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The many mysteries of MH370

Not many of us understand the intricacies of the aviation industry and flight. We know pilots fly planes: how they fly them is a mystery to most of us.

Then one disappears. Into what seems like thin air. MH370 disappeared on the morning of March 8, 2014. I admit, like many others I became fascinated with the mystery. I was concerned for the people on board and for their many family, friends and co-workers. I was also fascinated with the seeming lack of management of the situation.  Seems I wasn’t alone, although I note that the best critics are always the ones in the stands, not the ones down on the field playing the game.

Editor of website airlineratings.com, Geoffrey Thomas, says the search for the missing Malaysian Airlines plane is “one of the most botched aircraft investigations in modern history”.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-03-17/missing-flight-mh370-good-night-issued-from-plane-after-shutdown/5325816

That gave way to fascination at the behaviour of the media. I would see something reported in one place as “possibly” and reported in another article as fact. One analyst claimed the flight flew south, others claimed north. Was it ditched in the sea or had it landed somewhere safely?

One of the theories I saw today I actually thought quite interesting. Deborah Gough suggested in The Age maybe the plane had become the world’s first cyber-hijack.

Dr Leivesley, who runs her own company training businesses and governments to counter terrorist attacks, told the Sunday Express she believed malicious codes, triggered by a mobile phone, would have been able to override the aircraft’s security.

http://www.theage.com.au/it-pro/security-it/missing-malaysia-airlines-flight-could-have-fallen-victim-to-worlds-first-cyberhijack-20140316-hvji3.html

Unless the industry takes preemptive precautions to mitigate such an eventuality, the day will indeed arrive, if it hasn’t already. I don’t know how this fits with the requirement to turn off the transponder physically, as described in The Guardian.

That’s not a straightforward thing to do. Someone in the cockpit would have to turn a knob with multiple selections to the off position while pressing down at the same time, said John Goglia, a former member of the US National Transportation Safety Board.

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/mar/16/flight-mh370-police-focus-on-pilots-as-search-for-airliner-goes-on-live-updates

Could the transponder be turned off by malicious code? The ACARS system is reported as only needing a few switches to be flicked in a specific sequence, followed by keystrokes on the console: conceivably that could be turned off remotely. Interesting questions – how much is mechanical and cannot be overridden remotely?

Another interesting theory I saw today was the MH370 flew “dark” behind another Boeing 777. I have not tried to validate the author’s claims as I don’t have the technical background.

It is my belief that MH370 likely flew in the shadow of SIA68 through India and Afghanistan airspace.  As MH370 was flying “dark” without transponder / ADS-B output, SIA68 would have had no knowledge that MH370 was anywhere around and as it entered Indian airspace, it would have shown up as one single blip on the radar with only the transponder information of SIA68 lighting up ATC and military radar screens.

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

To the average man on the street, this sounds plausible. I think. EDIT: Since publication, Keith Ledgerwood has published an update, Questions/Answers followup #1.

The problem with MH370 is more and more and more theories populate the interwebz in a seemingly ever increasing waterfall.

  • The plane made Australia
  • The plane made Pakistan/Kazakhstan/somewhere else
  • The plane flew “terrain masking” to avoid radar detection
  • There are 634 places it could have landed, not counting highways or other long areas of packed earth
  • Pilot suicide
  • Pilot political activism
  • The plane is beneath the Indian Ocean.

You name it, the theory has been postulated. It is no wonder the waiting relatives are angry, frustrated and no doubt suffering great distress.

Malaysia has asked several countries for data which could conceivably disclose to some degree the military capabilities of those countries, Australia included. This must be a quandary for the countries involved. Disclose the information and perhaps hand secrets over as well, or not disclose and have the international community look a little askance, if not more. After all, if another event should happen in the future with their citizens on board, countries may be reluctant to help.

So much attention is being paid to the pilots, yet is this simply a diversion? Surely the effort at this point would be better spent on finding the plane. Who did it is a secondary consideration unless the information helps locate the plane. So far, that hasn’t seemed likely.

Was the plane already out of the pilots’ hands at the point of leaving Malaysian airspace? I have read the final words of “All right, good night” did not follow protocol and from what I have read of the captain, he would have been a stickler for following aviation protocol, even if his political views were with the opposition. Yet one would think if a hijacker was in control by then and had done enough research to know how to turn the transponder off, that person would also know the correct handover protocol. Yet again, I recall the pilot of another plane in the area who relayed a message to MH370 could not be sure which of the pilots was speaking and there was a lot of static. Deliberate static? This an example of the snippets of information that have been released.

The Wall Street Journal leaked some of the earliest “new” information. Why? How?

The overall impression is one of lack of control, lack of an investigative management plan. In the meantime, where are the 239 people? If the plane landed, how did/will it refuel if it was, as some suggest, to be used in a later terrorist attack?

Previous Articles:

Situation Updates:

Since publication items have been located in the Indian Ocean that it is considered MAY possibly be debris from the flight, but locating the items may be difficult and they could have sunk since the satellite images were taken.

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8 comments on “The many mysteries of MH370

  1. […] missing Malaysia plane, flight MH370, lead me to this train of thought. There seems to be two primary possibilities: an on-board […]

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  2. First and foremost this is a human tragedy by any measure and it’s truly awful for the families of all of those on the plane. Whether it’s due to planned malice or a really stupid accident remains to be seen… but I am inclined to think the latter. What concerns me is the first-principle issue that humanity tends to see patterns, often where none exist, and we have an ability to intellectualise ourselves into believing those patterns to be true. It’s where witch hunts come from. It didn’t take long for conspiracy theories to emerge, totally without actual evidence.

    The theory I read was that something technical/mechanical happened on board, such as loss of pressure; the pilots got half way through swinging around to turn for home, half-programmed the autopilot – and everything else is explicable by a plane flying on auto. Maybe it’s so. I’m sure the mystery will be resolved sooner or later… and as I write this, the RAAF and RNZAF are hustling to have a look at some objects found off Perth.

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    • I haven’t checked the latest news Matthew. The families are so traumatised: not just by the event but by the handling of the event by all concerned. I believe someone knows something more than they are letting on – and that may merely be a blip on a radar. I read somewhere the rule in a case of technical/mechanical/fire is “aviate, navigate, communicate”. In other words, stay in the air, then worry about where to go, then communicate. I haven’t heard one theory yet that totally fits, although IF theft of the plane was the case, the flying “dark” fits with that. BUT why on earth steal a plane full of people if all they want is the plane? People are just a complication in that scenario. So the mechanical failure/fire seems most likely.

      We need to accept we may never know. That is going to be the hardest for the families, I think. The unknown is always the hardest to deal with.

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  3. Thanks Robyn, if this story doesn’t wake us from slumber nothing will.

    The disinformation instantly caught my attention. The alarm bells ring when there is misinformation, disinformation and retracted media announcements from governments JFK had all this. 911 and the Iraq invasion had it. A couple of facts i know:

    Communications and Domestic tracking was lost, not military tracking or satellite. The Malaysian military observed the plane’s diversion after transponder turned off but didn’t intervene though it may have turned “hostile” and about to breach sovereignty of Indonesia. Malaysian spokespeople have backtracked on military tracking as if coached. SATCOM who can track a bee on a flower or pick up your number plate from space doesn’t seem to be contacted immediately or to provide after the fact data. On board were 20 engineers from Freescape a subsidiary of Blackstone and Carlyle Group. Freescape are ex motorola who never allow that many on a single flight.This plus the SI68 shadowing story all leads to something suss going on with this event.

    I have been following a number of leads. Some verge on conspiratorial absurdity but a plane just doesn’t vanish in 2014. I am fixed to any story but it is interesting watching this unfold. Thanks again.

    Here’s some keywords AWACS, jamming, Freescape Austin Texas, Diego Garcia Indian Ocean. flight simulator, Russian knowledge of some package that was on the flight.

    Heres a couple of links:

    SATCOM
    http://www.satcomglobal.com/‎

    20 Freescape engineers
    http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/03/09/us-malaysia-airlines-freescale-idUSBREA280T020140309

    Diego Garcia
    http://www.theepochtimes.com/n3/567207-diego-garcia-island-atoll-us-base-rumored-to-be-landing-spot-for-malaysia-flight-mh-370/

    Flight simulator
    http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/missing-malaysia-airlines-flight-mh370-pilots-simulator-contains-five-practice-runways-near-1440689

    Russian knowledge (seems amateurish)
    http://greatgameindia.wordpress.com/2014/03/16/mh370-mystery-suspicious-cargo-death-of-2-ex-navy-seals-aboard-mv-maersk-alabama/

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    • Hi Paul,

      Yes, I wrote about the Freescape engineers in a previous article on this. Diego Garcia I am not so sure about, but certainly the theories are many and varied.

      The families must be beside themselves. Well, we know they are from the scenes at the last media conference. Disinformation, misinformation, denials of previously presented “facts”. Such confusion. Admittedly the situation is relatively unique, but somewhere, someone is not giving up information they have – knowingly or otherwise.

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  4. It is both a mystery and a tragedy. At times I am fixated by the mystery of it all but then keep reminding myself that there are hundreds of family and friends who have 10 horrific days of uncertainty. While it seems unbelievable that a huge plane like the 777 could just disappear, there has never been anything like this before. A lot of criticism is being directed at the Malaysian government but I am not sure any other government could manage something on this scale any better. I do know that I am not keen to go jetting off anywhere for awhile…

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    • A co-worker’s spouse has to fly soon. Hates flying anyway and now this.

      I do think Air France was handled better, but the circumstances were different as the plane sent distress signals. As I said, easy for those in the stands to criticise the players on the field.

      This is one of those high profile events that everyone thinks will surely be resolved tomorrow, but tomorrow never comes.

      Definitely a tragedy, but the longer nothing is found the more inclined I am to hope there may be survivors. We just have no way of knowing.

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