Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 will have been missing for two years on March 8 this year, and unless searchers make a significant find in the next two months, the only hard evidence that the plane even existed will remain the single wing fragment discovered last July on a Reunion Island beach, about 3,000 miles west of where Australian investigators believe the missing plane crashed.
But despite the extreme shortage of evidence to indicate what actually happened to the plane — other that that it went down in the waters of the Indian Ocean, somewhere — authorities in charge of the official investigation being carried out by the Australia Transportation Safety Board say that they have ruled out one popular theory — the belief that the baffling disappearance of the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200 was carried out by the plane’s own pilot, 52-year-old Zaharie Ahmad Shah, a veteran Malaysia Airlines pilot and aviation enthusiast who loved his job so much that he kept a flight simulator in his own home.
The “pilot suicide” theory would, its advocates say, explain why Flight MH370 inexplicably shut down all communication systems early in its overnight flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, then took a hard westerly turn and cruised for another seven hours until either crashing or ditching in the Indian Ocean, thousands of miles off course from its planned destination.
Has evidence of pilot hijack of MH370 almost been ignored? https://t.co/NLwLhcIqlH
— The Australian (@australian) January 9, 2016
The notion that Shah, for some reason known only to himself, commandeered the plane and used it to commit suicide taking all of the 238 other human beings on board the plane to a watery grave along with him, first surfaced in June of 2014 when news reports stated that sources within Malaysia police agencies had named Shah as the lead suspect in the plane’s disappearance.
The latest version of the “pilot suicide” theory appeared on January 9 this year in The Australian newspaper, which published a column by former commercial and military pilot Byron Bailey titled, “The Case For Pilot Zaharie Ahmad Shah’s Hijack of Flight MH370.”
“Right from the start the ATSB has assumed no pilot involvement. But only an expert B777 pilot could have disabled the extensive communications-avionics suite when the aircraft disappeared electronically,” Bailey wrote.
“Only an expert pilot could have reprogrammed the FMS to fly to the southern Indian Ocean, otherwise the B777 would have flown on to Beijing. Only a pilot could have lowered the flap for the controlled ditching.”
Analysis of the “flaperon,” the wing fragment found on Reunion Island showed damage that some experts believe was consistent with a “controlled ditching,” in other words, a deliberate water landing of the Malaysia Airlines 777-200.
Family and friends of Zaharie Ahmad Shah have consistently maintained that nothing in his background, character or circumstances indicate that he was at risk of suicide — and certainly not in such a horrifying and murderous way. His friends compiled the following video tribute to the MH370 pilot, which offers some insight into how he was perceived.
ATSB officials told The Australian Sunday that they give no credence to the popular “pilot suicide” theory, and instead are convinced that the presumed crash of Flight MH370 was the result of what a sudden loss of oxygen inside the plane’s cabin, rendering the passengers and crew, including pilot Zaharie Ahmad Shah, unconscious, turning the 777-200 into a ghost plane, simply flying on automatic pilot until it ran out of fuel and plunged into the water.
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“The limited evidence available for MH370 was compared with three accident classes: an in-flight upset, an unresponsive crew/hypoxia event, and a glide event (generally characterized by a pilot-controlled glide),” ATSB spokesperson Dan O’Malley said in a prepared statement.
“The final stages of the ‘unresponsive crew/hypoxia’ event-type appeared to best fit the available evidence for the final period of MH370’s flight when it was heading in a generally southerly direction,” the ATSB official stated.
Bailey, however, believes that if the pilot became unresponsive, the plane would not have turned to the west but instead would have simply proceeded north, toward Beijing, flying on auto-pilot.
“The only logical conclusion I can draw is that Zaharie carefully planned and executed this very clever hijack scenario to end up in perhaps the world’s most unsurveyed deep-sea mountainous terrain, 6.5 kilometers [i.e. four miles] deep in a cold, dark hell that would not be found,” Bailey wrote.
ATSB authorities now say that the search for the missing Flight MH370 will end in June of this year, one way or the other. So unless further wreckage from the missing plane turns up by then, the answer to what happened to the vanished Malaysia Airlines plane may never be known.
[Featured Photo via Zaharie Ahmad Shah Facebook]