ATW Editor's Blog

MH370: Who, Why, How?


Today’s news from the Malaysia prime minister on the missing Malaysia Airlines MH370 is the worst scenario. Unimaginably awful for the relatives of those onboard, who must now deal with a whole raft of possibilities about what happened to their loved ones. And terrible for the airline industry, which once again becomes the weapon of choice for those with ill intent.

We still don’t know where the aircraft is or precisely what has happened to it. But the prime minister’s confirmation that the aircraft’s transponders were deliberately turned off by someone onboard and that the aircraft likely flew for some hours afterward on a track completely away from its planned flight path is shocking.

Malaysia Airlines is correct when it says this is a truly unprecedented situation for the entire aviation industry.

Whether this act of sabotage was conducted by a terrorist organization (the Malaysia government says this is not the number one theory of the investigation) or a was a criminal act/hostage attempt by an individual or individuals is not known. But the airline industry will take a hit from this.

The immediate priority, of course, remains to find the aircraft while simultaneously pursuing a criminal investigation. But it is now also imperative to find the answers to who did this, why and how? All international resources and efforts must be harnessed because of the global significance and implications of this terrible act.

Separately, the industry should begin work on identifying how best to identify and utilize some type of subset of data from the enormous amount of information that modern airliners produce on their health and whereabouts. That capability could potentially prevent a future airliner from simply vanishing off radar and vastly help narrow a search and rescue operation.

The fact is that two of the most recent and catastrophic modern airliner events – that of the Air France Airbus A330 that crashed into the Atlantic in 2009 and MH370 – had one thing in common. Both “vanished” from ATC tracking and both required extensive search efforts.

The airline industry is incredibly safe, transporting some nine million people a day to destinations round the world and with more than 6,000 people boarding an aircraft every minute. But new lessons will be learned from MH370 and new solutions will have to be found.

Discuss this Blog Entry 3

on Mar 17, 2014

Indeed, the incident of the missing MH-370 flight is rapidly moving towards becoming one of the most puzzling aviation occurrences. Going into the second week of the disappearance, the industry and the world itself is surely left wondering how, with all the technology available today, a large, modern airliner can simply vanish without the slightest trace.

Heart-rendering for all the relatives of those on board, clinging on to the tiniest of hope that their loved ones are still alive, somewhere, just waiting to be re-united.

Whatever the outcome of this sad episode, some lessons will indeed be learned and possible solutions applied. However, one nagging question must be evident in all minds; why and how should the aircraft's transponders and other signalling devices be allowed to be manually deactivated.?

Irrespective of any situation or factor why should there be a choice available for anybody in control of the aircraft, bonafide or otherwise to have some or any method available to make them 'invisible' to ATC and other terrestrial or space-based control mechanisms?.

Far as I know, the FDR and the CVR do not have any mechanism to be turned off. Then why should the transponder or the ACARS have the facility to be made manually inoperable..? Had this not been so, MH370 would perhaps have been located within hours of any untoward incident that it might have faced.

Perhaps my observation is over-simplistic but it does beg the question why such crucial data collecting equipment could be deactivated in error or deliberately.

on Mar 20, 2014

No one can answer these questions...I wished that we may have a small correct information about MH370...but all info I read everyday seem to be stupid infor...only God may know where MH370 is, now!

on Mar 22, 2014

Continuing further on my earlier comments, I read somewhere that the transponders and the ACARS are both electrically operated and the cockpit has an on/off switch in case either instrument overheats and leads to a fire. I would assume the same logic should apply to the CVR and the FDR, yet both these instruments run independently without human interference.

Almost certainly, the MH370 episode will lead to new legislation requiring all such equipment to be on and transmitting as long as the aircraft is flying or its engines are on.

Of MH370 itself, it seems almost certain now that the aircraft has been deliberately seized by rogue elements working in connivance with some level of state participation for a purpose yet unclear but definitely malafide in intent.

The participation of the crew, either willing or by force along with some other person/s on board is almost certain given the chain of events that have been identified until now.

The biggest question now remains whether the aircraft is intact and those on board alive somewhere or if the drama turned violent at some stage causing the loss of MH370 with tragic consequences for all those on board.

If at all the aircraft is intact and parked somewhere, the diabolical aspect to the entire episode is frightening in its intended course to completion.

The fate of the hapless passengers must remain paramount and in focus for all the authorities involved with locating MH370 and clear, lucid information made available to the relatives without any veil of secrecy or filtration.

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