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PHD. MBA. MHS. Type rated on A350, A330, B777, B747-400, B747-200, B757, B767, B737, B727. International Airline Pilot / Author / Speaker. Dedicated to giving the gift of wings to anyone following their dreams. Supporting Aviation Safety through training, writing, and inspiration. Fighting for Aviation Safety and Airline Employee Advocacy. Safety Culture and SMS change agent.

Friday, March 21, 2014

MH370 AvGeeks...

Friday's Fabulous Flyers

Did Captain Shah highjack his own plane?

For those of you who have read Flight For Control, you know that I addressed many issues facing pilots today. Something to the extent of, “Pilots are financially and emotionally bankrupt.”

We saw emotionally disturbed pilots with nothing to live for, as well as those on a mission to take control, willing to give their own life to make a statement for their cause. Then there was that far-reaching plan to take control of the industry with a personal agenda. But this is what fiction is based on—taking reality and pushing it to the next level.

The reality is, people break. It does not matter what walk of life they are in. The scary part is, what if they break while flying your plane? I do not know enough about Captain Shah’s mental state to know if this was the case. Time will tell on this. But I do not believe this for one reason only—he would have done this shortly after takeoff not fly for hours.

For all other reasons, I have my rational why I do not believe he was involved.


Put yourself into the head of your subject. If you were this captain and had plans to take your plane would you announce to the world that you had a simulator via YouTube? Would you openly share the simulator with your friends? I wouldn’t.

If they found his simulator in a dark room in the basement unbeknownst to his family and friends, I would be thinking differently. But he was open about his simulator and shared his love of flying with others.


I am friends with, and know hundreds of Avgeeks—people with a passion for flying—who have simulators. The only reason I don’t have mine set up is with seven grandkids, writing novels, hosting flying events, and a flying career, I have not found the time. But I plan on it.

This does not mean terrorists do not have simulators. But to come to the conclusion that he did this because he had a simulator is ludicrous.

Experience and Landing

If the captain wanted to take the plane, a pilot of his experience did not need a simulator to train for the event.

One theory was he used it to train others...

Train someone to hand fly a heavy jet through the mountains at night, to a remote strip and land safely without lights and an instrument landing system.

If this is a plot beyond our wildest imagination and a government was involved and aided the plane to land on an appropriate runway with an auto-landing, then the world is in trouble. Unless there is some reason to believe that...I’m not going there.

Even Asiana couldn’t make the runway in a 777 in VFR conditions—severe clear—with a check airman on board. Would it be possible to make a landing under these conditions? Yes, but not from anyone except a highly experienced pilot like Captain Shaw and then it would be a challenging task with a lot of ground support. But…


A highly experienced pilot would not have climbed to FL450. An experienced pilot would know that performance and structural integrity would be in question. Besides, why would an experienced pilot climb above the maximum service ceiling of the plane? The media tells us it was to make the passengers pass out.

Most airline pilots know that they can put their oxygen masks on and climb the cabin without actually climbing the plane. They can depressurize the cabin at their current altitude. So why would they climb? They wouldn’t if they knew what they were doing.
There is a possibility that the autopilot kicked off and the plane slowly climbed, stalled, dropped it's nose gained speed and then pitched back up, climbed, and continued in these phugoid oscillations, eventually leveling itself off. The real question is why.


The media continues to ask, “If someone tried to get into the flight deck, why didn’t the passengers attack?”

This is the same question that many people asked me on my initial speculation post. Remember, this event occurred in the middle of the night, 40 minutes into the flight. The cabin was dark. People were sleeping. The curtain is drawn between first class and coach. A flight attendant opens the door to take coffee to the crew.  Or there was already someone in the flight deck before takeoff. 

I am also not sure anyone would know what was happening at the time, or that the plane was turning. Not until the climb and descent would the passengers realize something was wrong.

Personality Profile

The question surfaced about the Captain attending the sentencing of his friend in a criminal case. I Googled that case to see what that was all about. Okay folks… Captain Shah was supporting his friend who was gay. The friend’s crime was sodomy. Now, do you think a man who was supporting the human rights of a friend would take away the rights of the passengers for the life they deserved to live? I don’t. 

Do You Think Captain Shah took his plane?
I don't! 

I've been wrong about many things, and nothing surprises me. But if he were to be involved, I would be very surprised.

Are you an AvGeek...who owns a simulator?

Fly Safe!
XO Karlene


  1. The third hand in the cockpit...

    What if this 3rd hand was an invisible hand, Carbon Monoxide?

    Early symptoms can include hypoxia, which can lead to behavior we might call 'acting drunk'. Pax and FAs quickly incapacitated. One pilot overcome. The younger copilot lasts longer, but acts irrationally, like he is drunk, then passes out like everyone else.

    If the source was something in the engine providing air to the cabin, there would be no structural damage, and the plane could just fly on until fuel was exhausted.

    Probably holes in this theory too of course...
    Don't even know if smoke/fire detectors in a 777 can sense CarbonDioxide.


    1. Typo... " can senseCarbon Monoxide" not Dioxide

  2. I am known for my flight simulator on Youtube and Twitter as an AvGeek. I find it puzzling that the police will actually consider that the Captain will use the sim to cause an accident. The likely cause of the simulator is to separate work and personal life, however I feel the pilot loved aviation so much that they wanted to fly at home.


    1. Henry, I completely agree with you! Sorry for my delayed response. I'm on the road and just flew in from Amsterdam. Thanks for your comment.

  3. I think its absurd that the news media find it disturbing that this professional pilot had a simulator at home. Have they not done their research and find that anyone can have a very elaborate home simulator. Not just pro-pilots, not just GA pilots, but even those who have never flown a real plane.
    I have a simulator at home, and honestly not far off from what I have seen in this pilots simulator. Many folks have one that looks exactly like a 7*7 cockpit.

    The scope of theories is beyond belief. Hopefully, the plane will be discovered and the answers will show what truly happened to this flight. Prayers to the families.

    1. Dave, Thank you so much for your comment! Sorry for the delay in response. On a trip now. You're right... so many theories... I hope we find out soon! The scary thing is, we may never know. But then... I always say, never say never!

  4. As far as a simulator goes, I don't have a stand-alone machine for just flight simulation but I do have a joystick with rudder and throttle controls. I use that with different simulation software to practice a number of things (or just to mess around for fun and try things). I would say that it is stranger for a pilot not to have a simulator (or less expensive similar solution like I do) than it is for a pilot to have one. I mean not ALL pilots have a simulator I guess but most I know do.

    As far MH370 goes, I understand why the conspiracy theories are flying since the ACARS kept on transmitting for 6 hours or something like that. Also the fact of the airplane changed course is another red flag. Still it is highly speculative to say the pilot(s) were in on it. They could have been, and the way things went down, if it was intentional it would seem that in-depth knowledge of the systems would be needed. Still, I don't think there is enough evidence to say that it was intentional or not. There are a multitude of system failures that could have damaged the aircraft but left it still flying. Also even if it was hijacked/pirated they may have just killed or incapacitated the pilots and took over. What happened is indeed very strange, and the fact that in a real emergency you would think that they would head straight towards the nearest land mass is a bit unsettling. None-the-less while the pilots are suspect they are not the only ones and certainly having a simulator is normal not a reason to be more suspect.

    1. Thank you so much for your comment! I am so sorry for the delayed response. On an International trip now. Yes... so many theories because nobody knows and they need to. The unknown is fearful. Hopefully we'll know soon. Thanks again for your comment!

  5. I agree that it is impossible to say who was responsible for the aircraft's sudden change of heading, but it was obviously SOMEONE. Malaysian military radar tracked it as it headed over the Straits of Malacca, flying north-west towards the IGREX waypoint. At that stage, the aircraft had changed course twice, and had passed two other waypoints. This cannot have happened if 'pilot incapacitation' was the cause. The fact that the transponder was switched off and then the aircraft turned AT the IGARI waypoint, less than 2 minutes after the 'alright, goodnight' makes it unlikely that a fire or similar emergency was the cause.
    I also find it incredibly difficult to believe the aircraft would then turn left and head towards the southern Indian Ocean.
    With no debris yet located, there is still no proof that the search is taking place in the correct hemisphere!
    Captain Shah may have been an unwilling participant in the events that unfolded.. For everyone's sake, I hope the wreckage is found very soon.

    1. Simon, this is the most logical statement and what we know. I still believe someone got in that cockpit. Now with the update that there was no programmed turn, I will go back to my theory... they accessed when the FA opened the door to bring coffee to the crew. Thanks for your comment, and sorry for my delay in response. On a trip now.

  6. 1) I don't hear a reasonable theory of why a person bent on crashing the plane would fly it so far out in the middle of nowhere to do it.
    2) If the FMS was programmed 12 minutes before the turn, the problem is not mechanical.
    3) Could the Inmarsat ping data be wrong or incomplete?
    4) Let's back-up and assume for theory that the Inmarsat data does not exist. Where would we be looking for the plane then?
    5) Would it be possible for someone to send another plane up with a duplicate acars ping to exchange places with MH370, while 370 quietly goes dark and departs in another direction?
    What if the left turn never happened? Should we be looking East?

    1. Tom, That is a good question. After flying over the ocean I land and learn there was never a pre-programmed turn. This takes me back to my first theory. ... Someone accessed the flight deck when the FA's brought coffee up.
      Now, we wait. I hope the other views of the plane on radar were not wrong ...because you could be right and we would never find it. Fingers crossed we learn soon. Thanks so much for your comment.

  7. I have to agree with the news media's accusations that just by having a simulator in your home - is enough to make one a criminal in this case. Anyone can purchase a simulator and learn it to detail in a small amount of time. (Depending on how addicted you become to it.)

    Given the photo of the simulator that was shown on the news, this is nothing compared the simulators that some other people have. If it was used to recreate this scenario, it was used to train non ATPs IMHO. And even if it was used to train non-pilots, they may know the instruments but they will never know "the feel of the airplane" until they were to ever (please God no) get their hands on the real equipment.

    Either MH 370 is very deep down in the ocean (especially now that it has been good couple of weeks now) or on land. I have a feeling that if it's in the ocean it the possibilities are slim that it will be found in my humble opinion. But we can always hope and pray.

    Have a great weekend,


    1. Hi Jeremy. Thank you so much for the comment. sorry for the delay in reply. I just arrived from AMS... in BOS now. You're right...they would not know the feel and would not be able to land that plane. Ocean or mountains. I hope we find it, and soon.
      Thanks so much for your thoughts! Oh....and I want that simulator! It was awesome.

  8. IMO, this series of posts is worthy, nearly all relies are worthy and we - and too many other sites - are burning far too much bandwidth speculating about an even that is most unusual. Beyond that we know nothing. It may take months or even years to develop any facts and - it IS possible that remnants of this airplane may never be found. NOT a single word of the guessing is worth the effort to write it. Is a home simulator relevant? Of course not. Was there a fire aboard? who the heck knows? Was a flight crew member suicidal? Not likely, but who knows? Does some intelligence agency of some government have more, untold detail? Bank on it. Does that information tell the entire story? Probably not.
    Venting our frustrations over the lack of concrete fact may make us feel better, but it does not enhance the investigation or improve our understanding of the precious few validated facts. Let's let it go, perhaps revisiting the subject 1) when we learn something or 2) in a year's time. The current reporting and speculation, here and in hundreds of other places contributes nothing to our understanding of the fate of MH370. Most can remember the investigation into the loss of TWA800, who participated and what agendas each pushed. Even the most powerful turned out to be wrong. So... Until we know, let's just quit this game and return to reading Karlene's books. They too will keep us awake well past our bedtimes. Her latest, Flight for Safety stands on its own and provides a lot more detail than do news reports about MH370. Enough already. -C.

    1. Okay... I like that last idea! Read my books!! I'm getting hundreds of emails and in there I see fear, frustration, and the need to know. For those passengers, they want to know their plane is not going to blow up or their pilot is not going to go crazy. For those in security, they don't want to think someone could get in. But procedures are only as good as the humans who follow them.
      Yes, talking about this does make people feel better. It makes them feel better because they are doing something. It's not helping. But it's something they can do. I only wish they would send the families home with counseling to start healing.

      I firmly believe that door was opened and someone entered and did this. One day we will know. Or we won't. But we do have to wonder how long it will continue.

      I agree and asked blogging in formation buddies to not write about this. Time to shift gears as we wait out the search and hope that we get answers sooner than later.

      Thanks for your comment! Sorry for my delayed response. On the road.

  9. I agree that the pilot having a simulator is no big deal. However, I also feel that the fact that the FBI is scrutinizing the pilot's computer which had flight simulator on it is the right thing to do. If there was n question of hijacking/terrorism in this incident, then clearly the fact the pilot had the simulator would be a mere footnote. In this incident however, there is a hijack/terror theory, and therefore anything which might shed light on the investigation is relevant. After all, we would not be critical if the NTSB checked the training records of the Asiana pilot as to his ability to land the 777.

    1. Robert, Thanks for your comment! Yes... I agree... they must check the simulator and scrutinize everything. I doubt they will find anything there, but it must be done. I only hope we will find out soon.

  10. Hi Karlene - Visited your blog after seeing you on CNN. Thanks for sharing your experiences with us.

    I don't have a theory, but I do have a question. I was introduced to Breitling Watches through a pilot friend of mine. I saw one that had an emergency beacon built in, a quick pull of a little knob activated the satellite enabled beacon. I have noticed more Breitlings at airports than anywhere else. Of course in an emergency, no pilot will be playing with a watch, but wonder if anybody on the flight had such a watch. I'm sure Breitling has privacy issues sharing, but if there was anyone on board (pax or crew) and no beacon went off, it would tell us something bad happened really quickly... or not?

    1. Paul, I love this idea. I think all pilots should have something on their watch to set an alert. Possibly the quickest way to alert a location, and or an emergency! I think our airlines should provide them as part of our equipment.
      Thank you so much for the comment. I'm going to look into that for myself.

    2. Why depend on two orange boxes when we live in the satellite age?

      Might sound silly, but if planes could transmit live or intermittent information to special cloud services, with data protected by the NSA (for american planes), maybe things wouldn't become so hash.

    3. Alex, you think they could do this. Thanks for your thoughts.

    4. Too science fiction, I know. Specially when there's no money left!

    5. Well... everything we have was once science fiction.

  11. Maybe someone took over the plane but didn't know how to fly it properly and crashed it.

    1. Syd, I totally agree! In Amsterdam... will call you tomorrow when I get back to the country.

  12. My first post here was on FL450 and a hypothesis that it might have been used against intruders. It is possible that the height could have wiped out all the passengers before 45 minutes into flight. On a few occasions I have forgotten to switch off Garmin Sports Watch in my bag after marathon runs and travelled immediately by flights. The travel path was neatly plotted on a map afterwards. There is a remote possibility that someone might have had true GPS device working on board the MH370. Just could someone please try with those GPS companies.

    1. That would be great if they did! But looks like they found the plane.

    2. I like when your writing changes. And suddenly becomes my favorite type of literature. :)


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