The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) has cast serious doubt over the “rogue pilot” theory in the marathon struggle to explain the disappearance of flight MH370.
The report released Wednesday – based on MH370 wreckage analysis – suggests the Malaysia Airlines aircraft carrying 239 people was in a “high and increasing rate of descent” as it made its last communications with the ground, and that the wing flap found on Pemba Island was not deployed at the time of the crash.
Both findings are consistent with a plane crashing while not in a pilot’s control.
MH370 vanished on March 8, 2014 and the ATSB has been leading a search in the southern Indian Ocean. It has so far returned nothing.
Authorities won’t finish scouring the final 10,000 square kilometres of the 120,000 square kilometre search zone area until January because of difficult weather conditions.
The rogue pilot theory has been discussed at length since MH370 went missing.
Aviation operations professional Neil Hansford told The New Daily in September that he felt the majority of the aviation industry believed a rogue pilot brought down the plane.
“There is not a whole lot of doubt around that MH370 is in the Indian Ocean, in that approximate area and that it is likely to have been a human-induced event, not mechanical failure,” Mr Hansford said at the time.
While there were two pilots aboard MH370, most of the blame has been levelled at captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah.
Both the ATSB and a leaked FBI report have revealed the captain’s home flight simulator showed a course to the southern Indian Ocean had been plotted. However it was unknown if he was the person who had plotted that course.
“The simulator information shows only the possibility of planning. It does not reveal what happened on the night of its disappearance nor where the aircraft is located,” the ATSB said at the time.
In September, News Corp revealed Mr Shah had grown close to a married woman and her three children in the years before the doomed flight. The friendship cooled in the weeks leading up to the flight, the woman said.
The author of a detailed research report, which claims MH370 crashed due to a windshield fire, told The New Daily his work led him to believe the rogue pilot theory was bogus.
The author, Mick Gilbert, said an acclaimed investigator who favoured the rogue pilot theory had changed his opinion due to the research.
“I got in touch with John Cox, the ex-NTSB investigator, he looked at my work and said he had changed his mind on the probability of the ‘rogue pilot’ scenario,” Mr Gilbert said.
“He had believed ‘rogue pilot’ was the most likely answer to MH370 … he now believes ‘rogue pilot’ is no more likely than any other theory.”
The ATSB would not rule out the rogue pilot theory, but reported its investigations suggested it was unlikely.
The ATSB report also hinted that the current search area may not be the only possible place the aircraft rests. It claimed drift analysis and information from recovered debris pointed to MH370 being “within the current search area, or further north”.
A group of experts are currently meeting in Canberra to come up with a proposal that Australia can take to Malaysia and China to convince them to continue the search beyond the 10,000 square kilometres remaining.
Meanwhile, Malaysia Airlines have finally granted victims’ families access to company records – including maintenance logs and crew medical certificates – to assist in likely litigation against the airline.