Pic may hold key to MH370 truth
WHEN aviation experts took to the air last weekend purporting to know the truth about what happened to MH370, the director of the seabed hunt for the plane Peter Foley and author Christine Negroni were left shaking their heads.
Senior Boeing 777 pilot Simon Hardy had joined five other guests on 60 Minutes where he voiced his belief that Captain Zaharie Shah downed the aircraft in an act of murder-suicide after using a home simulator to plot the flight path.
He claimed Mr Zaharie flew the plane over his hometown of Penang for an "emotional goodbye" before ditching it in the Southern Indian Ocean.
The program was aired just days before the release of the new book MH370: Mystery Solved, written by aviator Larry Vance, who also appeared on the Channel 9 show.
It comes as Malaysian authorities revealed the physical search would end next week.
Vance, a former senior investigator with the Transportation Safety Board of Canada, also supports the controlled landing theory, arguing that the pilot deliberately took the aircraft to the most remote place possible so it would disappear.
"The evidence confirms it was a criminal act, committed by one individual who, as a pilot in the aeroplane, had a simple means to carry it out," he wrote in his book.
Vance has also cited a piece of wreckage from the plane as proving his claim.
However, a notable omission from the panel was fellow aviation expert Negroni, who wrote the book The Crash Detectives detailing famous air disasters. And she has a very different view as to what may have happened to the plane.
Negroni was particularly shocked not to have been included in the discussion considering her book is a bestseller and she has travelled the world - including Australia - to talk about its contents.
In a post on her website, Negroni slammed the conclusions made on the show as "preposterous" and "absurd".
She wrote: "Ladies and gents, thanks to 60 Minutes, pilots Vance and Hardy are in the cockpit. They've fuelled up with alternative facts and are taking us on a flight to the absurd.
"Will we ever return from this remote region of reality? Stay tuned."
She accused the show of airing "far-fetched", "hokum" details. In particular, Vance's claims around a wing flap that washed ashore in 2016 caught her attention.
Vance argues that photographic evidences shows the wing's flaps were extended (down) when it impacted the water, indicating the pilot was in control of the plane until the end.
"The damage patterns on two recovered wreckage pieces (the right flaperon, and a section of the right outboard flap) prove that the landing flaps were extended (down) when the aeroplane settled into the water," Vance wrote in his book.
"The flaps could not have been extended unless a pilot intentionally selected them to the extended position."
However, Negroni points to an ATSB report into the wreckage which indicates otherwise, writing: "One might have expected him (Vance) to have revisited that statement when a forensic examination showed the flaperon was very likely stowed, not deployed when the plane crashed."
Indeed, the ATSB report from October 2017 states: "In 2015 and 2016, debris from MH370 was found on the shores of Indian Ocean islands and the east African coastline. The debris yielded significant new insights into how and where the aircraft ended its flight.
"It was established from the debris that the aircraft was not configured for a ditching at the end-of-flight ... analysis indicated that the flaps were most likely in a retracted position at the time they separated from the aircraft making a controlled ditching scenario very unlikely."
Negroni's view has just been back up by MH370 search director Mr Foley, who co-ordinated the search on Malaysia's behalf, and was quizzed by a Senate committee on the theories in Vance's book.
Mr Foley, who said he has read the book, pointed to evidence that the plane was not under anyone's control when it hit the water.
He said analysis of the satellite transmissions of the flight's final moments showed the jet was in a fast and accelerating descent at the end. Debris from within the plane's interior found washed up on the west coast of the Indian Ocean suggested significant energy on impact, he said.
"If it was being controlled at the end, it wasn't very successfully being controlled," Mr Foley said. "The flaps weren't deployed."
Mr Foley said an analysis at the bureau's headquarters in Canberra of the second flap found on the island of Pemba, off the coast of Tanzania, in June 2016 determined it was "probably not deployed". But French authorities prevented an Australian analyst from "doing anything meaningful in terms of analysis" of the first flap found.
French authorities are holding the flaperon as evidence for a potential criminal prosecution.
Mr Foley said his bureau therefore could not see whether the flaperon had lost its trailing edge - which would have happened had it been deployed - when the plane hit the water.
He did, however, say "it's absolutely evident" that someone had initially flown the plane off course, ruling out some mechanical or electrical malfunction.
Negroni insists her book is the only one with the facts.
"Far from speculating with no evidence at all that Captain Zaharie Shah lingered over Penang to get one last look at his home town before flying off into oblivion, my book is based on facts," she said.
"I am baffled at how the producers of the Australian program along with the CBS This Morning and the Washington Post could have conducted any research at all into the MH370 investigation without coming across The Crash Detectives.
"It's a Penguin bestseller for goodness sake ... I've travelled the world speaking about it including in Sydney, Brisbane, London, New York and Hong Kong."
Negroni claims the there is no evidence to back up the alternate theories.
"I don't know what it is about Australia, but despite the lack of any evidence that either pilot was unstable or suicidal, Australian media loves that storyline," Negroni said. "By contrast, in The Crash Detectives, I suggest that a rapid decompression of the aircraft rendered the pilots partially hypoxia and therefore incapable of making sensible decisions.
"One or both of the men on the flight deck then inadvertently flew the aeroplane off course until they succumbed. The plane flew on until it ran out of fuel in the South Indian Ocean."
Negroni said there are several previous similar events along with maintenance records which show that the crew oxygen was serviced just before the ill-fated trip.