Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Silver Blaze of Malasyia Airlines Flight 370

Edit: For clarity, this post is meant simply to provide a perspective and frame of view on the situation. I intended to point out critical points, and highlight likely possibilities. This isn't really meant to provide "new information", as I am not close enough to the actual scene to be able to provide that information. A follow up article about plans for action can be found here

I've made a mistake recently akin to Sherlock Holmes' mistake in Silver Blaze. I assumed that given the fame and well known circumstance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, that it couldn't stay missing for long. But it has been 15 days since, and the location of the plane is still missing.

However, given that I do not have the means to be scouting the possible scenes of the crime, all I can do is sit and logically parse the scene with a strategic mind.

The facts:

Here are some facts collected from a variety of sources. You could always check the Wikipedia page here, if you want to read them in compiled format.

  • Flight 370 took off from Kuala Lumpur International Airport heading to Beijing Capital Airport on March 8th at 00:41 local time (MYT)
  • There were 12 crew members, and 227 passengers- the majority of which were Chinese.
  • The plane was a Boeing 777-200ER, registration 9M-MRO
  • At 41 minutes into the flight (1:22 MYT), the transponder and ADB-S turn off
  • At 49 minutes, another aircraft unsuccessfully tries to contact the plane (mumbling)
  • At 1hour and 30 minutes into the flight, the plane begins to make automated ACARS(Aircraft Communications and Reporting System) contact with satellite Inmarset 3F1. Its sort of like a fax machine.
  • At 1hour and 43 minutes (2:15 MYT), there was radar contact of the plane by the Malaysian Military. The plane is now 200 miles NW of Penang
  • Misses flight scheduled arrival time at (6:30 MYT)
  • At 7hours and 30 minutes into the flight, there is one last signal between the plane and the satellite
The projected route of the plane. As you can see, it strayed from the direct
course to Beijing and instead headed west.


Unfortunately, I cannot be on the scene or be aware of all the information going on. All I can really do is bring some possibilities to light given the actions and what has been said.
  1. Key factors- The key questions that should help illuminate the mystery
  2. The first issue is- Accident or Intentional?
  3. The second issue is- If it was intentional, what was the goal?
  4. The third issue is- Who did it?
  5. The fourth issue is- Where is the plane now? What about the people?

Key Factors

  • The Passengers- The passengers might very well have a desire to get home, so if they had the options to contact the outside world they probably would. The fact that we have not is both suggestive and worrisome.
  • The Route of the plane- The plane began to divert course at about 41 minutes in. The plane then starts heading west. This suggests that its trying to get somewhere, or away from something. If all was desired was a crashed plane, then there's no point in flying outwards.
  • The Tracking of the Plane- If a large Boeing 777 vanishes, you can bet that people will be looking for it. The pressure 239 missing people will probably make a plane visible if it passed by. Then again, if it didn't look like it and didn't give the signal of its registration, then perhaps it could be hiding in plane view (Silver Blaze reference), but then that also leaves the issue of shutting up 277 passengers. If it had flown into some well known location, we would likely hear about it.
  • The Vanishing signal- The plane was giving "handshakes" to a satellite telling its location every hour. You have to wonder why it stopped giving signals when it did- Was it because of time, location, or realization that the signals were being sent (unlikely, the engine is what sends the pings apparently)?
  • Access to Control the Plane- In order to "hijack a plane" you have to take control of it. How would they do that for this kind of plane- especially without any reaction from the people on the plane? Could one person do it alone? Was it done from inside or outside? Was it even hijacked at all?

Accident or Intentional

By all the data, it seems there was some very deliberate actions occurring with the control the plane. According to the accounts of US radar experts, the path of the plane after the transponder and ADB-S turned off suggested that it was still under the control of a trained pilot. Of course, it could be possible that the pilot's navigation system had malfunctioned in a grand way, and he thought he was headed the right way.

The checking of the ocean suggests that experts believe
the plane to have crashed.
However, there's also the coincidence that the transponder and ADB-S went offline. The ADB-S is essentially the GPS of the plane- the plane will pinpoint its own location, and broadcast where it is through radio signals. The transponder is used to help control towers identify them on radars (as opposed to UFOs).

The fact that these both went down at the same time seems to suggest that it was turned off deliberately. But
the plane continued to ping the satellite later, suggesting that the plane was still functioning. It would have to be quite a specific thing to turn off those two components at the same time. If I knew more about the hardware behind the 777, I might be able to give you a better picture.

Essentially it seems like quite the coincidence, and when it looks like a coincidence, it probably isn't.

If intentional, what was the goal?

I don't pretend to be a mind reader. But even then, there are ways to help you identify what you have in mind. First of all, if we assume that someone has taken over the plane, we can examine what he has gained: control of an aircraft- specifically a large industrial size Boeing-777, control over the lives of 239 people. 

So what can you do with a large plane? Well, for starters, a plane typically built to transport you. But given the size and difficulty of landing and taking off (not to mention the stigma of having stolen a commercial aircraft), its highly unlikely that the plane was stolen merely for transportation. After all, getting a smaller plane would be easier and more manageable- though you might not be able to get as far with it.

This is the plane that went missing. See those windows?
Each one represents a row of seats. This plane is enormous.
Next, it's important to note that its a Boeing 777. These planes are the world's largest twinjets and have a flight range of 5,235-9,370 nautical miles (9,695 to 17,372 km). To put that in perspective, the earth is 40,075km in circumference. A Boeing 777 can fly a quarter of the earth's circumference in one fell swoop. Given how large they are, they also require large runways for landing and taking off. So that begs the question, if you were going to steal one, where would you put it? The darker side of this was depicted by the USA's 9-11 incident, where the large bulk of the planes were utilized as fast, flying, speeding projectiles to ram landmarks (those planes were Boeing 767s and 757s).

The fact of the matter is, if you were trying to take the plane, you would probably not have much of an opportunity to land it or hide it. Unless there is a secret runway or location that could be used for a safe (or unsafe) landing procedure that none of the world's satellite and governments are aware of, I find that "stealing a plane" is highly unlikely.

The only way I could see it sort of working out is for the pilot or someone else to crash the plane (hopefully without killing himself) in an area where it could be quickly salvaged for parts. Perhaps on somewhat shallow water (for a safer landing and camouflage). The pilot would be literally risking his life, and would have to be able to land the plane safely so the parts would not be damaged. It's uncertain what would happen to the people though. The parts would be sold on the black market. However, the question is: Who would want to buy parts of a plane? Specifically a plane everyone is looking for?

There's also the people. 227 passengers and 12 staff. If it was a ransom situation, there has been no indication of it. Additionally, if you wanted a particular person dead, you could probably get to them in better and more efficient ways- with less risk to yourself. Additionally, you probably wouldn't need to fly for hours after you turned off your transponder and ADB-S if you just wanted to crash the plane. It seemed that he was probably headed toward something (or possibly away from something).

Of course, if we're assuming he was acting in good faith, perhaps there was a giant flying monster/UFO who not only was chasing the plane to the west, but also either blocked radio signals, or forced the pilot to turn it off. Probably pretty unlikely, but it would be lazy of me to rule it out.

Who did it?

The "who" seems to be valued quite highly by people, and I'm not entirely sure why. I'm not seeing the face of the person who did it will make things much better- other than creating hatred towards people the man is associated with.

An average person would not know what to do with this.
But anyways, we can look at a few things that may help establish an identity. Assuming that the person controlling the plane was the same who turned off the transponder and ADB-S, then we can presume that he has understanding of how to fly the plane and operate the equipment. So, a trained pilot- of a Boeing 777. 

This person would also have to be able to access the cockpit, where the transponder and ADB-S are located, as well as the controls of the plane. I'm not sure about you, but I don't think the staff typically takes kindly to random citizens going into the cockpit to hang out with the pilot. Either the staff just decided to let a citizen in (even a disguise probably wouldn't fool them, their crew is only 12), or the pilot(s) is our best bet.

Of course there's always the "hacker" idea, where somehow a hacker is able to remotely access and control a plane. The task would not be simple, and the method the hacker used would have to be more accurate than the tracking and control equipment the control towers have over the plane. They would have to do all this, without being caught.

Additionally, it would be quite likely that it wasn't a single person. It's actually far more likely that there were at least a couple people in on the situation. First of all, there are normally a couple of pilots. If one of your pilots began to divert the plane drastically off-course, you'd probably notice. Additionally, if there was some sort of scuffle, you'd hope that someone (either staff or passengers) would hear it. Then again, planes are loud, and passengers tend to be very passive (especially in first class... at night). 

I understand that we often look for the "who" to establish the "why". But honestly it's really quite difficult to know why people do things, even when you know them very well. How many times have you asked someone you know, "why did you do that"? The reliability of going from "who" to "why" is very low, in my opinion.

Where is the plane now? What about the people?

This is the million dollar question, and the one everyone is aiming for. There are hopes that if the plane's black box is found, then everything will come into light. 

That's a LARGE area to search. I imagine you don't get
phone service over those oceans.
It wasn't mentioned how much fuel the plane had, but given that the 777 line of twinjets can fly a quarter of the world's circumference, it potentially could get pretty far. What was interesting was that there was a lack of satellite contact 7 hours and 30 minutes into the flight, when there had been regular ones starting from 1hour in. What stopped the pings?

There is an hour time frame between the two pings, something had to have happened within that window of time.

Its important to note that the people on this flight would probably want the world to know they are alive. there are 239 passengers, the likelihood of none of them wanting to let their families know they are alive is essentially nil. This suggests that they are not able to contact the outside world. Suggesting that they are either no longer of this world, or unable to access a phone, or phone service.

Working off this, if there are people who are alive and want to contact the outside world, either they don't have phones (possible), or don't have service (more likely). I wish that was more helpful, normally I would suggest a search in places where there is no phone service, but in Asia that is a very large space- especially over water. 

It should be noted that the passengers on the plane may not have been completely aware of what was going on. How often do you fly across the country and wonder "why are we flying north? Oh well..." It would probably take a bit of time before it sunk in and they began to realize that something was wrong. It probably occurred significantly before the plane was scheduled to arrive, and yet the plane seemed to keep going for hours afterwards. Either the people who realized, did nothing. Or they were not able to act for whatever reason.

Conclusion? (tl;dr)

Currently, the international community are spending all their search efforts on a large and vast possible volume of ocean. It is of their belief that the plane went down at that point.

Here's what seems likely to me.

While it's possible that the plane could be controlled from elsewhere, it seems far more likely that someone was able to take control of the plane from within at 41 minutes. This wasn't met with much resistance from the crew or passengers due to either it being a perfectly acceptable scenario (pilot, or someone who needed to take over for the pilot) or being held down (i.e. take over). It's likely that there was a group of people who cooperated (co-pilot didn't care?).

The plane began to fly to the west for a reason. It was headed for somewhere or away from something (perhaps away from highly visible areas, cell towers, giant monsters?). It was not just supposed to crash for no reason.

The plane flew for about 7.5 to less than 8.5 hours before it stopped pinging (was supposed to send a ping to a satellite at 8.5 hours). Given the difficulty/impossibility of disabling the pinging system from inside the plane during flight (especially given what doing the task would need). This suggests that something happened to the plane during that hour. Most experts seem to believe that it went down. Given the 500km/hr route, it's a very large area to search.

The question would be: What could cause the engine to stop pinging the satellite at that point? 

Clearly, the most common and accepted response by the international community is that the plane went down- perhaps exploded. Killing all the people on-board (explaining why there hasn't been contact). But then that begs the question: What could cause such a thing? Did the pilot cause it to crash? Why crash it where it did? Was it forced to crash by someone else? (passengers? other sources?)

But I wonder if there's a possible and plausible explanation for all the facts and situations that doesn't entail the plane exploding. The question would lie in "what would cause the engine to stop pinging"- perhaps landing the plane? As well as "what would be done to shut up all the passengers".

I'm keenly keeping my eyes on the news.

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