March 14th, 2014

More on Flight 370

New information on Flight 370:

Radar signals recorded by the Malaysian military appear to show the missing airliner climbing to 45,000 feet, above the approved altitude limit for a Boeing 777-200, soon after it disappeared from civilian radar and made a sharp turn to the west, according to a preliminary assessment by a person familiar with the data.

The radar track, which the Malaysian government has not released but says it has provided to the United States and China, then shows the plane descending unevenly to 23,000 feet, below normal cruising levels, as it approached the densely populated island of Penang, one of the country’s largest. There, the plane turned from a southwest-bound course, climbed to a higher altitude and flew northwest over the Strait of Malacca toward the Indian Ocean.

This is being treated as very big news. But I’m not sure it adds a whole lot, except that it’s very consistent with the current theory that the plane was hijacked by a passenger or diverted by one of the regular pilots. I’m a bit suspicious of the article, though, because it also refers to the data transmitted from the plane’s Rolls-Royce engines, whereas most people seem to be saying that no such data was transmitted.

But confusion is the standard in this story ever since it began.

I find the following quite intriguing and disturbing (the latter a word I’ve been using over and over for the Flight 370 story):

The erratic movements of the aircraft after it diverted course and flew over the country also raise questions about why the military did not respond to the flight emergency. Malaysian officials have acknowledged that military radar may have detected the plane, but have said they took no action because it did not appear hostile.

I am confused as to how a plane could “appear hostile” on radar. It’s not as though radar can read its mind. I assume it would be through the plane’s suspicious behavior/actions/movements. But it’s hard to understand why going up and down precipitously like this, and turning off one’s transponder, wouldn’t be considered at least potentially hostile, and rouse some sort of response such as scrambling.

27 Responses to “More on Flight 370”

  1. Mac Says:

    This makes the title of your previous post even more apropos.

  2. Artfldgr Says:

    i can answer two of your curiosities..

    I’m a bit suspicious of the article, though, because it also refers to the data transmitted from the plane’s Rolls-Royce engines, whereas most people seem to be saying that no such data was transmitted.

    its like the old saying. if a tree falls in the forest and there is no one to hear it, does it make a sound.

    no. sound is a perception. without a somebody of some sort perceiving, its just another set of waves of various frequencies spreading out from the event like ripples on a pond.

    the engines kept polling saying it was ready, but since nothing queried it with a response, it never actually sent any data. was the polling signal to be considered data? some would, some wouldn’t… depends on how much of a purest you want to be.

    I am confused as to how a plane could “appear hostile” on radar. It’s not as though radar can read its mind.

    radar of different planes have different profiles. not to mention there is pretty vast speed difference between hostile planes and passenger airliners.

    the first, will use much more fuel to give it better parameters, the other will try to fly at a maximum that also conserves energy in some sweet spot that is where the designs pertinent surfaces and shapes make it to be.

    and part of it are the systems and the default ways your to think about things using them.

    Identification friend or foe
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Identification_friend_or_foe

    IFF can only positively identify friendly targets but not hostile ones. If an IFF interrogation receives no reply or an invalid reply, the object cannot be identified as friendly but is not positively identified as a foe. There are many reasons that friendly aircraft may not properly reply to IFF.

    the IFF is not the same as the transponder.
    (which is a general term for a specific item on the plane).

    what is important to remember is that military radar has a few bells and whistles.

    Automatic target recognition (ATR), is the ability for an algorithm or device to recognize targets or objects based on data obtained from sensors.

    put this line in google and you will get a nice collection of stuff…

    automatic recognition of objects by radar waveform

    one secret to finding things is in figuring out how authors may title something if they wrote about it. :)

    they know from its air speed, its size, its signal profile, and perhaps IFF or lack of such that it was not a dangerous plane… though one would think that one could load a plane up with stuff and use that to advantage and one would be right. but better to be slammed and say how could we know, than to shoot down a plane full of vacationers and business ppl with a few others in for the mix..

  3. rubber-ducky Says:

    I’m somewhat surprised that, post 9/11, we can debate the “hostile” nature of a passenger plane flying erratically…

  4. Lurker Says:

    The RR site says engine data is sent via ACARS so since that was turned off…
    Inmarsat site says their system received pings from the plane.

  5. kaba Says:

    It would seem that we’d have a fair idea of where the last data was transmitted just by knowing which satellite it was pinging at the time. Or if multiple satellites were receiving data it should be possible to triangulate.

    It appears to me that we are being fed false data; to what end I have no idea.

  6. parker Says:

    “It appears to me that we are being fed false data; to what end I have no idea.”

    I agree. We are being fed false and conflicting info for reasons we can not fathom. All speculation is futile.

  7. Artfldgr Says:

    Kaba… not so easy… you would only be able to triangulate satellites if they have atomic clocks on them otherwise the area you get is pretty huge.

    satellites are not fixed in location. so to triangulate you have to imagine three satellites moving each receive a ping, and you have to work back as to how far they moved from when the ping occurred in time.

    would you believe that the gps satellites have to correct for frame shifting of time?

    anyway.. lets ignore the troops amased on the border and the loss of crimea. after all, “I am sure it wouldnt interest any body, outside of a small circle of friends” (phil ochs has this pegged)

    Crowdsourcing used to search satellite images for missing Malaysia Airlines plane
    http://www.techspot.com/news/56004-crowdsourcing-used-to-search-satellite-images-for-missing-malaysia-airlines-plane.html

    As the mystery of what happened to missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 deepens, people from all around the world are eager to help. Crowdsourcing website Tomnod.com, run by DigitalGlobe Inc., is asking its users to comb through thousands of miles of satellite imagery in search of clues that could be of use to search and rescue teams.

    Shay Har-Noy, director of product development at DigitalGlobe, said they have millions of people using their website to look for anything out of place. More than two million people have donated their time thus far, flagging 645,000 features on images that look unusual.

  8. neo-neocon Says:

    rubber-ducky:

    Exactly.

    I would think that a plane flying with no transponder, and going far higher than is usual and then far lower, would at least seem suspicious in terms of a possible hijacking or takeover. Obviously it doesn’t have the signature of a military craft on radar, but we have known for over a decade that passenger planes can become missiles.

    On 9/11 the pilots turned off the transponders, didn’t they?

  9. kcom Says:

    Remember, this is not the US military. They probably don’t have as many assets in the air and the same inclination (and budget) to respond to anything and everything that we do.

  10. BChitiea Says:

    How did we ever survive the weeks, months, years, lifetimes, of not knowing? When ships undocked, and never returned? When planes just crashed, ‘coz that’s what they do?

    I respectfully submit that we knew what ‘is’ is. We knew what ‘Act of God’ meant. We knew what ‘enemy’ meant. And we knew what to do. I’m just ‘sayin.

  11. Oldflyer Says:

    It is problematical whether the Malaysian Air Force, whatever capability it may have, had any aircraft on alert in the wee hours of the morning. I do not know of any threats to Malaysia that would require such a status.

    Even if they did have aircraft prepared to respond, there was little of a practical nature that they could do. Intercepting and joining on another aircraft close enough to identify it, or determine its status, at night is pretty tricky; believe me. To do so on a commercial airliner without coordination invites disaster.

    On the subject of alerts, on 9/11 we are told that there were no fighters available to act over our nation’s capital until after three aircraft had crashed; and that the first on station were unarmed, with orders to ram. We are led to believe that the alert status in certain areas of the country has now been enhanced. That costs money, of course.

    That being said, the public response of the Malaysian government, as well as that of the airline, borders on the bizarre. Our news organizations have been so obsessed with this mystery that surely if either of those organizations had been releasing definitive information over the first several days, it would have been reported. Either they were completely befuddled, or they were not forthcoming with all of the available information. Of course we now know that the available information does not clarify–or so we are told.

    I saw a reference above to IFF. Civilian aircraft are not equipped with IFF. The transponder performs a similar function, but with a more limited capability, In a hostile environment military aircraft would have specific protocols for using IFF. In any case, each aircraft on a flight plan, civilian or military, has a discrete code to transmit. This is primarily to assist air traffic control; although it can provide a measure of security if the appropriate code is observed tracking along a route where it is expected. In this case the transponder had gone silent, of course.

    I am just a little surprised that Malaysia, or other countries in the vicinity, have height finding radar that is sophisticated enough to make the definitive statements about altitude that we are now hearing. Maybe so, maybe not.

  12. Doom Says:

    I’m not sure a muslim country is ready to actually deal with… terrorism. It’s sort of like the notion of bullies. They never expect to BE bullied. Another thought is… they already knew it was terrorism, against China I suppose. As such, they may have known what was happening, so it wasn’t viewed as a threat. Whether those seeing the radar, or from higher up, hard to tell.

    It does look like a lot of things are happening, and various interests are pushing their version. China, if it was terrorism and they know it, probably doesn’t want that to get out. I don’t even trust our own admin regarding terrorism. The first thing they say when ‘a man of Middle Eastern decent’ murders a bunch of people is… “It isn’t terrorism!”, at the top of their msm.

    At this point, there is no public information easily obtained regarding terrorism. If it was for the right reasons, that is to not glorify, that would be okay. But it’s not. It’s apologetic in nature. Or in China’s case, probably local and world stage politics. Not good.

  13. Steve57 Says:

    There seems to be a lot of confusion between two different manufacturers’ systems.

    Rolls Royce engines transmit data via their Aircraft Communications Adressing and Reporting System (ACARS).

    Boeing installs its Airplane Health Monitoring (AHM) system. Information about AHM can be found here:

    http://www.boeing.com/boeing/Features/2013/07/bca_airplane_health_mgmt_07_30_13.page

    Airlines do not have to subscribe to the service Boeing offers, but the equipment is there. It’s apparently the latter system that was pinging the satellite.

  14. Steve57 Says:

    Oldflyier says:

    “It is problematical whether the Malaysian Air Force, whatever capability it may have, had any aircraft on alert in the wee hours of the morning. I do not know of any threats to Malaysia that would require such a status.”

    Malaysia wouldn’t be the only air force that works 9-5, Monday through Friday.

    http://www.defense-aerospace.com/article-view/release/151693/swiss-af-works-only-during-office-hours-but-allies-help-out.html

    “The surprising lack of any Swiss air force involvement in the incident is due to the fact that its fighters are only operational during office hours, because of the limited number of qualified fighter pilots and the high cost of maintaining aircraft on round-the-clock alert.

    ‘We can’t afford to keep aircraft on alert 24 hours a day. That is why we have agreements with neighboring countries, who ensure air police missions outside of office hours, when our military airfields are closed,’ Swiss air force spokesman Laurent Savary told the Tribune de Génève newspaper. “

  15. kaba Says:

    Two talking heads on Fox were just speculating that this was perhaps a failed 9/11 clone mission. For whatever they were unable to find or reach their target and so decided to crash at sea. That sounds at least plausible. It would also explain why we haven’t heard any claims from whatever group sponsored this act.

  16. Conrad Says:

    To me this now seems like a rapid decompression event that incapacitates or kills everyone onboard and knocks out all electrical, leaving the plane to fly pilotless (Payne Stewart-style) until it crashes into the ocean.

  17. Ed Bonderenka Says:

    http://oldnfo.org/2014/03/15/screaming-tv/
    Someone who knows what he’s talking about.
    And my money is on Air Piracy.
    Terry and the Pirates for the 21st century.
    Now this Fox guy is saying the same thing.

  18. lacune Says:

    Why would a Muslim country need to scramble jets? If the plane was hijacked, it certainly wouldn’t be used to attack them. Let’s face it, it wasn’t the Buddhist passengers on board responsible for taking the plane. We’ll see the missing jet soon enough over the skies of Tel Aviv or the East Coast.

  19. Artfldgr Says:

    Putin Deports Executives for Speeding as Sanctions Loom
    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-03-13/putin-deports-executives-for-speeding-as-sanctions-loom.html

    Russia says intercepted US drone over Crimea: arms group
    http://news.yahoo.com/russia-says-intercepted-us-drone-over-crimea-arms-180430584.html;_ylt=At_B0i8Ttqvgrn8ZH8ESDpzQtDMD;_ylu=X3oDMTBsdmNodWplBGNvbG8DYmYxBHBvcwMzBHNlYwNzcg–

    Paranoia leads Vladimir Putin to the point of no return
    The Russian leader’s personal insecurity will ensure that Crimea falls under his control
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/vladimir-putin/10695204/Paranoia-leads-Vladimir-Putin-to-the-point-of-no-return.html

    Then the Baltics… any country he wants that the west wont fight over will be next. sanctions will garner a response that they are not ready for, like causing economic malaise at minimum. he knows we cant borrow to pay to fight, do not have the infrastructure/skills/culture/education/fitness needed to make any kind of opposition, and he can hurt the Wests economies more than they can hurt his.

    200 people are a tragedy
    the Crimea is just another statistic

  20. kaba Says:

    Incredibly interesting stuff. As per an airliner pilot on Fox earlier the ARCARS system can’t be disabled from the cockpit. It requires pulling a circuit breaker in the Electronics Bay which is located below the cockpit. Apparently that location is accessed through a trap door on the cockpit floor. And from another source pulling that circuit breaker prohibits data transmission by the ARCARS system but the system will still respond to pings from a satellite transponder. And the Malay government now admits receiving pings for as long as 7.5 hours.

    It seems the more we learn the less we know.

  21. Harold Says:

    Enough time has passed so that the “authorities” should know what they know.
    –That is they should know what data streams from the plane there were and when they stopped.
    –They should know what was seen on radar.
    –They should know the basic political/religious views of the passengers by now as well.
    –AND, AND this information should be communicated to the public clearly and coherently. It isn’t that difficult.

    Altogether very frustrating. It just promotes conspiracies as most folks don’t understand why simple basic info isn’t being communicated. Was Bush involved in any of this ????

  22. blert Says:

    neo…

    I was pondering…

    What if this gambit was linked to the massive political turmoil within Thailand?

    For those not following it: Bangkok is in a political crisis largely triggered by a jihad initiated from down south — towards Malaysia.

    That’s the Muslim aspect.

    The Chinese aspect is that ethnic Chinese have been the dominant players in both Malaysian and Thailand — going back centuries.

    The Uyghurs of western China have been caught knifing their Han brothers to death — yet again — this last week.

    The Kunming (Uighur) gang that murdered 27, injured 109, attempted to cross over and down to Malaysia well before their attack at the train station. This was asserted by Chinese authorities shortly after the atrocity. They had been in contact with Muslims (Internet?) — and intended to hook up for jihad.

    The bobbing and weaving in the early moments are consistent with a semi-trained individual discovering that the flight computer won’t allow him to take the jet where he wants to go.

    He discovers — only at the last second — that his control adjustments are being rejected. Even before the screwy flying, it’s a pretty good bet he was trying to log in new arrival co-ordinates to the flight computer.

    The 777 is a flying computer — as was evidenced when its infamous flight crew was outed by the NTSB intern:

    Captain Sum Ting Wong
    Wi Tu Lo
    Ho Lee Fuk
    Bang Ding Ow

    I bring this up to remind ourselves how many players will make stuff up and inject it into the public airwaves. In this particular case, we had an idiot squawking tomfoolery far and wide that should not have deceived a two-year old.

    It’s with this in mind that we should understand the swirl of bunkum being tossed out by the Malaysian officials and hangers on. It’s a pretty good bet that the Malaysian officials are talking about technical matters entirely outside their keen.

    &&&

    For Kuala Lumpur the VERY FIRST thing on their minds would be the local and regional implications of airborne jihad — with their immediate neighbor to the north wracked by a total melt-down of civil authority.

    While it’s small news here, the upheaval in Bangkok must be front page news — going back many months — for Kuala Lumpur. No official could possibly go to the microphone without being concerned that the jihad might be turning back down to Malaysia.

    The Chinese on board the flight were EXACTLY the Chinese that have the local Muslims most upset. They were either distant kin of the power elite inside Malaysia — or represent the global high tech industry — with Malaysia being the hub for hard disk drives and the like.

    On the whole, the (local) Chinese dominate the industry. BTW, without a score-card you’d never know who, exactly, counts as Chinese inside Thailand or Malaysia. After centuries of intermarriage, many of the Chinese families are visually indistinguishable from the natives. (!) It’s only by their family names and commercial legacies that this or that clan is considered part of the ‘Chinese community.’

    (That races can inter-marry while maintaining ethnic alignments long after there are any visual clues ought to sober up many a Western ‘new era’ zealot.)

    I think it’s significant that not a single talking-head has mentioned the dust-up in Bangkok in the context of MH370.

    This just shows how provincial our own media still is.

    %%%

    As for flying a bomb loaded with high tech Chinese executives and engineers into some Thai political structure… wouldn’t that be the very essence of jihad?

    Can you imagine the frustration for the jihadi when he discovers that the 777 won’t enter Thai airspace — not even the first little bit?

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the flight coding had locked out Thailand entirely. What we’re looking at is a flight profile that went as far north as the programming would allow — once it deviated west of its original flight.

    IIRC, the flight scheme is coded to block out forbidden zones. For example, it’s impossible to get a plane to fly into down town New York, London, Paris, etc.

    (The VERY first jihadis wanted to fly into the Eiffel Tower!)
    (1994)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air_France_Flight_8969

    This gambit still did not wake up officialdom — anywhere.

    Tom Clancy also had a jumbo flying into the Capitol building.
    (1994)

    On 9-11 the jihadis intended to follow Clancy’s script — only to discover that no-one was in the building at the requisite hour.

    It’s an untold story, but someone talked the Muslims into redirecting their attack against the Pentagon — and against the ONLY part of the building that was virtually empty AND up armored against jihadis!

    The 757 of Flight 11 had to maneuver all over the sky to make that suicide attack… They flew the long way around!

    All other wings of the Pentagon were stuffed with service personnel and civil servants. One would have expected fatalities to have drastically exceeded those suffered in New York. (est 7,000… the building was packed.)

  23. neo-neocon Says:

    Artfldgr:

    Not at all.

    The Crimea is worse in the grand scheme of things. I have written about the Ukraine situation myself, several times, and plenty of people have written about it and are writing about it now. It is hardly being ignored—au contraire.

    The reason I haven’t been writing about it in the last few days is actually quite simple: it is playing out in exactly the way we always knew it would. Putin was going to do this, and it was clear from the start that he was going to do this, and what’s more that the Obama administration and NATO and the EU hadn’t the inclination to do a single thing about it other than utter empty words. So it is playing out, and the words are being uttered.

    You keep making the same error: that if a topic you think should be written about here at a certain time isn’t written about at that time, it is being ignored or felt not to matter. Nothing could be further from the truth.

  24. FOAF Says:

    Oldflyer:

    ” Either they [Malaysian authorities] were completely befuddled, or they were not forthcoming with all of the available information.”

    My guess it was a combination of befuddlement compounded by burning desire, conscious or subconscious, on the part of Malaysia’s Muslim government that the cause be “accident” rather than “hijacking/terrorism”. They probably knew early on that the second answer was more likely.

  25. blert Says:

    http://www.slate.com/blogs/future_tense/2014/03/15/flight_370_disappearance_missing_airliner_apparently_flew_to_central_asia.html

    Slate is now reporting that the Malaysian authorities are estimating that MH370 made it all the way back to western China.

    Home of the Uyghurs. (!)

    This assertion is based upon data streams that have been picked up by satellite.

    The indirect route may have been forced upon them by the flight computer.

    It’s still a puzzle as to how they got past ground radars… but the thinking is that the 777 probably has reached dry land where the salt flats are many and the population density is nil.

    This is beyond Alice in Wonderland.

  26. neo-neocon Says:

    blert:

    See my new post above.

    Not Alice in Wonderland. Twilight Zone crossed with James Bond.

  27. Steve57 Says:

    blert says:

    “It’s still a puzzle as to how they got past ground radars… but the thinking is that the 777 probably has reached dry land where the salt flats are many and the population density is nil.

    This is beyond Alice in Wonderland.”

    Yes, it is. The advantage I have is I’m an old hot rodder. Salt presents its own problems. Here’s a link to an article by the Utah Salt Flats Racing Association that contains a bit about the surface at Bonneville.

    http://saltflats.com/traction.html

    Yeah, it’s flat. Sometimes it seems just like pavement but it’s not. Note how just doing a burnout in a car can dig a trench up to 1/2 in thick. I can’t imagine how far a 304,500 pound airliner will dig into the surface if it were to land on it. And what it will do to the tires. As the article says, it’s a natural surface so it’s hugely variable.

    “One more aspect of Bonneville traction needs to be considered here. When the racing surface is abused by high powered vehicles, very heavy vehicles, or simply by too much racing traffic, the hard packed prepared surface begins to break down, and return to its pulverized granular form. This can take the form of holes, sand traps, washboard areas, or large soft areas. If you have ever spent much time driving off road, the feeling a driver experiences when running thru these “loose” areas will be familiar. It feels like running from a good smooth hard packed dirt road into a sand bog. It can really get your attention at 200 MPH.”

    When the author talks about the surface being abused by heavy vehicles, I’m sure he never imagined it being abused by something this heavy. The surface will abuse the vehicle right back. I don’t care how many hours the pilot in command of MH370 has, if he’s still the one flying it, good luck landing that thing. If by sheer dumb luck he doesn’t wreck landing on a surface that no one has ever attempted before he’s never getting it out. If it’s the Uighur who just has time in simulators then this plane will not survive the landing.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
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