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Saturday, 11 March 2017

Whatever Happened to Flight 370? And what can be done about it?

Back in 2009 when I started writing on air disasters, even a plane flying into the middle of the ocean could expect to be found within days, its black box recovered even from the bottom of the abyss. Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 has changed all that; three years after it disappeared from radar, no crash scene has ever been identified, nor will it probably ever be found using currently available technology. When whoever was at the controls of MH370 made its final turn into the Indian Ocean, it was with the intention that the plane never be seen again.

I have written on this air disaster before, both five days and nine months after it was first reported. I haven't had anything further to report, until now. While I stay with my original theory that MH370 was hijacked, I've let go of my secondary theory, that the USA was behind its disappearance; I've now run across a much more likely theory.

There is no question, now, that some sinister person was at the controls of MH370 at the time the transponder was turned off just after clearing Malaysian traffic control; the only question has been, who? The general consensus seems to focus on the pilot, based mainly on three lines of evidence:

1. The plane had to have been taken over by someone aboard. Since Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah was the last voice heard just before the plane went dark, under this scenario he took control of the plane, dismissed the copilot, locked the cockpit door (another unintended consequence of post-9/11 regulation is that a member of the flight crew can now hijack his own flight unimpeded), turned off all communication devices, flew the plane into radar dead zones along international borders, and turned left to fly southward across the Indian ocean until the plane's fuel was exhausted. Prime evidence for this scenario is that Zaharie had cleared his social calendar following the flight.

2. The Inmarsat satellite system picked up ACARS signals that, as interpreted, indicated that MH370 continued on a southern track until 8:19 am.

3. A piece of a Boeing 777 wing floated ashore Reunion Island in July 2015. A part number inside the piece was traced back to the airplane lost on March 8, 2014. Another identified piece of the aircraft was found on Pemba Island in June 2016.

Now, taken together, these three lines of evidence are extremely damning. There is now only one other scenario that fits the evidence, and it hugely fails Occam's Razor. It was proposed in a book I read recently by Jeff Wise. Its scenario is that the two Ukrainian nationals aboard MH370 were Russian agents disguised as scuba divers, who used their carry-on oxygen tanks to stay alive while commandeering the plane via its. The agent inside the electronics control center turned off oxygen to the cockpit and decompressed the plane, resulting in the deaths of the flight crew. He then not only reprogrammed the autopilot, but tampered with the ACARS signal in such a way as to send a false signal that the plane was headed south, when in fact it was headed northeast, toward the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakstan--which it reached after several hours, at the end of its fuel endurance, having evaded the military radars of several more countries along the way. To compound the difficulty of this scenario, the Russians would then have had to dispose of all the crew and passengers' bodies, and part out the plane so they could then dump pieces of it at an appropriate location in the Southern Indian Ocean--where submarines would have had to broadcast phony pings from the plane's black boxes. Jeff Wise didn't have a convincing reason why Russia would go to all this work, and all evidence that has come to light since his book came out has made his scenario less and less likely.

I'm going to go with the pilot-suicide theory, and note that the overwhelming majority of deaths attributed to pilot suicide--not even including the 9/11 flights--resulted from Muslim pilots flying their planes into the ocean. Now that it's so easy for a pilot to fly his plane into the sea, this is what I would recommend: Putting a device outside the cockpit by which cabin crew can communicate directly with authorities, and rolling back regulations that make the airline cockpit such an impenetrable fortress, so that non-suicidal crew members can not only report the attempted murder-suicide, but actually do something to thwart it. In the meantime, you may want to avoid flying with certain flag carriers.


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