Saturday 20 January 2018

Pilot 'deliberately crashed' flight MH370

A relative of a passenger aboard flight MH370 attends a protest outside the Chinese foreign
ministry in Beijing. Photo: Reuters
A relative of a passenger aboard flight MH370 attends a protest outside the Chinese foreign ministry in Beijing. Photo: Reuters
A man whose son was aboard MH370 at a protest outside the Chinese foreign ministry. Photo: Reuters

Chiara Palazzo

One of the world's leading air crash investigators says he believes flight MH370 was "deliberately" crashed into the sea by a rogue pilot in a possible murder-suicide bid.

In an interview on Australian TV, Larry Vance said erosion on the edges of recovered wing parts suggested the plane was lowered to its doom in a controlled fashion.

The erosion was caused by a part of the plane's wing - called a flaperon - being exposed to the elements when it was extended.

The flaperon can only be extended by a pilot in full control of his plane, he said.

Flight MH370 disappeared on March 8, 2014, with 239 passengers and crew on board.

The plane had been heading to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur when it vanished from radar.

For the past two years investigators have combed more than 120,000 sq. metres of seabed using underwater drones, but are yet to establish what caused the disaster.

Mr Vance, who led the investigation into the downing of Swissair Flight 111 in 1998, told Channel Nine's '60 minutes': "Somebody was flying the airplane at the end of its flight. There is no other theory that fits."

Previous theories suggested that the plane crashed after malfunctioning or was shot down, with Australian investigators working under the assumption that no one was in control of the Boeing 777 jet when it disappeared.

But there is growing evidence, investigators say, that points to a 'rogue pilot' scenario in which Captain Zaharie Shah deliberately flew the plane off-radar before plunging into the ocean with more than 200 passengers on board. This has been strongly denied by Shah's sister, who says there is no evidence he was suicidal.

Pilot suicides are extremely rare. The most recent case occurred in 2015, when the co-pilot of a Germanwings Airbus A320 crashed his plane into the French Alps en route to Dusseldorf, killing 130 people.

Mr Vance added that the failure to find floating debris and lifejackets would fit the theory of a slow, controlled landing.

"Of all the potentials that might have happened, there is no other theory that fits," he said.

It comes as Australian Transport Safety Bureau crash investigator Peter Foley agreed the crash could have been the work of a rogue pilot.

He said analysis from French authorities showed it was possible the plane was in a "deployed state".

The flaperon is in the hands of the French, and Malaysian investigators have become frustrated after waiting for more than a year to examine it.

He added that if the plane was piloted until the end, it could have landed outside the current search area: "There is a possibility there was someone in control at the end and we're actively looking for evidence to support that."

Mr Vance said flights that crash into the ocean while out of control usually explode on impact, creating millions of pieces of debris.

But in MH370's case, only a handful of wing segments have been recovered, despite the force of currents that should by now have pushed most of the wreckage onto the shore.

"I think the fuselage is intact for the most part, and is on the bottom of the Indian Ocean," Mr Vance said.

The discovery of the flaperon, which showed damage consistent with the force of water, should have prompted experts to conclude the crash was caused by a rogue pilot, Mr Vance said.

"Everybody should then have concluded, in my opinion, that this was a human-engineered event, there's no other explanation," Mr Vance said.

Meanwhile a large wing part believed to be from the missing plane was brought to Canberra for analysis after it was found on Pemba Island off the coast of Tanzania in June.

Irish Independent

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