Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 may have been hijacked by terrorists that stowed away in its under floor electronics bay located just behind the cockpit.
According to Philip Baum, editor of trade journal Aviation Security, the hijackers may not have been on a passenger list but hiding on board the 777.
“Stowaways on planes are not new,” he said. “Whilst most stowaways had clambered into wheel wheels, some had secreted themselves on board aircraft, often disguised as airport staff.”
On 7 July 2012, two stowaways penetrated the perimeter at Iceland’s Keflavik International Airport and then, dressed as airport staff, boarded an Icelandair aircraft.
But Mr Baum said “they were found by alert crewmembers prior to departure”.
“The same cannot be said in the case of a China Airlines flight which landed in San Francisco on 22 October 2012,” he said. “A passenger from Shanghai had flown from Shanghai to Taipei and on to the US, where he claimed asylum, having boarded the aircraft wearing a cleaner’s uniform and avoided detection in Taipei by concealing himself in an electrical compartment on board.”
Mr Baum said the industry had long been concerned about the insider threat.
“At almost every major international airport in the world, criminal activity of one type or another takes place in what are supposed to be sterile zones,” he said. “It is certainly a possibility that, in an airport the size of Kuala Lumpur International Airport, individuals, with or without the knowledge of the crew of MH 370, and with or without technical knowledge as to how to disable an aircraft’s communication systems, could have managed to secrete themselves on board.”
On the Boeing 777, the perfect pace to stowaway is in the main equipment bay that is located below the main deck just behind the cockpit.
Access is via a door in the cabin floor in close proximity to the main passenger entry door.
This is typically hidden by carpet.
There is no access between the MEB and the cockpit but hijackers could just wait until the pilots came back to the toilet or waited till the flight attendants took drinks to the cockpit.
While cockpit doors are supposed to be locked for the duration of the flight the reality is that access at different times is essential.
“A week ago, many would have argued that the scenario we are witnessing would have been an impossibility but it is happening and we don’t know how or why,” said Mr Baum.
See Geoffrey Thomas on Australia’s Channel 7 Sunrise program;