World / Asia-Pacific

Power outage on MH370 could be work of hijackers: expert

(Xinhua) Updated: 2014-06-30 17:18

SYDNEY - Hijackers could have tampered with the cockpit of Malaysia Airlines MH370 in an effort to avoid radar detection, aviation experts analyzing a new Australian government agency report told the Sydney Morning Herald on Monday.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) has released a report detailing evidence of a power outage occurring on the plane less than 90 minutes after taking off from Kuala Lumpur.

Investigators said that after the power outage, the Beijing- boundPower outage on MH370 could be work of hijackers: expert plane's satellite data unit (SDU) attempted to log-on to a satellite in a process called a "handshake".

"A log-on request in the middle of a flight is not common and can occur for only a few reasons," the investigators said.

"An analysis was performed which determined that the characteristics and timing of the log-on requests were best matched as resulting from power interruption to the SDU."

According to aviation expert Peter Marosszeky from the University of New South Wales, the interruption of electrical power on board the plane could have been the work of hijackers.

"If there was a crew wanting to do something that was rather sinister or there were hijackers on board, they would remove power by opening up the bus-tie breakers and opening up the battery control switch. That way the aircraft virtually loses all power to just about all systems except the engines," he said.

"The engines have their own little computer and they have their own power source by a generator on the gearbox."

"You can reset the power in some way, this way the aircraft would go dead as far as any satellite contact or any information being transmitted by transponders. They can reinstate it and re- initialise the flight management computers ... it has to be a very clever pilot or person that really knows that aeroplane to be able to achieve that."

The power failure could be the result of tampering to minimize the use of the aircraft's systems, aviation safety expert David Gleave from Loughborough University told Britain's The Telegraph.

"A person could be messing around in the cockpit which would lead to a power interruption," Gleave said. "It could be a deliberate act to switch off both engines for some time. By messing about within the cockpit you could switch off the power temporarily and switch it on again when you need the other systems to fly the aeroplane."

ATSB investigators also reported that a second mysterious " handshake" request occured nearly six hours later. This one, they speculated, was caused by fuel exhaustion and power loss before the plane crashed into the Southern Indian Ocean.

MH370 went missing on March 8, sparking an international search for the wreckage.

Last week the Australian government announced a new search zone: a 60,000-square-kilometre area of the sea floor off the coast of Western Australia. The search begins in August.

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