Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Flight 370 Again

It is now 12 days since Malaysia Airlines fight 370 went missing.

This is crazy. A 200 foot long Boeing 777 shouldn't be able to just disappear. In the meantime, what comes out as official statements makes one wonder if anyone is in charge of this show. There have been a number of contradictions and changes but the latest timeline, with commentary, is as follows:

All times are local on March 8, 2014.

12:41 a.m.: Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 departs Kuala Lumpur International Airport for Beijing.

We know THIS with absolute certainty. Something which can be said for very little else.

1:07 a.m.: The onboard Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System, or ACARS, sends out what turns out to be its last communication.

There has been a lot of misinformation about ACARS. Originally Malaysian officials indicated that it had been turned off before the final voice communications from the aircraft. But now concede that it's impossible to tell.

There was also a report that in order to turn off ACARS you had to go down into the body of the plane. This isn't true. There is a switch in the cockpit.

1:19 a.m.: Someone inside the cockpit, believed to be the co-pilot, sent the last verbal communications to Air Traffic Control. All he said was "All right. Good night."

At this point there was no hint of a problem but these were the last words supposedly heard from Flight 370 (yes, at this point my skepticism is running wild).

1:21 a.m.: The transponder, which automatically broadcasts the aircraft altitude, coordinates and call sign stopped working.

This is a scant TWO MINUTES after the final sign-off. It's hard to believe that everything went to hell in two minutes but it's certainly possible.

1:22 a.m.: According to a Royal Thai Air Force spokesman, the plane disappeared off of Thai Military radar.

This makes no sense unless (1) the plane exploded, (2) the plane went down, (3) the plane left radar range or (4) the Thai spokesman is wrong.

When you combine this with the transponder stopping about the same time, this strongly suggests to me a catastrophic event. But wait, let's continue shall we.

1:28 a.m.: A Thai Royal Air Force spokesman says that Thai military radar picked up a plane headed in the opposite direction that MIGHT have been Flight 370.

Personally I think the Thai military needs to train its radar techs better. I'm inclined to completely ignore anything the Thai military has to say especially given that it took like 10 days for them to tell the Malaysians about this.

1:30 a.m.: Vietnamese Air Traffic Control cannot make contact with the plane.

I'm piecing this one together from several sources. I'm pretty sure this is close enough. The bottom line is that Flight 370 was no longer under Air Traffic Control direction. This is apparently the official time when the plane was lost by Air Traffic Control.

1:37 a.m.: An expected ACARS transmission does not occur.

Which means the ACARS system ceased functioning sometime between 1:07 a.m. and 1:37 a.m.

 2:15 a.m.: Malaysian military radar last detects what is believed to be Flight 370 over the small island of Pulau Perak in the Strait of Malacca.

This is hundreds of miles from its intended flight path. I don't know why they believe it was the plane nor why someone didn't attempt to make contact because they must have been tracking it for a while.

Why weren't fighters launched to intercept a commercial aircraft hundreds of miles off course?

6:30 a.m.: Expected time of arrival in Beijing.

I cannot imagine the sick feeling it must be to be waiting for a plane that never arrives.

7:24 a.m.: Malaysia Airlines announces via Facebook that Flight 370 lost contact with Air Traffic Control at 2:40 a.m. The discrepancy in time has never been explained.

Right THERE we should have all realized that we were dealing with the keystone kops of the airline industry.

8:11 a.m.: An Inmarsat satellite makes the last electronic handshake with the aircraft.

Personally I don't think this means the plane was still flying. I suspect it could have been down and its SATCOM pings still operating for a short time.

So, where the hell is the damn plane?

Analysis of the Inmarsat pings puts it along one of two arcs. One heading northwest over China, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and into Kazakhstan. It is almost inconceivable that a Boeing 777 could have proceeded along this arc without being detected.

But, if it could, this is the worrisome one. The idea of a Boeing 777 in the hands of an Islamic terrorist group is a thing of nightmares especially given that I'm not all that sure the Russians have accounted for all of the atomic weapons from the now independent countries in that area.

The other arc extends south toward Australia and the Indian Ocean. A route perhaps more easily traveled than the northern arc but a route for which it is very difficult to see a motive. If the plane went this way, then it's on the ocean floor.

The bottom line is the only hard evidence is the plane took off and the plane disappeared about 49 minutes later. That puts in between Malaysia and Vietnam in the South China Sea.

Yes they claim to have searched the area. I say search it again because, based upon Occam's Razor, that's where it is.

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