The Boeing 777 then made a tight turn to the southwest that Mike Exner, an electrical engineer and member of Independent Group investigating the disaster, told The Atlantic probably coincided with a climb of up to 40,000 feet meant to “accelerate the effects of depressurizing the airplane, causing the rapid incapacitation and death of everyone in the cabin.”
While drop-down oxygen masks may have deployed, passengers would have had little use since they are only intended for 15 minutes of use during emergency descents, not cruising at high altitudes. Whoever was in the cockpit, however, would have had access to four pressurized-oxygen masks with a supply that could last hours.
“The cabin occupants would have become incapacitated within a couple of minutes, lost consciousness, and gently died without any choking or gasping for air,” Langewiesche writes.
As MH370 kept rocking across the sky, the aircraft appeared on radar while approaching Penang island at nearly 600 mph where the Malaysia air force had F-18 interceptors stationed at Butterwoth Air Base. A former official told the Atlantic that air force officials made sure an accident report was edited last year to say the radar had been “actively monitored” and the aircraft was not intercepted since it was “friendly.”
That appears to be far from the truth. Military officials initially searched for MH370 in the wrong body of water to the east, when the aircraft actually flew in the opposite direction.
When the report by a 19-member international team was released last July, Chief investigator Kok Soo Chon said during a media briefing there was no evidence of abnormal behavior or stress among the two pilots – Capt. Zaharie Ahmad Shah and co-pilot, Fariq Abdul Hamid – that could lead them to hijack the plane.
Langewiesche notes that while the co-pilot had nothing but a bright future ahead and no red flags in his past, Zaharie’s life raised multiple concerns. After his wife moved out, the captain who was reported to be “lonely and sad” also “spent a lot of time pacing empty rooms” and obsessed over two young internet models.
Forensic examinations of the pilot’s simulator by the FBI also revealed he experimented with a flight profile that roughly matched MH370, that ended in “fuel exhaustion over the Indian Ocean.” New York Magazine reported in 2016 that Shah conducted the simulated flight less than a month before the plane vanished.
A fellow 777 captain who wished to not be identified out of fear of repercussions did not offer a possible motive to The Atlantic, but said that Zaharie’s emotional state was not good.
“Zaharie’s marriage was bad. In the past he slept with some of the flight attendants. And so what? We all do,” the pilot told the magazine. “You’re flying all over the world with these beautiful girls in the back. But his wife knew.”
The flight-data recorder may show when the aircraft was depressurized and how the satellite box was powered down, but give no further explanation as to what happened in the cockpit.