A 495-page report released Monday into Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 revealed a third party might have interfered, causing the jetliner to be flown off its intended course the night it disappeared four years ago.
Fight 370 Safety Investigation team leader Kok Soo Chon said investigators reached that conclusion based on a series of flight simulator tests following the recorded path of the Boeing 777 jetliner as it turned southwest on March 8, 2014 during its flight to Beijing, northeast of Kuala Lumpur.
“The autopilot has to be disengaged, it has to be on manual. We have carried out seven simulator tests, flight simulators, three at high and four at low speed and we found the turn was made indeed under manual, not autopilot,” Kok told reporters in Kuala Lumpur early Monday.
Investigators said they did not believe pilot Zaharie Ahmad Shah or first officer Fariq Abdul Hamid caused the plane to fly off course, instead pointing at the possibility of interference from someone on board the plane.
“Unlawful interference can mean that someone was holding a knife at the pilot’s neck,” Kok said.
No one, including terror organizations, claimed responsibility for causing the aircraft to vanish.
Flight 370 disappeared while traveling with 12 crew and 227 passengers, most of them from China. Investigators found the 12-year-old Boeing 777 jetliner had a clean bill of health at the time of its final flight but not all four of its emergency locator transmitters (ELT) were functioning, leading to a failure to broadcast the normal distress signals to help locate the plane.
Intan Maizura Othman, whose husband, Hazrin Hassan, was a flight attendant questioned the malfunction.
“I asked Kok how the transmitter was not transmitting any signal upon impact, and he said the transmitters are unreliable,” she said. “It is shocking to know that. There are four transmitters, at least one should work.
“They put in the report saying the battery for the ELP had expired. How convenient is that?”
She and others were surprised to learn this is not the final report as it touches only on the safety issue and not the search-and-rescue operation.
“They are not from the search team, so I asked them, ‘Who are you guys?’” she said. “They said they are not the ones who did the research, so I asked where are the people who did the research? We want to talk to them, but no one was able to answer.”
Survivors said they were upset that representatives from Malaysia Airlines, the Department of Civil Aviation and the Ministry of Transport were not present.
Not final report
Responding to criticism from the next of kin, Kok said that it would be presumptuous for investigators to call their report final. Under rules of the International Civil Aviation Organization, Kok’s investigators were mandated to investigate only the safety of the airliner and not search and rescue.
“Without the benefit of the examination of the aircraft wreckage and recorded flight data information, the investigation was unable to identify any plausible aircraft or systems failure,” he said.
The report said that as Flight 370 was changing its path, it flew for almost 20 minutes unmonitored by air traffic centers as it crossed between Malaysian and Vietnamese airspace.
Kuala Lumpur air traffic control failed to initiate the required emergency phases and contact the Royal Malaysian Air Force in a timely manner after realizing something amiss, the report also said.
The investigators will present their findings on Aug. 8 in China to the next of kin of 153 passengers who were on Flight 370.