MH370: The Plane That Disappeared (2023) ‘Netflix’ Docuseries: Recap & Ending Explained

mh:370 the plane that disappeared

MH370: The Plane That Disappeared (2023) ‘Netflix’ Docuseries: Recap & Ending Explained: The famous saying “Truth is stranger than fiction” probably got its biggest advertisement on March 8th, 2014, due to the infamous disappearance of a Malaysian Airlines flight, known as the MH370. Before that, a plane full of passengers and crew disappearing (literally) out of thin air, and neither the aircraft nor the (presumably dead) people inside it ever being found was something that was only limited to fiction, for instance, the iconic TV show “Lost” (2004-2010).

Four years after the end of that TV show, the MH370 took off from the Kuala Lumpur airport shortly after midnight, scheduled to land in Beijing the next morning at 6.30. Pretty basic and regular stuff, except post 1.22 MYT, it wasn’t anymore. The plane went off the radar, and that was it. Since then, there have been countless investigations, conflicts of opinion, allegations, finding of debris that are supposed to be from the said plane, and of course, conspiracy theories ranging from pretty logical to absolutely ludicrous. But the plane has not been found yet.

Considering Netflix has a knack for picking riveting, sensational incidents and churning binge-worthy documentaries out of them which are always much more exciting than their fictional content, I find it sort of surprising that they waited this long to pick up something as monumental as MH370. There couldn’t have been a better date to release the new documentary than March 8, 2023, though, on the ninth anniversary of the tragedy.

As you would expect, a docu-series based on a subject of this magnitude is destined to bring a lot of attention. By attention, what I mean is freshly brewed controversies. Like most Netflix documentaries, this one is also very engaging from start to finish and has the very binge-worthy thing going around, which I believe is the primary agenda. However, how much of it is a fact and how much is not is going to remain an unsolvable debate, unsurprisingly.

MH370: The Plane That Disappeared (2023) Recap

With three almost hour-long episodes in hand, Netflix chooses to cover three major theories, which I thought was a smart approach. The first episode focuses on the theory where the pilot was responsible, the second one sheds light on a hijacking conspiracy orchestrated by the Russians, and the third one talks about an interception by the US Government. Since the theories covered here are as different as chalk and cheese, there were a lot of jarring tonal shifts. However, that didn’t take anything away from it if I am considering the watchability aspect of the series.

Like every other documentary, this series also puts a group of people in the forefront for the sake of the narrative. Before taking a deep dive, let us look at who these humans are. Jeff Wise, an American aviation journalist takes center stage in the first two episodes as both the “pilot” and “hijack” are his theories. The interception theory from the third episode comes from French journalist Florence de Changy. Other essential people in the docuseries are Intan Othman, wife of an MH370 crew member who also used to work for Malaysian Airlines; an Adventurer named Blaine Gibson; a Tomnod volunteer Cyndi Hendry; Ghyslain Wattrelos, a French businessman whose wife and two younger children was on the ill-fated plane and Danica Weeks, wife of another passenger called Paul Weeks.

Was it the pilot?

It is a regular night at the Kuala Lumpur airport, absolutely nothing is out of the ordinary. Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 takes off at 12.40 am MYT to Beijing, where it is going to land the next morning at 6.30 CST. The Boeing 777 aircraft is being captained by 53-year-old, very experienced pilot Zaharie Ahmad Shah along with his 27-year-old co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid.

At 1.19 MYT, the pilot says “Good Night” to the Malaysian Air traffic control. The flight is now going to be the responsibility of the Vietnamese Air traffic control. At 1.22 MYT, the flight can’t be seen on the Malaysian Air traffic control radar. The panic-stricken officials start looking for it and keep hitting walls. By the next morning, it has become international news. It hasn’t landed in Beijing as it should have. And it can’t be found anywhere. A commercial plane filled with 227 passengers and 12 crew has vanished just like that.

What follows is a lengthy process of search operation and investigation by a very incompetent Malaysian Government, who deliberately did not release the information that MH370 was spotted by their Military radar much after 1.22, taking a west turn to the Malacca Strait, a huge deviation from the actual path it was supposed to take.

Jeff Wise’s pilot theory is based on the deviation of the plane from its path. According to this theory, after saying the now infamous “Good Night,” Zaharie is in a sort of gray zone before the Vietnamese Air traffic control takes over the flight. Right at this point, he cleverly locks his co-pilot out of the cockpit, turns off all the electronic equipment that makes the plane visible to any outside communication unit, and then makes a hard left turn to the Malaysian Peninsula.

He depressurizes the cabin, and within fifteen minutes or so. Everyone but Zaharie is dead, as the oxygen masks don’t last more than a short period of time. The pilot, however, has a much more sophisticated mask that lasts much longer. Hence, Zaharie, now without any interruption, turns the plane to the South and keeps flying it further South on the Indian Ocean until the fuel runs out and the inevitable happens.

The reason behind the murder-suicide is not clear, though. Depression and alleged political statements are among the most prominent motives.

But what if it was not the pilot?

The theory of the pilot doing a murder-suicide gets debunked during the second episode, bringing another Malaysian flight tragedy into the equation, which happened only four months after the MH370. On July 17, 2014, while flying to Kuala Lumpur from Amsterdam, flight MH17 was accidentally shot down by Russian military forces while flying over Eastern Ukraine. Malaysian Airlines did not have a single accident for over two decades before 2014, but now two major catastrophes like these two have changed everything. People are smelling deeper conspiracies behind it. The only difference is at least the bodies of the MH17 passengers and crew can be buried while the search goes on for MH370.

Many people, including Florence de Changy and Intan Othman, refuse to blame Zaharie, who, in their humble opinion, was nothing but a decent man and an ardent pilot who would never do such a thing.

However, while the ‘pilot theory’ is debunked, new evidence further proved that the plane went down South over the Indian Ocean. This evidence is based on the satellite data shared by the British company Inmarsat, which the Malaysian Government subsequently released. MH370 being South bound theory also gets further fuelled by a group of scientists and pilots all over the world, led by Aviation expert Mike Exner.

This group of people, along with Jeff Wise, is called “The Independent group” because of their effort to find out the truth solely based on self-interest. The Independent group, however, disowns Jeff Wise when the latter comes up with his hijack theory. But before that, let us talk about another theory that dismisses the Inmarsat data as well as MH370 changing course and heading South theory.

mh:370 the plane that disappeared

What is Tomnod, and who is Cyndi Hendry?

At the time of the incident, Tomnod used a project backed by Colorado-based Satellite company DigitalGlobe where everyone could become a volunteer to identify objects and places in heightened satellite images. The company stopped crowdsourcing in 2019.

Back in 2014. Tomnod volunteer photographer Cyndi Hendry spots something that, in her opinion, is nothing but debris from a plane on the South-China sea, which falls right under MH370’s actual path. She tries to contact the Malaysian Government and tell the world through all kinds of Social media. But at this point, the Malaysian Government has already sided with the Inmarsat data and the theory based on this. And the theory puts the blame on the pilot.

The Hijack Theory

This is when things get out of hand or in the zone of a Tom Clancy novel, as described by Jeff Wise. Although the man himself labels it as just a theory, we do get to see a sort of dramatization of the hijack theory at the end of the second episode.

First, the fact. There were three passengers of Russian ethnicity in the plane, and one of them was in a first-class seat, very near to the unlocked hatch between the cockpit and first class. The man would have no trouble getting to the hatch and quickly slipping under the Electronic bay. Perhaps, he got into it, and from where he took the plane off the radar first, then falsified the Inmarsat data to make it look like the Plane going to the South. In contrast, he actually took it in the other direction, i.e., North, towards Kazakhstan, a neighbourhood country of Russia.

The fact that it is impossible to fly the plane and change the course from the electronic bay, even if someone can alter the data and completely turn off the outside world communications, is enough to debunk the theory. Still, where there is a theory, there are always believers. And the two words Russia and Conspiracy pretty much go hand in hand, after all.

MH370: The Plane That Disappeared (2023) Ending Explained

Meet Blaine Gibson, an adventurer who makes it a point to find the debris of MH370; from Islands and countries around the Indian Ocean which implies Blaine believes in the plane going South theory. He is not the first to find the debris, though, as that first happened on March 7, 2016, on Reunion island, which is an overseas region of France. However, in the subsequent years, it was Blaine who subsequently became the face of finding debris. He has even met the families and taken some of them to find debris with him.

But according to Jeff Wise’s theory, Blaine has a Russian tie-up and might as well be a “Russian spy,” and the debris he finds might just be planted in advance to add volume to the Plane going South theory. Despite the fact that Jeff Wise’s hijack theory seems pretty hard to buy, his indication at Blaine’s Russian tie-up is indeed not absolutely ludicrous.

What is the Interception?

The interception is the theory that comes from the mind of French journalist Florence de Changy. This is another conspiracy theory, not to mention, except here, the country behind it is not Russia, but the US. The foundation of the theory comes from Ghyslain Wattrelos’s meeting with two people who might be former employees of the American secret service.

So according to this theory, this is how it goes. After saying the infamous goodnight, Zaharie is flying the plane in the grey area before the Vietnamese Air traffic control takes over the communication responsibility. Right at this moment, two United States AWACS planes enter the airspace. These planes have mushroom-like radar on top of them with extraordinary jamming ability. The AWACS jams all the communication, eventually taking MH370 off all the radars. The US planes ask Zaharie to land somewhere nearby, which he declines, and continues to fly on the right path. Seeing no other way to stop the plane from entering China, the US goes ahead with midair destruction of it.

This crux of the theory is based on a mystery cargo that was loaded inside MH370 without being scanned. The US does not want China’s hand on it since it may contain superior, advanced technological surveillance equipment. This theory also gives credibility to Cyndi’s claim of finding debris in the South China sea as well.

But it might just be the pilot after all

After rigorously going through all of Zaharie’s personal possession, which includes a flying simulator, the FBI releases shocking new information that points the blame bottle towards him again. Having a flying simulator at home is very common for a pilot, but according to the FBI data, Zaharie has gone through a very similar route where the plane ends up South on the Indian Ocean. This pretty much hints at him being the culprit.

However, not everybody is ready to believe this because the FBI can’t be trusted either, as mentioned by Ghyslain. Intan also refuses to believe the former pilot is the mastermind behind everything.

What really happened to MH370?

The truth is, we still don’t know. It remains one of the biggest unsolved mysteries in the world, and we don’t know if it is going to stay like this forever or if the world will ever find MH370. Even if we believe any of the debris originated from the plane, which is completely understandable because no other plane crashes have been reported in those areas, the obvious question is, where is the plane then?

The Netflix documentary does not touch upon the other-worldly (read alien) theories and focuses more on the somewhat familiar conspiracies, which is built upon few facts. But is there a possibility of something that is out of the grasp of mankind being the reason for the disappearance of the plane? Maybe someday we will know. For the sake of all the families of the 239 souls on board, I pray for that.

Also, Read: United 93 [2006]: “Real World Situation !”

MH370: The Plane That Disappeared (2023) Links: IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes
MH370: The Plane That Disappeared (2023) Cast: David Learmount, Dennis Jones, Jeanette Maguire
Where to watch MH370: The Plane That Disappeared