CINCINNATI -- A Cincinnati man’s theory of how a Malaysia Airlines jet seemingly vanished from existence is gaining national attention this week.
Tuesday marked 11 days since Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 (MH370) disappeared en route from Kuala Lumpur International Airport to Beijing Capital International Airport.
But Cincinnati IT worker and hobby aviation enthusiast Keith Ledgerwood says he may have figured out what happened.
The Boeing 777, which was carrying 12 crew members and 227 passengers, last made contact with air traffic control less than an hour after takeoff.
Since its disappearance, frustration has grown internationally and days of searches have resulted in very few leads. Ships and aircraft from 26 countries were still scouring two giant search areas Tuesday about the size of Australia.
With satellite pings showing where the plane could be after more than seven hours of flight, Ledgerwood said speculation has arisen the plane could be on the ground anywhere along a path from northern Thailand to the border of Kazakhstan.
Ledgerwood said a major roadblock to that theory is the fact that India and Pakistan have reported no unidentified aircraft entering their airspace and it would be highly unlikely for a Boeing 777 to slip through undetected.
But Ledgerwood believes the plane may have “shadowed” another plane to appear undetected – and his theory was picked up Tuesday by The Washington Post as one of the “best” on the Internet.
“After being unable to escape the idea that it may have happened, I began to do some analysis and research and what I discovered was very troubling to me,” Ledgerwood wrote in his Tumblr blog , which now has more than 1,000 shares.
After days of research and plotting out points in elaborate diagrams , Ledgerwood claimed the Malaysia Airlines jet could have flown through India and Afghanistan airspace by closely following a Singapore Airlines jet flying a similar path.
By turning off its communications systems and following the other jet at a certain distance, the two "would have shown up as one single blip on the radar,” Ledgerwood said.
“SIA68 (the Singapore Airlines jet) would have had no knowledge that MH370 was anywhere around and as it entered Indian airspace, it would have shown… with only the transponder information of SIA68 lighting up military radar screens,” he said.
Ledgerwood said the collision avoidance systems on modern planes use the transponder, which someone on the Malaysia Airlines flight could have turned off.
"Once MH370 had cleared the volatile airspaces and was safe from being detected by military radar sites in India, Pakistan and Afghanistan, it would have been free to break off from the shadow of SIA68 and could have then flown a path to its final landing site," he speculated in his blog.
But Ed Bridgeman, terrorism expert and head of the criminal justice program at the University of Cincinnati Clermont College, called Ledgerwood’s theory “highly, highly unlikely.”
“From what I know about aircraft systems, I don’t think it’s possible for flights to be close enough to blend radar signatures,” Bridgeman said. “This isn’t like World War II movies where submarines sneak under a destroyer. The Malaysia flight would have given some indication to the other flight that somebody else was in the neighborhood.”
Bridgeman said radar systems are much more sophisticated than the way Ledgerwood explained them in his blog.
He said it’s even more unlikely the Malaysia Airlines flight “hid” from officials because it would have had to circumvent military radar systems.
“Civilian systems work with the transponder, but that’s not the same as blips on the screen,” Bridgeman said. “If he’s over civilized countries, he's dealing with sophisticated military radars. These countries are watching for that sort of thing.”
Bridgeman said the odds of learning what really happened to the plane dwindle as each day passes.
He said the theories of what caused the jet to vanish are varied and complicated.
“When the plane first disappeared there was a possibility of terrorism – that’s still a very real possibility,” he said. “But if this turns out to be a pilot suicide or a highly unlikely catastrophic mechanical problem, we’re not going to know anything until we get to the point of finding wreckage or the black box.”