In March last year, Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 suddenly disappeared from radars over the South China Sea. It carried 239 people on board, whose whereabouts remain a mystery to this day.
Now a prominent former pilot, Byron Bailey, claims MH370 was most likely hijacked by its captain. Meanwhile, families of the passengers remain convinced their loved ones are being held captive.
The captain of MH370 was Mr Zaharie Ahmad Shah, a highly respected and experienced aviator. He was flying a Boeing B777 aircraft, which has been described as the safest craft in airspaces today.
“How then could it disappear?” Byron Bailey* asked in a column for The Australian today. “Malaysia Airlines is not some cut-price operator with poorly trained pilots”.
“It is a world-class airline with well-trained pilots who can easily handle any emergency, as they are trained to do with Boeing best practice immediate action drills”.
Mr Bailey describes he how initially thought MH370 must have been shot down or bombed, as only that would explain its sudden disappearance from radar and control systems.
“But then a method of tracking the plane via hourly satellite handshakes revealed the aircraft had flown for more than seven hours and was most likely in the southern Indian Ocean”, Mr Bailey explained.
“Then the penny dropped. The flight management system computer must have been reprogrammed. Otherwise the aircraft would have flown itself to Beijing if the pilots were incapacitated”.
Mr Bailey believes the only way auto-pilot controls would not have kicked in, given a crisis, would be if they were reprogrammed entirely.
He also believes that for an aircraft to go completely ‘off the grid’, three separate radio systems would have needed to be manually disconnected.
“Analysis of Malaysian military radar revealed the aircraft had climbed to 45,000ft as it tracked across northern Malaysia”, Mr Bailey said.
“The only reason for doing this would be to incapacitate passengers and cabin crew by hypoxia. Only pilots’ masks have selectable pressure breathing capacity”.
“Several months after the MH370 disappearance I was told by a government source that the FBI had recovered from Zaharie’s home computer deleted information showing flight plan waypoints. Here, I assumed, was the smoking gun”.
His arguments are compelling, with Mr Bailey surmising: “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, 6.5km deep in a cold, dark hell that would not be found — an area not that far north of Antarctica”.
It’s a disturbing concept for families of lost MH370 passengers, who believe their loved ones are being held captive by entities unknown.
— Malaysian Insider (@tm_insider) January 6, 2016
In a joint statement, the relatives of 154 Chinese passengers said: “We believe our loved ones may still be alive and are being held at an undisclosed location for unknown reasons”.
“In the absence of proof to the contrary, we believe it is possible the missing may still be be alive… If this is so, we would willingly grant to the perpetrators amnesty in return for the release of the missing”.
The circumstances are certainly heartbreaking, and Mr Bailey’s arguments are compelling. Is this enough to resolve the MH370 mystery though?
What’s your take? Do you agree with Byron Bailey’s assessments? Will this change how you approach air travel? Are you worried about airline security?
*Byron Bailey is a veteran commercial pilot and senior captain, with more than 45 years experience. He has clocked 26,000 flying hours, and is a former RAAF fighter pilot and trainer.