S. Martin Shelton

Retired U.S.Navy Captain, Novelist

Archive for the tag “Missing Flight”

Malaysia Flight 370

Boeing_777-200ER_Malaysia_AL_(MAS)_9M-MRO_-_MSN_28420_404_(9272090094)

Around midnight on 8 March 2014, Malaysia Flight 370 departed Kuala Lumpur for Beijing with 239 souls onboard. About three hours into the flight, it disappeared. Technical analysis of radio, radar, and satellite data indicated that the aircraft crashed into the Indian Ocean about 1,200 miles off Australia’s west coast.

In the almost three years of searching, investigators have not found any part of this aircraft. Nonetheless, three sheets of aircraft metal have washed up on the eastern shore of Africa. Expert aviation investigators have tentatively concluded that this flotsam is from Flight 370.

On 17 January last, the three nations, Malaysia, China, and Australia, involved in the search for this missing aircraft concluded further investigation of the sea floor of the Indian Ocean is fruitless. The search for Malaysia Flight 370 is officially over.

Read more by S. Martin Shelton.

 

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?

Malaysia Flight 370 One Year Ago

Boeing_777-200ER_Malaysia_AL_(MAS)_9M-MRO_-_MSN_28420_404_(9272090094)Malaysia Flight 370, a Boeing model 777-200 ER (Extended Range) disappeared 1 year and 45 days ago—one of aviation’s biggest mysteries. Notwithstanding extensive searching by temas from Malaysia, China, and Australia in the Indian Ocean off the coast of western Australia, not a trace of this aircraft has been found. In a Press Release, dated 16 April 2015, Malaysian Transport Minister Mister Liow Tiong said that these three countries are “…committed to the search.” Should the aircraft not be found by the first of May, the searches will expand the target area by 23,000 square miles. In total, therefore, the search area will be expanded to 95 percent of the flight path of the plane.

China’s transport minister, Yang Chuantang said that China might contribute more vessels and other assets in the search. (Most of the passengers were Chinese.)

In January, the Malaysian authorities formally declared that the plane’s disappearance was an accident, and that all those on board are presumed dead.

The mystery surrounding this calamity is why the aeroplane was so far off it intended course. We need to know the “why,” “who,” and “where.” Is it in fact in the Indian Ocean off the west coast of Australia?

Many relatives of the passengers posit a host of conspiracy theories including one that the aeroplane was highjacked and landed somewhere safely. I wonder.

Malaysia Flight 370

Boeing_777-200ER_Malaysia_AL_(MAS)_9M-MRO_-_MSN_28420_404_(9272090094)The saga continues re Malaysia Flight 370 that disappeared a year ago this past weekend. Notwithstanding the labor and equipment employed, not a scintilla of a clue of this aircraft or its 239 passengers and crew has been found. The search extended to the Asia mainland and in the Indian Ocean off the west coast of Australia. The investigation continues. Currently, three Dutch oceanographic ships are exploring the seas. Unfortunately, several large cyclones and particularly nasty weather has seriously hampered the search.

What happened to Malaysia Flight 370? Officially, no one knows. Some of the relatives of those missing and others are convinced that the entire search effort is a ruse to divert attention from what really happened to the flight. Others have formed a committee that offers a “substantial reward” for truthful information.

Indeed Watson, the plot thickens.

Malaysia Flight 370, # 14

On Friday, 30 January 2015, the Malaysian government formally declared Malaysia Flight 370 an accident and all 239 souls on board are presumed deceased. Flight 370 last reported a position late on the evening of 8 March 2014 (now 327 days missing). Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai said “ At this juncture, there is no evidence to substantiate speculation as to the cause of the accident” (my emphasis). Notwithstanding, extensive oceanographic search in the Indian Ocean by the navies of several nations, no trace of this missing airplane has been found—no debris, no corpses, no “black boxes.” Nothing!

Boeing_777-200ER_Malaysia_AL_(MAS)_9M-MRO_-_MSN_28420_404_(9272090094)

Shortly after Flight 270 vanished, I developed a plausible scenario re this missing flight and sent it to a secure location. If within this year (2015) the airplane is not found, I will open this file and send it to my blog.   Hint: to the Sherlock Holmes aficionados, I would suggest that, “The hound did not bark.”

Malaysia Flight 370: Will they find it?

A couple days ago, Martin Dolan, chief commissioner of The Australian Transport Safety Bureau, announced that they have resumed the search for Malaysia Flight 370. Recall that this flight disappeared on 8 March last. Speculation posits that the Boeing model 777-200 ER crashed into the Indian Ocean some 1,200 miles west of Australia. A cadre of nations formed to search team for the missing aircraft using all manner of technical equipment. After six-weeks of searching, researches found no trace of the flight. All clues were apocryphal. Authorities called-off the search to regroup.

Since, two oceanographic ships have mapped 23,000 square miles of a remote area, that is located to the northeast of the original search area—an area largely unknown to scientists, They’ve produced three-dimensional maps that show that the seabed is laced with volcanoes, crevasses, plateaus, and ridges. Depth ranges from about 2,000 feet to about 20.000 feet (almost four miles). On station now is the Dutch-owned and Malaysian-sponsored ship Fugro Phoenix—an oceanographic survey ship. Scheduled to arrive on station shortly are the Fugro Discovery and the Fugro Equator.
Furgo Discover

Furgo Equator]

Furgo Phoenix

I’m skeptical that they will find Flight # 370. The search area is fraught with hazards and I’m not sure that their search technology has the capability to find the aircraft—if it is there. Since this aircraft disappeared, a notion tugs at my reason the Malaysia Flight # 370 is elsewhere.

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.)

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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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 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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