air safety

Mar 10, 2014

MI185 may have terrible implications for MH370

The high velocity crash of a 737 operating flight MI185 for Silkair in 1997 into the Musi River near Palembang in Indonesia may indicate that very little will be recovered from the Mala

Ben Sandilands — Editor of Plane Talking

Ben Sandilands

Editor of Plane Talking

The high velocity crash of a 737 operating flight MI185 for Silkair in 1997 into the Musi River near Palembang in Indonesia may indicate that very little will be recovered from the Malaysia Airlines MH370 crash, location uncertain, last Saturday.

The Silkair disaster is controversial to this day. However it is what physically happened to that jet that bodes badly if as widely believed the missing Malaysia Airlines 777-200 operating MH370 dived into, or exploded over, the Gulf of Thailand.

Even though MI185 was seen to crash, and its location was thus precisely known, and the recovery effort began promptly, the tidal reach of the Musi River literally rinsed the victims and much of the structural debris into the sea, never to be recovered. Anything that wasn’t driven into the mud within reach of dredging was lost.

If MH370 was either scattered over the shallow seas in the areas that are now being searched, or for some reason plunged into them, the nearly three days that have elapsed will have diluted and dispersed the dreadful aftermath. Human remains, clothing, paper, and other fittings will largely if not completely cease to exist, while the more corrosion resistant components may float for a period, but much of that will sink into the soft seabed, and be covered by silt or mud.

The most critical objects, the flight data recorder, and the cockpit voice recorder, should be readily recoverable and readable, but only if their location is known or discovered, which might prove to be by far the most difficult challenge authorities will face, even if floating fragments of wreckage are recovered here or there in the vastness of the seas and coastlines being searched.

The image below shows the assembly point for the wreckage dredged up from the Musi River mudflats after the 1997 MI185 disaster.

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8 thoughts on “MI185 may have terrible implications for MH370

  1. comet

    Air France AF447 smashed into the Atlantic ocean at full speed. I wonder if the seabed in the Gulf of Thailand is siltier or sandier than the South Atlantic.

    Possibly the Musi River was worse, in that it was relatively shallow, so the 737 quickly hit the hard earth below.

  2. COTOS

    Extraordinary times, but even Silkair and SU Superjet that went from solid to liquid in a 100th of a second in an area no bigger than the shadow they cast but still left a larger debris field due to ejected material, if you know where to look.
    I dont know but i wish the search could be wider

  3. Confirmed Sceptic

    Air France wasn’t at full speed. It was stalled, with a very high sink rate. It might have had a vertical speed of 200 kts, hitting with much less energy than an aircraft in a dive.

    The depth in the area is 50 metres approx. with a muddy bottom. If the recorders are in the mud I wonder how effective the pingers would be, and how difficult to detect.

  4. Tango

    Long term worse is the complete lack of security on checking passengers by Malaysia and others. Even if not the cause its a license for criminal activity and a channel to get terrorists into the airline system to wreck mayhem at some point. There is no defense for that. Australia, US and Europe all should stop any air traffic into their areas from any country that does not make its airlines adhere to proven security checks. That is the number one topic anyone can do anything about right now and it should be pursued vigorously. It looks like they use it as a growth industry for a minimum of criminal movements in return for money and pax counts. China is no better with a pass through system.

    Aircraft End:
    It would seem the single aisle make less debris than the large jets but a 737, DC9 etc is not a 777.

    More analogous would be Egypt Air (990?) that dove in and it left what looks to be two debris fields.

    Also the ocean in the area is 60 to 100 meters, its like hitting concrete at speed, it will not be stuck in the bottom. It will sink but it will not penetrate like that.

    Engines and wings should strip or break off and the tail assembly is much farther back and will do the same.

    AF is only relevant if it stalled in and that does not seem to be likely as there should be massive debris (calmer, less wind, fewer currents). Impossible to tell if they had something like that and wound up far away when it went in.

    It would appear its not near where it disappeared and even that with that heavy traffic area no reports of debris is inexplicable. Stunning after 3 very full days (they got on it early first day) and nothing.

  5. Dan Dair

    I don’t really know much about radar coverage, especially in that region…..

    I’d presume that the 777 would have had up-to-date on-board systems to identify it to radar scanning.

    How much radar coverage is there in the region it disappeared.?
    At what height (how low.?) does the radar coverage stop.?

    I would have thought that between the radar & the on-line tracking systems (Flightaware, etc.), that they’d be able to get a reasonably good ‘last known position, altitude, speed & heading’.?

    I must be wrong in at least one my assumptions, since they’re obviously struggling so badly.

  6. derrida derider

    If it broke up at altitude (eg in a big explosion) then debris would be scattered widely, some of which (eg lifejackets) would certainly float. Yet OTOH you would think that if it was more or less whole on the way down there would have been a mayday call.

    Speculating, something (eg a suicide hijacking, a cockpit explosion) that disabled the crew very quickly but didn’t quickly destroy the plane fits the facts.

  7. johnb78

    “Long term worse is the complete lack of security on checking passengers by Malaysia and others”

    At this point, this is groundless speculation. We know that two passengers on MH370 were travelling on the wrong ID documents. We do not know how closely their appearance matched the ID documents as presented (the latest from the Malaysian government suggests the men were of African appearance, which is completely consistent with having European names; it is quite possible that a non-biometric passport had the photo doctored).

    We have absolutely no reason as yet to believe KUL is any worse than SYD or LHR at security, unless we’re the kind of person who automatically assumes anything going wrong in a brown-person country reflects their inferiority.

  8. Wobbly

    My gut feeling is what if it is a repeat of the MI185 scenario – pilot suicide by way of a nosedive into the ocean, but still the wings and tail would have sheared off upon impact and would leave some floating debris you’d think. But if they’re looking in the wrong spot or from too high – would that perhaps account for the delay in finding anything?

    So what about hypnoxia combined with an altered trajectory across a slice of peninsula and Malaysian Military radar was down??? Or could it be further out in the South China Sea towards the Phillipines? Its a big chunk of ocean, but how many boats are out there?

    Now that terrorism and structural failure are seemingly unlikely, are these perhaps the next most likely scenarios?

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