The Malaysia Airlines flight disappeared on March 8, 2014, during a routine trip to Beijing, China, with 239 people on board. Mr Shah last communicated with air traffic control at 1:19am while travelling over the South China Sea, before vanishing. Countless theories have been put forward to explain the enigma, but analysis of the jet’s automated communications with an Inmarsat satellite indicates it likely crashed in the southern Indian Ocean.
And investigative journalist Florence de Changy revealed a sobering story in her new book ‘The Disappearing Act,’ after she spoke to Mr Shah’s friend and fellow pilot, Peter Chong.
She detailed how he had “been told the plane had crashed in the Gulf of Thailand” – a shallow inlet in the southwestern South China Sea.
She added: “Flying business class on Malaysia Airlines on his way back from Bangkok on the evening of Monday, March 10, he asked the air hostesses to convey his condolences to the pilots of his own flight.
“To his very great surprise, a message scribbled on a paper napkin came back to him a few minutes later.
“In the note, which he tucked away for safekeeping, the captain reportedly thanked him and added: ‘Wreckage to your left.’”
According to Mr Chong, he had been “flying over the southern part of the Gulf of Thailand” at the time.
He told Ms de Changy that he “peered out of the window and saw a clearly lit area at sea where he said he was able to make out intensive search operations”.
On March 8, the Kuala Lumpur Aeronautical Rescue Coordination Centre (ARCC) was activated at 5:30am.
Malaysia Airlines confirmed they were “working with the authorities” who had “activated their Search and Rescue team to locate the aircraft”.
A second search launched in January 2018 by the private contractor Ocean Infinity, but that also ended without success.
Relying mostly on analysis of data from the Inmarsat satellite with which the aircraft last communicated, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) proposed initially that a hypoxia event was the most likely cause given the available evidence.
But investigators have still not come to an agreement on what happened.
‘The Disappearing Act: The Impossible Case of MH370’ is published by Mudlark and available to buy here.