KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 11 – The suspect who brought down missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 is a technical genius with highly sophisticated hacking skills, with profound knowledge of how the B777 operates. Satellite expert Michael Exner, who is independently investigating what happened to MH370, was reported in The International Business Times as concluding that the flight captain, Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah, was therefore innocent.
Exner had earlier flown a B777 in a flight simulator facility of a major United States airline accompanied by highly experienced B777 pilots. Preliminary reports on MH370 earlier established that roughly forty minutes after the aircraft left Kuala Lumpur for Beijing, someone cut all communication systems of the plane — satellite communications, transponder, two auto-reporting systems, ACARS and ADS-B.
Almost simultaneous to this, the aircraft veered away from its original track, turned sharply to the left and reportedly flew back towards Peninsula Malaysia — completely undetected and unmonitored by air traffic control zones. However, the Satellite Data Unit or SDU was able to send obscure electronic messages to the Inmarsat satellite 3F-1 located in a geosynchronous orbit above the Indian Ocean.
According to a report from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau Board or ATSB, the signal transmitted to Inmarsat satellite was generated because the terminal was logged-on and had probably undergone power cycling. From this point, every hour for the next six hours the SDU responded to electronic handshakes being sent from a geostationary communications satellite — this suggested that the system remained active and logged on.
Exner pointed out the fact that all communication systems were turned off implied that the suspect deliberately avoided any form of detection. Furthermore, the suspect displayed a deep knowledge of how international air traffic control protocol worked. The fact that the SDU was able to be turned back on only suggested that the suspect used advanced hijacking skills.
Whoever the perpetrator was, he or she knew that with the SDU turned on, all computer systems inside the plane would continue generating information — thus all significant electronic mechanism of the plane would remain functional, Exner said. Exner highlighted the fact that the suspect had a working knowledge on how to access the section where all the communication systems were and the fact that the suspect was able to manage all systems displayed sophisticated technical capability.
Exner also emphasised that shutting the ACARS reporting system down — that could only be done through the plane’s cockpit — also displayed the suspect’s highly advanced technological ability. What Exner found through his simulation of a Boeing 777 confirmed that “there is no way to turn off the primary power to the satcom from the cockpit”.
This scheme was not even described in the flight manuals, Exner said. “The only way to do so is to find an obscure circuit breaker in the equipment bay (ie, the Electronic and Equipment bay or the aircraft’s main electronic nerve centre,” he said. The problem is, “pilots are not trained to know that detail”, the pilots accompanying Exner during the simulation said.