Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 suffered a strange and unexplained power failure before it disappeared from radar screens and investigators in a new report say that the outage was probably caused by deliberate tampering with the cockpit controls on board the Boeing 777-200.
The Malaysia Airlines flight vanished on March 8 and no trace has been found since, despite an extensive and costly international search effort.
The revelation comes from a closer reading on the Australian investigators' report issued last Thursday, the same report that concluded that the plane flew a steady course on auto-pilot over the Indian Ocean an that the passengers on board most likely died of asphyxiation before the plane ran out of fuel and spiraled down to its still-unknown crash site.
Malaysia Airlines Ground Staff Failed To Call Plane's Satellite PhoneUnfortunately, according to the report, Malaysian Airlines ground staff tried to call the plane by satellite phone only two times after it vanished from radar. There was a satellite phone in the plane's cockpit and the ground crew should have called it frequently, the investigators say.
If they had done so, investigators would now have a much better record of the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 plane's altered route after it cut off contact with the ground. The satellite's "ping" data, as it tried to connect the call, would have given investigators an idea of the plane's flight path.
Instead, after one failed try, 77 minutes after the final contact from the Malaysia Airlines pilots, the ground staff waited another five hours before trying another call. By that time the plane may well have already crashed.
Flight MH370 Power Failure Likely Caused By Deliberate Cockpit TamperingThe report also found that the Malaysia Airlines flight issued a "log on" request — or "handshake" — to a satellite about 90 minutes after takeoff. That request was not scheduled and raised a red flag for investigators when they discovered it.
"A log-on request in the middle of a flight is not common," said the Australian Transport Safety Bureau report. "An analysis was performed which determined that the characteristics and timing of the logon requests were best matched as resulting from power interruption."
In other words, the Malaysia Airlines plane suffered a power failure. But why?
"A person could be messing around in the cockpit which would lead to a power interruption," aviation expert David Gleave told England's Telegraph newspaper. "It could be a deliberate act to switch off both engines for some time. By messing about within the cockpit you could switch off the power temporarily and switch it on again when you need the other systems to fly the airplane."
Gleave said that if the power failure resulted from a mechanical failure, it is highly unlikely that Flight MH370 would have continued flying uninterrupted for several hours until it ran out of fuel and ditched, as investigators concluded in the Australian report.
Another expert, Peter Marosszeky of Australia's University of New South Wales, said that such a power failure aboard Flight MH370 was likely the result of deliberate tampering.
"If there was a crew wanting to do something that was rather sinister or there were hijackers on board, they would remove power by opening up the bus-tie breakers and opening up the battery control switch," said Marosszeky. "That way the aircraft virtually loses all power to just about all systems except the engines.
In August, searchers will resume looking for the wreckage of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, this time in an area of more than 37,000 square miles in the ocean, about 1,100 miles northwest of Perth, Australia.