Crew member’s suicide mission, say experts


(Agencies) – US authorities increasingly suspect that the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 was part of a suicide plot by a crew member, one of Congress’ top terrorism experts said.

“There is a growing consensus that this was a suicide by the pilot or co-pilot and that they wanted to get as far away and land in the farthest and deepest part of the ocean,” said Rep. Pete King, chair of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence, the New York Post reported today.

King said the scheme might have hinged on the hope that family members could still collect life insurance on the dead pilot or co-pilot.

“If they never find the plane, they can’t call it suicide,” he said.

King said American authorities don’t believe the Beijing-bound airliner, which was carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew members, flew north toward Asia after veering off course over the Gulf of Thailand.

Instead, they suspect it headed south toward the Indian Ocean, which holds some of the deepest spots of any ocean.

“This is still a mystery, but if there is any consensus now, it’s that it was a suicide by the pilot or co-pilot and he wanted to go as far as he could into the Indian Ocean,” King said.

The suicide scenario “makes the most sense,” he added.

King expressed doubt that the pilot and co-pilot were both in on the plan, adding, “One or the other would have to kill or somehow silence the other.”

The plane’s sharp climb to 45,000 feet, as recorded by Malaysian military radar, would probably have “incapacitated” everyone outside the cockpit by rapidly reducing oxygen levels in the cabin, King said.

Although there have been previous suspected instances of murder-suicides by pilots of passenger planes, officials have traditionally been reluctant to accept that conclusion even in the face of compelling evidence.

A US investigation into the 1999 crash of EgyptAir Flight 990 out of JFK determined that co-pilot Gameel El-Batouty was alone on the flight deck when he switched off the autopilot, put the plane into a dive and repeatedly said, “I rely on God!” as it plunged into the Atlantic Ocean off Nantucket, killing all 217 aboard.

The National Transportation Safety Board blamed El-Batouty, but its report never mentioned suicide, saying his motive “was not determined.” Egyptian officials insisted mechanical problems caused the crash.

American investigators also ruled that SilkAir Flight 185, on which 104 people were killed en route from Indonesia to Singapore in 1997, was deliberately crashed, while an Indonesian probe was inconclusive.

A recent study by the Federal Aviation Administration said suicides by plane “are most likely under-reported and under-recognized.”

The report found eight fatal plane crashes caused by pilot suicide during the 10 years ending in 2012, all involving male fliers.

“Aircraft-assisted suicides are tragic, intentional events that are hard to predict and difficult to prevent,” the report concluded.