turns 'strongly suggest' someone in the cockpit deliberately flew MH370 off course.
'This accident has caught the attention of the world in a way I have not seen in a forty-year career in aviation,' Mr Brenner says.
The claims are being made in a new National Geographic documentary out next month where Mr Brenner and a team of experts try to solve the mystery of MH370.
This follows confident claims by the Australian co-ordinator of the search that the doomed jetliner will be found within the next few months.
As the current search for the Malaysia Airlines plane is set to wrap up by the end of May, Australian Transport Safety Bureau Commissioner Martin Dolan said he was hopeful his team would unearth the wreckage by then, News.com.au reported.
But the Joint Agency Co-ordination Centre is remaining tight lipped about the issue, saying the Chinese, Malaysian and Australian governments would be assessing what to do next.
Flight MH370 vanished on March 8, 2014 while travelling from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board.
No trace of the jet has been recovered since then but Mr Dolan believes his team are close to discovering the wreckage.
'I don't wake up every day thinking 'This will be the day' but I do wake up every day hoping this will be it, and expecting that sometime between now and May that will be the day,' Commissioner Dolan told News Corp.
'It's been both baffling and from our point of view unprecedented - not only the mystery of it, but also on the scale of what we're doing to find the aircraft.
'As we keep on pointing out, we don't have a certainty only a confidence that we'll find the missing aircraft.'
The search for MH370 has so far been fruitless, with the crash site initially thought to be in the South China Sea or Gulf of Thailand.
But search efforts were then redirected to the southern part of the Indian Ocean.
This late start meant any trace of the wreckage on the surface of the ocean floor would have sunk and it is thought some of the debris would have appeared on the shores of Sumatra in Western Indonesia.
So far, they have been unsuccessful in tracking down any piece of the aircraft but experts were trying to predict its floating patterns to locate the wreckage site by considering 'how the aircraft would've collided with the water'.
The Joint Agency Co-ordination Centre, which, headed by Australia, is conducting the search says that so far the underwater operations have scoured 22,000 square kilometres of the ocean bed, equalling around 36 per cent of the priority search area.
It is estimated that if there are no delays with vessels, equipment or from the weather, the underwater search will be mostly finished some time in May.
The 'Go Phoenix' supply ship has remained in the area, 2,500km to the south west of Perth, western Australia, but three vessels involved in the underwater search have this week suspended operations to return to port in Australia for scheduled visits.
Despite months of searching in the area, there have been no sightings of debris on the surface or any clues that the aircraft is lying on the sea bed in region covered so far.
25 February 2015