KUALA LUMPUR, March 17 — US officials are inching closer to the belief that either one of the two Malaysia Airlines pilots were likely bent on suicide in forcing flight MH370 off civilian radar, the New York Post reported today.
Citing US Republican Congressman Peter King, who chairs his country’s powerful House Sub-Committee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence, the US daily reported the pilot may have been driven to crashing the passenger aircraft to enable his family to collect the life insurance on his death.
“There is a growing consensus that this was a suicide by the pilot or co-pilot and that they wanted to get as far away and land in the farthest and deepest part of the ocean,” the US lawmaker was quoted as saying, before adding, “If they never find the plane, they can’t call it suicide.”
Malaysian authorities conceded today they were looking into the possibility that one of the two pilots aboard may have tried to commit suicide, as investigations delve deeper into the crew’s backgrounds.
“Yes, we’re looking at it,” acting Transport Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein told a news conference in Sepang this evening, when asked if the investigation was delving into possible pilot suicide.
However, the minister declined to elaborate if either Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah or co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid had personal problems.
MAS group chief executive officer Ahmad Jauhari Yahya, who was also at the press conference, said that the flag carrier may tighten entry requirements for pilots in future.
“Psychometric tests are standard procedure for pilots,” he said.
Ahmad Jauhari also denied claims of a last-minute switch of pilots for MH370 and stressed that Zaharie was rostered to fly that Kuala Lumpur-Beijing route on March 8.
The investigation into the plane that vanished without a trace more than a week ago has been classified by Malaysian authorities under Section 130C of the Penal Code, which deals with hijacking, sabotage and acts of terrorism.
International news wire Associated Press (AP) reported today that pilot suicide appears to be a taboo subject, as officials and investigators are reluctant to admit that a pilot purposely crashed the plane in order to kill themselves.
In 1999, US investigators concluded that co-pilot Gameel El-Batouty on EgyptAir Flight 990 — which crashed into the Atlantic Ocean, killing all 217 people aboard — had switched off the auto-pilot upon finding himself alone on the flight deck, pointed the plane downward, and calmly repeated the phrase “I rely on God” 11 times.
The SilkAir Flight 185 that plunged into a river in 1997 and killed all 104 aboard, while en route from Jakarta to Singapore, was also found by US investigators to be a deliberate crash, though an Indonesian probe was inconclusive.
International news agency Associated Press quoted a 2014 study by the US Federal Aviation Administration that showed pilot suicide to be a phenomenon in the United States, occurring in just 0.3 per cent of fatal aviation accidents in the country during the 10 years ending in 2012.