The question of what happened to Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 on 8 March 2014 is one of the greatest unsolved mysteries of our time.
It still seems incredible that in these days of GPS, constant surveillance and unlimited data collection that a fully-laden jet, carrying 239 people could simply disappear and never be found, but that’s exactly what has happened, despite every resource being put toward attempting to locate something - anything - that would tell us exactly what really happened.
Now, leading air safety experts have reached the shocking conclusion that the pilot, Captain Zaharie Amad Shah, carefully planned a deliberate murder-suicide mission.
The exhaustive underwater search, which unearthed nothing more than some limited debris, was called off in January 2017 after two years.
The seabed search was led by Martin Dolan, and he told a special edition of the 60 Minutes Australia programme: “This was planned, this was deliberate, and it was done over an extended period of time.”
What exactly happened?
The plane was on a routine flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, and the initial analysis suggested that it ran out of fuel and crashed in the Indian Ocean, west of Australia.
The flight disappeared from air traffic controllers’ radar after deviating westwards from its planned flight path, crossing the Malay Peninsula - however, it was still tracked on military radar until it left the range while over the Andaman Sea. It then flew undetected for what is believed to be around six hours.
Experts believe that Zaharie selected a remote and isolated part of the route so that the plane would disappear, flying along the Thai-Mayalsian frontier in order to avoid either side taking any action.
Captain Simon Harvey, who has flown the Boeing 777 widely in Asia, said that he believed the mission was “planned meticulously to make the aircraft disappear”.
“As the aircraft went across Thailand and Malaysia, it runs down the border, which is wiggling underneath, meaning it’s going in and out of those two countries, which is where their jurisdictions are,” he said.
He added: “If you were commissioning me to make a 777 disappear, I would do exactly the same thing. As far as I’m concerned, it’s very accurate flying because think it did the job and we know, as a fact, that the military did not come and intercept the aircraft.”
How did he manage to do this?
53-year-old Captain Zaharie was accompanied on flight MH370 by an inexperienced first officer, Fariq Abdul Hamid, a man who was on his first 777 flight without a training captain to oversee him - thus, it is unlikely that he would have been questioned in any of his actions with any authority.
The homes of both men were searched after the disappearance, with evidence from computer equipment suggesting that Zaharie had used flight simulation software to prepare for his eventual actions.
Vance says he believes that Zaharie put on an oxygen mask before depressurising the plane, which would have rendered all other passengers, including Hamid, unconscious.
He said: “There is no reason not to believe that the pilot did not depressurise the cabin to incapacitate the passengers.”
John Dawson, a lawyer who represented the nine families whose relatives vanished from MH370 and MH17, said:
“The evidence is so heavily weighted to involvement by one of the aircrew taking this aircraft down. That aircraft has probably de-pressurised, the people died of asphyxiation, it was premeditated murder. It was highly planned. The bodies have never been found.”
Are there any other possibilities?
Some have claimed that terrorists could have been involved in bringing the plane down.
However, Dolan dismissed this claim, saying, “If this had been a terrorist event, it’s almost invariable that a terrorist organisation will claim credit for the event. There was no such claim made.”
Has this ever happened before?
There have been several confirmed cases of murder-suicide carried out by pilots, including a Germanwings flight in 2015 which saw all 150 passengers and crew die on a flight from Barcelona to Dusseldorf when first officer Andreas Lubitz deliberately crashed the plane into the French Alps.
It later transpired that he had previously been declared unfit for work by his doctor.
(Images: Dominik Scythe/Getty)