Mystery of MH370 only grows after final report into disappearance

One of the world’s greatest aviation mysteries just got more mysterious.

In the four years since Malaysia Airlines Flt. MH370 vanished, conspiracy theories about why it went off course and where it ended up have run wild in the imaginations of amateur sleuths, experts and authorities alike.

Was it skyjacked by a suicidal pilot? Was it hacked remotely? Did the lithium-ion batteries and tropical fruit in its cargo hold create a deadly cocktail that exploded mid-air?

On Monday, investigators released their final report into the plane’s disappearance, concluding that none of those scenarios was likely.

But they at least definitely ruled that someone manually rerouted the plane after severing communications and said this evidence points “irresistibly” to another theory: that a “third party” hijacked the flight — and it wasn’t the pilot.

“We have examined the pilot, the flight officer. We are quite satisfied with their background, with their training, with their mental health, mental state. We are not of the opinion that it could have been an event committed by the pilot,” head investigator Kok Soo Chon told reporters in Kuala Lumpur, according to Australia’s The Age newspaper.

“But at the same time, we cannot deny the fact that there was an air turn-back,’’ which put the plane off course, he said. “We cannot deny the fact that, as we have analyzed, the systems were manually turned off with intent or otherwise.

“So we feel that there’s also one possibility that could account for all these,” the official said. “No matter what we do, we cannot

exclude the possibility of a third person or third party or unlawful interference.”


Of course, exactly what happened to MH370 will never be known until the plane itself is found, Kok noted — and its final resting place has so far eluded search operations.

What’s known for sure is that the Boeing 777 was carrying 239 people on board — including three Americans — when it disappeared en route to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur early March 8, 2014.

Someone in the cockpit made contact with Malaysian air-traffic control just before 1:20 a.m., saying “All right, goodnight,” but then failed to check in with controllers in Ho Chi Minh City as the plane flew into Vietnamese airspace shortly after.

No distress call was received, but the jet’s communications and radar systems went offline.

Radar shows that the aircraft then veered dramatically off course and flew back over the Malay Peninsula before heading to the Indian Ocean and disappearing entirely.

No serious alarm was raised until 6:30 a.m., and the report released Monday says the Malaysian and Vietnamese controllers screwed up big-time — they should have sent up a red flag several hours earlier. The radio controller in Kuala Lumpur also should have been monitoring its movements, the report said.

In addition, the investigators concluded that all four of the plane’s emergency locator transmitters — which should have sent out signals indicating the plane’s location when it went into distress — failed.

With such little information to go on, two search operations costing hundreds of millions of dollars have failed to turn up any sign of the plane.

The most recent failed search wrapped up in May.

“It is almost inconceivable and certainly societally unacceptable in the modern aviation era with 10 million passengers boarding commercial aircraft every day, for a large commercial aircraft to be missing and for the world not to know with certainty what became of the aircraft and those on board,” the Australian Transport Safety Bureau said in a 2017 report.

“Despite the extraordinary efforts of hundreds of people involved in the search from around the world, the aircraft has not been located.”

More than 25 possible pieces of debris have since washed up, however, with three — including sections from both wings, found around the African coast — confirmed as parts of the aircraft.

That, at least, put to rest conspiracy theories that said the plane had been flown to a secret destination and its passengers might still be alive.

The Australian government investigation concluded that the plane’s left wing flap wasn’t configured for landing — suggesting the jet ran out of fuel and nose-dived quickly rather than that it was deliberately piloted into the ocean.

The families of the passengers and crew who were onboard remain livid at the lack of conclusions, including in Monday’s report — and are demanding the search for the plane resume so they can get closure.

“They need to keep searching — that’s a given,” said Australian Danica Weeks, whose husband Paul was on board, to the Sunshine Coast Daily.

“It’s a matter of elimination. It’s got to be somewhere,’’ she said. “They can’t just push it under the carpet and say, ‘That’s it.’ ”


One of the most popular theories since the plane’s disappearance has been that the captain, Zaharie Ahmad Shah, hijacked the craft and deliberately crashed it in a murder-suicide mission.

The Australian report noted that he had a flight simulator at home and used it to test a somewhat similar route to the plane’s eventual off-course path six weeks earlier.

Several aviation experts have even gone on Australia’s “60 Minutes” to say they believe the 53-year-old flyboy was responsible.

“At the point where the pilot turned the transponder off, that he depressurized the airplane, [it] would disable the passengers,” Larry Vance, a veteran aircraft investigator from Canada, told the program.

“He was killing himself. Unfortunately, he was killing everyone else onboard. And he did it deliberately,” Vance said.

The experts noted that the plane took an unusual turn to the left at one point.

“Capt. Zaharie dipped his wing to see Penang, his hometown,” Simon Hardy, a Boeing 777 senior pilot and instructor, told the show. “It might be a long, emotional goodbye, or a short, emotional goodbye to his hometown.”

But an Australian aviation official insisted that Zaharie would have been unconscious when the plane crashed, like everyone else.

Monday’s investigation concluded that the pilot was unconscious and there was “no evidence of mental or psychiatric issues” and “no signs of social isolation” with Zaharie, nor did he have any financial problems.

Audio of Zaharie’s dispatches from the cockpit also sounded normal, Kok said.

“I’m not ruling out anything, but there were two psychiatrists in my team, and they were responsible for examining the audio recordings of the pilot, and they concluded there was no anxiety and no stress in the recording, it was just normal, and they also recorded the footage from CCTV. … They didn’t find any significant behavioral changes,” he said, according to The Guardian.

Kok noted that a hijacker wouldn’t have needed aviation expertise to take over.

“Even if you don’t fly a plane, you can still engage in unlawful interference,” he said, according to The Australian. “You can always go in with a knife.”

Still, the official offered little evidence for who a “third party” might be.

No terrorist group has taken credit for the plane’s disappearance, nor had any ransom demands been made at the time, he added.

The backgrounds of all the passengers — even two Iranian nationals who boarded with fake passports — had been checked by their respective countries, and nothing suspicious showed up, Kok said.


The investigation also shot down several other popular theories.

“We had over 60 allegations. … We removed them one-by-one and saw what remained behind,” Kok said.

Malaysia’s former prime minister, Tun Dr Mahathir, earlier this year suggested the plane might have been hacked and controlled remotely.

“The technology is there. You know how good people are now with operating planes without pilots. Even fighter planes are to be without pilots,” he said.

But Kok said there was sign of that.

Some had also speculated that the 487 pounds of lithium-ion batteries and 5 tons of mangosteens in the craft’s cargo may have somehow reacted together and sparked a fire.

But Monday’s report found it ”highly improbable,” based on the fact that the two items are often shipped together with no issue.

“There were 36 occasions were both lithium-ion batteries and mangosteens were shipped together to China between the period of January to May, and we have not found any irregularity in the packing assessment,” Kok said.

“The two cargo items of interest, lithium batteries and mangosteens, were carried for a long time before and after the event and packed and loaded according to standard operating procedures.”

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