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Missing plane: Was MH370's cockpit tampered with?

Australian investigators discover evidence of mysterious power outage during early part of the ill-fated flight

Sydney: Australian investigators have discovered evidence of a mysterious power cut during the early part of the missing Malaysia Airlines MH370 flight.

HMAS Perth
At sea: An April photo shows the HMAS Perth transiting through the southern Indian Ocean as an Orion P-3K of the Royal New Zealand Air Force searches for debris for missing flight. Pic/AFP

The findings by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau raises questions over whether the plane’s cockpit equipment had been tampered with, possibly in an attempt to avoid being picked up by radar.

In the report, crash investigators reveal that the missing Boeing 777’s satellite data unit had unexpectedly tried to log on to a satellite, around an hour and a half after the flight left from Kuala Lumpur on March 8.

This request, known as a ‘handshake’, was likely to have been caused by a power failure on board, the 55-page report says. ‘A log-on request in the middle of a flight is not common and can occur for only a few reasons,’ the report states.

These include a power interruption to the aircraft satellite data unit (SDU), a software failure, loss of critical systems providing input to the SDU or a loss of the link due to aircraft attitude.

‘An analysis determined that the characteristics and timing of the log-on requests were... resulting from power interruption to the SDU.’

Aviation safety expert David Gleave from Loughborough University says the power interruption could have been caused by someone in the cockpit trying to turn off the plane’s communications systems to avoid being picked up by radar.

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.’

He added: ‘There are credible mechanical failures that could cause it. But you would not then fly along for hundreds of miles and disappear in the Indian Ocean.’ British satellite telecommunications company Inmarsat has confirmed there was a power outage on the plane, but has been unable to say why this happened.     

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