But you are going to have to indulge me as I finish my full theory.
As I left it in Part 2 of my South Indian Ocean theory, I believe the captain was cold and miserable with the oxygen mask clamped to his face. He may only have had to endure this for a few hours, perhaps. He did his best to warm the cockpit using the bleed air system, and it certainly helped. But it would still be cold.
When he caused the aircraft to go “dark” electronically by pulling circuit breakers and shutting off everything—all the things that communicate—he also would literally cause the plane to go dark: he shut off all the external lights, the navigation lights and strobe lights—anything that would light the aircraft from the outside. To preclude anyone from seeing lights on the inside, he turned off the emergency lighting system, and turned off the cabin utility and lighting and in flight entertainment (IFE) systems. He de-powered the utility bus which sent power to the cabin lights. It was truly a dark airplane. He would have taken the precaution of turning off the cockpit dome light, and any reading lights.
He had one mission at this point. He pointed the airplane towards the South-South East and noted the time. He could not know if he successfully evaded being detected yet, but he would have tuned at least one radio to 121.5 MHz. That’s the universal emergency frequency. He knew any fighter sent to intercept him would fly alongside and attempt to communicate using that frequency. He listened for the MH370 callsign but heard none. Several hours into the flight, and no intercept, he would feel confident he had succeeded with his plan so far.
I seriously doubt that he would have sufficient oxygen to last all the way to fuel exhaustion, and he could not survive at high altitude without it. On any modern Boeing there are computer screens that will display many things. One of them is the oxygen pressure available to the flight deck. This is measured in pounds per square inch in an O2 tank, and is typically in the 1600 to 1800 pound range for larger cockpits (particularly long-range aircraft that might have three or more crew members like the B777). A warning will display CREW OXYGEN LOW at some point—the Boeing manual does not say exactly when—but I don’t believe the captain ever saw that.
There was no need to.
After he felt there was no one who would recover from the decompressed cabin, it was time to re-pressurize the cabin once again.
Reversing the order, he threw two switches to close the outflow valves, and placed the pressurization system back into the automatic mode. He could feel the pressure increasing in the cabin as the conditioned air began to press against the fuselage.
There are quite a few tools available to the captain. He could see the cabin temperatures in several zones, but the most important figure to him was the cabin altitude display. He needed to have sufficient pressure so he could finally remove that damn mask that was keeping him alive. He would have been watching the cabin begin to lower from his cruising altitude. He watched intently for the cabin to at the very least, register an altitude below 14,000—something that he could breath normally.
Being cautious not to succumb to hypoxia, he patiently waited until the cabin was finally below 10,000 feet.
Only then did he remove that mask that tormented him. His face would be deeply grooved with the outline of the plastic part covering his face.
It would have been a while since he heard any sounds coming from the cabin. The call “dings” on the intercom stopped well over an hour before. He re-powered the utility bus and restored some cabin lighting to the back of the plane. The autopilot was engaged and holding steady. He slid his seat back and to the left, unbuckled, and stood up.
Stepping back to the hardened cockpit door, he took a look through the security peep hole to see if there was anyone moving. Straining to see, he saw nothing. No movement at all.
I can’t even begin to imagine the horror of what happened next, but he had to open the door to take a look. What he saw would only be unnecessary conjecture on my part. I so won’t go there.
The captain may, or may not, have elected to do something quite natural. He had to use the bathroom. He would have had basically two choices, simply find a place in the cockpit, or actually step back and use the lavatory in first class.
I suspect that he may have actually used the forward lavatory, rather than soil the cockpit.
Whether or not he decided to walk through the airplane at this point is anybody’s guess. Well, actually, everything I’m writing is a guess. I’ll go with he did not. The horror of what he did probably sank in with what he was seeing in the cabin. He did not want any more of it.
He returned to the cockpit, and as a precaution, closed and locked the door.
At this point of his last flight, he successfully flew a B777 out over the water, and was now heading to the South Indian Ocean…just as he planned.
He had only one thing left to do.
He looked at his watch and looked at the fuel remaining. He still had three more hours to go. But it was not the fuel that had three more hours to go.
Now we come to what I believe is the reason for the South Indian Ocean. Why that path. Why that direction.
Take a look at this simulated depiction of the Earth about just over one hour before MH370 is calculated to run out of fuel. I used a solar system simulator to pick the date and time. I wanted to see what the conditions were around that area when the fuel ran out. Was it night? Daylight? What was going on. Could the plane’s final plunge be seen by anyone?
Then I noticed what you’re now noticing.
The captain, by all accounts, was a practicing Muslim. The most important prayers to a Muslim is the Fajr prayer. It is marked by the first light and ends at sunrise. It is the first of five daily prayers by practicing Muslims.
It simply jumped out at me. He was flying to dawn! He needed to pray the Fajr before he died, and he would have known where that would have occurred. As an airline pilot he would have had the software to determine his prayer times, and he certainly could have planned approximately where he needed to be at first light.
PLEASE UNDERSTAND. I am NOT suggesting the hijacking of MH370 by the captain was because he was a Muslim. I DO NOT BELIEVE THAT IN ANY WAY. I simply believe BECAUSE he was a Muslim, he NEEDED to get his Fajr performed before he died. I have withheld this aspect of my theory out of religious respect, and hope that the plane would be found within a year. I fear the plane may never be found, so perhaps my clue may be of some worth in thinking where it is not.
Got it? No hate comments please. I’ve been respectful and patient.
Anyone ignoring this aspect of the mystery, combined with the observation I just offered, is simply ignoring a clue in front of them. The sunrise pattern must be taken into account when discussing where the airplane wound up.
This is why I don’t believe he flew north. The fuel exhaustion point would have been at night anywhere to the north. I don’t believe the Inmarsat rings too far to the west is right either. His final plunge would be sometime after sunrise. There is no way this occurred during darkness. The sun was above the horizon before the plane smashed into the ocean.
Let’s return to the cockpit again to finish out my theory.
It would have been difficult, even for a senior and experienced pilot, to predict with absolute accuracy when the B777 would run out of fuel. The flight management computer (FMC) has calculations that are pretty accurate, and it will provide some time information. Available to the captain would be a display of fuel burn and a very accurate fuel quantity indicating system. I’m pretty sure that he was managing the clock, watching the fuel, and watching the eastern horizon.
I suspect that as he flew further south-southeast, he may have hedged his calculations, and added a few more degrees to the left to ensure he had that last, first light.
There must have been relief on his part as he saw the unmistakable hint of light as the sun crept towards the horizon. If he flew directly east towards the sunrise, he would have artificially hastened a natural sunrise as the forward motion of the big Boeing moved against the Earth’s rotation. I presume that the flight path would have been, at the very least, somewhat parallel with the Earth’s shadow terminator line.
From his perch on the left seat of the cockpit, he would have had full view of the sunrise and may, in fact, have gotten out of his seat to perform the ritual sajdah in the space behind the captain and first officer’s seats.
The moment the sun crested the horizon, the obligatory Fajr would have been complete, and now the captain would be lost in his thoughts as he prepared for his own death.
A about an hour or so earlier, he passed a point beyond which there was no turning back. He had neither the fuel nor inclination to do so. There simply was no fuel to get to any airport at this point.
The captain picked this remote area of the world to hide his crime. He fully understood that even at that hour, search crews were looking for the aircraft in the Gulf of Thailand. He must have had some sort of satisfaction that his plan, for whatever reason he came up with it——worked. He needed to plan his final dive with minimum fuel on the aircraft so as not to create any kind of post-crash fire and subsequent smoke. Even in this remote area ships might spot the plume.
He felt confident that there was no way this act could ever be conclusively blamed on him. It must have been important to him to go through all the planning for this moment.
I’ve little doubt that he anticipated the suicidal dive he was about to take would destroy the plane, all the evidence, and send it to the bottom of a very deep sea. There would be no plan to attempt to ditch the airplane to keep it intact. Why go through that only to drown a miserable death? As I outlined a few entries ago, pilot suicides end in a violent crash, typically a nose dive. They are cowards.
What he could not have known, because it simply was too deep into the systems description—was for the entire flight, an antenna was trying to phone home.
Little bits of electronic crumbs were being left every hour.
As the fuel began to dwindle, one engine probably flamed out first. The engines did what they needed to do, and he did not need them anymore. As he practiced in his flight simulator, he turned off the autopilot, and banked the airplane towards the blue water as his final act.
As the airplane took that final plunge, the antenna noted the change in attitude, and attempted to connect one last time.
For the families of those lost on MH370, I believe your loved ones really did not suffer. I truly believe that the effects of hypoxia caused them to feel a sense of well-being although somewhat bewildered by what was happening. They simply fell asleep.
None of them would have been aware of anything or ever regained consciousness when the cabin re-pressurized.
I wish it had a different, happier, ending.