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 …

COMMENTS

This topic is closed for new posts.

Page:

Re: Tinfoil Hat?

"Very far fetched I know - but impossible?"

Pretty much impossible, from even the perspective of my limited understanding. To whit, even the transponders are semi-isolated and independent of the rest of the kit in the cockpit. If everything else was screwed you'd flick the transponder to an emergency setting in order to get word out, instead of turning it off.

0
0

Nothing here...

...about flying close to the Singapore Airlines plane to hide from radar...

0
0

Re: Nothing here...

"Nothing here......about flying close to the Singapore Airlines plane to hide from radar..."

It certainly made an interesting read and was food for thought.

However, such tactics would never foil a decent radar array or operator. Military radar in particular is designed to be able to tell you just how many planes are coming at you, no matter how closely they fly. Radar is easily capable of picking one airliner out from another. You wouldn't confuse the return simply by flying a mile behind an airliner in another airliner.

BUT:

If a civilian ATC sees two airliner returns on the same heading, alt and speed - one with a transponder, one without - in their controlled airspace, I imagine they would give the pilot (of the identified aircraft) a shout to ask if there is anything in the vicinity, and put a shout out to try to identify the other return. I also imagine that if it's in uncontrolled, near-empty airspace and the pilot says he's ok, can't see anyone else and there is nobody else around that he can see, then the ATC might let it slide... especially at 1am.

Tl;dr: Tailing another aircraft to avoid radar utterly fails in a technical sense, but might work *at the time* because of human failings. However, a later review of the radar would show the 'false' return.

2
0

There's a lot more that can be said...

1 - It is possible for the pilots to depressurise the fuselage AND disable the deployment of oxygen masks from the cockpit.

2 - Cockpit doors are heavily reinforced nowadays, so the pilots are safe from the passengers.

3 - The aircraft flew particularly high, and then particularly low shortly after contact was lost. This is consistent with an attempt to kill passengers rapidly from hypoxia and then re-pressurise the aircraft.

4 - The aircraft track seems to have altered several times after contact was lost. This is consistent with an attempt to match speed and height with Singapore Airlines flight 68. If flown closely, two aircraft become one radar blip. SA68 was on course across India and the Middle East.

5 - To the south, the Cocos Islands have a suitable airstrip, and only 600 inhabitants. This is sufficiently low for a small group of armed men to take it over.

6 - Though the only fatal accidents this type of aircraft has had to date have been pilot error, it has had one major cockpit fire while on the ground. Such a fire in the air could render the aircraft uncontrollable and cause all communications to be disrupted, but might not cause it to crash immediately.

7 - If you want to hide an airliner effectively there are very few ways:

a) put it in a row of many similar other airliners

b) crash it into dense jungle or deep snow

c) land it carefully on a deep part of the sea so that it does not break up, and let it sink intact.

0
3
Silver badge

Re: There's a lot more that can be said...

It is possible for the pilots to depressurise the fuselage AND disable the deployment of oxygen masks from the cockpit.

It is?

To the south, the Cocos Islands have a suitable airstrip, and only 600 inhabitants. This is sufficiently low for a small group of armed men to take it over.

But this didn't happen.

I hope everyone here has read Tintin: Flight 714 to Sydney to fuel ideas.

1
0

Re: There's a lot more that can be said...

No one has yet mentioned a US or Chinese mistake with a whacking great experimental anti-aircraft laser.

So I thought I would....

0
0

Re: There's a lot more that can be said...

...It is possible for the pilots to depressurise the fuselage AND disable the deployment of oxygen masks from the cockpit.

It is?..

Yes. You close the fuselage engine bleed pressure valve, and electrically isolate the mask deployment using the main circuit breaker board.

Next question?

0
0

Re: There's a lot more that can be said...

a) put it in a row of many similar other airliners

b) crash it into dense jungle or deep snow

c) land it carefully on a deep part of the sea so that it does not break up, and let it sink intact.

d) Put it in a (big) hangar

Are there any abandoned USSR airstrips in Khazakstan or thereabouts, with bomber hangars still roofed? (Or nuke-proof hardened aircraft shelters, probably good against weathering for longer than the Pyramids) Have all such airfields been checked on the ground by now? (How cooperative are the Stans? )

Still not my favorite theory. Flying Southwest (on auto-pilot? not?) until the fuel ran out is the most mundane way to disappear. It's a long way from land, always very rough ocean, and off almost all shipping lanes. How / why? We may never know.

e) Cut it up and put the bits in (a) scrap-metal compactor(s). I can't conceive of a reason, but if you had the manpower and plant normally used for demolishing buildings and crushing cars, I imagine it could be unrecognisable within a few hours and gone after a few more hours. One for the conspiracy theorists, I think.

1
0
Anonymous Coward

El reg readers

Have dinner parties?

Unbelievable right there.

1
0
Silver badge

Why are emergency locator beacons so failure prone in water crashes ?

ELT beacons are supposed to work in the event of crashes even if the crash is on water.

So why did they fail in both the AF 422 and the MH 370 case.

And Aviation Herald had a report of another crash on water a month or two ago where it took a few days to find the wreck site, so again an ELT failure with a crash on water.

2
0

Re: Why are emergency locator beacons so failure prone in water crashes ?

"Why are emergency locator beacons so failure prone in water crashes ?

ELT beacons are supposed to work in the event of crashes even if the crash is on water.

So why did they fail in both the AF 422 and the MH 370 case."

I'm guessing it's because they were on a plane that crashed. It's probably not an engineering solution that is 100% reliable, given the conditions.

0
0
IT Angle

Hot off the presses (or is it the Internet?) parts of the plane ere spotted in the Bermuda Triangle.

0
0

How big *is* the Bermuda Triangle????????? Is it growing? If so, why? Is AGW responsible, and if not, why not? Inquiring minds want to know!

1
0
Silver badge

> How big *is* the Bermuda Triangle????????? Is it growing? If so, why? Is AGW responsible, and if not, why not? Inquiring minds want to know!

Is the Bermuda Triangle growing? If so, are an ancient race of alien responsible for its growth in the Indian Ocean? If so, is it a deliberate course of action designed to capture the 20 engineers working on secret alien-detection technology in secretely military-contracted Freescale. Did that happen because Freescale had found a way to prove that our ancestors and current mentors are really ancient aliens from far out? The Ancient Astronauts' theorists think it is.

1
0
Silver badge

I think the Indian Ocean is the province of the People of The Ancient Continent of Lemuria, and they are very justified and jealous and want to have nothing to do with the faggots from the Bermuda Triangle with consort with greys and other riffraff.

2
0
Facepalm

"Faggots"? Was that really necessary?

The mixture of cool technical information and conspiracy theory was humming along so nicely before that bit of homophobia snuck in. *sigh*

0
0
Silver badge

Re: "Faggots"? Was that really necessary?

Sorry about that. It's not meant to be used in the homosexually-phobic way, more like this.

0
0
Anonymous Coward

But what motive?

I find it surprising their isn't more discussion or speculation on what motive might drive events as they panned out (at least in the 'criminal' scenario's discussed) - I'm thinking of the triad of 'means, motive and opportunity'. Means and opportunity have been well run round the block, but it seems to me that unless the aircraft simply crashed into the sea at some as-yet unknown spot, some pointers to a credible motive would go a long way to suggesting how things actually panned out.

The suggestion about bullion or other valuables in the hold, as mentioned in the article, is interesting, but seems unlikely to succeed as flawlessly as it apparently has given the degree of complexity, planning and probably funding - and most vitally, great precision in the execution execution - such an enterprise would need.

2
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: But what motive?

"I find it surprising their isn't more discussion or speculation on what motive might drive events as they panned out (at least in the 'criminal' scenario's discussed) "

I would suspect that there's a whole lot more known than has been released about cargoes, crew and passengers. And that's why there's not more speculation about motives - because there's nothing in the public domain to offer any grist to this mill. But behind the scenes the investigators must be focusing on exactly the purpose of any plan, as one of the many lines of enquiry.

1
0

Re: But what motive?

"But what motive? I find it surprising their isn't more discussion or speculation on what motive might drive events as they panned out"

Because it's just empty speculation, without any factual evidence. Better to play guessing games based on things we know, rather than things we don't know.

I'm sure a lot of people involved are looking at that kind of thing, but the information just isn't out there for the rest of us. Indeed: There seems no rational motive at present. Elaborate pilot suicide is the most rational speculation, but even that exists in somewhat of a vacuum.

Frankly, I'm shocked that nobody has yet suggested that it was Putin paying good money for the service so that it got the media's eyes away from Crimea! It's as good a conspirricy theory as any I've yet seen.

3
0

Re: But what motive?

...There seems no rational motive at present. Elaborate pilot suicide is the most rational speculation, but even that exists in somewhat of a vacuum...

How about:

Pilot plans to crash aircraft into Petronas Towers for political reasons

Pilot kills passengers with hypoxia and turns plane round

Pilot bottles out over Malacca Strait, flies to Maldives instead

Pilot lands aircraft in sea close to island where it sinks, and paddles to shore to hide with local tourists

....

I suggest that we drop the current investigation and turn it over to a Hollywood script writer. Preferably one who is an Agatha Christie fan. We probably need Miss Marple AND Hercule Poirot on this one, with Holmes acting as a consultant...

0
0
Anonymous Coward

Guess

What if the plane never left Malaysia but was hidden in some secret military airfield hanger,

All that evasive maneuvers of low altitude flying or changing courses were aimed at confusing detection.

2
1
Anonymous Coward

Airplane mode

The airplane was on "Airplane mode" so it couldn't be detected.

2
0
Silver badge

A couple of things

Let's assume there was some hijack element to this whole thing.

(1) You land successfully. How do you get over 230 passengers to do what you say? This is not like a sheep dog trial (one dog, lots of sheep).

(2) There must be some outward indication that the pilot had a plan of what he was doing: maps at his home, programs or data built into the flight simulator he constructed, telephone or credit card records of hotel bookings he'd made on lastminute.com, etc.etc.

If this was some elaborate suicide then he has successfully achieved notoriety. If he was a Perfectionist (I suspect he might have been) then the one detail that eluded his plans for complete disappearance was the Inmarsat pings - something he was unaware of. Presumably an analysis of his flight simulator would enlighten investigators whether he overlooked this tracking method.

1
0

Hijacking foiled scenario?

1. Plane sets off on flight to Beijing.

2. Plane is hijacked by tech savvy terrorist intent on a 9/11 type attack on Beijing.

3. Terrorist disables pilot and coerces co-pilot to make 'good night' call.

4. Terrorist turns off all comms that they know about.

5. Co-pilot alters course without alerting terrorist.

6. Plane flies out to sea where it can do no more harm.

0
0

Re: Hijacking foiled scenario?

2. Plane is hijacked by tech savvy terrorist intent on a 9/11 type attack on Beijing.

5. Co-pilot alters course without alerting terrorist.

6. Plane flies out to sea where it can do no more harm.

And tech-savvy terrorist forgets how to read a compass....

1
0
Silver badge

Re: Hijacking foiled scenario?

"4. Terrorist turns off all comms that they know about.

5. Co-pilot alters course without alerting terrorist."

Possible, but if the terrorist knows enough about the systems to turn them off, then logically he'd be sufficiently savvy to monitor what the co-pilot is doing. Moreover, he can't rely on a coerced pilot to carry out a terror attack, so he would need to know how to fly the plane himself, and the co-pilot is surplus baggage the moment he has finished talking to Malaysian ATC. In this scenario the only reason for not incapacitating the co-pilot is so there's no change of voice to alert the ATC who have communicated with the flight outbound from KL, but then you'd expect the terrorist to take over the flying and communication with Vietnamese and subsequent ATC. So long as he communicates according to known protocols then there's nothing to alert them until the airline goes off course.

2
1
Silver badge
Trollface

Re: Hijacking foiled scenario?

Plane is hijacked by tech savvy terrorist intent on a 9/11 type attack on Beijing.

Considering that no a single peep was hear from the nation-state listening stations, whereas for 9/11 chatter was extensive, the whole folder was basically on the FBI's desk and the undercover guy was phoning it in but got recalled for retarded bureaucratic infighting reasons... this is very unlikely.

"And tech-savvy terrorist forgets how to read a compass...."

"Batteries, Aziz!"

2
1
Silver badge

Re: Hijacking foiled scenario?

A downvote? Guess in 2014 there are still wankers who actually believe 9/11 was a "complete surprise".

1
1

Re: Hijacking foiled scenario?

...A downvote? Guess in 2014 there are still wankers who actually believe 9/11 was a "complete surprise"..

That's nothing. I got downvoted for pointing out that you could disable the oxygen mask deployment from the cockpit....

1
0

Re: Hijacking foiled scenario?

And I got downvoted for suggesting that "cantalope" is missing a "u" somewhere!

This is all bloody unfair and I want my con-pay-say-shun!

3
0

Re: Hijacking foiled scenario?

" Plane is hijacked by tech savvy terrorist intent on a 9/11 type attack on Beijing."

Target makes no sense, though. The flight was going there, so why hi-jack when the plane has just reached altitude and risk getting rumbled long before you get there?

A coerced first officer would likely make a much more formal and less relaxed call. There's no way a tech-savvy hi-jacker would allow such an informal 'call.

1
0

Re: Hijacking foiled scenario?

And tech-savvy terrorist forgets how to read a compass....

So by process of elimination, one or terrorism's dimmer light bulbs? There was a bunch who hijacked an airliner and wouldn't believe the pilot that it didn't have the range to go where they wanted, until it ran out of fuel. (And ditched near a holiday resort island, with quite a few survivors).

A pilot who knew he was going to die and it was just a matter of saving people on the ground, might even cut power to the cabin pressurisation systems and reprogram the autopilot to take the plane out into the ocean after everybody had gone to sleep.

0
0

There is at least one other possibility...

...that there was nothing wrong with the plane at all, it's not lost, it's just touched down at a minor airport in China for technical reasons and the passengers are all in a local hotel waiting for a part to be flown in.

This whole exercise could be a mistake, but once started, everyone involved is just too scared to say that what they are doing is pointless.

Don't underestimate the power of humans to do something wrong, and then dig themselves into much bigger problems simply by telling lies to themselves. I've seen it often on big computer projects - I assume it happens to humans everywhere...

0
3
Silver badge
Trollface

Re: There is at least one other possibility...

then dig themselves into much bigger problems simply by telling lies to themselves

I suppose the solution to this here problem would then be to move everything into the cloud....

0
0

Re: There is at least one other possibility...

Pretty sure anywhere that could land a 777 beyond a flat bit of desert would have at least a phone line. Let alone a "hotel" would have one and TV's for the passengers to phone home after seeing the media storm.

The absence of this happening means at the very least the passengers and non pilot crew are unfortunately likely to be dead. Good luck trying to keep 200 people of different nationalities from trying mobiles or running away (assuming it landed).

0
0

...This whole exercise could be a mistake, but once started, everyone involved is just too scared to say that what they are doing is pointless.

1 thumb down

Ahmad Jauhari Yahy? Is that you?

0
0

Weebl had it right...all together now-

'They are LOST on a magical island and nobody knows where they are'

I'll get my coat.

0
0

I'll go for a fire in the electronics bay that caused the blackout, and the plane is now lying at the bottom of the sea ... http://www.wired.com/autopia/2014/03/mh370-electrical-fire/

0
2
Vic
Silver badge

> I'll go for a fire in the electronics bay that caused the blackout

That's quite unlikely; the 777 has two main AC busses, powered from any of 3 main generators, with a ram-air turbine as a fourth option. Power can be routed from anywhere to anywhere.

In the event of an uncontrollable fire - to the extent that the offending components cannot be shut down and extinguished - it's very unlikely that the aircraft would have power for flight control or satcom. We can be pretty sure about the former (since the aircraft did turn, and the cable backups are only intended to maintain straight-and-level flight while the electrics are restarted, according to the FCOM), and we know the latter.

So an amount of the electrical system was alive. The 777 has many radios - typically 3 VHF, 2 HF and 2 SATCOM. In the event that there was a big fire, I think it unlikely that someone was able to turn the aircraft around, but couldn't get off a mayday call, a mayday squawk, or trigger the ELT beacon.

Vic.

1
0
Anonymous Coward

Pilot error over hijacking?!

It's funny how people like to jump to the "it's them terrorist what did it" before having all the facts. As has been said before, no one group has claimed responsibility, no one has received anything from anyone during the hijacking.

The only reason to jump to this conclusion is to keep the rest of the public calm. If people think that flying is grossly unsafe and have no faith in the aviation community it would cause a lot of issues for that community. Also it stops the Malay government from looking completely bumbling, when we all accept that until this plane is found we just don't know what happened.

That said....

Perhaps it was a combination of catastrophic failure and pilot error. It has been well documented that some plane crashes were caused by pilots going into a state of panic and no long act upon their training *assuming they have been train in such scenarios*. It has also been well documented that hydraulic failure causes erratic changes in altitude, climbing and falling great heights until the plane stops. Air Japan fought for over 20 mins in the 80's to try to guide a plane back to safety when the tail ripped off cutting all hydraulic cables, they also didn't act in the way they should have due to panic, hypoxia and fighting to control the plane.

Pilot suicide is possible, it has happened before so could happen again. But if that is the case finding the black box will never prove that's what happened, just things went wrong.

Just as possible is an electrical fire caused by a mouse getting in the plane, with all the insulation around it would have taken a long time to take hold. All the while things start going wrong and pilots not thinking it's anything and turning off alarms (again this has happened).

I'm no expert and am just as interested as everyone else to find out what happened. But don't forget. 262 are missing presumed dead, have some thought to their families!

0
1
Meh

1. We don't have verified evidence that the MH370 changed course. We only have primary radar sightings of an unidentified aircraft.

2. We have no evidence that the aircraft "flew" for hours. Only that the satcom device belonging to MH370 responded to pings.

3. We have no evidence that ACARS and transponder equipment were switched off. We only know that they stopped transmitting.

4. Distance to the last ping is a single arc. I've heard of no reason why they should be split into northern and southern corridors. The only constraint should be the fuel range of the aircraft from its last known location.

0
1

1) We have primary radar traces that all the people who have access to the raw data believe is the missing flight.

2) We don't know that the 'pings' represented an aircraft in the air. but we DO know that they represent an engine that is not powered down and is receiving an electrical signal. So it's not likely to be coming from a wreck or a parked plane.

3) Correct, but if it stopped transmitting without being switched off, then the 'pings' would not be transmitted. But they were.

4) Eh? There reason has been given: The pings were picked up by a geo-sync bird over the Indian Ocean. The last one was a known distance from that bird, making the final destination of the plane within an hour of that arc.

1
0

"2) ...we DO know that they represent an engine that is not powered down and is receiving an electrical signal. So it's not likely to be coming from a wreck or a parked plane."

They do not come from the engine. They merely indicate that the satcomm equipment was powered up.

"3) Correct, but if it stopped transmitting without being switched off, then the 'pings' would not be transmitted. But they were."

ACARS and Transponders are physically separate (separately powered) from satellite com kit. ACARS can send via the satellite link but the ACARS engine status reports were being transmitted via VHF.

4) Eh? There reason has been given: The pings were picked up by a geo-sync bird over the Indian Ocean. The last one was a known distance from that bird, making the final destination of the plane within an hour of that arc.

My question was why this arc is split into northern and southern sectors.

0
0

MH370 arc

4. This might help (MH370 arc) They seem to assume the plane must be at least as far its slowest speed would carry it in a straight line from the last known fix, therefore eliminating the middle of the arc. I don't know what justifies that decision - surely manoeuvres could mean it was closer than the distance in a straight line at its slowest speed - ie anywhere on the whole arc + flying time left.

0
0

With regard to item 4, I was directed in another forum to this:

http://www.inmarsat.com/about-us/our-satellites/our-coverage/

It explains why the arc is divided into northern and southern sectors. The central area (South China Sea) is also covered by another satellite over the Pacific. If the last ping came from this are, it would have been picked up by the second satellite as well.

1
0

"They do not come from the engine. They merely indicate that the satcomm equipment was powered up."

Sources more knowledgeable than I have stated that they only handshake when the engine is powered up. I'm happy to be proven wrong, but your version conflicts with what has been formally stated.

"ACARS and Transponders are physically separate (separately powered) from satellite com kit. ACARS can send via the satellite link but the ACARS engine status reports were being transmitted via VHF."

Yes, I understand. But they were turned off at completely different times.

0
0

the company set to make the most money...

from selling products and services that enable continuous reporting of telemetry data from all commercial airlines...

will be shredding a whole bunch of documents as we speak.

as well as "eliminating" a fair few individuals who know too much.

0
3
Holmes

Gruesome chance missed

Almost all of the previous options are bloody good guesses, apart from the "down the back of the settee" one which i personally liked.

I think that one gruesome aspect of this may have presented a chance that's almost certainly gone now - and that's the most obvious debris from a crash at sea - bodies.

In that area, thousands of shipwrecks and military sinkings from various wars, have fed a large population of - sharks.

So...if they had looked for a huge mass of sharks in the relevant area(s), there just might have been a 777 in there somewhere.

Just saying is all...chercher le requin

0
0
Headmaster

Re: Gruesome chance missed

drat that French A level and my paltry leetle grey cells...it should of colurse be "cherchez"

0
0

Page:

This topic is closed for new posts.

Forums

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2017