The Boeing 777 is equipped with five radios and two transponders, making it next to impossible for failures to be due to electrical or other mechanical failures, a Boeing 777 captain and training instructor tells us.
The ACARS system, which communicates with the ground, is run off one of three VHF radios; the radio would have to be turned off (or failed). There are two HF (High Frequency) radios as well.
The two transponders, which identify the airplane to Air Traffic Control, are not operational simultaneously. If one failed, the pilot has to turn the other on as back-up, says George Nolly, a former airline pilot and Boeing 777/787 instructor.
Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, a 777-200ER, produced no electronic signals and no radio contact was heard from the flight as it vanished from ATC tracking. Military primary radar reportedly tracked the airplane to the Strait of Malacca, where it disappeared from radar.
No debris has been found.
Former investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board and other agencies, pilots, observers and unidentified investigators of this incident are now openly talking about hijacking or pilot action, among some other possibilities, as responsible for this mystery.
Nolly believes whatever happened to the airplane originated in the cockpit, with either an intrusion or one or both of the pilots. These people, whoever they are, would have to turn off the radios and transponders to cut off signals to ATC.
He also said that if the reported turn-around were initiated by a pilot for emergency or return-to-origin reasons, it is standard procedure to call out the turn in order to warn other aircraft in the area.
If this was a cockpit intrusion, Nolly, who has flown for Asian airlines but not MAS, tells us that despite 9/11 and all the security emphasis since then, security throughout Asia is lax. It’s already been reported that the co-pilot on MH370 invited two women to the cockpit on a different flight. Nolly related that he flew for one airline at which the pilot cruised the cabin looking for pretty women and invited them to the cockpit to impress them. He also tells us that it’s not unusual for cockpit access to be granted to passengers throughout the region.