Malaysian Airlines Flight 370

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 16th, 2014

Week in Review

There are a lot of airplanes in the air at any given time.  And, remarkably, over 99% of those planes reach their destinations safely.  So when one doesn’t it’s big news.  Such as Malaysian Airlines Flight 370.  A plane that has been missing since March 8, 2014.  Ten days as of this writing.  And still no one knows what happened.  There’s been a lot of speculation.  From pilot suicide to fire to electrical failure to catastrophic mechanical failure to a high jacking to piracy.  Some have even suggested that it may have been a trial run by terrorists to test a new terror plot.  To see the problems they may encounter.  And to see what the response would be.  If it wasn’t it might as well had been.  As all the speculators have given a wealth of information that terrorists might have gained had it been a trial run.

So what do we know?  Concretely?  The plane and the people aboard are missing.  Which is the only absolute we know.  Now what plausible assumptions can we make?  The plane crashed and we haven’t found it yet.  Or the plane was stolen.  For some future use.  If it crashed it is imperative to find it should there be an unknown issue with the Boeing 777.  An incredibly safe airliner to date.  And very popular with the airlines for their long-haul routes.  So if there is an unknown issue we need to know because there are so many of these flying.

Perhaps the more disturbing assumption is that it was stolen.  Because it is an intercontinental jetliner.  North Korea has missiles that can reach the United States.  Saddam Hussein had scud missiles that could reach Israel.  Iran has a nuclear program.  But may not have long-range missile technology.  A 777 provides long-range capability.  And if it was stolen it would be hard to blame any state for what may happen if that plane was used for some nefarious purpose.  As there would be no flight plan filed tracing it back to a departing airport.  Which is even a greater incentive to find it.  As a lot of people are talking about this possibility one would assume that great attention is being placed on runways long enough for a refueled 777 to take off from.  Which would be longer than one needed to land a 777 low on fuel.  And one could also assume that airborne radar is being used to try and catch anyone trying to fly at night below radar coverage.  Giving ample warning to scramble fighter jets to intercept the threat.  And shooting it down if necessary.  So even if it turns out that the airplane was stolen it would be very difficult to use that airplane for nefarious purposes.  But not impossible.

There would be a lot less speculation had that transponder remained turned on.  For if we can ‘see’ the airplane we know where it is.  A rather simple device that tells air traffic control everything they need to know about an airplane.  Which is important considering how many airplanes are in the sky at any one time.  Just to get an idea of how many you can watch a visualization of all air traffic over European airspace (see Watch an Entire Day of Air Traffic in One Astonishing Visualization by Kyle VanHemert posted 3/14/2014 on Wired).  So perhaps ‘hardening’ the transponder is the first thing we should be doing.  Something that can probably be done for little cost.  Say adding a rechargeable battery to the transponder that is only accessible from outside the aircraft.  So it is inaccessible during flight.  If the transponder is switched off and it transfers to battery it could broadcast the high jacking code.  While providing the plane’s location.  If the plane has a catastrophic breakup in flight the transponder could be in a hardened shell that keeps broadcasting during and after this event on battery power.  It may add some weight.  And some cost.  But if it can provide an aircraft’s location after an event it may prevent some of the uncertainty in future events like there is with Malaysian Airlines Flight 370.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,