An Important Flight MH370 Question: Was Computer Hacking Involved?

(Note: This guest post was written by a China-based former military aviator who has held a commercial pilot’s license for more than 30 years and asked to remain anonymous.)
Malaysia announced this week that flight MH370 ended in the Indian Ocean.  In the months to come, the “why” of this horrific tragedy doesn’t matter to the rest of the flying public so much as “how” it happened.
Unlike decades ago, pilots today don’t need to look outside the cockpit to fly the plane.  They instead rely on glass panels that display digital instrument read-outs, GPS-based moving maps, and a host of other synthetic representations to “see” where they are and where they are going.   The Boeing BA +1.01%777 was among the first of the modern generation of commercial airlines to not have direct physical control by pilots.   The Wright Brothers’ dream of human flight took on new meaning.  Are we flying in aircraft or are they flying us?  Is our pilot Hal from 2001: A SpaceTo that end, I have a theory — pretty far out there –  that revolves around the ever-increasing role computers play in flying commercial jets. It also involves a stowaway and an act of cyber terrorism.
MH 777
MH 777 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My theory about the “how” for MH370 tragedy boils down to this: a stowaway located himself in an electrical and avionics closet below the main cabin before anyone boarded the plane.  Shortly after takeoff he (or she) began to take control of the aircraft.  He did this with a combination of his own portable electronic devices and a considerable knowledge of the systems on board.  He also brought some sort of oxygen support.  After he was confident that he could control the plane, he disabled the pressurization and the oxygen equipment in both the main cabin and the cockpit.  With everyone soon incapacitated he put the aircraft on course for one of the most remote and inhospitable open oceans in the world.  When the fuel ran out, he and all souls on board went down with the plane.
What is less important, to me, is “who” actually killed MH370’s passengers and crew. Such a person could be a former pilot who had lost his job to a younger, more computer savvy hire.  He could have worked as a technician on the flight control system itself before returning to his home country of Malaysia.  Revenge or ideology?  We may never know.
But we must, in the name of those who lost their life in this great tragedy, find out “how.” And while we are doing that we should ask the question:   are the risks of hacking and manipulation of aviation computer systems by the ill-willed any different from that of hackers targeting the world’s financial systems and government and business offices?