S. Martin Shelton

Retired U.S.Navy Captain, Novelist

Archive for the tag “Flight 370”

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?

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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, Number Two

Twenty-three days ago, Malaysian Flight 370 disappeared.  At first, aircraft and ships from several neighborhood countries and the United States searched for the Boeing 777 in the area northeast of Malaysia in the South China Sea—the proposed track for this flight—to no avail.  Based on technical date, the searchers changed directions to the west and examined the Bay of Bengal—nothing found.

Two weeks ago Chinese satellite imagery photographed a debris field (of unknown composition) in the south Indian Ocean about 1,800 miles southwest of Perth, Australia. Search assets from twenty-five countries reconnoiter this area.  Zero results.

Early last week French satellite imagery found a large debris field about 1,200 miles west of Perth that may/or maybe not be the remains of the Boeing 777.  As of noon today there is nothing positive to report.

Only when some debris is found, hauled aboard a ship, and researchers confirm that it is from Flight 370, can the solution of the mystery, begin.

The next step in this imbroglio is to find the aircraft’s “black box” (actually, it’s an orange box).  This black box is a battery-powered, waterproof, electronic device that records all radio communications, flight-crew intercommunications, and technical data: speed, course, altitude, and other flight details.   After activation by a crash, it will “squawk” a locator signal for about thirty-days.  To insure best chance for survival this black box is stored in the tail of the aircraft.  All factors considered, it’s the tail section this is most likely to survive a crash.

Now the search gets even more daunting.  Let’s suppose that the debris is in fact from the Boeing 777, Malaysia Flight 370.  Where is the aircraft?  For an absolute certainly, it’s not below the debris field—guaranteed.  This area of the south Indian Ocean is fraught with high winds, and strong and irregular currents that are unabated.  Since mariners that have sailed this sea, they have dubbed it “The roaring 40’s.”  The “40’s” relates to its southern forty-degree latitude.  Oceanographers, meteorologists, and other scientist/technicians will use a host of data, some of which is apocryphal, and computer modeling to calculate a best estimate location of the aircraft on the sea floor—a backtracking analysis.  We’ve seven days left before the black box’s battery expires.

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Retired 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.

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.”

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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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