In the last week this proposition has been put forward by a number of experts. In re-examining the INMARSTAT ‘handshake’ attempts between the satellite and MH370 it’s now assessed that the plane had travelled at a constant speed and in a constant direction consistent with autopilot guidance. They also used the Doppler effect of a frequency shift to verify it – but that’s a little technical.
If the aircrew had sufficient time and ability to turn the aircraft around, back towards Malaysia, and re-engage the autopilot, then a projection of that path, allowing for crosswind effects, takes it directly over Sumatra in Indonesia and into the Indian Ocean towards the new designated search area. (see media maps on the path taken – which, incidentally is not the INMARSAT radius line)
So far so good for that theory. However, the most difficult question is what happened immediately before the aircraft turned back. Remember it was dark at 2.30am in the morning. The outside air temperature is standard at that height at minus 52 degrees. The aircrafts forward speed is around 430 knots or 900 kph. Anything that forced a breach into the cockpit area would be devastating for the crew up front.
There have been a number of questions surrounding military radar contacts and possible crew intervention in switching controls off. In the case of the first issue, I personally would doubt the dedication of military radar controllers being active in either country at 3am in the morning. Are we under attack? No, yawn. Back to sleep.
In the case of the crew intervening, first of all I question their capacity to communicate with anyone if the cabin had been breached and depressurised. Secondly turning off the auto-communication equipment? Yes of course it’s possible but it may also have been damaged.
The final issue is, if deliberate action was taken by a crew member to destroy the aircraft and its passengers, was this possible? Well, again of course it was, but unlike the destruction of the Silk Air and Air Egypt flights this did not happen suddenly but took 6-7 hours of flight over the Indian Ocean. I am not a psychologist but I find it more than a little odd that a professional aviator would drag out a suicide for that long.
In all of this speculation, once the aircraft is located one doubts that conclusive proof of the cause will be possible. This does not appear to be a total or partial structural failure that can be seen from the wreckage. As the cockpit voice recorder will have recycled over the top of any messaging, one is left with the aircraft flight data recorder. It may give investigators a clue. We will see, Air Accident watchers.
(Info.from: dated military flying experience, INMARSAT interview, 777 crew chat, smattering of logic)