Flight MH370: Malaysian radar, passenger phone contact, high-altitude hypoxia

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Just a comment about what a terrible position this put the Malaysian military in. They were backed into a corner and had to admit:
a) they were not monitoring radar returns in real time from targets not broadcasting ACT beacons. Because if they were, they would have admitted to trying to contact the target as the first in a series of actions that any self-respecting military would or should take
b) because of (a), they did not scramble a jet to investigate the target.
This is why it took several days for the world to learn what data the Malaysian military had. They knew they had radar data, but how to tell the world - without revealing (a) and (b) above?
=========Flight 370 did a wide U-turn in the middle of the night over the Gulf of Thailand and then spent nearly half an hour swooping over two large Malaysian cities and various towns and villages, there was apparently silence. As far as investigators have been able to determine, there have been no phone calls, Twitter or Weibo postings, Instagram photos or any other communication from anyone aboard the aircraft since it was diverted.
According to military radar, the aircraft was flying extremely high shortly after its turn — as much as 45,000 feet, above the certified maximum altitude of 43,100 feet for the Boeing 777-200. It then descended as it crossed Peninsular Malaysia, flying as low as 23,000 feet before moving up to 29,500 feet and cruising there.
The hijacked planes on Sept. 11 were flying very low toward urban targets when passengers and flight attendants made calls from those aircraft. Base station signals spread out considerably over distance. So cellphones in a plane a few miles up, like Flight 370, would receive little if any signal. Base station design has improved since the Sept. 11 attacks to provide better, more focused coverage of specific areas on the ground. But that also means somewhat less signal intensity is wasted in directions where callers are unlikely to be located, such as directly overhead.
Cellphones transmit at one watt or less, while base stations typically transmit at 20 watts and sometimes much more. So even if a cellphone showed that it was receiving a signal while aloft, it might not be able to transmit a signal that was strong enough to make a connection. The metal in an aircraft reduces cellphone signals somewhat. If a passenger had pressed a cellphone against a plastic window with a line of sight to a cellphone tower then it is possible a connection might have been made even at a fairly high altitude, because plastic barely blocks a cellphone signal at all. ===========
So it's possible given a phone held in contact with a window might have been able to transmit a text message to a line-of-sight tower, even if the plane was 20k feet in the air. It seems likely that such a geometry did exist for some period of time. If no such transmission took place, then:
a) passengers were alive, but unaware there was anything wrong with the flight to try such measures to make contact using their phone
b) passengers were alive, did realize the plane was being taken off course, but did not try the cell-phone-against-the-window trick, (or they did try but it didn't work)
c) passengers were unconcious or dead when in range of cell phone towers
I can say that GPS reception in a plane works somewhat well, given the unit is near a window. An old unit I have (Garmin Geko, circa 2004/2005) needs to be pressed up against a plane's window in order to get a GPS fix. A newer model (like a car GPS, TomTom 1400 or Garmin Nuvi) can still get a fix even when placed on the seat-back tray of a window seat. FM radio reception works quite well, even when sitting in an isle seat in a large plane. AM radio reception does not work at all, even if the radio is pressed against a window.
I've made it a habbit of using a GPS of one sort or another on at least half of the flights I've been on since 2005. I've programmed the coordinates of every airport that I've flown to (or from) and when landing, on approach, I can even predict which runway I'm lined up for.
Had I been on that flight (and I can hear the wise cracks now) I would have known we were off course, and at what altitude we were at (yes, my Geko tells me that).
============Many aircraft carry satellite phones, and the Malaysia Airlines jet was equipped with them in business class. The plane continued to send satellite pings for nearly seven hours after it was apparently diverted.
But the satellite phones are part of an aircraft’s in-flight entertainment system. If someone deliberately diverted a plane and turned off its transponder and other communications equipment, that person is likely to have disabled the in-flight entertainment system so that passengers could not figure out from the map that they were flying in the wrong direction, said a telecommunications expert who insisted on anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the news media.
If the entertainment system was turned off, the satellite phones also would not work, the expert said. =============
The only question here is this: Can the entertainment system be turned on from outside the cockpit - or is there a master power switch for the system in the cockpit?
One thing is clear - once the system is turned off from cockpit, the crew will be trying to find out what's wrong with it, and will be trying to contact the pilots in the (presumably locked) cockpit. For how long that could happen - who knows.
What the world should learn from this is that there should be an alternate communications radio in the tail of passenger planes THAT CAN'T BE TURNED OFF FROM THE COCKPIT.
==============Investigators do not know if anyone aboard the plane even tried to make a call. One theory is that someone may have intentionally depressurized the plane as it soared to an unusually high altitude right after the turnaround, which would have quickly rendered passengers and flight attendants unconscious, pilots said. Whoever diverted the plane could have disabled the release of oxygen masks. ==============
Now there is the block-buster. The release of passenger oxygen masks can be disabled from the cockpit? That makes the following all the more pertinent:
========Dr. James Ho, an associate professor of medicine at Hong Kong University, said that death could come within minutes if someone were the equivalent of outdoors at 45,000 feet. But without information on the speed of depressurization, it is hard to predict the medical consequences, he said.
A table used by pilots for “time of useful consciousness” without an oxygen supplement at various altitudes shows only nine to 15 seconds at 45,000 feet, compared with five to 10 minutes at 22,000 feet. ========
So we have a plane-load of dead people.
========Mobile phone service is widely available in sizable areas of western China and eastern Kazakhstan, raising the question of why nobody from the plane has tried to make a call if it did fly north and land safely, instead of flying out into the Indian Ocean until it ran out of fuel. =========
Because they were all dead. Or if not, and if it landed, it landed somewhere where it was known there is no functional cell towers. Or it crashed (on land or water) or while trying to make a controlled landing on land.
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#1 this probably does show that the radar network in 3d world countries is largely unwatched or spotty at best.
#2 Cell phones will be useless most of the places they were
#3 The erratic flying and rapid altitude might have been because the people on the plane figured out they just passed Sumatra and were not really headed to whatever airport they were told they were being diverted to. The pilot put down the insurrection the fastest way he could, dumping cabin pressure.
#4 dropping the masks would get everyone back in their seats. 10 minutes later they would be slowly dying of hypoxia, still sucking on a dwindling oxygen supply from a depleted generator.
After that he was just flying a plane full of corpses.
The open question is whether he went inland or out to a place with very deep water where the plane would never be found and punched it in at mach 1+ in a powered dive.
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On Mon, 17 Mar 2014 21:05:09 -0400, snipped-for-privacy@aol.com wrote:

Unless they find the plane, or the black boxes, I'm just assuming it's mechanical/electrical failure.
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<stuff snipped>

I'm with you on that because of this article very persuasive article written by a pilot:
http://www.wired.com/autopia/2014/03/mh370-electrical-fire/
A Startlingly Simple Theory About the Missing Malaysia Airlines Jet
<< . . . There are two types of fires. An electrical fire might not be as fast and furious, and there may or may not be incapacitating smoke. However there is the possibility, given the timeline, that there was an overheat on one of the front landing gear tires, it blew on takeoff and started slowly burning. Yes, this happens with underinflated tires. Remember: Heavy plane, hot night, sea level, long-run takeoff. There was a well known accident in Nigeria of a DC8 that had a landing gear fire on takeoff. Once going, a tire fire would produce horrific, incapacitating smoke. Yes, pilots have access to oxygen masks, but this is a no-no with fire. Most have access to a smoke hood with a filter, but this will last only a few minutes depending on the smoke level. (I used to carry one in my flight bag, and I still carry one in my briefcase when I fly.) . . . What I think happened is the flight crew was overcome by smoke and the plane continued on the heading, probably on George (autopilot), until it ran out of fuel or the fire destroyed the control surfaces and it crashed. >>
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snipped-for-privacy@aol.com wrote:

At least military radar. At 2 AM.
I guess the thinking is that a terrorist hijacking, with the intent on flying a plane into a landmark, requires VFR conditions -> daylight.

I would bet a phone being able to send a text message if it was 10 miles from a tower, 20k feet in the air, with the phone held against a window. Possibly 20 miles.

A few people kicking at the door would keep kicking at the door regardless if the masks drop.
And again I wonder what the rational is for putting a switch in the cockpit that can PREVENT the masks from dropping. I don't think a lot of people knew that.
And - there is usually one or more medical kits on board that has a tank of breathable air. I'd be reaching for one of those - behind the smaller over-head compartment doors.
And there should be an emergency radio in the tail of the plane that can't be turned off from the cockpit.

I speculated previously that an attempt at a controlled landing on water (regardless how "futile") would probably result in a smaller, less obvious debris field.
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That is why they suspect the flight crew or another real pilot

the indian ocean. You also have the problem that cell tower antennas are optimized toward the ground, not up in the air.

I am not sure the masks didn't drop and a person without oxygen would not be kicking that door long at 45,000 feet We hike in the mountains a lot and you start really missing "air" at 12.000 feet. At 45,000, there really isn't any. The oxygen generators behind those masks are only meant for a few minutes, while the plane is supposed to be diving down to a place where you can breath.

Sully is the rare exception to the normal outcome of a "ditch" in the water. He was on a slick calm river. A 3 foot rolling sea would send that plane pitch poling and break it apart. Sully was also an exceptional pilot who taught ditching in the water for years before he got to try it.
I am not sure they would even try to ditch after evading contact for so long. If this was within wading distance of the coast it might make a tiny bit of sense.,
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snipped-for-privacy@aol.com wrote:

No, that wasn't my point.
My point is that in terms of the military watching for radar signals 24/7 from planes not transmitting ATC beacons, it's obvious that the Malasian military wasn't doing that, because the thinking is that anyone trying to hijack a plane obviously wants to fly the plane into a landmark, and they can really only do that with the aid of daylight.
If the goal was not to fly the plane into a landmark, but just fly and crash it anywhere in a suicide mission, night or day, it doesn't have to be a member of the crew - or anyone with flying experience.

If you say so. I'm not aware of all the different versions of the known flight path of this plane.

Near the tower, yes. But the radiation pattern is likely to be dounut shaped, which means there will be some vertical spread of the signal at some distance from the tower.

You didn't respond to that point.

That's not the point. Why would designers give the pilots the ability to prevent them from dropping?

I'm not questioning that. I'm questioning why the designers would give pilots the ability to PREVENT masks from dropping.

The plane would be stalling at 45k feet. I've heard some pilots say that anything over 40k feet is a crapshoot in terms of being able to keep a plane like that flying.

The several sources I've read indicate 15 minutes.

No comment about that either eh?

I'm not saying that it would have been possible to land that 777 on water just as intact as Sully did. In fact I would say it would be 99% impossible.
I'm saying that just attempting to do so, to put as little destructive force on the plane as possible, would or could result in a smaller debris field, even in the likely event the plane broke up into large pieces.
I'm saying that if the pilot was intent on suicide, with a side order of mystery, that he WOULD attempt a soft landing on water, instead of barreling in nose-first at mach-1.
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I don't know for sure, but did the plane actually enter the airspace of Malaysia after turning off the transponder. If they did not and/or was heading away from Malaysia, why would they care? They can hardly take umbrage at every plane that wonders by unless there is some kind of hostile profile.

The rated ceiling for the 777 is 43,100. Given the FAA's penchant for safety buffers, I would find it hard to believe that 45K is so far out of parameters.
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Kurt Ullman wrote:

With what?
No passengers and maybe half a tank of gas?
How about a full plane, with a huge load of avgas for a long flight?
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That is what the FAA certified it to fly. They put no restrictions. I really hate to put facts into your flights (get it?) of fantasy.
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<stuff snipped>

And you give me gas for my suppositions! (-:
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: claimed to be true or real 1 a : pretended <twelve hours are supposed to elapse between Acts I and II A. S. Sullivan> b : alleged <trusted my supposed friends> Suppositions (at least the a definition of pretended) seems to be appropriate usage- grin
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wrote in message

You just wait, Dorothy. I'll get you and your little dog Toto! (-:
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wrote:

If the service ceiling is 43,000, it will easily go higher. It just will not be stable enough for normal commercial operation. That may be an insurance issue as much as an avionic issue.
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<stuff snipped>

They'll probably overlook an excursion meant to put out a fire that could save the entire plane.
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wrote:

The Thais are the ones who said they tracked an unknown target and stopped watching when it turned away from Thailand I think we are just seeing how incompetent these 3d world militaries really are. It is not surprising though. We base things on what our Pentagon does and most of these countries spend less on their whole military than we do on the golf courses and PXes on military bases.

Agree A lot has been made of how a simulator acts at 45,000 feet but that is a computer designed to teach pilots not to try to exceed the listed parameters. Very similar military planes operate at that altitude or higher all the time.
It might be interesting to ask a USAF KC-777 driver what this plane can really do ... if he would tell you.
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snipped-for-privacy@aol.com wrote:

If it turned away why would they track and how does that make them incompentent (at least at that time).
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<stuff snipped>

Amen, brother. Ask someone in the US military their opinion of joint training exercises with some of our less advanced allies. Or look at how "successful" we've been training Afghan soldiers. Not!

Pretty much. We also export technology that makes third worlders *seem* more advanced but how long do you think it would take Ethiopia to build their own 787 instead of buying them from Boeing?

Good point. I don't think Shah intended to stay at that altitude and didn't. He may have been able to extinguish the fire (if there was one) and level out the plane but by then it was too late. The cabin had been filled with toxic fumes.

If he *could* tell you without violating the law . . .
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snipped-for-privacy@aol.com writes:

Good luck finding one.
The new KC-46 Pegasus tankers are based on the older 767-200 design, with a 787 cockpit.
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<stuff snipped>

If Shah rose that high to extinguish a bad fire, I don't think he intended to stay there long and that's bolstered by the fact the plane did drop down to an altitude where the passengers and crew wouldn't die from lack of oxygen in the air.
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