One year later: The disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370
SAN DIEGO (KUSI) – It was one year ago today when Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 dropped off radar while traveling from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.
Despite an international recovery effort, the mystery of what happened has outlasted even the airline itself.
It’s an eerie feeling, sitting in a cockpit virtually identical to the doomed Malaysia Airliner.
The simulator recreated what is known about the Mh370’s final flight one year ago.
Veteran pilot Rob Johnson activates the Boeing 777’s autopilot 20 seconds after takeoff.
“Ninety-nine percent of the flight is automated,” Johnson said.
The autopilot follows waypoints along the flight path. It can even land the plane if necessary.
Less than an hour into its flight, MH370 veered off the planned route to Beijing.
With the turn of a nob, the simulator makes the same sharp turn as the missing plane.
Johnson said autopilot could not have made that turn on its own.
Nobody knows why one or both pilots decided to change course or why the plane disappeared from civilian radar.
The result of either a massive electrical problem or someone switching off communications systems.
Other theories include a cockpit fire overtaking the crew, leaving no time for a distress call.
Or Russian hijackers faking satellite data, flying the plane north of Kazakhstan.
Or the phone being shot down heading for Diego Garcia, a U.S. Military base in the Indian Ocean.
And finally, an elaborate murder suicide plotted by one of the pilots.
“This is where the mystery starts because what happened?” Johnson said.
Johnson suspects a midair emergency or a deliberate act in the cockpit, depressurizing the cabin at high altitude.
Oxygen starvation, hypoxia, could have killed everyone on-board.
Turning MH370 into a “Ghost plane.”
It’s happened before.
Helios Airways Flight 522 lost pressure, the crew lost consciousness and the plane with 121 people slammed into a mountain.
Golfer Payne Stewart’s Learjet depressurized after takeoff, the plane flew without a pilot for four hours before crashing in a field.
The autopilot kept those “ghost planes” in the air long after all aboard were dying or dead.
If there’s not another waypoint entered, autopilot will continue flying until fuel runs out.
The simulator shows how the autopilot, untouched, keeps the airliner flying south for hours.
The fuel gauge drops to zero, somewhere over the southern Indian Ocean.
“You’ll get the alarm. Alarm. As well as the stick shaking will start. Shaking noise,” Johnson said.
For four agonizing minutes, cockpit alarms sound as the plane becomes a giant glider, the ocean creeping closer.
Suddenly, the noise and alarms stop.
Suddenly, it’s over.
“239 people. Lost,” Johnson said.
One year later, still no trace of the plane or the people on-board.
Only uncertainty and pain for those left behind.
Until Mh370’s black boxes are found, nobody will know what really happened.