PILOTS at Malaysia Airlines told an air crash investigator why they think captain Zaharie Shah was “unable to regain command” of the doomed jet.
MH370 departed Kuala Lumpur airport on March 8, 2014, destined for Beijing, China. The Boeing 777, which had 239 people on board, last communicated with air traffic control at 1.19am, before mysteriously vanishing over the South China Sea. Radar and satellite data showed how the aircraft suddenly changed course and flew back across Malaysia before turning south of Penang and then towards the southern Indian Ocean.
Leading air crash investigator Christine Negroni claimed during her book “The Crash Detectives” that Mr Shah may not have been in the cockpit when disaster struck.
Ms Negroni believes the plane suffered a sudden depressurisation while the experienced captain was taking a bathroom break.
She wrote last year: “I find it logical to assume that Zaharie visited the business-class bathroom near the flight deck that is also used by the flight crew.
“In this and all the airline’s 777’s bathrooms, a drop-down mask is there to provide oxygen in the case of depressurisation.
The captain was unable to regain command of the plane
“Imagine what it would have been like for Zaharie to see the yellow plastic cup bob down after depressurisation.
“He would have been momentarily rattled, but with his experience, he would have realised immediately what had happened and what needed to be done.”
Ms Negroni theorises that Mr Shah tried to make it back to the cockpit, but struggled to catch his breath.
She adds: “The distance between the bathroom and the cockpit s just a few steps, but like Fariq, Zaharie was a smoker and probably more susceptible to the effects of oxygen deprivation.
“If he got out of the bathroom, if he got down the narrow corridor, if he got to the door of the cockpit without losing consciousness, another challenge would have awaited him.
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“The cockpit door unlocks automatically when cabin altitude is lost. Would Zaharie have remembered that?
“Or did he, by force of habit, stop outside the door and enter the code?
“Did he lose precious seconds struggling to remember a passcode he did not need?”
Ms Negroni went on to claim pilots inside Malaysia Airlines had backed this theory, citing previous similar cases.
She continued: “Or did he just grab the handle and open the door, but succumb to the lack of oxygen before getting into his seat?
“Pilots at Malaysia Airlines tell me that in a rapid decompression, it would have been very difficult for Captain Zaharie to get back onto the flight deck.
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“All the previous cases of rapid depressurisation on airliners, those that successfully landed and few that crashed, bring home chilling clarity that physical exertion eats away at the too-few seconds of useful consciousness.
“The captain was unable to regain command of the plane.
“If he had things might have turned out very different.”
Ms Negroni also detailed her entire theory on what she belives happened while Zaharie was apparently out of the cockpit.
She wrote: “My theory is that an electrical malfunction knocked out the systems on the Boeing 777 and that the plane lost pressurisation incapacitating the pilots.
“Whatever happened, it could not have caused damage serious enough to affect the airworthiness of the plane, since it flew on until running out of fuel many hours later.
“Likely, the men in the cockpit were overcome by the altitude sickness known as hypoxia, which robbed them of the ability to think clearly and land the plane safely.
“Many of the links in the bizarre chain of events that night can be explained by hypoxia, because past cases have shown how rapidly those who fall victim to it turn imbecilic.”
However, this idea is just one theory among hundreds of others proposed over the last five years.
Some state the plane was hijacked, either by terrorists on board or through remote cyber hacking.
While more outrageous ideas have claimed the plane was a “flying bomb” due to the cargo of five tonnes of mangosteens and 221kg of lithium-ion batteries.
Over the years there have been all sorts of claims over possible sightings, from Maldive islanders to oil rig workers in Vietnam.
However, we are still no closer to knowing the truth.