Malaysia: Flight 370 signals continued for more than seven hours

posted at 10:01 am on March 15, 2014 by Ed Morrissey

After days of denials, Malaysian officials abruptly changed their tune today and admitted that Malaysian Air Flight 370′s systems continued to communicate for far longer than they first thought. In fact, it’s far longer than anyone thought. Although the transponders were deliberately turned off, the satellite communications systems continued to send “handshakes” for more than seven and a half hours — 90 minutes longer than the original flight to Beijing was scheduled to last:

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said Saturday that a missing passenger jet was steered off course after its communications systems were intentionally dismantled and could have potentially flown for seven additional hours.

In the most comprehensive account to date of the plane’s fate, Najib drew an ominous picture of what happened aboard Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, saying investigators had determined there was “deliberate action by someone on the plane.” …

Though previously U.S. officials believed the plane could have remained in the air for several extra hours, Najib said Saturday that the flight was still communicating with satellites until 8:11 a.m. — seven and a half hours after takeoff, and more than 90 minutes after it was due in Beijing. There was no further communication with the plane after that time, Najib said. If the plane was still in the air, it would have been nearing its fuel limit.

“Due to the type of satellite data,” Najib said, “we are unable to confirm the precise location of the plane when it last made contact with the satellite.”

And this seems rather key to the conclusion that this was no mere accident:

U.S. officials have said that the plane, shortly after being diverted, reached an altitude of 45,000 feet and “jumped around a lot.” But the airplane otherwise appeared to operate normally. Significantly, the transponder and a satellite-based communication system did not stop at the same time, as they would if the plane had exploded, disintegrated or crashed into the ocean.

Najib said on Saturday that the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System, or ACARS, was disabled just as MH370 reached the eastern coast of Malaysia. The transponder was then switched off, Najib said, as the aircraft neared the border between Malaysian and Vietnamese airspace.

That’s where this gets interesting. Someone on Flight 370 shut off the data-transmission part of ACARS, but not the system itself. Apparently, that’s almost impossible to accomplish, and the person who shut it down on the plane may not have been aware of the difference. ACARS uses an active communication system that “pings” plane systems to see if they have updates, but even if the data-transmission system is shut off, the ACARS system on the plane will still return the ping if it still has power. Flight 370 continued to send return handshakes to those pings for more than seven hours, which means that the flight was still in the air, or on the ground with its engines running.

That makes the problem of search-and-rescue even worse. The potential range for a 777 in the air for 7 hours out of Kuala Lumpur produces a massive area, much of which is covered by military radar in some very tense contexts. No one but Malaysia has acknowledged seeing the plane on its military radar, but the path taken after the transponders were turned off suggests that the pilot knew how to pick his way through those areas.

And that has Malaysia taking a much closer look at Flight 370′s captain:

Malaysian police have begun searching the home of the pilot at the helm of the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, after the country’s prime minister confirmed that the Boeing 777′s communications were deliberately disabled by “someone on the plane”.

Police officers arrived at 53-year-old captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah’s home on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur shortly after the PM, Najib Razak, finished his dramatic press conference, during which he told reporters new satellite data indicated that MH370 last made contact roughly seven hours after it vanished from civilian radar one week ago.

While the raw satellite footage has helped investigators determine that the plane was still flying long after it lost contact with air traffic control at 1.22am on Saturday 8 March with 239 people on board, it could not discern the aircraft’s exact location, Najib said – putting it anywhere along two possible flight corridors: a northern corridor stretching from Kazakhstan, in central Asia, down to northern Thailand; and a southern corridor stretching from Indonesia towards the southern Indian Ocean.

While authorities had initially focused their investigation on the missing plane on four possible explanations, including possible hijacking, sabotage, or the personal or psychological problems of the crew or passengers, the “new information” that had come to light was forcing investigators to rethink their strategy, Najib said.

“In view of this latest development, the Malaysian authorities have refocused their investigation into the crew and passengers on board,” he told reporters on Saturday.

CNN, whose coverage has been rather hyperbolic, offers a better analysis in this clip, which may have more significance now that Malaysia has begun to focus on deliberate intent. Also, its report on the new developments note that while anyone could have been a hijacker, avoiding hostile radar for so long would have taken a lot of military flight experience:

And the apparent lack of visibility on radar? “Airline pilots are not trained for radar avoidance,” said aviation expert Keith Wolzinger, a former 777 pilot. They like to stay on the radar, because — again — it protects their plane.

Only military pilots, he said, are usually keen on avoiding radar.

This mystery keeps getting stranger and stranger.


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Hitting 45,000 was deliberate. The hijacker then changed cvabin pressure and everyone was out within 10 second at that altitude.

Hypoxia starts to set in if he doesn’t change the pressure back when the drop back down to under 30,000.

So once the people were out, the hijacker lowers the plane, criss-crosses the airspace to go over the Indian Ocean.

At that point, he’s totally out of range of all communications, so he can collect cell phones and bind passengers with the plane on auto.

If he wants them alive.

As for who did it? The extra two hours changes a lot since that puts you in Central Asia.

But my money is still on the East Asian Pirates. Indonesia is their territory and they have a lot of mercenaries in their ranks. So a fighter pilot isn’t out of reach.

They own ghost tankers that just sail around holding their cargo. You can fit 300 people into a tanker with no problem.

They then have a plane transport designed to move people.

Ransom the people, mostly Chinese. Sell the plane. 200 million.

But either way, Central Asia or Indonesia, the planners were not aware to the degree of the satellite comms. They assumed focus would remain on South China Sea for much longer.

So instead of getting a week or month of lead time, they got two or three days.

I also would not put this past the Chinese Govt as a way to setup the Uighurs.

budfox on March 15, 2014 at 11:36 AM

If it didn’t crash, and it didn’t arrive where it was destined, it arrived elsewhere. And if it arrived elsewhere and no one was notified of the change of destination, with the intent of hiding it…it was stolen.

I don’t know enough about commercial aircraft to say definitively *how* this vehicle would be taken.

If someone knows, can you answer me this: Will a Boeing 777 work without all the telemetry and tracking devices? Could one strip all the identifying avionics off it, and be able to fly it ‘invisible’ for lack of a better term?

Because if someone steals a car, they have a purpose for it. And to avoid detection or identification as stolen, you would change license plates, perhaps the color. If you steal a plane, I would imagine you would have a purpose for it. And if you can’t disguise it…it’s like stealing marked money, that you know is marked…you can’t spend it.

And if this WAS a theft, and the purpose is using it as a delivery device for a destructive payload…and the plane CAN’T be disguised or hidden…it’ll get splashed the minute it appears back in the real world.

So perhaps it would be best to steal it, land it in a quiet, out of the way place, and then you could work on it, undisturbed.

Just a thought.

a5minmajor on March 15, 2014 at 11:36 AM

[Count to 10 on March 15, 2014 at 11:19 AM]

So could the NSA. This whole thing should have been solved by now, but, NooOOoo, they’re too busy, checking out their ex-girlfriends’ love life running requests from the CIA about Congressional staffers, and building dossiers on potential 2016 Republican opponents for Hillary and Bill, to do any legit work.

Dusty on March 15, 2014 at 11:36 AM

There must be way more to this simply because Dear Leader isn’t running his yapper about it. .
He inserts himself into everything else, yet there has been little to nothing from him on this.

On the other hand, crazy Uncle Joe hasn’t spilled the beans yet so maybe they are all in the dark.

BTW, is the Moochelle Express still going to China?

Jomama on March 15, 2014 at 11:37 AM

It is pretty obvious by now that the pilots were involved.

However, they may not be conspirators. More likely they were just paid to deliver the plane. The passengers would have no clue what was happening until after the plane landed. Most would be sleeping.

There was an air india flight hijacked to Afghanistan a long time ago. There is a documentary on youtube about it and wikipedia also has an article.

Possibly the plane crashed in the ocean. Otherwise it has landed somewhere and someone is busy hiding it. Cell phones will be unreachable as soon as the power on the plane is shutdown.

gh on March 15, 2014 at 11:38 AM

Call me a whacko conspiracy nut but I think authorities know exactly what happen to the plane and exactly where it is and why it is where it is.

bgibbs1000 on March 15, 2014 at 11:10 AM

The information trickling out results from all players holding their cards VERY close to their vests. No country wants to reveal the operational limits of its aircraft detection and tracking capabilities, and especially, of its satellite surveillance.

Plus, there is little reason to assume that this is an amateur operation, and in fact, appears more polished and state-sponsored by the day. So at least somebody’s “authorities” certainly do know exactly what happened.

bofh on March 15, 2014 at 11:39 AM

Resist We Much on March 15, 2014 at 11:33 AM

Not able to say anything else with any certainty, I strongly believe an Islamic nutjob was involved in this.

LashRambo on March 15, 2014 at 11:41 AM

I heard a report that the pilot, “Zaharie Ahmad Shah” was a “good muslim”.

That pretty much answers all my questions as to “why”.

Harbingeing on March 15, 2014 at 11:43 AM

Given the direction that they were flying, they would have arrived at Male, Maldives, about 0300. MLE has a 10,500 foot runway – plenty of room for a 777…and who would have seen it land, refuel and take off at that time? Then, it would have had a full load of fuel and been able to go just about anywhere.
And Male is run by a marxist/islamic government that is openly hostile to America.

Solaratov on March 15, 2014 at 11:44 AM

For sure avoid the word and deeds of islam.

Just another event has nothing to do with a warrior death cult.

APACHEWHOKNOWS on March 15, 2014 at 11:45 AM

“All we know is, the pilot acted stupidly” – Obama

offroadaz on March 15, 2014 at 11:47 AM

“Flight 370 signals continued for more than seven hours”

Next we will be told that the plane is STILL IN THE AIR! If hacking software can make “experts” believe that OTHER computers are doing the attacking, why can’t similar software make them believe that at a plane at the bottom of the ocean is still flying?

BTW at 7 hrs. the plane could reach the Kerguelen Islands in the South Indian Ocean where the Nazi raiding Q boat ‘Atlantis’ hid during World war II–or any of the Muslim terrorist countries or East Africa.

MaiDee on March 15, 2014 at 11:47 AM

Anyone interested in wild theories from (alleged) professional pilots can read as much as they can take at this discussion site. Lots of technical jargon and arguments. Have fun.

trapeze on March 15, 2014 at 11:24 AM

.
WOW . . . . . thanks for that link, trapeze.

Though most of it is waaay over my head …

listens2glenn on March 15, 2014 at 11:48 AM

Motive, ability, access.

APACHEWHOKNOWS on March 15, 2014 at 11:51 AM

[budfox on March 15, 2014 at 11:36 AM]

Possible, but I just see it as probable. To get to Central Asia it needs to fly Bangla or Indian airspace for hours, much longer in Indian. I don’t know about Bangladesh, but Indian wouldn’t stand for letting an unidentified plane fly over it’s large cities unmolested and unreported. To get to Iran or Pakistan it need to whooly skirt Indian radar and avoid any and all naval military ships spread across the coasts of both for various and sundry reasons.

I’d have to think about the piracy thing some more, but aren’t the pirates on the north side of the Indonesian archipelago, not the south side? Maybe that’s why they crossed the Malaysian peninsula; they were relying on being counterintuitive or something.

Dusty on March 15, 2014 at 11:51 AM

Where could the plane have been landed and concealed? That would narrow the possibilities. North Korea? The passengers were killed probably when altitude was increased by intentional depressurization of the passenger compartment. If that is the case, that shows strong intent, and careful preplanning. wouldnt need a military pilot. just a pilot with a meticulous flight plan. Who would want to steal a functioning jetliner, with access to airstrip of suitable length and hanger space to hide it?

Cliff by the Ford on March 15, 2014 at 11:54 AM

OK, here is a different conspiracy theory. The last heading was southwest which is actually heading to the US/UK base at Diego Garcia, which is straight south of India in the middle of the Indian Ocean. It has two 12,000 foot runways (they fly B-52s out of there) and the population was moved off the island in the 70s – only government personnel there now. Also, it is supposedly used as a waypoint by the CIA for renditioned terrorist suspects. And it’s within the range MH370 could have flown. Is it possible that the US wanted to get a high value target? If so I would have suspected some announcement by now. But there aren’t a lot of places to land a 777 out there.

alofarabia on March 15, 2014 at 11:57 AM

And, once it got onto the west side of the Peninsula there wouldn’t be much radar to thread, but I don’t know what they track out there and what the coverage radii are for the few locale in the Indian Ocean.

Dusty on March 15, 2014 at 11:14 AM

Diego Garcia. LOTS of sophisticated radar and sat capabilities there. From Wiki(spit)pedia:

The United States Navy operates Naval Support Facility (NSF) Diego Garcia, a large naval ship and submarine support base, military air base, communications and space-tracking facility…

bofh on March 15, 2014 at 11:58 AM

or any of the Muslim terrorist countries or East Africa.

MaiDee on March 15, 2014 at 11:47 AM

I’ve wondered that myself. I mean, why only Northern and Southern routes? Why not one straight across the I.O.?

BallisticBob on March 15, 2014 at 11:58 AM

We will likely never know the facts about what happened to this aircraft, for a variety of reasons.

dogsoldier on March 15, 2014 at 12:00 PM

From the website trapeze linked to is this comment (#3833) which was then responded to by this comment (#3849).

listens2glenn on March 15, 2014 at 12:00 PM

I’m not buying that the plane landed somewhere and is being hidden. Consider how many people w0uld have to be in on this conspiracy. All it would take would be one inadvertent slip up and the whole jig is up.
1. If you want to reuse the plane you need 2 miles of runway. That kind of airfield would have been searched by our satellites by now. How do you hide the plane? How do you repaint it so that can take off again at a later time? Where do you hide 200+ bodies?
2. If you don’t want to reuse the plane you need about 3000+ ft of runway. Again, how do you hide the plane after it lands? You can bury bodies in the jungle/desert but you run the risk of detection. How do you disassemble the aircraft later so that parts are scattered around to avoid discovery?

I haven’t got the first clue what happened, but I do know the more folks involved in the conspiracy the easier for the entire thing to fall apart because someone couldn’t keep a secret.

armygirl on March 15, 2014 at 12:00 PM

Some one knows if the NSA trust him any long, so he may not but the Air Force does.

APACHEWHOKNOWS on March 15, 2014 at 12:03 PM

Dusty on March 15, 2014 at 11:51 AM

I’m with you on India. Originally, I thought they blew it out of the sky and have been working with us and other parties to sort it out before the announcement. But 7 hours and a week later kills that.

As for counter-intuitive, it comes down to the goal I guess. If they’re selling the plane, it could have been prearranged, so that once it made it out of radar, payment was made and the hijacker flew it to its new location.

Truth is, I hope I’m right. I’d rather have this be about brazen modern-day pirates after currency than ideological psychopaths.

For anyone who wants a primer on our pirate-talk…

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piracy_in_the_Strait_of_Malacca

http://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesasia/2013/07/31/pirates-take-over-the-waters-in-indonesia/

budfox on March 15, 2014 at 12:03 PM

Commercial flights load enough fuel for the destination plus 90 minutes reserve.

CW20 on March 15, 2014 at 11:27 AM

Unless you are using Chinese ATC. Plus cheaper fuel in Malaysia.

faraway on March 15, 2014 at 12:06 PM

Cliff by the Ford on March 15, 2014 at 11:54 AM

North Korea is not in range and in the wrong direction.

The daily-mail has pretty good articles on this with pictures and maps. The latest shows what areas are within reach.

The main problem is a suitable runway and resources to hide the plane.

Unless it crashed in the ocean.

gh on March 15, 2014 at 12:07 PM

I’ve wondered that myself. I mean, why only Northern and Southern routes? Why not one straight across the I.O.?

BallisticBob on March 15, 2014 at 11:58 AM

They’re being coy, but the handshakes apparently convey enough information to peel it down to these two paths.

budfox on March 15, 2014 at 12:07 PM

I also would not put this past the Chinese Govt as a way to setup the Uighurs.

budfox on March 15, 2014 at 11:36 AM

One problem, -Red China has a totalitarian government, they don’t need setups.

slickwillie2001 on March 15, 2014 at 12:08 PM

…So perhaps it would be best to steal it, land it in a quiet, out of the way place, and then you could work on it, undisturbed.

Just a thought.

a5minmajor on March 15, 2014 at 11:36 AM

Let’s watch for the emergence of a new, suspiciously low-cost discount airline. “Our airfares are so cheap it’s a crime!”

slickwillie2001 on March 15, 2014 at 12:12 PM

I’ve wondered that myself. I mean, why only Northern and Southern routes? Why not one straight across the I.O.?

BallisticBob on March 15, 2014 at 11:58 AM

Probably because the plane would have been spotted on Indian military radar. Radar coverage for commercial flights has gaps but military systems are more comprehensive. However, the military in each country is reluctant to give out information about exactly how good their systems are.

Presumably cooperation with the search is given under condition that detailed information is not widely disseminated.

gh on March 15, 2014 at 12:12 PM

Another source is now reporting that one of the pilot’s homes contains a home-made flight simulator:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2581488/It-WAS-hijacked-Malaysian-official-says-CONCLUSIVE-jet-carrying-239-hijacked-35-000-ft-individual-group-significant-flying-experience.html

mad scientist on March 15, 2014 at 12:13 PM

All it would take would be one inadvertent slip up and the whole jig is up.
1. If you want to reuse the plane you need 2 miles of runway. That kind of airfield would have been searched by our satellites by now. How do you hide the plane? How do you repaint it so that can take off again at a later time? Where do you hide 200+ bodies?
2. If you don’t want to reuse the plane you need about 3000+ ft of runway. Again, how do you hide the plane after it lands? You can bury bodies in the jungle/desert but you run the risk of detection. How do you disassemble the aircraft later so that parts are scattered around to avoid discovery?

armygirl on March 15, 2014 at 12:00 PM

You’re actually right.

When the plane didn’t land in Beijing, China and Malaysia were supposed to focus on the last communique, over the South China Sea.

America would be iced out of the search because the Chinese tend to be paranoid and arrogant about “help”. Just look what happened to the one military ping. They both tried to cover it up, separately.

But the hijackers never considered who manufactured the parts and their satellite communique’s, because that’s high-end industry secrets.

From the hijacker perspective, they were expecting at least a week lead time, probably closer to a month, because it wasn’t supposed to be a story Western Media cared about.

budfox on March 15, 2014 at 12:16 PM

And if this WAS a theft, and the purpose is using it as a delivery device for a destructive payload…and the plane CAN’T be disguised or hidden…it’ll get splashed the minute it appears back in the real world.

a5minmajor on March 15, 2014 at 11:36 AM

So what world is it in now, the fake one? (smiley face)

Galtian on March 15, 2014 at 12:17 PM

Another source is now reporting that one of the pilot’s homes contains a home-made flight simulator:

mad scientist on March 15, 2014 at 12:13 PM

I’m pretty sure that Microsoft has sold millions of copies of MS Flight Simulator

faraway on March 15, 2014 at 12:19 PM

If I were them I would want to ask the relatives when was the last time they heard from their loved ones and what did they say. Might be able to pin down a time.

crankyoldlady on March 15, 2014 at 12:20 PM

Another source is now reporting that one of the pilot’s homes contains a home-made flight simulator:

mad scientist on March 15, 2014 at 12:13 PM

He’s a pilot.

crankyoldlady on March 15, 2014 at 12:21 PM

I do not believe anyone in any government is being open and honest about how,where,when,and why this plane vanished

jaywemm on March 15, 2014 at 12:22 PM

Someone on the pilot rumor site posted the radar coverage.

http://www.pprune.org/rumours-news/535538-malaysian-airlines-mh370-contact-lost-199.html#post8378107

gh on March 15, 2014 at 12:23 PM

Another source is now reporting that one of the pilot’s homes contains a home-made flight simulator:

mad scientist

Old news. We’ve known this from day one.

xblade on March 15, 2014 at 12:24 PM

Sorry … it is the ACARS ping ground coverage. And I should have added “maps of”.

It explains why the searches cover the ocean mostly and why there is a northern and southern corridor. India is saturated.

Moreover chat on the site implies that all pilots know this stuff so there is the expectation that the pilot would be avoiding the ACARS coverage.

Lots of other rumours there but they are up to 200 pages (and there are requests by the admins to stop “creative writing” ;-)

gh on March 15, 2014 at 12:26 PM

If someone wants a “bomb delivery system”, why bother to steal a 777? There aren’t that many of them, since it’s a relatively new aircraft, and one that doesn’t seem to belong is sure to be noticed.
Why not use an older cargo jet, registered to a “legitimate” company (set up for the purpose) that would not draw a lot of unwanted attention?
It’s not as though a bomb – of any type – needs a lot of room; and there are plenty of aircraft that can cross the Atlantic. Stealing something like a 777 full of passengers would seem to be counter-productive to a plot like that.

Solaratov on March 15, 2014 at 11:29 AM

To answer that question, ask yourself, “Who was on board that hijacked aircraft”. Who the passengers on that 777 were, is every bit as important as the aircraft itself.

21 of those passengers were top level engineers for a defense contractor specializing in Radar, Communications, Electronics, Flight systems, and Stealth.

Why hijack a 777? Because for hypothetical example, if you can’t build a ICBM, an aircraft with a 9000 mile flight range, and a computer system sophisticated enough that a team of really dedicated hackers can figure out a way to do multiple inflight flight identification transponder code changes, and you have a ready made ICBM.

Put 21 engineer’s on board that 777 whose jobs just happen to all fall within the window of transforming a commercial aircraft into an ICBM, and you have quiet the target of opportunity for a seriously dedicated terrorist organization.

Is this conjecture, tin foil hat territory? Absolutely… But then again, in 2000 so was the idea of using 757′s as guided missiles.

oscarwilde on March 15, 2014 at 12:27 PM

oscarwilde on March 15, 2014 at 12:27 PM

All the conspiracy theories you suggest have been debunked on the pilot rumour site. Freescale has a *large* number of employees in china and it is not uncommon for a group that large to fly together.

So far, the most likely circumstance is that one or both of the pilots have “stolen” the plane. Beyond that no-one knows very much.

Apparently the pilot (who had the simulator) posted a good-bye message on his facebook page and complained about the government … but it has been pointed out that facebook pages can be forged so …

gh on March 15, 2014 at 12:31 PM

Another source is now reporting that one of the pilot’s homes contains a home-made flight simulator:

mad scientist

Old news. We’ve known this from day one.

xblade on March 15, 2014 at 12:24 PM

And they are only JUST NOW searching his home. They should have looked at his flight simulator days ago. It probably shows he was PRACTICING.

djl130 on March 15, 2014 at 12:32 PM

Nice writeup by Ed.

bluegill on March 15, 2014 at 12:36 PM

How far on a traceable path do we have? From that point, with another radical course change or not, where could they go and maintain security, and hide it from satellite surveillance? If they were going to just crash it in the ocean why wait 7 hours? We need an international man of mystery here.

Cliff by the Ford on March 15, 2014 at 12:36 PM

I think the pilots were in on it….

I think it landed somewhere in a high tech jungle airfield.

The guys with the fake passports were the muscle.

The passengers are still alive and will be used as human shields or bargaining chips.

The plane will be filled nose to tail with explosives and will one night end up somewhere

in the greatest terrorist event ever…….

redguy on March 15, 2014 at 12:37 PM

From New York Times:

Radar signals recorded by the Malaysian military appeared to show that the missing airliner climbed to 45,000 feet, above the approved altitude limit for a Boeing 777-200, soon after it disappeared from civilian radar and turned sharply to the west, according to a preliminary assessment by a person familiar with the data.

The radar track, which the Malaysian government has not released but says it has provided to the United States and China, showed that the plane then descended unevenly to 23,000 feet, below normal cruising levels, as it approached the densely populated

The plane would use less fuel at a higher altitude, but risks the engines stalling out because of not enough air. If that happens the pilot can drop to a lower altitude with denser air and restart the engines.

The above facts would seem to support an attempt to fly at a higher altitude to save fuel. One or more engines stopped and the pilot dropped to a lower altitude and restarted the engines.

Just a thought, but it would explain these wild changes in altitude.

Kaffa on March 15, 2014 at 12:39 PM

Why does every commercial airplane not have a “cockpit cam”? I have friends with doggy cams who can check in from their computers during the day to see how their puppy’s doing, but we’re sitting here wondering what might have gone on in the cockpit of a huge aircraft! This technology is so inexpensive these days.

I have other friends who have implanted chips underneath their dog’s skin that can be used to help locate their missing dogs. How come these same inexpensive chips aren’t under the skin of every wing, fuselage, tail, etc? Let’s keep searching the bottom of the oceans for missing black boxes.

PatMac on March 15, 2014 at 12:41 PM

Stealing a passenger plane with a load of passengers for later use as a cruise missile doesn’t make a lot of sense when similar cargo aircraft are available for the taking. Even if you’re willing to murder the passengers out of hand, it’s a lot of unnecessary bother.

The business of ‘the plane went up to 45,000 feet to asphyxiate the passengers’ won’t work, since at that altitude even pure oxygen delivered through a pressure-demand regulator isn’t enough to keep the pilots conscious. IIRC, the rule is above 34,000 feet oxygen has to be delivered through a pressurized mask and above 42,000 feet even that isn’t enough. Also, it would leave the hijackers with 200+ bodies to manhandle out of the passenger compartment later on.

PersonFromPorlock on March 15, 2014 at 12:45 PM

[bofh on March 15, 2014 at 11:58 AM]

Yeah, the pilot would have to cross the Diego Garcia – Cocos line at the right location. Maybe sidle Cocos flying really low?

I don’t really think they’ve gone to the French territory there to prep and mount a later terrorist attack. If they went that direction, it’s more likely that this was a hijacking by a bunch of environmental nuts intent on retracing the Antarctic itinerary of the some previous explorer in order prove climate change and now that they’ve landed there they’re stuck in the ice and also don’t know how to turn the communications system back on.

Dusty on March 15, 2014 at 12:48 PM

The business of ‘the plane went up to 45,000 feet to asphyxiate the passengers’ won’t work, since at that altitude even pure oxygen delivered through a pressure-demand regulator isn’t enough to keep the pilots conscious. IIRC, the rule is above 34,000 feet oxygen has to be delivered through a pressurized mask and above 42,000 feet even that isn’t enough. Also, it would leave the hijackers with 200+ bodies to manhandle out of the passenger compartment later on.

PersonFromPorlock on March 15, 2014 at 12:45 PM

Can’t the pilot compartment be pressurized separately from the passenger compartment?

Count to 10 on March 15, 2014 at 12:48 PM

2. If you don’t want to reuse the plane you need about 3000+ ft of runway. Again, how do you hide the plane after it lands? You can bury bodies in the jungle/desert but you run the risk of detection. How do you disassemble the aircraft later so that parts are scattered around to avoid discovery?

armygirl on March 15, 2014 at 12:00 PM

The answer is painfully simple. You fly the aircraft outside of normal search and recovery pattern protocols. Normal search and recovery pattern protocols are determined by direction, speed and estimated time in flight.

You begin with the last known position and calculate speed times flight time to arrive at a radius of possible crash sites. Project this over regular intervals of time along the last confirmed flight path and you get your probable crash search area. This search area is going to be a cone following the last known flight path. All search and rescue efforts will be dedicated to this search area for approximately the first 2 weeks of the search unless information is uncovered to indicate a radical departure from from the last known confirmed position and flight path.

In other words, fly the aircraft far enough out of that search pattern protocol area, and literally nobody is looking for your aircraft. The 777 has a flight range of well over 9000 miles. If one or more of the pilots and someone on the ground where the aircraft are involved in it’s hijacking, altering the recorded fueling log’s are not out of the question, that 777 well could have had far more fuel on it then anyone realized. Enough fuel to fly it half way around the world, where absolutely no one on earth would be looking for it for months.

oscarwilde on March 15, 2014 at 12:50 PM

Just a thought, but it would explain these wild changes in altitude.

Kaffa on March 15, 2014 at 12:39 PM

There is a headline post with the text from the NYT. They are not “wild changes” in altitude. The timing indicates the purpose was to get off the civilian radar systems. The pilot knew what he was doing.

The changes were deliberate and correlate to purposeful evasion. Not “killing the passengers” (the conclusion that was immediately taken on the NYT thread).

gh on March 15, 2014 at 12:56 PM

Hijacked – and delivered to the Koch brothers. /

TarheelBen on March 15, 2014 at 12:57 PM

Stealing a passenger plane with a load of passengers for later use as a cruise missile doesn’t make a lot of sense when similar cargo aircraft are available for the taking. Even if you’re willing to murder the passengers out of hand, it’s a lot of unnecessary bother.

PersonFromPorlock on March 15, 2014 at 12:45 PM

Occams Razor: The planners of this needed to recruit a pilot. The pilot they found happened to be commercial airline pilot rather than cargo pilot. That simple

WisRich on March 15, 2014 at 12:59 PM

The plane was obviously taken to the only place that can receive it. It did not crash anywhere. Look past complex red herrings and look at the obvious. There were only 2 places it could have landed that would avoid most radar from allied forces… if we have allies anymore. The passengers weren’t hostages or ever meant to be hostages. They were just at the wrong plane at the wrong time.

What we do in response will prove our resolve. I suspect we will do nothing. Little boots will ejaculate on our corpses.

NiteOwl on March 15, 2014 at 1:00 PM

…It consists of two arcs (shown here in red), the northernmost of which goes from the northern border of Vietnam through western China to the eastern portion of Kyrgyzstan and includes the Chinese province of Xinjiang, heartland of the Uyghur ethnic minority…

slickwillie2001 on March 15, 2014 at 12:51 PM

That might explain why the Chinese have been trying to misdirect efforts to the South China Sea.

200 Chinese citizens kidnapped, held for ransom and/or prisoner release.

faraway on March 15, 2014 at 1:03 PM

All the conspiracy theories you suggest have been debunked on the pilot rumour site. Freescale has a *large* number of employees in china and it is not uncommon for a group that large to fly together.

The company might have a deal on several flying at a time.

crankyoldlady on March 15, 2014 at 1:05 PM

Can’t the pilot compartment be pressurized separately from the passenger compartment?

Count to 10 on March 15, 2014 at 12:48 PM

There is no evidence the pilot is a terrorist. He is unlikely to be interested in killing anyone. Neither family (pilot nor copilot) noticed any sign of radicalism.

His facebook page (if it really is his) indicates he was pissed at corruption in the Malaysian government. However, that’s not enough to just randomly steal a plane.

So, my guess is that he and the copilot talked enough that they were both of the same mind. Someone overheard one or both of them and offered them money to steal the plane. They know everything they need to know to accomplish that and this is consistent with what is known about the flight path.

Whether they succeeded or crashed we don’t know. Why the sponsor wants the plane we don’t know.

I think we’ll find out eventually.

gh on March 15, 2014 at 1:05 PM

There were only 2 places it could have landed that would avoid most radar from allied forces… if we have allies anymore. The passengers weren’t hostages or ever meant to be hostages. They were just at the wrong plane at the wrong time.

What we do in response will prove our resolve. I suspect we will do nothing. Little boots will ejaculate on our corpses.

NiteOwl on March 15, 2014 at 1:00 PM

Is that right? Where are these 2 places?

DarkCurrent on March 15, 2014 at 1:08 PM

These SWAGs are just boring to read.

KMC1 on March 15, 2014 at 1:08 PM

The guys with the fake passports were the muscle.

I think the fake passports are a non-starter. There’s a huge business in fake passports. Someone wteals them and sells them to someone else who sells them to someone else who sells them to a broker who sells them to anyone who needs one.

crankyoldlady on March 15, 2014 at 1:08 PM

There is no evidence the pilot is a terrorist
gh on March 15, 2014 at 1:05 PM

I thought it was clear he is/was muslim… perhaps I’m mistaken?

NiteOwl on March 15, 2014 at 1:10 PM

Is that right? Where are these 2 places?

DarkCurrent on March 15, 2014 at 1:08 PM

Central asia or indian ocean … or pakistan/afghanistan/iran if the pilot had enough fuel to fly around india.

See the links I posted above to maps of the ACARS ground coverage.

The “pings” go to satellites and ground stations but the ground stations did not see any — this explains why the malaysian goverment though the plan had come down immediately.

The daily-mail also has most of the information (and some decent maps) but more human interest and less technical detail.

gh on March 15, 2014 at 1:11 PM

DarkCurrent on March 15, 2014 at 1:08 PM

What is the media saying in your part of the world?

cozmo on March 15, 2014 at 1:11 PM

One more possibility I haven’t seen. Maybe someone wanted those engineers to work on their own system.

crankyoldlady on March 15, 2014 at 1:12 PM

I thought it was clear he is/was muslim… perhaps I’m mistaken?

NiteOwl on March 15, 2014 at 1:10 PM

If you think “muslim” = “terrorist” then you are not “mistaken”. You are an a**hole. Do you want to tell us which ?

The population of Malaysia is majority muslim … so it is not unusual that their pilots have muslim names.

gh on March 15, 2014 at 1:13 PM

So, my guess is that he and the copilot talked enough that they were both of the same mind. Someone overheard one or both of them and offered them money to steal the plane. They know everything they need to know to accomplish that and this is consistent with what is known about the flight path.

Whether they succeeded or crashed we don’t know. Why the sponsor wants the plane we don’t know.

I think we’ll find out eventually.

gh on March 15, 2014 at 1:05 PM

This is a high probability scenario. One of the pilot’s had a home made flight simulator, which could mean absolutely nothing (he was after all a pilot), or indicate a substantial degree of planning for just such a scenario.

oscarwilde on March 15, 2014 at 1:13 PM

NiteOwl on March 15, 2014 at 1:10 PM

One of my mothers-in-law is muslim. Is she a terrorist?

cozmo on March 15, 2014 at 1:13 PM

One more possibility I haven’t seen. Maybe someone wanted those engineers to work on their own system.

crankyoldlady on March 15, 2014 at 1:12 PM

You seem smarter than that. James Bond is not real.

gh on March 15, 2014 at 1:14 PM

Is that right? Where are these 2 places?

DarkCurrent on March 15, 2014 at 1:08 PM

The only 2 places this can happen without “allied help” are in Iran or much less likely North Korea. With “allied” help the options are almost endless. Game of Thrones anyone?

NiteOwl on March 15, 2014 at 1:16 PM

What is the media saying in your part of the world?

cozmo on March 15, 2014 at 1:11 PM

Pretty much the same information you’re getting there.

DarkCurrent on March 15, 2014 at 1:16 PM

One of my mothers-in-law is muslim. Is she a terrorist?

[cozmo on March 15, 2014 at 1:13 PM]

How many spouses do you have?

Dusty on March 15, 2014 at 1:17 PM

gh on March 15, 2014 at 1:14 PM

Special dispensation for crankyoldlady. She has plenty of time for idle speculation.

And she’s harmless…mostly.

cozmo on March 15, 2014 at 1:17 PM

One of my mothers-in-law is muslim. Is she a terrorist?

cozmo on March 15, 2014 at 1:13 PM

Yes… especially if she is “one” of your mother in laws.

NiteOwl on March 15, 2014 at 1:18 PM

ACARS uses an active communication system that “pings” plane systems to see if they have updates, but even if the data-transmission system is shut off, the ACARS system on the plane will still return the ping if it still has power.

Of course with all the discussion of this system whoever has possession of the plane now knows they have a leak that needs to be plugged.

agmartin on March 15, 2014 at 1:19 PM

Dusty on March 15, 2014 at 1:17 PM

Just one.

Complicated adoption in my wife’s past. When we were married, I had four complete sets of in laws. Down to two and a half now.

And yeah, mrs cozmo is worth have four mothers in law.

cozmo on March 15, 2014 at 1:19 PM

And they are only JUST NOW searching his home. They should have looked at his flight simulator days ago. It probably shows he was PRACTICING.

djl130 on March 15, 2014 at 12:32 PM

Daily-mail reported a few days ago he had a flight simulator at home since he was a kid. More than 20 years. He was just keen. He was an experienced pilot so “practicing” was not the problem.

However, it would have made planning easier. I believe the authorities are inspecting the system now (iirc, the mail article today indicated that). It has taken some time for the authorities to work out that this was (likely) a deliberate act of the pilots (most likely both of them).

gh on March 15, 2014 at 1:19 PM

One more possibility I haven’t seen. Maybe someone wanted those engineers to work on their own system.

crankyoldlady on March 15, 2014 at 1:12 PM

You seem smarter than that. James Bond is not real.

gh on March 15, 2014 at 1:14 PM

No, James Bond is not real, but al Quds force’s are. Iran just happens to be one of the 2 possible could have landed while avoiding detection.

Is that right? Where are these 2 places?

DarkCurrent on March 15, 2014 at 1:08 PM

Central asia or indian ocean … or pakistan/afghanistan/iran if the pilot had enough fuel to fly around india.

See the links I posted above to maps of the ACARS ground coverage.

The “pings” go to satellites and ground stations but the ground stations did not see any — this explains why the malaysian goverment though the plan had come down immediately.

The daily-mail also has most of the information (and some decent maps) but more human interest and less technical detail.

gh on March 15, 2014 at 1:11 PM

oscarwilde on March 15, 2014 at 1:20 PM

Islam sucks. Awful religion. However, we dont know whether that was the cause of this. Still way too early to tell.

DisneyFan on March 15, 2014 at 1:20 PM

And she’s harmless…mostly.

cozmo on March 15, 2014 at 1:17 PM

I know. That’s why I made the Bond reference. I hate the sarc tag.

gh on March 15, 2014 at 1:21 PM

NiteOwl on March 15, 2014 at 1:18 PM

You get to move right to the top of HA idiot nutballs.

Congratulations. Not even lourdes and hagfish reach your level of idiocy.

cozmo on March 15, 2014 at 1:21 PM

If you think “muslim” = “terrorist” then you are not “mistaken”. You are an a**hole. Do you want to tell us which ?

The population of Malaysia is majority muslim … so it is not unusual that their pilots have muslim names.

gh on March 15, 2014 at 1:13 PM

Thank you sweetie for telling me what you think of me! Now crawl back in your spider hole and whine… Ya know I love ya! :-)

NiteOwl on March 15, 2014 at 1:21 PM

Central asia or indian ocean … or pakistan/afghanistan/iran if the pilot had enough fuel to fly around india.

oscarwilde on March 15, 2014 at 1:20 PM

So more than 2 places

DarkCurrent on March 15, 2014 at 1:22 PM

oscarwilde on March 15, 2014 at 1:20 PM

See also the comment about Xinjiang by slickwillie above. Darkcurrent is smart enough to figure that out for himself.

I doubt this is Iran. They don’t need to do this. The Taliban don’t have any planes of their own but they can raise money.

This has happened before. An air India flight was hijacked, flown to Pakistan to refuel and then taken to Afghanistan. There was a documentary about it which is on youtube (i watched the entire thing – 60 minutes; made for tv) and a wikipedia page.

It was long before 9/11.

gh on March 15, 2014 at 1:24 PM

[cozmo on March 15, 2014 at 1:19 PM]

Oh. I was hoping for advice on how to be successful with more than one. Oh, well.

(Actually I was teasing that time and this. I don’t give up the mother-in-law just because I got a divorce.)

Dusty on March 15, 2014 at 1:25 PM

One of my mothers-in-law is muslim. Is she a terrorist?

cozmo on March 15, 2014 at 1:13 PM

One of your mothers-in-law? One MIL at a time was more than enough for me!

PatMac on March 15, 2014 at 1:26 PM

You get to move right to the top of HA idiot nutballs.

Congratulations. Not even lourdes and hagfish reach your level of idiocy.

cozmo on March 15, 2014 at 1:21 PM

Really? I appreciate your thoughts that you have that kinda power. Most here seem to think kindly of you, myself included, but despite your inclination to dislike me you have no idea how ignorant I can be! I have only just begun! :-)

NiteOwl on March 15, 2014 at 1:26 PM

NiteOwl on March 15, 2014 at 1:10 PM

One of my mothers-in-law is muslim. Is she a terrorist?

cozmo on March 15, 2014 at 1:13 PM

All terrorists are Muslim; Not all Muslims are terrorists. I know a number of Muslims who consider the notion of killing for any reason other than defense of one’s own life or the life’s of family or friends to be every bit as repugnant as any westerner or Christian.

oscarwilde on March 15, 2014 at 1:26 PM

Dusty on March 15, 2014 at 1:25 PM

That’s alright, I’m used to having to explain it.

cozmo on March 15, 2014 at 1:27 PM

See also the comment about Xinjiang by slickwillie above. Darkcurrent is smart enough to figure that out for himself.

gh on March 15, 2014 at 1:24 PM

I’m moderately confident China would have noticed the plane flying hundreds of miles across its territory and landing in Xinjiang.

DarkCurrent on March 15, 2014 at 1:28 PM

So more than 2 places

DarkCurrent on March 15, 2014 at 1:22 PM

No-one has suggested XinJiang but it’s in range and near one of the two corridors.

I just looked back at the link near the top posted by ‘listenstoglenn’ and scrolled up (first link, iirc) and someone posted two flight paths. The north one is a straight line to the black sea from malaysia the second one goes south into the indian ocean (that seems suicidal to me).

However, the ACARS coverage does not go outside India’s land mass and the route over the Andamans would allow you to fly around India. Pakistan has gaps in their coverage. With a bit of extra fuel, it might be possible to get into afghanistan.

gh on March 15, 2014 at 1:29 PM

More suspicious of passengers than the pilots, but anything is possible, and we still don’t know much.

Schadenfreude on March 15, 2014 at 1:30 PM

I’m moderately confident China would have noticed the plane flying hundreds of miles across its territory and landing in Xinjiang.

DarkCurrent on March 15, 2014 at 1:28 PM

I’ve read that they missed one recently. And XinJiang is not densely populated. However, the problem is that you can’t land a 777 without a decent runway so I am sure they have had lots of time to find it by now.

gh on March 15, 2014 at 1:31 PM

All terrorists are Muslim; Not all Muslims are terrorists.

oscarwilde on March 15, 2014 at 1:26 PM

Care to rethink that?

NiteOwl on March 15, 2014 at 1:32 PM

PatMac on March 15, 2014 at 1:26 PM

Three out of four of them thought I was great. The fourth only tolerated me once she found out she couldn’t convert me to her religion…democrat.

Kinda’ back on topic.

I am taking every thing the news, and government spokespersons, with a grain of salt. The size of a mineral lick

cozmo on March 15, 2014 at 1:32 PM

NiteOwl on March 15, 2014 at 1:26 PM

Bless your heart.

cozmo on March 15, 2014 at 1:33 PM

If one or more of the pilots and someone on the ground where the aircraft are involved in it’s hijacking, altering the recorded fueling log’s are not out of the question, that 777 well could have had far more fuel on it then anyone realized. Enough fuel to fly it half way around the world, where absolutely no one on earth would be looking for it for months.

oscarwilde on March 15, 2014 at 12:50 PM

I’m fairly certain that the continual maintenance data being sent back would include specifics on fuel load, even as to quantities within each tank and each engine usage pattern. I would think the investigators would have seen an excess fuel load immediately, unless the signal apparatus was completely diddled.

butch on March 15, 2014 at 1:34 PM

No-one has suggested XinJiang but it’s in range and near one of the two corridors.

slickwillie’s comment that you referred to did.

However, the ACARS coverage does not go outside India’s land mass and the route over the Andamans would allow you to fly around India. Pakistan has gaps in their coverage. With a bit of extra fuel, it might be possible to get into afghanistan.

gh on March 15, 2014 at 1:29 PM

Interesting. I wonder if the US has any surveillance radar in the area…

DarkCurrent on March 15, 2014 at 1:35 PM

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