A major new report on the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 has dismissed one of the most pervasive — and horrific — theories for why the plane went missing: that a suicidal pilot may have crashed the jet on purpose.
Investigators funded by the Malaysian government on Monday said psychological evidence it gathered disputed the popular theory that the flight’s captain, Zaharie Ahmad Shah, or a colleague may have intentionally killed himself and everybody else on board.
The 495-report document said neither Shah nor his first officer, Fariq Abdul Hamid, showed psychological signs suggesting he could have deliberately crashed the plane.
According to both family members and work associates for the crew, „there were no behavioral signs of social isolation, change in habits or interest, self-neglect, involvement in drug or alcohol abuse” in any staff on the plane.
The investigation team also compared CCTV footage of the pilot and first officer as they waited in the airport to footage of their waiting for previous flights, to see whether anything seemed different. It did not.
Past voice recordings of both men talking to air traffic control also did not seem significantly different to previous flights, they said.
Dr. Kok Soo Chon, the lead investigator, told reporters at a press conference on the report that the men exhibited „no anxiety or stress.”
According to a live blog of proceedings by The Guardian, Kok said: „There were two psychiatrists in my team and they were responsible for examining the audio recordings of the pilot, and they concluded there was no anxiety and no stress in the recording — it was just normal, and they also recorded the footage from CCTV … They didn’t find any significant behavioral changes.”
Kok added that the report was ultimately „not ruling out anything” but found plenty of evidence against the suicide theory.
In the run-up to this report, the suicide theory remained one of the most pervasive explanations for what could have caused the flight to disappear without a trace on March 8, 2014.
A team of analysts on the Australian current-affairs program „60 Minutes” concluded in its investigation that Shah, in a suicidal state, disabled communication before steering the plane into the ocean .
Monday’s report is the culmination of a search led by the Malaysian government, which covered 112,000 square kilometers (43,243 square miles) in the southern Indian Ocean since January.
The investigation was the second large-scale search for the plane, and followed an earlier, 2-1/2-year search by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau.
The one new and significant piece of information in the report was that a surprise turn made by MH370, which saw it deviate from its route, was made manually.
This pushes back against theories that the plane was somehow taken over remotely.
Investigators, however, still do not have answers to the fundamental questions of how the plane disappeared, where it went, or why.
„We cannot determine with any certainty the reason the plane diverted from its planned route,” Kok said. „The team is unable to determine the real reason for the disappearance.”