S. Martin Shelton

Retired U.S.Navy Captain, Novelist

Archive for the tag “Black Box”

Malaysia Flight 370 Post #17

Boeing_777-200ER_Malaysia_AL_(MAS)_9M-MRO_-_MSN_28420_404_(9272090094)The Australian government, in concert with Malaysia and China, announced on 4 June last that unless they find an identifiable artifact from the missing Boeing 777 aircraft, Malaysia Flight 370 now missing for fifteen-months, the search would terminate sometime mid-next year. An international team of scientists using available information calculated that Flight 777 crash landed in the Indian Ocean about 1,200 nautical miles off the west coast of Australia—their “best guess” location. To date, search teams have scoured approximately 50,000 square kilometers of ocean floor without finding any debris of the aircraft.

Where is Flight 370? Theories abound. Most are without substance. Here are a few.

  1. Pilot suicide theory. One of the two pilots had overwhelmed the other and crashed the airplane into the ocean, or somewhere else.
  2. Pilot meltdown theory. One of the two pilots went berserk and overwhelmed the other and crashed the airplane into the ocean, or somewhere else.
  3. Third person theory. For reason unknown, and for a serious breech of security, one of the pilots let another person into the cockpit and that person did the foul deed.
  4. Commandeering and hijacking theory. Someone, or a gang, took control of the aircraft and ordered the pilots to fly it someplace, or they took control and in a suicide plan crash it without apparent purpose.
  5. Mechanical/Electrical theory. Some key element of flight control malfunctioned for reasons we do not understand.
  6. Fire in the cockpit theory. A massive fire rendered the aircraft unstable.

All these theories have serious flaws. Too many to recount here. Malaysia Flight 370 is missing, and I reckon that it will remain as one of the twenty-first great aviation disaster. Or is it missing?

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Malaysia Missing Flight

It’s now thirteen weeks since Malaysia Flight 370—a Boeing model 777 aircraft disappeared.  It’s not where the searchers heard the pings in the Indian Ocean: about one-thousand miles off the coast of western Australia.  Searchers are at a loss.  Flight 370 seems to have vanished into the ether, or elsewhere.

Today, I received an email written by Colonel Bryant Beebe, USAF (ret.).  Now, he flies a Boeing 777 for American Airlines. I’ve added a few explanations of his abbreviations in red parentheses.  After reading Colonel’s Beebe’s email, what are to conclude?

Here’s the Colonel’s email.

“Just a quick update with what I know about the Malaysia 777 disappearance.  The Boeing 777 is the airplane that I fly.  It is a great, safe airplane to fly.  It has, for the most part, triple redundancy in most of its systems, so if one complete system breaks (not just parts of a system), there are usually 2 more to carry the load.  It’s also designed to be easy to employ so 3rd world pilots can successfully fly it.  Sometimes, even that doesn’t work…as the Asiana guys in San Fran showed us.  A perfectly good airplane on a beautiful, sunny day…and they were able to crash it.  It took some doing, but they were able to defeat a bunch of safety systems and get it to where the airplane would not help them and the pilots were too stupid/scared/unskilled/tired to save themselves

There’s many ways to fly the Boeing 777 aircraft and there are safety layers and redundancies built into the airplane.  It is tough to screw up and the airplane will alert you in many ways (noises, alarms, bells and whistles, plus feed back thru the control yoke and rudder pedals and throttles.  In some cases the airplane’s throttles ‘come alive’ if you are going to slow for a sustained period of time)  All designed to help.  But, it’s also non-intrusive.  If you fly the airplane in the parameters it was designed for, you will never know these other things exist.  The computers actually ‘help’ you and the designers made it for the way pilots think and react.  Very Nice.

Now to Malaysia.  There are so many communication systems on the airplane.  3 VHF (Very High Frequency) radios. 2 SatCom (Satellite Communication) systems.  2 HF (High Frequency) radio systems.  Plus Transpoders and active, ‘real time’ monitoring through CPDLC (Controller to Pilot Data Link Clearance) and ADS B (Air Data Service) through the SatCom systems and ACARS (Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System) thru the VHF, HF and SatCom systems.  The air traffic controllers can tell where we are, speed, altitude, etc as well as what our computers and flight guidance system has set into our control panels.  Big Brother for sure!  However, most of these things can be turned off.

But, there are a few systems that can’t be turned off and one, as reported by the WSJ, is the engine monitoring systems (not sure what the acronym for that is, but I’m sure there is one….it’s aviation…there has to be an acronym!).  The Malaysia airplane, like our 777-200’s, use Rolls Royce Trent Engines (as a piece of trivia….Rolls Royce names their motors after rivers….because they always keep on running!)  Rolls Royce leases these motors to us and they monitor them all the time they are running. In fact, a few years back, one of our 777’s developed a slow oil leak due and partial equipment failure.  It wasn’t bad enough to set off the airplane’s alerting system, but RR (Rolls Royce) was looking at it on their computers.  They are in England, they contact our dispatch in Texas, Dispatch sends a message to the crew via SatCom (Satellite Communication in the North Pacific, telling them that RR wants them to closely monitor oil pressure and temp on the left engine.  Also, during the descent, don’t retard the throttle to idle…keep it at or above a certain rpm.  Additionally, they wanted the crew to turn on the engine ‘anti ice’ system as the heats some of the engine components.

The crew did all of that and landed uneventfully, but after landing and during the taxi in, the left engine shut itself down using it’s redundant, computerized operating system that has a logic tree that will not allow it to be shut down if the airplane is in the air…only on the ground.  Pretty good tech.   Anyway, the point was, that RR monitors those engines 100% of the time they are operating.  The WSJ reported that RR indicated the engines on the Malaysia 777 were running normally for 4 to 5 hours after the reported disappearance.  Malaysia denies this.  We shall see.”

Here are my thoughts.

  • It’s extremely difficult for an aviator to make a serious error in piloting the Boeing model 777.
  • To shut down all the communications system requires an aviator to have in-depth knowledge of the basic design of this aircraft.
  • One or both of the aviators of this aircraft colluded to divert this aircraft away from it’s intended course—to Beijing.
  • One or both of the aviators pirated Malaysia Flight 370.
  • This aircraft is elsewhere.  (I have an educated guess, but will refrain from disclosing it for now.)

Famous Missing Flights

Malaysia Flight 370 disappeared over six weeks ago. The primary search instrument is damaged, and for now, the hunt for this airplane is on hold.  Some of the searchers wonder if this airplane is in the wide area in which they are looking.   Meantime, let’s review some of the more famous aircraft disappearances.

 

8 May 1927.    Charles Nungesser and Francois Coli

Charles Nungesser, French flying ace with 43 aerial victories, and Francois Coli, his expert navigator, departed Le Borget airport, Paris, bound for New York City in their biplane dubbed L’Oiseau Blanc (The White Bird).  Their goal was to be the first persons to complete a successful transatlantic flight.  Sometime after they cleared the Irish coast, they disappeared somewhere in the North Atlantic.  Researchers did not fine the bodies or wreckage of the aircraft.  The fate of Nungesser and Coli has spawned a raft of conspiracy theories and is called the “Everest of aviation mysteries.”

1

Charles Nunesser

2

L’Oiseau Blanc (The White Bird)

 

8 November 1935.  Sir Charles Kingsford Smith and his co-pilot John Thompson “Tommy” Pethybridge.

 

Sir Charles Kingsford Smith, the famous Australian aviator and his co-pilot John Thompson “Tommy” Pethybridge were attempting to break the England to Australia speed record in their Lockheed Altar dubbed the Lady Southern Cross.  Currently that record was held by C. W. A. Scott and Tom Campbell Black.  The pair disappeared on their leg from Allahabad, India, to Singapore, somewhere over the Andaman Sea.  Searchers did not find wreckage or were bodies were recovered.

3

Sir Charles Kingsford Smith

4

Sir Charles Kingsford Smih and the Lockheed Altair, Lady Southern Cross

 

 

2 July 1937.  Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan.

 

 Image: Amelia Earhart

During the summer of 1937, Amelia Earhart (famous aviatrix) and Fred Noonan (expert navigator) attempted to fly around the world in her Lockheed Electra model 10E.  Her planned course was to track as close to the equator as possible.  On 1st of June 1937 she departed the Oakland Airport.  After numerous stops en route. she landed at Lae, New Guinea, on  29 June.  Completing minor repairs, she departed Lae on 2 July, at 1000 hours, local time.  Her goal was Howland Island, a spec in the Pacific, about 2,200 nautical miles east.  She made several en route position reports.  But on her approach to Howland, some 300 miles out, and for reasons we do not know, she became disoriented.  She tried to communicate with the Coast Guard cutter Itasca, her guide ship stationed at Howland, but failed to get a bearing on this ship.  No trace of the Electra or her or Noonan have been found.  [For a more detailed story regarding Amelia Earhart please see my anthology titled (Aviators, Assassins, and Adventurers).]

 

18th March 1937, American aviator Miss Amelia Earhart is pictured with her ,Flying Laboratory in which she is attempting to fly around the world from her oakland, California, USA base

Amelia Earhart and the Lockheed model 10E

 

 

29 July 1938 Pan American World Airways, Martin M-130 Flying Boat

Early in the morning of 29 July 1938, Pan American World Airways Martin M-140 flying Boat Hawaii Clipper lifted off from Apra Harbor, Guam, bound for Manila—about 1,400 nautical miles west and about a twelve-hour flight.  Hawaii Clipper’s registration number was NC14714 and its call sign was KHAZB.   On board were nine crew members and six passengers

 

 

7

Pan American World Airways, Martin M-130 Flying Boat

 

 

 

Every half-hour, William McCarty, the Flight Radio Operator and Navigator, transmitted to Manila and Guam a position report and weather conditions. His last report, at noon, was routine: altitude is 9,100 feet, ground speed is 112 knots, scattered rain, and cumulus clouds with tops at 9,200 feet. At the time, the Hawaii Clipper was about 680 nautical miles out from Manila. During the next several minutes, Eduardo Fernandez, radio operator at Radio Panay (Manila), tried to raise the Hawaii Clipper—to no avail. His numerous radio requests for information during the next ninety minutes to the aircraft went unanswered. At 13:30, Pan American officials in Manila declared the Hawaii Clipper missing and broadcasted the distress call on 121.5 mega-cycles to all stations. This distress call was repeated every five minutes for twenty-four hours.  No trace of this flying boat has been found.

 (To read more about this story please see my anthology titled Aviators, Adventurers, and Assassins.)

14 December 1944.  Glenn Miller (famous big-band leader of the 1930s and 1940s)

8

Major Glenn Miller, USAAF

 

Major Glenn Miller boarded the Noorduyn UC-64 “Norseman” shortly before it departed from the Royal Air Force Base at Clapham, Bedforshire in the United Kingdom bound for Paris.  Glenn Miller was to lead his Army Air Force band in concerts for soldiers.

 

9

Noorduyn UD-64

 

 

The Norseman disappeared over the English Channel.  No trance of Miller, the pilot, or the aircraft have been found. There are no tangible clues to this tragedy.  The Glenn Miller Orchestra was one of the most famous of the big-bands.  His signature tunes were: Moonlight Serenade, Chattanooga Choo Choo, String of Pearls, Pennsylvania 6-5000, Tuxedo Junction, In the Mood, and Elmer’s Tune

 

5 December 1945.  Navy Flight 19

 

It was a bright, sunny day.  At 1410 on 5 December 1945, five Grumman TBM Avengers, comprising Flight 19, departed Naval Air Station Fort Lauderdale.   Turning east, the formation headed out over the Atlantic on the first leg of a routine training exercise. The flight leader was a flight instructor and the other well-qualified pilots had between 350 to 400 hours flight time.

10

Grumman TBM Avengers

 

At 1545 hours the flight leader transmited, “Cannot see land,” he blurts. “We seem to be off course.”   A few minutes later he said, “We cannot be sure where we are,” the flight leader announced. “Repeat: Cannot see land.”  Shortly another aviator said, “We can’t find west. Everything is wrong. We can’t be sure of any direction. Everything looks strange, even the ocean.”  Later the tower operators heard, “It looks like we are entering white water.  We’re completely lost.”  For a few moments, the pilot rambles incoherently before uttering the last words ever heard from Flight 19.

Radio contact was lost before the exact problem was determined, and no traces of the planes were ever found in the Bermuda Triangle. Nothing from Flight 19 has been found.

Adding to the mystery of Flight 19, a Martin PBM seaplane with a 13-man crew was launched to search for the missing TBM aircraft.  For reasons we do not know, it also disappeared and has no trace has been found.

 

23 November 1953.  Northrop F-89C.

On the evening of November 23, 1953, operators at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan Air Defense Command Ground Intercept radar identified an unusual target near the Soo Locks. The Duty Officer ordered an F-89C Scorpion jet from Kinross Air Force Base scrambled to investigate this radar return.  First Lieutenant Flex Eugene Moncla was the Scorpion pilot; Second Lieutenant Robert L. Wilson was the Scorpion’s radar operator.

Wilson had problems tracking the object on the Scorpion’s radar, so ground radar operators gave Moncla directions towards the object. Flying at 500 miles per hour, Moncla eventually closed on the object at an altitude about 8000 feet.

11

Northrop F-89C Scorpion

                                                      

Ground Control tracked the Scorpion and the unidentified object as two “blips” on the radar screen. The two blips on the radar screen grew closer and closer, until they merge into one radar return.  Assuming that Moncla had flown either under or over the target, Ground Control thought that the Scorpion and the object would again appear as two separate blips Rather, the single blip disappeared from the radar screen, then there was no return at all.  Attempts were made to contact Moncla via radio, but this was unsuccessful. A search and rescue operation was quickly mounted, but failed to find a trace of the plane or the pilots.

Some wags claim that the Scorpion was captured by a Unknown Flying Object (UFO).

 

16 March 1962.  Lockheed L-1049. Super Constellation.  Flying Tiger Line, Charter Flight 739:

Lockheed Super Constellation

Lockheed L-1049. Super Constellation

This U.S. military flight departed Anderson Air Force Base, Guam, bound for Air Force Base, Clark Field in the Republic of the Philippines.  On board were approximately 96 passengers and eleven crew members.  Flight 739 disappeared over the Western Pacific without a trace.  The pilots did not broadcast a distress radio call. If they used visual identification methods, such as flares or markers they were not seen.   The U.S. Civil Aeronautics board ruled that it was “unable to determine the probable cause of the incident.”  All 107 souls were declared missing and presumed dead.

FIN

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other Missing Flights

Malaysia Flight 370 has been missing for 41 days.  Best deductions from all data indicates that Flight 370’s Boeing 777 aircraft is at the bottom of the Indian Ocean about 1,200 nautical miles  west of Perth, Down Under.  It’s black-box is dead—no longer transmitting locating pings.  Experts in the field speculate that it may years or perhaps never that they’ll find this aircraft.

Missing Malaysia Flight 370 is not unique.  Over the years there have been a number of well-publicized missing flight that have not been found.  Let’s review six.

 

  1. On 8 May 1927, Charles Jules Nungesser, a French World War One flying Ace and his wartime comrade François Coli, took off from Paris in their PL-8 biplane, the’Oiseau Blanc (The White Bird), in an attempt to fly non-stop to New York.

1

 

Several people in Ireland spotted them flying overhead.  They disappeared without a trace.

 

2. On 1 July 1937, Aviatrix Amelia Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, in her Lockheed Electra model 10E, departed Lae, New Guinea, headed for Howland Island, some 2,300 miles to the east.

2

 

This was to be the next to the last leg of her around the world flight across the equator.  Her goal was to land at Oakland, California on 4 July amid a gigantic celebration engineered by her husband, George Putnam. She tried to communicate with her short-range radio with her guide ship, the Coast Guard Cutter, USGS Itasca, stationed offshore Howland.  Unfortunately, radiomen on Itasca could not communicate effectively with her because she was unskilled in the radio procedures required.  Speculation is that she crashed into the Pacific some 200/300 nautical miles northwest of Howland.  No trace of her, Newman, or the Electra has been found.  Nonetheless, to this day, searchers are looking for a positive evidence of her remains and for the parts of the Electra—members of the TIGHAR organization have centered their search on Gardner Island, now Nikumaroro in the in the Republic of Kiribati—about 400 nautical miles southeast of Howland.

 

  1. At 0608 hours, on 29 July 1938, Pan American World Airways, Martin M-130 flying boat, the Hawaii Clipper. lifted off the placid waters of Apra Harbor, Guam, headed for Manila—about 1,400 nautical miles west. Onboard were six passenger and nine crewmembers.

 

3

Pan American World Airways, “Hawaii Clipper”

 

The aircraft’s radioman transmitted his position was at noon.  The flight was routine: altitude is 9,100 feet, ground speed is 112 knots, scattered rain, and cumulus clouds with tops at 9,200 feet.   Nothing else was heard from the flight.  No trace of aircraft was ever found–no bodies, no wreckage, no oil slick, nothing.

 

  1. On 14 December 1944, the famous big-band leader Captain Glenn Miller, US Army and his pilot disappeared over the English Cannel. They were on a flight from Royal Air Force Base Twinwood Farm in Claphan to Paris in an Army Air Corps utility aircraft. Noorduyn UC64.

 

4

Noorduyn UC64

 

No trace of Miller, pilot or aircraft has ever been found. Miller’s status is “missing in action.”  The army awarded him posthumously the Bronze Star.

 

  1. The “Lost Patrol.” On a bright, sunny day at 1410 hours, 5 December, 1945, five Grumman TBM Avenger torpedo bombers, with 14 crew members, lifted off from the Naval Air Station, Fort Lauderdale, Florida on a routine patrol off the Atlantic coast.

 

5

Grumman TBMs

 

About an hour later, the tower heard the flight leader say, “We seem to be off course.”  Then they heard, “We cannot be sure where we are.  Repeat: cannot see land.”  Later. “We can’t find West.  Everything is wrong.  Everything looks strange.”  Finally, the last transmission was, “We’re completely Lost.”  This was the last transmission from Flight 19.

The Operations Officer orders a Martin PBM Marnier flying boat to launch and search for the missing Flight 19.  On board were 13 men.   Ten minutes later the PBM radio checks with the tower.

Neither the 5 TBMs or the PBM were ever heard from again. They disappeared in the Bermuda Triangle.

 

 

  1. On 5 March 1962, Flying Tiger Lines flight number 739, in a Lockheed Super Constellation, lifter off from Anderson Air Force Base, Guam en route to Clark Field, Philippines. 107 souls were onboard.
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Lockheed L-1049 Super Constellation in Air France Colors

 

No distress call was heard and no trace of the aircraft have been found.

 

Malaysian Flight #370…What Next?

This is the 38th day of the search Malaysia Flight 370.  Yesterday, eleven aircraft and “about” as many ships were searching in an area about 24,000 square-miles: In an area located about 1,400 miles northwest of Perth.  (The search area seems to change almost daily.)  Here’s the update: the searchers have not heard any pings from the Flight 370’s black box for six days.  They’ve concluded that the black box’s battery is dead.  Air Chief Marshall Angus Houston, head of the search effort, noted that acoustic searching is terminated, and that because they have no visual clues he’ll terminate visual search efforts in the next few days.

Yesterday, sailors on the Australian ship Ocean Shield launched the US Navy’s Bluefin-21, an underwater towed autonomous vehicle that maps the ocean floor.   It takes twenty-four hours to complete a Bluefin-21 mission: two hours to descend to the Ocean’s floor, sixteen hours to map, and two hours to ascend; then it takes four hours to download the information, and I cannot estimate how long it takes to interpret and plot the data.

About six hours into its first mission, controllers maneuvered the Bluefin-21 to exceed its maximum safe depth, about 14.800-feet deep (2.8 miles), and they terminated the mission.  (How about telling us why.)   The Bluefin-21 was returned to the surface.  As of this afternoon, there is no information regarding the next Bluefin-21 operation—if any.   What’s next?

I did find an article in which Houston noted that HMS Echo has equipment that can help map the seafloor and is in route to the search area,   He did not give an estimated time of arrival or what is the operations plan.

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Flight 370 Tracker Update

flight-370-search-april2We’re now 32-days in the continuing odyssey of the misusing Malaysia Flight 370 with 239 souls onboard.  Last Friday, 4 April, while searching the Indian Ocean about 900 nautical miles west of Perth, the Chinese patrol ship, Haixum 01, reportedlyheard electronic pings that resemble those that might be transmitted by the aircraft’s “black box.”  The Chinese sailors heard such pings for twelve minutes and did not record them—it has been reported.

On Sunday, 6 April, an Australian ship (name unknown) picked up similar pings.  The first reception was held for two-hours and twenty-minutes.  On the ship’s reverse course, the reception was held for thirteen minutes.  Signal strength was not reported.

The battery powering the black box is due to expire at any time soon—the weaker the battery, the weaker is the ping’s signal strength.

Australian Air Chief Marshall Angus Houston cautions that they have not confirmed that the ping signals are being transmitted from Flight 370’s black box.  Since Sunday, no searchers have received or recorded pings.

Dear reader:  I’m perplexed.  The distance between the locations of the Chinese and Australian reporting is 300 nautical miles (one nautical mile equals about 6,000 feet).  That large distance between reporting stations is puzzling.  In my simple mind, 300 nm is too far apart to make sense.  Something is untoward.  Maybe even “afoot.”

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Malaysia Flight 370: Have they found it?

Cover

US Navy Captain (ret), S. Martin Shelton shares facts and thoughts on Malaysian Flight 370’s disappearance.

Review:  Malaysian Flight 370 departed Kala Lumpur at 41 minutes after midnight on 8 March 2014 bound for Beijing.  The aircraft was a Boeing model 777-200 ER (Extended Range).  Approximately 60 minutes later, electronic transmission from Flight 370 ceased.  Several hours later Malaysian Airlines declared Flight 370 missing.

Over this past month, aircraft and ships from thirteen countries searched the South China Sea, Gulf of Thailand and the southern Indian Ocean—acting on false clues and erroneous information.  All search efforts were to no avail.  It’s been a circus for a host of reasons. Malaysia does not have the technical capability to resolve this issue, and they was embarrassed to ask for help—causing serious delays in getting an organized search underway.

Now the Australians are coordinating the search venture under the management of Air Chief Marshall Angus Houston.

Friday, 4 April, the Chinese Xinhua News Agency reported that the sailors on the Chinese patrol ship Haixum 01 heard electronic pings at 3.5 Kilohertz and at one-second intervals—the frequency that the Flight Data Recorded (“black box”) would transmit and the correct interval.  Such electronic signals are similar to those of the black box transmissions but were not confirmed as such.   Please note that it was the official new agency of the People’s Republic of China that made the announcement—not the ship on station.  Nevertheless, the ships location in the south Indian Ocean was reported as:

  • 25 degrees South Latitude
  • 101degrees  Longitude.
  • That spot in the Indian Ocean is about 950 miles west of Perth, Down Under.

That’s wonderful!  China, can you spare that much information? Does it hurt that bad to tell more?  What’s missing are the minutes and seconds of each of the coordinates of this one spot in the southern Indian Ocean.  This announcement is so lacking in detailed information that it’s only minimal useful.   Assuming that these two coordinates are accurate, China has narrowed the search area to about 1,000 square miles.  “Thanks.”

Caution:  The pings, reportedly heard by the Chinese, are not confirmed as emitted from the “black box.”  Could be something else?

Sailors onboard the Haixum 01, it had been first reported (passive voice on purpose) heard the one-second interval pings for ten minutes.  Later that number was revised to ninety-seconds.  For unexplained reasons, the Chinese did not record these signals!

Question:  If the Chinese heard ping-type signals, why did the ship not circle the area and keep listening to pinpoint the location down to the nearest mile.  Answer: I reckon that the Chinese failed technically and are too embarrassed to admit it, or else they are “fudging.”  (You may fill a more appropriate word.)

Several factors are involved: 152 passengers on Flight 370 were Chinese citizens—close to seventy-percent.  Accordingly, it’s to China’s favor to find the missing aircraft to “save face.”    However, the Chinese government is not known for cooperation in this type of international endeavor, or to have much technical “know how.”  For example, earlier in this drama the Chinese Xinhua News Agency reported that a Chinese satellite had photographed a wide area of debris in the water, (Resolution of the released photographs of this debris obviously had been distorted to disguise the satellite’s actual photographic resolution.)  On fiscal inspection of this debris field, the stuff in the water was junk.  Accordingly, we must be cautious about Chinese new releases.  Can we trust them?

Here’s one educated guess I make: if Flight 370 is at the bottom of the Indian Ocean, an American attack submarine with its advanced sensors will find this aircraft.

Apparently, the FBI has completed their investigation of the plane captain’s hard drive from his computer simulator.  They did not find a “smoking gun.”   However, they did find that the captain practiced emergency landing-procedure on various airstrips.  This training probably is of no conspiratorial significance.  On the other hand, my interest is piqued as such information suggests another direction of inquiry, as it were.

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Malaysian Flight # 370 Disappearance: What Happened to Flight 370?

Malaysian Flight # 370 Disappearance

S. Martin Shelton

Today’s date 23 March 2014

Let’s review the hard facts about the mysterious disappearance of Flight # 370.

  • Malaysia Flight # 370 originated at Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and its destination was Beijing, People’s Republic of China—about 2,700 miles to the northeast.
  • On board were 228 passenger and 11 crewmembers—239 souls.
  • The Captain is Zaharie Shah, 53 years old, and has about 18,400 flight-time hours
  • The First Officer is Farig Ab Hamid, 27 years old, and has about 2,700 flight-time hours.
  • The Flight Engineer is Mohd Khairul Amri Selanat, 28 years old, and has about 10 years experience.
  • Approximately 152 passengers were Chinese nationals.
  • Citizens from 13 other countries were on board including two Americans.
  • The aircraft used on Flight # 370 is a Boeing model 777-200 ER (Extended Range).
  • This aircraft has twin Rolls Royce, model Trent 875, turbofan engines. Takeoff thrust for each engine is 73,900 pounds.
  • This 777-200 ER’s normal cruising altitude is around 35,000 feet.
  • The 777-200 ER’s cruising speed in around 630 miles per hour—about Mach 0.84.
  • The Boeing model 777-200 ER had fuel on board for a seven-hour flight at normal procedures.
  • Richard Aboulafia, an aviation consultant with the Teal Group confirmed that the Boeing model 777 provides, “A new standard in both efficiency and safety.  The 777 has enjoyed one of the safest records of any jetliner built.”

***

Following is a chronological series of the peradventure scenario of the mysterious disappearance Flight # 370.   I’ve based this list on best information I could decipher from the farrago of conflicting explanations scattered thought-out the media.

  • 0041.  Malaysian flight # 370 departed Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia at 41 minutes after midnight on 8 March 2014.
  • 0101.  Flight # 370 reaches cruising altitude of 35,000 feet and is near the east coast of Malaysia on a north-east (NE) heading—approximately a compass course of about 45 degrees.

  • 0107.  Last transmission from the Aircraft Communication Addressing System Reporting System (ACARS).  (The ACARS automatically transmits the technical life support system of the aircraft in response to a radio query or by timed broadcast to a satellite.)
  • 0119.  The last voice communications.  Someone in the cockpit sent this message: “All right.  Good night.”
  • 0121.  The aircraft’s transponder goes silent. (The transponder is an electronic device that responds to a radio-frequency interrogation from an air-traffic-control radar.  Transponder signals identify the aircraft; and its speed, altitude, and course.  Also, transponders are integral in avoiding air-collisions.)
  • ?.  The aircraft climbs to 45,000 feet—much higher that it is supposed to operate.
  • ?.  Shortly, the aircraft descends to 29,500 feet.
  • 0130.  Malaysian ground radar tracks flight # 370 for the last time.
  • ?.  Within the next few minutes, the aircraft makes a sharp left turn and was flying on a west-south-west (WSW) heading—about 240 degrees.
  • 0137.  Ground controllers did not receive a scheduled ACARS transmission.
  • 0215.  Ground control and radar lost track of Flight 370.   Its location was about 200 miles west of its intended course—somewhere off Penang, Malaysia.
  • About once an hour for seven hours, the Boeing 777 aircraft’s two Rolls Royce engines transmitted technical data signals to the British Immarst satellite.
  • The Immarst satellite communications system does not have the capability to pinpoint the track of an aircraft transmitting this technical data.
  • 0632.  Kuala Lumpur air-traffic control transmits, on the emergency channel, a message to Flight # 370 to respond.  It does not.
  • 0724.  Malaysia Airlines declares Flight # 370 missing.
  • 0811.  Last transmission the satellite received from Flight 370.
  • The model 777 used on Flight 370 has the emergency Flight Data Recorder (FDR)–the “black box.”  The FDR is an electronic device that records cockpit and air-traffic controller’s communications.  It also records the aircraft’s performance data, and instructions to all electronic systems a few times per second.  Data storage capacity is about 25 hours.  It is installed in the aircraft’s tail and is designed stoutly to survive and function in either a water or land crash.   Its battery power will transmit location signals underwater.  It will function to its maximum depth of 20,000 feet (about four miles) for about 30 days.  It’s painted bright orange for high visibility.
  • 0840.  The maximum flight time for Flight # 370—its petrol is exhausted.

What happened to Flight 370?
We do not know.  Nonetheless, let’s review some of the theories. The following list is based on the data that I’ve gleaned from all manner of pundits on radio, television, and in print who spew endless speculations that range from “maybe” to “outlandish.”   These purveyors maybe learned or ignorant about the basics of aviation physics, airline operations, or have access to secret intelligence.  And, the data is changed frequently.  Accordingly, we must adopt a “wait and see” belief.  The first list has some credulity.

  • Catastrophic event.  An onboard fire, explosion, mechanical failure, etc.
  • Slow decompression.  The oxygen slowly seeps out of the aircraft.  All aboard die of suffocation.
  • Shoot down.  By whom, with what, and for what reason?
  • Pilot(s) involvement: suicide, revenge, insanity, or other unknown reasons.
  • Highjacking.  Terrorist/pirates/lunatic/secret agent/bandits/etc.  Someone else in the cockpit by invitation. (That iron door to the cockpit is practically invulnerable.)  Pilot(s) in cahoots with the “someone.”  If so, who, why, and what happened?  Crash or landed safely. Where? Is there valuable cargo on board?
  • Highjacking.  Blackguard passenger(s) take control of the passenger compartment and blackmail the pilots to accede to their demands (whatever they may be).  If pilots refuse, the blackguards will/did murder passengers or destroy the aircraft somehow.
  • Highjacking.  The passengers overwhelm the highjackers and the aircraft crashes: à la the scenario of United Flight # 993 in the 9/11 Muslim terrorists attack on our country.
  • The aircraft has landed in a secret location for future nefarious activities.  It is hidden in an abandoned hanger or under camouflage.

Here are a few cockamamie scenarios that stretch credulity that I’ve seen on television or heard on radio.

  • Space aliens captured the aircraft: à la the 1977 motion picture titled Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
  • An astronomical black hole engulfed Flight # 370: à la the 1979 Walt Disney motion picture titled The Black Hole.
  • Flight # 370 disappeared in a Bermuda Triangle type space-time continuum: à la the 1978 motion picture titled The Bermuda Triangle.
  • Some super-natural force sent Flight # 370 into a fifth dimension, or to another universe.
  • Flight # 370 was transformed into some sort of zombie configuration.  Or it was captured by airborne zombies?

The Search.  At first, authorities scoured the South China Sea (east of Malaysia).  After confirmation that Flight # 370 changed to a westerly course, they moved the search to the Gulf of Thailand, Bay of Bengal, and then to the southern Indian Ocean.  Twenty six nations are involved in the search: including, Malaysia, the USA, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, China, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, and the Philippines, for examples.

Searchers are using a host of advanced technology, including satellite imagery, to locate the “black box,” aircraft debris, or the aircraft itself.  Oceanographic and metrological data are integrated into the aircraft-location equations. Several days ago, I saw on television a US Naval public-affairs officer admit that the Navy is using classified techniques and equipment in their search.

To demonstrate the extremes the television pundits will employ to fill airtime and to garner ratings, two days ago I saw a prominent television personality asking a female psychic for a paranormal explanation of the missing 777.  Mostly, she babbled puerile gobbledygook for about four minutes. However, she made two points of interest: the 777 landed safely in Pakistan and the passengers are dead.

Taking no chances, the Israeli Air Force is on high alert.  (A highjacking for nefarious schemes.)

Next week, I reckon we’ll have more information.  If so, I’ll continue this evolving episode and will explore other airliner’s mysterious disappearances.

Marty Shelton PhotoRetired Naval Captain, S. Martin Shelton, has tracked the disappearance of Amelia Earhart’s flight and written a  story based upon the facts of the flight and aviator. 

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