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
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
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
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
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.''