air crashes

Mar 4, 2017

Three years on and five reasons why MH370 pilot didn’t do it

It's far too easy, and rather silly, to blame MH370 on one or both pilots

Ben Sandilands — Editor of Plane Talking

Ben Sandilands

Editor of Plane Talking

An overview of the AFBs that a hijacked MH370 would have avoided

If you want a break from social media hyperventilating over this coming week’s third anniversary of the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 one of the mystery’s sane researchers, Mick Gilbert has a paper looking at the main reason why one or both of its pilots are unlikely to have ‘dunnit.’

He says, in short, that if you were looking to ‘vanish’ a flight and whisk it away to the South Indian Ocean;

  1.  You wouldn’t have picked that flight;  it’s tracked by radar the whole way to Beijing and it left KL with about half tanks of fuel. KL to Amsterdam is the flight you’d pick – it flies through a radar blind spot at the top of the Malacca Strait and it’s loaded to the gunwales with fuel (and Westerners if jihad is your thing).
  1.  If you had to go with MH370, you would have waited 5 minutes before diverting – a few minutes past IGARI and you’re out of Thai radar coverage – and you would have said hello to Vietnamese ATC.  By checking in with Ho Chi Minh ATCC you would have bought yourself an extra 30 minutes before the phone calls started (well, an extra 11 minutes in real life, it took HCM ATCC a life-threateningly incompetent 19 minutes to realise that the flight they were meant to have heard from hadn’t called up!)
  1.  You most assuredly wouldn’t have flown your now stolen airplane straight past two RMAF fighter bases and 4 different civilian and military radar stations – that’s a bit like scheming to rob the Ferrari dealership and planning your getaway to go straight past police headquarters, a highway patrol station and four sets of fixed speed cameras.
  1.   Having turned the SATCOM off, you would not have turned it back on.
  1.  You would not have tooled around the Malacca Strait for the best part of an hour.  The corollary to “go north” shift in the likely search area is that MH370  mustn’t have left the Strait till much later (or it flew much slower, or both).  Late and/or slow is not the stuff of detailed and elaborate heists.

This reporter can nominate a sixth reason too.

  1. The KL authorities have encouraged the view the pilot or pilots did it, without ever unequivocally saying that either or both did.

Given the apparent inability of those authorities to make themselves accountable for their position on various matters, including the criminally negligent behavior of the national flag carrier in not doing its diligence on Ukraine air traffic corridors over disputed territory prior to the shooting down of MH17, we might conclude that anything KL wants us to believe is the opposite to the truth.

Mr Gilbert has also updated his paper on an alternative explanation for the disappearance of MH370, involving a very serious and sudden control crisis in the cockpit.

There is also a shorter presentation version of that paper.

If the notion of actual doing some serious reading about the loss of MH370 is too daunting you can always have your wish for facile 30 second solutions satisfied by any general media search for stories about its disappearance.

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12 thoughts on “Three years on and five reasons why MH370 pilot didn’t do it

  1. Mick Gilbert

    Ben, thank you for facilitating a fair and open-minded discourse on MH370. It is in sharp contrast to the very one eyed approach adopted by the “hang ’em high” boys and girls on Holt Street. Today their readers were treated to two error-riddled “expert” opinion pieces, both told from the same narrow-minded perspective and both rewarming the same tired old left-overs that they try to pass off as arguments. And then, just for something completely different, there was a third in-house authored piece promoting the their two “experts” as being in agreement with one another!
    Any old how, one matter that I wanted to address with regards to my work is that I am withdrawing my assertion that the crew oxygen system may have been leaking. Over the past few weeks I have been working through the” leaked” Royal Malaysian Police files, in particular the crew oxygen system maintenance records for 9M-MRO, 9M-MRD (sadly, lost as MH17) and 9M-MRQ. Disconcertingly, the records for 9M-MRO are incomplete (the 14 January 2014 servicing entry is missing) and 9M-MRD’s records have sufficient gaps to render them less than helpful. 9M-MRQ, however, has enough consecutive records to be able to establish a good understanding of “normal” usage. While there is something most assuredly odd about MRQ’s oxygen usage (if the inferred usage for MRO is normal then MRQ’s is abnormally high) the lack of sufficient statistical differentiation from MRO’s causes me to be less confident about my earlier conclusion.
    I still believe that the hose replacement work on 9M-MRO may have been rushed and that a hose may have become separated from its fitting during an inflight fire. However, the leaked files have generated sufficient doubt that I can’t in all good faith publicly maintain that the evidence suggests there may have been a leak. I wanted to make this change clear to readers who have been following my work as I think it unfair that they be expected to spot that change between versions themselves.

    1. Tango

      I sure did not.

      I ruled the theory out on a great many others aspects that did not track.

  2. anawanahuanana

    Hmmm. Interesting reading, however there are a couple of points I find hard to accept with this theory. Firstly, there was nothing to stop the F/O putting out a radio call on VHF 2. In my experience, the Captain uses VHF 1 and the F/O uses #2. Rarely are they both selected to use the same VHF system for communications but you’d have to check with MAS what their procedures are. Secondly, again in my experience, the maintenance required to comply with an S.B (alert or otherwise) never takes as long as the time allowed in the S.B so I find it hard to accept the evidence points to it being rushed.
    My third point is that there is more than one way to skin a cat. If they crew were unsuccessful using the FLCH function on the MCP due to the malfunctioning Autothrottle, there was absolutely nothing to stop them manually beginning a descent, which I would expect to be a priority with a fire on board anywhere, let alone in the flight deck. Finally, the theory is that the crew entered a holding pattern to work through the defects, reconnect the left bus etc, but again, although they had control over the aircraft, even without instrumentation, they didn’t think a descent would be in order and stayed at a level where they knew they would die once the oxygen bottles were exhausted? I think anyone would rather take a chance on descending to a lower level in the dark instead of certain death once the bottles were empty. Why not hold over Penang so at least you would have some ground lights for a visual reference once you got lower instead of out of sight of land over the dark sea? Anyway, just my 2c worth….

    1. Mick Gilbert

      Anawanahuanana, there’s any number of reasons why I might wrong. Just yesterday a mate with zero aviation experience said that if he was confronted with flight deck with no instruments he’d use the gyroscope app on his iPhone. Very clever, I thought. Maybe the flight crew used Blackberrys.
      It is easy to conceive of a whole raft of “woulda, coulda, shoulda” choices post-event.

  3. Tango

    If there is a problem with the 5 reasons, then its simply the reality of attempting to interject logic into this.

    Obviously if a mostly (at least to a pilot knowledge) disappearance was the complete intended, turning the opposite direction and disappearing into the South China Sea and working your way into the SIA that route.

    When dealing with a person who has lost touch with the world, unless they leave a manifesto behind like the UniBomber, you can’t know what was in their minds.

    There is a repeated attempt to make this logical when in fact mass murder is an act of insanity.

    All you can do sans any information is to track the bread crumbs.

    As Anawanahuanana has stated, the first action of a crew with a loss of pressing fire on board would be to get to lower altitude.

    As fire on board recognition has evolved, that in turn says you put down immediacy, if there is no airport then you ditch.

    So then we either work on theories of what happned without atribitin motivaitons that we never understand (and or Micks paroch to come up with some imangaitve other ideas) or we simply do nothing.

    Either way is fraguth with argument.

    However, along with the reality that a perfectly good working aircraft that made its full time of flight disappeared, we also have details of part of its path.

    What I call a smoking gun are two items.

    1. The path by Penang which was the home of the PIC.

    2. The recovery of an EXACT pattern and very close to an exact path that we know the aircraft flew before it was outside of (at least admitted) radar coverage.

    Item 2 is the more glaring, but when you have “coincidences ” stack up, then its no longer a coincidence . Item 1 would and is an alert by itself .

    There are still oddities, the one Mick has brought up is the time lapses out on the final turn area as well as the Radar lapse and gaps.

    Ben is correct that anything from the Malaysian authorities is suspect at best, but I certainly came to the PIC conclusion the 2nd day and well before they started pointing at the pilot.

    1. The Authorities may have information on the pilot they do not want to divulge, there is some dark ugly and murky stuff with that quasi dictatorship and 100s of millions in free dollars floating around as gifts.

    2. They could be right for the wrong reasons.

    The PIC could have had a brain tumor for all we know.

    The US has had its share of serial killers that went on for years. I know of one locally, the guy was a baker, lived his life normally and no one was the wiser. The only reaons he was caught was one of his victims escaped, they got an ID and in an unusual burst of sanity, the Police actually looked into the allegations despite the guy being an upstanding citizen.

    Joseph Stalling personally orders 10s of millions of people killed and he could still talk and eat with world leaders like he was a normal human being.

    1. Mick Gilbert

      Tango, to the extent that I’m trying to inject logic into the discussion, that is a response to the “rogue pilot” theorists’ claims that what we witnessed was the outcome of months of careful and detailed planning. I’m simply saying that if a highly experienced B777 Captain put months of thinking and scheming into it, well, worst … plan … ever!

      1. Tango

        Mick: If someone goes off the edge, what then is the logic.

        Per the Unibomber, while we know the guy was insane, there was a manifesto that explained what he was seeing (not reality) and why he did it. At least to him it made some kind of twisted sense, to the rest of the world no.

        History is flush with people who in a position of power committed the most heinous acts and then had perfectly normal relationships with others.

        I come at this from a number of different directions. A deep and long reader of history, very involved with Aviation either as a direct participant, a very affected observe/interest and a technician.

        We had an A-10 Pilot in the US who one day took his aircraft up and flew it into a mountain deliberately . No one had a clue. If he had chosen, he could have done that out of a training mission and devastated any nearby city with the ordinance. His demons did not drive him in that directions.

        We have seen where hypoxia took out a crew (US and Australia) but in that case the aircraft did exactly what you would expect it to do, proceed straight ahead on auto pilot and then did a terminal dive at the end.

        Certainly in the various wars we have seen crews brought home aircraft that you would not think could or would have kept flying. However, none of those aircraft maintained altitude, normal level steady flight let alone flew the distance of their full range capability.

        One small item like a valve can deploy a thrust reverser (767 Lauda Air over India) or 737 crashed, but again, its sudden and total.

        Aviation has existed for over 100 years now and to date there has never been anything remotely like this that was a technical failure (or series) that did what we know MH370 did.

        If not for the drifting wreckage, a great man people would not even believe where it wound up. I certainly did as all that was done scientifically and it had a single explanation though it is not close to a precise one.

        I do think it worth while to continue to fill in gaps of how it operated and where it was filling in time lines.

        At some point there may be enough evidence to get a reasonably conclusive locations.

    2. Steve Barrett

      “Joseph Stalling” – Tango – spell checker or a cryptic pun?
      Ben your comment..’we might conclude that anything KL wants us to believe is the opposite to the truth.”…beautifully put.

    3. Dan Dair

      The current status-quo regarding Mick Gilbert & Victor Iannello’s (separate) papers appears to be based upon the amount of ‘control’ the aircraft came under to be in the places it can be proved to have been, prior to disappearing off South.
      The conclusion of this being that someone actually was flying the plane.

      Whilst it isn’t impossible to imagine that a pilot had ‘stolen’ the plane & that by ‘stooging-around’ the busy areas of Northern Malaysia he was attempting to find a ‘target’ to fly into, or expecting to get himself shot-down by fighter-interceptors;
      I find it an implausible proposition.?

      You keep putting forward the idea of a sudden & unexpected complete mental breakdown as reason why a pilot must have done it,
      yet there is absolutely no published history of either pilot having any history of mental illness in any form. Neither is there any evidence that either pilot was under any level of strain, nor that there were any factors which might bring-on a sudden and catastrophic mood/personality change which might trigger an action such as you propose.?
      It is not completely impossible for a tumour to present itself with no obvious symptoms to the patient, but one might usually expect at least headaches and probably other memory or co-ordination problems which would be likely to precipitate serious brain-injury.

      The examples you quote of ‘madmen’ are diametrically-opposed to the idea you posit for an MH370 pilot.
      In both those cases the men seem to have been malicious individuals with long-term ‘issues’. The fact that one went undiagnosed & the other was completely corrupted by absolute power doesn’t really help explain why someone should be well-educated & more than satisfactory as airline pilots, flying heavy aircraft on long-range routes for many years, before out-of-nothing, going stark-raving mad & killing himself, all his crewmates & the passengers he had been so careful with for all those previous years.

      If you could show me that either pilot had a history of anything at all even slightly malicious, I might have more sympathy for your point-of-view.?

  4. Tango

    This is very interesting reading in that it has some very eerie similarities to MH370.

  5. Rocket Rocket

    Ben – thanks for this. And Mick Gilbert thanks for the incredibly thorough work – I have gone through the “shorter” version (will try the longer one when not so tired!). As Sherlock Holmes said “Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth”.

    I remember being on a flight to China about a month later and it was sort of eerie looking around at the mix of people on the plane and thinking it was probably a similar group. The families of the people on that flight deserve the answers that would be found with finishing the search, in particular the families of the pilots.

  6. Simon Gunson

    Those who would accuse the pilot of MH370 of a deliberate murder suicide must first disprove that the events of Kalitta 66 did not take place inside the Cockpit of MH370. Anyone who can provide verifiable evidence to the contrary shall henceforth be called GOD and entitled to demand others wipe an manicure their anal regions.

    HYPOXIA: “Hypoxia is where effectively your body is starved of oxygen. The onset of hypoxia is often masked by the euphoria – you have a general sense of well-being and can be apathetic to the fact that something has gone wrong. You will feel confused and disoriented. Your time of useful consciousness is limited – the time in which you remain capable of making sensible decisions and correcting the issue.”

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