By David Futrelle
With no plausible official explanation for the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 five years ago, and the failures of the assorted attempts to find what survives of the plane in the deep, dark waters of the southern Indian ocean, you may have assumed, as I did, that we would never know what happened to the mystery plane, or why.
In a must-read story in the latest Atlantic magazine, William Langewiesche argues that — despite the bungled investigation of the matter by the corrupt and inept Malaysian government, and the assorted roadblocks government officials have put in the way of other investigators — we actually have a very good idea not only of what transpired in the final hours of that doomed flight, but also why it may have happened.
It looks, in short, like a murder-suicide by an aggrieved middle-aged pilot, depressed and angry over the dissolution of his marriage and possibly also by his inability to attract the attention of several younger women he had become at least slightly obsessed with.
Usually, these sorts of murder-suicides — which are shockingly common — involve a man taking the life of a woman who has left him or otherwise threatened his sense of control over the relationship, and possibly a few other family members, before taking his own life. (Murder-suicides involving women as the murderers are rare.) In the case of MH370, it appears the alleged murderer took out 227 passengers and 12 crew in his act of “revenge” on the world.
Looking skeptically at the official Malaysian government report, and largely ignoring the vast array of spurious conspiracy theories that have sprung up around the plane’s disappearance, Langewiesche examines the sparse but revealing electronic and physical clues left behind by the plane as it veered sharply off its original flightplan and then, after a series of puzzling maneuvers, ultimately flew six more hours in the wrong direction until it ended up crashing violently into the ocean thousands of miles from its intended destination. He concludes, confidently, that the plane
did not catch on fire yet stay in the air for all that time. No, it did not become a “ghost flight” able to navigate and switch its systems off and then back on. No, it was not shot down after long consideration by nefarious national powers who lingered on its tail before pulling the trigger. And no, it is not somewhere in the South China Sea, nor is it sitting intact in some camouflaged hangar in Central Asia. The one thing all of these explanations have in common is that they contradict the authentic information investigators do possess.
What did happen? It appears the plane was deliberately taken down, almost certainly by one of the two men installed in the cockpit at the beginning of the flight — either the pilot, 53-year-old Captain Zaharie Ahmad or his co-pilot, 27-year-old Fariq Abdul Hamid. (There is zero evidence of a hijacking, and Langewiesche argues convincingly that it would have been exceedingly unlikely.)
“[I]t is difficult to see the co-pilot as the perpetrator.” Langewiesche writes.
He was young and optimistic, and reportedly planning to get married. He had no history of any sort of trouble, dissent, or doubts.
But Zaharie, the pilot,
was often lonely and sad. His wife had moved out … By his own admission to friends, he spent a lot of time pacing empty rooms waiting for the days between flights to go by. … He is known to have established a wistful relationship with a married woman and her three children … and to have obsessed over two young internet models … for whom he left Facebook comments that apparently did not elicit responses. … Zaharie seems to have become somewhat disconnected from his earlier, well-established life.
What happened that awful night? Langewiesche suggests that shortly before turning the plane around a hour into the flight, Zaharie either killed or incapacitated his co-pilot, then depressurized the cabin before sending the plane climbing to 40,000 feet in a deliberate attempt to kill the passengers and the rest of the crew.
Langewiesche paints quite a chilling scene of what likely happened:
An intentional depressurization would have been an obvious way—and probably the only way—to subdue a potentially unruly cabin in an airplane that was going to remain in flight for hours to come. In the cabin, the effect would have gone unnoticed but for the sudden appearance of the drop-down oxygen masks and perhaps the cabin crew’s use of the few portable units of similar design. None of those cabin masks was intended for more than about 15 minutes of use during emergency descents to altitudes below 13,000 feet; they would have been of no value at all cruising at 40,000 feet. The cabin occupants would have become incapacitated within a couple of minutes, lost consciousness, and gently died without any choking or gasping for air. The scene would have been dimly lit by the emergency lights, with the dead belted into their seats, their faces nestled in the worthless oxygen masks dangling on tubes from the ceiling.
Zaharie, or whoever was flying the plane, had access to much more effective oxygen masks with hours worth of supplies; after several hours, he could have re-pressurized the plane, confident that he was the only one left alive. Or he could have taken the mask off after putting the plane on its final course and turning on the autopilot, drifting into unconsciousness and ultimately death long before the plane hit the water.
As Langewiesche is well aware, it’s hard to believe that any pilot would do such a monstrous thing. But, as he points out, there have been several similar cases over the last 22 years, including one that seems to have been inspired by MH370.
In 2015, a year after the disappearance of MH370, a young co-pilot named Andreas Lubitz seems to have deliberately crashed Germanwings Flight 9525 into a mountain in the French Alps after locking the pilot out of the plane’s cabin. As I noted at the time, he was known for his explosive rage — and had just been dumped by his girlfriend, and though he was clearly not an incel, he was quickly adopted as a “legitimate SLAYER” and “incel hero” by the regulars on the incel-centric SlutHate forum (which has since morphed into Lookism). Now that Langewiesche has highlighted the romantic and sexual rejection that may have triggered Zaharie’s alleged murderous act, I wonder if the incels will embrace him as well. (If they don’t, it will likely be because of his age; incels like their “heroes” young.)
As I noted in my posts on Lubitz, men often react poorly to romantic rejection, sometimes lashing out with violence — sometimes as the rejecter herself, other times at the world at large. Roughly a third of all female murder victims in the United States are killed by their exes, and “murder/suicides” in which an aggrieved man kills his partner or an ex-partner are so common in the United States that they’re rarely reported as anything more than local news unless, say, an entire family is killed.
Or, in this case, an entire plane full of people.
Toxic masculinity kills.
We Hunted the Mammoth is independent and ad-free, and relies entirely on readers like you for its survival. If you appreciate our work, please send a few bucks our way! Thanks!