Wednesday, March 12, 2014

More on Flight 370

Malaysia Flight 370 is still missing but new information is creeping out.

First, the Malaysian military has now confirmed a military radar tracking of an aircraft, that could have been Flight 370, heading west over the strait of Malacca. I suppose it took four days for this information to become public because it came from military radar which most countries, under normal circumstances, are hesitant to talk about.

But that means the plane made what amounts to a left turn after civilian radar contact was lost and the transponder, which automatically transmits identification, heading, altitude and velocity, had either been turned off or was inoperable.

Experienced Boeing 777 pilots indicate that it would be very difficult to lose the transponder in an otherwise apparently airworthy aircraft. That sort of implies that it is more likely that it was purposely turned off.

One suspicious point is that contact with the aircraft was lost at a civilian radar edge so air traffic controllers further along the flight path would not expect to detect the plane for some period of time.

So IF these things, (1) the aircraft made a left turn and headed west rather than continuing northeast, (2) the transponder was turned off and (3) this occurs just as the aircraft left civilian radar space, are indeed true, then the suspicion of a hijacking, by either passengers or crew, has to move up in the list.

Given that there was no distress signal and the cockpit door would normally be locked, one has to consider that this may have been an inside job of some sort. Just to further confuse things the plane had about five hours of fuel left after the military radar lost it. That could easily have taken it well out into the Indian ocean.

Second, US intelligence agencies say the analysis of data from "national technical means" shows no evidence of an explosion. Translated that means the spy satellites didn't see the plane blow up which makes the bomb scenario less likely.

The Malaysians have now asked for technical assistance from the Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) and National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) in analyzing the data, including the military data, that they have.

Lastly, it was revealed by the FAA that the type of Boeing 777 being flown in Flight 370 had a new Airworthiness Directive (AD) being issued warning of cracks in the fuselage below the Satellite Communications antenna that could cause the plane to lose structural integrity.

The AD was drafted in September 2013, approved in February 2014 and scheduled to go into effect on April 9, 2014 however drafts had been circulated to all the airlines for comments so preliminary precautions could already have been taken.

The AD was in reaction to a report of a 16 inch crack on a 14 year-old plane with 14,000 flight cycles. The Malaysian Airlines plane was 12 years old with 7,525 flight cycles.

Two other items in what is rapidly shaping up to be a media circus.

A worker on an oil gig in the South China Sea, which is on the far side of Vietnam, claims he saw the plane go down in flames and an Australian news report has accused the 27 year-old copilot of entertaining women in the cockpit on a 2011 flight which, if true, makes one wonder about the integrity of the hopefully locked cockpit door.

The South China Sea report seems unlikely because the Vietnamese didn't pick up the plane on radar and I have no idea what the source for the Australian story is so I'd have to discount that as well.

So, where the hell is the plane?

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