Pluto's dairy on this subject is getting huge, and I think some very good comments with new information are getting lost. So I'm copying comments from people I (in my completely unschooled opinion) thought sounded like they knew what they were talking about.
So, to catch you up quickly:
-Still no trace of the plane.
-Some official in Malaysia's air force said, BTW, we didn't tell you this earlier and let you search in what may have been the wrong place for days, but we tracked that plane for another hour after civilian radar lost it, and the plane made a wide turn around and headed back over Malaysia, and we lost it over the Strait of Malacca. (The body of water on the opposite side of the country.
-Soon after that, the prime minister of Malaysia denied that statement.
-But they did start searching the Strait of Malacca.
-Fake passport guys turned out to be nothing. Apparently, flying on fake passports is not that unusual. Creepy, huh?
Comment source for above info:
We don't 'know' any of this, yet. Just rumors. (57+ / 0-)Or maybe the military wasn't withholding info. Here's one idea:
1) The CNN and Malaysian newspaper story about military radar tracking it into Malacca Straits is sourced to one "high level Malaysian officer" (apparently air force chief Gen. Rodzali Daud). But the Prime Minister's office denies it. Many of the other sources refer back to this one story, or similar versions of it. We just don't know, at this point -- but I'm sure we will, soon.
Adding to the confusion, Tengku Sariffuddin Tengku Ahmad, spokesman for the prime minister’s office, said in a telephone interview that he had checked with senior military officials, who told him there was no evidence that the plane had recrossed the Malaysian peninsula, only that it may have attempted to turn back. “As far as they know, except for the air turn-back, there is no new development,” Mr. Tengku Sariffuddin, adding that the reported remarks by the air force chief were “not true.” ...
by Sharon Wraight on Tue Mar 11, 2014 at 09:33:57 PM EDT
Once again, until they find the wreckage, one can not even begin to understand what happened. I am not sure what the Malaysian military was tracking.So, back to what we know for sure:
The reason that Malaysian military has not been forthcoming may not be a cover up at all, but the delay caused by a careful review of the radar tapes. Not everything on the scope is what the radar has seen. The returns are filtered to eliminate clutter.
by Dancing Frog on Tue Mar 11, 2014 at 09:53:00 PM EDT
The plane took off from Malaysia at 12:41 a.m. local time for a six-hour flight to China.
Civilian air traffic controllers reported losing contact with it around 1:30 a.m. and had no further contact with the plane on radar or by various ways the pilots had to communicate with the tower.
How can that happen? Losing all communications, including the transponder?
Here's a Kossack who sounds like he knows a lot about transponders:
I do (16+ / 0-)Some of that's over my head, but I get that there's more than one transponder on the plane, which I'd think makes it harder to lose both of them, unless the plane was seriously messed up by .... who knows? But messed up.
First off, everyone has to quit thinking transponder singular. Virtually all air carrier type aircraft have two, just in case. How it works is an interrogator, collocated with the regular radar antenna, sends out a signal (interrogates). When a transponder receives that signal, it replies with a digital stream which would include four 8 bit bytes of data (the transponder code unique to that particular flight) plus altitude information from the onboard encoding altimeter. The SECRA (SECondary RAdar) receiver (the other half which includes the interrogator) passes that data on to the ARTS (TRACON's computer system) or ARTCC (air traffic control center) computers for display of the data block associated with that aircraft.
A typical exchange if we happened to lose the transponder signal for a flight was, "XXXddd, I've lost your transponder, recycle code 1234 (or whatever his assigned code was)." What the pilot does at that point is basically reset each of the four digit selectors. They might also recycle the On/Off/Mode switch to Off, Standby, Mode A, Mode C. The hope is that wiping the contacts will clear up the gremlins that have been accumulating on the contacts and that all will then be right in the world. Sometimes it isn't enough and the pilot will say something to the effect of, "we'll try #2…how's that?" 99% of the time that would solve the problem.
The On/Off/Mode switch is at a convenient spot on the panel and each of the positions has a legitimate function. Turning it off might be part of the shutdown sequence when parking the jet. It might also be tied to turning on #2. Standby means the electrons are bouncing around inside but they haven't been let out yet. This is generally done while at the gate, awaiting pushback, awaiting taxi clearance, and at some airports, while taxing to the runway. It keeps from overloading the ASR (airport surveillance radar).
One of the last steps the non-flying pilot does before taxiing into position is to turn the transponder to either Mode A or Mode C. Mode A is simply plain old secondary radar (the electronics that produces the blip on the controller's screen). Mode C adds altitude readout to the controller's data block. The reason there's a choice is occasionally the encoding altimeter would start spewing garbage and we'd have to ask the pilot to "stop altitude squawk".
All the foregoing is accurate insofar as the general equipment in the airplane and what it does, but the physical presentation is 1980s based, and modern, all glass transports may have keypads instead of rotary switches. The physical transponder box may not even be on the panel but would be controlled by a touch pad somewhere on the panel. I don't know—I haven't flown in the cockpit since probably 1995. The pro pilots here can refine that data.
However the basices of of the secondary radar (transponder) process hasn't changed since the '60s, and the whole technology is based in the IFF (identify, friend or foe) function developed during WWII. By the way, when air traffic control "update" packages are being "sold" to the government by denigrating the "WWII technology" used today, they're talking about radar. Even if we bought the idea of NextGen and satellite monitoring, do you think radar is going to disappear from AWACS or F-22s?
I don't know the systems of the various transport aircraft, but I have a feeling a transponder is connected to an electrical bus with a fairly high priority—almost certainly below flight instruments, but probably equal to comms, and above cabin lighting. Consequently, a loss of power serious enough to disable the transponder is going to involve extraordinary flight operations, so don't look to that as a reason in the case of MH370.
Oh, and ACARS (the plane to mother data exchange system—yeah, that's not what the acronym means) probably doesn't have a visible switch (but might a circuit breaker) and your average aviation familiar miscreant who might know enough to turn off the transponder to mask his perfidy, probably doesn't even know about ACARS, much less how to disable it.
I hope this helps.
ZJX, ORD, ZAU retired
My ATC site
My Norm's Tools site
by exatc on Tue Mar 11, 2014 at 09:54:14 PM EDT
Could the plane have lost power to both transponders, making them useless? Here's another Kossack whose comment is backed up by a Forbes article I found. (Not that I didn't believe this person. I was just already looking for info. when he or she posted.)
Two systems can supply power. (8+ / 0-)So, sounds like it would be nearly impossible to lose all power to the 2 transponders, because if all else failed, the plane could make its own electricity, unless the plane was seriously messed up, by mechanical failures, electrical failures, structural failures? Who knows?
I may not be the good Major Kong, but I do know something about aircraft.
There is the standard Auxiliary Power Unit (APU) which is a small gas turbine that generates power when needed. It can run on the ground or in the air, and it is more than enough to supply all major control and communications systems for the aircraft.
Second, there is at least one emergency ram-air turbine that can be deployed in the air. This is a small, high performance wind turbine that pops out when needed. All it needs is air flow and it will generate power to the cockpit.
With those two systems in place, the aircraft has enough power for control and communications. There are also batteries, and although they don't hold huge amounts of power, they can run the radios (and transponder).
And yeah, I know tarantulas don't really act like that at all, so no snarking, this is the internet damnit!
by itzadryheat on Tue Mar 11, 2014 at 10:01:30 PM EDT
Could the pilot have turned the transponder off for some reason? Yes. Multiple Kossaks said so. Here are two of them:
The Primary Transponder Malfunctions (11+ / 0-)Okay, so the pilot has the power to turn off the transponders, if he wants to. Why would he do that? One possibility: If the transponder wasn't working properly and sending out bad info.
In case of electrical failure, shedding unnecessary electronics might preserve some system functions.
If the primary transponder starts spitting out junk, the pilot might turn it off in order to try the backup.
by Doctor RJ on Tue Mar 11, 2014 at 08:56:20 PM EDT
It emits RF radiation. Pilots turn it off on the (9+ / 0-)
ground, to a) avoid radiating ground personnel b) stop transmitting a signal to air traffic control when parked at the gate, next to dozens of other parked aircraft, unnecessarily clogging up radar scopes c) stop RF emissions during fueling d) change the code for the next flight.
"Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana." --Townes Van Zandt
by Bisbonian on Tue Mar 11, 2014 at 09:05:09 PM EDT
What if the plane was hijacked? And the pilot was forced to turn off the transponders? Still, the pilot has those discreet ways of sending a distress signal. He didn't.
So, other than catastrophic failure of multiple systems of the plane, the transponder going off is a mystery. Anybody have other ideas about the transponder? I'd love to hear them. I find this plane thing fascinating.
What about communication equipment? From me from Forbes:
Found this from Forbest about communication (2+ / 0-)So, we're back to catastrophic failure to account for no communication from the plane's crew.
equipment and transponders on this plane:
For all communication to suddenly cease without a distress signal usually indicates a catastrophic failure of the aircraft , not allowing time for the crew to communicate either by radio or through the aircraft transponder. Modern airliners have multiple radios for voice communication and the transponder can be used to send signals that indicate different problems with the aircraft (for example a discrete code for hijacking).
A complete electrical failure is extremely unlikely because of redundancies in the system....
But even if the aircraft had a complete electrical failure, the aircraft could have continued to fly. If the aircraft was out of radar range when a failure occurred – but able to fly – it would eventually fly to an area with radar coverage and be picked up by air traffic control radar.
by teresahill on Tue Mar 11, 2014 at 10:10:49 PM EDT
What else could lead to no communication? How about this?
Terrible situation (10+ / 0-)But don't they have oxygen masks that would have deployed automatically? Yes, but...
One link I saw online had some speculation that depressurization caused by an electrical failure or fire could have caused pilot unconsciousness and also transponder failure....
by pat of butter in a sea of grits on Tue Mar 11, 2014 at 08:14:38 PM EDT
There have been past cases where pilots did not use their masks soon enough, and went unconscious not long after depressurization.That does seem like a lot to happen, catastrophic event takes out transponder and depressurizes the plane, pilots don't put on oxygen quickly enough and pass out, but plane is in good enough shape that autopilot engages and keeps flying the plane for a while? (If the plane really turned around and kept flying after it was lost by civilian air traffic controllers.)
.... (So in this case, something) causing the loss of pressure and knocking out the transponder, but not knocking (the plane) down: would autopilot still be able to keep the plane level .... until fuel ran out? That is, what is the chance that autopilot systems could be enabled and continue to operate, but transponder would be disabled, after the same, plane-crippling event?
"So, please stay where you are. Don't move and don't panic. Don't take off your shoes! Jobs is on the way."
by wader on Tue Mar 11, 2014 at 08:53:00 PM EDT
Not sure I wanted to know this:
Oxygen masks are only to sustain life, they are not meant to keep you awake...So, everyone unconscious due to depressurization and lack of oxygen? Plane keeps flying on auto pilot? It's happened before. One Kossack reminds us of the death of Pro golfer Payne Stewart. His plane depressurized, the people on board didn't get oxygen for some reason, and the plane flew on autopilot for several hours over the US. Our radar saw it. Military planes tracked it, and I think a military pilot got close enough to see the pilot and co-pilot were unconscious. Plane crashed. Everyone on board was already dead.
As a reflex, your body will keep breathing, even if you are unconscious, the oxygen flowing through the "Dixie cups" (as they are called) will allow you to get oxygen to your body, but you don't have to be conscious for that to happen. That is why the flight attendants admonish you to put your mask on before helping others... you might lose consciousness before you can get your mask on if you are helping someone else first.
You can get animals addicted to a harmful substance, you can dissect their brains, but you throw their own feces back at them, and suddenly you're unprofessional. -Amy Farrah Fowler/The Big Bang Theory -7.50, -5.03
by dawgflyer13 on Tue Mar 11, 2014 at 09:40:34 PM EDT
Here's another idea including everyone unconscious due to lack of oxygen:
I was thinking of a simple strafing causing the (2+ / 0-)So, that could happen, but it would be really unusual.
loss of pressure in both pilot and rest of the plane, while also taking out some electronics. Keeping the autopilot on would seem odd in a situation where other electronics (i.e., such as the transponders) were disabled, though.
....And, that's still sticking with me: the transponders (i.e. there are two in 777 models, apparently) can be turned off manually, but frying their circuit and not others in a depressurizing situation would seem lower in probability than other ideas (e.g., a hijacking where someone got into the cabin before pilots could trigger a 7500 code, etc.).
"So, please stay where you are. Don't move and don't panic. Don't take off your shoes! Jobs is on the way."
by wader on Tue Mar 11, 2014 at 09:31:27 PM EDT
And another idea about losing oxygen:
Some more possibilities (4+ / 0-)Here's something I never knew. The plane transmits a lot of data to people other than air traffic controllers:
Oxygen fire in the cockpit:
Due to a 777 manufacturing defect, the oxygen supply hoses are improperly routed in the cockpit and dangle among electronics. This caused a cockpit fire in one 777. Of course, since this is a known defect, all 777s should have been modified to correct the defect.
Communications antenna adapter defect:
The fuselage may crack at the point where the antenna adapter passes through, resulting in a gradual loss of cabin pressure. This would explain the lack of communications and the failed attempt to turn back to the origin airport. Under this theory, the occupants of the plane were dead for the westward journey towards Pulau Perak. The plane could have remained flying as far as the Indian Ocean until it finally ran out of fuel.
As addressed above in the comments, the Malaysian military may have shot the plane down and are misleading the world until the evidence has had time to sink or disperse. In that case, everything we know about the plane is suspect, and it's pointless to speculate based on such misinformation. If it turns out the plane was shot down, China's response will be something to behold.
"When I was an alien, cultures weren't opinions" ~ Kurt Cobain, Territorial Pissings
by Subterranean on Tue Mar 11, 2014 at 10:18:17 PM EDT
Boeing has the Engine Data (4+ / 0-)So, why hasn't Boeing said anything? Or what did the engine's data tell Boeing? Is that one of the reasons they expanded the search area into the Strait of Malacca? Don't know.
the Engines report real time data to Boeing
and Rolls-Royce, it's part of the ETOPS system.
I'm sort of surprised how cagey people are being.
Usually by this point of time, we have lots of fragmentary data.
by patbahn on Tue Mar 11, 2014 at 09:16:56 PM EDT
Yep. (6+ / 0-)
It's pissing China off. They have airplanes, too. They're currently building the most technologically advanced space station and space-launch platform in existence. They have the world's most advanced satellite GPS system. They deployed 10 satellites in stationary orbit to search for this plane.
And they know when they are being jerked around.
by Pluto on Tue Mar 11, 2014 at 09:42:21 PM EDT
UPDATE:Commenter below says this about engine data:
New Scientist reports that most airlines receive transmissions at only 4 points -- takeoff, climbout, once while cruising, and landing. For the missing flight, only the first two of these were received.Now, why hasn't anyone found anything? Kossacks say it's a big ocean. A really big ocean. The LA Timessays the search area is 10,500 square miles.
As the engine data is filtered from a larger ACARS report covering all the plane's critical flight systems and avionics, it could mean the airline has some useful clues about the condition of the aircraft prior to its disappearance. The plane does not appear to have been cruising long enough to issue any more ACARS reports. It disappeared from radar at 1.30 AM local time, halfway between Malaysia and Vietnam over the Gulf of Thailand.
Under International Civil Aviation Organisation rules, such reports are normally kept secret until air investigators need them.
There may be better aviation-specific sources, but I'll leave that to our resident experts.
by Villanova Rhodes on Wed Mar 12, 2014 at 02:31:44 AM EDT
How big of an area is that? The size of Massachusetts. (You can find anything on the web. A helpful site that lists states in order of their square footage.)
Is that a truly huge area? I don't know. LA Times also says 10 countries are participating in the search and current in the area could carry debris 50 miles a day.
Is there anything else going on to do with airplanes and China and missiles that could shoot one down? Oddly, yes:
This should keep the blog nannies busy. (4+ / 0-)Okay, that gives me the creeps. My theory (completely without fact to back it up -- I freely admit that) is that the plane was accidentally shot down by someone. I posted that before I saw the above comment. And now we hear that China was pissed and claims a North Korean rocket shot through the air close to a Chinese plane? Hear the creepy Twilight Zone music now?
Coincidence or CT?
The day before the night that the Malaysian Air flight vanished:
China voices 'deep concern' to North Korea over plane near-miss
BEIJING Fri Mar 7, 2014 5:08am EST
(Reuters) - China has expressed its "deep concern" to North Korea after a Chinese airplane crossed the path of a rocket launched by the isolated state, China's foreign ministry said on Friday.
On Thursday, South Korea's defense ministry said a Chinese civilian plane had "passed as the ballistic missile (from North Korea) was in the course of descending".
The plane was flying from Tokyo's Narita airport to the northeastern Chinese city of Shenyang on Tuesday, the ministry said.
"On this issue, we have already contacted the North Korean side to convey our deep concern," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang told a daily news briefing.
On Thursday, Qin had said the Chinese airplane was unaffected and urged Pyongyang to ensure the safety of civilian aircraft.
Media reports had identified the Chinese airplane as a China Southern Airlines flight.
Company chairman Si Xianmin confirmed to Reuters that one of his firm's planes intersected the trajectory of the North Korean missile.
Actually, I'm just reporting the Telegraph, USA Today, CNN, etc.
This is a cut and paste Diary of a conversation going on throughout the world because it is MORNING in Malaysia and the lines are buzzing.
by Pluto on Tue Mar 11, 2014 at 09:28:06 PM EDT
Anyone want to talk new theories? Given all the information above?
Oh, and forget the cell phone thing. It's nothing, was discussed at length in the previous diary. Just because is sounds to you like the phone rings when you dial the number, doesn't mean the other person's phone is somewhere in the world intact and ringing. If you want a ton of info to debunk the cell-phone thing, go to Pluto's diary.
Thanks for listening and talking through this. I was a newspaper reporter a long, long time ago, and sometimes a story comes up that makes me want to ask a ton of questions until I understand what really happened. This one's doing that to me.