Aviation magazine chief sees botched hijack, takeover in MH370 disappearance

Inspector General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar at the MH370 daily press conference at the Sama Sama Hotel in Sepang, on March 16, 2014. He revealed that investigators were examining four possibilities for the MH370 plane’s disappearance. — Picture by Saw Siow Feng
Inspector General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar at the MH370 daily press conference at the Sama Sama Hotel in Sepang, on March 16, 2014. He revealed that investigators were examining four possibilities for the MH370 plane’s disappearance. — Picture by Saw Siow Feng

KUALA LUMPUR, March 26 — Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 likely ended in the Indian Ocean from a failed hijacking or unsuccessful pilot takeover, according to Robert Groyer who heads aviation news periodical “Flying Mag.”

Writing in an editorial piece for news channel CNN, the editor-in-chief of the magazine formerly known as “Popular Aviation” when it started in the 1920s, pointed out that the sequence of events that took place on board the Boeing 777-200ER missing since March 8 all but ruled out other possible scenarios.

Chief among the evidence Groyer cited was the distance the plane carrying 239 managed to travel, which investigators analysing satellite communication with the missing jetliner concluded was near the maximum range it could have flown given its fuel load.

“At lower altitudes, turbofan engines like the Rolls-Royce engines on the Malaysia Airlines airplane, burn substantially more fuel than they do at typical cruise altitudes -- as much as twice depending on the altitudes one uses for comparison,” Groyer wrote.

“So the fuel required for MH-370 to have reached the presumed crash location around 1,500 miles west of Perth, Australia, means that the airplane did not do a lot of climbing or descending after it deviated from its original planned route to Beijing while it was still an hour or so north of Kuala Lumpur.”

This crucial fact established that the plane was not suffering from a mechanical fault and most likely did not see a struggle in the cockpit for the flight controls.

Groyer conceded, however, that it was not possible to rule out at this stage that the mystery of MH370 may have been the result of technical issue, but said the coincidences involved would require a “mechanical magic bullet” in order to explain.

The trained commercial pilot said that while it was possible for the plane’s transponders, Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS), and radio to fail independently, a chain of malfunction including all three systems without any attempt to convey distress and for the plane to continue flying at altitude for hours was inordinately remote.

“While it's horrific to imagine, a botched hijacking or failed pilot commandeering of the airplane are still the most likely scenarios,” Groyer wrote.

As investigation into MH370 proceeds, the mysterious circumstances surrounding its disappearance has forced the spotlight to fall repeatedly on the crew aboard the plane.

Yesterday, UK daily The Telegraph cited unnamed sources as saying that investigators are leaning towards the idea of pilot suicide in the case of MH370.

Malaysia announced on March 15 that the plane was taken off course through deliberate action and that it was focusing investigations in the direction of the 12 crew members and 227 passengers on board.

Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar later revealed that investigators were examining four possibilities for the plane’s disappearance: hijack, sabotage, personal problems and psychological issues with those on the flight.

Khalid later said, however, that several intelligence agencies have cleared all 227 passengers from the flight.

On Monday, Malaysia said analysis of the plane’s communications with a British satellite put the plane somewhere in the southern Indian Ocean, with the airlines telling families of those on board that it assumed that none survived the crash.

Search effort is now concentrated in a section of the Indian Ocean some 2,500km southwest of Perth in Western Australia where satellite images have spotted pieces of debris possibly from MH370, although recovery could still take years even if it is established that the plane went down at the location.

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