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Flight 370 hijacking theories: Improbability or best hope?

By Mariano Castillo, CNN
updated 10:03 PM EDT, Fri March 14, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • One theory holds that Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 landed somewhere
  • It could have been hijacked or commandeered, some say
  • For some it is a far-fetched theory, for others a grasp at hope

(CNN) -- In an incident where nothing can be ruled out, is it a surprise that some relatives of the passengers on missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 are hoping it is a hijacking?

To some it is a far-fetched conspiracy theory, and to others, it represents the only scenario that leaves open the possibility of seeing their loved ones alive.

That's how some of the families of the missing in Beijing feel.

Authorities have been unified in their preliminary conclusions that terrorism does not appear to be behind the plane's disappearance.

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The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
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Photos: The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 Photos: The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370

But no one can rule it out.

"I cannot confirm whether there is no hijacking," Malaysian Transportation Minister Hishammuddin bin Hussein said at a news conference Friday. "Like I said from the start, and I've been very consistent, we're looking at all possibilities."

As the days pass with no sighting of wreckage in the ocean, a theory taking shape is that the plane might have been landed somewhere, either by hijackers or by the pilots.

One of the clues that has complicated the search is evidence that the missing plane might have switched course drastically after its transponder stopped sending signals.

If the plane did indeed turn westward, it would have had enough fuel to have made it to India or Pakistan, CNN law enforcement analyst Tom Fuentes said.

"It had enough fuel to do that," Fuentes said. "So, what that says is, somebody was flying that plane in that direction on purpose. Whether it'd be a hijacker or the pilots themselves, someone was in control of that plane while it stayed in the air and kept flying."

James Kallstrom, a former FBI assistant director, said it's possible the plane could have landed, though he added that more information is needed to reach a definitive conclusion. He referred to the vast search area.

"You draw that arc, and you look at countries like Pakistan, you know, and you get into your Superman novels, and you see the plane landing somewhere and (people) repurposing it for some dastardly deed down the road," he told CNN's Jake Tapper. "I mean, that's not beyond the realm of realism. I mean, that could happen."

Even so, he acknowledged the difficulty of reaching firm conclusions with scraps of information that sometimes conflict.

"We're getting so much conflicting data," he said. "You veer one way, then you veer the other way. The investigators need some definitive, correct data."

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John Nance, aviation analyst for ABC World News, told CNN's Erin Burnett that any theories must be taken with a huge grain of salt until wreckage is found or someone claims that they have hostages.

"I mean, that's a far-out situation that actually we would hope for," he said.

Is there still hope that the passengers may be alive somewhere?

"You know, it's possible. It's not probable, but again, this whole thing isn't probable," Nance said.

This is what the lack of answers has opened up: an endless stream of possibilities that cannot be ruled out, no matter how unlikely they sound.

"We're going to deal without the aliens, of course. We'll discount that," commercial airline Capt. Les Abend told CNN's Don Lemon. He's skeptical about theories that a 650,000-pound plane somehow was spirited away to a hidden location.

"Where are you going to hide this thing, and how are you going to get conspirators to get on board this airplane, commandeer it and bring it to some remote place?" Abend asked. "Somebody's going to know about it."

The idea that the plane was hijacked or commandeered to a runway somewhere strikes him as far-fetched, he said.

"This borders on a conspiracy theory," CNN intelligence and security analyst Robert Baer said of the possibility that the plane landed somewhere to be used later for nefarious purposes.

But for every expert who feels this way, another sees another possibility.

Billie Vincent, a former FAA security director, said he thinks it is unlikely that the plane crashed. It's improbable that the plane flew for so many hours and then fell into the ocean, he said.

"That just doesn't make sense, which brings us around to the point that the possibility and perhaps even the probability is that the airplane was hijacked and commandeered," Vincent said. "But then you have to ask yourself: to what purpose?"

The uncertainty provides this moment where officials say there is no sign of terrorism or hijacking, yet somehow it remains the most hopeful outcome for some.

READ: Missing Malaysian plane: Could it have landed?

READ: Malaysia Airlines: The pilots of the missing plane

READ: Transponder's fate may prove key to solving Malaysia Airlines puzzle

READ: Missing Malaysia airliner: Questions and answers

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