Authorities investigating the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 have found evidence of a mysterious power outage.
Data reveals a “log-on” request was made to a satellite just an hour-and-a-half into the flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.
The log-on request (known in the aviation business as a “handshake”) was described as “not common” in the report released by The Australian Transport Safety Bureau last week.
A relative of passengers onboard the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, waits for a briefing
It adds a “handshake” can occur for only a few reasons: “These include a power interruption to the aircraft satellite data (SDU) unit, a software failure, loss of critical systems providing input to the SDU or a loss of the link due to aircraft altitude.
“An analysis was performed which determined that the characteristics and timing of the logon requests were best matched as resulting from power interruption to the SDU.”
Aviation expert Peter Marosszeky, from the University of New South Wales, told the Sydney Morning Herald the power outage could be linked to an attempt by hijackers to tamper with cockpit equipment in a bid to avoid radar detection.
He said: “If there was a crew wanting to do something that was rather sinister or there were hijackers on board, they would remove power by opening up the bus-tie breakers and opening up the battery control switch.
“That way the aircraft virtually loses all power to just about all systems except the engines.
“The engines have their own little computer and they have their own power source by a generator on the gearbox.
A photo of Zaharie Shah (top right) and co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid (top left) atop a poster appealing for the missing plane to 'please come back'
“You can reset the power in some way, this way the aircraft would go dead as far as any satellite contact or any information being transmitted by transponders. They can reinstate it and re-initialise the flight management computers… it has to be a very clever pilot or person that really knows that aeroplane to be able to achieve that.”
David Gleave, an aviation expert from Loughborough University told The Telegraph the power outage appeared to be the result of someone in the cockpit attempting to minimise the use of the aircraft’s systems.
He said: “A person could be messing around in the cockpit which would lead to power interruption.
“It could be a deliberate act to switch off both engines for some time. By messing around 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.”
The plane and its 239 passengers vanished almost four months ago en route to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur.
The Boeing 777 is believed to have crashed in the southern Indian Ocean, but not a single piece of debris has been identified in an extensive search involving more than a dozen countries.
Family members of passengers are seeking to raise $5 million for a reward and private investigation leading to discovery of what happened to the missing jet, in the hope whistleblowers will come forward.
Last week it was revealed that the pilot of the vanished flight MH370 has become the chief suspect in its disappearance, after police learned he had made no social plans after the day it disappeared.
Captain Zaharie Shah had no social or professional engagements after March 8, the day the flight vanished. The Malaysian police investigation has not ruled out mechanical failure as an explanation but says he is the most likely culprit if human action was to blame.
The rest of the crew were all cleared by security checks, the Sunday Times reported.