Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Global Impact: Update--Was the Crash of SilkAir Flight 185 in 1997 a Suicide Plot by the Captain?

According to The Christian Science Monitor, the history of SilkAir Flight 185 now casts a sinister shadow over the missing MH370 flight.

SilkAir Flight 185 was a scheduled passenger flight from Jakarta to Singapore which crashed into the Musi River near Palembang in southern Sumatra on December 19, 1997, killing all 97 passengers and 7 crew members on board.

Please keep in mind that Flight 185 crashed 17 years ago.

The US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which worked jointly with the Indonesian team, concluded that the pilot committed suicide. In a letter to the Indonesian safety committee, the NTSB wrote:
The examination of all of the factual evidence is consistent with the conclusions that: 1) no airplane-related mechanical malfunctions or failures caused or contributed to the accident, and 2) the accident can be explained by intentional pilot action. Specifically, a) the accident airplane’s flight profile is consistent with sustained manual nose-down flight control inputs; b) the evidence suggests that the cockpit voice recorder (CVR) was intentionally disconnected; c) recovery of the airplane was possible but not attempted; and d) it is more likely that the nose-down flight control inputs were made by the captain than by the first officer.
There are a number of parallels that are now being drawn in aviation circles between the Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 and the SilkAir 185 tragedy, according to The Monitor.

See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SilkAir_Flight_185

The only new information in the last 24 hours is that military radar tracks the aircraft making an abrupt change of course and flying for an hour and 10 minutes west over the Malaysian peninsula and into the Strait of Malacca. At that last known position, presumably when the military radar lost contact, the aircraft was at 29,500 feet, according to Malaysia Air Force chief Rodzali Daud.

COMMENT: Most pilots and aviation professionals suggest that a flight crew member would know how to turn off or disable radio, transponder and the Aircraft Communication Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS), the on-board systems monitoring equipment that transmits information back to the airline.

Hijacking or a pilot going rogue would explain the transponder and ACARS not transmitting. If this is what actually happened, the CVR and FDR would have been turned off also, thus giving the authorities very little chance of knowing what actually occurred on board the flight.

The Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) and Flight Data Recorder (FDR) could be turned off by tripping a circuit breaker. In the SilkAir investigation, the pilot was suspected of manually tripping the circuit breaker on the CVR and then, the FDR, thus eliminating any recording of events during the final minutes of the flight.

Capt. Tsu Way Ming, 41, the pilot of SilkAir 185 reportedly had $1 million in security trading losses ten days before his last flight. Consequently, Tsu purchased a life insurance policy the week before his last flight, according to MacArthur Job, who wrote about the bizarre development for FLIGHT SAFETY AUSTRALIA in 2008.

First Officer New Zealander Duncan Ward, 23, had no such personal history that flagged worries as to his true motives as did Captain Tsu, who bought an insurance policy a week before he boarded Flight 185.

If the Malaysia Airlines flight was a planned suicide, why did whomever was at the controls turn the aircraft west and fly for at least another hour?

If SilkAir Flight 185 was a hijacking, as some contend, then based on the original flight plan and fuel, the search area could be much larger, as large as 3,000 miles in diameter, or all the way to India or deep into China.

In the unusually long absence of information about the location of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, speculation continues. The search by authorities is turning inward – toward examining more closely the crew and passengers – for clues to the cause of the flight's disappearance.

What is most alarming is that shares in MH stock plummeted by as much as 20% on Monday (March 10).

What is most puzzling, so many years after the crash of SilkAir flight 185 is that the conclusions made by the NTSB, why is it that the Board used computer modeling to conclude that the crash was the result of deliberate flight control inputs, most likely by the captain. The jury under the Superior Court in Los Angeles, which was not allowed to hear or consider the NTSB conclusions.

Conversely, the Indonesian National Transportation Safety Committee (NTSC)  stated in its report that it could not determine a cause of the crash due to inconclusive evidence. 

The jury under the Superior Court in Los Angeles, which was not allowed to hear or consider the NTSB's conclusions, decided that the crash was caused by a prominent issue inherent in other 737 crashes: a defective servo valve inside the Power Control Unit (PCU) which controls the aircraft's rudder, a rudder hard-over and a subsequent uncontrollable crash. 

At 1605 hours the cockpit voice recorder (CVR) ceased recording abruptly. According to the TV series "Mayday," Captain Tsu took the opportunity of leaving the cockpit to trip the circuit breaker. At 1610 hours, the air traffic controller informed that the flight was en-route and directed to contact Singapore Control. First Officer Duncan Ward acknowledged this call. At 1611 hours, nearly six minutes after the CVR ceased recording, the flight data recorder ceased recording.

Flight 185 remained at 35,000 feet until it suddenly  commenced a nearly vertical dive at approximately 1612 hours. 

While plunging through 12,000 feet (3,700 meters), parts of the aircraft, including a great extent of its tail section, began to separate from the aircraft's fuselage due to a near supersonic dive.

We thank THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR for their thought-provoking piece that draws parallels between Flight MH370 and SilkAir Flight 185.