The pilot of the missing MH370 flight killed himself and his passengers by switching off the oxygen supply in what is the sixth example of such a suicide, according to an aviation expert.
Ewan Wilson, head of Kiwi Airlines, believes Zaharie Ahmad Shah planned mass murder – locking his co-pilot out of the cockpit, depressurising the cabin and shutting down all communication links before turning the plane around.
Having examined all other possibilities, Mr Wilson insists that Shah, 53, is responsible for the deaths of the 227 passengers and 12 crew members on board the doomed Malaysian Airlines flight, which disappeared on March 8.
And shockingly, Mr Wilson will tell British aviation experts today that there have been five other suicide flights in recent times, as he travels from New Zealand to Birmingham for a meeting, the Birmingham Mail reports.
He said: ‘There is a fundamental desire to ignore the mental health issue in the aviation industry.
Our research indicates there have been five previous incidents of murder/suicide in commercial flights over the last three decades or so, accounting for 422 lives.
The sad addition of MH370 would bring that number to 661.’
‘Mentally ill’: The book claims the most likely scenario is that pilot Zaharie Ahmad Shah (above) deliberately depressurised the cabin then flew for another three hours before ditching into the sea
Although oxygen masks would have dropped down automatically from above the seats, the passengers’ supply was limited to just 20 minutes.
People unable to grab a mask, such as those sleeping, would have passed out within the space of a few minutes.
The entire ‘ghost plane’ – including her cabin crew whose air supply is only marginally longer, would have slipped into a coma and died shortly after from oxygen starvation.
Ahmad Shah, who locked his co-pilot out of the cockpit, survived long enough – either by repressurising the aircraft or from breathing his own, more extensive air supply – to evade radar and ‘execute his master plan’, Mr Wilson has concluded.
The Kiwi Airlines chief says he then made eight different course changes before allowing the jet to fly on auto-pilot for its final few hours.
He then performed a controlled ditching in the sea, which would explain why no debris has been found because the plane landed and sank in one piece.
The theory is the result of the first independent study into March’s disaster by the New Zealand-based air accident investigator, Ewan Wilson.
Mr Wilson, the founder of Kiwi Airlines and a commercial pilot himself, arrived at the shocking conclusion after considering ‘every conceivable alternative scenario’.
However, he has not been able to provide any conclusive evidence to support his theory.
An earlier report from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) also concluded that passengers may have died from hypoxia.
And Malaysian authorities previously named Ahmad Shah as their prime suspect.
The remarkable claims are made in the book ‘Goodnight Malaysian 370’, the culmination of a four-month study into the incident, which Wilson co-wrote with the New Zealand broadsheet journalist, Geoff Taylor.
Wilson, a qualified transport safety investigator, said: ‘One of our objectives in writing this book was, in some small way, to convey the human stories of the tragedy.
‘Our other, more important task was to pursue the truth about what really happened; that is one small contribution we felt we could make to this whole, terrible affair.
‘We could never have foreseen the information we uncovered, or their implications.
‘Neither could we have imagined the horrific scenario that our research suggests took place on board that fateful plane.’
Officials claim they are ‘making progress’ as they continue to scour 60,000 sq km of sea for the plane. The orange line indicates ‘high priority’ search areas; the yellow has been searched already.
They believe that Ahmad Shah, who they have concluded was suffering from mental illness, tricked his co-pilot, father-of-three, Fariq Hamid, into taking a break about 40 minutes after take-off.
After locking Hamid out of the cockpit, Ahmad Shah made his last broadcast to air traffic control – ‘Goodnight, Malaysian 370’ – before switching off the aircraft’s air-to-ground communication links.
Alone at the controls, he took MH370 up to 39,000 feet and de-pressurised the aircraft, giving passengers and crew less than 60 seconds of Time of Useful Consciousness (TUC).
Ahmad Shah could not have prevented the plane’s oxygen masks from automatically dropping down or an automated emergency announcement in English.
But Flight 370 was a night flight and, with the cabin lights off, the majority of passengers would have been asleep, or close to it.
And for 227 of the 239 passengers, English was not their first language.
Cabin crew would have tried to help those on board, but would have had to have donned their own facemasks first.
International effort: Australia’s deputy prime minister Warren Truss unveiled the latest search plan at a press conference in Canberra earlier this month. The government has contracted a new firm to take up the search.
‘It would have been a frightening and confusing time throughout the cabin,’ Taylor said.
‘By the time some of the passengers had woken up groggy, heard the commotion and looked around in confusion, it would have been too late for them.
‘Those passengers who did not react within 60 seconds or less would have lapsed into unconsciousness and death would have followed within four to six minutes.’
Those who had found a mask would have had between 12 and 22 minutes of breathing time before blacking out.
The cabin crew’s oxygen supply would have lasted for about 70 minutes, depending upon the height of the aircraft.
By the time MH370 returned to cruising altitude, everyone on board would have perished.
Ahmad Shah would have had three hours’ worth of oxygen – plenty enough, the authors believe, to carry out the ‘final act of his performance’.
They conclude that he set a course for the southern Indian Ocean and, after the fuel ran dry, glided the aircraft for a further 100 nautical miles before performing a controlled ditching on the surface of the water.
Wilson, a trained commercial pilot, said: ‘Ahmad Shah was a man known for his methodical, thorough nature, for his love of the technical, and probably for his ego, too.
‘This would have been his final sad act to his family and to the world: “find this one”.’ -Daily Mail
Sources: DailyMail / Malaysia Chronicle / Reuters