ATW Editor's Blog

MH370: One step closer


The hunt to locate and retrieve Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, now known to be in the middle of the southern Indian Ocean, has become a full joint military exercise.

There are ships, surveillance aircraft, search and rescue helicopter – and I’m willing to bet, unmanned aerial vehicles and perhaps a submarine or two – from armed forces of several nations, including the world’s best equipped and most sophisticated military forces.

There will be sensitivities and classified secrets to be safeguarded. This is especially true when, in what is a highly rare occurrence, China and the US are effectively joint partners in a military operation.  It’s not just about what equipment each force has – merely making known the information that equipment gleans to the other side can give away clues to capabilities that are highly classified.

The good news here is that Australia, which is leading the search effort in this particular sector off the southwest coast of Perth, has excellent military capabilities itself and also has good relations with the US and China.

Satellite imagery and sightings of debris by Royal Australian Air Force surveillance officers are now firmly believed to be wreckage from the Boeing 777-200 that disappeared March 8 during a routine flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board. We seem to be one step closer to finding answers to this awful mystery, which Malaysia Airlines' Group CEO rightly described as "unprecedented."

The primary focus remains to retrieve as much wreckage of the aircraft and as many bodies as possible.

Difficult weather conditions combined with rough, remote seas, still make this a severely challenging and likely long mission. But with the combined military capabilities and expertise now working together, MH370 will be found and ultimately the reasons to why it was so far off its planned course and what caused its terrible fate will be understood.

Discuss this Blog Entry 4

on Mar 22, 2014

Its heartening to note the positive and co-ordinated response by the militaries of several nations in the unprecedented search for MH370.

However, as correctly noted by Karen, there will be obvious sensitivities at play as none would like to reveal their capabilities. Yet, given the magnitude of this tragedy (?), all possible assistance and co-operation must be displayed by those involved directly in the search operations while transparently sharing all available data.

Either which way, its imperative that MH370 be found at the earliest and the reasons behind the cause(s) of whatever transpired with it identified. Primarily, it is the relatives and loved ones of all those on board who deserve to be told, clearly and openly, what happened that fateful night.

The whole world is waiting with bated breath and hope that somehow all those 239 odd humans are safe and sound somewhere and would soon be re-united with their families.

Lastly, the worst has to be accepted and the arduous task begun of how such an awful incident was allowed to happen, who or what was responsible and how to ensure that chances of a repeat are minimized.

on Mar 25, 2014

"Flight MH370 crashed into the Indian Ocean in an apparent suicide mission, well-placed sources revealed have revealed, as Malaysia’s prime minister announced that everyone on the missing aircraft had died"...I never want to hear such news....I hope that MH370 still be there..somewhere.

on Mar 25, 2014

Re the disappearance of MALAYSIA AIRLINES´ 777-200ER my conclusion is that contrary to most theories raised so far - sabotage, terrorism, pilot suicide, etc. - what may have ocurred is a problem similar to the accident of HELIOS AIRWAYS´ Flight 522 in August, 2005.
On that day a Boeing 737-300 of HELIOS took off from Larnaca in Cyprus bound for Athens, Greece, and did not reply to the calls made by Athens´ Flight Control, maintaining its circling path over the Capital. Two Air Force F-16s were sent to check what was happening and they managed to see a person waiving at them from the plane´s cockpit, but the aircraft kept flying in the auto pilot until the fuel was exhausted and crashed into a mountain Northeast from Athens, killing all people aboard. According to the Crash Reports, when the pre-flight inspection was made in Larnaca the engineers unadvertently kept the pressurization switch in "manual" position when it should be in "automatic". As the plane was climbing above 10,000ft the people on board entered in a state of total apoxia (deep coma caused by lack of oxygen), becoming unconscious immediately. The person seen in the cockpit, probably a flight attendant who had a flight license, only remained conscious longer because he was handling an oxygen cilinder from the plane.
Likewise MALAYSIA´s 777-200ER took off from Kuala Lumpur with destination Beijing and climbed for around 30 minutes until reaching its programmed cruising altitude. For some unknown reasons, either technical, mechanical or even similar to what happened to HELIOS´ 737, the cabin did not pressurize correctly and passengers and crew aboard slowly lost their consciousness. The first officer noticed what was happening and took control of the plane, making the already reported left curve in an attempt to return to the airport and started a sharp descent to a safe altitude but did not accomplish it, losing his consciousness when the plane was around 21,000ft. Auto pilot then took over again keeping the same direction and altitude the flight officer had inserted after the westward curve and proceeded in that direction until fuel ended and the plane crashed in the Indian Ocean.
If we check the direction the 777 took after its left course and its last known position we will see that it matches the area where both Australian and Chinese sattelites indicated some possible debris in the ocean.

on Mar 27, 2014

Roberto, there could be some similarities here with the Helios 737 incident along with some other factors, too.

However, if the pilot(s) were aware of any developing situation that warranted a return to KL or a diversion to some other nearby airport, standard protocol would have been to declare a Mayday and immediately advise ATC of any emergency. It would be safe to assume that the crew did have 20-odd seconds to do so before veering the aircraft to the left.

More baffling then remains the action of deactivating the transponder. What objective that would achieve in an apparent emergency other than a fire-alarm of the apparatus itself, remains at odds.

There are simply too many ifs and buts in this whole episode and until MH370 is located, intact or otherwise, everything will remain conjecture.

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