WSJ: Experts suspect inside job in MH370 disappearance

Senior Lieutenant and flight captain Vu Duc Long (right) looks at a map of a search area on iPad while flying a Vietnam Air Force AN-26 aircraft, during a mission to find the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, off Con Dao island, March 14, 2014. —  Reuters pic
Senior Lieutenant and flight captain Vu Duc Long (right) looks at a map of a search area on iPad while flying a Vietnam Air Force AN-26 aircraft, during a mission to find the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, off Con Dao island, March 14, 2014. — Reuters pic

KUALA LUMPUR, March 15 ― The technical expertise required to silence the many communications systems on missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 suggest the disappearance may have been an inside job, the Wall Street Journal suggested today.

Consulting aviation experts and referring to manuals on the Boeing 777, WSJ noted that it was unlikely that a layperson would be able to the determine the specific circuit breaker needed to disable the plane’s transponders.

“Becoming familiar with the 777's systems requires extensive training for pilots and aircraft mechanics alike, experts said,” the US daily wrote in its report.

To illustrate the complexity involved, WSJ explained that disabling the transponder ― the first signal that was lost from MH370 ― required someone trip a circuit breaker hidden behind an overhead panel.

The transponder would have transmitted the plane’s position, speed, and call sign to air traffic control radar.

“Pilots rarely, if ever, need to access the circuit breakers, which are reserved for maintenance personnel,” said the report.

Next, to shut down the onboard reporting system ― which happened shortly after the plane was last seen on radar ― one must key in a series of commands on either of the cockpit's two flight management computers.

The computers are used to set the performance of the engines during takeoff, plan routes, and other guiding functions.

Extremely detailed knowledge of the plan, its internal structure and systems are also needed to physically disconnect the satellite communications system, WSJ said.

This is because the satellite data system is spread across the aircraft, which would need physical access to several key components to disable.

“Disconnecting the satellite data system from the jet's central computer, known as AIMS, would disable its transmission,” said WSJ.

“The central computer can be reached from inside the jet while it is flying, but its whereabouts would have to be known by someone deeply familiar with the 777.”

An aviation expert said, however, disabling the many communications systems onboard was not as complex as the WSJ suggested.

But he added added, “to know what to do there to disable” systems would require “considerable understanding” of the 777, as some airlines use special screws to secure the access hatch leading to the area below the floor to curb unauthorised intrusion.

Yesterday, London-based firm Inmarsat revealed that it continued to receive the establishing signal from the Boeing 777-200ER that was carrying 239 onboard when it vanished a week ago.

Local and US sources are now also convinced the aircraft recorded by military radar flying west across peninsular Malaysia and headed for the Indian Ocean was MH370.

Investigators are now increasingly entertaining the possibility of some form of foul play in the mysterious disappearance.

The latest revelations has also led search and rescue efforts to expand further, and now included the Indian Ocean where the plane would have had enough fuel to reach.