Saturday, 15 March 2014

Classified data shows plane may have crashed in Bay of Bengal or Indian Ocean



Classified intelligence analysis of electronic and satellite data has indicated that the missing Malaysia Airlines (MAS) flight 370 likely crashed either in the Bay of Bengal or somewhere in the Indian Ocean, an exclusive report by the CNN said.

If this information is true, it would offer the first glimpse of concrete details about what happened to the Beijing-bound flight which went off the radar early last Saturday.

It had enough credibility for the United States to move its guided missile destroyer, the USS Kidd, into the Indian Ocean, and Indian officials to expand its search effort into the Bay of Bengal.

An aviation industry source told CNN that the flight's automated communications system appeared to be intact for up to five hours, because "pings" from the system were received after the transponder last emitted a signal.

The CNN report said taken together, the data points toward speculation in a dark scenario in which someone took the plane for some unknown purpose, perhaps terrorism.


That theory is buoyed by a New York Times (NYT) report that the MAS plane made several significant altitude changes after losing transponder contact.

The paper said MH370 altered its course more than once as though it was still under the command of a pilot.

Quoting US officials and others close to the investigations, the report said the radar signals indicate that the jetliner climbed to 45,000 feet, above the approved limit for the Boeing 777-2000.

This happened right after it disappeared from civilian radar and made a sharp turn to the west.

The plane then descended unevenly to 23,000 feet, below normal cruising levels, as it approached Penang.

MH370 then turned from a southwest-bound direction, climbed to a higher altitude and flew northwest over the Strait of Malacca and towards the vast Indian Ocean.

While the Malaysian government has not released this radar information, it has shared it with the US and China.

The NYT report also stated that investigators have examined data transmitted from the plane's Rolls-Royce engines, showing it descended 40,0000 feet within a minute. It added that they were not likely to view the readings as accurate because for the jetliner to have fallen such a distance, it would have taken  longer than one minute.

CNN also reported on the theory that MH370 could have landed in a remote Indian Ocean island chain, based on analysis of radar data made known recently - and that whoever was piloting the plane was following navigational waypoints that many have taken the plane over the Andaman Islands.

It quoted FBI assistant director James Kallstrom as saying that while this "movie plot theory" appeared complicated and was unlikely, law enforcement had to check such a possibility.

"You draw that arc, and you look at countries like Pakistan, you know, and you get into your 'Superman' novels, and you see the plane landing somewhere and (people) repurposing it for some dastardly deed down the road," he told CNN.

Aviation experts contended that although highly unlikely, it was possible that someone could have hijacked and landed the jetliner undetected.

The international airport in Port Blair, the capital of the Andaman, is said to have a runway that is long enough to cater to a 777.

However, as the area is highly militarised due to its importance to India, Indian officials said the region was an unlikely target for hijackers trying to sneak in an airplane which had a wingspan of more than 200 feet, reported CNN.

Denis Giles, editor of the Andaman Chronicle newspaper, said there was no chance that an aircraft of that size could have landed in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

When the US sent the USS Kidd to scout the Indian Ocean, Cmdr William Marks of the US 7th Fleet said of the scale of the search: "I, like most of the world, really have never seen anything like this.

"We went from a chess board to a football field," he told CNN.

Meanwhile, Reuters reports that analysis of electronic pulses picked up from the missing airliner shows it could have run out of fuel and crashed into the Indian Ocean after it flew hundreds of miles off course, quoting a source familiar with official US assessments.

The source, who is familiar with data the US government is receiving from the investigation into the disappearance of the Malaysia Airlines plane, said the other, but less likely possibility, was that it flew on towards India, said Reuters.

Reuters also reported that the data obtained from pulses the plane sent to satellites had been interpreted to provide two different analyses because it was ambiguous, quoting the source, who declined to be identified because of the ongoing investigation.

But Reuters notes that it offers the first real clues as to the fate of Flight MH370, which officials increasingly believe was deliberately diverted off its scheduled course from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. The Boeing 777-200ER was carrying 239 people.

Reuters reported that two sources familiar with the probe earlier said Malaysian military radar data showed a plane that investigators suspect was Flight MH370 following a commonly used navigational route toward the Middle East and Europe when it was last spotted by radar early on March 8, northwest of Malaysia.

The electronic pulses were believed to have been transmitted for several hours after the plane flew out of radar range, said Reuters, quoting the source familiar with the data.

The most likely possibility is that after travelling northwest, the airliner did a sharp turn to the south, into the Indian Ocean where officials think, based on the available data, it flew until it ran out of fuel and crashed into the sea, added the source.

The other interpretation from the pulses is that Flight MH370 continued to fly to the northwest and headed over Indian territory, said Reuters, quoting the source.

Reuters also quoted the source as saying that because of the fragmentary nature of the data, US officials don't know for sure which analysis is correct, although they believe the turn to the south is more likely.

The source added that it was believed unlikely the plane flew for any length of time over India because that country has strong air defence and radar coverage and that should have allowed authorities there to see the plane and intercept it, said Reuters.

Malaysian Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said yesterday he could not confirm the last heading of the plane or if investigators were focusing on sabotage, reported Reuters.

Reuters added that there has been no trace of the plane nor any sign of wreckage as the navies and military aircraft of more than a dozen countries scour the seas on both sides of peninsular Malaysia.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Missing Airplane Flew On for Hours



Engine Data Suggest Malaysia Flight Was Airborne Long After Radar Disappearance, U.S. Investigators Say

U.S. investigators suspect that Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 stayed in the air for about four hours past the time it reached its last confirmed location, according to two people familiar with the details, raising the possibility that the plane could have flown on for hundreds of additional miles under conditions that remain murky.

Aviation investigators and national security officials believe the plane flew for a total of five hours, based on data automatically downloaded and sent to the ground from the Boeing Co. BA 777's engines as part of a routine maintenance and monitoring program.

WSJ has confirmed that the pilot had the ability to manually turn off the transponder on Flight MH370. A mid-air catastrophe could have destroyed it. Why is the transponder so significant? WSJ's Jason Bellini has #TheShortAnswer.

That raises a host of new questions and possibilities about what happened aboard the widebody jet carrying 239 people, which vanished from civilian air-traffic control radar over the weekend, about one hour into a flight to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur.

Six days after the mysterious disappearance prompted a massive international air and water search that so far hasn't produced any results, the investigation appears to be broadening in scope.

U.S. counterterrorism officials are pursuing the possibility that a pilot or someone else on board the plane may have diverted it toward an undisclosed location after intentionally turning off the jetliner's transponders to avoid radar detection, according to one person tracking the probe.

The Tricky Science of Radar Tracking

The investigation remains fluid, and it isn't clear whether investigators have evidence indicating possible terrorism or sabotage. So far, U.S. national security officials have said that nothing specifically points toward terrorism, though they haven't ruled it out.

But the huge uncertainty about where the plane was headed, and why it apparently continued flying so long without working transponders, has raised theories among investigators that the aircraft may have been commandeered for a reason that appears unclear to U.S. authorities. Some of those theories have been laid out to national security officials and senior personnel from various U.S. agencies, according to one person familiar with the matter.

At one briefing, according to this person, officials were told investigators are actively pursuing the notion that the plane was diverted "with the intention of using it later for another purpose."

As of Wednesday it remained unclear whether the plane reached an alternate destination or if it ultimately crashed, potentially hundreds of miles from where an international search effort has been focused.

In those scenarios, neither mechanical problems, pilot mistakes nor some other type of catastrophic incident caused the 250-ton plane to mysteriously vanish from radar.

The latest revelations come as local media reported that Malaysian police visited the home of at least one of the two pilots.

A Malaysia Airlines official declined to comment. A Boeing executive who declined to be would not comment except to say, "We've got to stand back from the front line of the information."

The engines' onboard monitoring system is provided by their manufacturer, Rolls-Royce PLC, and it periodically sends bursts of data about engine health, operations and aircraft movements to facilities on the ground.

"We continue to monitor the situation and to offer Malaysia Airlines our support," a Rolls-Royce representative said Wednesday, declining further comment.

"The disappearance is officially not an accident and all information about this is strictly handled by investigators," said a Rolls-Royce executive who declined to be named, citing rules of the International Civil Aviation Organization, a United Nations agency.

As part of its maintenance agreements, Malaysia Airlines transmits its engine data live to Rolls-Royce for analysis. The system compiles data from inside the 777's two Trent 800 engines and transmits snapshots of performance, as well as the altitude and speed of the jet.

Those snippets are compiled and transmitted in 30-minute increments, said one person familiar with the system. According to Rolls-Royce's website, the data is processed automatically "so that subtle changes in condition from one flight to another can be detected."

The engine data is being analyzed to help determine the flight path of the plane after the transponders stopped working. The jet was originally headed for China, and its last verified position was half way across the Gulf of Thailand.

A total flight time of five hours after departing Kuala Lumpur means the Boeing 777 could have continued for an additional distance of about 2,200 nautical miles, reaching points as far as the Indian Ocean, the border of Pakistan or even the Arabian Sea, based on the jet's cruising speed.

Earlier Wednesday, frustrations over the protracted search for the missing plane mounted as both China and Vietnam vented their anger over what they viewed as poor coordination of the effort.

Government conflicts and national arguments over crises are hardly unique to the Flight 370 situation, but some air-safety experts said they couldn't recall another recent instance of governments' publicly feuding over search procedures during the early phase of an international investigation.

China and Vietnam venting their frustration with the slow progress of the mission and what they view as poor coordination of the effort to find Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. Allison Morrow reports on the News Hub. Photo: Getty Images.

Authorities on Wednesday radically expanded the size of the search zone, which already was proving a challenge to cover effectively, but the mission hadn't turned up much by the end of the fifth day.

Also on Wednesday, a Chinese government website posted images from Chinese satellites showing what it said were three large objects floating in an 8-square-mile area off the southern tip of Vietnam. The objects were discovered on Sunday , according to the website, which didn't say whether the objects had been recovered or examined.

Ten countries were helping to scour the seas around Malaysia, including China, the U.S. and Vietnam. Taiwanese vessels are expected to be on the scene by Friday, with India and Japan having also agreed to join the search soon.

In all, 56 surface ships were taking part in the search, according to statements issued by the contributing governments, with Malaysia providing 27 of them. In addition, 30 fixed-wing aircraft were also searching, with at least 10 shipboard helicopters available, mostly in the waters between Malaysia and Vietnam.

China's government was especially aggrieved. More than 150 of the 239 people on board are Chinese, and family members in Beijing have at times loudly expressed their frustration over the absence of leads.

More than a dozen Chinese diplomats met with Malaysian authorities in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday as tension grew over the search.

"At present there's a lot of different information out there. It's very chaotic and very hard to verify," foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang said in a regular press briefing. "We've said as long as there is a shred of hope, you can't give up."

The day before, Beijing pointedly pressed Malaysia to accelerate its investigation, which has been hampered by false leads on suspected debris and conflicting reports on radar tracking.

Vietnam on Wednesday suspended its search flights after conflicting reports from Malaysia that authorities had tracked the plane to the Strait of Malacca before it disappeared.

Gen. Rodzali Daud, Malaysia's air force chief, denied saying he had told local media that military radar facilities had tracked the plane there, saying they were still examining all possibilities. Vietnam later resumed normal search sweeps.

You can help search for the missing Malaysia Airlines plane, thanks to a website called Tomnod.com. It allows anyone to comb the area where rescue workers are searching using satellite images. The WSJ's Deborah Kan speaks to DigitalGlobe's Luke Barrington.

Malaysian authorities divided the search area into several sectors on either side of the country, as well as areas on land.

The challenge, said Lt. David Levy, a spokesman for the U.S. Navy's Seventh Fleet, isn't so much coordination as the sheer size of the area involved. The search grids are up to 20 miles by 120 miles, and ships and aircraft employ an exhaustive methodical pattern "like mowing your lawn" in their search for the plane, he said.

U.S. defense officials sought to play down any suggestion that the Malaysian government was doing a poor job with the search.

"It is not unusual for searches to take a long time, especially when you are working with limited data," one official said.

Aviation experts say the absence of an electronic signal from the plane before it disappeared from radar screens makes it difficult to pin down possible locations. 

Some radar data suggested the Boeing 777 might have tried to turn back to Kuala Lumpur before contact was lost, a detail that prompted a search for the plane on both sides of the Malaysian peninsula.

So far the U.S., like other nations taking part in the search, has had no success. Many aviation experts are concluding that searchers may not have been looking in the right places. 

Even if the plane broke up in midair, it would have left telltale traces of debris in the ocean. The cracks now emerging between some of the participants in the search could make it even more difficult.

Diplomatic feuds over air disasters have generally erupted over the conclusions of the investigations, long after the initial search is over.

The results of the 1999 crash of an Egyptair Boeing 767 en route to Egypt from New York, which killed 217 people, spawned a dispute between Washington and Cairo that strained ties for years. 

The National Transportation Safety Board concluded the plane's co-pilot purposely put the twin-engine jet into a steep dive and then resisted efforts by the captain to recover control before the airliner slammed into the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Nantucket. Egyptian authorities insisted the evidence indicated mechanical failure.

Earlier, Washington and Paris butted heads over the investigation into the 1994 crash of a French-built American Eagle commuter turboprop near Roselawn, Ind. The French objected to the NTSB's conclusions that French regulators failed to take actions that could have prevented the accident.

Earlier this week, Malaysian investigators said they were expanding their investigation to encompass the possibility of hijack or sabotage, and possible personal or psychological problems of the crew and passengers. 

But Malaysian officials haven't discussed transmissions regarding engine operations or offered any explanation for the primary and backup transponders' not working.

—Jon Ostrower, Trefor Moss, Gaurav Raghuvanshi, Josh Chin and Jeremy Page contributed to this article.

Satellite looking into missing Malaysia flight detects 'suspected crash area'



(CNN) -- A Chinese satellite probing the mysterious disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 "observed a suspected crash area at sea," a Chinese government agency said -- a potentially pivotal lead into what thus far has been a frustrating, fruitless search.

China's State Administration for Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense announced the discovery, including images of what it said were "three suspected floating objects."

The objects aren't small: 13 by 18 meters (43 by 59 feet), 14 by 19 meters (46 by 62 feet) and 24 by 22 meters (79 feet by 72 feet). For reference, the wingspan of an intact Boeing 777-200ER like the one that disappeared is about 61 meters (200 feet) and its overall length is about 64 meters (210 feet).

The images were captured around 11 a.m. on March 9 -- which was the day after the plane went missing -- but weren't released until Wednesday.

The Chinese agency gave coordinates of 105.63 east longitude, 6.7 north latitude, which would put it in waters northeast of where it took off in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and south of Vietnam, near where the South China Sea meets the Gulf of Thailand.



"It's where it's supposed to be," Peter Goelz, a former National Transportation Safety Board managing director, told CNN's Jake Tapper, noting the "great skepticism" about reports the plane had turned around to go back over Malaysia. "I think they've got to get vessels and aircraft there as quickly as humanly possible."

This isn't the first time authorities have announced the discovery of objects or oil slicks that might be tied to aircraft. Still, it is the latest and comes on the same day that officials, rather than narrowing the search area, more than doubled it from the day earlier to nearly 27,000 square nautical miles (35,000 square miles).

The vastness of the area and the limited details that authorities have given makes it hard to tell whether the spot that the satellite imagery captured has been searched. A Malaysian air force official, who is not authorized to speak to the media, did say Thursday morning that its aircraft were heading to that area.

Bill Palmer -- author of a book on Air France's Flight 447, which also mysteriously went missing before its remnants were found -- said having a search area of that size is immensely challenging. He compared it to trying to find something the size of a car or truck in Pennsylvania, then widening it to look for the same thing in all of North America.

"It's a very, very difficult situation to try to find anything," Palmer told CNN's Brooke Baldwin. "Looking for pieces on the shimmering water doesn't make it any easier."

The Chinese satellite find could help, significantly, in that regard.

"I think the size of the pieces ... everything we've heard... gives good cause to believe that we've now (refocused) the area," former Federal Aviation Administration official Michael Goldfarb told CNN. "And that's a huge relief to everybody ... I think it's a high chance that they're going to confirm that these (are) pieces of the wreckage."

But not every expert was convinced this is it. Clive Irving, a senior editor with Conde Nast Traveler, said that the size of the pieces -- since they are fairly square and large -- "don't conform to anything that's on the plane."

Tom Haueter, a former NTSB aviation safety director, said he'd be "surprised" if the objects came from the plane, rationalizing that anything that big wouldn't float.

Regardless, time is of the essence -- both for investigators and the loved ones of the plane's 239 passengers and crew, who have waited since Saturday for any breakthrough that would provide closure.

The flight data recorders should "ping," or send out a signal pointing to its location, for about 30 days from the time the aircraft set off, noted Goldfarb. After that, Flight 370 could prove exponentially harder to find.

"It's the only clue that we've had so far," CNN aviation expert Richard Quest said of the satellite imagery clues. "If this doesn't prove to be the wreckage of 370, then we're back to square one."

The Malaysia Airlines flight set off seemingly without incident early Saturday, not long after midnight, en route to Beijing.
Then, around 1:30 a.m., all communication cut off over a location south and east of where the Chinese satellite images were shot.

Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, the head of Malaysia's civil aviation department, said around 6 a.m. Thursday in Kuala Lumpur -- hours after China's announcement -- that his agency had not seen the images.

This assertion comes amid frustration about the investigation, search and communication surrounding both.

Relatives of those aboard the plane have expressed outrage, with video showing some of them angrily throwing water bottles at airline officials. And on Tuesday, a middle-aged man -- who said his son was on that plane -- shouted, "Time is passing by," before bursting into tears.

Some involved in the multinational search operation have also vented about the ordeal.

Most of those on the flight were Chinese, and the Chinese government has urged Malaysia to speed up the pace of its investigation.

And Phan Quy Tieu, Vietnam's vice minister of transportation, has characterized the information that Malaysian officials have provided as "insufficient."

"Up until now we only had one meeting with a Malaysian military attache," he said.

For now, Vietnamese teams will stop searching the sea south of Ca Mau province, the southern tip of Vietnam, and shift the focus to areas east of Ca Mau, said Doan Luu, the director of international affairs at the Vietnamese Civil Aviation Authority.
Malaysia's transportation and defense minister Hishamuddin Bin Hussein defended his government's approach. "We have been very consistent in the search," he said.

How you can help find the plane
Confusion about plane's route

Over the weekend, authorities suddenly expanded their search to the other side of the Malay Peninsula, in the Strait of Malacca, where search efforts now seem to be concentrated.

That location is hundreds of miles off the plane's expected flight path.

An explanation appeared to come Tuesday when a senior Malaysian Air Force official told CNN that the Air Force had tracked the plane to a spot near the small island of Palau Perak off Malaysia's west coast in the Strait of Malacca.

The plane's identifying transponder had stopped sending signals, too, said the official, who declined to be identified because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

Malaysia's civilian administration appeared to dispute the report, however.

The New York Times quoted a spokesman for the Malaysian prime minister's office as saying Tuesday that military officials had told him there was no evidence the plane had flown back over the Malay Peninsula.

Malaysia Airlines Flight 370: What we know and don't know

The Prime Minister's office didn't immediately return calls from CNN seeking comment.

In another shift, Malaysian authorities said at a news conference Wednesday that radar records reviewed in the wake of the plane's disappearance reveal an unidentified aircraft traveling across the Malay Peninsula and some 200 miles into the Strait of Malacca.

However, it wasn't clear whether that radar signal represented Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, Gen. Rodzali Daud, head of the Malaysian Air Force, said at the news conference.

Rodzali said then that officials are still "examining and analyzing all possibilities" when it comes to the plane's flight path.
As Rob Mark, a commercial pilot and publisher of JetWhine.com, told CNN's Erin Burnett: "There's so much confusing information flying around about this right now."

Nothing has been ruled out as to what caused the plane's communication systems -- including its crucial transponder -- to suddenly stop working.

Terrorism, hijacking, pilot error and a mechanical malfunction all remain just as valid as possibilities now as when the plane went missing.

Amid all the confusion and complaints, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak on Wednesday appealed for patience.
"The families involved have to understand that this is something unexpected," Najib said. "The families must understand more efforts have been made with all our capabilities."

Malaysia Airlines MH370: China in new 'debris' clue


Chinese officials suggest the images may show pieces of wreckage
Satellite images of possible debris from the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 have been released on a Chinese government website.
The three images show what appear to be large, floating objects in the South China Sea. Previous sightings of possible debris have proved fruitless.
The China-bound plane went missing on Friday with 239 people on board.
It vanished about an hour after it took off from Kuala Lumpur as it flew south of Vietnam's Ca Mau peninsula.
No distress signal or message was sent.
The three images are:
Satellite images of debris
Satellite images of debris
Satellite images of debris
The images were taken on Sunday, a day after the plane disappeared, but were only released on Wednesday on the website of China's State Administration for Science.
Map co-ordinates place the objects in the South China Sea east of Malaysia and off the southern tip of Vietnam.
China's official Xinhua news agency says the largest of the objects measures about 24m x 22m (78ft x 72ft).
Separately, Agence France-Presse quoted US officials as saying that US spy satellites had detected no sign of an explosion in the area at the time. The system has detected such heat signatures in the past but none was discovered this time, the officials said.

Satelit China temui ‘kawasan disyaki’ MH370 terhempas



Satelit China yang mencari pesawat Malaysia Airlines 370 yang hilang pada Sabtu menemui “kawasan disyaki pesawat terhempas”, lapor CNN memetik agensi kerajaan China, berkemungkinan menjadi petunjuk baru dalam misi mencari dan menyelamat hari keenam ini.

Jabatan Sains, Teknologi dan Industri untuk Kementerian Pertahanan China mengumumkan penemuan itu termasuk imej yang dikatakan "tiga objek disyaki terapung dan saiz mereka."

Objek ditemui statelit tidak kecil: 13 x 18 meter (43 x 59 kaki), 14 x 19 meter (46 x 62 kaki) dan 24 x 22 meter (79 kaki x 72 kaki).

Sebagai rujukan, lebar sayap Boeing 777-200ER yang hilang adalah kira-kira 61 meter (200 kaki) dan panjang keseluruhannya adalah kira-kira 64 meter (210 kaki).

Imej-imej diambil pada 9 Mac, sehari selepas pesawat hilang - tetapi tidak didedahkan sehingga awal pagi ini.

Agensi China memberikan koordinat longitud timur 105,63, 6.7 latitud utara, yang akan meletakkannya di perairan timur laut di mana ia berlepas dari Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, dan selatan Vietnam, berhampiran Laut China Selatan bertemu Teluk Thailand. – 13 Mac, 2014.


Sunday, 9 March 2014

Terrorist attack? Mechanical failure? Reasons why the Malaysia Airlines jet might have disappeared

By Scott Mayerowitz
Associated Press

NEW YORK — The most dangerous parts of a flight are takeoff and landing. Rarely do incidents happen when a plane is cruising seven miles above the earth.
So the disappearance of a Malaysia Airlines jet well into its flight Saturday morning over the South China Sea has led aviation experts to assume that whatever happened was quick and left the pilots no time to place a distress call.
It could take investigators months, if not years, to determine what happened to the Boeing 777 flying from Malaysia's capital city of Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.
"At this early stage, we're focusing on the facts that we don't know," said Todd Curtis, a former safety engineer with Boeing who worked on its 777 jumbo jets and is now director of the Airsafe.com Foundation.
If there was a minor mechanical failure — or even something more serious like the shutdown of both of the plane's engines — the pilots likely would have had time to radio for help. The lack of a call "suggests something very sudden and very violent happened," said William Waldock, who teaches accident investigation at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Ariz.
Instead, it initially appears that there was either a sudden breakup of the plane or something that led it into a quick, steep dive. Some experts even suggested an act of terrorism or a pilot purposely crashing the jet.
"Either you had a catastrophic event that tore the airplane apart, or you had a criminal act," said Scott Hamilton, managing director of aviation consultancy Leeham Co. "It was so quick and they didn't radio."
No matter how unlikely a scenario, it's too early to rule out any possibilities, experts warn. The best clues will come with the recovery of the flight data and voice recorders and an examination of the wreckage.
Airplane crashes typically occur during takeoff and the climb away from an airport, or while coming in for a landing, as in last year's fatal crash of an Asiana Airlines jet in San Francisco. Just 9 percent of fatal accidents happen when a plane is at cruising altitude, according to a statistical summary of commercial jet airplane accidents done by Boeing.
Capt. John M. Cox, who spent 25 years flying for US Airways and is now CEO of Safety Operating Systems, said that whatever happened to the Malaysia Airlines jet, it occurred quickly. The problem had to be big enough, he said, to stop the plane's transponder from broadcasting its location.
One of the first indicators of what happened will be the size of the debris field. If it is large and spread out over tens of miles, then the plane likely broke apart at a high elevation. That could signal a bomb or a massive airframe failure. If it is a smaller field, the plane probably fell from 35,000 feet intact, breaking up upon contact with the water.
"We know the airplane is down. Beyond that, we don't know a whole lot," Cox said.
The Boeing 777 has one of the best safety records in aviation history. It first carried passengers in June 1995 and went 18 years without a fatal accident. That streak came to an end with the July 2013 Asiana crash. Three of the 307 people aboard that flight died. Saturday's Malaysia Airlines flight carrying 239 passengers and crew would only be the second fatal incident for the aircraft type.
"It's one of the most reliable airplanes ever built," said John Goglia, a former member of the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board.
Some of the possible causes for the plane disappearing include:
— A catastrophic structural failure of the airframe or its Rolls-Royce Trent 800 engines. Most aircraft are made of aluminum which is susceptible to corrosion over time, especially in areas of high humidity. But given the plane's long history and impressive safety record, experts suggest this is unlikely.
More of a threat to the plane's integrity is the constant pressurization and depressurization of the cabin for takeoff and landing. In April 2011, a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-300 rapidly lost cabin pressure just after takeoff from Phoenix after the plane's fuselage ruptured, causing a 5-foot tear. The plane, with 118 people on board, landed safely. But such a rupture is less likely in this case. Airlines fly the 777 on longer distances, with much fewer takeoffs and landings, putting less stress on the airframe.
"It's not like this was Southwest Airlines doing 10 flights a day," Hamilton said. "There's nothing to suggest there would be any fatigue issues."
 Bad weather. Planes are designed to fly though most severe storms. However, in June 2009, an Air France flight from Rio de Janeiro to Paris crashed during a bad storm over the Atlantic Ocean. The Airbus A330's airspeed indicators were giving false readings. That, and bad decisions by the pilots, led the plane into a stall causing it to plummet into the sea. All 228 passengers and crew aboard died. The pilots never radioed for help. But in the case of Saturday's Malaysia Airlines flight, all indications show that there were clear skies.
 Pilot disorientation. Curtis said that the pilots could have taken the plane off autopilot and somehow went off course and didn't realize it until it was too late. The plane could have flown for another five or six hours from its point of last contact, putting it up to 3,000 miles away. This is unlikely given that the plane probably would have been picked up by radar somewhere. But it's too early to eliminate it as a possibility.
 Failure of both engines. In January 2008, a British Airways 777 crashed about 1,000 feet short of the runway at London's Heathrow Airport. As the plane was coming in to land, the engines lost thrust because of ice buildup in the fuel system. There were no fatalities. Such a scenario is possible, but Hamilton said the plane could glide for up to 20 minutes, giving pilots plenty of time to make an emergency call. When a US Airways A320 lost both of its engines in January 2009 after taking off from LaGuardia Airport in New York it was at a much lower elevation. But Capt. Chesley B. "Sully" Sullenberger still had plenty of communications with air traffic controllers before ending the six-minute flight in the Hudson River.
 A bomb. Several planes have been brought down including Pan Am Flight 103 between London and New York in December 1988. There was also an Air India flight in June 1985 between Montreal and London and a plane in September 1989 flown by French airline Union des Transports Aériens which blew up over the Sahara Desert.
 Hijacking. A traditional hijacking seems unlikely given that a plane's captors typically land at an airport and have some type of demand. But a 9/11-like hijacking is possible, with terrorists forcing the plane into the ocean.
 Pilot suicide. There were two large jet crashes in the late 1990s that investigators suspected were caused by pilots deliberately crashing the planes.
 Accidental shoot-down by some country's military. In July 1988, the United States Navy missile cruiser USS Vincennes accidentally shot down an Iran Air flight, killing all 290 passengers and crew. In September 1983, a Korean Air Lines flight was shot down by a Russian fighter jet.
AP writer Joan Lowy contributed from Washington. Scott Mayerowitz can be reached athttp://twitter.com/GlobeTrotScott.

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Missing plane's signal detected


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Vietnamese rescue official says the missing Malaysian plane's signal has been detected, according to latest information released by Xinhua News Agency.  
The official told local VNExpress that signal of the plane has been detected at some 120 nautical miles southwest of Vietnam's southernmost Ca Mau province.
The rough location where the missing Malaysian HM370 flight signal has been detected. [Sina]
A Malaysian passenger plane carrying 239 people has lost contact with air traffic control after leaving Malaysia's capital Kuala Lumpur, the carrier said on earlier Saturday morning.
The B777-200 aircraft departed Kuala Lumpur at 00:41 a.m. on Saturday, and was expected to land in Beijing at 6:30 a.m. that same day.
Malaysia Airlines said it was working with the authorities who have dispatched search and rescue teams to locate the plane.
According to a statement from Malaysia Airlines, the HM370 flight was carrying a total of 227 passengers, including two infants and 12 crew members. The passengers were of 13 different nationalities.
The HM370 flight information has been "marked red" inside Terminal 3 of Beijing Capital International Airport, its scheduled destination, on March 8, 2014, as the aircraft lost contact with air traffic control shortly after leaving Malaysia's capital Kuala Lumpur. [Beijing News]
The Flight-aware tracking program lost contact with the flight about 20 minutes after take-off as it was crossing the Malay peninsula at 35,000 feet, while the Flightradar24 program was able to track it into the South China Sea towards Vietnam before losing contact completely.
The Vietnam Subang Air Traffic Control reported that it lost contact at 2.40 a.m. today.
China's Civil Aviation Administration (CAAC) confirmed the flight had about 160 Chinese passengers on board and did not contact Chinese air traffic management department or enter China's air traffic control area.
China's air control authority said there were no storms in the area of the South China Sea where the plane was flying across. The weather was generally fine with light clouds.
A VP of the Malaysia Airlines said the plane had enough fuel to fly for seven hours, one hour more than the flight time to Beijing.
The aircraft, a Boeing 777-200ER reportedly registered 9M-MRO, was delivered to the airline in May of 2002 and powered by Rolls-Royce Trent 800 engines.
The Boeing 777 was introduced in 1995. Since then, it has been involved in only two other major accidents and three hijackings.
The most notable accident occurred in July 2013, when an Asiana Airlines Boeing 777-200 carrying 291 passengers and 16 crew members crashed during landing in San Francisco, killing three passengers and seriously injuring 48 others. Investigators blamed the accident on a pilot error.
Malaysia Airlines is the national carrier of Malaysia and one of Asia's largest, flying nearly 37,000 passengers daily to some 80 destinations worldwide.
The airline said the public can call +60-378841234 for information about the plane.
A Malaysian passenger plane [File photo]

Malaysia Airlines plane carrying 239 people goes missing

Authorities are searching for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 bound for Beijing after air traffic controllers lost contact with theairliner carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew members early Saturday morning, the airline said.
Malaysia Airlines said flight MH370 lost touch with Subang Air Traffic Control around 02:40 local time Saturday morning.

The aircraft left Kuala Lumpur International Airport at 00:41 and was expected to land in Beijing at 06:30 local time (22:30 GMT).
"The flight was carrying 227 passengers (including two infants), 12 crew members," the airline said in astatement.
"Malaysia Airlines is currently working with the authorities who have activated their search and rescue team to locate the aircraft," the airline added.
There were 14 nationalities represented among the 227 passengers, according to airline officials. Passengers include 153 Chinese, 38 Malaysians, 12 Indonesians, seven Australians, four Americans, and one Russian, among others.
A woman (C), believed to be the relative of a passenger onboard Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, covers her face as she cries at the Beijing Capital International Airport in Beijing March 8, 2014. (Reuters / Kim Kyung Hoon)
A woman (C), believed to be the relative of a passenger onboard Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, covers her face as she cries at the Beijing Capital International Airport in Beijing March 8, 2014. (Reuters / Kim Kyung Hoon)

“Our team is currently calling the next-of-kin of passengers and crew,” Malaysia Airlines said in a further statement.“Focus of the airline is to work with the emergency responders and authorities and mobilize its full support.”
The last contact the plane had was reportedly in Vietnamese airspace.
China is assisting Malaysia Airlines with the search for the plane, Chinese state television reported.

"We are very worried after learning the news. We are trying to get in touch with relevant parties to check it out," Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said in statement.
Prior to July 2013's deadly crash of an Asiana Airlines 777 in San Francisco, the aircraft had been one of only a few long-range jets built by Boeing and Airbus to have never recorded a fatality.
The 777 first flew in 1994, and was introduced into commercial service in 1995. Boeing had delivered 1,100 of the aircraft around the world as of last year.
"We're closely monitoring reports on Malaysia flight MH370," Boeing tweeted. "Our thoughts are with everyone on board."
Image from flightaware.com
Image from flightaware.com




File photo. Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200 (Image from wikipedia.org)
File photo. Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200 (Image from wikipedia.org)