March 14, 2014

"Military radar data suggests a Malaysia Airlines jetliner missing for nearly a week was deliberately flown hundreds of miles off course..."

"... heightening suspicions of foul play among investigators, sources told Reuters on Friday."

That was poorly written, suggesting that what is "among investigators" is foul play, but of course, it's the suspicions that lie with the investigators. But who are they suspecting of foul play?
The last plot on the military radar's tracking suggested the plane was flying toward India's Andaman Islands, a chain of isles between the Andaman Sea and the Bay of Bengal, they said....

A...  source familiar with the investigation said inquiries were focusing increasingly on the theory that someone who knew how to fly a plane deliberately diverted the flight.

55 comments:

Michael K said...

Iran.

Or Pakistan.

Dr Weevil said...

Not necessarily. Someone at Ace of Spades pointed out that the northern tip of Sumatra (Banda Aceh) is a hotbed of Muslim fanaticism and separatism. Is the plane on the ground there? Is someone loading it with explosives? If so, where are they hoping to crash it? If I were the Singaporean or Indonesian Air Force chief, I'd be worried. If there are any U.S. aircraft carriers in the vicinity, I am (conditionally) worried.

PB Reader said...

I'm sure we'll find it or it will find us.

The Crack Emcee said...

I'm here typing this, so you know it wasn't me,...

Marshal said...

Good news for the families. This is essentially the only possibility any of the passengers are still alive.

It's a nightmare for security. Who needs an airplane they can't maintain?

Left Bank of the Charles said...

Twelve plus years after 9/11 and our national security apparatus doesn't have the ability to track commercial airliners around the world at all times.

And they get caught by surprise when Russia makes a play for Crimea.

Could it be that the NSA is spying on the wrong people?

Mark said...

I would be shocked if it could make it Pakistan without India [or the US] being aware of it.


The Drill SGT said...

or is it in a chop shop getting turned into parts?

Gahrie said...

It's starting to sound more and more like Griffin's Presidential Agent series..........

EDH said...

I wonder, is it possible to hijack a plane without being bossy?

The Drill SGT said...

Mark said...
I would be shocked if it could make it Pakistan without India [or the US] being aware of it.


Given the fuel load from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on a route of 2750+ miles

it could make Karachi, but I suspect, as you do, that Indian military radars would notice, and it doesn't have a fuel load to make an ocean dogleg around India.

traditionalguy said...

Sounds like reality is imitating a Tom Clancy novel again. All bad guys seem to read Tom Clancy.

Bob Ellison said...

Is it too early to suggest that the plane crashed, and the wreckage has been found in Florida's 13th Congressional district?

Yes, probably. I didn't write that.

Scott M said...

Because aliens.

Scott M said...

I wonder, is it possible to hijack a plane without being bossy?

Yes, but it requires being shrill and hysterical.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Isn't this how Lost started?

The Drill SGT said...

"All bad guys seem to read Tom Clancy."

Because Clancy did good research and had a powerful imagination. Like Michael Crichton.

Both men with evil minds... :)

AJ Lynch said...

Drip drip drip as our U.S. intelligence slowly has to share info about how much they are snooping on the rest of the world.

They are in a tough spot- do they withhold their highly sensitive and confidential info & methods or do they disclose their spy methods and help the world to try and find the plane.

The Drill SGT said...

They are in a tough spot- do they withhold their highly sensitive and confidential info & methods or do they disclose their spy methods and help the world to try and find the plane.

A spy agency almost almost never gives up "sources and methods".

Politicians do that for short term gain...

John Lynch said...

I thought about this last night. Why would you hijack an airliner only to fly it into the Indian Ocean? There's nothing there. The plane didn't have the range (or at least didn't fly long enough according to the leaked data) to get to Pakistan or India. So... what's out there? Diego Garcia?

Perplexing.

Seeing Red said...

Elections have consequences.

Seeing Red said...

The real world, once again, might imposes on our first world bossy problems.

Trashhauler said...

To this old pilot, the sequential loss of an automatic reporting system, followed by the transponder, and no more radio calls, sounds like someone pulling circuit breakers in the cockpit.

If they'd been listening, the NSA could have picked up anything that was emitting energy from the plane. But, it is unlikely they'd feel eager to advertise the capability. And in that part of the world, they probably weren't listening too closely.

The Drill SGT said...

Diego Garcia?

They Would not fly anywhere near. While a plane on a proper route squawking a legit transponder code might not get a look, a plane out there NOT using a transponder code be up to no good.

Not likely, with 4,000 US Navy/USAF staff there and a powerful military radar to protect our equipment ships.

Rusty said...

Left Bank of the Charles said...
Twelve plus years after 9/11 and our national security apparatus doesn't have the ability to track commercial airliners around the world at all times.

But you can have all the birth control and abortions you want.
And gays!

dbp said...

I would not be surprised if no wreckage is found and none of the passengers are ever seen again. The 777 turns up ten years from now in some back-water airline and it is only identified because they send a part in for refurbishment and someone traces the serial number to a list of installed equipment on the missing jetliner.

Could be straight-up piracy, with a plane worth more than one million Dollars per passenger.

Trashhauler said...

"So... what's out there? Diego Garcia?"

Diego Garcia is too far out. And, having flown the route several times, there isn't any land out that way, once past the Strait. So, if they landed somewhere, it was either north or south of a west-southwest heading. Of course, hijackers (if such existed) have been known to underestimate fuel endurance and range, especially if flying into the prevailing wind or at less than optimal altitude.

Very curious.

Scott M said...

Elections have consequences.

Aliens have jetliners.

Virgil Hilts said...

It does seem surprising that a pilot could just flip a few switches and a plane such as this practically disappears. I assume if this plane had altered course and headed for say San Francisco (I know - not enough fuel) we might have had at least a little advance warning and enough time to shoot it down before it hit the Pyramid. But is that assumption true? I always assumed it was. But if not, then why do we even have a TSA?

St. George said...

The most intriguing theory is that the aircraft suffered a slow loss of cabin pressure...Everyone nodded off. The plane stayed on auto-pilot...

Very much like the 1999 crash of the private jet carrying pro golfer Payne Stewart

madAsHell said...

or is it in a chop shop getting turned into parts?


The black market is suddenly awash with kidneys, lungs, and hearts available for transplant.

Trashhauler said...

"...if this plane had altered course and headed for say San Francisco...."

They would have come up about 5,000 miles short and would have run out of fuel just short of Japan.

Any aircraft coming inbound to our coasts would enter the Air Identification Zone (ADIZ) two hundred miles out. Without emitting a proper transponder code and radio contact, such an aircraft would be intercepted.

John Lynch said...

St George-

Yeah, that occurred to me as well. Maybe the pilots turned back... but died before they could lose enough altitude.

So the zombie plane just kept flying on the last course.

alan markus said...

But if not, then why do we even have a TSA?

I don't think the TSA has an international role in aviation security - from what I read, it is tasked with protecting U.S. aviation assets and their passengers.

alan markus said...

Here are some threads where mostly professional pilots have been discussing their own theories and counter-theories, as well as speculations and counter-speculations. A lot of technical information about how airplanes are tracked.

Professional Pilots Rumour Network

The moderators seem to be keeping ahead of the guy who keeps insisting the plane was snatched out of the sky by aliens.

Trashhauler said...

"It does seem surprising that a pilot could just flip a few switches and a plane such as this practically disappears."

It's a big sky out there. Most radars have a maximum range of about 250 miles for high targets. (Curvature of the earth blocks the low ones.) Transponders are used to boost the signal because getting a "skin paint" off the aircraft metal is often difficult. Then too, a radar system using computer-enhanced tracking might not even display a skin paint return unless the computer enhancement is turned off. So, turn off the transponder, descend below the radar horizon, cease satellite reporting, and you disappear.

John Lynch said...

Helios Airways Flight 522

Chilling loss of pressurization accident. The plane kept flying on autopilot for hours after the crew was incapacitated. A flight attendant finally got to the controls... one minute before the first engine ran out of fuel.

Full accident report here.

The proximate cause was this switch being left in the MAN instead of the AUTO position.

madAsHell said...

Helios Airways Flight 522

I wouldn't be the least bit surprised. Especially, since the comms were switched off, but not at the same time. It's difficult to know how someone suffering hypoxia would behave.

John Lynch said...

In the accident report there is a discussion of several close calls with cabin pressurization failure due to pilot error. Sometimes the pilots didn't put their masks on right away and did some strange things that they didn't remember afterward.

Trashhauler said...

"Especially, since the comms were switched off, but not at the same time. It's difficult to know how someone suffering hypoxia would behave."

Unlikely. Environmental systems are generally on a different circuit breaker panel from communications. And at least one radio and the transponder are also powered by the emergency bus, with the breakers located on a red-bordered panel. Each system has from two to five circuit breakers. With several circuit breaker panels to deal with, it would take massive bad luck to disable all emitters while trying to reset the pressurization system. Occam's Razor would suggest intentional action is most likely. The time difference could be reasonable if they were turned off by someone with a diagram of the circuit breaker panels, but no experience in finding them. Anyway, if the idea is to get something working again, the unthinking impulse would be to push them all in, rather than pull them out. But, who knows, every incident is different.


LarsPorsena said...

Blogger Dr Weevil said...

Not necessarily. Someone at Ace of Spades pointed out that the northern tip of Sumatra (Banda Aceh) is a hotbed of Muslim fanaticism and separatism. ......

Oh come off it!! Everyone knows this could only be the work of the Catholics, Mormons, or Baptists.

Jane the Actuary said...

Help! I'm trapped in a bad Hollywood script.

We all are.

Putin's trying to recreate the USSR, and at the same time, we keep reading headlines on CNN.com that read like a sensationalist right-wing website (you know you read these and don't want to admit it . . .)

So let's talk about #banbossy instead. It's a serenity-prayer kind of thing.

Jane the Actuary said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jim Howard said...

Guys, I'm a retired Air Force Electronic Warfare office and a current pilot.

The world is a really huge place. The technology to detect and follow a random airliner that has gone silent out of the thousands of airplanes flying every in the world just does not exist!!!!

And for all you NSA haters out there, if this airplane was commandeered by evil doers we'll discover that the hijacking was coordinated using the internet, not with dead drops, numbers stations, and Minox cameras.

I don't want to hear whining about 'connecting the dots'.

The government is a LOT less capable, competent, and powerful than the average Alex Jones or Obama fans think.

Seeing Red said...

Clinton News Network what?

Seeing Red said...

By all means, let's mothball another carrier.

China's really good at sending messages. I wonder what they're doing?

rhhardin said...

Look for paint-overs, like a new airline named air matalgsia.

richlb said...



"Look at me. I'm the pilot now."

richlb said...

I think a lot of people's question is not that they can't find the plane with the transponders off, but why in the hell can they be turned off while airborne to begin with. What reason would a plane ever have to turn it off? That's what doesn't make sense.

Michael K said...

""All bad guys seem to read Tom Clancy."

Because Clancy did good research and had a powerful imagination. Like Michael Crichton.

Both men with evil minds... :)"

Nelson DeMille does pretty well with this, too. He has two novels with scenarios similar.

Humperdink said...

Jim Howard said: "And for all you NSA haters out there ....."

I represent that remark. The NSA has taken a page out of the TSA playbook. That is: let's poke, prod, grope and x-ray everyone, including blue haired old ladies and hope something surfaces.

That, and the fact that James Clapper is gold-plated liar.

The NSA has earned the hate.

Fred Drinkwater said...

I think that speculations about the plane being stolen for its value in some obscure / criminal airline's operations are forgetting how much maintenance these things require, and how much Boeing and its suppliers are directly involved in that.
This isn't like boosting a Camry, that can be maintained by any Joe Schmo on Auto Row.

Curious George said...

"Dr Weevil said...
If there are any U.S. aircraft carriers in the vicinity, I am (conditionally) worried."

There is zero dander to a carrier. They defend against air to ship missiles...no way an airliner is going to get close enough.

Scott said...

To Richlb:

The reason you can depower that system and other systems in the airplane is twofold. First, and foremost, that assists maintenance actions on the airplane, keep in mind there will be times that you will want to switch a system off to work on it safely (electrically live lines are very dangerous)or do an operational check (turn on that one system without all the rest of the plane). Second, in the event of an inflight electrical fire, you want to depower the affected electrical bus to prevent the fire from spreading and avoid more damage to the plane.

That's why you have the ability to kill a lot of processes on the airframe if you know which switches to set and which circuit breakers to pull (along with the location of same). For an analogy, just because a burglar can black out a house by getting in the fuse box does not mean there are not legitimate reasons for that fuse box to be accessible to the homeowner or an electrician.

richlb said...

To Scott:

The electrical fire concern does make sense. As far as maintenance, I'm still baffled that it's something that could be disabled from INSIDE the plane. Again, I'm not engineer, but the fact something so critical to an airborne plane as its transponder can be turned off surprises me. Your analogy to the circuit breaker in my home makes sense if I kept my circuit breaker outside. I know there are real concerns up in the air that need to be addressed, but the fact that flying bomb can "go dark" in the sky I find fascinating, mainly because I didn't think it was possible.