A chilling report suggests the pilot on MH370 may have cut off oxygen inside the cabin, 'gently' killing the more than 200 passengers on board before crashing

mh370Relatives of Chinese passengers aboard the missing Malaysia Airlines, flight MH370, shout their demands for answers after Malaysian government representatives left a briefing in Beijing, China on March 22, 2014.Ng Han Guan/AP

A leading theory on why Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 vanished on March 8, 2014 doesn't point to a hijacker, pilot error, or a mechanical failure - but, instead, the captain of the plane itself.

In a meticulous new report published by The Atlantic, former national correspondent William Langewiesche gives credence to that theory.

Friends of Zaharie Ahmad Shah, who was the captain of MH370, told The Atlantic that the 53-year-old pilot was depressed, lonely, given to one-sided flirting with young women on Facebook, and spent much of his non-flying time pacing empty rooms inside his home. One close friend of Shah even said he believed the pilot crashed the plane.

Read more: An extensive new report suggests that the missing MH370's pilot was 'clinically depressed' and purposely killed all 239 on board

MH370 deviated from its planned route at 1:25 a.m. local time, more than 40 minutes after takeoff. Then, the flight went on a westward path across Malaysia, rather than north to its final destination of Beijing.

mh370 flight path before it vanished mapSamantha Lee/Business Insider

Such a sudden deviation would have been noticed by the plane's 200-plus passengers. Langewiesche reported that Shah likely depressurized the cabin to subdue any rebellion.

"An intentional depressurization would have been an obvious way-and probably the only way-to subdue a potentially unruly cabin in an airplane that was going to remain in flight for hours to come," Langewiesche, who is also a pilot, wrote.

The cabin masks have about 15 minutes of supply at altitudes below 13,000 feet, according to The Atlantic, but MH370 stayed at a cruising altitude of 40,000 feet for at least an hour. Meanwhile, Shah could simply put on one of the four oxygen masks, which have hours of supply, available in the cockpit.

In the final minutes for MH370's passengers, they likely put on the useless oxygen masks and were asphyxiated. Langewiesche wrote:

The cabin occupants would have become incapacitated within a couple of minutes, lost consciousness, and gently died without any choking or gasping for air. The scene would have been dimly lit by the emergency lights, with the dead belted into their seats, their faces nestled in the worthless oxygen masks dangling on tubes from the ceiling.

Read the report in The Atlantic here »

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