Monday, March 24, 2014

MH370 Update

The Malaysians are now saying they have no doubt the flight 'ended' in the southern Indian Ocean. Their PM came on TV to make the announcement, based he said on new information from Inmarsat.  The new floating debris was also mentioned, although it wasn't specifically tied to the aircraft.  Careful observers will note they didn't seem to use the word "crashed", sticking with "lost", "went down" and "ended".  That may be intentional or out of respect for the grieving.   But why should anyone believe them?

After all, until yesterday they had said the last ACARS transmission at 01:07am indicated a pre-selected turn and possible foul play in the cockpit.  Then suddenly yesterday, without much explanation, it changed.  The last ACARS transmission at 01:07am was back to normal again.

Now today they have announced a finality. 

OK.  Well, this new finality coming without identifying specific debris is odd, but could be in response to search planes spotting something fairly absolute, such as human remains.  That occurred in AF 447, five days after its disappearance and before the major pieces of debris were located.   If true, this might be something they want to first confirm before blurting it out to the media due to the obvious sensitivities.  

The new narrative also brings back the catastrophic theory again, with something happening between the 01:19am sign-off and the scheduled 01:37am ACARS transmission that didn't occur.  In such a scenario the captain or FO would have likely attempted to turn the airplane back towards Malaysia and drop the altitude to 12,000 feet (which they now claim is what the military radar shows).  Dropping to 10 or 12 thousand feet would be protocol in a decompression event to ensure passenger survivability,  since the drop down O2 masks have a short supply.

But that doesn't solve everything.  It doesn't explain why the aircraft rose to over 40,000 feet after the turn as earlier reported.  Unless that has vanished from the narrative.  It's hard to believe the military radar could be misinterpreted to such a degree.  Also, the Malaysians said their last radar hit in the Malacca Strait showed the aircraft at 29,500 feet.  Why would it descend then ascend back up over 12,000 feet if it was crippled with decompression or some other problem?

But it had to ascend.  If it stayed at 12,000 feet there's a high likelihood it wouldn't have had enough fuel to make it all the way to the suspected Southern Indian Ocean crash zone because the airplane would burn fuel at a much higher rate than at FL295.  But why would it ascend if it was crippled? They would have been searching for a place to put it down.  And how would it ascend?  If the pilots weren't incapacitated it makes no sense.  If they were perhaps the FMS returned it back to that level by itself.  But why were the pilots incapacitate?  That brings back a hijacker or suicide narrative again.   

Also, nothing seems to explain why the transponder and ACARS would stop working while the FMS and Inmarsat hub kept operating.   The only way Inmarsat was able to re-compute their data (and they probably have fine-tuned it using an analysis of winds and other data not immediately available) was because the power stayed on to their hub in the E&E bay of the aircraft the entire time.  So whatever catastrophic event occurred didn't entirely take out power to the aircraft (there are multiple backup systems anyway).  Experts on TV will explain how all this could happen, but like so many other things it seems hard to process in line with everything else we think we know.  Assuming we really know anything definite. 

For instance, those following the story closely should remember that we first heard from the Wall St Journal on March 13th quoting "US investigators" that engine-maker Rolls-Royce and Boeing reported they were receiving pings from their onboard comms units for up to 5 hours after last contact.  At the time the Malaysians were allowing the search and rescue effort to be concentrated on the Gulf of Thailand and South China Sea, with a secondary area in the Strait of Malacca.

Keep in mind this came from "US investigators" in a very similar manner to the New York Times report from March 17th that quoted "Senior American officials" about the last ACARS transmission at 01:07am actually showing an early course change programmed into the aircraft's FMS before the last verbal sign-off:
Flight 370’s Flight Management System reported its status to the Acars, which in turn transmitted information back to a maintenance base, according to an American official. This shows that the reprogramming happened before the Acars stopped working. The Acars ceased to function about the same time that oral radio contact was lost and the airplane’s transponder also stopped, fueling suspicions that foul play was involved in the plane’s disappearance.
Curiously, both reports, from US sources, have been denied by the Malaysians.  Why is our government telling our press different information?   Are we seeing an attempt to whitewash something or is it just incompetence?

Finally, the cargo manifest and the ATC tapes are still up in the air. The Malaysians finally admitted the aircraft was handling lithium batteries after denying it earlier.  They have zero credibility, so what else was the aircraft carrying? As to the ATC tapes, we still have not gotten a verified transcript. The one released to the British Telegraph was "translated from Mandarin" for some reason, leaving suspicion that it was leaked by the Chinese.  The NY Times yesterday had more information about what Malaysian and Vietnamese controllers were saying after MH370 disappeared from their radar scopes, but we need actual transcripts.

All in all this investigation has suffered greatly from a near blizzard of erroneous, unconfirmed, uncorroborated and misleading information from the Malaysians.  Whether this is intentional to put a shroud of fog over the story and keep people from understanding or remembering what's been said or just plain incompetence from a government trying to keep up with an overwhelming story is unknown.   The impact on the families of the lost is indescribable to anyone else but them.  But everyone following the story wants closure, for a variety of reasons.

But there may never be full closure on this event unless the bulk of the wreckage is found and both the CVR and FDR are found and examined by officials outside Malaysia.  If the current theory holds, that the pilots were both incapacitated and the aircraft was flying on its last heading until running out of fuel, then the FDR and CVR--largely silent--may confirm it.  If not, and even if, the conspiracy theories on this mystery will rival those of the Kennedy shooting.

AND..  3/24/14

This story seems to have vanished from the talking head networks, but seems rather important (if true):
“We managed to establish contact with MH370 just after 1:30 a.m. and asked them if they have transferred into Vietnamese airspace,” the pilot reportedly told New Straits Times. “The voice on the other side could have been either Captain Zaharie (Ahmad Shah, 53,) or Fariq (Abdul Hamid, 27), but I was sure it was the co-pilot.
“There were a lot of interference… static… but I heard mumbling from the other end. “That was the last time we heard from them, as we lost the connection,” the pilot said, adding that he thought nothing of the lost contact since it happens frequently — until he learned of MH370 never landing.
Would this be on any country's air traffic frequency archive?  Surely investigators would want to scrutinize what would be some very important information-- activity at 1:30am, which was between the 1:19am sign-off and the missed 1:37am ACARS report. 

"Mumbling" could mean a variety of things; but it would confirm they were doing more than "aviating and navigating" after/during the turn.  While it's impossible to say what the condition of the flight deck was at that moment it's now known the FO was on the radios, so ANY conversation from the crew after the sign-off might indicate they had either suffered an in-flight emergency or were in the process of being taken over by hijackers (to possibly include a member of the crew itself).  At the same time it would tend to diminish the possibility that both pilots were involved in some kind of aircraft theft or suicide mission, since they would have maintained radio silence after the last sign-off.

1 comment:

Right Truth said...

Now another "debris field" has been found, the hunt moved to another place....

Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney still says the plane is on the ground in Pakistan. Says he has it from two different sources 'inside' the military. Would be interesting. No one else is actually claiming this or that they have sources to confirm it.

Says he believes it was hijacked, to Pakistan, perhaps Iran, but might not be there now after all this time

Right Truth