Hello, I'm a long time lurker – since shortly after MH
370 disappeared – and finally thought I'd risk making a fool of myself. FWIW, I'm not a pilot or otherwise involved in aviation except as an occasional passenger. I'm not an engineer either. My background is in telecoms – including satellites – on the business side of the house. And I appreciate all the good info and hard work that's gone into this forum.
I've been thinking about mandala's hypothesis that the cause was a combination of a technical malfunction and deliberate human action. Suppose the technical malfunction was the result of an intentional action?
The base scenario would be:
1. The hijacker makes preparations and boards the flight.
2. At or before 1719 UTC
, he (or she or they) takes control of the plane by means which include technical measures – a hack via hardware, software and/or direct access to equipment. At a minimum, these measures take the radar transponder and satellite link off line.
3. He causes the plane to be flown on a course that minimises the chance of detection.
4. Around 1825 UTC
, once the plane is beyond radar coverage, a. someone activates some systems which were previously off line, b. the plane turns south and c. a malfunction or mistake occurs which prevents further course changes. Not necessarily in that order.
There are many ways to build on this base. For example, the hijacker uses a hack (software and/or hardware) to take down some or all of the comms systems (i.e., a deliberately caused malfunction), and then takes control of the plane by physical means. He forces the pilots off the flight deck, locks himself in, then depressurises the plane and violently pitches it up and down to prevent a counter-attack. Once he believes he's in a dark zone, he turns the plane south and then reboots the comms systems, with the intent of re-entering controlled airspace from a direction that lets him try to assume a new identity for the plane. He then attempts to re-pressurise the plane but fails without realising it. He takes off his oxygen mask – maybe reset some electronics? use the head? – and falls unconscious. Or he doesn't re-pressurise the plane and figures, incorrectly, he can hold his breath long enough to get to a portable oxygen cylinder or do what he needs to do.
Alternatively, the original hack had unforeseen consequences – most do on first use – and the plane's control systems became inoperable or malfunctioned after the turn south. The reboot of systems around 1825 could have been the trigger or a consequence – i.e. part of an attempt to fix it. The fault either prevented any further course changes, or required action beyond the ability of the hijacker.
I realise that the idea of someone gaining unauthorised access to aircraft systems is controversial, to say the least. I'm defining "hack" broadly (and arguably incorrectly – "crack" would be the preferred term). It might have been as simple as a rapid takeover combined with a particular system shut-down sequence. But it could also be more complicated, including something initiated by someone with access to the plane prior to the flight.
There's not much that can be said about the motive, except that the hijacker intended to fly it to Location X for Purpose Y. It could have been a political motive – was there ever any basis revealed for the early speculation about the plane going north? I'm not saying it did, but that could have been the original intent, resulting in suspicious chatter being picked up by intelligence agencies.
Personally, I favor the notion that some bright boy thought he figured how to get away with making money off a hijacking. I don't like Evil Genius explanations that assume everything went exactly as planned. It's more likely that whoever did it was smart enough to come up with a new idea but not smart enough to foresee all the potential problems. I think DB
Cooper would agree with me.
[Edited 2015-03-22 20:05:41]