Theories of piracy or pilot suicide gain more credence as search for missing plane expands

Published: March 14, 2014

A Royal Malaysian Air Force Navigator captain, Izam Fareq Hassan (C) looks at a map onboard a Malaysian Air Force CN235 aircraft during a search and rescue (SAR) operation to find the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 plane over the Strait of Malacca on March 14, 2014. MOHD RASFAN/AFP/Getty Images

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Piracy and pilot suicide are among the scenarios under study as investigators grow increasingly certain the missing Malaysian Airlines jet changed course and headed west after its last radio contact with air traffic controllers.

The latest evidence suggests the plane didn’t experience a catastrophic incident over the South China Sea as was initially suspected. Some experts theorize that one of the pilots, or someone else with flying experience, hijacked the plane or committed suicide by plunging the jet into the sea.

A U.S. official said Friday in Washington that investigators are examining the possibility of “human intervention” in the plane’s disappearance, adding it may have been “an act of piracy.” The official, who wasn’t authorized to talk to the media and spoke on condition of anonymity, said it also was possible the plane may have landed somewhere.

While other theories are still being examined, the official said key evidence suggesting human intervention is that contact with the Boeing 777′s transponder stopped about a dozen minutes before a messaging system on the jet quit. Such a gap would be unlikely in the case of an in-flight catastrophe.

A Malaysian official, who also declined to be identified because he is not authorized to brief the media, said only a skilled aviator could navigate the plane the way it was flown after its last confirmed location over the South China Sea. The official said it had been established with a “more than 50 per cent” degree of certainty that military radar had picked up the missing plane after it dropped off civilian radar.

Malaysia’s acting transport minister, Hishammuddin Hussein, said the country had yet to determine what happened to the plane after it ceased communicating with ground control around 40 minutes into the flight to Beijing on March 8 with 239 people aboard.

He said investigators were still trying to establish with certainty that military radar records of a blip moving west across the Malay Peninsula into the Strait of Malacca showed Flight MH370.

“I will be the most happiest person if we can actually confirm that it is the MH370, then we can move all (search) assets from the South China Sea to the Strait of Malacca,” he told reporters. Until then, he said, the international search effort would continue expanding east and west from the plane’s last confirmed location.

On Thursday, a U.S. official said the plane remained airborne after losing contact with air traffic control, sending a signal to establish contact with a satellite.

Boeing offers a satellite service that can receive a stream of data on how an aircraft is functioning in flight and relay the information to the plane’s home base. Malaysia Airlines didn’t subscribe to that service, but the plane still had the capability to connect with the satellite and was automatically sending signals, or pings, said the U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to discuss the situation by name.

Scores of aircraft and ships from 12 countries are involved in the search, which reaches into the eastern stretches of the South China Sea and on the western side of the Malay Peninsula, northwest into the Andaman Sea and the Indian Ocean.

India said it was using heat sensors on flights over hundreds of Andaman Sea islands Friday and would expand the search for the missing jet farther west into the Bay of Bengal, more than 1,600 kilometres (about 1,000 miles) to the west of the plane’s last known position.

A team of five U.S. officials with air traffic control and radar expertise — three from the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board and two from the Federal Aviation Administration — has been in Kuala Lumpur since Monday to assist with the investigation.

White House spokesman Jay Carney sidestepped questions Friday about the possibility of human intervention in the plane disappearance, saying only that U.S. officials were assisting in the investigation.

“I don’t have conclusive answers and I don’t think anyone does,” Carney said.

Malaysia has faced accusations it isn’t sharing all its information or suspicions about the plane’s final movements. It insists it is being open, and says it would be irresponsible to narrow the focus of the search until there is undeniable evidence of the plane’s flight path.

At this point, there is no evidence of any wrongdoing on the part of the two pilots, though Malaysian police have said they are looking at their psychological background, their family life and connections.

Related stories:

Zaharie Ahmad Shah, 53, and Fariq Abdul Hamid, 27, have both been described as respectable, community-minded men.

Zaharie joined Malaysia Airlines in 1981 and had more than 18,000 hours of experience. His Facebook page showed an aviation enthusiast who flew remote-controlled aircraft, posting pictures of his collection, which included a lightweight twin-engine helicopter and an amphibious aircraft.

Fariq was contemplating marriage after having just graduated to the cockpit of a Boeing 777. He has drawn the greatest scrutiny after the revelation that in 2011, he and another pilot invited two women boarding their aircraft to sit in the cockpit for a flight from Phuket, Thailand, to Kuala Lumpur.

Mike Glynn, a committee member of the Australian and International Pilots Association, said he considers pilot suicide to be the most likely explanation for the disappearance, as was suspected in a SilkAir crash during a flight from Singapore to Jakarta in 1997 and an EgyptAir flight in 1999.

“A pilot rather than a hijacker is more likely to be able to switch off the communications equipment,” Glynn said. “The last thing that I, as a pilot, want is suspicion to fall on the crew, but it’s happened twice before.”

Glynn said a pilot may have sought to fly the plane into the Indian Ocean to reduce the chances of recovering data recorders, and to conceal the cause of the disaster.

——

Lowy reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Ashok Sharma in New Delhi, Jim Gomez in Kuala Lumpur, and Rod McGuirk in Canberra, Australia, contributed to this report.

16:10ET 14-03-14

[+]

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,



Readers Comments (0)

Comments are closed.

Featured

dog-rock-tar

Video: Rescue story of a dog that fell into hot tar and turned into a rock

VANCOUVER DESI A team of animal rescuers in Western India spent two days working to free a helpless dog trapped in a pile of hot…
Continue Reading »

Surrey-crime

Surrey Sikh temple hit-and-run still a mystery after two years

TOM ZYTARUK SURREY NOW SURREY — Surrey Mounties believe somebody must have seen something that can help investigators solve a hit-and-run crash that happened two…
Continue Reading »

Pakistan

Kids sweatshirts made in Pakistan and sold at Kroger, Fred Meyer stores in the U.S. recalled for choking hazard

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS NEW YORK — Nearly 8,000 children’s hoodies are being recalled because of a possible choking risk. No injuries have been reported, but…
Continue Reading »

LOCAL NEWS

Health Canada bans some drug imports from India; cites quality concerns

THE CANADIAN PRESS OTTAWA — Health Canada says it is banning imports of some medications and drug ingredients produced in India due to concerns about…
Continue Reading »

The cost of not controlling Ebola in Africa? Cases elsewhere, experts warn

By Helen Branswell THE CANADIAN PRESS TORONTO — The revelation that a man with Ebola was diagnosed in a Texas hospital could be seen as…
Continue Reading »

Health Canada bans some drug imports from India; cites quality concerns

THE CANADIAN PRESS OTTAWA — Health Canada says it is banning imports of some medications and drug ingredients produced in India due to concerns about…
Continue Reading »

Don't Miss...

body image-beauty-weight-control

Self-compassion leads to positive body image in women

IANS Toronto – Women who accept and tolerate their bodily imperfections appear to have a more positive body image despite their high body mass index…
Continue Reading »

British comedian John Oliver takes aim at Indian prime minister Narendra Modi's U.S. visit on his HBO show Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. YouTube/Screengrab.

British comedian John Oliver again covers Indian politics in HBO show, takes aim at Modi’s U.S. visit (w/ video)

VANCOUVER DESI British comedian John Oliver has covered Indian politics yet again on his new HBO show, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. In this…
Continue Reading »

1INDIA_INTERNATIONAL_KITE_FESTIVAL_213745704

Last remaining family member of Indian freedom fighter Bhagat Singh dies in Toronto

IANS Chandigarh — The younger sister and last remaining blood relative of revolutionary freedom fighter Bhagat Singh has died in Canada, according to relatives in…
Continue Reading »

Komagata Maru

India honours 100-year anniversary of Komagata Maru with commemorative coins

IANS New Delhi — India on Monday released a set of special coins as part of a year-long centenary commemoration of the 1914 Komagata Maru…
Continue Reading »

Sandy Sidhu main.jpg

Nanaimo’s Sandy Sidhu to appear in film at VIFF, but the actress is still waiting for her big break

LARISSA CAHUTE VANCOUVER DESI It took years for Nanaimo’s Sandy Sidhu to admit that she was an aspiring actress. Enrolled at UBC for cell biology…
Continue Reading »


Bollywood Latest

Shah Rukh Khan Deepika Padukone Bollywood sex

Shah Rukh Khan: My films are never male-oriented (w/gallery)

HINDUSTAN TIMES Shah Rukh Khan may be a name big enough to make a film a blockbuster on his own, but he says that his…
Continue Reading »

Sonam Kapoor

Gallery: 10 celebs who did not let diabetes rule their lives

VANCOUVER DESI Did you know Bollywood actress Sonam Kapoor has been living with Diabetes from her teen years? And her Pakistani co-star in Khoobsurat — Fawad…
Continue Reading »

Bollywood sex

Indian court blocks 72 websites from streaming Bollywood movie ‘Bang Bang’

IANS New Delhi – The Delhi High Court Tuesday directed various internet and telecom service providers to block access to 72 websites hosting the yet-to-be…
Continue Reading »