Sunday, March 16, 2014

Malaysia Air MH370: Pilot Factors

The fact that the investigation of the disappearance of Malaysia Air MH370 has shifted to intentional pilot actions means that it is of critical significance to identify those motives that are most likely to have caused the actions observed, in the specific pilot(s) under examination.

Such actions are typically triggered by two motives, each powerful discontinuities, either singly or in combination:

1) Change in domestic or personal circumstances: A change in relationship, such as a serious disruption with a wife or romantic partner;
2) Change in political circumstances motivating protest: A change in a primary political situation or circumstance to which the individual has considerable commitment, leading to an act of motivated protest.

Therefore, in addition to the long overdue examination of the pilot's homes, an examination of:

a) Any changes in domestic circumstances, in the case of Capt. Zaharie Ahmad Shah, an estrangement with his wife, or wife and children leaving the home;
b) A change in political circumstances that triggers action related to a strong political alliegiance, leading to an act of protest.

In that regard, in an event that surprisingly has not yet been reported as potentially related to pilot actions, we should note that the very evening preceding the disappearance of MH370,  a primary opposition leader in Malaysia, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, leader of the Pakatan Rakyat, was sentenced to a five year jail term by the Court of Appeals.

Ibrahim, who has been one of Malaysia's leading proponents of democratic reform, and who has served in the past as Deputy Prime Minister, was recently experiencing a surge of increased popularity in Malaysia as the head of the PKR.

Given the fact that:

1) The trial and sentence was viewed by many Malays as an attempt to quash this rising popularity;

2) The flight of MH370 began at 12:40 am the following day--less than 8 hours after the sentence;

It is important to examine whether the disappearance of MH370 was influenced by the contiguity of this powerful and polarizing political event--an act of pilot protest.

This is particularly the case given the directly occurrence of an extremely powerful motivating trigger of the type that often precedes such actions: the jail sentence of Ibrahim--which was separated from the take-off of MH370 by only hours, and which provides precisely the degree of emotional discontinuity necessary to trigger such an act.

Many other factors, of course, still remain to be determined--psychological stability, the continuing role of technical issues and disturbances, and passenger issues.

However, the fact that the precise timing of handoffs and navigation of waypoints are among the host of factors increasingly converging on experienced pilot involvement; and that powerful political discontinuities, including a major national political event, the sentence of a leading Malaysian opposition figure--precisely the type of event that triggers such an act of motivated protest--occurred in Malaysia just hours before the launch of MH370 means that it is critical to examine the history of the pilots in terms of any prior activities that would indicate a strong political allegiance to this issue, and connection to this outcome, in order to determine whether these, in combination with the outcome of the trial, influenced either of their actions in the weeks, days, and hours preceding the flight, serving as a key trigger of pilot motivation and action.

In addition, such reactions frequently interact with and are driven by domestic factors. Family relations, particularly any actions taken with regard to the wife and children of Capt. Shah, should be examined, and interviews conducted, in order to identify any changes in domestic relations or activities that preceded the flight. These may provide vital information regarding pilot activities and reactions to the trial and sentence, as well as serving as an additional triggers to pilot actions in the MH370 disappearance.