The Riddle May Not Be Deep

June 18, 2019

WILLIAM LANGEWIESCHE, long one of the country’s preeminent journalists, has hit one out of the park with his story in the most recent Atlantic about the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight 370. It’s by far the best-written, best-researched, and all-around most compelling piece one can read on the topic. It also has brought me to terms as to what most likely happened on the night of March 8, 2014.

From the beginning I’ve been afraid of the rogue pilot theory — the idea that one of the pilots, presumably Captain Zaharie Shah, was responsible for the flight’s disappearance. I suppose this is partly out of pride. I don’t want it to have been Zaharie, because the idea of the captain hijacking his own aircraft and killing over two-hundred people shames the entire profession.

I’ve instead been noncommittal, usually taking the “two main possibilities” route. After acknowledging at least the chance of Zaharie being the culprit, I propose a second, more complicated scenario in which both pilots became incapacitated:

First, there’s a rapid or explosive cabin decompression. The decompression is caused by an explosion of the crew oxygen bottle, down in the avionics compartment. This not only knocks out the pilots’ oxygen supply, but causes many of the plane’s electronics to fail as well, thus explaining the loss of transponder contact, etc. Zaharie and first officer Hamid commence an initial turn-back toward the airport on the island of Penang (this is the hairpin turn seen on the plots), and enter an initial waypoint or two in the navigation system. They’ve donned their masks, but of course there’s no oxygen flowing, and within seconds they’re unconscious. Minutes later, as the drop-down masks are depleted, so is everyone in the cabin.

After passing Penang, the plane turns right, up the Strait of Malacca and past the northern end of Sumatra — again, in accordance with what’s seen on the satellite plots. It does this because… well, who knows what waypoints may have been in the FMS at that juncture. Maybe, in the throes of losing consciousness, the pilots had typed in nonsense. Heck, there could have been a whole sequence of irrelevant waypoints in the box. Or, is there an arrival procedure or an approach into Penang that might trace a similar outline? Later, the plane defaults to heading mode, and off it goes southwards on a long straight line to oblivion.

Of course, while such a theory explains some of the evidence, it doesn’t explain all of it. For example, it doesn’t account for the plane’s electrical systems later powering up again. Neither can it explain, my thoughts above notwithstanding, why certain course changes occurred precisely where and when they did. The flight path. Langewiesche takes this to the limit:

“It is inconceivable that the known flight path, accompanied by radio and electronic silence, was caused by any combination of system failure and human error,” he writes. “Computer glitch, control-system collapse, squall lines, ice, lightning strike, bird strike, meteorite, volcanic ash, mechanical failure, sensor failure, instrument failure, radio failure, electrical failure, fire, smoke, explosive decompression, cargo explosion, pilot confusion, medical emergency, bomb, war, or act of God — none of these can explain the flight path.”

The problem with my scenario is that it requires further and further layering to make sense. Not just this happened, but also that — and so on. The only thing that easily and neatly accounts for all of it is Zaharie.

Occam’s Razor. And I think the author has changed my mind, particularly after revealing what other people said and knew about the captain and his personal life — things the Malaysian government has been all too keen on concealing.

Then there’s Zaharie’s home simulator. The idea of a 777 captain owning and spending time on a home simulator in the first place is rather strange. What they found inside it is stranger still. Explains Langewiesche:

“Of all the profiles extracted from the simulator, the one that matched MH370’s path was the only one that Zaharie did not run as a continuous flight — in other words, taking off on the simulator and letting the flight play out, hour after hour, until it reached the destination airport. Instead, he advanced the flight manually in multiple stages, repeatedly jumping the flight forward and subtracting the fuel as necessary until it was gone.”

While this mystery will never be conclusively solved, that’s about the closest thing to a smoking gun we’re liable to find. As Langewiesche puts it, rather understatedly,”The simulator flight cannot easily be dismissed as random coincidence.”

Does locating the wreckage even matter anymore? The voice and data recorders are out there somewhere, nestled invisibly in some immense undersea fissure or canyon, in the ink-black darkness beneath thousands of feet of seawater. The search vessels may have swept right over them. But from the start, they were never likely to tell us much. Malaysian investigators, meanwhile, bumbling and obfuscating from the outset, operating on behalf of a corrupt and secretive regime, want only for the entire story to, if you’ll pardon the irony, vanish forever.

“The important answers probably don’t lie in the ocean but on land, in Malaysia,” Langewiesche concludes. “That should be the focus moving forward. The riddle may not be deep. That is the frustration here. The answers may well lie close at hand, but they are more difficult to retrieve than any black box.”



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61 Responses to “The Riddle May Not Be Deep”
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  1. Katrina Roberts says:

    The official explanation for the suspicious flight path found in Zaharie’s simulator says that the data retrieved contained only waypoints (two in Kuala Lumpur, two in the Strait of Malacca, one in the Bay of Bengal and two in the Southern Indian Ocean) which, when connected, formed a flight path very similar to the presumed path of MH370. Since only waypoints are retrieved, is it possible that these waypoints are from separate flights made on the simulator and have no connection at all?

  2. Joe Anderson says:

    Could MH370 pilot taken full control of plane and taken the Indian Ocean route but throughout the flight idled engine to glide the plane fro say 30,000 ft to 2,000 feet to add 100 miles to possible maximum fuel mileage limits? He could the completed gradual climb back to the 30,000 feet where he could keep the same heading and repeat this procedure many times with each adding miles to his maximum cruise range.

    Could he have gained and extra 2,000 miles by doing 20 glides on the same course?….THe search area would have then needed to have been much further south.

  3. Rod says:

    Just saw Ruby’s post. Reply-mode exhausted. So my two cents as follows.

    Yes, some Confucian influence, and Westerners often make the mistake in such countries of causing somebody to lose face. Not a great idea.

    OK, so he went to excruciating lengths to avoid bringing shame on those he wished to spare. That said:

    (1) Why did he leave his simulator with that telltale trace? He was no fool. Why didn’t he take the night ferry from or to Port Klang and throw the hard disk overboard?

    (2) Why didn’t he think of some non-murderous way to kill himself painlessly and without a trace? There would be many ways in a place like that. Just disappear.

    • Ian says:

      Just so you’d know, you can click the very last “Reply” button on a thread and it would still post onto the end of that thread.

      • Rod says:

        At some point there ARE simply no more reply buttons on a thread. The system is stepping in the stop the thread.

        • Simon says:

          That’s the system trying to tell you something. /hint

          • Rod says:

            Beg to differ. Yes, some of this garbage can go on too long. But SOME is very worthwhile. Should not be up to some freaking blind, arbitrary software to adjudicate.

            There’s a human being running this place. When he’s had enough, he intervenes and says Shut Up Already.

    • Ian says:

      1) and 2) are what I am thinking as well and would fit most suicide scenarios I have seen. And in the rare case of suicide/murder, just point it downwards.

      The idea of “face” – which I am sure, would pretty much equally apply to *anywhere* in the world i.e. “shame”, difference being that it’s just that more emphasis of it in asian cultures to be applied everywhere and anything – that he would actually RISK even _worse_ shame to the family by not only suicide, but committing a mass murder is perplexing to me. But, maybe that was the plan and he succeeded exceedingly well then.

      And most people if they got to this point would not even care enough anymore. Just look at the Alaska Air and Germanwings case. And there was also the EgyptAir and one more in Africa iirc.

      • Rod says:

        Ian: “The idea of ‘face’ – which I am sure, would pretty much equally apply to *anywhere* in the world …”

        Yeah you just go to a Confucian-influenced place and cause somebody to lose face (which is astonishingly easy to do because it doesn’t even occur to Westerners that they’re doing it) and you’ll see how equally with the rest of the world it applies LOL.

        • Ian says:

          I was more referring to the ‘shame’ part, ie – bringing shame to the family. In that sense, someone does something drastic, like mass murder, the family would definitely feel shameful, and the general public would also look at them and think what they did wrong to have them do that (well at least some).

          And I get that there’s a lot more to the idea of “lose face” in asian cultures, but basically it is just shame applied to everything intensified x100000000 and most of it is unjustified. I’m no cultural research expert but – disclaimer – I am asian.

          The “reply” button does disappear after many threads – but you can click the last reply button that you can see and it would just continue the thread at the bottom, they don’t need to be on the same level.

          • Rod says:

            I’ll try that. When I’ve clicked on that button before, I’ve seen: “Reply to So-and-So” and thought maybe the post would end up not below but up by S&S’s post, not supposed to be. Will try it.

  4. Steve says:

    I agree that the article was well written, particularly with respect to its presentation of the facts that we do know regarding the diversion (e.g., a clear explanation of all the satellite communication events that occurred.) I was less impressed with the gratuitous bashing of the Malaysian government and authorities – easy to do, but ultimately irrelevant to what actually happened to MH370.

    I think one should distinguish the question of whether the pilot was responsible from that of why he would have done it. Realistically, no one here knows in detail what was going on in his life or in his mind. Anecdotal stories from acquaintances or even family members are interesting but prone to be unreliable and incomplete.

    Recently released ADS-B data from a Terengganu station (that no one knew existed before) show that the transponder was disabled precisely one second after MH370 passed abeam of waypoint IGARI. A conjecture is that someone was monitoring the ACT RTE LEGS page on the CDU, watched the entry for IGARI scroll off the top, then switched the transponder to standby (effectively off).

    If the above conjecture is correct, could anyone (say, a third party hijacker) other than the Zahari or Fariq have done it? There was only one minute between the time that Zahari spoke “Good night, Malaysian three seven zero” and the disabling of the transponder. Too tight a window to imagine someone storming the cockpit at just the right time.

    • Ian says:

      I did not know about the 1 minute window between the radio and the transponder turning off. If true, and if it was indeed Zaharie behind the radio then yeah then it does suggests Zaharie may be behind it.

      (Or, someone threatening Zaharie to keep it normal in the cockpt?)

      • Rod says:

        Have to disagree with Steve that Langewiesche is bashing — no, Gratuitously bashing the Malaysian authorities. Everything I learn about this event reveals yet further incompetence, obfuscation and downright deceit. Well, just check out what Amnesty International says about Malaysia year after year.

        Steve: “No one here knows in detail what was going on in his life or in his mind. Anecdotal stories from acquaintances or even family members are interesting but prone to be unreliable and incomplete.”

        This is sort of the point, though, ain’t it? This is precisely where the Authorities should step in and investigate. Then provide a clear, balanced, objective assessment to the World (how many different nationalities on that flight?). It is Not a purely Malaysian affair.

        Instead, we’re stuck with acquaintances and family members furtively looking over their shoulders, then confiding anecdotes.
        That’s the whole problem with the Zaharie mystery.

  5. David W Morgan says:

    I agree. The best investigative examination published thus far on the demise of MH370.

  6. Giorgio says:

    Excellent story. I read in Langewiesche’s article that it is likely that the pilot depressurized the plane, and then re-pressurized it. How is that done? And, why there is such a possibility in the first place? I cannot imagine a scenario in which one would need/want to depressurize and repressurize the plane on purpose (but I have no background in aviation whatsoever).

    • Rod says:

      Since two days have passed and nobody has replied, Giorgio, I’ll try (though there are far more qualified people here who will correct me if I talk BS).

      Assume you understand perfectly why pressurization is needed. And depressurization. (Imagine flying from Hong Kong to China’s Daocheng Yading Airport, at 14,500 ft elevation — you’d have to depressurize the aircraft to open the doors.)

      I’m thinking that pretty well everything major that happens automatically on a modern airliner has to be at least initiated/set manually. And if the auto-system fails can be controlled manually (consider the autopilot).

      It therefore stands to reason that the crew can depressurize the aircraft in flight. There may even be extreme, barely conceivable circumstances where this might be desirable.

      • Patrick says:

        Yes, yes, yes and yes. See how smart you are, Rod?

      • Ian says:


        “It therefore stands to reason that the crew can depressurize the aircraft in flight. There may even be extreme, barely conceivable circumstances where this might be desirable.”

        There are even some videos on youtube where you can see them depressurizing the the (small) aircraft (without passengers of course) while in flight, which I think for training purposes.

  7. Ian says:

    Not saying my scenario is foolproof. Just saying it’s just as possible. But the earth does rotate away from the flight path, right? Especially a 6-hr flight going south(ish). And I left out many things too, winds, etc. There’s also a compass they could use in that scenario. I’m just postulating the hijackers know _enough_ say around the systems, and to navigate and point where they want it to go, e.g. but obviously not enough take other factors into account.

    There’s actually a airline engineer (mechanic?) on board the trip too. Not saying he did it, but hey, that’s another person who may know their way around an aircraft. Kep in mind this is only just me thinking.

    The differences with the Germanwings case is that with the MH370 they’re saying that pilot potentially planned such a systematic maneuver (including a U-turn) just for mass murder-suicide. Why not point it straight down like the other one. If one does not care about their own life or others anymore, why hide the suicide in such planned maneuvers? It didn’t make sense.

    Also, marriage problems and being a ‘loner’ are hardly really hard evidence he did it. I have plenty of friends that fit both descriptions. Imagine, if something mysterious happened to one person who also has marriage problems being introvert and and people point to that. Too convenient.

    The official conclusion saying that there is inconclusive seems a reasonable one to me. Until more hard evidence pops up.

    • Ian says:

      This was a reply to Rod, not Ron. My apologies.

    • Patrick says:

      But WHAT hijackers? Who were they? What were there motives? What did they want? And why did they disappear without a trace? What would the point of all their planning have been? The whole purpose of hijacking a plane is to get attention.

      • Ian says:

        That was a reponse to Rod’s comment in our exchange below.

        That’s the mystery, right? And remember, that is just me thinking. Because the plane suddenly went silent, and started turning to a particular spot. That in itself suggests hijacking. The correct question to ask is, who did it. So the answer is; one of the two pilots. And one of them probably is a loner who likes flying flight sims and had marriage problems. OK.

        Which would be reasonable, but still not solid enough too -, why not point it straight down (as had happened before)? Why the systematic maneuver? And then we learn later that the 1st officer lets people into the cockpit too easily. Plus all of those security jokes surrounding the whole event before the flight.

        We can disregard my “hijacker” scenario because it’s just something I brought up, and sure there are plenty of holes about it but then it is exactly why MH370 is such a mystery. I’m just suggesting that it could just as likely to happen given how its flight path is.

        • Lewis Van Atta says:

          Another thought sparked by this discussion: Is it possible, if there were a hijacker, that the observed actions were the flight crew trying to subtly take back control of the aircraft and alert air traffic control? This would sort of fit with the sequence of possibly depressurizing the cabin (which would incapacitate hijackers as well as passengers) then re-pressurizing it later. But something in the plan went wrong for both the hijackers and flight crew: a hypothesis from the observed results of no ransom or political demand from any group, and scattered wreckage washing ashore months later.
          This hypothesis is probably not any more likely than the others that have been floated and discussed; the simple fact is that we really don’t have enough information of any kind to draw dependable conclusions.

          • Ian says:

            Yes, I was hypothesizing there may have a been a planned hijacking, it went right initially, but went very wrong after that (not considering other factors into its navigation). Dooming everyone along with the hijacker and motive.

            I have a problem with the suicide pressurization thing, while I agree is one way to quickly and peacefully suicide – if it continued going into the Pacific after that on full AP until it runs out of fuel. Still hard a bit hard to find, and the voice recorder and in data recorder would be recording hours of no activity after that too.

            But then we see the plane make a u-turn – hence and if he locked his 1st officer outside, its enough of an alarm to have people make phone calls while it made this wreckless U-turn back over land. (There’s a phone on the plane itself, right? Unless of course that was disabled. But I imagine wouldn’t stop people trying with their cellphones that could be picked up while over land (?) ). Also, there are oxygen masks that deploy (automaticaly?) that some passengers could make use and find some way to give an alarm.

            Is a way for people in the cockpit to disable the oxygen from dropping down??

          • Ian says:

            ” Also, there are oxygen masks that deploy (automaticaly?) that some passengers could make use and find some way to give an alarm.”

            Sounds stupid. Sorry I was not thinking clearly. I meant, the passengers would be using the oxygen masks that prolong their oxygen, while making use of that time to find a way to sound an alarm (making calls, etc )

          • Pilot X says:

            Why are you overlooking the fact that Z. had the exact flight path in his simulator (and that he ran it differently from his other sims)? This argues, pretty much irrefutably, against all such fanciful claims as you propose.

          • Ian says:

            “Why are you overlooking the fact that Z. had the exact flight path in his simulator (and that he ran it differently from his other sims)? ”

            Because I don’t trust the news source that initially broke that story. (Daily Mail or some weird news site). Unless this is written in the official report. And, if that is in the official report, then the report would be pretty conclusive isn’t it?

            Also, I’m not an expert, just how does one lift out a flight path from a flight sim? I assume those just get written virtual memory and gets wiped from time to time. Maybe computer forensics have gotten pretty good. I don’t know. But if they have those hard evidence, don’t you think the official report would have sounded far more confident? Or is all that just journalists making up stories trying to get clicks? (As I’ve mentioned before, Z’s daughter has gone on record saying a lot of fake news on them. Not that I would trust her but 2 opposing stories with zero evidence = no real conclusion.)

            But again, that is just me.

            My stance is that because the guy is dead, they can write anything about him. And as far as anyone is concerned, the theories can go anywhere as well.

          • Pilot X says:

            If you think WL relied on the Daily Mail as his source for the sim details…I mean, c’mon. Accept or don’t one of WL’s main premises — that the Malaysian gov’t is corrupt, incompetent, and/or just wants to quash any and all potential negative press related to the story — but this goes a long way in explaining what is and isn’t in the official Malaysian report. Beyond that, you’re resorting to a ridiculous argument, which is, “we don’t know anything for sure, so anything could be true.” I won’t engage further with such foolery.

          • Ian says:

            I agree 100% with the government corruption and all that other stuff. Look, I’m open to this but there are just so many holes in the story from our perspective, and many of the news written couldn’t be trusted. INCLUDING the official stuff from the Malaysian government. It’s not like I am defending Zaharie, just looking it from all the other perspectives. And even if considering no one got into the cockpit, it’s still a 50/50 with Zaharie and the first officer. We can dig into what their thought patterns are and all that. It is all just a inference of what a person might be thinking that we all will never know for sure.

            And at the end of it all, I am just saying that I *can understand why* the “conclusion” is not conclusive. There are too many unknowns.

            If I am annoying anyone else with “winding myself up”, I’ll just shut up, ok. I thought I might contribute some thoughts into this but seems this isn’t welcome.

    • Ruby says:

      The reason he wouldn’t ‘just point it straight down’ may be related to the idea of ‘face’ (protection of dignity/reputation/prestige) in Malaysian culture. With this in mind, it’s understandable that he would want the jet to go down in the middle of nowhere so the FDR and cockpit recorder would be difficult to find, and thus prove his guilt. To prove a pilot was guilty of such an act would bring shame on his name and family. In addition,he may have considered it a less violent and terrifying death than actively ditching a jet into the ocean at speed. It may have been easier to plan in that way. Still unforgiveable, but perhaps a little less morally reprehensible in the mind of someone considering such an act.

      • Ian says:

        That made some sense.

        But even considering that, I still think it’s still far to systematic for a suicide/murder plan, carried out by one person. Also, I have never seen a meticulously planned suicide. Most just want to go quick or on a whim. Not plan it out via simulator and then having the plan work 10000% successfully after that.

        I’m no expert in anything, and will be happy to be proven completely wrong. Just on here to add to the discussion. But I can get why the whole official report is inconclusive.

      • Ian says:

        ..also to add a few points, (as I have written above)

        If, say we play out this scenario : Captain locks his 1st officer out. de-pressurizes the plane, keeps the ap to out to the pacific, will also result in hard-to-find FDR, CR and wreck. And would be a peaceful way to ‘go out’ long before the plane even hits the water.

        Instead, if he did plan out the U-turn back onto land, would he not consider that he would be tracked and have jets scrambled and spoiling his plans for a mysterious disappearance? (but of course we know how that turned out, stupid sleeping MAF) but just speaking from my POV if I wanted to mysteriously disappear the last thing I want to do is go back to civilization where everyone can see where I am headed next. I’m pretty sure even if he knows the MAF is severely incompetent, would he even take that chance at all.

        • Pilot X says:

          I think you’re making a logic error here. How did he know x, y, and z wouldn’t happen? He didn’t. But because x, y, and z didn’t happen, the flight proceeded as it did (there’s no way to know whether this was his “plan,” although it does match his sim flight).

          • Ian says:

            I am disregarding the bit about the flight sim path because there is just so much misinformation on it. As I’ve written above, we don’t know the real story behind it, but last I checked, stories float from: the flight sim computer was defunct, his last pictures with it were running a pretty obsolete software, etc. etc. etc.

            this whole thing reminds me of a murder incident near me.

            Long story short (and I’m REALLY simplifying this a lot) – whole family with stabbed and murderd except for the wife (who escaped barely in time and she didn’t see who did it). This wife is a second wife who is also pregnant at the time. Those killed included the husband, children of the 1st and divorced wife and husband’s mother. When police entered, no one else was in the house. Given that there is some history of arguments between them, plus all those killed were not her own children, she was foreigner, etc, police also held the wife on suspicions that she did it.

            “Occam’s razor” would suggest she did it. Everyone all suspected the same thing. It wasn’t until the police went through the house (it was a terraced style) and found a hidden pathway that led to another neighbor who was the actual murderer, who went in wanting to steal but got caught decided to murder everyone. Quite an unlikely event, but it still happened. The poor woman got all the suspicion and accusations. Imagine if the hidden pathway was never found? All leads wouldve pointed to her.

          • Pilot X says:

            Again, sorry, but what nonsense you’re spouting that has nothing to do with this topic. “Crazy X thing happened once before, so this could be crazy Y thing.”

            Ask yourself why you’re so invested in…well, I’m not sure what your point even is. You seem to really want this to be, “We can’t know what happened 100%, so every theory is as valid as any other.” But that’s not how it works.

            Also, you’ve again focused on the sim detail. This was not the thrust of what my comment said, which you’ve chose to ignore. Saying the pilot would have known x, y, and z and would therefore not have taken the flight path…you see why this is crazy, right? Because he (or the flight) actually did take that path! Arguing, “Yeah but he wouldn’t have because of x, y, z, so there must be another, much less likely and harder to believe explanation,” is another circular bit of nonsense. Stop winding yourself up, man.

  8. Rod says:

    Ian — We ran out of Replies in our exchange. I think your hijacking scenario gets badly slashed by Occam’s Razor. First, I’m not sure whether Kuala Lumpur to Peking is a long enough flight for actual rest periods for the pilots. Even if it is, how are you going to introduce your seductive accomplice to the FO? The whole business faces one problem after another.

    When you fly, it’s through an air mass rotating With the Earth. (If not, there would be continuous easterly 1,000 MPH ground winds in a place like KL…). You’re postulating hijackers who know how to fly a 777. They would obviously know the above. And have no need of celestial navigation (which may have once worked fine on ships, but won’t get you far in a modern airliner).

    So really, in terms of hijacking, it comes down to one of the two pilots. They were the apparently the only ones on board who knew how to fly the thing (and expertly manipulate the electronics), and apparently flown and manipulated it was.

    • Thomas says:

      I’m not sure since when commercial airliners have had inertial navigation systems. I believe it was the 1970s. Before that airliners flying over oceans, did in fact use celestial navigation.
      Piston-prop-liners like the DC-6 and Connie had astro-navigation domes behind the cockpit. The first generation of long-haul jets (like the Comet, 707 and DC-8) had periscopic sextants. That way there was much less drag than with a dome.

  9. Rod says:

    I agree with Patrick that Langewiesche has done us the service of sweeping away a lot of cobwebs and obliging us to confront Occam’s Razor.

    A while ago I was reading a fascinating article in Der Spiegel about psychopaths. If the Zaharie scenario is correct, it fits. He must have been a psychopath (and being charming is often a psychopath trait apparently). The Spiegel thing was an interview with a researcher whose team had established some staggering percentage of the population that fit the bill. The interviewer (quickly doing the math in his head) said “But that means there are 40,000 psychopaths walking the streets of Berlin at this very moment.” Guy says “Yeah, but you have to remember they are Not all serial murderers. We all know a few. Think about it: they’re charmingly manipulative and lack any conscience.” (or words to that effect)

    Zaharie’s 53, getting old, increasingly depressed (Langewiesche has a reputation for journalistic integrity, so I’m believing his anonymous source). Who the hell knows the mysteries of the human mind? You or I would down a couple of bottles of pills with whisky. Andreas Lubitz crashed his A320 into the Alps – another psychopath, but this one eager to demonstrate his rage. Not Zaharie. He preferred leaving a mystery (and knew the Malaysian authorities well enough to know how to do it…).

    • Pilot X says:

      I think you’d find a more sensible explanation in clinical depression and psychosis, rather than psychopathy.

      • Rod says:

        The only reason I go with psychopathy (and I possess Zero expertise) is the inability to feel guilt; the lack of conscience. So I’m told.

        How else to you do a Zaharie or a Lubitz?

  10. Ian says:

    The problem is, can we have the source of the news with the part about ‘simulator flight paths’ taken out from the simulator? Because I remember reading that, and I remember it was one of those news sites that tend to sensationalize things (DailyMail, or something). And I also remember the daughter of Zaharie writing about how a lot of things reported in the news were simply not true at that time. Over time I suspect this all gets muddled and what is fact and non facts is not clear anymore.

    While I don’t know his personal life or how he is lonely (again, I don’t have a source for this, and really, I don’t want to bother searching) I would kind of agree that it is all very sketchy to come to a real conclusion.

    And in my opinon, pilots in the cockpit narrows it down to 2 people. But whoops, it turns out, the first officer had a history of letting people into the cockpit. So, now then that becomes everyone on the plane being a suspect.

    Keep in mind I know nothing compared to the investigators of this but I put real blame on the radar guy and the malaysian air force. Had the guy keeping check on the radar (or the one issuing the alert) been not sleeping or whatever (this was widely reported) and the MAF actually scrambled fighters for any kind of unplanned diversion we would have much more information to carry out this investigation.

    • Ian says:

      Just to clarify;

      “..daughter of Zaharie writing about how a lot of things reported in the news *about their personal lives* were simply not true at that time.

      • Rod says:

        I also read a report that the first officer had allowed some pretty girls into the cockpit. True? Untrue? Even if true, it’s a serious security breach but that’s it. Hardly the makings of a mass suicide/murder.

        • Ian says:

          Yeah there was even a pretty good video of that. So that seems the case. It is a secuuity breach but my point is that it makes the investigation even more murky than it is. Anyone with intent of hijacking, with a little bit of knowhow of how the transponder works coudl just waltz up to the first officer and ask to look, right?

          • Rod says:

            Right. But as Langewiesche points out: Hijacking it and then flying it all the way down to crash in the Southern Ocean with no message, no claim by any group … Odd hijacking that.

          • Ian says:

            Rod, known terroriat group – yes peculiar. Single person, or small group, all of which on the plane itself perhaps still a possiblity, no? Especially since we are already talking about an airline captain who could’ve hijacked his own plane, anyone else would fit the bill as well. Especially with such a welcoming first officer.

            I’ve also been thinking around with the idea that they know enough to disable and hijack the plane and basic navigation by stars to any of those landing sites, or Australia, but not enough to take into account the Earth rotating away from below them, possible? Therefore person or group would’ve doomed themselves and along with the motive for it.

  11. John Neidhart says:

    Love your blog, and I agree that WL’s is likely largely correct. A trusted & respected friend, however, directed me to this and I have to admit it has left me scratching my head…

    • Ian says:

      That’s very interesting link.

      “As it turns out, it’s possible for a hypothetical hijacker to tamper with the settings in the SDU in such a way that some of the values it produces will imply that a plane is traveling one way when it’s really traveling another.”

      Hmmmmmmmm. Wow. That must be one hell of a specialist hijacker. Though unlikely, sometimes I do question if the data set from the pings are even intepreted correctly. Though I do not have the expertise to read it myself.

    • Patrick says:

      “…As it turns out, it’s possible for a hypothetical hijacker to tamper with the settings in the SDU in such a way that some of the values it produces will imply that a plane is traveling one way when it’s really traveling another…”

      Okay, let’s knock it off, please. This is going full-on sci-fi / James Bond movie silliness.

      Air crimes — even those committed by the crew — have always been LOW TECH, down-and-dirty affairs. And they always will be.

      If this was an intentional act, it was Zaharie and nobody else.

  12. No, William has this wrong, and particularly the focus on one route into the Indian Ocean when the journalist who was in receipt of these files has said there were more than one thousand flights into the region. (see Florence de Changy) For a pilot to play with flights into the South Indian Ocean when one’s home is in Malaysia is no stranger than a U.S. based pilot flying routes into the Atlantic. Its his neighborhood.

    More significant and more troubling is the inherent racism in suggesting a pilot committed mass murder based on nothing more than one anonymous source. Patrick, can you imagine being the subject of an article like this? Can you imagine hanging such a charge on any white/Western pilot?

    The first three quarters of the piece simply repeats what has been known and reported for 4 years. Tacking gossip acquired in Malaysia to the end of it and wrapping it up like a bow doesn’t make it anything different from the Islamaphobic suicide theories that emerged early on.

    Langewiesche’s byline made it worth reading for lots of us, but now that I have, I’m sorry I did.

    • Ben says:

      But we do know that “white/Western” pilots have deliberately crashed airplanes (Germanwings 9525), as have those of other racial backgrounds (EgyptAir 990). It is easy to imagine similar conclusions being drawn in a incident with similar facts but a “white/Western pilot.”

      You may fairly take issue with WL’s interpretation of the evidence, but your argument that it’s racist seems to fall flat.

    • Rod says:

      Having now read the article, I have to say it’s Obvious that Langewiesche (like the rest of us) has little new to offer. One can’t call “reflexive denials by Malaysian officials, and outright obfuscation by the Malaysian air force” racist, as anyone who knows the country will tell you. Nor is the observation that the “Malaysian regime (is) corrupt (and was) furtive, fearful, and unreliable in its investigation of the flight.” Or that “troublemakers were being picked up and made to disappear. Officials had reason for caution. They had careers to protect, and maybe their lives.”

      I don’t have the expertise to “know with certainty (that) the disappearance was an intentional act.” Seems to me there isn’t Anything that can be known with certainty, except that the thing lies somewhere in the southern Indian Ocean. (Larry Vance, a former member of Canada’s Transportation Safety Board who distinguished himself in the lengthy investigation of Swissair 111, made a fool of himself IMHO by claiming that MH370 landed slowly and under full control. Well, don’t get old maybe…).

      Is it true that the south-west turn Must have been hand-flown? If so, first I’VE heard of it.
      Was there a climb to 40,000 ft? I’m sure this guy Exner isn’t just whistling Dixie. THAT is worth taking note of.
      How does Langewiesche know that “all through the Strait of Malacca, the airplane continued to be hand-flown”?

      • Rod says:

        “In 1997, a captain working for a Singaporean airline called SilkAir is believed to have disabled the black boxes of a Boeing 737 and to have plunged the airplane at supersonic speeds into a river.”
        Not by EVERYBODY he ain’t. As far as I know there is Considerable doubt about this. Considerable.

        Ah, so the on-again-off-again reports about Zaharie’s life are On Again. I’ll take Langewiesche’s word for this. Good point about having to rely on freaking Malaysian officialdom for a reliable portrait.

        We’ll never know. (Though the intelligence services of a number of countries may have known from the Start the exact location of the wreck, but aren’t disclosing their abilities.)
        And Blaine poking around KL might just get him run over or something.

    • Patrick says:

      I’m very baffled, Christine, as to how this has anything whatsoever to do with “inherent racism.” Nobody is suggesting that Zaharie committed mass murder based on “one anonymous source.” And even if this were the case, how is that “racist”? People follow faulty lines of reasoning and jump to premature conclusions all the time. Can I imagine someone “hanging such a charge on any white/Western pilot?” Absolutely.

      But that’s not what this is. This is a reasonable, quite plausible theory, based on more than a single source. And if doesn’t make sense to you, what does? I’m open minded and would love to hear it. What is your scenario, and how does it match up to the evidence that we have (the flight path, the turns, the powering off/on, and so forth)?

      What drives me toward Zaharie is that it’s the only thing that accounts for ALL of what’s known. Of the evidence that’s out there, what of it suggests that he DIDN’T do it? (And no that’s not the same as asking you to prove a negative.) What, particularly, points you in another direction?

    • JimmyB says:

      “More significant and more troubling is the inherent racism in suggesting a pilot committed mass murder based on nothing more than one anonymous source.”

      I’ll take “Faulty Non Sequitur Coming out of Left Field” for 400 Alex!

    • Pilot X says:

      “For a pilot to play with flights into the South Indian Ocean when one’s home is in Malaysia is no stranger than a U.S. based pilot flying routes into the Atlantic.”

      Ummmm….maybe *no stranger than* but both cases are still quite strange. Or I guess I’d be interested in hearing from Western pilots who routinely run sim flights that end, out of fuel, in the middle of a vast ocean. Because it’d be interesting to hear why they’ve spent their time (whether once or repeatedly) running such sims.

      Racism? This is a ridiculous claim…especially as you’re conveniently ignoring all of the other arguments WL makes… He bases his accusation “on nothing more than one anonymous source.” This is willfully untrue.

  13. Rod says:

    Isn’t Langewiesche great? And a beautiful writer. All of his books are gems.

    Indeed — “The simulator flight cannot easily be dismissed as random coincidence.”
    But I thought a lot of the initial hubbub about Zaharie (failed marriage, etc.) turned out to be false — just as the stuff supposedly pointing to suicide by the SilkAir 737 captain turned out to be false.

    Which doesn’t mean it wasn’t suicide.

  14. Alan Dahl says:

    One question I have is what flight simulator or simulators was he using? There is an assumption by the general public that any flight simulator replicates the real world 100% but this is not necessarily true, flight simulators can have their own versions of “paper towns”, either for copyright reasons or just for fun. One of these paper towns is “New Island”, an art project website, now not maintained, located at which shows an island at the approximate location that the flight terminated at and which was included in at least one flight simulator. The website now makes it clear that the island is fake but that wasn’t always so, in fact there was even a real appearing Wikipedia page.

    Sure this is all very far-fetched and there are likely much better explanations (my favorite is a windscreen blowing out and sucking out one of the pilots like British Airways Flight 5390) but who knows, stranger things have happened.