MH370 crash was murder-suicide, say experts

Mass murderer: Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah had been a Malaysian Airlines pilot for 33 years.

Should all planes be automated? Analysts believe they have uncovered the truth behind the disappearance of a Malaysian Airlines flight in 2014. Many now feel they cannot trust pilots again.

The main clue was two unexpected turns to the left.

On flight MH370’s meandering path to destruction on March 8, 2014, the pilot made a brief detour towards the Malaysian city of Penang, the hometown of Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah.

Twice, the pilot tipped the Boeing 777 to the left. Experts believe this was Zaharie, one of two pilots on the plane, taking a final look at his home before flying the plane to its destruction.

This is the chilling theory that a team of analysts on Australia’s 60 Minutes have suggested about MH370’s disappearance.

By the time the plane banked over Penang, they believe Zaharie was the only conscious person on the plane. He had depressurised the craft, knocking out everyone on board who was not wearing an oxygen mask.

This would explain the eerie silence from the plane as it veered off course. There was no mayday from the plane’s radio. No passengers attempted final texts or calls to emergency services.

Some time after banking over Penang, it is believed that Zaharie deliberately crashed the plane into the Indian Ocean in a premeditated murder-suicide. The main body of the plane has still not been recovered, despite a four-year search costing hundreds of millions of pounds. Parts have washed up on beaches in Mauritius and Tanzania.

Any air disaster highlights the huge amount of trust that passengers place in just one or two pilots. Sometimes, as in the case of MH370 or when a Germanwings plane was deliberately crashed into the French Alps in 2015, this goes terribly wrong.

And so, the inevitable prospect of pilotless planes is discussed.

This is already surprisingly close: on a 2.5 hour flight, autopilots and flight-management systems typically do about 95% of the work. Later this year, Boeing is planning its first fully automated flight.

But our own fear will likely hold this change back. A survey by UBS suggests that pilotless planes would not be popular. Of the 8,000 people questioned, 54% said they would be unlikely to take a pilotless flight.

Flying free

All planes must go pilotless, say some. Around 80% of aeroplane accidents occur because of human error. Fully automated planes would also prevent deliberate crashes. People are becoming used to driverless cars and trains, and it is a long time since people thought twice about using a lift. Soon we will have the same attitude towards planes.

This would cause too many problems, reply others. Flying is not like taking a train: if something goes wrong, you will probably die. At those moments, you need the experience of a human pilot to make split-second decisions. Also, autopilots might be susceptible to hacking, and just one accident would smash public confidence.

You Decide

  1. Would you travel in a pilotless plane?
  2. Is it reasonable to be scared of flying?

Activities

  1. On a map of the world, plot flight MH370’s intended path. Then draw what experts believe its actual path was onto your map.
  2. Think of five other types of people you regularly put a lot of trust in. Write 500 words on how you would feel if they were replaced by robots.

Some People Say...

“Trust is the glue of life.”

Stephen Covey

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
We know that Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing went missing and is almost certainly at the bottom of the Indian Ocean. We can now be fairly sure that Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah deliberately crashed the plane into the sea after decompressing the plane, knocking out all of the passengers and the rest of the crew.
What do we not know?
Why he crashed it into the sea, if this is indeed what happened. There were rumours at the time that Zaharie’s marriage was ending and that he downed the plane after learning that his wife was about to leave him. Another theory was that he crashed the plane in protest of the jailing of Anwar Ibrahim, who was then the leader of the opposition in Malaysia. We will probably never know.

Word Watch

Depressurised
Aircraft cabins are pressurised using cooled and filtered air that is bled from the engines. Even though commercial aircraft often fly at 40,000ft, this pressurisation keeps the air pressure inside the cabin at the equivalent of an altitude of 8,000ft. Planes sometimes depressurise accidentally, for example, due to tiny cracks in windows.
Mayday
The word used around the world to make a distress call on radio communications.
Germanwings plane
On March 24, 2015, Germanwings Flight 9525 from Barcelona to Düsseldorf was deliberately crashed by its pilot, Andreas Lubitz, who had previously been treated for suicidal tendencies and declared “unfit to work” by his doctor. All 144 passengers and six crew members died.
UBS
A financial services firm.
Because of human error
Crew fatigue was responsible for 15 to 20% of those.
Driverless cars
In March, one of Uber’s self-driving cars killed a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona, causing Uber to suspend all self-driving car trials in North American cities.