The Mystery Behind Malaysia Flight 370's Final Words

It was around 1:20 a.m. on March 8, 2014, and Malaysia Flight 370 was en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. The Boeing 777 was flying at 35,000 feet above where the Gulf of Thailand and the South China Sea meet, according to The Straits Times. Malaysian Air Traffic Control gave the cockpit instructions to switch over to its Vietnamese equivalent. "Good night Malaysian three seven zero," the cockpit responded. It was the crew's final words. None of the 239 people on board were ever heard from again. Though scattered debris from the wreckage was later found, the bulk of the plane is unaccounted for, and what might have caused the plane to crash remains unexplained.

As is often the case with similar aircraft disasters, conspiracy theories about what happened to MH370 have proliferated. Despite that uncertainty, in the immediate aftermath of the plane's disappearance, authorities released the final transmission from the cockpit of the plane. The routine normalcy of the MH370 pilot's final known words are as chilling now as they were when Malaysia Flight MH370 and all those on board vanished without a trace.

The cockpit's final words changed, according to official story

Only adding to the mystery of MH370, Malaysian officials first said that the pilot or copilot's final transmission from the doomed aircraft was (via CNN), "All right, good night," but that was not the case. Other than that recording, there was scant evidence as to what happened before all contact was lost with the aircraft. Radar showed the plane took a sudden and unexplained turn shortly before it disappeared. The Malaysian government called the maneuver a possible criminal act. According to investigators, for this reason, someone in the cockpit or a passenger onboard the plane may have had an extremist political motivation to hijack and intentionally crash the aircraft in an act of terrorism.

The pilot, copilot, or someone onboard the aircraft could have also downed the plane to die by suicide. Neither of those theories has ever been confirmed. Retired airline pilot and aviation analyst Les Abend, in a July 2023 article in Flying magazine, pointed out the "scant plausibility" of how these scenarios could have played out as presented in the Netflix documentary series "MH370: The Plane That Disappeared." "If you want credible answers to this inconceivable 21st-century mystery, you'll probably have to wait until the actual wreckage is found," he wrote. The black box, which records flight data and crew conversations, could be the key to discovering not just what happened to the plane but also to any final words from the cockpit.

The cockpit's final words were a routine sign-off

If the pilot, Captain Zaharie Ahmed Shah, or his copilot, First Officer Fariq Abdul Hamid, or someone inside the cockpit of MH370 intended to crash the plane and kill everyone on board, their final transmission, similar to the first version (via The Guardian), "Good night Malaysian three seven zero," gave no clear indication that anything was amiss. That one version of the plane's last broadcast was released and then changed to something similar — but no-less expected from a pilot — was never explained by Malaysian authorities.

It remains unclear whether the final words came from the captain or his copilot, but typically it would be the first officer's job. Either way, the transmission was a normal response to Malaysian air traffic control, a sign-off indicating that the cockpit would be switching its radio frequency to Vietnamese air traffic control. But after the final transmission, there was nothing normal that followed.

Mysteries abound

Shortly after the plane's final transmission, it inexplicably turned back toward Malaysia and then changed course again toward the Indian Ocean. No distress calls or reports of bad weather were received. Unfounded conspiracy theories relating to the plane's unexplained disappearance have touched on everything from the probable to the far-fetched, from an accidental explosion to alien involvement or a CIA coverup.

The Malaysian authorities' unusual handling of the case, including the backtracked final words from the cockpit, left many uncertain about what to believe, regardless of the official story. In January 2024, Richard Godfrey, a British aerospace engineer who was investigating the strange case, made a shocking accusation. "In my view, the Malaysian government does not want the cause of the crash of MH370 to be known," he told The Sydney Morning Herald. He said the government has refused to continue searching for the wreckage or even pay the freight on a recovered piece of the plane that's in Madagascar.

So far at least 41 pieces of the plane have been found, per Sky News. In January 2024, a sea captain named Kit Oliver alleged he recovered the wing from MH370 off the coast of Australia about six months after the plane disappeared. He was unable to get it onto his trawler and had to cut it loose from his fishing net. The final hours of the missing Malaysia Airlines flight following its final transmission and where it ended up remain a mystery.