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Missing flight: now strange reports of co-pilot behaviour

March 13, 2014 Aviation, Headline News 2 Comments Email Email

egtmedia59The disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 with 239 people aboard seems destined to become one of the most enduring mysteries in the history of human long-distance transport. Strange and newly emerged tales concerning the crew of the doomed flight will only add to the puzzle, along with suggestions that Malaysia may know more than it is letting on.

The Mary Celeste

The Mary Celeste in the mid 19th century

The mystery of MH370 is starting to rival that of the Mary Celeste, one of the most baffling incidents ever recorded at sea – but more about that in a minute.

Malaysia Airlines said yesterday it was “shocked” by allegations aired in an Australian news program of a past cockpit security breach involving the co-pilot of  its missing passenger jet.

The Sydney-based Nine Network aired allegations that first officer Fariq Abdul Hamid, 27, in the company of a fellow pilot, broke MAS rules in 2011 by allowing two young South African women into their cockpit during a flight.

The report included testimony from one of the women and photos of the women in the cockpit with a man resembling Fariq. One of the women is even wearing the captain’s hat.

Passengers have been strictly prohibited from entering flight decks while planes are airborne since the 9/11 attacks on New York. Those attacks were carried out by terrorists who forced their way into the cockpit.

The Nine Network said the encounter that it highlighted took place aboard a MAS plane during a short-haul flight – a one-hour leg from the Thai beach resort of Phuket to Kuala Lumpur.

The airline responded in an issued statement: “Malaysia Airlines has become aware of the allegations being made against First Officer Fariq Abdul Hamid which we take very seriously. We are shocked by these allegations.

“We have not been able to confirm the validity of the pictures and videos of the alleged incident. As you are aware, we are in the midst of a crisis, and we do not want our attention to be diverted,” the airline said.

So far, no trace of MAS flight MH370 from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, or any evidence of its fate, have been uncovered.Missing MH370

Meanwhile, suggestions have surfaced that Malaysia’s military knew exactly where flight MH370 was “until the minute is disappeared near a rocky outcrop in the northern approaches to the Straits of Malacca on Saturday morning”, in the words of aviation reporter Ben Sandilands, writing in his Plane Talking blog on crikey.com.au.

“MH370, which had its identifying transponder switched off, was according to national [Malaysian] media tracked all the way to a low-altitude location near Pulau Perak (Silver Island) by Malaysia’s military radar,” Sandilands reported.

In later developments, however, Malaysia’s air force chief Rodzali Daud cast doubt on whether the flight detected by radar several hundred kilometres off course in the Malacca Strait was the right plane.

He told reporters experts were still analysing the data, adding that “it is difficult to say for sure if it is the aircraft”.

In another eerie touch, the last message from missing flight MH370 was revealed yesterday. The words, spoken on the flight deck by either the pilot or co-pilot, were: “All right, good night.” That routine phrase was the last heard from the cockpit before the plane disappeared from radar screens.

The expanse of ocean being searched has now been extended to 92,607 square kilometres, an area about one-third larger than the state of Tasmania. It’s like looking for a needle in a haystack.

So far, the disappearance of flight MH370 seems well on the way to rivalling the ship Mary Celeste as one of the world’s greatest mysteries. Mary Celeste was a Canadian-built, American-owned merchant brigantine famous for having been discovered on 5 December 1872 in the Atlantic Ocean, unmanned and apparently abandoned (the one lifeboat was missing, along with its crew of seven), although the weather was fine and her crew had been experienced and capable seamen.

The Mary Celeste was the classic ghost ship. It was found in seaworthy condition and still under sail heading toward the Strait of Gibraltar. The ship had been at sea for a month and had more than six months’ worth of food and water aboard. Its cargo was virtually untouched and the crew’s personal belongings, including valuables, were still in place. None of those aboard were ever seen again and their disappearance is often cited as the greatest maritime mystery of all time.

The disappearance of flight MH370 may surpass it. With the Mary Celeste, at least the ship turned up. The mystery of flight MH370, with 239 passengers aboard, seems even more bizarre, in that both the plane and all those on it have apparently disappeared without trace.

How a modern aircraft could vanish into thin air while flying over some of the world’s shallower seas in the hi-tech second decade of the 21st century is challenging the world’s best investigators. The mystery seems destined to supply material for thriller writers and conspiracy theorists for decades and possibly centuries to come.

In the meantime, it’s not exactly building confidence in air travel.

Written by Peter Needham

Currently there are "2 comments" on this Article:

  1. JOHN EYTON says:

    Fariq Abdul Hamid who joined Malaysia Airliens in 2007, was filmed last month by a crew from “CNN Business Traveler” executing what reporter Richard Quest called a perfect landing of a Boeing 777-200, the same model of the twin-aisle workhorse now missing.
    http://edition.cnn.com/2014/03/08/world/asia/malaysia-airlines-first-officer/index.html

  2. Peter Needham says:

    That’s most interesting John – I’ve just viewed it. Thanks for that.

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