tip off
79

WSJ: Last ping from MH370 was after 5 hours and over water

In a sensational development the Wall Street Journal reports that the last satellite ‘ping’ from missing 777 flying Malayasia Airlines flight MH370 came at least five hours after take off at a normal cruising altitude over water.

The story doesn’t identify the location of those ‘pings’ emanating from the flight, with 239 people on board, which disappeared early on Saturday morning 8 March.

However it makes the denials from Malaysia’s authorities look false and misleading.

At this early stage, it is important to keep in mind that the jet may not have flown in a straight line from where it was last known to be 42 minutes after takeoff from Kuala Lumpur, at 35,000 feet over the Gulf of Thailand, heading as planned for Vietnam and then onwards to Beijing.

The course followed may have been erratic. We just don’t know yet, although it is very likely, intelligence in the US or China may well know where it went with considerable precision.

Today’s earlier announcement by the White House that warships are being deployed to the Indian Ocean because of information that the 777-200 may have crashed into it somewhere to the east of India is now highly significant.

79

Please login below to comment, OR simply register here :



  • 1
    jeremyp
    Posted March 14, 2014 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    Isn’t this the same information as your previous post on the subject and the previous WSJ article? It’s just updated to provide a bit more technical detail about the “pings.”

    The only real news seems to be there’s a little more location information now being released? Whereas previously they just said that these “pings” had been received, without any indication of where from.

  • 2
    wendal
    Posted March 14, 2014 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    The new development is the “over water”, which suggests locations of pings may be known.

  • 3
    wendal
    Posted March 14, 2014 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

    According to the article, the pings gave location, speed and altitude. That is a BIG development.

  • 4
    TDeeSyd
    Posted March 14, 2014 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

    JeremyP,
    i think you’ve answered your own question. They have location data and are sending a destroyer with a coupla seahawks on board to perhaps begin verifying the intel.

    I guess the only other question remains is the R of SAR now Recovery? I truly wish it wasn’t
    TD

  • 5
    Safficat
    Posted March 14, 2014 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    Am I correct in saying that Malaysia Airlines did not publicly let the world know that MH370 was missing until after it’s ETO in Beijing? I found that out of order … did nobody come out and say that contact had been lost earlier than ETO? I seem to remember that the world knew before the ETO of AF447 because I remember the reports coming from Charles de Gaulle and really feeling the pain of people waiting thinking it still might turn up etc. It is time the work stopped expecting super cheap flights as a right and as the norm. WE should instead be expecting the highest level of security and the highest level of maintenance and staff training and expertise as a matter of course and that will never equate to cheaper airfares. I cannot imagine how incredibly difficult this must have been for the staff on board 370 if these reports prove correct and given they were active during this time. WE should have a lot more respect for the work airline staff do on every flight

  • 6
    Safficat
    Posted March 14, 2014 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

    I meant to thank you Ben for the very best and logical reporting I have seen on this disaster.

  • 7
    Wonder Pigeon
    Posted March 14, 2014 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    I wonder how often the pings came? That’s information I haven’t seen anywhere so far. If the pings were very spread out, then the plane would have had time to crash after the last one. But a final ping at cruising altitude is suspicious indeed, and the article does point out that “[o]ne possibility one person cited was that the system sending them had been disabled by someone on board”.

    My guess would be that the U.S. is deploying ships to the area of the last ping to see if they can find wreckage. If they can’t, then it will be almost certainly determined that foul play was involved (because somebody turned off the pinging system), and assumed that the plane has landed somewhere.

    I am following all of this Stateside. It fills me with an odd, unfamiliar satisfaction to see the U.S. government actually doing something useful for the international community, for once. (Though obviously, U.S. national security interests are involved here…but it’s still kind of nice, because it’s so rare.)

  • 8
    comet
    Posted March 14, 2014 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

    If they know the aircraft was “over water”, wouldn’t that mean the authorities must also have a more precise location?

    Why did this come to light only now?

    Malaysian Airlines and its government are looking more evil every minute. For inexplicable reasons, they deny there were any further data ‘pings’, while the rest of the world acts on information that there were pings.

  • 9
    johnc47
    Posted March 14, 2014 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

    What Authorities do you refer too…?!

    Interesting that a US article in a US News publication, has seen a significant USN vessel deployed to a specific area.

    Something tells me that the Malaysians were never shared this data. And the vessel was been deployed outside of the Search Authorities, to an area where they have no real jurisdiction anyway.

    The Malaysian’s may not have known that this data was sent, if it was.

  • 10
    TDeeSyd
    Posted March 14, 2014 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    Comet,
    Any chance the Malaysians just don’t really know what they’re doing, nor do they have access to this level of intel. It is becoming clearer that US interests abroad are clear facilitators of systems to monitor and acquire this data? One must surmise that regular telecomm satellites are not the type involved in this type of tracking. Think NSA and all that represents,
    TD

  • 11
    wendal
    Posted March 14, 2014 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

    Comet,
    The Malaysians have never denied there were satellite pings. They denied there was any ACARS data transmitted to MA, Boeing or RR after 1:07am. This is consistent with the US media reports.

    The reports also say the pings were intermittent, and the last one indicated normal crusing altitude and speed. If that’s the case, they wouldn’t know precisely when or where it dropped out of the sky. They would have a track to follow though.

  • 12
    wendal
    Posted March 14, 2014 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

    The unfortunate thing about this scenario is that useful information from the CVR will most likely have been recorded over, particularly if flight crew incapacitation was involved.

  • 13
    James Brown
    Posted March 14, 2014 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

    This is the type of gear used to connect to Inmarsat http://www.satcomdirect.com/Connect/Presentations2013/HoneywellUpdateJeffGayon/Honeywell%20Update.pdf. Even with ACARS off it would be attempting to remain on track to the relevant satellite. Others might know whether it transmits as part of tracking. The question to ask Malaysian Airlines is “Does the aircraft have an Inmarsat antenna”

  • 14
    Ace Space Trucker
    Posted March 14, 2014 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

    The only “facts” are that the aircraft may have turned back based on Malaysian radar data which has been shared with other parties. Hence the search radius being expanded to the Andaman Sea. The US corroborates this by saying that they were receiving pings (not ACARS data) from the aircraft engines for several hours after presumed disappearance. It does not sound like the pings include any location info of any sort, just a data line being queried every hour but not used due to the fact that the airline has not subscribed to the service. Until the radar data is conclusive we are left with searching the entire search radius, which is what everyone is doing now. Someone will eventually come up with a presumed flight path based on radar data from various nations operating in the area but that will obviously take time due to conflicting security interests (the US included).

  • 15
    nonscenic
    Posted March 14, 2014 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

    It seems more plausible that the plane was flying as a drone and that it fell from the sky after the last ping. If the flight path of pings suggests it was being controlled during those hours then that might support the theory that the pings were switched off, but unless it was some bizarre repeat of Ethiopian Airlines flight 961 I think the drone theory is more likely.
    Knowing the location of the final ping, presumably not yet publicly available, would reveal the most likely scenario.

  • 16
    Tango
    Posted March 14, 2014 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

    The ping is a one hour check in, and it does not appear there is any location data with it, dispatch is probably purely based on the radar return and the 4 to 5 hour flight time (i.e. more than 4 less than 5)

    Once again I state the only way to line up the dots is pilot action, no other combination of events or situation could have turned the aircraft more than 90 deg, dropped in altitude and then leveled off and then proceeded to fly under control 4 to 5 hours (as well as turn off the transponder and ACARS)

    And yes it could have wandered, its a guess.

    As to water, what the hell else is there in that part of the world? You have the Indian Ocean and you have the South China sea. Its not on land, its in the water.

    Softer landing and the ELTs go off, ergo it was not soft.

    one of the pilots did it.

    They had a piece on the Silk Air suicide and they had to dig back into his background many years before they found the track of mental instability that he kept well hidden.

  • 17
    discus
    Posted March 14, 2014 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

    I think we can trust Interpol and the USA authorities on there being no known terror threats on board at the time.

    We have no serious claimants to the disappearance that I am aware of.

    We have last comm’s just at hand over to the Vietnamese ATC followed by what appears to be a turn back.

    No mayday, no form of failure notified by voice or via ACARS.

    ATC transponders (both of them) cease transmitting.

    Malaysia tracks an unknown aircraft heading west.

    USA releases current info re the pinging and Indian Ocean reference.

    If it were an aircraft theft that would require considerable backing and organisation surely a flight from KL to a country west of Malaysia would have been a better candidate? More fuel, heading west anyway.

    Surely now the conclusion we are approaching is takeover by a crew member with what intent we do not know.

    It may still be an extraordinarily unusual accident but doubt it.

  • 18
    basketcase86
    Posted March 14, 2014 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

    Tango,

    Totally agree with you. The the longer this goes the closer to pilot suicide/intention it seems to be.

  • 19
    Ace Space Trucker
    Posted March 14, 2014 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

    But of course all of these nice theories presume that someone actually received such “pings.” So far no one (not even the WSJ) has named anyone as the source of this information, so it could be another useless rumor. Even Boeing isn’t confirming any of this. All credit to the WSJ, but anyone can write an article saying some Pentagon official said this or that.

  • 20
    basketcase86
    Posted March 14, 2014 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

    Using this incident as an example all these news papers/articles should be made to print their sources or not release them. It has been a total joke so far.

  • 21
    Ace Space Trucker
    Posted March 14, 2014 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

    Agreed basketcase86.

  • 22
    wendal
    Posted March 14, 2014 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    I presume the pings would have been recorded in satellite logs. I doubt Boeing would be aware of them.

  • 23
    Harry Stamper
    Posted March 14, 2014 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

    Ben, first and foremost, thanks for the level-headed reporting on this event. Stumbled upon your site quite by accident and have been reading ever since. It’s a breath of fresh air compared to what Malaysia and the broadcast news channels have been spewing since this event occurred.

    I stumbled upon an interesting Reddit post a couple hours ago where a user put together a suspected timeline of events on Google Maps @ https://mapsengine.google.com/map/viewer?mid=zEv_Lx1YEj8s.kQ8RBCWYdK1g where you can zoom in and read an interpretation of events. Each icon and flight path has details embedded based on “facts” collected from several sources (and in my defense, some speculation, but it does put together a plausible tale).

    On this flip side, it’s Reddit, so here’s the link to the comments on the post: http://www.reddit.com/r/MH370/comments/20cenx/its_just_a_theory_and_im_just_throwing_it_out/ I found it an interesting read taking into the few facts we know about, and substantiates the SAR transitioning to the Indian Ocean.

  • 24
    Ace Space Trucker
    Posted March 14, 2014 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

    Wendal, I would argue that those pings should go to Boeing and not suddenly stop at a satellite. They’re the ones deciding whether to download engine data (or not).

  • 25
    Jithen Bantval Panekal
    Posted March 14, 2014 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

    Is the following possible, if MH370 went down in the Indian Ocean??
    Radars stations at the following locations tracked MH370??

    1. Military Radar at India’s Andaman & Nicobar Naval Command – Port Blair.

    2. RAAF base Pearce Western Australia.

    3. USAF Radar at Diego Garcia.

    Is their joint intelligence sharing taking place regarding tracking of MH370 over the Indian Ocean.

  • 26
    Confirmed Sceptic
    Posted March 14, 2014 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

    Due respect fellas, but Malaysian Airlines does not subscribe to Boeing care service. R-R does their engines.

    The gist of the technology seems to be that the ACARS was inoperative, as R-R and MH have stated. The pings they are getting are from the SATCOM handshaking events (for lack of a better word). SATCOM works like a telephone in that ATC or the company can call the flight deck, or vice versa. So the SATCOM system has to know where the aircraft is in order to complete the link.

  • 27
    michael r james
    Posted March 14, 2014 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

    The frustrating thing is that no official entity, except for the discredited Malaysian ones, has so far gone on record with a clear statement. The WSJ article is based almost entirely on anonymous “people” (not even the NYT form of words in these situations which is “a person within (Boeing etc) who spoke on condition of anonymity”). We can make all the speculation in the world based on this half-arsed information but it remain low-quality speculation.

    The redeployment of a US naval vessel from the east to the west coast of Malaysia is misleading commenters here. From my readings it was unrelated to the WSJ story and was put in the context of the eastern ocean being saturated with search vessels and all satellite surveillance there having been negative (notably the US responded very quickly and fairly aggressively that the China satellite finding was lacking in credibility). At that point, despite the messy Malaysian communications it was becoming more credible that the plane had turned back and had flown over the sea NW from Penang (last point the Malaysian military tracked it was 200km (sometimes reported as 200 nm!) NW of Penang).

    So: why are RR and Boeing refusing to go public with whatever information they have?
    I have a conspiracy theory that it is entirely to increase logarithmically the number of conspiracy theories out there!

  • 28
    Confirmed Sceptic
    Posted March 14, 2014 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

    And I have been using airline Satcom for a long time and was unaware of this system behaviour.

  • 29
    Ben Sandilands
    Posted March 14, 2014 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    The US ABC story linked to in the previous post connects the pings from the 777 to named White House spokesperson saying the US has intelligence suggesting that MH370 ended in the Indian Ocean and to the redeployment of significant shipping.

  • 30
    michael r james
    Posted March 14, 2014 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

    Yes, Ben, but what “intelligence”? I know that before I knew anything about the ACARs story I was thinking (and scribbling here) that the Andaman sea “theory” looked likely–this was when the Chinese were making those claims (and the US were making strong counter-claims) about their satellite pics of “debris”

    From NYT story:

    Days of intensive searching there produced nothing but false leads and floating debris that turned out to be unrelated to the aircraft. Still, Malaysia’s defense minister, Hishammuddin Hussein, said on Thursday that the main search effort would continue in that area.
    .
    Pentagon officials said that several American agencies were reviewing the radar blips recorded by the Malaysian military, but had not yet found anything that would indicate specifically where the missing plane might have gone. A senior Pentagon official said that Malaysian and American authorities were “looking pretty closely” at the possibility that the plane went down in the Indian Ocean, but had not reached any conclusions.

    and …

    Military radar last recorded the plane 200 miles northwest of Penang, Malaysia, flying at 29,500 feet, officials said. They said the data was being shared with the United States and China to help determine whether the aircraft was Flight 370.
    .
    The search area being combed by dozens of ships and planes was expanded Thursday to take in parts of the Andaman Sea, the arm of the Indian Ocean northwest of the strait, and may grow further. Jay Carney, the White House press secretary, said on Thursday, “Based on some new information that’s not necessarily conclusive, but new information, an additional search area may be opened in the Indian Ocean, and we are consulting with international partners about the appropriate assets to deploy.”
    .
    The Pentagon said that the Kidd would search in the Andaman Sea at the request of the Malaysian government, and that a P-3 surveillance plane had already flown over the area. By late Thursday, the Kidd was expected to expand its search area into the Indian Ocean after arriving in the area on Friday. Syed Akbaruddin, the spokesman for India’s External Affairs Ministry, said India had also sent three ships, two airplanes and a helicopter to search in that area.

  • 31
    Posted March 14, 2014 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

    The facts best support either gradual decompression or a fire on board. Both theories could explain the loss of certain comms (esp aircraft position broadcasts), but the continuing availability of others (passenger phones ringing out). It does seem the plane travelled westward. This flight path makes no sense if a pilot was in control, suicidal or not.

  • 32
    Glen
    Posted March 14, 2014 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

    JB Panekal:

    1. Yep
    2. Way too far. Outside chance RAAF Learmouth.
    3. Maybe; right direction; 5 hours would get you there.

    Those are all line-of-sight radars limited by curvature to about 200 km for a target at 9000 m. JORN Laverton? That’s another story. Long range for it, but as previously discussed, conditions were good. Not impossible.

    What of the Sceptic’s earlier theory of skin failure -> depressurisation -> incapacitation (O2 system failures?) and loss of (some only!) comms antennas?

    Those discounted “phones ringing” stories begin to look less unlikely.

  • 33
    michael r james
    Posted March 14, 2014 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

    Another bit of withheld information, as per an NBC story (below).
    The more important part of this story is what about the 4 to 5 hours after this timepoint? Can one conclude from the absence of anything further that there is nothing additional? Thus leaving the only two outcomes as either a ditching at sea or a controlled landing somewhere? (this is pre-supposing that these SBIR satellites survey the vast empty oceans not just the crowded ones like Gulf of Thailand/South China Sea etc; fairly likely given that one purpose will be to pick up submarine-fired missiles?).

    U.S. Spy Satellites Detected No Explosion as Flight 370 Vanished
    BY ROBERT WINDREM
    U.S. spy satellites did not detect a midair explosion at the time that Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 lost contact with air traffic controllers or in the hours immediately afterward, senior U.S. intelligence officials told NBC News on Wednesday.
    .
    “That’s one thing that is particularly vexing,” said one.
    .
    The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that analysis of data from “national technical means” –- a euphemism for spy satellites -– found nothing “to corroborate or indicate a midair explosion” in the period surrounding the jet’s disappearance on Saturday (Friday in the U.S.).
    .
    The U.S. Space Based Infrared (SBIR) satellite system, which is designed to identify heat signatures in real time, can -– and has -– detected exploding aircraft, according to a second official,. Indeed, it has provided evidence in the past of events as small as artillery fire and the launch of anti-aircraft missiles, the official said.

  • 34
    michael r james
    Posted March 14, 2014 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

    Here’s a question for those PlaneTalkers who claim to know about these things:
    Would the pinging or other semi-automated transmissions etc from the engines work when a jet is parked inside the usual hangar building? ie. does it penetrate metal roofing or is it more like GPS which mostly doesn’t and requires line-of-sight to satellite(s)?

  • 35
    Confirmed Sceptic
    Posted March 14, 2014 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

    Glen, for my fanciful idea to occur you have to line up quite a few holes int he cheese!

    In any event, a skin failure would have had to be localised…taking the transponder antennae. In such a scenario if the skin unzipped like the Aloha Airlines there would have been a debris cloud followed by complete disintegration.

    I cannot cite a source now, but I did read a report that said the outcome of the Aloha 737-200 breaking or not was down to the extra incremental strength of the seat rails! And that was a pretty short aeroplane.

    A guy on another site postulated that the pilots’ O2 bottle may have suffered a failure such as occurred on the QF 747 some years ago. Imagine a runaway O2 bottle smashing its way through the radio racks in the MEC then punching its way out of the fuselage. That scenario neatly wraps up the radios, the hole and the unconscious pilots. And the half completed emergency descent procedure.

  • 36
    Matt Dalton
    Posted March 14, 2014 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

    The INMARSAT comms solution is based on cellular technology. Each cell is a big area at the surface, but if you know which cell the terminal is in, you can see where it is. I’m not sure how accurate the cells are on this image, but there are only a small handful that are covering South East Asia towards India.

    http://www.groundcontrol.com/images/GC-Map33.jpg

    The US Government could have received the information from INMARSAT, but they also have significant satellite surveillance resources themselves. It would take time for them to sweep through a lot of data. I can well imagine that they would be cagey about using this as a source.

    ACARS uses a data feed in a best to worst manner. First VHF, then Satcom, then HF (if fitted).

    I don’t know the layout of the electronics on a 777, but the simplest solution is that there has been a significant event on the plane that has taken out most of the electronics. This could stop transponder, ADS-B, and ACARS. It could also cause depressurisation.

    The SATCOM unit would be mounted on the upper side of the fuselage, and given the low signal levels that SATCOM works with, I would expect that the radio unit is installed as close as possible to the antenna. It is conceivable that this remained powered whilst ever the engines were running, but was not receiving anything from ACARS to transmit. It would be maintaining a link to the satellite however.

    I’m not sure that anyone could say that ACARS was switched off before the transponder and ADS-B. ACARS would be following it’s usual schedule to transmit engine performance data. The last data packet was at 1:07am local, that doesn’t mean that it was switched off at 1:07am, just that it didn’t report in again after that. I don’t think it necessarily points to a deliberate switch off of the systems.

    On the SAR, they are going to be wanting to do a lot of listening in Sonar if this went down over water.

  • 37
    Ben Sandilands
    Posted March 14, 2014 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

    Matt,

    Agree re switch off element of the US stories, which started with a US ABC report. That was a major blemish, and had it not been for the sections that quoted officials concerning the navy deployments in the Indian Ocean I would have stopped taking anything else it said seriously from that point on.

  • 38
    michael r james
    Posted March 14, 2014 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

    Another question for expert PlaneTalkers:

    Does sudden decompression result in very fast lack of consciousness? I am thinking about comparison to say, drowning, where one would expect to be able to survive for several minutes. I am guessing decompression sucks the lungs empty and so more quickly leads to oxygen deprivation; ie. it is not a question of “holding one’s breath”.

    Note, there is nothing inherently unsurvivable about such altitudes; climbers do Everest without oxygen all the time. There is that remarkable case of the lady paraglider who was carried to 50,000 ft by thermals, then regained consciousness when it came back down again and not only survived but without any permanent (brain) damage!
    (or like when Dave re-entered the pod-bay doors despite Hal’s best efforts to stop him :-)

  • 39
    Matt Dalton
    Posted March 14, 2014 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

    Hi Michael,

    According to Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Time_of_useful_consciousness), at 35,000 feet, less than a minute.

    There is a reason that you should attend to your mask before helping someone else.

  • 40
    Ben Sandilands
    Posted March 14, 2014 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

    Michael,

    As a very ex-mountaineer I can attest to the sudden and dangerous effects of altitude exposure. On the few occasions I flew to and on other occasions took a cable car to altitudes of more than 3000-4000 metres I felt I was in a very harsh place compared to the adjustment you get walking up to those heights over one or two days. A very fit friend died of pulmonary edema at around the 3k mark on Rainier, which is more a plod than a climb. I had to back off my first attempt on the Brenva with a fierce attack of mountain sickness, when going down was objectively more dangerous than continuing up and over Mt Blanc at 4800 metres. Airlines are very wise to have descent to breathable air requirements in their standard operating procedures despite limited duration oxygen masks.

    That awesome survival story by the paraglider took her to almost 30,000 feet not 50,000 feet, and watching the doco it was obvious she had some at least shorter term disability during the recovery phase.

  • 41
    Confirmed Sceptic
    Posted March 14, 2014 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

    Michael, in answer to your query I downloaded the 777 SATCOM manual from SCRIBD. There is a bunch of technical facts but little information, in the manner of much technical writing. The system logs on at power-up, but the description does not elaborate on the triggers for further pinging.

    In the scenario where the aircraft is hidden in some hangar, it would be powered down and hence totally dark. And if you download the manual you can see the description of the phased array antenna and the frequency and power (80w short duration)

    Useful consciousness depends on your age, fitness and smoking habits. It can be as little as 30 seconds at 35,000′ according to our training, but I reckon less than that for a smoker.

    Its not like holding your breath…your lungs are working in reverse, trying to oxygenate the entire sky with whats in your blood. And the climbers are seriously fit specimens that spend acclimatising to the high elevations. Still some die every year from O2 deficiency. That’s why they call the top section the death zone.

    50,000′ without pressure oxygen, and a pressure suit, seems unlikely. And a tad chilly up there too…

  • 42
    Dan Dair
    Posted March 14, 2014 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

    michael r james,
    I think the key is that the lady paraglider returned to a ‘safe’ height & recovered consciousness, before landing safely.
    If there was a serious incident on MH370 & the pilots engaged autopilot whilst they assessed the situation, there might never have come the opportunity to deactivate the autopilot due to loss of compression, or equally fumes from a fire.?

  • 43
    Confirmed Sceptic
    Posted March 14, 2014 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

    Dan the autopilot would have been engaged much earlier. Even a passionate aviator wouldn’t hand fly much above 20,000′ and certainly not at the high levels where it is required because of RVSM rules. On a modern airline flight there can often be as little as a minute or two of manual flying from take-off to the arrival gate. Actually, as little as 5 seconds after take-off it can be engaged, and left engaged until after the landing.

  • 44
    michael r james
    Posted March 14, 2014 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

    OK. I am gathering that it is the suddenness of pressure loss that does it. Though in my naivety I am still wondering whether pilots can take active measures to increase their useful time; lungs contain a fair amount of air and as I said before, I am guessing the sudden decompression empties the lungs unless one can take countermeasures.

    Maybe all pilots should be EPO’d up?

    I am a total wimp when it comes to altitude. At Keystone ski resort (which used to be the highest one in the world about 10,000 ft and you went over the highest paved road in the world to get to it; almost certainly not true anymore as this was decades ago) I began feeling awful soon after arrival and felt terrible the entire time (about 5 days). I note that they enrich the oxygen inside the hi-tech cabins on the Qinghai-Tibet Railway; though that must make it more brutal when one arrives at Lhasa (but the reason is to stop the patrons throwing up everywhere so fair enough!)

    I must have got the 50,000 ft wrong (it does sound too high) but I do seem to recall it was higher than commercial aircraft. The chill up there was part of the reason she survived without long-term brain damage. And yes I think the remarkable thing was that she regained consciousness on the way back down. Of course not really luck about the paraglider as they kind of mostly fly on “autopilot”.

  • 45
    Jithen Bantval Panekal
    Posted March 14, 2014 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

    MH 370 now looks likely to have ended in the depths of the Indian Ocean. Wouldn’t the depths pose a challenge in picking up the black box signals similiar to AF447 in the Atlantic Ocean?

  • 46
    Ben Sandilands
    Posted March 14, 2014 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

    I’m sure in the case explosive decompression that would be so, and the pressure differential between physical cavities not just the lungs and the external environment would be brutal, and at jet fighter levels, the lower pressure would also lower the boiling point of blood, a terrible thought that worried the early space doctors planning for human missions.

    In less than explosive depressurisations, like climbing too high too quickly, or cabin pressure rising within says tens of minutes from 7000 feet to 14000 feet the literature says the problem is brain function impairment caused by less oxygen to that organ, and that this can also cause feedbacks that quickly bring on strokes or heart attacks.

    In various pressure chamber experiments which you could find online the volunteers quickly lose consciousness in a low oxygen environment, and this has been the cause of a number of accidents, such as the notorious Helios crash, where the pilots passed out before realising what had happened and putting on their emergency oxygen masks, which run off cockpit packs separate from the emergency system in the cabin.

    The visual signs of oxygen starvation are similar to the insidious effects of carbon monoxide poisoning. You pass out before you know what is happening. One of the essential rules of bivoucing on a climb is to avoid CO poisoning inside a snow cave when using a small gas stove. CO is odourless and colourless.

    In the days when invitations to cockpits were lawful the first thing you would be shown after mastering the different seat belt setup upon sitting in the jump seat would be the operation of your personal emergency oxygen system.

  • 47
    Jithen Bantval Panekal
    Posted March 14, 2014 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

    Why the hell do airplane manufacturers even give an option to airline pilots to be able to switch of navigational & communication equipment such as transponders, ACARS etc??? Remote satellite tracking equipment that cannot be tampered in any form should be mandatory on all commercial airplanes. It’s purely criminal for pilots to be able to tamper with navigational equipment and other operational devices that impair the safety of the plane.

  • 48
    Confirmed Sceptic
    Posted March 14, 2014 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

    J.B.P…its because most of the world’s airline pilots are not mass murderers, astonishing as it might seem.

    Its those doctors with scalpels and bus drivers with steering wheels that I would be more concerned about.

    The transponder needs to be switched off at some point after every flight or the ATC screens would be swamped with targets from aircraft at the gate. (Some aircraft do this automatically though)

    I think you need to think through your objection to the pilots’ autonomy on the flight deck. After all, they have the controls in their hands transponder or not.

  • 49
    George Glass
    Posted March 14, 2014 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

    1. ATC doesnt like transponders continuously operating on the ground
    2. Easiest way of fixing a dodgy ACARS is cycling the circuit breaker.

  • 50
    wendal
    Posted March 14, 2014 at 7:50 pm | Permalink

    And the “leaks” just keep coming. Reuters now claims unnamed sources close to the investigation as saying radar plots indicate the plane was flown between multiple waypoints after it vanished from ATC screens. Hmmmmm……

    Story here

Please login below to comment, OR simply register here :



Womens Agenda

loading...

Smart Company

loading...

StartupSmart

loading...

Property Observer

loading...