AviationTechnology
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AviationTechnology

Flight MH370: What we should know about the missing plane

Recap: Flight MH370 (operated by a Boeing 777) was carrying 239 souls when it disappeared from the radar on 8 of March 2014, after taking off from Kuala Lumpur en route to Beijing. A short time into the flight, Boeing 777 made an unscheduled turn and stopped communicating with air traffic control and never been found.

Here are the most popular theories about the missing aircraft. Although some of them plausible but highly unlikely regarding the confirmed facts.

Theories:

1- Fire: fire grows exponentially even in high altitude airliners, so I guess the plane had 7 minutes and 30 seconds to dive into the ocean, not more than 7 hours (fact 1). Also, in the case of a small fire, pilots had enough time to send an emergency message to the air traffic controller (fact 3).

2- Hijack: The main reason for hijacking an aircraft is to claim the credit. Nevertheless, no one stepped up for this.

3- Hypoxia: Another possibility is an unresponsive crew or hypoxia event. This theory matches with the non-responsive crew and continuing flight until fuel exhaustion mainly on autopilot, but it will not explain turning off and later on the electrical system, changing directions and other things (fact 5)

4- In 2016, reports surfaced alleging the pilot of the missing Boeing 777–200 took the plane on a premeditated suicidal flight, giving rise to the death-dive theory

Facts about MH370:

1- MH370 travelled for another 7 hours and 30 minutes after disappearing from the air traffic control radar.

2- Malaysian military radar tracked missing aircraft right on the border of Malaysia and Thailand but not suspicion at the time, assuming that it is in another territory.

3- Pilots never sent a warning message to the air traffic control.

4- Some confirmed debris and some non-confirmed but highly plausible pieces found later in east Africa (ex. Reunion island).

5- Noted MH370 on its route in Malaysian territory, turned to the north-west to allow a clear view of the captain’s home island of Penang.

Other similar incidents:

· Swiss Flight 111: Flight 111 was a scheduled international passenger flight from John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City, United States, to Cointrin International Airport in Geneva, Switzerland. The McDonnell Douglas MD-11 performing this flight crashed into the Atlantic Ocean southwest of Halifax Stanfield International Airport (Figure 1). The aircraft struck the ocean at an estimated 555 km per hour. the collision with the water causing it to disintegrate instantly. In a high-speed crash in the ocean, an aeroplane will not enter the water but explodes on the surface. As a result, millions of small pieces from different aeroplane parts will be spread out on the surface (Figure 1 and 2). (Ref: Wikipedia).

Figure 1 :By Aero Icarus from Zürich, Switzerland — 28as — Swissair MD-11; HB-IWF@ZRH;14.07.1998, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=26653130
Figure 2: Source: https://globalnews.ca/news/4418353/lost-diamonds-swissair-flight-111/

· Helios Airways Flight 522: Flight 522 was a scheduled passenger flight from Larnaca, Cyprus to Prague, Czech Republic, with a stopover to Athens, Greece. A loss of cabin pressurization incapacitated the crew, leaving the aircraft flying on autopilot until it ran out of fuel, and crashed near Grammatiko, Greece, on the 14 of August 2005, killing all 121 passengers and crew on board(Figure 3). (Ref: Wikipedia).

Figure 3 : By Alan Lebeda — http://www.airliners.net/photo/Helios-Airways/Boeing-737-31S/0886316/L/, GFDL 1.2, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17079552

First, the flight path shows the MH370 flyover from an air defence base in Penang. The Base is an Air Force Station of the RMAF also home to No 19 Squadron (19SQN), No 92 Wing Detachment Alpha (92WG Det A), second/30th Training Group (Australian Army), Joint Health Command, Australian Defence Force Investigative Service (Joint Investigation Office Butterworth). If they did not react by crossing an unknown flyover aircraft, what are they doing there actually? What are the other situations that an airbase decides to scramble fighters?

Second, the parts recovered cannot be the result of a high-speed crash (Figure 4 and 5). They are the consequence of ditching in the ocean. In fact, these are showing that the aircraft was under total control, slowing down for a smooth landing and specifically, flaps were extended at the time of ditching. That means engines were running and providing hydraulic to the control surface areas, or at least RAT (Ram air turbine) was deployed (highly unlikely). It is aligned with this fact that recovered items are almost intact, and they are mostly from wings. Therefore, the fuselage not exploded like a high-speed crash into the ocean.

Figure 4: (source https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-33713885)
Figure 5 : (source: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/sep/15/malaysia-confirms-debris-near-tanzania-missing-mh370-plane)

Third, suppose we accept that the pilot did it by intention. He turned off transponders and manually switched off the aircraft’s electrical system. However, and luckily for us, he did not know that returning power to the electrical system automatically empowered the satellite data unit (SDU) while the transponders remained in the off mode. As far as I know, there is no switch or procedure to turn the SDU off in 777 (while electrical power is enabled). Even it has not been mentioned in the training materials. The data sent by SDU have been collected by the Inmarsat satellite communications network and provide other evidence that aircraft still flying to the Indian ocean. Some intelligent calculation showed the approximate location of the aircraft at the time of satellite handshaking.

Therefore, the searching area, which has been calculated based on engines’ flameout due to possible fuel exhaustion, is far from the location that the aircraft ditched. Not saying that pilot knew the time of the SDU communication handshake signals. However, he deliberately wanted to land his aircraft in a remote area in one piece. It makes it harder to find the wreckage and left minimum records of evidence.

At the last point, I listened to the pilot’s last communication with the air traffic controller. There is no tension or signal for someone who wanted to commit a suicidal act. Maybe he planned to do this later but changed his mind after leaving Malaysian air space. What could be a possible trigger for changing his mind?

Summary, recalculation of the searching area with ditching in mind reveals the aircraft’s location, and finding a possible trigger shows the intention of the pilot.

Note: I am not an expert in investigation or aviation. Just interested!

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Adam Abedini

Adam Abedini

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