Mystery of MH370 'most baffling'

David O'Hare
David O'Hare
A University of Otago professor who studies aviation accidents says the disappearance of a Malaysia plane is the ''most baffling'' one he could remember.

Associate Prof David O'Hare, who joined the university's psychology department 32 years ago and whose research interests included in-flight decision making by pilots, said two of the main theories being floated would be unique in aviation history if they proved true.

No trace of the Beijing-bound Boeing 777 has been found since it vanished about an hour after leaving Kuala Lumpur International Airport on March 8 with 227 passengers, including two New Zealanders, and 12 crew aboard.

Prof O'Hare, who has flight crew licences for both powered aircraft and gliders, was keen to point out his expertise related to lighter aircraft accidents, which included giving evidence at a military tribunal looking into a helicopter crash north of Wellington, which claimed three lives on Anzac Day 2010.

However, he had taken a keen interest in the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 and other major air accidents in the last 30 years.

''It's the most baffling aviation event that I've ever known in the entire time I've been involved in looking at aviation accidents.''

With the more mundane explanations seemingly exhausted, the likelihood of unprecedented explanations was growing.

''We are now off into the realms of something that apparently has never ever happened before in aviation history.

''No pilot has ever taken a plane on an extensive trip and then committed suicide.

''No crew of an aircraft, or hijackers of an aircraft, have ever taken over a large aircraft, flown it to some destination on land and successfully ... kept it concealed and kept the passengers quiet.''

There had previously been two commercial airline crashes thought to be as a result of pilot suicide - EgyptAir Flight 990 in 1999 and SilkAir Flight 185 1997, which was co-piloted by a New Zealander. Both resulted in the deaths of all on board.

However, these two incidents were different from the version of events - which involved the plane deliberately being taken off course and flown for hours - being suggested for MH370.

''To take the five, six, whatever hour trip before just running out of fuel and crashing into the sea seems utterly bizarre.''

There was always the chance a ''third possibility'' yet to be properly investigated, or a more mundane explanation for the accident, would be uncovered.

''Maybe it did just blow up somewhere and for some reason we have got these various red herrings, with very little concrete to go on.''

Another possibility was that it would always remain unknown what happened to the flight.

A large part of the difficulty trying to pin down what happened was the quality of information being released.

''The facts have been very few and far between and some of the facts have turned out to be not facts at all.''

- vaughan.elder@odt.co.nz