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.
  1. chizz

    Here's more sensible analysis...

    https://plus.google.com/app/basic/stream/z13cv1gohsmbv5jmy221vrfyiz3vdhbop04

    1. Pete 2 Silver badge

      Re: Here's more sensible analysis...

      I was just about to post the exact same link (as published by a commentard from The Independent, this morning).

      Sadly, I have to say that the simplest explanation is the most likely: fire & crash.

      The worrying thing is that so many people are so ready to believe intricate conspiracy theories about terrorism and/or crime. Though I guess this is the news media's version of nature abhorring a (information) vacuum. Gotta instill some fear to sell the papers.

      1. Chris Miller

        Re: Here's more sensible analysis...

        An excellent theory when it was posted. But it is no longer consistent with the (apparent) fact that ACARS 'keep alive' transmissions were received for 7 hours.

        1. Martin Gregorie Silver badge

          Re: Here's more sensible analysis...

          An excellent theory when it was posted. But it is no longer consistent with the (apparent) fact that ACARS 'keep alive' transmissions were received for 7 hours.

          I thought that on first reading, but its a wrong interpretation. Read it again. In the middle Chris Goodfellow says:

          "What I think happened is that they were overcome by smoke and the plane just continued on the heading probably on George (autopilot) until either fuel exhaustion or fire destroyed the control surfaces and it crashed."

          That explains the ACARS "remember me" pings as well as flying out to sea.

          1. Chris Miller

            @Martin Gregorie

            The 'time to live' for an airliner with a serious fire on board is minutes, not hours. The fire would have to be strong enough to knock out (and presumably kill) the pilots (no mayday messages sent), and then subside for 7 hours until fuel exhaustion. I'm afraid this is no longer plausible (but then I'm not aware of any plausible explanation that fits all the 'known' facts).

            1. Burnerjack

              Re: @Martin Gregorie

              Martin, I think you maybe on to something there. "..doesn't fit the known facts..." Unless of course the "known facts" are not fact at all. The plot thickens....

            2. Tom 13

              Re: @Martin Gregorie

              So long as were going all weird theory here, what if instead of a serious fire it was a problem with one of those new battery packs? Enough damage to the electrical system to take communications offline, plenty of toxic smoke to kill the passengers and crew, but maybe no actual fire. Or is this the wrong type of plane for those batteries?

              1. Vic

                Re: @Martin Gregorie

                > Or is this the wrong type of plane for those batteries?

                Yes. You're thinking of the 787. MH370 is a 777-200ER.

                Vic.

              2. RobHib

                @Tom 13 -- Re: @Martin Gregorie

                It occurred to me several days ago before I'd read any of these posts that it couldn't have been fire (the plane having flown for some hours after the start of the incident and fires on planes don't let that happen), but if everyone on board had been disabled or killed by a toxic gas then it would be possible--George would have flown the plane until it ran out of fuel.

                Trouble with this logic is how could it happen. It's conceivable that if the pilots had detected/sensed a gas of 'unknown source' then they could have pulled power switches on the assumption it came from some electrical source (thinking it a potential fire).

                Any gas from decomposition of industrial materials, insulation etc., is usually acrid, and whilst ultimately dangerous it's not instantaneously toxic, thus passengers would have had time to have used mobiles and pilots to call mayday (even if power circuits had been initially switched off).

                Furthermore, it's hard to come up with any chemical that would be carried on a plane (even in the cargo) that could disable everyone without warning (but with just sufficient time for pilots to switch off power (transponders) and do nothing else). That leaves us with conspiracy theories and other way-out ideas such as something similar to the Aum Shinrikyo sarin attack on the Tokyo subway, which I'm not inclined to believe. Even then--given the incident began in Malaysian airspace--it's highly unlikely that any exotic gas could have dispersed and worked so quickly without someone communicating to the outside world (unless a pilot had planned it himself and only deployed the gas after the plane was well outside mobile phone range--i.e.: well past the Malay peninsular).

                Such ideas are fascinating and morbidly intriguing for us armchair analysts (especially to this longtime 777 passenger), but as a believer in the conspiracy=1%, fuckup=99% theory, I reckon it'll turn out to be something more prosaic (and even if initiated by the pilot(s), it won't be that convoluted).

                In the meantime, we must not lose sight that this is a tragedy for both those on board the plane and their waiting relatives.

        2. TechnicalBen Silver badge

          Re: Here's more sensible analysis...

          "7 hours transmission" is sadly possible if the last command was autopilot before a smoke/fire left no one to do anything more. Depending on the type of fire/problem.

          It's a low probability, but I'd guess about the same as the other options until we get more (if any) data.

          Stranger things have happened with many parts mechanical systems.

        3. Bilby

          Re: Here's more sensible analysis...

          Well having reviewed as much as I can of the data, and trying to ignore as much as I can of the bullshit generated internally in the media, here is my currently favoured hypothesis (based in large part on what Chris Goodfellow was saying on his Google+ page) - most of which fits the few known facts, and none of which requires anything currently known to be impossible:-

          There were two 'events', separating the flight into three phases.

          Phase 1: Normal, routine take-off and climb out of KL. Having reached cruise altitude (about FL350), the aircraft settles into cruise mode, and as they depart the Malaysian ATC zone, the First Officer says 'goodnight' to the Malaysian controller.

          Event 1: A severe event occurs which disables a large fraction of the aircraft's electronics. A fire, structural failure, meteorite impact, or similar - there are plenty of things that can go bad, killing the electronics but not causing the plane to crash immediately. Perhaps an oxygen tank ruptures and takes out a cable bus under the cockpit. Whatever it was, either the event itself, or the aircrew's response to it, results in the loss of transponder and VHF (a fire might lead the crew to pull a number of circuit breakers, for example).

          Phase 2: The captain is an experienced local pilot. He decides that rather than turn back to KL, which is a busy airport on the other side of some high terrain (and bearing in mind that he cannot raise ATC to have a slot cleared for his aircraft to land), he will head for the slightly closer, larger, and far less busy airport at Pulau Langkawi. He knows that airport, and he knows the area; but with much of the avionics shot, and flying at night, he keeps the navigation a simple as possible, turning left and crossing the Malay peninsula somewhat North of the target airfield, at the point where the terrain is at its lowest, and knowing that even if he can't locate the airport electronically, he can simply follow the coast south once he reaches the Strait of Malacca, until he sees the runway lights. Unbeknownst to the pilots, they are tracked some of the way by military radar; however none of the radar operators are aware that a civillian aircraft is missing at this point, and so no particular notice is taken at the time.

          Event 2: Having reached the straits, the pilot attempts his Southerly turn; but at that point, something else goes wrong. Perhaps weakened by the earlier incident, the cabin pressurization falls to the point where the crew succumb to hypoxia; perhaps the control systems for the aircraft go the same way as the R/F gear and simply stop working; but the aircraft, now no longer under the control of its crew, becomes stuck on a southerly heading.

          Phase 3: With all on board deceased, incapacitated, or (less plausibly) simply unable to do anything to influence the heading of the aircraft, it flies on into the night, until it runs out of fuel. The Satcom transceiver, the only remaining functional comms gear on the aircraft (which will work as long as it has power, even if no signals can be sent from the cockpit to the transceiver) continues its hourly handshake 'ping' with the INMARSAT bird at 64E, the last 'ping' coming shortly before the crash, at a point on the Southern 'arc' currently under investigation by SAR.

          Of course, there are lots of other possibilities; but at this stage, none fit the known facts as well as the above, with a minimum of speculative additional 'facts' not currently in evidence.

          1. bep

            Re: Here's more sensible analysis...

            This seems fairly plausible to me. Penang airport is not far from Langkawi either, and there is still a military airport at Butterworth I think, all pretty close together. I note that recent reports have changed the status of the reporting systems from 'deliberately turned off' to 'ceased transmitting', which is a significant clarification in this context.

          2. Burnerjack

            Re: Here's more sensible analysis...

            Bilby, maybe I'm confused, but the event which caused the transponder to stop occurred BEFORE the "goodnight" call. This would indicate that either the cockpit was not aware of the transponder's status or WAS, by the cockpit's own actions.

            If the Military was aware of aircraft in its sphere of influence flying without a transponder (whether civilian or military Friend or Foe) , in the post 911 era, it would be unlikely that no aircraft would be sent to intercept once radio contact was refused.

            'Phase one' scenario INHO, is quite flawed.

          3. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

            Re: Here's more sensible analysis...

            In support of the 'fire' hypothesis, it may be of interest to note that the 777 has had a well-publicised cockpit fire on the ground at Cairo.

            And if you look through the accident reports, you see at least one more, reported as 'smoke coming through vents' at Heathrow in 2007. But that was actually an electrical fire where the insulation was burning.

            There could be a scandal waiting to happen here. Insulation is not meant to burn. And incident reports are not meant to conceal what has happened. I suggest that the 777 needs a good look at its electrics...

      2. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

        Re: Here's more sensible analysis...

        "I have to say that the simplest explanation is the most likely: fire & crash."

        Why?

        When it is known that the plane's equipment has been deliberately reconfigured before the plane itself has changed course the simplest explanation must surely be - it has been stolen, no?

        1. 2+2=5 Silver badge

          Re: Here's more sensible analysis...

          > When it is known that the plane's equipment has been deliberately reconfigured before the plane itself has changed course

          Sequence of events:- 1) **electrical** fire starts; 2) alarms go off in cockpit; 3) pilots pull fuses in attempt to cut current and prevent fire becoming worse; 4) pilots then change course for emergency landing; 5) pilots unable to communicate as comms now cut due to fuses pulled

          This is still consistent with fire and crash.

          1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

            Re: Here's more sensible analysis...

            Except that between your 2 and 3 the pilot transmits "roger that, goodnight", or something along those lines.

            1. 2+2=5 Silver badge

              Re: Here's more sensible analysis...

              > Except that between your 2 and 3 the pilot transmits "roger that, goodnight", or something along those lines.

              Between 2 & 3 is not possible. Before 1 or between 1 & 2 only. This is still consistent with a fire: the fire disables ACARS; the fire spreads; alarms go off; the sequence plays out as I described.

              So it *could* still be a fire.

              The other alternatives are looking unlikely: if hijacked, where are the claims from the hijackers' supporters? If terrorists, where are the claims from the terrorists' supporters? If suicide by one of the pilots, why do the left turn? Why not just crash into the sea as soon as out of radar range? Why not just jump under a train, or off a building, or take an overdose?

      3. Psyx

        Re: Here's more sensible analysis...

        "Sadly, I have to say that the simplest explanation is the most likely: fire & crash."

        Fire and crash somewhere well away from where it should be seems fairly possible, but that's a lot of ground to cover. Downed planes make a lot of mess, and that mess should be visible from quite a long way away from the air.

        The Northern arc seems a likely route if there was some great over-arcing plan. And it's the route that should be investigated if we're looking for survivors.

        However, the cynic pop psychologist in me says that the plot might have flown South over the ocean. He was into his plane and knew it well. If he did want to go out in style, how appealing would it to be to just fly off over the Indian ocean, knowing that at some point you'd be at the point of no return and all of the passenger's fretting would be futile: Real power over life and death. Plus the bonus of creating an enduring mystery, given that there's no way that the entire ocean could ever be searched. You'd get to go out over and endless sea and maybe see just how acrobatic a 777 can get.

        So: South for elaborate suicide, North for something even more intriguing and nefarious.

        Thoughts?

        1. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: Here's more sensible analysis...

          "The Northern arc seems a likely route..."

          The two arcs are not routes. They are a representation of the possibilities for *** -> a single position at a single point in time, <- *** about 7.5 hours into the flight.

          One single point anywhere along those lines. This is assuming that the boffins at Inmarsat have done their sums correctly - likely (but I hope that they've checked their assumptions).

        2. Shannon Jacobs
          Holmes

          Mass murder and elaborate suicide...

          I'm inclined to this theory, which is probably on the southern arc. I think one of the pilots killed the other one, and then took the plane high enough to suffocate the passengers and flight crew. I'm guessing he was able to cut off their oxygen, too. After that, he flew to some distant location and carefully ditched the plane. If the plane didn't leak enough after the ditching, then he helped it along, perhaps by cracking the doors open, until the plane sank. No wreckage, no life rafts, no survivors.

          If it was just an elaborate suicide, then he presumably went down with the plane. If 'only' a mass murder, then he might have ditched near land and tried to make it to shore.

          Horrifying and insane. I remain unable to comprehend the lack of continuous and uninterruptable telemetry on all large planes.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Mass murder and elaborate suicide...

            Cutting off the oxygen supply supposedly needs to be done on the ground outside the aircraft and cannot be performed in the cockpit. Also, no mobile phones were ever used or at least never made contact with anything. This surely affects some of the theories.

            1. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

              Re: Mass murder and elaborate suicide...

              ...Cutting off the oxygen supply supposedly needs to be done on the ground outside the aircraft and cannot be performed in the cockpit...

              Where did you pick this up? The pilots have a full flight engineer panel, which includes circuit breakers for ALL electrical systems. This includes the oxygen generator and mask deployment.

              They have to have this because they are expected to shut off power to any part of the aircraft in case of an electrical fault/fire.

              The only items the pilots couldn't control from the flight deck would be the portable masks used by the cabin staff. But if the passenger masks don't deploy and the pressure warning signs are disabled, the cabin crew would not realise they needed to put these on and they would just collapse like the passengers.

              Alternatively, a pilot could empty the small oxygen bottles quite rapidly if he could gain access to these at some point earlier in the flight....

          2. Vic

            Re: Mass murder and elaborate suicide...

            > then he helped it along, perhaps by cracking the doors open

            How's that achieved, then?

            Vic.

    2. dogged

      Re: Here's more sensible analysis...

      Here's a less sensible analysis. Just so we cover all the angles.

    3. petur

      Re: Here's more sensible analysis...

      Another theory (haven't checked if it matches the arcs)

      http://keithledgerwood.tumblr.com/post/79838944823/did-malaysian-airlines-370-disappear-using-sia68-sq68

      1. Martin Gregorie Silver badge

        Re: Here's more sensible analysis...

        Another theory (haven't checked if it matches the arcs)

        http://keithledgerwood.tumblr.com/post/79838944823/did-malaysian-airlines-370-disappear-using-sia68-sq68

        This is one of the most unlikely ideas I've read this week.

        Military radars are designed to resolve multiple targets: if enemy aircraft are incoming you want to know how many are in what might be a tight formation, not just that there is one or more aircraft coming your way. At the very least the two 777s would have been seen before MH370 formated on SIA68 and any half-decent military radar set would report two targets in close proximity thereafter.

        While its true that one plane can theoretically hide in the radar shadow of another, you can only do that by putting the other plane precisely between you and the radar set and manoevering to keep it there. A military pilot might be able to do that because he will be trained in close formation flying; an airline pilot will not because formation flying is not part of his required skillset. To stay in the radar shadow at night MH370 would have to be carrying at least one receiver tuned to the military radar frequency, have a properly installed antenna on the 777 and, preferably, a flight computer programmed to keep it in the radar shadow. Lastly, you can only hide behind another plane while only one radar is operating. The technique simply won't work as long as long as you're in range of more than one primary radar set: at least one of them will see two reflections.

    4. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. dogged

        Re: Here's more sensible analysis...

        >the lizard people took it back to their masonic lodge to run transhumanist experiments. it's so obvious.

        Dammit, I don't know of an image macro for that one.

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

        2. Burnerjack

          Re: Here's more sensible analysis...

          Lizard people? Pretty sure its under a tarp in the back of a Bronx chop shop. Those engines ain't cheap.

          Those rims? Everyone wants those rims! What about that radio? Sweet!

    5. Tom Samplonius

      Re: Here's more sensible analysis...

      https://plus.google.com/app/basic/stream/z13cv1gohsmbv5jmy221vrfyiz3vdhbop04

      No plane could be on fire, but somehow continue to fly for another 5 hours. And the fire somehow destroyed the transponder and the backup transponder, and the radio, and incapacitated the pilots in the first 30 minutes, but somehow the autopilot still worked?

      Pilots want this to be equipment failure so bad.

    6. Joe Gurman

      Re: Here's more sensible analysis...

      Occam's razor is always so much less pub-chat-worthy than a loony conspiracy theory involving stealing bullion.

  2. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
    FAIL

    "The satellite would thus know to keep one of its receiving assemblies aligned..."

    "The satellite would thus know to keep one of its receiving assemblies aligned at a suitable angle."

    FAIL.

    Complete bollocks.

    1. Psyx

      Re: "The satellite would thus know to keep one of its receiving assemblies aligned..."

      "The satellite would thus know to keep one of its receiving assemblies aligned at a suitable angle.""

      ie downward at planet earth.

      1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

        Re: "The satellite would thus know to keep one of its receiving assemblies aligned..."

        ie downward at planet earth.

        And for the other dimensions? Omnidirectional aerial, or a beam that can be steered around a 360° compass rose?

      2. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: "The satellite would thus know to keep one of its receiving assemblies aligned..."

        "ie downward at planet earth."

        As opposed to randomly aiming off into space? And the Inmarsat satellite depends upon random airliners to keep its spatial orientation? Utter nonsense. Doesn't anyone have any common sense about how technology works, at least in general?

        Ref: MH370_last_ping_corridors.jpg image.

        Inmarsat at about 64E, .: must be I-3 F1 at 64.5E. Inmarsat satellites do have spot beams, but the pattern is fixed. These satellites do not steer beams onto individual aircraft clients. That is *obviously* impractical for a general service provider such as Inmarsat.

        The oh-so confusing "tilt" angle of 40 degrees (ref image) is simply a representation of the calculated range ring from the satellite, where the computed range intercepts the Earth. The range was derived by Inmarsat boffins based on signal timing (range).

        1. Psyx

          Re: "The satellite would thus know to keep one of its receiving assemblies aligned..."

          "As opposed to randomly aiming off into space?"

          Yes, I was being trite towards the idea that the bird points receivers at individual targets, rather than having a wide angle of reception.

          1. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
            Pint

            Re: "The satellite would thus know to keep one of its receiving assemblies aligned..."

            @ Psyx

            Okay. Sorry, I missed that it was trite. Cheers. Here, have a beer...

            1. Psyx

              Re: "The satellite would thus know to keep one of its receiving assemblies aligned..."

              Someone didn't like me having that beer. :(

              But it was too late, because I'd drunk it by that point.

              As regards the 'pings' received and triangulating them... a comment on about page 4 along the lines of "Why can't we find the plane on spy satellites photos?" did spur an interesting thought:

              Although no other birds or receivers would be listening out for random radio handshakes other than the one managing ACARS, there's a good chance someone might have sniffed and registered it: The NRO.

              Specifically, ELINT birds are there to hoover data and see what they can see, and are very sensitive.

              If anyone might have picked up the pings as well and might be able to help triangulate, it would be an ELINT bird. Hopefully people are having a look-see at the data on the off-chance.

        2. Shoot Them Later

          Re: "The satellite would thus know to keep one of its receiving assemblies aligned..."

          Having spent far too much time following the ever-expanding thread on PPRuNe, I found this a good summary. Some issues with it (like the purported alignment of receiving assemblies) but better than most media.

          From my perspective, the big unanswered question about INMARSAT is what about the other pings? The distance from the satellite calculated from the final ping is being discussed, but what about the preceding ones. These would give us an indication if whether the plane was moving, and what approximate direction. You could use this information to infer whether the plane was likely to be in the southern or northern corridors for example, and it would certainly be useful to know if it had stopped moving with respect to the satellite. However, this information has not been given - and frustratingly journalists have not asked for it in the press conferences. It's entirely possible that only the last ping was retained by the system, but it would be good to know that.

          I would also be interested in what level if detail the system recorded ping send/receive times. +/- 1 ms implies a particular level of accuracy, if this is greater or less then accuracy is changed, possibly significantly. I've not seen this reported anywhere.

          With the conspiracy hat on, I find it amazing that no journalist in the press conferences has pressed for a cargo manifest. The only concrete statement made by the authorities is that "nothing hazardous" was on board. A very valuable cargo has not been ruled out. If there was nothing valuable on board, why not explicitly and unambiguously rule this out?

          The standard of both questions and answers at the press conferences is terrible. Take the ACARS being allegedly switched off before the last voice transmission. Crucial point but turns out it was misleading; accurate version is that last ACARS transmission was *sent* before last voice contact. Actual ACARS disabling time may have been later. Bad communication of facts, and an equally bad failure to seek clarification from the journos present.

          The whole thing is a masterclass in how not to run an investigation and handle the associate public relations. Unless of course [tin foil hat!] it is all an act of pretend incompetence :)

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: "The satellite would thus know to keep one of its receiving assemblies aligned..."

            Agree it would be good to see the range and time information for the other pings. And even if nobody made a call, was every phone on board correctly turned off? - has anybody checked to see if any phone linked to one of the passengers pinged a base station?

          2. bep

            Re: "The satellite would thus know to keep one of its receiving assemblies aligned..."

            I agree the communication has been very poor but it highlights a continuing problem. If I were a media rep with sufficient funds I'd hire the best translator I could and go to the press conferences given in the languages these officials speak at home - Bahasa Malaysia. I'd then get the replies translated. Plenty of people in Asia speak good international English but that isn't necessarily good enough to deal with highly technical issues in a highly emotional environment with an international press corps, many of whom aren't native English speaker either. I have Malaysian relatives and have been there plenty of times so I have some idea what I'm talking about. I'm quite sure some of these communication breakdowns are things that have been lost in translation. The assumption that 'everyone speaks English' is unfortunate for all involved.

            1. Tom 13

              Re: good international English

              Excellent point. And in this context "highly technical" doesn't necessarily mean "technical" the way we IT people think about it. It's any area that has developed somewhat specialized terminology to describe things.

              Ran into this with anime conventions. You can hire an expert translator who would impress any seasoned diplomat, yet they have trouble effectively communicating between Japanese guests and American fans. Meanwhile the amateur who has learned the specialized language accurate communicates even though he stumbles through things the professional would handle with ease.

    2. TRT Silver badge

      Re: "The satellite would thus know to keep one of its receiving assemblies aligned..."

      Do they have high and low power amplifiers on the receiving assemblies? Enabling different data rates, high and low bandwidth? And do satellites not have power budgets and intelligent power management capability? A pulse that says "I'm in your line of sight - keep the high bandwidth receiver warm for a data burst"?

      1. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: "The satellite would thus know to keep one of its receiving assemblies aligned..."

        One good reason for an hourly handshaking signal is the same conceptual logic as your mobile phone: What if someone wants to call you? Where are you? How does the network find you?

        A handshaking signal upon power-up and every hour thereafter is about right for the Inmarsat network to know at least under which satellite is the aircraft. In that way, they know where to find you (roughly), in case somebody is calling you.

        Yes, the Inmarsat offers a vast range of modes and speeds. The satellites offer Global, Regional, and Spot beams (fixed pattern).

    3. Wanda Lust

      Re: "The satellite would thus know to keep one of its receiving assemblies aligned..."

      Fail #2: the satcom equipment isn't in the 777's MEC (main equipment center), it's all in a equipment bay above the passenger cabin. I'd be interested to know if the AIMS units fall back to VHF if they fail to talk to the SDU, VHF won't be much use out over the sea. If you check SITA Aircom's VHF coverage maps, it's apparent where VHF coverage is avalable, MAS is a SITA Aircomm (rather than ARINC) customer. Inmarsat & Iridium provide satcom coverage to SITA (and ARINC).

      Last year Boeing issued an Alert Service Bulletin concerning corrosion and cracking in the fuselage skin around the area of the satcom antenna (the aircraft has two, a high gain phased array for voice and data and a low gain 'shark fin' for low bandwidth data only). After months of discussion the service bulletin has been now issued by the FAA and EASA as a full Airworthiness Directive. That AD goes effective in April (next month).

      I'd replace the fire scenario with a gradual depressurization scenario akin to the Helios Airways incident. My hypothesis is the mid Gulf of Thailand turn was instigated by the crew aware of something going awry, switching the a/p out of FMS control to action a simple heading demand but failing to complete it before being overcome. I don't buy the further right/left zigzag over the Straits of Malacca - it just went straight out over the Indian Ocean.

      I read today that some old biddy on a remote Maldive atoll has told her local news website that she saw a big old 'jumbo jet' [sic] screaming over her roof later on Sat 8th March.

      1. Jonathan Richards 1

        Stop that!

        > I read today that some old biddy on a remote Maldive atoll has told her local news website that she saw a big old 'jumbo jet' [sic] screaming over her roof later on Sat 8th March.

        Where did you read that? Which atoll? What time?

        Without answers to these questions that contribution is noise, not signal.

        Thank you.

        1. Les Matthew
          Coat

          Re: Stop that!

          "Where did you read that? Which atoll? What time?

          Without answers to these questions that contribution is noise, not signal."

          It's what I would call atoll story.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What if it was ditched and sunk intact?

    One possibility that does not seem to have been discussed is the intentional landing on the sea and sinking of the aircraft. If it remained intact any slicks produced would be minimal and there would be little floating debris.

    This seems just as plausible as landing and hiding what is a fairly large aircraft.

    I must say I am surprised at the apparent lack of aircraft tracking in the region however, particularly given that the politics of the areas invovled are generally prickly at best.

    1. Psyx

      Re: What if it was ditched and sunk intact?

      "I must say I am surprised at the apparent lack of aircraft tracking in the region however, particularly given that the politics of the areas invovled are generally prickly at best."

      No volume of political spite can make cheap air defence systems work better, or over the horizon.

      Radar isn't magic: It works in straight lines* and needs to be part of an integrated, closely spaced network.

      *kinda, generally.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: What if it was ditched and sunk intact?

        "Radar isn't magic: It works in straight lines*"

        That's why military types use them from on top of (relatively) high flying aircraft, so as to get a better long range view.

        1. Psyx

          Re: What if it was ditched and sunk intact?

          "That's why military types use them from on top of (relatively) high flying aircraft, so as to get a better long range view."

          That's why over-budgeted air forces use a few of them on top of high flying aircraft, to provide detailed coverage of areas of interest.

          The USAF does not constantly fly AWACS up and down every border, 24/7. And most of the rest of the planet does not have airborne early warning radar systems.

          I'd be surprised if there wasn't an AWACS loitering over 'stan and another one Korea-way, but I very much doubt any of the local nations had any in the air.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: What if it was ditched and sunk intact?

            ". And most of the rest of the planet does not have airborne early warning radar systems."

            Well NATO, that is 28 nations...share 17 planes, and then you have 27 more airforces/navies having airborne radar systems, and quite a few ones of these are in Asia, including India, Pakistan, Thailand, Korea (both) , Japan, Taiwan and China.

            1. Psyx

              Re: What if it was ditched and sunk intact?

              "Well NATO, that is 28 nations...share 17 planes, and then you have 27 more airforces/navies having airborne radar systems, and quite a few ones of these are in Asia, including India, Pakistan, Thailand, Korea (both) , Japan, Taiwan and China."

              I'm not really seeing what your point is, especially as Korea and Japan aren't exactly near the search locations. I mean we might as well mention that old F14 Iran used to use as AEW too, if we're feeling keen.

              The vast majority of nations do not fly AEW around 24/7 in peacetime along non-volatile borders and oceans. It's very expensive and pretty pointless.

      2. poopypants

        @Psyx Re: What if it was ditched and sunk intact?

        "No volume of political spite can make cheap air defence systems work better, or over the horizon."

        Except for Australia's JORN, which works over the horizon. (Although I must admit it is far from cheap.)

        1. Psyx

          Re: @Psyx What if it was ditched and sunk intact?

          "Except for Australia's JORN, which works over the horizon. (Although I must admit it is far from cheap.)"

          People have been trying to improve radar by bouncing it off the upper atmosphere for 60-ish years now. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, but generally it's line of sight, and that's what you kinda trust it to do. Low-budget south east Asian countries don't have such luxuries.

          1. Tom7

            Re: @Psyx What if it was ditched and sunk intact?

            People have been trying to improve radar by bouncing it off the upper atmosphere for 60-ish years now. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, but generally it's line of sight, and that's what you kinda trust it to do. Low-budget south east Asian countries don't have such luxuries.

            No, but that southern search arc is largely within the coverage area of Jindalee.

    2. PerlyKing

      Re: What if it was ditched and sunk intact?

      I've seen some discussion of this and the consensus from people who claim to be in the know is that it is extremely difficult to land a large jet on water under any semblance of control, to the extent that it has *never* been done.

      1. Anonymous Blowhard

        Re: What if it was ditched and sunk intact?

        "it is extremely difficult to land a large jet on water under any semblance of control, to the extent that it has *never* been done."

        Oh yes it has!

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/US_Airways_Flight_1549

        But it seems an unlikely explanation.

      2. The BigYin

        Re: What if it was ditched and sunk intact?

        > to the extent that it has *never* been done.

        Sorry, that's cobblers. Did you forget the Hudson River? It's been done on a number of occasions with varying degrees of success: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Water_landing#Commercial_aircraft

        1. John Riddoch

          Re: What if it was ditched and sunk intact?

          As has been pointed out, you can land on water, but the vast majority of water landings are catastrophic. The Hudson landing was on relatively flat river water, a sea based landing would be harder.

          In any case, sinking an entire plane would be difficult. Many parts of the plane will float as they escape/break off and unless the passengers were restrained, you'd expect some of them to have remembered their life jackets.

          Still, the Indian ocean is huge and finding debris would be difficult without some kind of way of narrowing down the search area.

          My guess is someone knows something they're not telling - the Malaysian radar info was released very late after the event, I'm guessing something else will come out sometime.

      3. RainForestGuppy
        FAIL

        Re: What if it was ditched and sunk intact?

        "to the extent that it has *never* been done."

        Ok so what about US Airways Flight 1549 which an Airbus A320 which landed on the Hudson, intact and with all passengers and crew surviviing.

        http://www.nbcnews.com/id/28678669/ns/us_news-life/t/ny-jet-crash-called-miracle-hudson/#.Uyg-Mvl_uXw

        1. Chris Miller

          Re: What if it was ditched and sunk intact?

          It's generally agreed that the Hudson landing was a remarkable feat of airmanship, but it took place in benign conditions on an inland waterway. Quite different to attempting a landing in the open ocean, where even a few foot swell would be almost certain to cause catastrophe.

          1. Stevie Silver badge

            Re: What if it was ditched and sunk intact?

            "It's generally agreed that the Hudson landing was a remarkable feat of airmanship, but it took place in benign conditions on an inland waterway. Quite different to attempting a landing in the open ocean, where even a few foot swell would be almost certain to cause catastrophe."

            It was accomplished on a tidal estuary in a sky crowded with tall buildings with a number of roadbridges and watercraft to be contended with.

            There. Fixed it for you.

            Can't understand why landing on the open sea is harder than that, but I'm not a pilot.

            1. Stuart 22

              Re: What if it was ditched and sunk intact?

              The danger in landing on anything other than on the undercarriage on a flat hard surface is one of the wings or engines touching down before the other. The sudden enormous asymmetrical drag will spin the plane into oblivion. The trick is to pancake it perfectly flat. Not easy to do on a flat surface (and the Hudson was effectively flat) but in any swell next to impossible if you think about it. The middle of the Indian Ocean is likely to have quite a swell whether the surface is rough or smooth.

              There is no way a pilot could plan to ditch with any confidence of success. It would make "Miracle on the Hudson" look like landing a Tiger Moth on a deserted JFK.

            2. Tom 13

              Re: why landing on the open sea is harder than that

              For one of the key reasons* landing on an aircraft carrier is harder than landing at Heathrow:

              the landing surfaces moves.

              I'm not a pilot and I can recognize that difficulty.

              *And the shorter stopping distance and requirement for a tailhook. But even when they first started trying to land aircraft on a ship that moving landing strip was a real obstacle.

          2. Stoneshop Silver badge

            Re: What if it was ditched and sunk intact?

            @Chris Miller

            It's generally agreed that the Hudson landing was a remarkable feat of airmanship, but it took place in benign conditions on an inland waterway.

            But it was done with an almost total loss of thrust in both engines.

            Though I don't know if having engine power or not would make any difference in being able to put down the plane at sea with minimal damage. The pilot on Ethiopian Airlines 961 also tried ditching in sheltered water without engine power, and might have fared better if the plane hadn't banked at the last moment, causing the left wingtip to hit water first and the craft turning sideways before its body hit the water.

            1. Tom 13

              Re: done with an almost total loss of thrust

              That it was an exceptionally skilled and miraculous feat does not in anyway affect the fact the conditions were effectively benign.

              Neither does the fact that the conditions were benign negate the fact that it was an exceptionally skilled an miraculous landing.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: What if it was ditched and sunk intact?

        >to the extent that it has *never* been done

        Except maybe on the Hudson river, or perhaps you consider an A320 to be a small jet.

      5. EddieD

        Re: What if it was ditched and sunk intact?

        <cough>

        Does an A320 count as large?

        http://www.theguardian.com/world/2009/jan/16/us-airways-plane-crash-lands-on-hudson

      6. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: What if it was ditched and sunk intact?

        "...extremely difficult to land a large jet on water under any semblance of control, to the extent that it has *never* been done."

        "We'll be in the Hudson." A very very high semblance of control.

        Yes, a few bits broke off (e.g. an entire engine), but the only residual floaty bits were a couple of passengers that fell off the wing.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: What if it was ditched and sunk intact?

          And drown all the passengers or maybe kill them all beforehand, including the crew?

        2. PerlyKing
          Boffin

          Re: What if it was ditched and sunk intact?

          I thought that might stir up a few people ;-)

          Re: the Hudson River incident: as others have pointed out, it was on a calm inland waterway, not the open ocean. And that was hailed as a feat of extraordinary piloting.

          And no, an A320 is not a large jet (Airbus describes it as "The founding member of the Airbus single-aisle Family" (http://www.airbus.com/aircraftfamilies/passengeraircraft/a320family/a320/)).

          As for the list of water landings (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Water_landing#Commercial_aircraft), have a look at the aircraft types and the outcomes. Most of them are much smaller aircraft, and the outcomes were not generally very good.

          Interestingly that same Wiki page claims that "The FAA does not require commercial pilots to train to ditch".

          Getting back to MH370, you could argue that a pilot who was prepared for ditching and had not run out of fuel, had not lost one or more engines and was not flying in foul weather could do it. Possibly, but he'd still be trying to land upwards of 140 tonnes of aircraft at 250km/r. In the dark.

      7. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: What if it was ditched and sunk intact?

        Rubbish - I give you US Airways Flight 1549: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/US_Airways_Flight_1549

        Given the pilot's years of experience and a calm sea it's possible, not likely but possible to ditch and survive.

      8. DrStrangeLug

        There's a difference

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/US_Airways_Flight_1549

        It has been done.

      9. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: What if it was ditched and sunk intact?

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G9CZivaR0tU no never before... Surly anything is possible with John Travolta at the controls... And dont call he Shirley

      10. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: What if it was ditched and sunk intact?

        I disagree. US Airways Flight 1549 (Airbus A320-214) that ditched in the Hudson in 2009 was *very* intact when recovered... OK the Hudson River isn't oceanic but it shows there can be little damage if it is handled skilfully - like a 18K hour pilot perhaps? Just sayin'

    3. hugo tyson
      Go

      Re: What if it was ditched and sunk intact?

      "Switch on the underwater landing lights"

      - best line from any film, ever. :-)

  4. smudge Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Why could they turn everything off?

    One thing which has been bothering me - is there any good reason why the pilots should be able to turn off all comms and transponders?

    Another way of asking that is - is there any failure mode of the comms and/or transponder equipment which represents such a hazard to the plane - or to others - that shutdown of all such equipment is justified?

    Serious question. I guess that if there's no good reason, then somewhere along the line there will be a recommendation that all passenger aircraft carry some comms equipment that cannot be shut off by normal cockpit control.

    1. Lars Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: Why could they turn everything off?

      I think somebody explained the turning on/off as needed to check if the thing works.

    2. Dave Harvey

      Re: Why could they turn everything off?

      The other explanation is that they need to be able to switch it off if it has a short circuit etc.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Why could they turn everything off?

      One thing which has been bothering me - is there any good reason why the pilots should be able to turn off all comms and transponders?

      If one of these things starts spewing smoke then the circuit breaker is there to kill the electrics and whatever is causing the issue before a full scale fire / fault breaks out. However to disable these things isn't easy and indicates that it was definitely the pilot or co-pilot who carried out the action..

      As much as the media are hoping for a grand conspiracy theory and that the plane is landed safely in a muslim country ready to be kitted out with a nuke and sent off to some unsuspecting city the logical answer is sadly a lot more simple and tragic.

      Disillusioned pilot possibly with a political motive slips his co-pilot a mickey finn disables all the tracking gear turns the plane around takes it up to 45,000 feet nose dives it and then puts it in the drink hundreds of miles away from where he knows search crews will be looking

      1. NogginTheNog
        Thumb Down

        "Disillusioned pilot possibly with a political motive"

        I'm not sure how leaving behind a mystery advances any political motive much?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "Disillusioned pilot possibly with a political motive"

          I'm not sure how leaving behind a mystery advances any political motive much?

          If he puts it down in the water on the normal route it'd have been found within hours / days and there would not be anywhere near as much news coverage as we are getting. Rolling news channels by their very nature are quick to move on to the next tragedy once they've got all the mileage out of the current story.

          As it is because nobody has the faintest idea of where it is due to his elusive actions and change of course we are now into what the 11th day? of worldwide media coverage where papers and rolling news channels are digging through the pilots life story and revealing that he supported a certain political party, the leader of which was recently jailed, which the pilot may of found unjust. If the plane had been found within 24 - 48 hours I doubt there would be all this media coverage on the rolling news channels still and they wouldn't have got as far as mentioning the fact he was an avid supporter of a man who was jailed for simply being gay in 2014...

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: "Disillusioned pilot possibly with a political motive"

            " they wouldn't have got as far as mentioning the fact he was an avid supporter of a man who was jailed for simply being gay in 2014..."

            Not to mention being apparently a relative by marriage. Still, I still can't quite see how destroying your aircraft (having first ensured to as great a degree of certainty as you can that it will never be recovered or the truth known) and killing 239 innocent people advances any personal or political agenda, no matter how deranged you are. The straightforward suicide theory just doesn't work for me.

            1. JetSetJim Silver badge

              Re: "Disillusioned pilot possibly with a political motive"

              > Still, I still can't quite see how destroying your aircraft (having first ensured to as great a degree of certainty as you can that it will never be recovered or the truth known) and killing 239 innocent people advances any personal or political agenda, no matter how deranged you are

              Didn't you know - killing people is a good way of changing their minds.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: "Disillusioned pilot possibly with a political motive"

                "Didn't you know - killing people is a good way of changing their minds."

                Not if they don't ever know you did the killing.

        2. Tom 7 Silver badge

          Re: "Disillusioned pilot possibly with a political motive"

          perhaps - like most polical motives - it went off track.

        3. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: "Disillusioned pilot possibly with a political motive"

          It's a trailer for a new season of Lost?

        4. Truth4u

          Re: "Disillusioned pilot possibly with a political motive"

          "I'm not sure how leaving behind a mystery advances any political motive much?"

          He works for a production company than makes TV mystery shows, or owns shares in one, or bought shares before disappearing the plane, at the very least.

      2. Psyx

        Re: Why could they turn everything off?

        "However to disable these things isn't easy and indicates that it was definitely the pilot or co-pilot who carried out the action.."

        Dude, transponders are a box in the cockpit with an on/off/standby switch on them. Anyone can turn them off.

        The engine monitoring stuff... less so and more niche. A hijacker probably wouldn't know to order those to be switched off. But transponders... obvious and easy.

    4. Psyx

      Re: Why could they turn everything off?

      "Another way of asking that is - is there any failure mode of the comms and/or transponder equipment which represents such a hazard to the plane - or to others - that shutdown of all such equipment is justified?"

      Yes.

      Firstly, some kit sometimes stops working and as we all know the best way to fix it is to turn it off and on again.

      Secondly, from what I understand, transponders can sometimes cause interference in cluttered airspace, and pilots are routinely asked to switch them to standby mode.

      I'm seeing a lot of crap in the press about "Why can pilots press a button to make their plane invisible to radar". Well, ultimately these people are trusted with our lives. Someone has to be. The alternatives to trusting a pilot with a plane full of people are potentially even more troublesome:

      1) Fly aircraft by remote control, where they are then susceptible to interference.

      2) Robotic control. because people are just fine with the idea of robot planes these days. Not.

      3) Armed person to watch the pilot... who is then just as fallible... and armed.

      1. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

        Re: Why could they turn everything off?

        ..."Another way of asking that is - is there any failure mode of the comms and/or transponder equipment which represents such a hazard to the plane - or to others - that shutdown of all such equipment is justified?"

        Yes.

        Firstly, some kit sometimes stops working and as we all know the best way to fix it is to turn it off and on again.

        Secondly, from what I understand, transponders can sometimes cause interference in cluttered airspace, and pilots are routinely asked to switch them to standby mode.

        Thirdly, ANY electrical kit needs a circuit breaker/isolation switch to protect the circuit/enable routine maintenance/cut power in case of short/etc, etc...

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Why could they turn everything off?

      Simple reason, safety. Fire is a genuine problem and the commonest cause would be electrical. In general the protocol on an aircraft when smoke is detected or a fire suspected is to isolate equipment to remove the cause. Thus all electrical items have a circuit breaker that can isolate them from the electrical supply, that is, turn them off.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    From the horse's mouth...

    ...an old friend of mine is a fairly senior manager at a well regarded airline. He says no one has a clue what happened and that lines up well with Mr Page's last paragraph.

    1. dogged

      Re: From the horse's mouth...

      > well regarded airline

      File under "unicorn".

    2. Pete 2 Silver badge

      Re: From the horse's mouth...

      > ...an old friend of mine is a fairly senior manager at a well regarded airline. He says no one has a clue what happened and that lines up well with Mr Page's last paragraph.

      And that's where the effort should be focused.

      If I was the chinese authorities, I'd charter another plane of the same type and fly it over the same route. Then replicate the actions we *know* happened, gather the same information from the same radars and satellites (assuming the malaysian authorities will comply - if not, that tells you something, by itself) and see what possibilities turn out to be impossibilities and who's telling porkies.

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: From the horse's mouth...

        Ahhhh! You've been watching Thunderbirds! Operation Crash Dive. I watched it the day after the disappearance - not deliberately, it was just the next one on the box set I was working through again as I relived my second (third? fourth? actually probably fifth) childhood.

        1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

          Re: From the horse's mouth...

          Stanislaw Lem - The Conditioned Reflex

          Pirx dashed out into the corridor. Quick—outside! Get your ass into the pressure chamber! He got as far as the airtight door; as he was racing past the kitchen, something black against white had caught his eye. The photographic plates! They were lying right where he had dropped them in all the panic over his partner’s sudden disappearance…

          He stood before the chamber door, too dumbfounded to move.

          The whole thing was like a replay, a repeat performance. Langner cuts out in the middle of making supper, I take off after him, and—neither of us comes back. The hatch will be open… In a few hours the Tsiolkovsky team will start radioing the station… No one will answer…

    3. Tom 13

      Re: From the horse's mouth...

      Yes, but speculating about this isn't nearly as obvious as debating about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

  6. Dave 126 Silver badge

    It is aliens, obviously, contracted by Putin to distract from Crimea. As someone who runs with the wolves, and holds several PhDs (awarded to myself by myself, because nobody else is worthy), I am about to sue NSA, NASA and NHS for deliberately not investigating this matter. I don't need to have read more that half of the first paragraph of the article to comment on it.

    /stupid tin hat

    Seriously, though:

    This search for the missing Malaysian jet is happening in the same week that the mainstream media - Al Jazeera, The Daily Telegraph - is asserting that Al-Megrahi, and indeed Libya itself, was framed for the bombing of the Pan Am flight above Lockerbie. The evidence against Libya was always flimsy (see Paul Foot), and it appears more likely the bombing was carried out Syrians under orders from Iran, though at the time the US and UK wanted Syria's cooperation re the invasion of Iraq.

    Naturally, Iran is claiming that the evidence against them is a conspiracy by 'Zionists'.

    Oh well.

    1. Irongut

      Do you run with 3 wolves in the light of the moon? Coz that would be awesome!

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Yes!

        /stupid tin hat

        See http://www.theregister.co.uk/2014/01/29/nasa_sued_over_claim_that_mystery_martian_rock_is_a_fastgrowing_fungus/

    2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Holmes

      Naturally, Iran is claiming that the evidence against them is a conspiracy by 'Zionists'.

      Well, Robert Fisk always claimed that Pan Am was actually payback for the massacre of that Iranian airbus by "Robocruiser" aka. USS Vincennes, an act rewarded by "medals of courage" instead of immediate shitcanning of the whole crew, so I guess why not.

  7. rwg0

    If there was one 'ping' per hour then presumably there should be 5 or 6 other possible location arcs that can be calculated from the other pings before the last one.

    This data would be very interesting as it would allow some further calculations on flight path and final location - for instance if the arcs for two consecutive hours are 500-600 nmi apart then you can infer that during that time the plane must have been flying almost perpendicular to the arcs - away from or towards point on the earth the satellite is above.

    If the arcs were only (say) 200 nmi apart then you can work out the angle to the arcs the plane is likely to have been flying by assuming a ground speed and a spot of geometry.

    I'm sure a more detailed analysis would rule out big chunks of the final arcs as being inconsistent with the previous ping data.

    1. Sean O'Connor 1

      I was thinking that too. Unless the plane just happened by fluke to fly along that exact arc we've been shown from the geo-stationary satellite, surely we can figure out a much clearer flight path it took?

      Unless it did ditch at sea and stayed floating for those hours until it finally sank?

    2. Psyx

      "If there was one 'ping' per hour then presumably there should be 5 or 6 other possible location arcs that can be calculated from the other pings before the last one."

      Quite. I've been thinking the same. Analysis of the other 6 arcs would provide a better idea of general heading if mosaiced together.

      1. Spiracle

        Quite. I've been thinking the same. Analysis of the other 6 arcs would provide a better idea of general heading if mosaiced together.

        The rings/arcs would be concentric so you would be unlikely to be able to extrapolate a heading from them. What would be key would be the distance (as in number of arcs) traversed between pings. If the plane flew at 90deg to the arc the 1hr period would carry it the maximum possible distance from the previous arc. If it flew at a true tangent to the previous arc the distance from it to the next arc would be the minimum. If you took a good guess at likely airspeed you could infer from these intervals whether a straight or deviating course was flown.

        A deviating course would imply zig-zagging to the north while a straight course would likely put the aircraft somewhere at the bottom of the South Indian Ocean.

        1. SkippyBing Silver badge

          As I understand it, the arcs are the 5 or 6 pings joined together.

          Remember, they know where the plane started from so you're only interested in the bit of the first range ring that's within a sensible distance of that. I.e. draw the range ring on a map. then draw a ring representing the max distance the airliner could have gone since its last transmission and where they intersect is your first point. Repeat for the next 5 pings and you get a line, as you only have the range you can't tell whether it went north or south.

          The line they've drawn is really a datum to search from, there could be quite a bit of deviation from it depending on the actual speed of the airliner, but if the range to the satellite is changing you have to assume the aircraft is moving.

      2. Adam 1 Silver badge

        I sure hope the air crash investigators have the good sense to check the forums on el reg or they may end up looking in the wrong spot.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      There's a good deal of interest in these other ping arcs, but the Malaysians (and others) have not released them. Why, don't know.

      But one can be certain that the various SARS groups conducting the search have that info and have used it to concentrate their searches.

      The Australians for example have delineated a search area at almost the far southern end of the arc to the WSW of Perth (coincidentally about half way to the various French antarctic territories/islands) in the middle of one of the emptiest parts of the earth. It is far enough out that even the P3 Orions have limited loiter time over the area; spotting debris that has now been in the sea for 9-10 days or so will be tough.

  8. Zog_but_not_the_first Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Eh?

    So, all the post 9/11 civil and military tracking technology is quite useless then.

    1. Psyx

      Re: Eh?

      "So, all the post 9/11 civil and military tracking technology is quite useless then"

      Don't be absurd.

      How does the over-the-horizon radar capabilities of south east Asian minor nations have a bearing on the air defence capabilities over major US cities?

      1. Zog_but_not_the_first Silver badge

        Re: Eh?

        I was writing from the perspective that the threat of hijacking was global and so, presumably, was the response.

        1. Psyx

          Re: Eh?

          "I was writing from the perspective that the threat of hijacking was global and so, presumably, was the response."

          How does an air defence system prevent hijacking? We don't even know if it was hijacked. And if it was hijacked by a pilot, what measures can you think of that would prevent a pilot from hijacking a plane?

          1. JonP

            Re: Eh?

            How does an air defence system prevent hijacking? We don't even know if it was hijacked.

            It doesn't but at least you'd know where the plane was. I agree with the original point, since Sept-11, I'd've thought that any airliner being detected as inexplicably going off course would have as much available tracking gear pointed at as possible, even to the point of scrambling an interceptor or two to see what it was up to. Even if it turned out to be nothing it would be a good 'live' exercise.

            1. Psyx

              Re: Eh?

              "It doesn't but at least you'd know where the plane was."

              Over open water, over-the horizon from any radar emitters and in international, uncontrolled airspace? How? No amount of willpower and keenness to prevent another such incident can make RADAR do things that it can't do, nor finance a new international track-everything-in-the-air system of some kind. And we'd also need to integrate everyone's air tracking systems on an international basis.

              The only way to do that is to either cover the planet with sat coverage and AWACS or to put an active transmitter in every aircraft. And the moment that you do that, the pilot needs an off switch, because sometimes that transmitter is going to cause an issue and will need turning off.

            2. TechnicalBen Silver badge

              Re: Eh?

              Sadly it may have had all the tracking gear pointed at it. But only in case of required defence, not as a proactive deterrent or assistance. Thus the "keep quiet" if there is radar info from certain military. :(

            3. Stoneshop Silver badge

              Re: Eh?

              I'd've thought that any airliner being detected as inexplicably going off course would have as much available tracking gear pointed at as possible, even to the point of scrambling an interceptor or two to see what it was up to.

              Maybe. And maybe not if the thing is clearly going away from anything you (as the country's defense/antiterrorist organisation) would be responsible for protecting.

              Also, the flight initially had its transponder on, so it was identified. If they did keep tracking the blip across the transponder on/off transition (so they'd know that that un-ID'd blip was MH370), and it kept to an official airway during the time it was over their territory, they might not have been in any great hurry to take a closer look.

            4. Tom 13

              Re: I'd've thought that any airliner being detected

              What are you smoking?

              I'm a crazy redneck 'Merkin and even I don't have that expectation about a non-US flight outside of US airspace. As far as I've heard, we wouldn't even have asked for the background papers on the passengers for this flight.

          2. Tom 13
            Joke

            Re: what measures can you think of

            Make him take poison before the take off with the promise that he'll get the antidote on the other end?

    2. The BigYin

      Re: Eh?

      Not really, the Malaysian radar saw the plane but no one did anything about it. The other countries are simply keeping schtum so they don't expose how much/little they can see.

      It's a bit like the Kursk: military secrecy trumps human life.

  9. JurassicPark

    Accident or Malicious?

    I was going to ask how do you know that a system has been intentionally switched off by a human as opposed to switching off due to a technical fault? I was wondering whether some form of depressurization (either slow or catastrophic) might have incapacitated the crew and passengers al-la Payne Stewart.

    However, if the ping has been detected hundreds of miles off and at right-angles to the intended course, this would seem to be implausible.

    With regard to hijack, they would require a runway of c1.5km to land a 777, presumably there can't be many of those around that are not under the control of a government?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Accident or Malicious?

      "With regard to hijack, they would require a runway of c1.5km to land a 777"

      Only if landing was the intent. My guess is that it was a suicide pact between the pilot and co-pilot. Take a few kufars with them and then have some virgins in paradise.

      Religion knows no logic, and this is by far and a way the simplest answer.

      1. Psyx

        Re: Accident or Malicious?

        And Islam is a nice easy scapegoat?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Accident or Malicious?

          "And Islam is a nice easy scapegoat?"

          Religion in general. As Islam happens to be one of the fairy tales followed by people in Malaysia, I chose that. It certainly does not have a monopoly on bigotry, sexism, hatred or exploitation.

          1. Psyx

            Re: Accident or Malicious?

            Alternatively, aliens did it. there is just as much evidence for that as there is that the pilot was a religious maniac intent on killing heretics.

            1. Tom 13

              Re: Accident or Malicious?

              That's It!

              It was Alien Muslim Nazi Jews from the dark side of the Moon!

              Assisted by Bimbos from Outer Space and of course the Killer Tomatoes.

      2. Roo

        Re: Accident or Malicious?

        "Take a few kufars with them and then have some virgins in paradise."

        Perhaps you could fly out to Malaysia and put that theory to the authorities there. I'm sure they'd the love the input of a spineless bigot & creep.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Accident or Malicious?

          "Perhaps you could fly out to Malaysia and put that theory to the authorities there."

          I'm sure they've thought of it.

          "I'm sure they'd the love the input of a spineless bigot & creep."

          Stating that religion is devoid of logic isn't bigotry, it's a statement of fact. Religion is probably the most evil human invention of all time.

          1. Roo

            Re: Accident or Malicious?

            "Stating that religion is devoid of logic isn't bigotry, it's a statement of fact."

            Quite correct, however the original post did not make that statement.

            OTOH slandering folks who *may* have actually been trying to save the aircraft on the basis of their religious beliefs is bigotted and hiding behind AC is spineless.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Accident or Malicious?

              "OTOH slandering folks who *may* have actually been trying to save the aircraft on the basis of their religious"

              It's all conjecture: hijack, catastrophic equipment failure, ransom, shot down, aliens...religion is just another.

              "beliefs is bigotted and hiding behind AC is spineless."

              Ah yes, because "Roo" is your given name and it is just SO HARD to create a throwaway account.

              Deliberate action on part of the crew is highly probably. Religion is a highly probable motive.

              1. John Gamble

                Re: Accident or Malicious?

                Ah yes, because "Roo" is your given name and it is just SO HARD to create a throwaway account.

                It's an identifiable name. I can click on it and read other comments by him or her. Even if he or she used their real name, it would still be of limited value beyond the purposes of this forum. (Also the gold "badge" next to the name has significance, perhaps you should check that out.)

                You, on the other hand, can't even manage to summon up the "courage" to create "throwaway account".

                And, as pointed out, your original post was indeed bigoted. Trying to make up for it with random assertions after the fact doesn't help your position..

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: Accident or Malicious?

                  "your original post was indeed bigoted."

                  I didn't realise that not believing in fairy tales made one a bigot. Must be a new definition that passed me by. I guess I should start apologising, should I begin with all the Tooth-Fairyians or the Easter-Bunnyians?

                  1. Psyx

                    Re: Accident or Malicious?

                    "But hoping that not one of the passengers -- or flight attendants! -- would notice that the terrain is kind of different, and/or the moon isn't where it's supposed to be? (No, I haven't checked whether the moon would have been up during the flight)"

                    Red-eye flight, over open water, 35k'... should probably be ok. It's certainly a better way than managing the aircraft than flying at 5k' and hoping the cockpit door holds out!

                    We are simple creatures in many ways, and even if someone did think the moon was in the wrong place (it was a half-moon - I checked. Good thinking, though), I suspect that they'd probably assume the pilot knew what he was doing, or if he raised it to a passenger and stewardess they'd make a similar reassuring comment. Simply, the idea that the plane is flying completely in the wrong direction and something is wrong is one of those conclusions that we would tend to throw out of our minds because it poses many more troubling questions... especially at 2am!

                    And even if you were sure... what are you going to do? Scream and shout: Get pinned down by other passengers. Ask a stewardess for pilot to confirm that you're going the right way, and you'll get comforting reassurance. Rationally explain, and people will disbelieve for the reasons mentioned above.

                    It's certainly what I'd try and do. That or de-pressurise.

          2. Psyx

            Re: Accident or Malicious?

            "Stating that religion is devoid of logic isn't bigotry, it's a statement of fact. "

            No it's not. Religion can easily be devoid of bigotry and the idea that the universe is inhabited or was created by something outside of our knowledge is not entirely utterly devoid of rationality (plenty of clever rational people believe in a God; they just don't believe in many of the dogmatic fictions used to pad them out and lend authority to them in times past).

            I'm not of any real religious conviction, but I don't believe that everyone has justified their belief in an entirely irrational manner.

        2. This post has been deleted by its author

      3. itzman

        Re: Accident or Malicious?

        The problem here is that even insofar as suicide by religion goes, that does not compute.

        The aim of religious suicide is to take a lot of unbelievers with you.And make a big statement.

        Now an airliner with 200 or whatever passengers on board pales into insignificance besides a large tower full of office workers. So why NOT fly it into one.

        No, this has all the hallmarks of a covert operation. The airliner was deliberately hidden from electronic prying eyes and taken somewhere.

        This means careful planning.

        And I would assume, if the destruction of it was not the intention, somewhere to put it down, relatively intact.

        1. Stoneshop Silver badge

          Re: Accident or Malicious?

          Now an airliner with 200 or whatever passengers on board pales into insignificance besides a large tower full of office workers. So why NOT fly it into one.

          Because you'll find very few office towers full of unbelievers around Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia, and at night they don't tend to be full at all anyway, no matter the religious persuasion of the people in them by day. A luxury hotel full of business people and affluent tourists would make a better target there, but try hitting that in a high-rise city, at night.

          Australia as well as China would quite probably offer those office tower targets, but given the timing of events the element of surprise would be gone, to be replaced by jet fighters with air-to-air missiles.

      4. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
        Thumb Down

        Re: Accident or Malicious?

        "Religion knows no logic, and this is by far and a way the simplest answer."

        Intredasting.jpg

    2. TRT Silver badge

      Re: Accident or Malicious?

      Well the passengers have remained unusually quiet... no phone calls or anything. Poison in the food? Gassed? Toxic carbon dioxide or monoxide build up? Could the pilots have turned back drunk or high or otherwise intoxicated/poisoned, setting the autopilot course back roughly to where they came from which the plane followed before running out of fuel and crashing? Mistaking the transponder standby switch position for the automatic mayday position (if it had one)?

      Speculation is rife.

      1. Psyx

        Re: Accident or Malicious?

        "Well the passengers have remained unusually quiet... no phone calls or anything. Poison in the food? Gassed? Toxic carbon dioxide or monoxide build up?"

        Why bother when you can just de-pressurise the aircraft?

        It's what I'd do if I thought the passengers were going to be a problem.

        Otherwise I'd just manage the problem by flying evenly, at altitude, in the knowledge that they're unlikely to notice anything is wrong that way.

        It's why the 5,000 foot of altitude thing would be foolish to try unless you'd depressurised the plane first: Someone would notice, someone would get out a phone call, someone would raise hell.

        1. HCV

          Re: Accident or Malicious?

          "Otherwise I'd just manage the problem by flying evenly, at altitude, in the knowledge that they're unlikely to notice anything is wrong that way."

          And I guess turning off the mappy screens -- "We're very sorry, we've had a technical problem, please enjoy this single episode of 'Spongebob Squarepants' looped over and over and over again". That seems reasonable.

          But hoping that not one of the passengers -- or flight attendants! -- would notice that the terrain is kind of different, and/or the moon isn't where it's supposed to be? (No, I haven't checked whether the moon would have been up during the flight)

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Accident or Malicious?

            "...passengers -- or flight attendants! -- would notice that the terrain is kind of different, and/or the moon isn't where it's supposed to be..."

            Or, perhaps, God help us WE'RE ALL GONNA DIE because of the RF-something-or-other, ...flicked on their mobile phone's GPS to see how the flight is going.

            It's been known to happen once in a while, by curious passengers.

            Edit: PS - Of course one must download the necessary map tiles in advance, due to the lack of data connection.

          2. TRT Silver badge

            Re: Accident or Malicious?

            "we've had a technical problem, please enjoy this single episode of 'Spongebob Squarepants' looped over and over and over again". That seems reasonable."

            The evil sons of bitches...

          3. Jonathan Richards 1

            Re: Accident or Malicious? -- Moonlight

            > I haven't checked whether the moon would have been up during the flight

            I have, now:

            The following information is provided for Kuala Lumpur (longitude E101.7, latitude N3.1):

            Saturday 8 March 2014 Universal Time + 8h

            SUN

            Begin civil twilight 07:01

            Sunrise 07:22

            Sun transit 13:24

            Sunset 19:26

            End civil twilight 19:47

            MOON

            Moonrise 12:07 on preceding day [i.e. 7 March]

            Moonset 00:40

            Moonrise 12:57

            Moon transit 19:13

            Moonset 01:29 on following day [i.e. 9 March]

            First quarter Moon on 8 March 2014 at 21:27 (Universal Time + 8h).

            Source: http://aa.usno.navy.mil/data/docs/RS_OneDay.php

            So the moon set over Kuala Lumpur almost at the same moment as MH370 took off, and would not have risen again over any plausible location for the aircraft before the fuel ran out circa 8 hours later. It was a moonless night.

    3. John 78

      Re: Accident or Malicious?

      > they would require a runway of c1.5km to land a 777

      It depends, on if you wish to take off again.

      Looking at the 777 incident at Heathrow, the plane stopped within 300 meters.

      1. Richard 12 Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: Accident or Malicious?

        > they would require a runway of c1.5km to land a 777

        You can 'land' in a little over the wingspan - depends on the debris scatter.

        If you want a "good" landing then a couple of hundred metres - like that 777 incident at LHR, where everybody walked off.

        You only need the 1.5km for a "great" landing - ie one where you get to use the plane again.

    4. No, I will not fix your computer

      Re: Accident or Malicious?

      >>With regard to hijack, they would require a runway of c1.5km to land a 777, presumably there can't be many of those around that are not under the control of a government?

      A full weight, full speed landing with maximum brakes can be done comfortably in less than 1.2Km, a slow, full brake, full flap "light" landing with no float can be done in a shade over 300m on a 777, but they are the kind of landings you'd need to practice (specifically, to stop the float, you need to get the wheels down asap), a zero altitude stall (spot landing) isn't really appropriate for such a large aircraft, but some of the same techniques could be used, typically longer distances are used because tyres are very expensive and a long landing protects them (at $40k a set this is important, but not so much for hijackers).

  10. Julian 3

    Mobile phones and tracking

    Mobile phones make for really good tracking devices when within range of the a mobile network. So if there was something that was obviously wrong then passengers would be reaching to switch their mobile phones on. If the plane had indeed gone over Thailand then the phones will have attempted to log onto the networks in Thailand. Malaysia Airlines offers a “air-to-ground phone” service in business class that also allows passengers to send email. But such systems can also be switched off too.

    1. JetSetJim Silver badge

      Re: Mobile phones and tracking

      Maybe low to the ground, but up high it is rare to get reception due to the antenna patterns on phone masts - no sense in radiating power 7 miles straight up. Not saying it absolutely cannot happen, but the absence of such data for this flight is not indicative of anything.

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: Mobile phones and tracking

        Would you know what phones were even on the plane to filter out from the background chatter of a hundred thousand other devices?

        1. JetSetJim Silver badge

          Re: Mobile phones and tracking

          If you know the name & address of the user, you can pull the records of where they attempted to register once you've obtained their IMSI from their home network. Assuming the networks in the country in question have any data retention policies for legal intercept/tracking activities.

          1. TRT Silver badge

            Re: Mobile phones and tracking

            Yeah, they might start doing that now.

      2. Tom 13

        Re: Maybe low to the ground

        Except of course that's exactly how they took down one of the hijacked 9/11 flights - passengers got calls on their cell phones.

        Moreover, if there was a sign of trouble I expect at least one passenger tried to phone home. Which means no awake passengers saw signs of trouble.

  11. stu 4

    pfft

    it's clearly just got stuck in the time portal.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Millennium_(film)

  12. ColonelClaw

    This is well worth a read, it's on Nate Silver's new web site:

    http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/how-statisticians-could-help-find-flight-370/

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I suppose stranger things have happened, but I'm struggling to think of many. I, obviously stupidly, assumed that radar would be tracking absolutely everything up there, and controllers would know exactly where all relatively large flying stuff would be, at all times. Particularly a large jet. Clearly that's not the case. Hopefully without decending into pananoia, one of the tenets of nuclear non-proliferation has been the diffuculty of delivery of a weapon. It's been assumed since the sixties that traditional bombers would be detected, and intercepted. Starting to wonder whether popping something on a plane and flying it to a target is as problematic as people make out, if a 777 with hundreds of people on it, can just vanish, and military radar in south east asia seems to have completely missed it. Malaysia isn't the back of beyond, either.

    1. Psyx

      " It's been assumed since the sixties that traditional bombers would be detected, and intercepted. "

      Yes: Over Europe.

      Assuming that it's so in south east Asia is like assuming everyone there has a smartphone, just because most people in London do.

      And remember that Malaysian radar DID track it. It then headed out over the ocean, where Malaysia wouldn't really care and nobody else would track it (aside from maybe India, who reportedly seem to have had their stuff turned off).

      "Starting to wonder whether popping something on a plane and flying it to a target is as problematic as people make out"

      Probably, given that this seems to have had the assistance of a pilot with 18,000 of experience who keenly took his work home with him. It's as easy to say that hacking a bank is easy because one of their sysadmins could do it.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Yeah, at least one good point you make there. I guess my first sentence is the killer. I was assuming that there are rooms full of people with tin hats, who push model planes around a map with sticks while drinking cocoa. You may call me 'meier', and should you land on my greenhouse, I'll send a kid out with the box of Woodbines. Tally ho.

    2. Pete4000uk

      I don't know about this peticular area but once you are a few hundred miles over the atlantic or pacific the only data ATC has will be from data sent by the aircraft. Over busy areas of land it's a diffrent story of corse.

  14. Jim 59

    Mystery

    The most likely explanation speculation would seem to be a failed hijack attempt. Hijackers make pilot turn off comms, try to get him to fly somewhere, but something goes wrong/passengers resist and the plane sadly crashes into the sea. Or, electrical fire happens, smoke overcomes pilots.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Mystery

      There's certainly a famous historical precedent for that scenario, at least in terms of the evident mental impairment, intent and orders of the hijackers, if not the outcome: Ethiopian Airlines Flight 961

    2. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

      Re: Mystery

      What makes you think the highjack attempt has failed?

    3. Psyx

      Re: Mystery

      "The most likely explanation speculation would seem to be a failed hijack attempt. Hijackers make pilot turn off comms, try to get him to fly somewhere"

      Yup, and the tech-savvy pilot would turn off the radio and transponder but leave on the subtle signals, such as engine data uploads. It would be very hard to get everything off without the flight crew being implicit, to my mind.

  15. The New Turtle

    This is a job for......

    Where's Daniel Craig when you need him?

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: This is a job for......

      In Aliens vs. Cowboys?

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Afghanistan is under heavy US military aerial radar

    Maybe whatever as yet undisclosed contents or persons that may have been on board were of interest to the US military and the plane is indeed at a US militray airbase in Afghansitan.

    Solved, hijacked by the US.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Afghanistan is under heavy US military aerial radar

      Thank goodness you cleared that up.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Facepalm

        Re: Afghanistan is under heavy US military aerial radar @Andrew Fernie

        Sometimes you've just got to laugh otherwise you'd cry

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Afghanistan is under heavy US military aerial radar

      I would down vote you for such a ridiculous post.. but unfortunately I can't put this past the US military...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Afghanistan is under heavy US military aerial radar

        You know thinking about it, if that Snowden chap was thought to have been on board it might not be such a far fetched hypothesis. Who knows what lengths the US would go to to get at him.

        1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

          Re: Afghanistan is under heavy US military aerial radar

          Who knows what lengths the US would go to to get at him.

          You would be able to express them in nautical miles.

  17. PaulR79

    Question

    If the transponders are vital to keeping track of the plane then why can they be disabled by *anyone* in flight? I can understand being disabled while on the ground for maintenance but is there some reason I'm not aware of (highly likely) they can be disabled while airborne?

    1. FlatSpot

      Re: Question

      How can you stop someone from cutting the wires??

      1. PaulR79

        Re: Question

        By not having them in an area you can easily get to while in the air. I'm not talking about smashing the equipment or anything like that I'm asking about why the ability to turn the thing off exists while it's in the air.

        1. Psyx

          Re: Question

          That's already been answered further up the page and numerous times in the media.

          Short answer:

          1) If they (there's two) break, you turn them off and on again.

          2) They can cause interference and air controllers routinely ask for them to be switched to standby.

          3) If it catches fire, the pilot would like to be able to turn it off.

          The moment you have things in the plane that pilots can't turn off, the plane is LESS safe, not safer. We trust these people with our lives and have to hand them all the tools they need to protect them.

      2. Anonymous Blowhard

        Re: Question

        "How can you stop someone from cutting the wires??"

        By putting it an unpressurised part of the airframe; but as others have posted there is always the potential requirement to be able to turn it off in the event of an electrical fire. Up to now no-one has designed tracking features into an aircraft on the assumption that the pilots may be "hostile"; same as before 911 you could get into the cockpit without having to break down an armoured door.

        I expect a number of changes to airline procedures to come out of this, whatever the actual explanation turns out to be.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Question

          >I expect a number of changes to airline procedures to come out of this

          Let's see, just thinking out loud.

          Most obvious one first, pilot and co-pilot should have different religions. Pilots in seperate cabins. Plane controlled from ground with a pilot on standby outside the cabin for emergencies.

          1. Psyx

            Re: Question

            "pilot and co-pilot should have different religions."

            Having flight crew with strongly held, differing religious viewpoints is not going to make the plane a safer place.

            "Pilots in seperate cabins."

            Who gets to over-ride the other one if one is suicidal. Surely having them in the same space is actually safer.

            "Plane controlled from ground with a pilot on standby outside the cabin for emergencies."

            Which means you have a plane that can be controlled by either the ground station or someone who can spoof the system, who is not on board. Given how people feel about drones, hackers and the NSA right now, I don't think that would go down well.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Question

              >Having flight crew with strongly held, differing religious viewpoints is not going to make the plane a safer place.

              It will reduce the chance of cooperation due to religious beliefs so it will make the plane safer

              >Who gets to over-ride the other one if one is suicidal. Surely having them in the same space is actually safer.

              It will prevent one pilot overpowering the other. With improved monitoring ground control should be able to see see which pilot is being a naughty boy and hand control over to the other.

              >Which means you have a plane that can be controlled by either the ground station or someone who can spoof the system, who is not on board. Given how people feel about drones, hackers and the NSA right now, I don't think that would go down well.

              No it doesn't. These planes can be sent off already pre-programmed for the journey so it's not as if there will be constant control (as I said I was thinking aloud so didn't explain properly) just a burst to open the cabin door in an emergency, no other function allowed. As for how people feel about drones and what have you, I think there is more danger from service personnel who clean the planes, load the baggage, etc, than an attack on technology.

              1. Psyx

                Re: Question

                "It will reduce the chance of cooperation due to religious beliefs so it will make the plane safer"

                And it will reduce the chance of cooperation due to religious beliefs, so it won't.

                Seriously, have you ever put two over-tired people with wildly differing, strongly held religious views in close confines and made them work together? It's grounds for arguments, passion and flared tempers. None of that should be going on in a cockpit of an airliner.

                Frankly, I'd prefer my pilots to be selected because they were the best at their jobs, not recruited on the grounds of religion. And when/if there is an issue on the flight deck, I want the pilots to fall back to relying on their skill and nothing else. I do not want fervent prayer to replace skill and dedication.

                I don't agree with any of your points. They are poorly thought-out knee-jerk reactionary solutions to a problem that we are not even sure exists.

                The best person to fly a plane is the pilot in the cockpit, working in close harmony with their first officer. Putting two different flavours of religious maniac in two separate boxes, refereed by someone on the ground, in a plane with a remote control over-ride which could be subverted is frankly not a good solution. I wouldn't get on that plane.

            2. Tom 13

              @Psyx Re: not going to make the plane a safer place.

              You know the sad part is, I can picture a bunch of pols in a room arguing his points instead of yours, and then enacting them into law.

          2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
            FAIL

            Re: Question

            "Most obvious one first, pilot and co-pilot should have different religions."

            30 years war IN THE COCKPIT!

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Obviously

    With 50 empty seats (blocked from the ticketing system), there's probably 3.5 tonnes of Chinese govt gold in the hold, now sitting at a military airbase somewhere in the Indian Ocean and an ambassador delivering a "now, don't you dare threaten to dump our treasuries again" note.

    A handful of westerners on the plane = low collateral damage.

    Lesson learned.

    1. pdh

      Re: Obviously

      A Boeing 777 costs more than 3.5 tons of gold at today's prices, so the plane itself would still be worth more than the cargo.

      1. TechnicalBen Silver badge

        Re: Obviously

        One of these things is not like the other.

        Selling a stolen 777 or even operating such a procurement.

        Selling stolen gold.

    2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: Obviously

      "now, don't you dare threaten to dump our treasuries again"

      3.5 tonnes of Gold?

      Yeah, that's gonna be comporable to the multi-trillion unredeemable debt crater that must NEVER EVER be though of as unredeemable.

      But not that Saudis hold more of these.

  19. Bassey

    Smartphones

    I don't get the smartphone thing. I know not everyone has one but a LOT of people do. And yes, I know Asia isn't as rich as the west but these are people who can afford a long haul flight so a pretty fair proportion will have smartphone, tablet, laptop etc.

    With Android and Windows Phone (and I assume the same goes for iOS devices) you can log onto a website and see exactly where that phone is. Or rather, you can see exactly where that device was when it last had any kind of a data connection.

    Of all the devices that must have been on that plane and given the current theory that it was over India/Pakistan/wherever if that plane was below 20,000 ft and intact at ANY point then there will be a record of it on google play/windows MyPhone etc. And not just one record. LOTS of records.

    To my mind that is one of the major arguments in favour of the theory that it hit the sea with everyone either disabled or unaware.

    1. myhandler

      Re: Smartphones

      poor in South East Asia?

      there's plenty of poor people, but there's lots of well off middle class and lots of very wealthy in the cities - who all have the latest gizmos

      Fire > ditched > pings are from seabed

      1. Psyx

        Re: Smartphones

        "pings are from seabed"

        Emanating from a radio transmitter powered by what for several hours after ditching, operating despite its container not being designed to take several (hundred potentially) Bar of pressure, with the radio signal propagating to a satellite up through the water?

        The US Navy spent quite a lot of money to develop radio systems to communicate to submarines, so I don't think it's as simple as that.

        I could be wrong, but I don't think it was underwater and still pinging away.

        1. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: Smartphones

          @Psyx

          'Underwater Locator Beacon', a.k.a. 'Underwater Acoustic Beacon'.

          Beer can sized gadget. Triggered by water. Pings acoustically at about 37kHz at about 160 dB for either 30 or 90 days.

          Usually attached to the "Black Boxes'.

          1. Psyx

            Re: Smartphones

            I don't understand how that is relevant, I'm afraid.

            That's not what the ACARS transmitter is. It's a radio transmitter, externally powered, not resistant to high pressure AFAIK.

            Additionally, the acoustic transmitter fixed to black boxes is just that: It's an acoustic transmitter that makes a noise, not a radio transmitter: It would have to be pretty bloody loud to be heard in spaaaaaaaaaaace!

            1. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
              Pint

              Re: Smartphones

              My post is relevant to "pings are from seabed".

              Now, the relevance of that ("pings are from seabed") is up to you.

              1. Psyx

                Re: Smartphones

                "My post is relevant to "pings are from seabed"."

                "pings are from the seabed" was referring to the poster's theory that the radio handshake pings from ACAS and received by satellite were broadcast from submerged wreckage, not pinging noises from an acoustic transmitter.

  20. Uncle Ron

    What now?

    Even though -nothing- can be said for sure right now about what caused this tragedy, something -can- be done -right now- to preclude it -ever- happening again: Absolute real-time GPS tracking of -every- commercial airplane everywhere on the planet. Period. Can't be turned off by the crew. Data available -immediately- to the public. No "military" secrecy, no PR spinning, no holds. Period. Worldwide, it's a relatively small data set. An iPad in each plane, connected to the existing satellite transmitter--now completely locked and secured--could do the job. Data sent in the clear for everyone to see.

    Why not do this? Who is against this? The cost, even with redundancy, would be less than a single first-class seat.

    1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Re: What now?

      An iPad in each plane, connected to the existing satellite transmitter--now completely locked and secured--could do the job. Data sent in the clear for everyone to see.

      What are the relative risks of a mysterious plane disappearance being foiled, versus a short-circuited ShinyGadget battery causing a fire and subsequent crash?

      Or the advantages of everyone knowing where a plane is, versus the disadvantages of "terrorists" etc. knowing where every plane is?

      What's the likelihood of unnecessary panic when some system glitch erroneously shows a flight as having disappeared, or going off course, when it's actually fine?

    2. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: What now?

      Same concept as the GPS car tracking devices, except Iridium instead of cellular. A tiny little puck, installed on any flat surface. All it needs is a connection to the Essential +28VDC Power bus, with the CB in a remote location. How often do you want it to 'ping' its position? How much money do you want to spend on data services for your fleet?

      (I don't think that it necessarily needs to be an iPad.)

    3. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: What now?

      Absolute real-time GPS tracking of -every- commercial airplane everywhere on the planet. Period.

      Step up with your tax dollars, gramps.

  21. c-hri-s

    I wonder if they have checked every SIM from the passengers phones - including tablets, Kindles, etc.

    I'd be absolutely amazed if everyone in the flight turned their phones and other devices off. If it flew off randomly for hours (or indeed was hijacked and landed), surely one of these devices tried to register with a network somewhere ...

  22. doctariAFC2

    Another interesting hypothesis

    Speaking with some friends, one item came up, beyond aliens, and that is a meteor strike. The acvtions of turning off the transponder(s) could indeed have been necessary to silence an electrical alarm related to that device. The ping could have been continuing from damaged equipment and its location, when falling from roughly 6 miles up, would indeed change.

    However, at 6 miles up, at the speed and pressurization the craft was at, all it would really take would be an object roughly the size of a cantalope, travelling wicked fast and hot, impacting the plane and this would completely decimate the craft and everyone inside rather quickly. Debris would be near impossible to find and spread out across a very wide area, and unless some serial numbers or other tell-tale markings are found on some debirs, any parts found could be thought of as trash/ litter, rather than part of the craft itself.

    And this angle would not be reported, as what would this "new" possibility do to airline business? The odds of something like this potentially happening are probably as remote as being hit by 5 consecutive lightning strikes, but the possibility nevertheless exists.

    This seems like the most plausible hypothesis I have heard, considering the facts known about this at the present.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Another interesting hypothesis

      "However, at 6 miles up, at the speed and pressurization the craft was at, all it would really take would be an object roughly the size of a cantalope, travelling wicked fast and hot"

      fuck me, I think you've hit the nail on the head.

      space cantalopes.

      hold on while I call the press.

    2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge
      Headmaster

      Re: Another interesting hypothesis

      completely decimate the craft

      But they'd have found the other 90% by now, surely?

      1. doctariAFC2

        Re: Another interesting hypothesis

        Not really. And space debris hits the atmosphere with frequency, and these rocks and other debris travel so fast it is difficult to detect with RADAR. A space rock of small size could decimate - meaning nothing of size is left - an aircraft, even one as large as the 777, and we may never find enough debris to confirm what happened.

        We have other "mysterious" aircraft disappearances, well reported, think "Bermuda Triangle". Although it is difficult to fathom, the possibility does exist, no matter how remote.

        It is interesting to ponder, if not unsettling to air travelers.

        1. ElReg!comments!Pierre Silver badge

          Re: Another interesting hypothesis

          > decimate - meaning nothing of size is left -

          The word you're looking for is exterminate.

          1. Psyx
            Thumb Up

            Re: Another interesting hypothesis

            "The word you're looking for is exterminate."

            Yes, Darleks make far more sense than space cantaloupes.

            1. doctariAFC2

              Re: Another interesting hypothesis

              I seem to be reading several past hypotheses about such an occurence and the possibility, despite being very remote, the possibility exists nonetheless. More likely the plane would be hit when on the ground, due to time plane is on the ground vs. airborne.

              However, some of the literature I have read states it would take a meteorite the size of a BASEBALL to take down an airliner. If it struck the fuel tanks, no plane, completely obliterated.

              I am not saying this is what I believe. I really have no clue. However, it is an interesting hypothesis, and would be nigh on impossible to prove.

              1. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

                Re: Another interesting hypothesis

                Completely obliterated? What do you think hit it, the Death Star?

              2. Psyx

                Re: Another interesting hypothesis

                "However, some of the literature I have read states it would take a meteorite the size of a BASEBALL to take down an airliner. If it struck the fuel tanks, no plane, completely obliterated."

                Mankind has plenty of experimental evidence as to what happens to a large aircraft when you fire a 1kg mass at it at high velocity. Generally it goes straight through and leaves a hole, which is why we started filling such projectiles with explosives. If it hits something volatile it can cause an explosion which turns the plane into a collection of material which is independently incapable of sustained level flight.

                What it does not do is totally annihilate an airframe several hundred foot in length.

                "I am not saying this is what I believe. I really have no clue. However, it is an interesting hypothesis, and would be nigh on impossible to prove."

                It's fairly easy to disprove: Simply fire lumps of stuff at aircraft and see what happens.

                It also doesn't fit the facts: The plane was still flying after it turned off comms and transponders and was tracked through airspace.

                1. doctariAFC2

                  Re: Another interesting hypothesis

                  The why was the plane's radar signal (not transponder code) lost at 35,000 feet, which is nearly 7 miles up? I have heard 23,000 feet up to 35,000 feet, but no sign of a rapid descent before lost radar contact?

                  1. Psyx

                    Re: Another interesting hypothesis

                    "The why was the plane's radar signal (not transponder code) lost at 35,000 feet, which is nearly 7 miles up? I have heard 23,000 feet up to 35,000 feet, but no sign of a rapid descent before lost radar contact?"

                    Because that's the altitude it was at when it went out of range of the radar system.

              3. SkippyBing Silver badge

                Re: Another interesting hypothesis

                'More likely the plane would be hit when on the ground, due to time plane is on the ground vs. airborne.'

                Due to the cost of parking at an international airport most in service airliners spend more time airborne than on the ground.

                1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
                  WTF?

                  Re: Another interesting hypothesis

                  Due to the cost of parking at an international airport most in service airliners spend more time airborne than on the ground.

                  It's also a good strategy to avoid the meteorites that periodically hit airports.

                  1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

                    Re: Another interesting hypothesis

                    "It's also a good strategy to avoid the meteorites that periodically hit airports."

                    Right. But if you catch one flying - that's 10% of your passengers and plane gone.

                    Well, I guess one has to take some risks...

              4. Vic

                Re: Another interesting hypothesis

                > I really have no clue.

                Really?

                Vic.

              5. Stoneshop Silver badge
                Holmes

                Re: Another interesting hypothesis

                More likely the plane would be hit when on the ground, due to time plane is on the ground vs. airborne.

                a) commercial airliners spend as little time on the ground as possible, as this is where they cost money instead of bringing it in.

                b) meteorites tend to burn up in the atmosphere, and only very few hit the ground.

            2. doctariAFC2

              Re: Another interesting hypothesis

              Hmmmm......

              http://beforeitsnews.com/paranormal/2014/03/plane-sight-unseen-the-odyssey-of-malaysian-airlines-flight-370-2465686.html

            3. ElReg!comments!Pierre Silver badge

              Re: Another interesting hypothesis

              Most likely explanation: the 777 was hijacked by the Daleks and hidden in a void ship. Good luck finding it (assuming you would want to). Now to comb the list of passengers to find which one is the Doctor's alias:

              http://www.thestar.com.my/News/Nation/2014/03/08/Missing-plane-Passenger-list/

          2. Turtle

            @ElReg!comments!Pierre

            "> 'decimate - meaning nothing of size is left' - The word you're looking for is exterminate."

            The word that you're looking for is "annihilate".

            /shakes head.

            1. ElReg!comments!Pierre Silver badge
              Meh

              Re: @ElReg!comments!Pierre @ Turtle

              Oh look at what the Oxford dic say:

              exterminate

              Line breaks: ex|ter¦min|ate Pronunciation: /ɪkˈstəːmɪneɪt, ɛk-/ verb [with object]

              1 Destroy completely

              > /shakes head.

              Indeed

              1. Turtle

                @ElReg!comments!Pierre: You'll Need To Do Better Than That.

                Here's the whole definition - including the parts that you omitted because they show your usage to be incorrect - from your online source which is http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/us/definition/american_english/exterminate?q=exterminate:

                verb [with object] 1 Destroy completely: after exterminating the entire population, the soldiers set fire to the buildings

                And note carefully the example sentences that follow (and the additional examples listed under "More Example Sentences"). Every single example sentence uses "exterminate" as a verb having as its object a living entity (or collective noun signifying such), and not a single example has a material object as its object.

                So now you know that the verb "exterminate" is never used with a concrete inanimate noun as its object and that your use of the word is still wrong even after you decided to intentionally misinterpret the definition - which is, after all, what you did.

                1. Turtle

                  Slight Correction Re: @ElReg!comments!Pierre: You'll Need To Do Better Than That.

                  "Every single example sentence uses "exterminate" as a verb having as its object a living entity (or collective noun signifying such), and not a single example has a material object as its object."

                  That should read "Every single example sentence uses 'exterminate' as a verb having as its object a living entity (or collective noun signifying such), and not a single example has an inanimate material object as its object."

                2. ElReg!comments!Pierre Silver badge

                  Re: @ElReg!comments!Pierre: You'll Need To Do Better Than That.

                  I'm not responsible for anyone's poor culture or impovishered language. Here, have two example of inanimate object extermination, on the house:

                  "The following passage in Æschines's Oration against Ctesiphon confirms the usage of such a law as the above It would be a grievous thing in you, O Athenians, who are used to exterminate from your territories such pieces of wood, of stone or iron, things inanimate and senseless as have been the accidental cause of a man's death, by falling on him; for you who cut off and bury that hand separate from the rest of the body, which hath committed self murder; for you to reward the undeserving."[...]

                  "If any thing inanimate (lightning or other weapon sent from heaven excepted) shall either by its own fall, or by a man's falling upon it, deprive him of life, let application be made to the judge and let the inanimate thing be exterminated as is the case of animals"

                  in FULL INQUIRY INTO THE SUBJECT OF SUICIDE (to wich are added as being closely connected with the subject) TWO TREATISES ON DUELLING AND GAMING.

                  Charles Moore, Rector of Cuxton and Vicar of Boughton, 1790.

                  I'm sure Google will yeld plenty other examples.

          3. stu 4

            Re: Another interesting hypothesis

            http://blog.oxforddictionaries.com/2012/09/does-decimate-mean-destroy-one-tenth/

            1. ElReg!comments!Pierre Silver badge

              Re: Another interesting hypothesis @ stu 4

              > http://blog.oxforddictionaries.com/2012/09/does-decimate-mean-destroy-one-tenth/

              So it means either to kill one in ten, or to tax -normally, by one tenth (tithe)-... mmmh, I wonder which one the original user meant.

    3. Psyx

      Re: Another interesting hypothesis

      "travelling wicked fast and hot, impacting the plane and this would completely decimate the craft and everyone inside rather quickly."

      No worries: We'll just find the surviving 90% of the aircraft and passengers, then.

      "Debris would be near impossible to find and spread out across a very wide area"

      Kinda oxymoronic, there. Debris spread over a wide area is very easy to find. Especially those 300 life vests: They stand out a bit from the air.

      "and unless some serial numbers or other tell-tale markings are found on some debirs, any parts found could be thought of as trash/ litter, rather than part of the craft itself."

      Except all of those life vest and floating pieces of luggage, of course.

      If it had been hit by a rock in the original search area we'd have seen debris and Malaysian radar would not have seen the plane flying 300 miles over their country.

      "A space rock of small size could decimate - meaning nothing of size is left"

      That's not how physics works. The plane breaking up would shred it far more effectively than a cantaloupe-rock, and yet plenty of debris from high altitude disintegrations on other occasions have been found.

    4. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

      Re: Another interesting hypothesis

      "However, at 6 miles up, at the speed and pressurization the craft was at, all it would really take would be an object roughly the size of a cantalope, travelling wicked fast and hot"

      Hmmm, I think a "u" is missing somewhere... maybe cuntalope? No, that doesn't sound right...

      1. 's water music Silver badge

        Re: Another interesting hypothesis

        cuntalope

        The OED cunty neologisms article is this fucking way

    5. Tom 13

      Re: Another interesting hypothesis

      I'm voting for sharks with fricking lasers myself.

  23. John G Imrie Silver badge

    Solving the flight time problem

    Someone somewhere has had to pay for all the fuel in that plane. That means there are at least two companies with records one the airline and two the airport fuelling company.

    1. ElReg!comments!Pierre Silver badge

      Re: Solving the flight time problem

      I'd expect airlines to have pretty big fuel reserves by themselves; that, or bulk arrangement with the refuelling company. Which means they fill up the planes from one big "pool" and pay monthly (or similar). Bus companies similarly don't keep individual receipts for each refuelling. They just fill up the tanks that need filling, safe in the knowledge that all will be used towards the intended aim, which is to move big boxes full of people.

      1. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

        Re: Solving the flight time problem

        I would expect that any competent airline would fill out a load sheet (necessary for calculating weight and balance, setting trim, etc.) for each flight. That would include the passenger and crew count (multiplied by a standard weight), luggage and cargo (actual weight) and fuel. Given the CYA attitude of most operators, even if its not a requirement there is probably a copy filed somewhere.

      2. Stoneshop Silver badge

        Re: Solving the flight time problem

        The airlines don't own a fuel pool, they just have contracts with the local cooked dinosaur juice peddlers at the airports they frequent. And as those CDJPs usually service more than one airline at any airport, those will want to keep track of how many liters they deliver to each airline. Plus, pilots will want to know how much fuel is on the plane, for reasons of flight range[1] as well as flight characteristics. And then there are the beancounters who will figure whether it's cheaper to bring more fuel so that you need to fill up less at an airport where the stuff is more expensive.

        [1] still, the occasional error occurs and jets suddenly turn into gliders

    2. Sigfried

      Re: Solving the flight time problem

      I'm sure that the fuel load is included in the filed flight documents. Note that the load may have been heavier than strictly needed as fuel is considerably more expensive in Beijing than in KL especially for MAS who get a deal from their government. Thus it is worth freighting some extra fuel up to Beijing to reduce the top-up needed for the return flight; it's probably a careful economic calculation each time for how much extra it is worth carrying.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    its a big plane

    777s are big things which are difficult to hide or lose. If it landed covertly somewhere, you can bet someone will leak it sometime soon - imagine how much the press would pay for that info. Or it crashed on the ground - again just a matter of time before it is found or stumbled upon. Or it went down at sea - in which case there is a very high probability of floating debris which will wash ashore somewhere sometime soon.

    So its just a question of time. And while we all speculate, let us all bear in mind the grief of the relatives.

    1. Tom 13

      Re: its a big plane

      Ah, but you sir are overlooking the critical importance of that volcanic island that was clearly on the satellite imagery the day the plane disappeared and which is no longer there.

      Where's the icon for Sean Connery when you need it?

  25. stu 4

    pish and bollocks

    it's in Russell Square.

    https://www.google.co.uk/maps/@51.5224509,-0.1258966,56m/data=!3m1!1e3?hl=en

  26. nimster
    Unhappy

    Iit is my opinion - and only my opinion - that one of countries on the Northern arc shot it down recognising it as a possible attacak.

    My guesses are India or China - why are they schtum? It gives them time to clean up the debris.

    I accept i mught be comepltely wrong - but I wouldn't rule this one out

    1. doctariAFC2

      That, too, is possible, but debris would have been found by now, and then the story of something catastrophic happening to cover a military response to a potential threatening aircraft unauthorized in another Nation's air space.

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        Well, no. It was pretty immediately clear what happened to KAL 007 although there was never clarification about why the pilot set the autopilot so that the plane crossed soviet military territory and no-one in the cockpit realized that the sun not being where it should be supposed to be (i.e. over the horizon) meant they were off course.

        1. Stoneshop Silver badge
          FAIL

          and no-one in the cockpit realized that the sun not being where it should be supposed to be (i.e. over the horizon) meant they were off course.

          KAL007 took of from Anchorage 1st September 05:00 local time. Sunrise would be 06:52.

          It flew westwards, so against the rotation of the earth, at a speed slightly faster than the earth's rotational speed at those latitudes. In other words, it would have had its local time running slowly backwards during its flight.

          It was destroyed at 03:36 local time near Sakhalin, exactly four hours before sunrise there.

          IF they were to encounter a sunrise due to some weird time distortion effect, it would be roughly behind the plane, unless that particular day sunrise was in the west instead of in the east as is common.

          Now tell me, how could they have used the sun to alert them to a course offset of 185 miles over some 2400 miles travelled?

  27. Zaphod B

    The question nobody ever asked

    What cargo was on the plane ?

    1. Anonymous Dutch Coward

      Re: The question nobody ever asked

      Not quite, Mr President - see the earlier post about the Chinese gold...

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I've only really got one question. Why the fuck is it possible for the captain to even turn off such critical systems in the first place? Surely the first thing to do in response to this incident, is to glue every ACARS and transponder switch on every other aircraft into the ON position...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Facepalm

      "I've only really got one question. Why the fuck is it possible for the captain to even turn off such critical systems in the first place? Surely the first thing to do in response to this incident, is to glue every ACARS and transponder switch on every other aircraft into the ON position..."

      Did you ready ANY of the other comments, where this question is answered? Repeatedly.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Number of fires in ACARS system that would necessitate turning it off to save the aircraft: 0

        Number of times a rogue pilot has disabled the system to hijack the aircraft: 1

        Evidence would seem to suggest glueing the switch to ON would save more aircraft than it would destroy.

        1. Psyx

          "Number of fires in ACARS system that would necessitate turning it off to save the aircraft: 0" [Citation required]

          I suspect that there have probably been times when pilots have turned them off in flight for various real-world reasons. Airlines tend not to post long lists of averted problems.

          Anyway: Hindsight is wonderful. Yes: Maybe this will lead to some changes. But it has very much been a black swan incident.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          "Number of fires in ACARS system that would necessitate turning it off to save the aircraft: 0

          Number of times a rogue pilot has disabled the system to hijack the aircraft: 1

          Evidence would seem to suggest glueing the switch to ON would save more aircraft than it would destroy."

          So... on a one-sample kneejerk basis, you think that the fact that the ACARS unit itself hasn't caused fires (as far as we know) means that it definitely never will, despite the exceptionally complex and extensive wiring to be found on aircraft and the many instances of electrical system fires and smoke emergencies both major and minor in aircraft over the years? And you believe you are better placed than say, the entire aviation industry to judge that gluing a switch in the 'on' position is somehow a good idea, when basic reasoning and the examples given in other threads demonstrate otherwise?

          Have you considered a career in politics?

          1. Nigel 11

            Risk analysis needed

            It's a risk analysis problem. 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? What is the risk from a malicious pilot? IMO the safest low-power electrical installations are probably much more reliable than human brains.

            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.

            Oh, and instead of meaningless pings, have the antenna transmit the plane's GPS coordinates even when ACARS is shut down! How much extra bandwidth would mere GPS coords every half-hour actually cost? If this plane's black boxes are never found, this will be an accident or incident with unknown causes that may recur, so there is a strong interest in knowing where to look for a lost plane.

            1. Vic

              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.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Plausable theory worth consideration

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

    1. Psyx

      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.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    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.

    1. SkippyBing Silver badge

      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.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    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.

    1. Nigel 11

      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?

      1. Vic

        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.

  32. LordHighFixer
    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?

    1. SkippyBing Silver badge

      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.

  33. Muscleguy Silver badge
    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.

    1. Sigfried

      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.

    2. Stoneshop Silver badge

      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).

  34. Herby Silver badge
    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.

  35. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge
    Joke

    I could have sworn ...

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

  36. E 2

    Different theory

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

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: Different theory

      Go on....

      1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

        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 :-)

        1. Psyx

          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?

  37. David Roberts Silver badge
    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.

    1. Jonathan Richards 1

      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.

      1. Nigel 11

        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! )

    2. SkippyBing Silver badge

      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...

      1. David Roberts Silver badge

        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.

        1. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

          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...

          1. David Roberts Silver badge

            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.

            1. Psyx

              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.

      2. Stoneshop Silver badge

        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.

    3. Psyx

      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?

  38. Swiss Anton

    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.

    1. Psyx

      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.

      1. Swiss Anton

        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.

        1. Vic

          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.

          1. Swiss Anton

            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)

            1. Vic

              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.

  39. Anonymous Coward
    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?

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge
      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.

      1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

        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.

    2. Nigel 11

      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.

  40. Gorio

    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

    1. Mephistro Silver badge

      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.

    2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      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"

      1. Mephistro Silver badge

        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.

    3. Vic

      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.

      1. Turtle

        @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.

        1. gazthejourno (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.

          1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

            Re: @Vic Facts

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

  41. PNGuinn

    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?

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      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.

    2. Vic

      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.

    3. Psyx

      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.

  42. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

    Nothing here...

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

    1. Psyx

      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.

  43. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

    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.

    1. Destroy All Monsters 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. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

        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....

      2. Dodgy Geezer 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?..

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

        Next question?

    2. Nigel 11

      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.

  44. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    El reg readers

    Have dinner parties?

    Unbelievable right there.

  45. WatAWorld

    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.

    1. Psyx

      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.

  46. ps2os2
    IT Angle

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

    1. Intractable Potsherd 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!

      1. ElReg!comments!Pierre 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. Destroy All Monsters 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.

          1. skeptical i
            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*

            1. Destroy All Monsters 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.

  47. Anonymous Coward
    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.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      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. Psyx

        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.

        1. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

          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...

  48. Anonymous Coward
    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.

  49. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Airplane mode

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

  50. Ken Moorhouse 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.

  51. Magnus_Pym

    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.

    1. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

      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. Destroy All Monsters 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!"

        1. Destroy All Monsters 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. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

            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. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

              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!

      2. Nigel 11

        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.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      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.

    3. Psyx

      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.

  52. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

    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...

    1. Destroy All Monsters 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....

    2. Aldous

      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).

  53. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

    ...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?

  54. Scott Kenney

    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.

  55. Chris Young

    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/

    1. Vic

      > 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.

  56. Anonymous Coward
    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!

  57. Kumaryu
    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.

    1. Psyx

      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. Kumaryu

        "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.

        1. Psyx

          "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.

      2. Kumaryu

        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.

    2. Bigbird3141

      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.

  58. Shaha Alam

    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.

  59. hamcheeseandonion
    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

    1. hamcheeseandonion
      Headmaster

      Re: Gruesome chance missed

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

    2. Stoneshop Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Re: Gruesome chance missed

      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.

      And for that we only have to look for a fleet of Chinese trawlers that cater to the shark fin soup industry.

  60. Nigel Hamlin

    Best I've seen yet on this story

    http://www.wired.com/autopia/2014/03/mh370-electrical-fire/

    1. ElReg!comments!Pierre Silver badge

      Re: Best I've seen yet on this story

      The link has been posted higher up a dozen times already, do keep up. Also, the author of the article you point to published an update in which he admits that the data now available makes the theory obsolete -again, as has been stated in this very column a couple times in response to the very same link that you repost. So, double-do-keep-up.

      1. Bob Camp

        Re: Best I've seen yet on this story

        And now that the timeline is thought to be not as clear AGAIN, his theory is plausible AGAIN. Round and round we go.

        I don't know why everyone knows the transponder was switched off. I have one in my lab and there's absolutely no difference between switching it off, pulling its power, or disconnecting its antenna. It just stops transmitting.

    2. lambda_beta

      Re: Best I've seen yet on this story

      Here it is:

      The mother ship with a tractor beam has the airplane.

  61. AJames

    The simplest explanation and confirmation bias

    The simplest explanation is that MH370 crashed into the sea near where it disappeared, and the rest of the shaky evidence and wild speculation is simply wrong (as much of it has already proven to be).

    I'm working on an article to that effect with an associate who specializes in the psychology of investigators and the ways that investigations can go wrong (we don't expect the missing flight to be found before the article is published). This case is a classic, with all the signs. My associate doesn't know how to evaluate the technical details in the reporting, so I'm helping out as an engineer who knows a lot about air traffic control systems and satellite systems. While there is certainly some technical evidence of a flight diversion, I have to say that it has been very poorly reported, and I consider it at least as questionable as other evidence that has already proven false.

    Most people don't seem to understand the need to evaluate individual bits of evidence independently in the early stages of an investigation to avoid "confirmation bias". One bit of questionable evidence leads to a theory, and suddenly everyone is trying to confirm that theory, adding more questionable evidence that isn't independent while ignoring other evidence that doesn't fit the theory.

    There is certainly some evidence that the flight was diverted, and I wouldn't rule out that it might well prove to have been in the end. But extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and so far there are only two bits of evidence that amount to anything in my view:

    1. The wreckage hasn't been found in the area of disappearance. In every previous case of an airliner crashing at sea, floating debris and bodies were found within days. There are possible explanations, but I still think it's a key point.

    2. The supposed InMarSat data. The problem with this is that the news reports are extremely vague and often inaccurate. It may consist of a single data point, and having never looked for such data before, InMarSat officials probably have no idea how accurate or error-prone it may be. Any number of possible errors could render it meaningless, such as a mis-identification of the transmitter number, incorrect conversion of the time stamp, or incomplete data stuck in a buffer being flushed out hours later.

    The military radar data is nonsense.

    It's not much on which to base a lengthy and extremely expensive search effort when common sense suggests that the original search area is more likely to be correct. Since it's no longer an emergency, the investigators should sit back, clear their heads, and go over the evidence again with fresh eyes and more in-depth analysis.

    1. Vic

      Re: The simplest explanation and confirmation bias

      > The military radar data is nonsense.

      [Citation needed]

      Vic.

    2. Kumaryu

      Re: The simplest explanation and confirmation bias

      I agree with your comment that primary radar data is unreliable at best since it doesn't identify the aircraft as MH370.

      I also feel that to assume that transponder and ACARS stopped transmitting because the aircraft crashed is less speculative, ie requiring less assumptions than other theories.

      Its also entirely possible that the initial search in South China Sea missed the wreckage especially if the fuselage stayed intact and little floating debris reached the surface. This may also explain ping responses but I must admit, less likely.

      Compared to the theories that are currently being investigated, this line of reasoning requires far less assumptions. Occam's Razor.

      1. ElReg!comments!Pierre Silver badge

        Re: The simplest explanation and confirmation bias

        > I agree with your comment that primary radar data is unreliable at best since it doesn't identify the aircraft as MH370.

        Do you have the radar data? Military radar systems are designed to try and identify the "blips" they get; i'd bet a 777 has quite a characteristic radar signature.

        > I also feel that to assume that transponder and ACARS stopped transmitting because the aircraft crashed is less speculative, ie requiring less assumptions than other theories.

        So the plane crashed and ACARS stopped transmitting its ID but somehow kept pinging the satellite?

        > this line of reasoning requires far less assumptions.

        If that's what you think I have a theory with even less assumptions for you: it's just been misplaced behind the couch. Zero assumptions needed.

      2. Psyx

        Re: The simplest explanation and confirmation bias

        "This may also explain ping responses but I must admit, less likely."

        I don't buy that it carried on transmitting for hours after a crash and that the wreck was repeatedly missed. I could be wrong, but it's a stretch.

        1. Kumaryu

          Re: The simplest explanation and confirmation bias

          True. Its the weakest part of the theory, hence "less likely".

    3. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

      Re: The simplest explanation and confirmation bias

      "It may consist of a single data point, and having never looked for such data before, InMarSat officials probably have no idea how accurate or error-prone it may be. Any number of possible errors could render it meaningless, such as a mis-identification of the transmitter number, incorrect conversion of the time stamp, or incomplete data stuck in a buffer being flushed out hours later."

      This is a lot of very improbable assumptions. You're right about the confirmation bias but you display all signs of it yourself, unfortunately.

      An idea that Inmarsat engineers have absolutely no clue about their own system and made such a glaring mistake requires such a stretch of imagination that your theory is totally dead in the water.

    4. Psyx

      Re: The simplest explanation and confirmation bias

      "The simplest explanation is that MH370 crashed into the sea near where it disappeared, and the rest of the shaky evidence and wild speculation is simply wrong (as much of it has already proven to be)."

      Not born out by evidence, though. No wreckage. Plane crashes leave wreckage and the area has been repeatedly combed by aircraft capable of detecting debris.

      "I'm working on an article to that effect"

      So: An attention grabbing piece which selectively ignores evidence. Wouldn't it better to write something without a conclusion but which is best-fit for observations?

      "The military radar data is nonsense."

      Easy to say, hard to back up. Why?

      "common sense suggest..."

      Confirmation bias there. Common sense says that I put my keys where I usually do, but if I haven't find them after looking a dozen times, they're elsewhere.

    5. Stoneshop Silver badge

      Re: The simplest explanation and confirmation bias

      2. The supposed InMarSat data. The problem with this is that the news reports are extremely vague and often inaccurate. It may consist of a single data point, and having never looked for such data before, InMarSat officials probably have no idea how accurate or error-prone it may be. Any number of possible errors could render it meaningless, such as a mis-identification of the transmitter number, incorrect conversion of the time stamp, or incomplete data stuck in a buffer being flushed out hours later.

      Whatever reaches the public media could well be incomplete and quite possibly misreported, but in a case like this, several engineers will have been poring over the data and any metadata, trying to get all available info out of it, checking with the others whether they've missed or misinterpreted something.

      And Inmarsat was not put into service last month, with the bugs in their software still needing to be ironed out, insofar as they would be known. If they had, or even still have, problems with incorrect transmission, buffering or logging, those bugs would either be a thing of the past, or so rare that they're as good as irreproducible (in which case, good luck debugging) and in that case it would be extremely unlikely that it would affect exactly this flight.

    6. AJames

      Re: The simplest explanation and confirmation bias

      To be clear, the article we are writing is about the psychology of the investigation rather than the technical details, so we aren't attempting to decide which is the correct explanation based on the limited and often inaccurate information that has been published so far. However we obviously need to understand the technical evidence in order to understand how it has influenced the investigation.

      I discount the military radar data because I am familiar with such radar data and I have a good idea what it does or doesn't show. For those who aren't personally familiar, I suggest you read the accounts of the incident where the U.S.S. Vincennes shot down an Iranian airliner by mistake. Although equipped with a very advanced AEGIS phased array radar system, they identified the Airbus airliner as an F14 fighter and thought it was descending toward the ship when it was actually climbing to cruising altitude. It was only 9 miles away when they decided to fire missiles at it. Does that tell you enough about the ability of military radars to identify unknown targets under ideal conditions of close range and no terrain clutter?

      I have no doubt that the InMarSat engineers are very competent and are working diligently to clarify and verify their data. I also note that InMarSat has said nothing much officially since their initial hasty comments to the press. Why would I doubt their abilities? Here's a couple of things to think about:

      1. I doubt that InMarSat's satellite ping data is identified as "Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370". It probably has a transmitter number assigned to Malaysian Airlines, and they are relying on Malaysian Airlines to give them the correct number from their records. Of course the aircraft itself is no longer available to verify that they have the right number...

      2. Do you remember when NASA's Mars Climate Orbiter crashed into Mars and was lost because an engineer confused metric and imperial units? Engineers make mistakes, even basic dumb mistakes. Maybe like not converting time zones correctly when analyzing data in a way they have never been asked to do before?

      I'm not saying that it's definitely a mistake. Just that we don't know until it's verified very carefully, and it's a lot to hang a very expensive investigation on. You would want to be really, really sure.

      1. Vic

        Re: The simplest explanation and confirmation bias

        I discount the military radar data because I am familiar with such radar data and I have a good idea what it does or doesn't show.

        I doubt that.

        I went to Boscombe Down last year. In the radar room, we watched the parachute plane from Old Sarum drop its parachutists. You could count them out...

        I suggest you read the accounts of the incident where the U.S.S. Vincennes shot down an Iranian airliner by mistake

        That had nothing to do with radar problems and everything to do with the belligerence of the commanding officer.

        I'm not saying that it's definitely a mistake. Just that we don't know until it's verified very carefully

        Quite a lot is already verified. Australia seems just to have released some confirmation about what has been said, but I missed the article on account of my missus having an uncanny knack of talking through every single headline ever.

        Vic.

      2. 2+2=5 Silver badge

        Re: The simplest explanation and confirmation bias

        > I discount the military radar data because I am familiar with such radar data and I have a good idea what it does or doesn't show. For those who aren't personally familiar, I suggest you read the accounts of the incident where the U.S.S. Vincennes shot down an Iranian airliner by mistake. Although equipped with a very advanced AEGIS phased array radar system, they identified the Airbus airliner as an F14 fighter and thought it was descending toward the ship when it was actually climbing to cruising altitude. It was only 9 miles away when they decided to fire missiles at it. Does that tell you enough about the ability of military radars to identify unknown targets under ideal conditions of close range and no terrain clutter?

        That incident tells us nothing about the ability of military radar but everything about the amount of misinformation that an embarrassed Navy / Government will spread in an effort to wriggle out of culpability.

        1. Vic

          Re: The simplest explanation and confirmation bias

          That incident tells us nothing about the ability of military radar but everything about the amount of misinformation that an embarrassed Navy / Government will spread in an effort to wriggle out of culpability.

          And that, I'm afraid, is probably the most likely explanation for most of this incident.

          Vic.

      3. Psyx

        Re: The simplest explanation and confirmation bias

        "To be clear, the article we are writing is about the psychology of the investigation rather than the technical details"

        You don't have any insight into that, not being privvy to the investigation, not having talked to them. You and I have no idea about the inner workings of this investigation.

        It won't be an article, it will be a completely speculative blog piece. Don't you feel that's perhaps not exactly good journalism?

        "I discount the military radar data because I am familiar with such radar data and I have a good idea what it does or doesn't show."

        Umm..clearly not. Vincennes was a fire control (human) error, not the radar. Military radar on Aegis cruisers is designed to track hundreds of targets, down to the size of individual missiles. You conclusions about military radar capabilities are entirely false and based on a single incident and zero first-hand experience. And you speak about confirmation bias in others?

        "Of course the aircraft itself is no longer available to verify that they have the right number..."

        Wow... so you want to assume that they have the wrong number and it's some other flight? Really?

        In truth it would be a piece of cake to ascertain by checking back on the history of that handshake and confirming it was in the vicinity of the flight historically.

        "Maybe like not converting time zones correctly when analyzing data in a way they have never been asked to do before?"

        Hell of an assumption there. A massive one that it's unfair to make without being privvy to the investigation: which you aren't.

      4. ElReg!comments!Pierre Silver badge

        Re: The simplest explanation and confirmation bias

        > I discount the military radar data because I am familiar with such radar data and I have a good idea what it does or doesn't show. For those who aren't personally familiar, I suggest you read the accounts of the incident where the U.S.S. Vincennes shot down an Iranian airliner by mistake.

        I suggest you read the accounts of the incidents where US forces shot their Brit allies by mistake, or where they bombed a whole block killing numerous civilians because they mistook a camera lens for a RPG launcher. It has nothing to do with radar tech, everything to do with the "shoot first, think later" culture of the US forces.

        That particular radar had the 777 in sight for most of its flight, including the part when it was broadcasting its ID. There is little to no doubt that there identification is correct. Now that's not the same for altitude data, that is not reliable.

        1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

          Re: The simplest explanation and confirmation bias

          Speaking of radars, I actually think it is quite possible to hide behind another plane, especially if it is of the same size as or larger than the plane you want to hide.

          Most of my personal experience with radars concerned with the short range front-line SAM systems but we have also been taught the basics and had some experience with long range stations (P-18). The resolution in range for such a search radar is about 300m in good conditions, so two planes flying in close formation will be seen as one contact *if they are flying in echelon along the sight-line of the radar*.

          The problem here is not so much the radar but pilotage - this will basically require the hiding plane to fly in formation for hours on end, at night, using only the other plane's nav lights for guidance and taking into account the location of the radar you want to hide from. That makes it seem very unlikely to me.

  62. Andy 115

    A simple test…

    Surely being considered, would be to fly another (similarly equipped) 777 along the suspected route from radio hand-off to Malaysia ATC. And see if the radar and Inmarsat data is as expected…

    1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

      Re: A simple test…

      The amount of money being spent already, and the suggestion of any kind of budget being unthinkable in a public statement, running tests like this need to be be considered, at least. One problem though is that the satellite will presumably be in a different position, so the exact results will be different, but it will provide a benchmark of data where correct time zone information can be verified (a point made by someone earlier).

      1. SkippyBing Silver badge

        Re: A simple test…

        'One problem though is that the satellite will presumably be in a different position'

        That'd be an interesting geostationary satellite if it is...

        1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

          Re: A simple test…

          Yes I take your point. Maybe I should expand what I meant, rather than what I said. Yes, the satellite(s) might be in geostationary orbit, but presumably such things as weather conditions and traffic loading will dictate the "here" and "back" detection and relaying of the "ping" - Inmarsat no doubt having some kind of highly resilient network in place to ensure collection and delivery of data. I assume that Inmarsat can document the route the signal took, can that be reproduced?

  63. chivo243 Silver badge
    Coat

    Wake up and smell the coffee

    Keep your eye on the prize, don’t be distracted by the glitter.

    The plane is on the ground somewhere... north, and it landed. Either there is cargo that is not disclosed to the public (gold, technology, explosive or toxic material), or more likely, 20 or so of the passengers are the prize.

    Too many coincidences colliding in this story for it to be a burn and crash scenario

    tags: drones, radar jamming, evasion

    Getting my coat since my tinfoil hat is at home, and there’s no icon for the tinfoil hat.

    1. 2+2=5 Silver badge

      Re: Wake up and smell the coffee

      > The plane ... landed ... [and] ... 20 or so of the passengers are the prize.

      Don't be a plonker. If they were so important they can be head-hunted using good, old-fashioned money.

      1. robmobz

        Re: Wake up and smell the coffee

        Not if you are headhunting them for information about a government they work for that is not on the best of terms with yours.

        1. Psyx

          Re: Wake up and smell the coffee

          "Not if you are headhunting them for information about a government they work for that is not on the best of terms with yours."

          Several thousand years of history replete with people and spies who happily worked for big bags of cash say you're wrong.

          Pretty much no financial reason would result in a cost or profit which outweighs the price of a 777. No amount of gold it could have been carrying would cost as much as the airframe itself.

          1. Vic

            Re: Wake up and smell the coffee

            > No amount of gold it could have been carrying would cost as much as the airframe itself.

            Whilst that is certainly true, the economics work slightly differently if you're nicking the aircraft - because you don't pay for it.

            I very much doubt that happened, though. I am hoping that there has actually been a ransom demand that the Malaysian authorities aren't telling us about. But that's a straw I'm grasping at - it's the only way I can imagine that the passengers are still alive.

            Vic.

    2. Psyx
      Pint

      Re: Wake up and smell the coffee

      When you use 'tags', you have to actually use hash-tags. Not that they'd do anything here...

  64. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's elementary

    The simplest explanation, passing the Occam's Razor test is of course a failed alien abduction causing a crash. A side effect of the antigravity generator breakdown was a time-space warp resulting in a time slip.

    The reason there is no debris along the flight track is the crash has not yet happened.

  65. Turtle

    Possible Scenario.

    I can imagine the co-pilot saying "Good-night" to the air-traffic controllers, then drugging or incapacitating the pilot, and putting the aircraft on autopilot and flying until fuel exhaustion.

    Notice that this leaves open various scenarios as to how the rest of the crew and the passengers were disabled. I suppose one could imagine that the co-pilot disabled the pilot, brought the aircraft down to 5000ft, breached the hull somehow - he could have even broken a window in the cockpit - and then had the autopilot fly up to 35000ft (or whatever altitude would be required), killing everyone on board by hypoxia, with the autopilot then flying the aircraft out to sea until fuel exhaustion.

    Since there are people here with some familiarity with aircraft operations, I would be interested in hearing their opinions of this.

    There was a case in Egypt a few years back where the pilot decided to commit suicide by crashing his passenger jet. MH370 co-pilot could have learned something from that. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EgyptAir_Flight_990.

    See also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_Air_Maroc_Flight_630 where a pilot disconnected the autopilot and crashed the aircraft. Also relevant is http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SilkAir_Flight_185 .

    See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Federal_Express_Flight_705 where a member of the flight crew smuggled a hammer aboard the aircraft, and attempted to bludgeon the pilot and co-pilot to death. He didn't use a gun because he had a $2.5 million insurance policy on which he wanted his family to collect and gunshots in the bodies of the flight crew would make that... problematical. The co-pilot of MH370 could have had a motive to want the bodies not found: insurance policy, sparing his family the shame of having a family member commit suicide, possibly other motives.

    Auburn Calloway, a Federal Express employee facing possible dismissal for lying about his previous flying experience, boarded the scheduled flight as a deadheading passenger with a guitar case carrying several hammers and a speargun. He intended to disable the aircraft's cockpit voice recorder before take-off and, once airborne, kill the crew using the blunt force of the hammers so their injuries would appear consistent with an accident rather than a hijacking. The speargun would be a last resort. He would then crash the aircraft while just appearing to be an employee killed in an accident. This would make his family eligible for a $2.5 million life insurance policy paid by Federal Express.

  66. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Tankering?

    "(Normally a captain tries not to overload a plane with fuel as air-freighting fuel from airport to airport costs fuel - and thus money - in itself.)

    Not if the aircraft was 'tankering'.

    Our man adds: "IF they were both in on some type of plan they could have filled it up to whatever level of fuel they wanted, all the way to maximum tanks fuel which could give them 13-14 hours endurance at the limit"."

    The 'tankering' plan goes like this. Assume the aircraft is making a round trip between points A and B. If the fuel cost is the same at points A and B, the lowest round-trip cost including fuel cost, engine, airframe, undercarriage and brakes wear, forecast winds and weather, etc. is obtained by uploading the legal minimum fuel for the outbound trip at A, and topping up at B to the legal minimum for the return.

    However, if the fuel cost to the airline at B is significantly greater than at A, a point will come in the disparity at which the overall round trip cost is minimised by uploading additional fuel at A and less at B. The logical conclusion comes when it's cheaper to upload the entire fuel requirement at A for the round trip.

    The situation can become even more complex (or, perhaps, simpler?) when your airline and its domestic fuel supplier are owned by the same people. Look at the fast-expanding Middle-Eastern carriers. Furthermore, if the airline is not financially sound it might well pay over the odds for fuel at point B.

    Fuel in Beijing is notoriously expensive, and both Cathay Pacific and Korean Air Lines are known routinely to tanker it in.

    The Malaysians have said repeatedly that the aircraft was not carrying 'extra' fuel. They could quite truthfully mean by this "not extra to the tankering plan", which, leaving out a landing and take-off in the middle, could have given the 777 a total endurance of 12 hours or more when it left KL. AFAIK the Malaysians have still not disclosed the actual amount of fuel it departed KL with.

  67. Stoneshop Silver badge
    WTF?

    Tinfoil hattery galore

    This afternoon on the (Dutch) radio:

    "Oh, MH370 is on an airfield somewhere in Afghanistan or Kazakhstan or Iran. It's going to be used as a trojan horse next monday, when the NSS starts. There's a regular flight by Malaysia Airlines from Kuala Lumpur to Amsterdam that day, flown with a 777, and they will switch planes when it's over the region where MH370 is now. So it will land at Schiphol, full of terrorists, or maybe with the passengers as hostages, and then anything can happen"

    The interviewer even kindof agreed that that was a plausible scenario.

This topic is closed for new posts.

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019