Who was Zaharie Ahmad Shah? 'Depressed' MH370 pilot changed plane's route, speed and avoided radar, says engineer

'The pilot also avoided giving a clear idea where he was heading by using a flight path with a number of changes of direction'


                            Who was Zaharie Ahmad Shah? 'Depressed' MH370 pilot changed plane's route, speed and avoided radar, says engineer
Satellite image shows a map of the planned search area for missing Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 (Getty Images)

A new study has found that the pilot of MH370, who was reportedly clinically depressed, intentionally changed the plane's route before diving into the Indian Ocean. Zaharie Ahmad Shah also changed the speed of the Boeing 777 to keep away from “giving a clear idea where he was heading,” aerospace engineer Richard Godfrey claimed.

The airplane operated by Malaysia Airlines went missing from radar screens while flying from Kuala Lumpur International Airport to Beijing Capital International Airport on March 8, 2014. It has been said that the flight, carrying 239 people, instead of going on its planned path took an unexpected U-turn. It was also reportedly found on military radar over the Malacca Strait before it vanished.

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In his report, Godfrey wrote: “The pilot of MH370 generally avoided official flight routes from 18:00 UTC (2 am AWST) onwards but used waypoints to navigate on unofficial flight paths in the Malacca Strait, around Sumatra and across the Southern Indian Ocean. The flight path follows the coast of Sumatra and flies close to Banda Aceh Airport. The pilot appears to have had knowledge of the operating hours of Sabang and Lhokseumawe radar and that on a weekend night, in times of little international tension the radar systems would not be up and running.”

A relative of a passenger onboard Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 cries (Getty Images)

“In case the aircraft was detected, the pilot also avoided giving a clear idea where he was heading by using a flight path with a number of changes of direction,” Godfrey mentioned, before adding: “These changes of track included toward the Andaman Islands, towards South Africa, towards Java, towards 2°S 92°E (where the Flight Information Regions of Jakarta, Colombo, and Melbourne meet) and towards Cocos Islands.”

Godfrey also said that with the help of data from Weak Signal Propagation (WSPR), the last activities of the MH370 flight could be planned. He explained, “WSPR is like a bunch of tripwires or laser beams (graphic below), but they work in every direction over the horizon to the other side of the globe." He went on to describe how Shah used waypoints to fly on “unofficial flight paths” so that the airplane cannot be found.

“The flight path seems well planned and avoids commercial flight routes. The pilot appears not so concerned about fuel usage and much more concerned about leaving false trails. The significant number of changes of track and speed suggest that there was an active pilot during the flight. Speed changes were beyond the level of changes expected if the aircraft was following a speed schedule such as the long-range cruise (LRC) or maximum range cruise (MRC) mode. The level of detail in the planning implies a mindset that would want to see this complex plan properly executed through to the end,” Godfrey noted.

Seen from the Royal New Zealand Airforce (RNZAF) P-3K2-Orion aircraft, a RHIB (rigid hull inflatable boat) is deployed from the Australian ship HMAS Perth after it was guided into position by the RNZAF aircraft to recover a red object during the search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 (Getty Images)

Who was Zaharie Ahmad Shah?

Born in July 1961, Shah joined Malaysia Airlines in 1981. In his over three decades tenure with Malaysia Airlines, he had 18,423 hours of flight time. Regarding the Boeing 777, he flew it as its Captain for 16 years and had 8,659 hours on it.

It has been said he was married to Faizah Khanum Mustafa Khan. Together they had three kids. The family lived in a luxury gated society where he reportedly made his own flight simulator. However, after the flight disappeared, speculations were there that Shah was disturbed since his wife had left him. When allegations like he intentionally crashed the plane came out, his sister Sakinab Shah came out in his defense and said, “Until and unless we have evidence, tangible evidence, I maintain his innocence. Simply put, the suicide story is but another story. My brother loved life, he loved his lifestyle, period.”

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