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.
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.