MH370: The Plane That Disappeared Netflix Series

Airways sat down with director Louise Malkinson and producer Harry Hewland to discuss why they decided to make the Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 Netflix series.



March 8, 2023

DALLAS — 'MH370: The Plane That Disappeared' is a Netflix documentary series that explores three of the theories surrounding the 2014 aircraft accident. The series will be available to stream worldwide starting today.

The three-part documentary is the brainchild of the company that produced 'Don't F*ck with Cats' and 'Trainwreck: Woodstock '99' and follows the same format, focusing not on the official investigations but more on those outside any official capacity who decided to look further into the mystery of MH370 through their own means.

Airways sat down with director Louise Malkinson and producer Harry Hewland to discuss why they decided to make the MH370 Netflix series almost a decade after that fateful March 8.

This flight path of Flight MH370 (red) is derived from primary (military) and secondary (ATC) radar data. Map: AHeneen, CC BY 3.0

The Dissapeance MH370

When Malaysia Airlines (MH) Flight 370 vanished, the world was left with more questions than answers. The disappearance of MH370 has remained a mystery ever since and it is one of the most high-profile aviation disasters in history.

The Boeing 777-200ER (9M-MRO) took off from Kuala Lumpur on March 8, 2014, before suddenly vanishing from the radar without a trace. The Triple Seven was eventually found to have crashed in the southern Indian Ocean, killing all 239 passengers and crew.

It is a one-in-a-million case, just like TW800 or the Germanwings crash in France. No one knows if it was an accident or something worse.

The Documentary Series

The Netflix series uses archived materials to recreate the night the plane vanished, giving viewers the chance to investigate three of the most contentious theories surrounding the incident. The series does not offer any new information that could shed some light on what actually happened to MH370.

As Hewland points out, the documentary aims to rekindle the MH370 conversation and not forget the families of the 239 victims and those involved with the investigation.

The series includes interviews with relatives of the passengers, scientists, journalists, and many people around the globe who refuse to give up hope of discovering the truth after nine years.

As such, 'MH370: The Plane that Disappeared' is a story full of conspiracies and mysteries, with shadowy figures and official silence, but most of all, it is an effort to honor the memory of those who were lost in one of the great unsolved aviation mysteries of our time, and to keep searching for answers.

The synopsis of the documentary states, "This gripping series uses powerful archives to reconstruct the night of the disappearance, giving viewers the opportunity to examine the three most controversial theories about the plane's disappearance." The three main theories are as follows:

  1. Pilot suicide: This theory suggests that the pilot deliberately crashed the plane in a suicide mission.
  2. Mechanical or structural failure: This theory suggests that a technical malfunction or structural damage caused the plane to crash.
  3. Hijacking or sabotage: This theory suggests that the plane was hijacked or sabotaged, possibly for political or financial motives.

The series explores in more detail similar theories, as we can surmise from the episode titles, 'The Pilot', 'The Hijack', and 'The Intercept'.

Interior photographs of the cockpit of 9M-MRO, April 2004. Photo: Chris Finney - Gallery page, GFDL 1.2

A Retelling with a Purpose

The worldwide shock and outrage over the sudden disappearance of the commercial airliner, coupled with the anguish of the passengers' families, sparked an international search for answers that, sadly, were never found. As we spoke to the filmmakers, they were clear that the series was not out to solve the mystery.

At first, the filmmakers were inspired to create a documentary series about this tragedy simply because it seemed like no one else had done anything similar before.

But as they delved deeper into researching and producing the series, what really motivated them were the stories behind those involved – from family members to journalists and investigators who have been tirelessly working for years in search of answers about what happened that fateful day.

As the director of the series, Malkinson noted that making such an ambitious project came with its own set of challenges; from obtaining access to key people related to the case or getting enough funding for production costs for a documentary set across seven countries– but ultimately all these difficulties made the filmmakers realize how important this story is.

Wing debris from Flight 370 was found on Réunion Island in 2015. Photo: Netflix

Speculation vs Facts

In order to differentiate between speculative theories and reliable evidence when examining potential causes of MH370's disappearance, the filmmakers relied heavily on scientific research conducted by various experts across different fields including aviation engineering & maintenance, satellite data analysis & communication systems, etc., while also taking into consideration any new information that may come up during their investigation process - be it through interviews or other sources available online (such as publicly available official reports).

While this helped them ensure accuracy at every step along the way so viewers could get an unbiased understanding regarding this incident, there are still many unanswered questions out there today. As Hewland put it, "all theories are speculative," adding that he'd come across a few outlandish ones while making the documentary.

But while they gained some insights into both civil/military air traffic control procedures as well as aircraft design features which could potentially help improve safety standards worldwide if implemented properly going forward, Malkinson told us that neither the current Malaysian civil aviation authorities nor Boeing accepted to be interviewed or give any information for the series, which begs the questions as to what they actually know regarding the causes of the disappearance of MH370.

The MH370 disappearance remains a mystery, and while there is news that French authorities have identified a new location that they believe is the most likely resting place of the aircraft, nothing has come out of that at the time of writing.

INDIAN OCEAN (April 14, 2014) Operators aboard the Australian navy vessel Ocean Shield move the U.S. Navy’s Bluefin 21 Artemis autonomous underwater vehicle. Photo: U.S. Navy, Public Domain

Our take

The aviation industry changed since the disappearance of MH370, with better and more advanced aircraft tracking technology. But this is the way of course of the industry from its inception. Flying is safer than riding a bike or crossing the street. Safety is the rule, not the exception; hence the MH370 mystery.

The new location of the resting place of MH370 is based on a combination of French satellite imagery and refined ocean drift modeling which have pinpointed a specific area in the southern Indian Ocean. The French are now continuing their search in this area for the wreckage of the missing plane. The news will certainly make the rounds if the wreckage is found.

In the meantime, one would wish that the Netflix documentary series is there to help viewers gain better insight into the circumstances leading up to the mysterious vanishing act of MH370 back then, but that's not the case.

Ultimately, the biggest takeaway we got from the filmmakers is that, when creating the series, rather than focusing solely on the technicalities, they emphasized the human side associated with MH370 – allowing families affected by the disaster to feel some closure they deserve regardless of whether the truth will eventually come out someday or not.

Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200ER (9M-MRO) is seen taking off at Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG) in France. Photo: Laurent ERRERA from L'Union, France, CC BY-SA 2.0