April 03, 2014

Horse 1647 - Good Night, Malaysian Three Seven Zero (MH370)

01:07:55 (MAS 370) Malaysian... three seven zero maintaining level three five zero.
01:08:00 (ATC) Malaysian three seven zero.
01:19:24 (ATC) Malaysian three seven zero contact Ho Chi Minh 120 decimal nine. Good night.
01:19:29 (MAS 370) Good night, Malaysian three seven zero
The last transmission from the plane's communication transponder is at 1:21 am, and it vanishes from ATC radar at 1:30am.
- via ABC News, 2 Apr 2014

It's simply not all that common for an aircraft to just disappear is it? It turns out that yes. It's incredibly common for aircraft to just disappear. In fact lots and lots of aircraft disappear every single day.
When MH370 left the Air Traffic Control (ATC) area of Kuala Lumpur, it probably passed into the Flight Information Region of Jakarta and then FIR Melbourne*. No doubt that neither FIR Jakarta nor FIR Melbourne were expecting MH370 and as such, were never alerted to the need to track it.
But even when regular scheduled flights, say from Sydney to Auckland which is a distance of 1340 miles, for almost 940 miles of that journey, no scheduled flight is tracked to that level of scrutiny. Once a plane leaves an ATC area, it's pretty well much on its own until it enters another ATC area.

So then, what do I think happened to MH370? Not much really.

Authorities say the plane didn't send any emergency signals, though some analysts say it's still unclear whether the pilots tried but weren't able to communicate because of a catastrophic failure.
The official, who is not authorized to speak to the media, told CNN that the area the plane flew in after the turn is a heavily trafficked air corridor and that flying at 12,000 feet would have kept the jet well out of the way of that traffic.
- CNN, 24th Mar 2014.

Aircraft use what is know as a Pitot-static system which determines useful data such as airspeed, altitude changes etc. A Pitot-static system has a system of pressure tubes, pipes and diaphragms which then give these statistics. The problem with such a system is that they can be physically blocked, iced up, or even give faulty readings. Problems with the Pitot-static system have been cited as a contributing factor in the crash of Air France Flight 447 which had left Rio de Janeiro–Galeão Airport bound for Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport and crashed into the South Atlantic Ocean.

I think that with MH370, the principle of Occam's razor is probably the correct one. The theory with the fewest assumptions is most likely to be the correct one. So then what do we know?

1. MH370 upon leaving the Kuala Lumpur ATC seemed perfectly normal.
2. MH370 didn't send out any emergency signals.
3. MH370 which should have been at about 36,000 feet, was possibly found at 12,000 feet after turning.

My theory. What if, like Air France Flight 447, MH370 Pitot-static system had become faulty either through encountering an ice blast, or some other effect? What about ash from Mount Merapi which had erupted on 26th Feb or Sakurukjima in Kyushu which had erupted on 7th Mar.
I remember a documentary by BBC Radio 4 about British Airways Flight 9, which was a Boeing 747 flight from London Heathrow to Auckland, which thanks to volcanic ash, lost all four engines. That flight fell from 37,000 to 12,000 feet (also within FIR Jakarta) and thankfully, one of the engines restarted; which was enough to safely land at Jakarta.

What if MH370 also suffered a similar fate? If volcanic ash had rendered the Pitot-static system, then the crew might have had no idea that they were even in a technical stall. If the planehad lost sudden altitude, then maybe once the engines had reasserted itself, the autopilot simply set itself for deal level flight until it ran out of fuel.
Ultimately I live everyone else at this stage have no idea what happened and a picture won't be established until the flight recorders are retrieved but I don't suspect foul play or terrorists for the simple reason that I don't believe that any terrorist organisation could keep this quite for this long.
Occam's razor suggests that obviously something major has happened. If the pilots were unconscious, then maybe the autopilot, with no input, merely took over and awaited instructions which never came. The fact that there was no emergency reported, suggests to me that there was no-one conscious to report an emergency.

Until we do find out... Good night, Malaysian three seven zero... Vale

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