With confirmation that the aircraft was hijacked and deliberately flown off course for over SEVEN hours — possibly to Pakistan or Iran — the investigation has finally been turned into a criminal one, and police are now looking into Zaharie Ahmad Shah and Fariq Abdul Hamid, the two men who were in the cockpit of Flight 370.
Are Flight 370’s pilots to blame for the mysterious and scary disappearance? That is the question investigators are finally focusing on after the Prime Minister of Malaysia concluded with certainty on March 15 that contact with Flight 370 was deliberately shut down, and that the plane then purposefully flew for seven more hours, possibly towards Pakistan, Iran, or Afghanistan. That same day, after the case had been turned into a criminal investigation, police searched the home of one pilot, Zaharie Ahmad Shah, and they are expected to search pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid‘s house as well.
Flight 370 Hijacked: Pilots Houses Searched
Malaysian police searched in and around Zaharie’s home, which is located in a gated community outside of Kuala Lumpur, according to CNN. Two vans reportedly exited the house carrying small bags, similar to shopping bags, but it was not clear if the bags had come from the home.
Police did not confirm whether Fariq’s house would be searched, but that reportedly would be the next logical step. Authorities also said they were checking into the psychological backgrounds of both pilots, as well as their family life and connections, according to Mail Online. Since Flight 370 went missing, it has been revealed that Zaharie was so passionate about flying he had a flight simulator in his house.
Additionally, investigators are doing all they can to once again go over the backgrounds of the 239 passengers who were on board to see if they can find anything that would unveil who the hijackers are.
Malaysia Airlines Disappearance: Are The Pilots Involved?
The investigation’s focus turned towards the people on Flight 370 after it was determined that the plane was deliberately diverted off course on one of two arcs. One arc runs through the Indian Ocean, but the other passes through known terrorist hotbeds such as northern Pakistan, northern Iran, and Afghanistan. New satellite data also detected that the plane had flown for nearly seven hours after it lost contact with air traffic controllers, instead of the initially suspected four hours.
But there is new information that specifically points to the pilots being responsible for Flight 370’s disappearance. Besides the plane’s two communication devices being turned off manually, aviation expert Mikael Robertsson points out that they were disabled at the perfect location to ensure the hijacking went (mostly) undetected. The switch happened just as the plane was crossing air traffic borders between Malaysia and Vietnam: “I think the timing of turning off the signal just after you have left Malaysian air traffic control indicates someone did this on purpose, and he found the perfect moment when he wasn’t in control by Malaysia or Vietnam. He was, like, in no-man’s country,” the founder of Flightradar24 told the New York Times.
Additionally, the plane itself — a Boeing 777 — is such a new model that only a select group of pilots know how to fly it, and only a select few would know how to make it disappear. “You needed to know this plane, and you also needed to know this route,” Xu Ke, a former commercial pilot and now lecturer at the Zhejiang Academy of Police in eastern China who studies aviation security, also told the Times. “The Boeing 777 is a relatively new and big plane, so it wouldn’t be anyone who could do this, not even someone who has flown smaller passenger planes, even smaller Boeings.”
Lastly, ever since the attacks on Sept. 11, security on cockpit doors has been reinforced so that it would be difficult for anyone to force their way in without giving the pilots ample time to send a warning signal. But no such signal was ever sent out. Therefore, the likelihood is that one or both of the pilots were involved in seizing and redirecting Flight 370, either willingly or by coercion.
— Andrew Gruttadaro