back to article MH370 airliner MYSTERY: The El Reg Pub/Dinner-party Guide

So, the mysterious case of the missing flight MH370. We've mainly stayed out of this - apart from noting that no, the jet wasn't hackjacked using a mobile phone. But naturally we've been poking around a bit to see what we could find out, and it's not completely nothing. Here's what we bring to the party. Some of us know a bit …

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Vic
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Re: Risk analysis needed

It's a risk analysis problem

Indeed it is.

What is the risk from an ACARS system which cannot be shut down in flight, but which is protected by a fuse and circuit breakers so it shuts itself down if it draws excessive current or gets too hot?

Small, but present.

What is the risk from a malicious pilot?

Very much smaller than the risk of fire from something that can't be isolated. And if you've got a fuse, your hypothetical malicious pilot can *still* disable the kit, with it being potentially rather harder to re-enable it than just turning the switch. So your "solution" solves nothing, but creates new problems in the process.

One thing to factor in is the much larger number of lives at risk on the ground from a suicide-pilot, compared to the fairly random crash location of a plane on fire that fails to reach an airport in time.

But if you've got a suicidal pilot, technical changes aren't going to make a blind bit of difference. The pilot can still point the plane at the deck, whatever radios are running. The aircraft is not rendered invisible by turning the transponder off - it just makes life a little harder for ATC.

Oh, and instead of meaningless pings, have the antenna transmit the plane's GPS coordinates even when ACARS is shut down!

If ACARS is shut down, nothing is transmitted. This aircraft only sent the satellite pings because ACARS wasn't *fully* shut down - the HF had been turned off, but the SATCOM left on. The reason the packets were empty is, apparently, because Malaysia Airlines hadn't paid for the satellite uplink, so the data packets couldn't transmit any real data.

Vic.

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Anonymous Coward

Plausable theory worth consideration

Posited by Chris Goodfellow on Wired (www.wired.com/autopia/2014/03/mh370-electrical-fire/).

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Re: Plausable theory worth consideration

It was plausible, but now information has emerged that renders it obsolete as a theory. Specifically the tracking 'pings', sticking to known navigational markers and manoeuvring *after* overflying the area and the manner in which the plane reportedly manoeuvred; to whit using buttons instead of the yoke and possibly the reported altitude changes.

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Anonymous Coward

That arc seems a bit simplistic to me

If you can construct arcs of possible positions from the "ping" signal at every hour, shouldn't it be possible to fit a plausible trajectory through those arcs, given a reasonable guess at the plane's speed?

Also, if the comms were deliberately disabled, then it appears that whoever did that didn't know about the hourly ping that continued to be broadcast. Therefore, while it's possible that the plane could have flown for up to an hour in any direction after the last ping, that's unlikely. It's better to assume that it flew for up to an hour in much the SAME direction as it had been taking previously because the crew couldn't have synchronized any course change with the last ping.

All this is pretty uncertain, of course, but might help build up a better probability map of the plane's location - and that would tell you where to start looking first.

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Re: That arc seems a bit simplistic to me

I believe that's what they've done, which is why you see two arcs, starting an hours flying after the last known position, rather than a circle.

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Anonymous Coward

electrical fire in cockpit

pilots turn off everything off

pilots turn plane around

they cannot bring it under control or overcome

passengers panic rush away from smoke to back of plane causing plane to climb before stalling

plane dives and recovers

passengers all overcome

if passengers all overcome at back of plane it might climb and stall again.

i am not a pilot.

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Plausible. I've seen an under-inflated nose wheel tyre suggested as a possible cause. Overheated during take-off, smouldered for ~80 minutes, then started burning with a vengeance giving off thick black toxic smoke at the front of the plane.

Could smoke be so thick that pilots could not see the instruments or anything outside the plane? They have Oxygen masks and smoke hoods, but no use if they are blinded.

Question for a pilot: can auto-pilots deal with a stall if the pilots don't supply any inputs?

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Vic
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I've seen an under-inflated nose wheel tyre suggested as a possible cause

I've seen Space Aliens suggested as a possible cause. I don't believe that one, either.

Overheated during take-off, smouldered for ~80 minutes, then started burning with a vengeance giving off thick black toxic smoke at the front of the plane.

The aircraft was at 35,000 ft. That means the pressure is very low - 26kPa according to the online calculator I've just tried. That gives us a ppO2 of about 0.05 - a raging furnace looks good on Thunderbirds, but really isn't realistic.

But even if it had occurred, the pilots would have put on their masks and selected positive pressure, in accordance with the FCOM. At that point, there would have been a mayday call, a mayday squawk, or a radar-visible emergency pattern. The aircraft would have remained under pilot control.

Could smoke be so thick that pilots could not see the instruments or anything outside the plane? They have Oxygen masks and smoke hoods, but no use if they are blinded.

The aircraft would have already been under FD control. They would be unlikely to need instruments at that part of the flight.

Question for a pilot: can auto-pilots deal with a stall if the pilots don't supply any inputs?

Trivially.

Vic.

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Big Brother

Ping

Certainly these pings were picked up by more than one satellite, or other receiver. If two satellites picked up the same ping, intentional or not, then we have it all sorted. Where is my prize? There is a prize right?

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Re: Ping

I don't see why, the only satellite that would have been listening for them is the INMARSAT over the Indian Ocean. Others may have been in a position to receive it, but unless they were listening out for it it's unlikely they'd even log it.

The other problem you'd have is that the INMARSAT knows when it transmitted the signal so has the round trip time to give a range, other satellites wouldn't have that information. You could possibly recreate something with timestamps but I doubt they're of the accuracy you'd need to get a decent fix, even half a second at the speed of light is a long way.

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Boffin

Hypoxia All The Way

I'm with the corrosion and gradual air leak hypothesis. I'm a physiologist by training and in 2nd year undergrad physiology respiratory lab on the hypoxia station run by a medically qualified member of the academic staff your status is monitored by getting you to do sums, long division, complex multiplication that sort of thing. The staff member watches you because it's not that you suddenly get them all wrong at a certain threshold but that you get more wrong or you just slow down.

Hypoxia explains the lack of motive, it explains their turn for home. Confusion might explain turning the coms off, intending to turn them back on again but not getting around to that. Everyone is unconscious, they then lapse into coma and know nothing further until the plane crashes and they die, all unknowing. Oh and nobody is wearing a lifejacket either. Nobody is awake and concerned enough to call home.

It is my understanding that hypoxia detectors on planes work on threshold changes and slow changes might not trigger the oxygen masks, at least until it's too late.

The silver lining is nobody suffered. They all went to sleep and didn't wake up.

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Re: Hypoxia All The Way

The aircraft has mechanisms that trigger alarms (and releases masks) if the cabin air pressure falls below a certain limit, even a slow leak would trigger these before the oxygen levels went too low. The Crew and passenger systems are separate, and the cabin crew also have hand held portable sets.

The pilots/crew are highly unlikely to ignore the alarms, first action is put on the mask, second is to reduce altitude to a survivable level (but clear of any high ground); basis is FL10 I think (10,000 feet). Hypoxia only makes sense if allied with an accident that somehow disabled the crew oxygen supply. But that is all contraindicated by the analysis that shows that the aircraft was flown a complex and deliberate flight path after any accident could have occurred assuming that the accident disabled the transponder etc.

The theory can't really work any more unless you discard the flight analysis based on radar and the satellite ping data. Even if you do that, you have to assume no crew oxygen and/or disabled alarms and no one in the crew responds to a major emergency signal.

Note that Boeing has confirmed that this particular aircraft was NOT subject to the maintenance order regarding corrosion around a top mounted SATCOM aerial as it did not have that aerial fitted. There is no other known corrosion issue with a T7, not that it couldn't have one, just nothing we know of.

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Re: Hypoxia All The Way

Err, read up on Helios Airways flight 522

Apparently at least one passenger was conscious and able to enter the cockpit just before the crash (although too late to do anything about it).

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Joke

Precious Cargo??

Maybe it has all the stolen BitCoins taken from MtGox earlier in the year. They needed a place to land and remove them from the cargo hold.

Another option: see KAL007 problem.

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Joke

I could have sworn ...

... the pilot was heard on the shortwave calling, "Come in Rangoon. Come in Rangoon."

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E 2

Different theory

Diego Garcia is nicely located to recieve the jet...

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Re: Different theory

Go on....

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Re: Different theory @ DAM

Just type "Diego Garcia" into Google now - the whole thing will be made clear to your sight! I doubt you'll feel better about it, though - even *I* can't buy the idea that the Yanks are hiding a plane full of civilians for almost two weeks :-)

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Re: Different theory @ DAM

Isn't that outside the aircraft's range?

" the whole thing will be made clear to your sight!"

The place is hardly news. The Americans have been there for quite some time. You're going to have to do better with your theory than "There's an American airbase on the same half of the planet as a plane went missing!". Anything else supporting it?

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Black Helicopters

Spy satellite?

Given that we have been told (fact and spy fiction) for decades that orbiting hardware is capable of counting the pubic hairs on a field mouse in pitch dark, can we not assume that the entire surface of the globe has been scanned several times now in fine detail looking for traces of the plane?

So either someone knows where it is or it has been hidden with exceptional care.

However as I have as yet seen no mention that "satellite surveillance has so far failed to reveal any trace" I must suspect that there are reasons not to mention where it is (or isn't).

Oh, and isn't it about time ATCs performed a positive handoff (I am passing control of flight ABC to you - do you confirm?) instead of just saying "Byebye" and assuming the next controller in line will automatically pick the plane up?

I had assumed that long haul flights were carefully planned and monitored - I am now wondering how lucky family and friends have been to turn up when and where expected.

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Re: Spy satellite?

> can we not assume that the entire surface of the globe has been scanned several times

No sir, we may not. For the good and sufficient reason that the entire surface of the globe is FREAKING HUGE, and a global survey, even the STS missions with resolutions much bigger than a field-mouse, took years. Sure, you can do something like that hair counting stunt if you know where the field-mouse is already: the high-resolution technology is more about identifying military targets in an already-known location.

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Re: Spy satellite?

Re positive control, if you can figure out how to actively monitor the airspace more than ~200NM from land so they can do that then I suggest you patent it before going public. Once you're out of radar cover it's procedural reporting of the airliners position by the crew. To date this has proven remarkably reliable, in several decades they've only mislaid about 1 jet airliner.

Re spy satellites, oddly they tend not to monitor the open ocean on a regular basis because there's not a lot there to look at, the odd ship maybe but it's not an efficient way of doing it. You are effectively looking down a straw at the surface of the Earth, so you have to know where to look before you can make out the detail. Repositioning a satellite to scan the search area is an expensive task, although at the rate it's currently expanding that may change...

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Re: Spy satellite?

"Re positive control, if you can figure out how to actively monitor the airspace more than ~200NM from land so they can do that then I suggest you patent it before going public. Once you're out of radar cover it's procedural reporting of the airliners position by the crew. "

I was thinking more of Malasian ATC phoning their opposite numbers in the next airspace over and saying "We just relinquished control of flight XYZ at location+date+time. According to the flight plan they should contact you in X minutes time."

With swift escalation if the flight does not register by whatever means with the next ATC.

As far as I can tell by the reports/comments I have seen so far it just waved goodbye to Malaysian ATC and nobody got at all worked up when it didn't register with another ATC in a few minutes time.

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Re: Spy satellite?

...I was thinking more of Malasian ATC phoning their opposite numbers in the next airspace over and saying "We just relinquished control of flight XYZ at location+date+time. According to the flight plan they should contact you in X minutes time."

With swift escalation if the flight does not register by whatever means with the next ATC.

As far as I can tell by the reports/comments I have seen so far it just waved goodbye to Malaysian ATC and nobody got at all worked up when it didn't register with another ATC in a few minutes time...

I'm pretty sure that the Vietnamese ATC was well aware that they would be receiving a standard airline flight from Malaysia at that time. It was a scheduled flight and I'm sure the timetable would have been agreed months in advance. They would surely know about all flight plans routed through their airspace.

There are lots of reasons why the Vietnamese would not have immediately escalated a warning. But the most obvious is that they were busy and had no time to go making extra work for themselves...

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Re: Spy satellite?

"I had assumed that long haul flights were carefully planned and monitored - I am now wondering how lucky family and friends have been to turn up when and where expected."

Imagine a town swarming with traffic, all generally following the rules. Then add in a bunch more cars which don't conform to those rules because they are painted green and throw in a bunch of little mopeds ridden by people who only drive once a week. And only place cameras so they cover about 30% of the roads.

Now imagine trying to perfectly locate and control every aspect of the traffic's movements via twenty decentralised, independent control centres.

Not easy, is it?

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Re: Spy satellite? ATC hand over

"'I'm pretty sure that the Vietnamese ATC was well aware that they would be receiving a standard airline flight from Malaysia at that time. It was a scheduled flight and I'm sure the timetable would have been agreed months in advance. They would surely know about all flight plans routed through their airspace."

Just to confirm, are all ATCs en route notified of the actual take off time of the flight?

Flights rarely leave exactly on time.

Also, long haul flights are very dependant on wind strength and direction for the flight time, so it must be very difficult to predict exactly where a plane SHOULD be at any time during the flight based purely on a routine flight plan filed months before. Especially if the pilot has a hot date waiting and is 'pedal to the metal'.

"There are lots of reasons why the Vietnamese would not have immediately escalated a warning. But the most obvious is that they were busy and had no time to go making extra work for themselves..."

So they have more important things to do that control air traffic?

It doesn't seem to require a vast amount of high tech kit to perform a simple hand off of flights between ATC areas - as I said phone lines are generally available.

So 20/20 hindsight but a simple protocol would have quickly identified that something was amiss.

I assume that after this incident work will be done to improve this.

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Re: Spy satellite?

To date this has proven remarkably reliable, in several decades they've only mislaid about 1 jet airliner

Passenger-carrying jet airliner. Starting counting from 1970 (several decades):

- 1979, Boeing 707 (Varig, 200km out from Tokyo)

- 1990, Boeing 727 (Faucett, 290km SE of Newfoundland)

- 1997, Antonov 72 (Renan, between Abidjan and Rundu)

All these were cargo or ferrying flights though, so no passengers on board.

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Re: Spy satellite? ATC hand over

"So they have more important things to do that control air traffic?"

More like they are too busy looking after stuff already in their airspace to worry about things that are supposed to be turning up in their airspace at some point in the future. When those aircraft reach them, they will call and then the ATC will start looking after them.

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Re: Spy satellite?

Another good reason is that there may be nothing left to see from above, even a few hours later.

Break-up in the air and the pieces falling onto a jungle would look much the same before and after, especially if there was no fire on the ground. Even if it did make a hole in a jungle, how many big jungle trees succumb to rot and fall over every day? How many big trees are (mostly illegally) felled for their timber? How many small clearings are made by primitive farmers (slash and burn agriculture)?

The sea will also look much the same, apart from some floating seat cushions. AFAIK a one-foot square is about a spy-sat's resolution limit, and the sea is full of transient white patches (breaking waves).

And then there's cloud cover. Some parts of the world you have to wait weeks for blue sky. (London, from Xmas until recently, for one! )

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My tuppence worth.

First, the switching off/silencing of the ACARS proves nothing. It may have had some fault, possibly related or unrelated to what happened next. In this faulty state it may still have been able to send its "ping" but nothing else.

I suggest that a catastrophic event crippled the aircraft comms and control systems.

The event may have been something like the Aloha Airlines Flight 243 incident where part of the fuselage was lost. In the case of MH370, the loss of bodywork may have been much smaller, but it could still have ripped off important cable looms. This could have then resulted in the loss of the comms and the hydraulic pumps.

Initially the flight controls would have been operational due to energy stored in the hydraulic accumulators that are used to smooth the movement of the control surfaces. This stored energy would have been enough to allow the aircraft to be turned around, but without the pumps to recharge the system, the flight controls would quickly fail.

In theory the engine throttles could be used to fly the plane if the hydraulics fail, as in the A300 OO-DLL incident in Iraq, but it doesn't look like this happened (possibly because the throttles were also disconnected by the event). If the pilots were able to throttle the engines back the plane would have descended, though probably not quickly enough to get the plane down to a safe altitude before the oxygen ran out, but in any case it wouldn't have flown more than a hundred miles or so before running out of sky.

Without any changes to the engine throttles, the plane, which would have been trimmed for cruise, would have continued to fly more or less straight and level until the fuel ran out.

As the engines were running, the generators would have also been operational, and could still have powered some systems such as an automated fuel balancer and the autopilot's pitch trim control. This could have helped to keep the plane trimmed and stopped it from crashing before the fuel ran out.

I don't know anything about the 777's systems, but this theory doesn't sound unreasonable. It fits the evidence (other than the disputed altitude changes), and to my mind much more plausible than hijack or a suicidal pilot.

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Re: My tuppence worth.

"It fits the evidence (other than the disputed altitude changes)"

The flight crew would have used throttle to try to affect an altitude change if they were on limited oxygen. They'd have tried *something*, faced with limited oxygen, rather than just leaving it be, surely?

It's possible, but it doesn't seem to fit perfectly, requiring more leaps of logic than some of the other solutions.

Additionally, in an emergency, I would expect the flight crew to use their yokes, rather than typing course changes into their console, which is what they reportedly did.

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Re: My tuppence worth.

Interesting points, and I'm guessing that as the comms were down, the use of the nav computer must have been inferred from the radius of the turn on the radar plots. This information actually adds to my theory.

One problem that I was having was that if there was a loss of cabin pressure they would have put the aircraft into a dive even before trying a turn, but If the connections from the yokes to the flight computes were also lost by my hypothetical event, then they wouldn't have been able to do that. (The 777 is fly-by-wire with the computers controlling the hydraulics). However, if the nav computer still worked then they could have used that to turn the aircraft.

The other problem that I was having was why the ATC handover didn't happen, but the aircraft still made its turn. This may have been because whatever went wrong happened just after the last ATC message. I'm guessing that even an experienced pilot would take some time to think of using (and reprogramming) the nav computer to make the turn. Hence the delay between the last ATC message, (and the lack of hand over), and the subsequent turn, becomes entirely plausible.

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Vic
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Re: My tuppence worth.

if there was a loss of cabin pressure they would have put the aircraft into a dive

They wouldn't.

If there was a problem with the cabin pressure, they'd have put everyone on oxygen and diverted to the nearest available airfield that could accomodate an aircraft of that size.

Putting an aircraft into a dive when you're already going hypoxic is a sure-fire way of destroying the ship; you're unlikely to control the speed particularly well, and losing 20,000 ft still takes quite a while. Hypoxia kills in minutes[1].

If the connections from the yokes to the flight computes were also lost by my hypothetical event, then they wouldn't have been able to do that. (The 777 is fly-by-wire with the computers controlling the hydraulics)

The 777 has three main surface control modes: Primary (with filght controllers taking input from the controls and actuating the flight surfaces hydraulically), Secondary (as Primary, but with reduced capability, and the flight surfaces actuated electrically), and Direct (Flight Computers are unused; the actuators are driven directly from the flight controls). There is also a cable back-up, but that is for maintaining straight and level flight whilst the flight crew get the electrics running to achieve one of the above modes.

Getting the electrics going is entirely feasible - there is the conventional two-bus AC layout with isolation relays and routing, and there are three primary generators and one ram-air turbine, and one of which could power the aircraft control systems. Two generators are required for full electrical capability, but the passengers can do without "Last Holiday" during a crisis.

Vic.

[1] Hypoxia causes loss of consciousness very quickly indeed - this is why the safety briefing tells you to make sure you've got your own mask on before helping others. If you're on O2, you stand a chance of saving someone's life by fitting their mask even after they've lost consciousness. If you've both passed out without a mask, you're both dead.

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Re: My tuppence worth.

OK I was over dramatizing the dive bit, but you're not going to stay at 35000ft any longer than necessary and you are going to go for an expedited descent.

As the other stuff you mention, I worked on the design of Airbus avionics, so can only generalise about the opposition, however I do know that aircraft systems aren't designed for major structural failures. There is no point as they are very unlikely and when they do happen, the plane usually crashes soon after, but sometimes it doesn't, as Aloha Airlines Flight 243 proves.

What I'm arguing is that as an alternative to hijack or a mad pilot, MH370 may have suffered a major structural failure that destroyed many of the systems (and their backups, and the backup's backups), but didn't destroy the aircraft. I can imagine all sorts of ways that this could have happened.Maybe a bomb* that turned a freight container into shrapnel which then sliced through the several cables looms. Maybe something similar to flight 243. Maybe it was hit by a meteor. The exact type of failure isn't important. The question is, is such a massive failure possible? If it is, then maybe MH370 wasn't deliberately flown to some unknown destination.

(* BTW, the NSA must be working overtime with the thousands of posts on that now have bomb & hijack in them)

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Vic
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Re: My tuppence worth.

OK I was over dramatizing the dive bit, but you're not going to stay at 35000ft any longer than necessary and you are going to go for an expedited descent.

Sure - but if you come down at, say, 4000 ft/min, dropping 20000 ft is going to take you 5 minutes. If that descent is your plan to deal with the immediate decompression problem, you're all dead.

Alternatively, you get everyone on O2 masks, and it just gets uncomfortable.

I worked on the design of Airbus avionics, so can only generalise about the opposition

Everything I posted is straight out of the FCOM. It's readily available, if rather long...

I do know that aircraft systems aren't designed for major structural failures

Aircraft are designed to be as resilient as is feasible. That means you're never going to recover from a wing falling off - but the 777 can lose substantially all of its fly-by-wire kit and still be controllable.

What I'm arguing is that as an alternative to hijack or a mad pilot, MH370 may have suffered a major structural failure that destroyed many of the systems (and their backups, and the backup's backups), but didn't destroy the aircraft. I can imagine all sorts of ways that this could have happened.

I can't. The evidence released so far shows an aircraft that was following a set of waypoints other than those corresponding to its flight plan, yet was uncommunicative. Someone programmed those waypoints - either during the initial stages of the flight, or as it progressed.

Maybe a bomb* that turned a freight container into shrapnel which then sliced through the several cables looms

OK, let's imagine that. How did that slicing through cables lead to new waypoints being added to the FD? How come so much of the aircraft was still functional (such that it continued to fly for hours) yet no communications were possible?

The first of these is essentially impossible - the chances of shorting *exactly* the right cables so as to have the same effect as pressing the FD programming controls on the flight deck is mathematically infeasible. The second *could* have happened if both pilots were incapacitated behind the security door with the deadlocks in place - but that would imply that the waypoints were already stored; the "hijack" (for want of a better word) had already happened.

Maybe something similar to flight 243.

You'll note that Aloha flight 243 got a mayday call out. This is the primary similarity I would expect between these two instances.

The question is, is such a massive failure possible?

No it isn't. The question is, could such a massive failure take out all communications and also re-route the plane to somewhere it wasn't supposed to be going whilst not causing sufficient damage to take the aircraft out of the sky? ITYF the answer would be a resounding "no".

Now I don't know what happened to MH370. But I do know it wouldn't just wander off in the way it did without human intervention - someone decided to change its destination without telling anyone. And that is suspicious.

Vic.

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Anonymous Coward

I see much debate about whether cellphone data could help find a missing MH370. Here's how:

Some years ago, I accidentally left my cellphone powered on during a long-haul flight. (Nokia 6822, multiband roaming GSM, Western US, probably SFO to LHR, polar route overnight via Canada.) The good news: BA's elderly 747 didn't crash. The bad news: when I reached London, my phone battery was nearly flat. I cursed, then I checked the messages. I had numerous "Wecome To Vodafone USA/Vodafone Canada, calls are £1 per minute..." kind of SMS texts received. Evidently, at cruising speed and from cruising altitude, my phone had been busy roaming while I had been busy snoozing. It had registered several times with cells in rural northern North America, and consumed much battery power boosting its own transmission in the effort of doing so. But if you had access to the roaming logs for the networks for that period, you could have plotted my progress flying along from each cell registration to the next. (Except over the Atlantic, obviously.)

NOW: modern smartphones may work different; and modern GSM may work different; and a 777 might shield RF differently from an older 747; and everyone aboard MH370 might have had their phones switched off throughout; and no-one aboard might have a roaming contract; and it might depend on where you sit, BUT if were looking for a lost aeroplane, I would be pulling all the roaming records for every passenger's cellphone from a few hours before the flight and tracking the cell registrations to see where they all went.

BA knows my mobile number. I can't believe Malaysia doesn't have the cellphone numbers for the PAX. Besides, extracting those from records is elementary spook stuff. That map of the cellphone tracks should have been up days ago. Where is it?

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Boffin

The cell data is an odd omission

It doesn't matter whether or not any passenger has a roaming contract as the phone has to connect to the basestation before it can be fobbed off with a "no contract". Even then a GSM phone can still make an emergency call.

So if the plane went through a strong enough region of cellular coverage - over land - and if somebody on the plane had left their phone on then yes, there should be a record of cells it touched. It probably wouldn't touch a continuous trail, but there should be a few cells.and thus eliminate some possibilities.

More importantly, if the plane did land intact anywhere you can be absolutely certain that damn near everybody would try to turn their phone on almost immediately. Even if they were somehow being actively prevented from doing so, some of them would have succeeded.

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Re: The cell data is an odd omission

Yes - several business-folk were on the flight. It seems likely that at least some of them had more than one mobile. I have difficulty thinking of a scenario in which people taking control of a plane could ensure that they have secured every mobile phone. (Though, didn't someone several pages back mention that the plane had a pico-cell? If so, would it be possible to set it so that mobiles connected to it (strongest signal), but didn't pass the calls off the plane? Genuine question.)

Overall, I'm starting to swing back towards unfortunate accident rather than malicious intent.

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Cellphones

I'm certain there's no cellphone coverage over the Southern Indian Ocean.

You're probably right about Tibet and the Stans, though cellphone coverage is probably a lot less dense than over North America.

I fear that for whatever unknown reason, this plane flew South-West on auto-pilot until its fuel ran out.

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Facts

12:41am MH370 takes off bound for Beijing.

1:07am Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ARCAS) was functioning normally at the start of the flight

Communications systems (ARCAS) were disabled by someone with specialist knowledge

Pilots are not normally trained to disable these systems

1:19am co-pilot signs off with Malaysian ground control

No contact is then made with the Vietnamese ground control who would take over responsibility for monitoring the flight in their airspace

This is a very good spot to divert a plane so whoever did this knew what they were doing

1:22am Transponder was “switched off”

1:35am Military radar (very sophisticated in this area) “shows the pane climbing to 45,000ft

Plane turns west

Pane falls sharply to 23,000ft before it climbs again to 35,000ft

1:45am Plane is reported to have dropped to 5,000ft (possible in an attempt to evade radar)

Malaysian villagers report bright lights and noise consistent with a large plane flying low on a westerly course

All these actions are “deliberate by someone on the plane” – Malaysian Transport Minister

UK firm Inmarsat now had the only reliable contact with the plane

2:15am Inmarsat shows MH370 off course & over the Malacca Strait

8:11am Inmarsat detects a faint signal from the plane, this is the last known contact

Because only one satellite detected contact its coordinates cannot be accurately plotted

MH370 is now missing

US, China, UK & other nations heavily monitor the Western Philippine (South China) Sea

They use radar & satellites that can spot drones & detect small explosions

US states no explosion was detected

Plane was headed in the direction of the Andamar & Nicobar islands but the radar there functions as on an as needed basis so was almost certainly turned off

The plane could have flown as far as Kazakstan/Uzbekistan/Tajikistan/Afganistan/Pakistan or south east Iran

Another route could have taken it from Jakarta to hundreds of miles off the Australian north coast (personal comment – this is not the route I think it probably took)

Over 600 airports large enough for a Boeing 777 to land at are in the area it could have flown to

Though unlikely a Boeing 777 could land on a wide straight road or disused airfield, many exist particularly in counties involved in the Vietnam war

If the plane stayed below 5,000ft it could have evaded civilian radar

An oil worker Mike McKay claimed to have spotted “an aircraft on fire” but a very thorough search of this area has found nothing

A plane of this size crashing normally results in a lot of debris

The Black Box only has a range of 2,000 to 3,000 meters

The cockpit is supposed to be locked at all times

A fire axe is in a hidden location for emergency use only, however a pilot would have time to enter an emergency message if an axe was used on the door

A pilot changes the Transponder code to 7500 for Mayday, that did not happen

In an emergency you could expect passengers to turn on cell phones to make emergency calls, if the flight was flying at low altitude they may have got a signal, none made calls

No known terrorist groups have claimed responsibility

It is not a possibility that the plane could have been hijacked by a mobile phone

The plane would normally have taken off carrying fuel for around 7 hours 30 minutes in flight

A country's air-defence radar coverage is a military secret, in this case some data has been released

After the final blip is received from MH370's satcomms, the plane's systems were powered down within one hour after last contact

20 passenger on-board worked for Freescale Semiconductor

Freescale's statement says 12 of its missing employees are Malaysian nationals, with the other eight from China

Mitch Haws Freescale Semiconductor's VP global communications & investor relations said "These were people with a lot of experience and technical background and they were very important people,"

Freescale Semiconductor, Inc. “is an American company that produces and designs embedded hardware, with 17 billion semiconductor chips in use around the world”

Freescale work in hi-tech from radars, remote controlled systems, tech warfare etc

This is their website: http://www.freescale.com/

“RF power standard products meet the requirements for applications such as avionics, HF through L- and S-Band radar, communications, missile guidance, electronic warfare, and identification, friend or foe (IFF)”

The above quote is from their website: http://www.freescale.com/webapp/sps/site/taxonomy.jsp?code=RF_AEROSPACE_DEFENSE_POWER_TRANS

Much more could be said about this but they do deal in military contracts

Freescale Semiconductor, Inc. is a U.S. corporation and subject to the export regulations and laws of the U.S.

Thus they cannot export to: Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, Syria without a US license

Freescale worked on computer viruses & anti-virus software

Freescale did work on Stuxnet diagnosis after it had been discovered

Two Iranian male passengers, Pouria Nour Mohammad Mahread and Delavar Syed Mohammad Reza using fake passports were on the flight but had no obvious links to terrorist groups

Afghanistan is heavily monitored by satellite & radar so we can discount it flew over this nation

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Re: Facts (@ Gorio)

I've been thinking along the same lines. A mass kidnapping of Freescale employees -or other 'interesting' passengers- would make sense for some 'powers' in the area.

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Holmes

Re: Facts

I don't see why Freescale or Iranians come into this.

Care to elaborate? You seem to be hinting at something, possible a plot for "Moonraker II: The Boeing"

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Re: Facts

You seem to be hinting at something

In my opinion he was pointing to the fact that, for that particular flight, the value of some their passengers -and their knowledge- might be far higher than the value of any inert cargo the plane could possibly lift. He makes some valid points about computer security, encryption and related matters.

And it's not only the Iranians. Several countries in the area could be interested, and even a -well organized-drug cartel could have the means to perform this trick. Totally hypothetical, of course, but also are the rest of the explanations offered in this discussion.

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Vic
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Re: Facts

Amongst other things...

> Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ARCAS)

ACARS.

> Pilots are not normally trained to disable these systems

*I* know how to disable ACARS on a 777, and I'm not ATPL. I've never even set foot on a 777 flight deck. It's a trivial matter - Google will show you how to do it.,

> A pilot changes the Transponder code to 7500 for Mayday

7500 is Hijack. It's 7700 for Mayday.

> Freescale worked on computer viruses & anti-virus software

Yeah, I've got a roll of tin foil here. It's only really intended for cooking, but you might want to take advantage of it...

Vic.

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@Vic Re: Facts

"*I* know how to disable ACARS on a 777, and I'm not ATPL. I've never even set foot on a 777 flight deck. It's a trivial matter - Google will show you how to do it.,"

Google will show you how to do it, but only *after* you know to look for it. That is to say, there are only particular kinds of people who would know that the ACARS even exists in the first place. So I would take the disabling of ACARS to indeed be indicative of specialist knowledge.

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(Written by Reg staff)

Re: @Vic Re: Facts

You ever met a planespotter? Or, for that matter, aviation-obsessed teenagers who obsess over carrying out correct flight deck drills while playing Flight Simulator?

You'd be very surprised what it's possible to learn about safety-critical systems from freeware addons.

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Re: @Vic Facts

...but Fox News will make a PANIC ARTICLE or unlawful technical knowledge in the HAND OF TERRISTS.

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Tinfoil Hat?

My frrst guess was a meteorite or bit of space junk - hot hard and fast - hitting the plane or possibly being ingested by an engine - but the revelations about the change of course and radar contacts have negated that theory.

However, peeping out from under my anorak - I have been wondering about the automatic systems. I have no idea how these things are implemented, what os(s) they use, redundant systems etc, but obviously this is not a "real" aeroplane with actual control cables from the cockpit lugging at the relevant engines and control surfaces. Everything would be software controlled.

Now what's the possibility that a some weird bug or posibly data corruption triggered a set of circumstances where the system shut down pilot control and switched everything irrevocably to auto. Not necessarily all at once - say comms first, pilots react and try to return home, computer sees the turn, says no and locks on autopilot part way through.

Very far fetched I know - but impossible?

Now, dropping the lid on my anorack and putting on this nice tinfoil hat I've just made of unobtanium - I wonder how all that software on the plane is updated. It's software - it must have bugs and I would guess the manufacturer or its sub contractors would be somewhat active in correcting them.

So, how are these patches / updated delivered? DVD? USB stick? Hou easy is it to access the slot? I suspect in the cockpit might be a likely location.

So, would it be possible for a person, on the ground or in the air, to do a rogue update?

Or, could the updates be delivered over the net? If RR were getting engine data ant the plane was pinging a sattelite it suggests it had some sort of a connection.

A borked upgrade or sabotage? Impossible?

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Re: Tinfoil Hat?

So, how are these patches / updated delivered? DVD? USB stick? Hou easy is it to access the slot? I suspect in the cockpit might be a likely location.

Expensive shit is ordered, then duly licensed repairman shows up in the hanger to apply patches, then I imagine, plane must pass recertification.

Or, could the updates be delivered over the net? If RR were getting engine data ant the plane was pinging a sattelite it suggests it had some sort of a connection.

What? No.

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Vic
Silver badge

Re: Tinfoil Hat?

Now what's the possibility that a some weird bug or posibly data corruption triggered a set of circumstances where the system shut down pilot control and switched everything irrevocably to auto

*Very* unlikely. On commercial aircraft, the pilot has veto over most systems. Only military jets (with unstable airframes) lock out the pilots from the flight control surfaces (fo obvious reasons); civilian kit may supply envelope shaping, but the pilot can override (and may be forced to - as in the AF447 disaster). FADEC is about the only full-authority system in play here - but as we can see from the long flight-time, this wasn't an engine failure...

Very far fetched I know - but impossible?

Yes. Impossible.

Vic.

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