Accuracy in Media

If (and this is a big “if”–it’s always a big “if”) we believe what the media have told us, then we can deduce what happened to Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.

Did the pilot and/or co-pilot intend to commit suicide? No. You don’t need to change course if you wish to commit suicide. Changing course, then flying another seven hours or more is not necessary if you wish to achieve your own demise. Further, a satellite transmitter on the plane was active for about five hours, indicating the plane was operational, even after its transponder shut down less than an hour after takeoff. Why turn off transponders if your objective is suicide? The only reason to turn off transponders is to fly somewhere undetected.

Did a passenger commandeer the plane? No. The change of course was programmed into the airplane’s computer at least 12 minutes before the plane’s first officer, Fariq Abdul Hamid, signed off to air traffic controllers, telling them, “All right, good night.” If a passenger had somehow made his way into the cockpit, the co-pilot would not have said, unemotionally, “All right, good night.”

Was there smoke in the plane? No. If there was smoke in the cockpit, resulting from a burning front wheel, as some suggest, the smoke would have been present long before the first officer’s sign-off message. The plane took off from Kuala Lumpur at 12:41 a.m. The “All right, good night” message occurred at 1:19 a.m. Smoke from a burning tire would have been noticeable long before 38 minutes had elapsed.

Was there a fire in the plane? No. Some hypothesize there was a fire in the plane and that’s why it “turned back.” But the plane’s course was changed 12 minutes before the “All right, good night” message, so the “turning back” had nothing to do with a fire. Moreover, if there was a fire, the plane’s satellite communications systems would not have continued to send “handshakes” for more than seven and a half hours–90 minutes longer than the flight to Beijing was scheduled to last.

Was there an electrical malfunction in the plane? No. Two separate communications systems on Flight 370 were shut down separately, 14 minutes apart. The plane’s data reporting system was shut down at 1:07 a.m., while the transponder transmitting location and altitude was shut down at 1:21 a.m. Some suggest an electrical malfunction caused the equipment to shut-down, but if there was an electrical malfunction at 1:07, I don’t think the first officer would be broadcasting an “All right, good night” message at 1:19. And again, the plane flew for seven and a half hours after that message.

Was there mechanical failure on the plane? No. The Boeing 777 has an accident record of one accident per eighteen-million hours of flying. It is rated number two in safety. And, in the one accident it was involved in, everyone survived. Also, if there was mechanical failure, the plane couldn’t have flown for eight hours.

Did the pilot and co-pilot fight for control of the plane? No. Had there been a fight for control of the plane, it would have occurred before the flight course was changed, but it was changed 12 minutes before the “All right, good night” message. The plane was already flying west when the message was spoken. At that time, there was no fight going on.

Did the pilot and co-pilot intend to hijack the plane? Yes. That’s the only conclusion we’re left with. And the long flight time after the plane diverted from its scheduled course (seven and a half hours) suggests the 777 could have reached a Taliban-controlled region in Pakistan. Question: How many pilots practice flying with a flight simulator installed in their home? Not too many, I suspect. How many pilots practice landing at five Indian Ocean runways? Perhaps a total of just one. That would be Capt. Zaharie Ahmad Shah, pilot of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.

That’s the logical scenario, based on what we’ve been told to date. It will be interesting to see what tomorrow brings.

Guest columns do not necessarily reflect the views of Accuracy in Media or its staff.

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