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A Startlingly Simple Theory About the Missing Malaysia Airlines Jet
By Chris Goodfellow
6:30 AM

There has been a lot of speculation about Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. Terrorism, hijacking, meteors. I cannot believe the analysis on CNN; it’s almost disturbing. I tend to look for a simpler explanation, and I find it with the 13,000-foot runway at Pulau Langkawi.

We know the story of MH370: A loaded Boeing 777 departs at midnight from Kuala Lampur, headed to Beijing. A hot night. A heavy aircraft. About an hour out, across the gulf toward Vietnam, the plane goes dark, meaning the transponder and secondary radar tracking go off. Two days later we hear reports that Malaysian military radar (which is a primary radar, meaning the plane is tracked by reflection rather than by transponder interrogation response) has tracked the plane on a southwesterly course back across the Malay Peninsula into the Strait of Malacca.

The left turn is the key here. Zaharie Ahmad Shah1 was a very experienced senior captain with 18,000 hours of flight time. We old pilots were drilled to know what is the closest airport of safe harbor while in cruise. Airports behind us, airports abeam us, and airports ahead of us. They’re always in our head. Always. If something happens, you don’t want to be thinking about what are you going to do–you already know what you are going to do. When I saw that left turn with a direct heading, I instinctively knew he was heading for an airport. He was taking a direct route to Palau Langkawi, a 13,000-foot airstrip with an approach over water and no obstacles. The captain did not turn back to Kuala Lampur because he knew he had 8,000-foot ridges to cross. He knew the terrain was friendlier toward Langkawi, which also was closer.

Take a look at this airport on Google Earth. The pilot did all the right things. He was confronted by some major event onboard that made him make an immediate turn to the closest, safest airport.

When I heard this I immediately brought up Google Earth and searched for airports in proximity to the track toward the southwest.

For me, the loss of transponders and communications makes perfect sense in a fire. And there most likely was an electrical fire. In the case of a fire, the first response is to pull the main busses and restore circuits one by one until you have isolated the bad one. If they pulled the busses, the plane would go silent. It probably was a serious event and the flight crew was occupied with controlling the plane and trying to fight the fire. Aviate, navigate, and lastly, communicate is the mantra in such situations.

There are two types of fires. An electrical fire might not be as fast and furious, and there may or may not be incapacitating smoke. However there is the possibility, given the timeline, that there was an overheat on one of the front landing gear tires, it blew on takeoff and started slowly burning. Yes, this happens with underinflated tires. Remember: Heavy plane, hot night, sea level, long-run takeoff. There was a well known accident in Nigeria of a DC8 that had a landing gear fire on takeoff. Once going, a tire fire would produce horrific, incapacitating smoke. Yes, pilots have access to oxygen masks, but this is a no-no with fire. Most have access to a smoke hood with a filter, but this will last only a few minutes depending on the smoke level. (I used to carry one in my flight bag, and I still carry one in my briefcase when I fly.)

What I think happened is the flight crew was overcome by smoke and the plane continued on the heading, probably on George (autopilot), until it ran out of fuel or the fire destroyed the control surfaces and it crashed. You will find it along that route–looking elsewhere is pointless.

Ongoing speculation of a hijacking and/or murder-suicide and that there was a flight engineer on board does not sway me in favor of foul play until I am presented with evidence of foul play.

We know there was a last voice transmission that, from a pilot’s point of view, was entirely normal. “Good night” is customary on a hand-off to a new air traffic control. The “good night” also strongly indicates to me that all was OK on the flight deck. Remember, there are many ways a pilot can communicate distress. A hijack code or even transponder code off by one digit would alert ATC that something was wrong. Every good pilot knows keying an SOS over the mike always is an option. Even three short clicks would raise an alert. So I conclude that at the point of voice transmission all was perceived as well on the flight deck by the pilots.

But things could have been in the process of going wrong, unknown to the pilots.

Evidently the ACARS went inoperative some time before. Disabling the ACARS is not easy, as pointed out. This leads me to believe more in an electrical problem or an electrical fire than a manual shutdown. I suggest the pilots probably were not aware ACARS was not transmitting.

As for the reports of altitude fluctuations, given that this was not transponder-generated data but primary radar at maybe 200 miles, the azimuth readings can be affected by a lot of atmospherics and I would not have high confidence in this being totally reliable. But let’s accept for a minute that the pilot may have ascended to 45,000 feet in a last-ditch effort to quell a fire by seeking the lowest level of oxygen. That is an acceptable scenario. At 45,000 feet, it would be tough to keep this aircraft stable, as the flight envelope is very narrow and loss of control in a stall is entirely possible. The aircraft is at the top of its operational ceiling. The reported rapid rates of descent could have been generated by a stall, followed by a recovery at 25,000 feet. The pilot may even have been diving to extinguish flames.

But going to 45,000 feet in a hijack scenario doesn’t make any good sense to me.

Regarding the additional flying time: On departing Kuala Lampur, Flight 370 would have had fuel for Beijing and an alternate destination, probably Shanghai, plus 45 minutes–say, 8 hours. Maybe more. He burned 20-25 percent in the first hour with takeoff and the climb to cruise. So when the turn was made toward Langkawi, he would have had six hours or more hours worth of fuel. This correlates nicely with the Inmarsat data pings being received until fuel exhaustion.

The now known continued flight until time to fuel exhaustion only confirms to me that the crew was incapacitated and the flight continued on deep into the south Indian ocean.

There is no point speculating further until more evidence surfaces, but in the meantime it serves no purpose to malign pilots who well may have been in a struggle to save this aircraft from a fire or other serious mechanical issue. Capt. Zaharie Ahmad Shah was a hero struggling with an impossible situation trying to get that plane to Langkawi. There is no doubt in my mind. That’s the reason for the turn and direct route. A hijacking would not have made that deliberate left turn with a direct heading for Langkawi. It probably would have weaved around a bit until the hijackers decided where they were taking it.

Surprisingly, none of the reporters, officials, or other pilots interviewed have looked at this from the pilot’s viewpoint: If something went wrong, where would he go? Thanks to Google Earth I spotted Langkawi in about 30 seconds, zoomed in and saw how long the runway was and I just instinctively knew this pilot knew this airport. He had probably flown there many times.

Fire in an aircraft demands one thing: Get the machine on the ground as soon as possible. There are two well-remembered experiences in my memory. The AirCanada DC9 which landed, I believe, in Columbus, Ohio in the 1980s. That pilot delayed descent and bypassed several airports. He didn’t instinctively know the closest airports. He got it on the ground eventually, but lost 30-odd souls. The 1998 crash of Swissair DC-10 off Nova Scotia was another example of heroic pilots. They were 15 minutes out of Halifax but the fire overcame them and they had to ditch in the ocean. They simply ran out of time. That fire incidentally started when the aircraft was about an hour out of Kennedy. Guess what? The transponders and communications were shut off as they pulled the busses.

Get on Google Earth and type in Pulau Langkawi and then look at it in relation to the radar track heading. Two plus two equals four. For me, that is the simple explanation why it turned and headed in that direction. Smart pilot. He just didn’t have the time.

Chris Goodfellow has 20 years experience as a Canadian Class-1 instrumented-rated pilot for multi-engine planes. His theory on what happened to MH370 first appeared on Google+. We’ve copyedited it with his permission.

1CORRECTION 9:40 a.m. Eastern 03/18/14: An editing error introduced a typo in Capt. Zaharie Ahmad Shah’s name.

Thank you to the thoughtful person who sent this article.
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I do want to note that the article incorrectly identifies Swissair 111 as a DC-10 when in reality, the aircraft was a MD-11.
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A very good friend of mine & person I turn to for their opinion on air disasters, has made the following comments regarding this article.

Hi Barbara

No, unfortunately I don’t agree with his theories.

Any mechanical issues, or the slightest sense of fire, the crew would have attempted to communicate it immediately.

Even if communications was lost, you don’t start tracking out to sea on a 7 hour journey. Plus there are procedures for communicating with a tower using only lights.

There was a much closer 12,000 foot runway at Kapung Telaga Batin, rather then venturing over to Langkawi.

As we saw with Swissair, spatial disorientation happens very quickly when the cockpit is completely filled with smoke. You have only minutes.
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Here are some more thoughts from him.

Another real possibility however, is slow decompression.

This has occurred in the 777 before:,1087952

And on a Helios Boeing 737 Flight 552, which crashed on Aug 14, 2005

Here is a YouTube video about it.

Pay special attention from the 6 minute mark onwards.

And in Oct 1999, decompression on a Learjet flight that included pro-golfer Payne Stewart:

It’s possible that the pilots – drunk with the effects of Hypoxia - started to make illogical decisions. While there was an initial attempt to turn the plane back, they might have also started to make mistakes, such as shutting down communications thinking that they were performing other actions, and flying erratically.

And a final push of the Autopilot.

It would explain a continued flight for 7 hours to nowhere, until the fuel ran out.

I’d say the pilots were heroes.
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Malaysia Flight 370 Sent Final 'Partial Ping' That Could Aid Investigation

Uncertainty Surrounds Partial Ping, but Human Interaction Has Been Ruled Out

Investigators revealed that eight minutes after the last complete transmission from Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, there was a "partial ping" from the aircraft that could help unravel what happened to the missing jet before it stopped flying.

The final partial transmission from the missing Boeing Co. 777-200ER, which disappeared from civilian radar on March 8, "originates with the aircraft for reasons not understood," said Chris McLaughlin, senior vice president of Inmarsat PLC, which operates the satellite.

The company is investigating the partial ping—or digital handshake between the jet and the satellite—as "a failed login" to its satellite network or as a "potential attempt by the system [aboard the aircraft] to reset itself," Mr. McLaughlin said.

The cause of the partial ping could have several possible explanations, he added, but that human interaction with the satellite communications system had been ruled out.

"We're not looking at this [partial ping] as someone trying to turn on the system and communicate," he said.

The partial ping is the latest in a series of clues that have presented new questions for investigators as they try to piece together what happened to the missing aircraft and the 239 people aboard.

Unlike the partial final ping initiated by the aircraft, the earlier, roughly hourly contacts originated as part of automated communications between Inmarsat ground stations, its satellite and the jet. Those transmissions are intended to ascertain if the jet is able to send and receive information.

A statement released earlier Tuesday by Malaysian authorities indicated the U.K. Air Accidents Investigation Branch determined there was "evidence of a partial handshake between the aircraft and ground station" that followed the last complete ping eight minutes earlier.

Investigators said "at this time this transmission isn't understood and is subject to further ongoing work," but didn't elaborate.

Mr. McLaughlin in an interview said Inmarsat's engineers and investigators were trying to understand the conditions that could cause a final incomplete ping, but added that this "does not affect the plot for the probable end location of the flight" in the southern Indian Ocean.

After the jet disappeared from radar, it linked up roughly once every hour for six hours with a satellite operated by Inmarsat. By analyzing specific features of these digital handshakes between the jet and the satellite, Inmarsat officials were able to plot a direction and general course for Flight 370.

By the time the next regularly scheduled ping was supposed to occur, nearly an hour later, "the aircraft no longer was able to communicate" and presumably had gone down, Malaysia's Defense Minister and Acting Transportation Minister Hishammuddin Hussein minister told reporters Tuesday

By computing the plane's estimated speed, fuel consumption and other factors, investigators are trying to project the most likely point at which it hit the water.

Deciphering the reasons behind the partial handshake, according to people familiar with the technical details, could be an important step toward understanding what aircraft systems were doing shortly before impact. Potential causes include electrical system fluctuations and flight maneuvers, say people familiar with the technical details.

To better understand Inmarsat's data and analysis, Malaysian authorities on Tuesday said they had set up "an international working group, comprising agencies with expertise in satellite communications and aircraft performance."

Write to Jon Ostrower at and Andy Pasztor at
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Here is a theory of what happened, by aviation expert, John Sampson.

The 240th Person on Board MH370
The theory below is predicated upon the premise that:

a. There is insecured access to the Main Equipment Centre (E&E Bay) from a floor-hatch abeam the forward galley. This has received very limited publicity as a 777/747 Achilles Heel (due to the design of these aircraft pre-dating 911). There is also external access to the E&E Bay from the ground via belly hatch.

b. Besides the possibility of unauth'd inflight access, inspection of the E&E bay ceases after preflight prep (i.e. an individual could secrete himself in there sometime prior to the pax boarding and engine start (perhaps in the guise of cleaning, catering or engineering staff)- and would not be detected even after engine start and gear-pin stowage through that belly hatch).

c. There is E&E Bay access to both cabin outflow valves for inducing a rapid depressurization.

d. There is an intercom jackplug for direct headset intercom with the cockpit.

e. Omnivision views of the E&E Bay's cavernous interior is at: = HawkEye Media: Boeing 777 Avionics Compartment VR Panoramic Photography

f. A You-tube video about the insecurity of the inflight accessible (i.e. insecure) E&E bay hatch is here:


The lurking "bastard in the bomb-bay" theory about the hideaway culprit in the Main Electronics Centre (aka E&E bay) has some legs – until proven otherwise. Nothing else would seem to explain the rapid disabling of so many systems and comms – unless it was the un-enacted FAA Airworthiness Directive for 777 upper fuselage cracking .... and its vaguely ominous consequences . Outcome of that may well have been cascading systems outages and included a rapid depressurization. Never discard the possibility of a hypoxic pilot making a bad spur of the moment decision with respect to disengaging the autopilot, turning, descending and holding his breath, ultimately neglecting to don his mask. It's not as if any airline pilots are subjected to altitude chamber runs and hypoxia experiences..... like all military pilots are (regularly). But, more importantly, how easy would it be for a disgruntled ex-employee to secrete himself in the E&E bay before engine start and remain undetected. The E&E Bay's external hatch is only ever opened for a quick gear-pin stowage after engine start. Nobody ever does pre-start checks inside the E&E Bay for interlopers. He'd have access to everything electronic (and even pilot oxygen lines) inflight.... including the cabin pressure outflow valves for an induced rapid depressurization. Very few main or nose-gear stowaways are ever detected prior to their frozen death plunge to the ground on runway finals at destination. They usually enter their main-gear hidey-holes prior to the pilot's walk-around check.... yet remain undetected. The same goes for cargo-handlers who wake up inflight, enroute to their cargo's destination.

That sudden turn and dive at "Lost Contact"

.... and the sudden subsequent zoom-climb to 45,000ft? It may be all about pitch "trim".

i.e. Recall the Air New Zealand very experienced trio that missed the tiny message within their attitude display that they should use manual trim (because an auto-trim sensor failure had caused an unexpected and unfamiliar flight-control mode change). Because all pitch-trim was then necessarily to be by the manual trim wheel (which is so rarely used by fly-by-wire pilots), they were wholly unaware of that indistinct advisory – and so their low altitude/low-speed regime was inevitably terminal and quite unrecoverable ( - D-AXLA (ZK-OJL), test flight GXL888T from Perpignan to Perpignan (France)). They missed the cue that they needed to increase side-stick pitch authority by manually trimming forward on the trim-wheel. The frozen angle-of-attack sensors that caused the auto-trim failure on that leased ANZ A320 was caused by the post-paint job aircraft wash that was non-standard i.e. by high pressure water-hose. Trapped water in both sensors froze at height and the hapless crew suffered an uncommanded pitch-up (which proved to be non-reversible). But if they’d seen that tiny caution on their ADI, they’d have manually trimmed forward and lived to see a “happy-ever-after” outcome. Yet that caution was (and still is ) totally inadequate for getting the attention of a crew in extremis. Relevance to MH370?

When the depressurization alert sounded, the MH370 pilot would've disconnected the autopilot and turned left and forced the nose down, but as with the ANZ trio, he also forgot/or was unaware (i.e. not actively alerted to the fact that) he’d have to trim forward into the descent (i.e. it’s a really alien action for a FBW pilot to grab the trim wheel and start winding it around). But the nose-drop of the turn itself disguised the need to oppose yoke pressure by manually trimming forward (i.e. if you turn steeply enough, the nose will drop sharply of its own accord anyway). Having forgotten to don his mask, and having initially needed little or no forward pressure to hold the nose down...... and after rolling out on heading (for (say) Pulau Langkawi airfield, he'd have soon passed out Of course he'd then have relaxed any forward pressure on his yoke - and the aircraft would've, of its own volition, pitched up and re-entered a climb. The nose-up pitching moment would have been quite significant once the pilot lost consciousness. A zoom-climb peaking at 45,000 ft would be within the aircraft's capability....even if it was too heavy to maintain that height.

Why turn?

Priority for an emergency descent is to turn 90 degrees (at least) to clear the airway (as traffic beneath will be as little as 1000ft below - under RVSM rules). My guess is that the MH370 pilot rolled out on a rough heading for either Penang or Pulau Langkawi (East coast Malaysia) and then passed out. The untrimmed aircraft (with high power set and at a higher speed and with its autopilot disconnected and never having been trimmed nose-down) would have then, quite per its aerodynamics, pitched up nose-high and zoomed back up to FL450 or thereabouts. At that height, all the rear-enders would’ve been beyond the capabilities of the diluter-demand drop-down oxy mask system and would have soon passed out. The aircraft would’ve nose-dropped (i.e. ran out of its inertia steam) at its FL450 zoom-ceiling and thereafter abided by its natural sinusoidal phugoid (e.g. up 500ft slowing, then down 1000ft speeding up) eventually subsiding, after around 30 minutes, down to a self-damping equilibrium and levelling off at around 18,000 feet….. having found its pre-set trim-state stability regime. Their position by then? My guess would be around the Northern tip of Sumatra.

That two-man Vulnerability

If a pilot had suddenly realized that hypoxia was a real and present threat (e.g. other pilot collapses), his first action would be to disconnect the autopilot, turn off the airway at least 90 degrees (SOP ingrained action as opposite direction traffic on the airway could be a mere 1000 feet beneath).... while simultaneously stuffing the nose down to descend. All well and good - if that pilot hadn't then also passed out. Why wouldn't he have first donned HIS mask. Well, by the time the first pilot (a smoker?) had visibly and alarmingly succumbed, the other pilot's state of mind would've been quite befuddled. Seconds become minutes quickly when alerts and aural alarms are playing out their audio distractions. And it's just a minute to fall foul of debilitating hypoxia (found to be a factor in JAL123's fatal crash of a 747 due to cracking of the tail pressure cone - none of the flight crew donned oxy-masks even after recognizing an explosive decompression at 20,000 ft. ). At MH370's 35,000 feet, the time of useful consciousness is mere seconds. This fact has a weighting of 50% in that Occam's Razor factors evaluation. Hurrah for locked cockpit doors - and two man cockpits. One-two incapacitation just wouldn't happen in a three man cockpit IMHO. But in a two-man cockpit it can and has.

What if that emergency descent had continued? (result: a 911 scenario?)

There was still a chance for MH370 if the descent had continued - however it did not. Why not? 777 pilots don't often hand-fly or if they do, they'd likely (for pax comfort) be using the yoke in Control Wheel Steering mode. In CWS you don't have to trim the aircraft in pitch manually, the auto-trim takes care of that. But if you manually disconnect the autopilot, which is an instinctive action dependent upon your prior training, and then simultaneously turn, you're likely to forget to trim the aircraft nose-down into a continued descent (i.e. the nose naturally tends to drop in a steeply banked turn so there's no action-trigger for any nose-down trimming manual task). So, assuming that the remaining conscious pilot passed out whilst holding slight forward pressure on the yoke in the steep turn left, what would happen once he'd rolled out on that westerly heading, passed out and relinquished that slight forward pressure that he'd held in the turn? Upon rolling out, the aircraft would tend to zoom up as a function of increased speed, being untrimmed in pitch and courtesy of an incremental thrust increase due to the added speed of descent with power on. Would it have then zoomed up as far as Flight level 450? All Top-of-Climb a heavy well out-of-trim aircraft has the inertia-derived ability to zoom-climb higher than their operational ceiling, but weight and available thrust will always be the limiting factor on sustaining that height. Once the airspeed had subsided toward a near nose-high stall, the nose would pitch down and subsequent events would be a function of the aircraft's speed and heading stability characteristics (more on that later). But no matter how quick the visit to 45,000 feet or how fast or sedate the subsequent descent, the fact is that that extreme height, once depressurized, would've been a lethal factor for all aboard. That's the point at which MH370 likely became a ghost flight. The unalerted surprise factor would have likely precluded anybody down the back going on portable oxygen. And the deployed passenger oxy masks would not have been any solution or assistance once above 40,000 feet. Note also that if the second pilot had simply disengaged the autopilot's baro hold (pressure altitude maintenance) and set a preset heading roll-out bug on his HSI - and turned and descended using CWS, the aircraft's onward progress may have been quite different (ie, the CWS dictates an attitude that's desired to be held, and the descent would've continued). You'd have to reflect that a non-hypoxic AF447 pilot of an A330 still got it wrong and climbed his aircraft into a deep-stall after a relatively minor malfunction - and then held it there in a deep-stall until impact. Does that make this described MH370 chain of events more digestible? Aircraft being flown manually at TOPC tend to be fractious and indelicate for manual handling, even for a non-hypoxic and unpanicked airframe handler. Perplexion and non-normal events go hand in hand. Once there's an untimely and unexpected happenstance, there's a >50% chance that it will be the lead that bleeds.

A Pilot Regains Consciousness

As the pilot, by the time you recover to a semi-conscious state at that intermediate height, you've overflown peninsular Malaysia and your thinking is muddled to say the least. You revert to doing what comes naturally. Vaguely aware that something is very wrong, you re-engage the autopilot and start punching in diversion waypoints on the FMS control panel. By that time there may be just one surviving pilot who'd regained consciousness (probably the non-smoker) ..... and the E&E bay occupant/instigator would be dead.

The magic about 18,000 feet...

.... is that below that height you can briefly revive and survive in a semi-comatose state. Significantly above that height you will soon die of anoxia and the biting cold. Sustain that height and you will soon be a semi-conscious vegetable in terms of available Time of Useful Consciousness - i.e. after a very few minutes (think 5 at most). But that's long enough to start doing what comes naturally for a nowadays airframe manager. You start punching in diversion destinations into the FMS. If you fat-finger PER instead of PEN for Penang, you are on your way to Perth. But if you remain at high power at 18,000feet, you will flame-out before you get there..... it's the much higher fuel consumption that will flame you out short..... and maybe you left those draggy airbrakes out in the attempted emergency descent?

It's interesting to note that the 777-200 that was MH370 would've had in its FMS database the following call-up routes

PEK: destination

PEN: where they'd track to after their turn (i.e. best diversion following any depressurization)

PER: The Perth-bound track (that they were on immediately prior to fuel exhaustion impact).

But why no comms, transponder, ACARS?

First priority for the uninvited guest in the E&E Bay would be to disable all means of external comms and flight-following systems. Out of his depth technically and through ignorance of the system's intricacies, he'd fail on the ACARs to InMarsat half-hourly hand-shaking quirk ..... that would soon lead the search towards its present locus. Why would a saboteur (terrorist or otherwise) want the aircraft not to be found? That may not have been his intent. He may simply have wanted to avoid alerting ATC or the military prematurely. i.e. a 911 style suicide mission may have been circumvented by the pilots passing out in the zoom climb - and the saboteur himself also expiring unexpectedly at that juncture. He'd have been expecting an emergency descent when he opened the outflow valves, not a zoom-climb. Keep in mind also that the flight-deck door lock can be disabled from the E&E Bay. I'm guessing that MAS pilots don't bolt their cockpit door on the inside. The saboteur may have been planning to eventually enter the cockpit and assume control.

Copilots cell-phone cell-tower check-in

There seems to be a popular conundrum about why the copilot's cell-phone should've contacted a Penang cell-tower via handshake but no pax phones did so. The simple answer is that cell-phones in the baggage hold and cabin luggage and in a pax pocket or purse are inside the Faraday cage of the fuselage - so signals would only emanate if the cell-phone was held up against porthole glass. Such is not the case for the flight-deck. It's "the hole in the Faraday Cage".

The Pax and Crew Background Checks

These may disclose nothing because the E&E Bay saboteur would be presently "person or persons unknown". FBI, Interpol and Malaysian Security should be concentrating upon technicians or pilots familiar with the 777. Someone who worked for MAS and left bearing a grudge perhaps? Or someone with a terminal illness? It's not always a religious zealot.

Lack of floating wreckage

See my explanatory link at:

How to verify?

Find someone who qualifies but is now missing - and back-track him to KL or environs. Run it by your 777 qualified contacts. It's all quite straightforward..... and strictly follows those rigid rules of "logical sequitur". Those are the underlying rudiments for an Occam's razor explanation. At the end of the day, it all comes down to system design, training deficiencies, the foibles of failure and human factors. Unpredictable is unforeseeable. Whether or not there was a mystery pax #240 with or without a false passport, the outcome was still a self-evident (but unintended) zombie flight and nobody's fault - once the disabling dementia of depressurization has kicked in. Shock, awe and then confusion. That's the nature of rapid or sudden depressurization.

Lost without Trace

The solution to "loss without trace" was first addressed by me in 1998. (see and more specifically, in

This article to be found at:
also see:

The inference is that, following the depressurization zoom to 45,000 feet (autopilot disengaged for the instinctively entered emergency descent and turnback), the pilots had passed out and then (once the aircraft had zoomed to 45Kft and then had settled into a self-flown descent to a survivable depressurized altitude (of say, 18,000 feet) and one or both pilots had partially recovered), an attempt may have been made to reconnect the autopilot and then to insert PEN into the FMS for a diversion to Penang (but the semi-conscious pilot had inadvertently "fat-fingered" PER into the FMS and the aircraft then turned for Perth from its "present" Straits of Malacca location)..... with the pilots passing out again after their oxygen had been depleted (or if oxygen had been disconnected in the E&E Bay, once the FMS had commanded a climb to a diversion level above 18,000 feet).

I doubt that they will now locate any surface debris (flotsam) because the black-box and impact area is likely to be 100's of miles away from where they're towing their arrays. Logic behind that? Having sowed many many large passive listening sonobuoy fields for LOFAR location of submarines, I'm of course familiar with the phenomenon described below. 2nd and 3rd convergence zones are in theory toroidal but, in actuality, because of the canyon echoing effect of a signal emanating from a "bottomed" source in that topography, the annulus of the 2nd and 3rd (and 4th?) CZ's are likely to be very distorted and incomplete doughnuts. That would explain why the pinger signals are fading in and out. An experienced Jezebel operator could tell 2nd from 3rd CZ by its fuzziness and the rate at which its signal crossed the Jezebel sowed sonobuoy field.

If you tow your ship's array from the outer annulus ring directly towards the annulus centre your signal duration (between the rings) may be very short. If you track tangentially across the annulus (with its centroid on your beam), then 150 minute long detections are quite explicable. Think of the Convergence Zone annulus as being an ever moving feast, like a smoke ring slowed down manifold times, yet often moving to and fro over scores of miles as a result of thermal layer mixing, diurnal variation and intermediate currents at varying depths. These currents flow through the oceans and give rise to such phenomenons as El Niño (La Niña is a coupled ocean-atmosphere phenomenon that is the counterpart of El Niño as part of the broader El Niño–Southern Oscillation climate pattern.). The upshot is that impact area and debris field could easily be many hundreds of miles from where they're search due to sound channel ducting.

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From John Sampson, this updated link:
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Pilot of vanished Malaysian flight had deviant route on simulator, transport minister says
Originally published August 4, 2016 at 7:06 pm

The transport minister appeared to be responding to a report published last month in New York magazine.

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The New York Times
The pilot of the Malaysia Airlines jetliner that mysteriously vanished more than two years ago had used his personal flight simulator to practice a path over the remote southern Indian Ocean, where the aircraft is believed to have crashed, the country’s transport minister said Thursday.

The remarks by the minister, Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai, represented the first time the Malaysian government had acknowledged that the flight simulator belonging to the pilot of Flight 370, Capt. Zaharie Ahmad Shah, contained such a path, leading far from any route his airline flew.

The minister did not say when the pilot might have practiced that route, and he emphasized that it was one of many found on the simulator, which the pilot kept at his home. The minister also said it would be premature to draw any conclusions from the disclosure.

Nonetheless, it added to telltale indications that the aircraft, a Boeing 777-200 jet carrying 239 passengers and crew members, might have been deliberately crashed into the sea by Zaharie after departing Kuala Lumpur for Beijing on March 8, 2014.

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“Yes, there is simulation showing it flew to many parts of the world,” the minister was quoted by Malaysia’s Bernama News Agency as saying at a monthly Transport Ministry briefing. The remote southern Indian Ocean route was “one of many,” he said.

The minister appeared to be responding to a report published July 22 by New York magazine, which said it had obtained a confidential document from a Malaysian police investigation showing that Zaharie had practiced the route on his simulator less than a month before Flight 370 disappeared “under uncannily similar circumstances.”

The magazine called the revelation, which was not in the Malaysia government’s public report on the Flight 370 investigation, the strongest evidence yet that the pilot had “made off with the plane in a premeditated act of mass murder-suicide.”

Flight 370’s deviation from its planned route, taking the aircraft thousands of miles off course, remains a mystery of modern civil aviation. One of the working theories is that the plane flew for hours on autopilot with its crew dead or incapacitated and then crashed when its fuel ran out.

Technical signals sent by the plane suggested it might have wound up in a 46,000-square-mile area of the southern Indian Ocean, but aircraft and ships have scoured the area without turning up a sign of the aircraft. Last month, the three countries leading the search — Australia, China and Malaysia — said they would suspend the operation, but would revive it if “credible new information” emerged about the plane’s whereabouts.

A small amount of debris believed to be from the plane has been found thousands of miles to the west. The most significant pieces appeared to be a wing part known as a flaperon — discovered last year on Réunion, an island near Madagascar that is part of France — and another wing segment found more recently near the coast of Tanzania.

A prominent crash investigator caused a stir last weekend by asserting that the flaperon appeared to have been placed in an extended position when it hit the water, and that it had to have been done deliberately. The assertion by the investigator, Larry Vance, who led an inquiry into the 1998 crash of Swissair Flight 111 in the Atlantic Ocean, has not been confirmed by officials in charge of the Flight 370 inquiry.

“Somebody was flying the airplane at the end of its flight,” Vance said in an interview on Australia’s “60 Minutes” program. “Somebody was flying the airplane into the water. There is no other alternate theory that you can follow.”

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