Cockpit’s security door may have left passengers, crew helpless in mid-air, says daily


(TMI) – Passengers and cabin crew may have been aware there was a problem on board flight MH370 but were helpless to do anything, The Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) reported today, adding that of all the theories that have emerged, this could be the most terrifying yet.

The report said aviation experts raised the possibility that if the flight’s pilots had become incapacitated, the passengers and cabin crew may have flown for seven hours aware that there was a problem but unable to raise the alarm.

However, neither the passengers nor the cabin crew would have been able to get into the cockpit due to the reinforced cockpit door.

The SMH report said that there were no emergency communication systems in the plane cabin while mobile phones may have been out of range.

“The satellite phones available in the business class could have been disabled, either intentionally or accidentally,” the daily said.

“If the flight pilots had been incapacitated, there is no way of gaining access to the cockpit to make contact with the outside world.”

“There are no communications available from the cabin to the ground, only from the cockpit,” Professor Jason Middleton told The Sydney Morning Herald.

Middleton, who is the head of the University of New South Wales School Of Aviation, said several actions had been implemented post September 11, 2001.

Middleton told the paper that post-9/11, security measures meant passengers and crew were isolated from the outside world if a plane’s pilots were out of action, whether by their own or someone else’s intention or through some sort of emergency.

‘‘It’s the modern world [that says] the only way to protect against illegal activities and hijacking is for the pilots to be safely ensconced so no one can get at them and no one can get at the systems,” he was quoted as saying.

“The approach has worked thus far but MH370 has proven to be an unprecedented case,” Middleton told the daily.

Several theories had been thrown up including a catastrophic loss of pressure, which rendered all aboard unconscious, said the report.

However, experts have confirmed even if the passengers and cabin crew were all right, there would have been little they could do.

If the pilots had been rendered unconscious, the aircraft would have flown on a “ghost flight” until it crashed, said The Sydney Morning Herald.

The daily added that there was a precedent for such a scenario as in 2005: a Helios Airlines Boeing 737 which was feared to be hijacked, only for it to crash into a mountain in Greece leaving 121 dead.

The report said a crash investigation revealed that the pilots had succumbed to hypoxia (loss of oxygen) and had mistaken a pressure warning signal and lights for other safety alerts.

It added that a flight attendant who had pilot training and was able to stay conscious tried unsuccessfully to control the plane before also passing out.

The plane stayed in the air for two more hours before running out of fuel and crashing, said The Sydney Morning Herald.