As we enter the fifth day in the saga of the Boeing 777-200 owned by Malaysian Airlines which disappeared about an hour after take off, the investigation seems to have turned inwards on the men in charge of the aircraft.
It has emerged that one of the pilots that were in control of the disappearing plane was in the habit of inviting female passengers into the cockpit to ‘smoke and chat’. In an interview with Channel 9 in Australia, a former passenger on one of the other flights on which First Officer Fariq Abdul Hamid was in charge, Jonti Roos said she and a friend, Jaan Maree were once invited to the flight deck.
This was in 2011 when they were traveling from Phuket, Thailand to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. She said during much of the flight, the pilots were not even facing the front of the plane but hastened to add that, despite all this, she felt that they were in control of the aircraft. The Malaysia Airlines responded to these revelations by saying that they were taking them seriously as they could have a bearing in explaining what may have happened to the aircraft.
In another development, it has emerged from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), an entity which supervises the safety of American made aircraft like the Boeing that an airworthiness directive had been drawn up with regards to the Boeing 777 in November. Air worthiness directives are much like car recalls and are quite common. However, in the majority of cases, airlines are advised to watch out for and correct the faults during routine maintenance. According to the FAA report, the directive pertained to ‘cracking and corrosion in the fuselage skin, which, if not corrected, could lead to rapid decompression and loss of structural integrity of the aeroplane’. The loss of structural integrity of the plane interprets to the plane breaking up during flight. This would be in line with the theory that the plane may have broken up suddenly in the sky which would explain the sudden silence from the plane pilots.
Based on an apparent report that the Malaysian Air force tracked the mystery plane to the west coast of the country, Malaysia has extended the search to include the Strait of Malacca which is on the west coast of the country after concentrating their original search on the South China seas. The extension of the search area has been maintained despite the fact that the military later refuted the information that it had tracked the plane west of the country.
The contradicting information emphasizes the underlying fact in the whole saga, that is, nothing is known about what happened to the flight, where it happened and where it could be. More importantly, the frustrations that the families of those in the flight must be feeling are huge and all the misinformation and counter information must be adding to this frustration.