Tuesday, March 18, 2014

A working hypothesis? Or just more speculation? MH370

Missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370: Evidence Points To Takeover

The Associated Press


There are three pieces of evidence that aviation safety experts say make it clear the missing Malaysia Airlines jet was taken over by someone who was knowledgeable about how the plane worked.


One clue is that the plane's transponder — a signal system that identifies the plane to radar — was shut off about an hour into the flight.

In order to do that, 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 National Transportation Safety Board. That's something a pilot would know how to do, but it could also be learned by someone who researched the plane on the Internet, he said.

[Known Fact: The transponder was no longer sending its ID.
 Unknown: Was it turned off, or did it malfunction? Presumably, the system has redundancy features, which makes simultaneous malfunction highly unlikely. But still, someone "shutting off" the transponder is speculation.]


Another clue is that part of the Boeing 777's Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) was shut off.

The system, which has two parts, is used to send short messages via a satellite or VHF radio to the airline's home base. The information part of the system was shut down, but not the transmission part. In most planes, the information part of the system can be shut down by hitting cockpit switches in sequence in order to get to a computer screen where an option must be selected using a keypad, said Goglia, an expert on aircraft maintenance.

That's also something a pilot would know how to do, but that could also be discovered through research, he said.

But to turn off the other part of the ACARS, it would be necessary to go to an electronics bay beneath the cockpit. That's something a pilot wouldn't normally know how to do, Goglia said, and it wasn't done in the case of the Malaysia plane. Thus, the ACARS transmitter continued to send out blips that were recorded by the Inmarsat satellite once an hour for four to five hours after the transponder was turned off. The blips don't contain any messages or data, but the satellite can tell in a very broad way what region the blips are coming from and adjusts the angle of its antenna to be ready to receive message in case the ACARS sends them. Investigators are now trying to use data from the satellite to identify the region where the plane was when its last blip was sent.

[ACARS reports the operating parameters of the plane - how it is performing and what possible maintenance needs to be done. It's not a cockpit recorder, and the information it provides is of limited use. The question is not Who turned off ACARS, but WHY? What was the point of turning off ACARS? In the case of the Transponder, turning it off in mid-flight would mean not broadcasting your ID and that can be seen as suspicious. However turning off ACARS is like turning off a VCR when you burgle a home. It doesn't do a thing about keeping your ID or location or destination secret. And that may speak to the intent or non-intentional nature of the electronics failure.]


The third indication is that that after the transponder was turned off and civilian radar lost track of the plane, Malaysian military radar was able to continue to track the plane as it turned west.

The plane was then tracked along a known flight route across the peninsula until it was several hundred miles (kilometers) offshore and beyond the range of military radar. Airliners normally fly from waypoint to waypoint where they can be seen by air traffic controllers who space them out so they don't collide. These lanes in the sky aren't straight lines. In order to follow that course, someone had to be guiding the plane, Goglia said.

Goglia said he is very skeptical of reports the plane was flying erratically while it was being tracked by military radar, including steep ascents to very high altitudes and then sudden, rapid descents. Without a transponder signal, the ability to track planes isn't reliable at very high altitudes or with sudden shifts in altitude, he said.

[Translation: We can't be sure about the Malaysia military's radar data... not all of it. ]


Mar 17
PETALING JAYA: New questions have emerged as authorities try to piece together the jigsaw puzzle over whether MH370 was deliberately commandeered, and where the aircraft could now be.

A senior Malaysian pilot said aviators with good technical know-how would be aware that their aircraft would continue to send “pings” to satellites even after the transponder and Aircraft Communications and Reporting System (ACARS) had been switched off.

“If you are a pilot and have technical knowledge, you know the data will continue to go through. We, as pilots, know about it and it is not a secret.”

On where the aircraft could be, following the announcement that it might be on one of two arcs stretching from the southern part of the Indian Ocean to Central Asia, the pilot said it was hard to determine as it involved a huge area. However, he said, it was highly unlikely that an aircraft could fly undetected over countries such as Thailand or Kazakhstan. “This is because these countries would respond to the unidentified incoming aircraft on their civilian and military radars,” he said.

“When I fly into Kazakhstan, for example, I will have to inform their air traffic controller 10 minutes before I enter their airspace,” said the senior pilot, a close friend of MH370’s Capt Zaharie Ahmad Shah.

On criticisms that investigations should have checked earlier if Capt Zaharie had practised air turn-back manoeuvres on his home flight simulator, the pilot believed the authorities were following correct protocol.

“Going to the location where the communications were lost with the aircraft would be among the first things on their minds,” he said.

“The fact is, in the initial stages there was no confirmed indication of a turn-back and that the aircraft may have flown along either of the two arcs.”

With the probe now refocusing on the crew and passengers, Capt Zaharie’s background has gained much media attention. The British-based Daily Mail, for instance, said he was a “political fanatic”.

The senior pilot said such insinuations were uncalled for. “He is a highly-respected professional whom I have worked with for over more than three decades. He genuinely cares for the well-being of others. Many of his colleagues, including myself, knows his character.”


As U.S. Looks for Terror Links in Plane Case, Malaysia Rejects Extensive Help


MARCH 16, 2014

WASHINGTON — With malicious intent strongly suspected in the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, American intelligence and law enforcement agencies renewed their search over the weekend for any evidence that the plane’s diversion was part of a terrorist plot. But they have found nothing so far, senior officials said, and their efforts have been limited by the Malaysian authorities’ refusal to accept large-scale American assistance.

There are just two F.B.I. agents in Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian capital, where local investigators are hunting for clues that the two pilots or any of the other 237 people on board had links to militant groups or other motives to hijack the flight.

In the days after the plane went missing on March 8, American investigators scoured their huge intelligence databases for information about those on board but came up dry.

With no obvious motive apparent, American investigators are considering a range of possibilities, though they caution that all remain merely speculative. Among them are involvement by Al Qaeda’s Southeast Asian affiliate, which once discussed recruiting commercial pilots in Malaysia to crash a plane; an act by members of China’s Uighur minority, who have recently become more militant and could conceivably have targeted a plane headed to Beijing; a lone-wolf attack by someone without ties to established terrorist groups; or even a suicidal move by a troubled individual.

A central puzzle is why anyone would hijack a jetliner and then fly it for hours over the open ocean, as seems to be the most likely case. On Saturday, the Malaysian authorities opened a criminal inquiry after learning that two tracking devices aboard the aircraft had been turned off several minutes apart, indicating deliberate action, and that the plane appeared to have flown for as long as seven hours more.

American officials said the announcement of the criminal investigation did not change their view of the situation, as the Malaysians offered little evidence that had not already been learned in the past week. 

Several senior American officials have played down the possibility that a terrorist network was behind the plane’s disappearance because no group has claimed responsibility for it. They said intelligence agencies had not detected chatter among terrorists about such a plot. Given the lack of traditional militant “signatures,” one official said, if terrorists were behind the episode, “it would be unlike anything we have seen before.”

In response to the news that Malaysian authorities had taken a flight simulator from the chief pilot’s home, American officials said that they were eager to know what the investigators had found and were willing to help search the computers. But as of Sunday afternoon, the officials said they knew little about the findings. 

As part of their efforts in the days after the plane went missing to determine what had occurred, American analysts and law enforcement agencies conducted link analysis — a computer-based investigative technique that tries to make connections between individuals based on extensive government and airline databases — on the pilots and two Iranian passengers who were traveling on stolen passports. Those efforts, along with interviews with family members of the Iranian men and of two Americans who were on the plane, yielded nothing that pointed to terrorism, officials said.

The F.B.I., which has had an agent based at the United States Embassy in Kuala Lumpur for more than a decade, has developed a working relationship with law enforcement officials there in recent years. But American officials said they believed that the Malaysian leaders had rebuffed their offers of assistance because they did not want to appear as though they needed help with such a high-profile investigation.

Because two-thirds of the passengers were Chinese, one group with a conceivable motive to hijack the plane would be militant members of the Muslim Uighur ethnic group in China. Malaysian and Chinese news reports identified one passenger as Uighur, but American officials said they had no evidence that the passenger was associated with militant groups.

On Friday, Abdullah Mansour, the leader of the rebel Turkestan Islamic Party, told Reuters in an interview from his hide-out in Pakistan that the Uighurs’ “fight against China is our Islamic responsibility.” But he made no mention of the missing airliner.

Investigators are keeping in mind the long history of Qaeda connections and terrorist plots in Southeast Asia, including the double bombing of nightclubs in Bali, Indonesia, in 2002, which killed more than 200 people. That attack was carried out by members of Jemaah Islamiyah, a regional militant group with close ties to Al Qaeda.

As investigators focus on the pilots and study possible motives for a hijacking, certain tactics that Al Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiyah considered years ago may be newly relevant. In 2001, leaders of the two groups discussed recruiting a Malaysian or Indonesian commercial pilot for a terrorist mission, according to a 2006 book by Kenneth J. Conboy, an American author who specializes in militant groups in Southeast Asia.

Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the chief planner of the Sept. 11 attacks, considered using such pilots for a second wave of attacks on buildings or landmarks in the United States. Yazid Sufaat, a Malaysian who studied biochemistry at California State University and experimented with biological weapons for Al Qaeda before Sept. 11, proposed crashing a commercial airliner into a passing American warship, the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk, according to a local intelligence report cited in Mr. Conboy’s book on Jemaah Islamiyah, “The Second Front.”

Mr. Yazid was free from 2008 until last year, when he was detained in Malaysia and charged with helping to recruit fighters to send to Syria. He remains in custody.


RI radar 'did not detect MH370 in Malacca Strait': Air Force

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
Fri, March 14 2014

In a development that could make the mystery surrounding the missing Malaysia Airlines plane more puzzling, the Indonesian Air Force has revealed that its radar in Sumatra, which is closest to Penang on the Malaysian Peninsula, did not detect any aircraft in the Malacca Strait area under its coverage, around the time Flight 370 was lost early last Saturday.

[Note: "Did not detect" does not mean "aircraft did not fly through Indonesian airspace". It merely means the Indonesians did not see the aircraft. Maybe they were sleeping. Maybe the radar was not on. Maybe the radar was not working. Whatever the reason, they would not want it known that they were unable to detect a mystery aircraft or react to such an aircraft entering their airspace.]

The Malaysian military previously insisted that its radar had tracked an aircraft that could have been the ill-fated plane in the strait, around 200 miles northwest of Penang, about 1.5 hours after departure or 45 minutes after the aircraft disappeared from civilian radar.

The discovery has led to the theory that the Boeing 777-200 with 239 people on board, which was bound from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, might have made a turn to the West at the time it lost contact with the air traffic controller, which last detected it in the Gulf of Thailand in the South China Sea, then going past the Malaysian Peninsula.

But the revelation by Indonesian Air Force spokesman Air Commodore Hadi Tjahjanto on Friday could bring the mystery back to the question: Did the plane really turn back to the West?

Hadi told The Jakarta Post that the Indonesian Air Force’s radar unit in Lhokseumawe, Aceh, did not detect the missing MH370 in the area where the Malaysian military suggested as being the plane’s last detected position around Penang waters.

“Our radar information has been shared with our Malaysian counterparts,” he said.

When asked if Lhokseumawe radar’s coverage had reached Penang, he only said that the radar had the capability to detect flying objects for up to 240 nautical miles, or about 445 kilometers.

A rough calculation using Google Earth shows that Lhokseumawe’s distance to Penang is about 300 kilometers, meaning that the radar could cover up to the Malaysian Peninsula.

The Malaysian military has asked the Indonesian Military (TNI) to help search the plane in the Malacca Straits. The Indonesian Air Force and Navy have been deploying aircrafts and warships since Monday.

The Indonesian Air Force’s Boeing B737-2x9 Surveiller was still searching the plane regardless of the radar’s lack of detection, Hadi said. “We just finished our first search today. After Friday prayers, we will conduct another search,” he said.

The search has been expanded to the Andaman waters to the north of Sumatra or west of Thailand. The US’ White House had signaled that the search could significantly broaden to the Indian Ocean, far west off Sumatra, Reuters reported.

One of the most baffling mysteries in the history of modern aviation - there has been no trace of the plane since nor any sign of wreckage despite a search by the navies and military aircraft of over a dozen countries across Southeast Asia.

Experts say that if the plane crashed into the ocean, then some debris should be floating on the surface even if most of the jet is submerged. Past experience shows that finding the wreckage can take weeks or even longer, especially if the location of the plane is in doubt.


A hypothesis from PPRuNe Pg 278:

Please google "Qantas oxygen bottle explosion" and view photos of damage.
The picture taken inside the fwd cargo compartment shows one bottle missing.
there is no evidence of shrapnel damage in the photo. Therefore, no explosion.
The bottle appears to have detached itself from its connections and propelled itself down through the fuselage skin.

777: The crew oxygen bottle is mounted horizontaly on the left aft wall of the nose wheel well structure with the fittings (propelling nozzle) facing forward. This aims the bottle, in the event of a QF30 type failure, directly into the MEC containing all boxes concerned with coms and a lot more.
Before all of its energy is spent, an huge amount of damage could be caused to equipment and the bottle could, conceivably, cause a decompression.
When the crew respond by doning oxygen mask, there is no oxygen and hypoxia is the next link in this proposed chain of events.

[If the facts are correct, and the hypothesis is plausible, it would fit most of the known facts (ignoring all the other dubious "facts").]

19 March 2014

Triangulation using cell phones fails


MCMC EXERCISE: Pilot last used his phone just before take off

THE Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) attempted to triangulate the location of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 using phone numbers of passengers on board but to no avail.

The exercise was carried out after it was confirmed that the Boeing 777 jetliner had gone missing.

This was done following claims that family members of passengers from China had established cell phone communication with them.

Sources told the New Straits Times that Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah's cell phone was last used on Friday night, just before take off.

MCMC also zeroed in on three other cell phones belonging to MH370's passengers, namely the wife and two daughters of former Celcom Axiata Bhd chief executive officer Datuk Mohamed Yunus Ramli Abbas.

Efforts to locate signals from the cell phones of Biby Nazli Mohd Hassim, Dina Mohamed Yunus Ramli and Maria Mohamed Yunus Ramli were all unsuccessful.

Bukit Aman's forensics team had also carried out a similar exercise in collaboration with foreign counterparts to establish when the last contact was made by those on the aircraft.

Meanwhile, an aviation expert said if the signal was strong enough, it would be possible for a person to receive or make outgoing calls above 5,000 feet.

"But at 35,000 feet, it is impossible," he said.

Another aviation expert said although a caller would be able to hear a ringtone when placing a call, it does not necessarily mean that the phone on board an airborne aircraft was ringing.

"This happens sometimes when you place an international call. You might hear the phone ringing on your end, but it does not mean that a connection was established with the receiver's phone.

"It is only trying to make connection with the other country's phone network."

The expert also said that if the plane was hijacked, a cell phone jammer, or device used to prevent cell phones from receiving signals from base stations, could be used.

[And finally some silliness... on the part of journalist trying to ask "hard-hitting" questions... and simply come across as... rude? crude? insulting?]

Reporter's questions shock Hisham


19 Mar 2014

SEPANG: The press conference on Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 took a surprising turn yesterday when a member of the foreign media corps queried Acting Transport Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein on his ties with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

Hishammuddin was caught off-guard when he was asked by a French reporter whether he was Najib's cousin and also queried if he was "protected" due to his family ties.

Hishammuddin responded: "Where are you from? I think I should leave the French office's investigation experts to answer your questions. Yes, I can confirm that Najib is my cousin (but) I don't know what I am supposed to be protected from."

The reporter, Carrie Nooten, had repeated criticism against the Malaysian government about the way it had handled the MH370 investigation, implying that Hishammuddin's ties to Najib had insulated him from repercussions.

She said: "First, I would like to congratulate Foreign Affairs Minister (Datuk Seri Anifah Aman) on the diplomatic ties.

"We hear a lot of criticism that you have denied reporters freedom. The police have turned away reporters.

"So, we see that it took you seven days to confirm the U-turn (made by the MH370 aircraft).

"It took you more days to confirm the plane went away from your waters. I have three small questions for you.

"Firstly, what are the consequences (of these mistakes) on your administration?

"Second, can you confirm that you are Prime Minister Najib's cousin?

"Third, are you protected (inaudible)?

The line of questioning shocked other members of the media, with the press conference room at Sama-Sama Hotel breaking into titters after the second question.

Her questions continued to be a talking point among reporters, long after the press conference concluded at 6.15pm.

Several foreign pressmen were overheard commenting on the incident, making light of the reporter's attempts to give "hard-hitting" questions to Malaysian officials and criticising her lack of journalistic research.

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