A woman holds a sign of support and hope for the passengers of the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 she made and brought to the Kuala Lumpur International Airport on Tuesday. Photo by Damir Sagolj, Reuters
MANILA – Someone in the cockpit of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 might have deliberately switched off the aircraft's diagnostic systems, making it impossible for authorities to trace the ill-fated Boeing 777-200ER, an official of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) said Tuesday.
"If there was no distress call and there was no explosion, it had to be something done positively by somebody in the cockpit. I cannot imagine a terrorist getting inside the cockpit under the conditions," Capt. John Andrews, deputy director of the CAAP, told radio dzMM.
"It is difficult to admit it or even consider it was deliberately done by a crew member, but I’m sticking my neck out in making the statement… it’s got to be said," he said.
According to Andrews, there can only be two things why the aircraft's transponder – which gives the exact position, air speed, altitude, and even serial number of the aircraft – can be switched off. He said there might have been either an explosion or it was purposely turned off by either one of the crew members in the cockpit.
"If they are ruling out an explosion, therefore it must have been purposely turned off. If it was purposely turned off, there was a deliberate act to commit something. That is why there was no distress call or anything else," Andrews said.
Andrews said it is impossible for somebody else, other than the pilot or other crew members, to go into the cockpit.
“There are procedures. When somebody goes out of the cockpit, another crew member stands by, and blocks off the entrance. Walang makakalapit, that is normally the case,” he said.
He said any attempt to get inside the cockpit would have to be done over a period of time, and the pilots will still be able to make a distress call.
"That never happened," he pointed out, saying that this discounts the possibility that the plane might have been hijacked.
Andrews also said there have been two cases of pilot suicide recorded and investigated by authorities.
"It is not far-fetched for this thing to happen again," he said.
The CAAP deputy director said authorities should investigate the crew members' activities before the flight.
"What I feel is authorities should investigate the crew members - where they were the night before, what they ate, what they drank and everything else, because that’s part of the investigation," he said.
According to Andrews, even foreign experts are hinting at the involvement of the crew.
"But they are very careful treading this line, because of the sensitivities involved, but eventually dadating at dadating din yan diyan… From all the evidence gathered so far, it is a scenario worth investigating," he said.
"I hope I’m wrong, we hope for the best, but we have to accept reality whatever it may be," Andrews said.
Map and timeline comparing the disappearance and initial search efforts for Malaysia Airlines MH370 and Air France AF447 which crashed in 2009. Reuters image
Andrews said considering that there is aircraft debris found yet, he is assuming that there was no explosion.
"Any explosion would have a lot of debris," he said, also discounting the theory that the plane "disintegrated" mid-air.
Andrews believes that the plane entered the sea at an acute angle, that is why there was no explosion.
"When an object falls from the sky it is either in a controlled or uncontrolled state. A controlled state means it is still flying. If an object is drifting down, it will explode on impact. If it were going down at a very acute angle, dire-diretso lang sa tubig yun, kung sasabog man sa loob na ng tubig,” he said.
In this scenario, Andrews said debris is going to be very limited.
Andrews said although the plane carries an emergency beacon, it may have activated upon impact but it had no time to send any signal.
"If it gave out a signal this will be picked up by satellite, and relayed to pick-up stations around the world. But no signal appeared," he said.
He said the only way to get a final confirmation of what happened to the plane is through its flight data recorder.
"If they are able to find the flight data recorder, they will be able to determine exactly what happened. When the airplane goes down, the recorder starts pinging. Sound waves travel in water," he said.
The next step is to try to locate the pinging sound, which lasts 30 to 90 days, which can help search and rescue personnel locate the impact zone.
However, this is not easy if the plane went down in shallow water. "All the other noises from the surface are picked up, it’s hard to distinguish the pinging sound," he said.