Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 was the victim of the most technically sophisticated hijacking in airline history, new evidence uncovered by independent investigators appears to show. And the new evidence uncovered by satellite industry expert Michael Exner would also seem to clear the missing plane’s pilot, Ahmad Zaharie Shah, who was accused in a recent book of single-handedly taking over the plane in a macabre murder-suicide plot.
Exner’s evidence centers on the plane’s Electronics and Equipment Bay — also called the E/E Bay — which is literally the electronic brain of a Boeing 777-200, like the one flown on Flight 370. Shockingly, the E/E bay on most aircraft is usually left unlocked, a fact revealed last month by the PBS documentary series NOVA, which aired a film detailing its own investigation of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 disappearance.
— Jeff Wise (@ManvBrain) November 7, 2014
Perhaps even more astonishingly and as was also pointed out by NOVA, a video made in 2006 on board a Brazilian-flown Boeing 777-200 shows exactly how to access the E/E Bay and gives viewers a guided tour.
Here is that video, designed for aviation enthusiasts, which was posted on YouTube where it is freely accessible by anyone.
Still, even with the jaw-dropping security flaw, a high-tech hijacker would need to know exactly what to do once inside the E/E bay.
That would require “possessing greater knowledge of Boeing 777 avionics than most commercial line pilots,” according to Jeff Wise, the independent investigator who reported Exner’s revelations on his blog, which covers the independent investigations into the fate of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.
What Exner found, however, was that one of the key communications systems turned off during the fateful March 8 flight of the Malaysia Airlines plane could have been switched off only from the E/E bay, not from the cockpit. That means the pilot, Shah, was almost certainly not responsible for shutting down the Flight 370 satellite communication system, which mysteriously occurred just after the flight cutoff radar and radio contact with the ground.
Even more mysteriously, the “SatCom” system, as it is called, was later switched back on.
But no pilot is trained in how to switch the SatCom off and on. Exner found that the procedure was not even mentioned in the operational manuals for the 777-200.
“The only way to do it is to find an obscure circuit breaker in the equipment bay,” Exner said as quoted by Jeff Wise.
In addition to casting new light on the Flight 370 mystery, the new evidence also points, experts say, to the role of Boeing as well as Malaysia Airlines itself in failing to secure the E/E bay door — located on the floor directly between the first class section and the cockpit — even though they had been warned about the risks of leaving the bay door unlocked in a report from a former pilot in January.