We have a plane that being flown by someone who:
- was a member of the crew, likely one of the pilots
- was intent on committing suicide
- formulated a plan to fly the plane into the ocean
- did not want the plane to be found
- knew the basics of how to fly the plane
- knew how to turn off various radio transponders
Why a member of the crew?
- knew how to turn off transponders
- able to access cockpit without causing alarm, mayday broadcast
- able to fly the plane for hours, presumably without passengers
breaking into cockpit
- no credible claim of terrorist responsibility
- no sighting of wreckage along intended flight path or possible
return to departure point indicates guided flight to somewhere else
- cultural aversion to suicide? Shame? Reputation? Financial
motive (insurance policy that does not pay out in case of
suicide). It means they did not want to be known as having
committed suicide. Hence make death appear mysterious,
- Suicide in conjunction with financial difficulty? Gambling debt?
Investment or drug debt?
- Suicide in conjunction with change in health status? Did he
recently test positive for AIDS? Cancer?
- Suicide in conjunction with change in relationship? Recent
divorce or breakup?
- Suicide in conjunction with pending legal prosecution? Was he about
to be prosecuted for or a crime? Tax evasion? Sex with a minor or
- Suicide in conjunction with "crime of passion" ? Was wife,
ex-wife, girlfriend of some member of the crew also on board?
- Latest reports indicate pilot's home being searched - no doubt
for suicide note.
Why not asphyxia resulting in plane flying a random course?
- fault in cabin pressurization + beacon deactivation is improbable
Upon hijacking, the pilot turns off transponder, dons air mask and
depressurizes the cabin, changes altitude to over 40k feet to insure
death of sleeping passengers, then resumes normal pressurization and
altitude while flying most direct course to middle of the ocean - the
last place searchers will think to look for plane. This would account
for reports of large changes in altutide.
Whether or not such changes in altitude was accidental, incidental or
intentional, they would facilitate the rogue pilot's desire to confound
investigators into deducing what really happened. Altitude changes
could be intentional (dark theory), or accidental (the result of a
struggle or an attempt by a "hero" to regain control) or incidental
(with nobody at the controls, altitude changes are likely, random, etc).
How much planning did the rogue pilot perform?
Perhaps the most useful item for the pilot to determine is the best
place to crash the plane. If he looked up charts of ocean depths, the
most attractive target would be the deepest place that the plane would
have the fuel to reach. Alternatively, a place with irregular terrain,
narrow fissures, etc. Terrain like that is what took 2 years to find
the Air France wreckage.
After getting nailed by the U.S. Seal team, Osama makes his way to the
There, he is greeted by George Washington.
"How dare you attack the nation I helped conceive!" yells Mr.
Washington, slapping Osama in the face.
Patrick Henry comes up from behind.
"You wanted to end the Americans' liberty, so they gave you death!"
Henry punches Osama on the nose.
James Madison comes up next, and says "This is why I allowed the Federal
government to provide for the common defense!" He drops a large weight
on Osama's knee.
Osama is subject to similar beatings from John Randolph of Roanoke,
James Monroe, and 65 other people who have the same love for liberty and
As he writhes on the ground, Thomas Jefferson picks him up to hurl him
back toward the gate where he is to be judged.
As Osama awaits his journey to his final very hot destination, he
screams "This is not what I was promised!"
An angel replies "I told you there would be 72 Virginians waiting for
you. What did you think I said?"
When I say "pilots" - I'm not differentiating between Captain and
Co-Pilot. To me, they are both "pilots".
Something to add about suicide motive:
- conflict between pilots (one of them having romantic affair with
the other's wife, with or without leading to separation/divorce)
could also be reason for murder / suicide.
- conflict between pilot and employer (the airline)? Was pilot about
to be demoted, fined, sanction of some sort (fired?) due to job
performance or some past event? Flying while intoxicated or on
drugs? Did one pilot report on an event or complain about flying
ability of the other pilot?
Something to add about desire to prevent detection of wreckage:
- by flying the plane until fuel runs out, you maximally confound
searchers by creating unreasonably large search area, and minimize
the size of any fuel slick that could be spotted. If you had a
crash target in mind (some particular valley in the ocean floor)
you might not make it there while attempting to burn off all
- possibility to dump fuel while at altitude? Would create the same
outcome (no fuel slick at crash site) because fuel would vaporize
in the air. Would allow the pilot to crash at desired target
location and leave no fuel slick while circling the target and
- Possibility to perform "soft" controlled landing on water, possibly
aided visually because dawn would be breaking at crash site.
Plane breaks into fewer fragments - less floating debris?
Possibility to detect dumped fuel - or con trail or engine exhaust with
earth-sensing science satellite?
The average depth of the Indian Ocean is 12,700 feet (almost 2.5 miles).
The deep trenches are 25,000 feet deep (almost 5 miles).
Some floating debris will probably be found - but the plane's final
resting place (including flight-recorders) will never be found.
Hide and watch.
"...On March 26, 2012, [James] Cameron reached the bottom of the
Challenger Deep, the deepest part of the Mariana Trench. The recorded
depth was 10,898.4 metres (35,756 ft) when Deepsea Challenger touched
Which only proves that you can reach some arbitrarily deep part of a
The issue is not that we have equipment that can go that deep.
The issue is knowing where to drop that equipment.
It's a big ocean.
Are the boxes designed to continue to operate in salt water? For
how long? Most missing planes would have been found days ago, and
the search area is much smaller.
Is the power source for the boxes also designed to operate in salt
How well do those signals penetrate sea water? How close does
the submarine have to get?
On Sat, 15 Mar 2014 17:27:44 -0500, firstname.lastname@example.org (Gordon
It took ~24 months to recover the Air France black boxes, using a
robot submarine. (as deep as 4,700 m (15,400 ft)
IIRC, recommendations are suggested to increase the time so the boxes
beacon longer and survive a deeper depths.
A Navy submarine is limited on depth, but I bet they can hear a fish
You got the fish fart part right but the navy is pretty mum about
where our subs are.
If a sub found it they would throw a note over the transom and deny it
was a sub contact.
OTOH a towed array behind aa Arleigh Burke is just about as good
All of the hired guns from NTSB on CNN are saying the beeper on the
boxes will work for at least 30 days at virtually any reasonable depth
... if the plane didn't bury itself in the mud.
I just learned tonight that the cockpit voice data recorder overwrites every
two hours. If the plane was aloft for 6+ hours, the voice recorder's not
likely to yield useful data. My little Sansa MP3 player can record for 20+
hours and cost $20. What's wrong with this picture?
The ultrasonic pingers have a range of 2 miles. If the plane's wreckage is
in a deep part of the Indian Ocean, there's a strong possibility that
neither the black boxes or the plane will ever be found. There's just too
much area to cover. Maybe that was the point - for a suicidal pilot to fly
into the record books. I'm leaning toward them having let someone in the
cabin they shouldn't have. They did it before and that would give
terrorists an opportunity to get them to repeat their error by sending a
Mata Hari aloft with them.
What's really sad is how much time the Malayasians wasted trying not to
reveal that a 777 could overfly their country while their air defense
systems took very little notice.
Also, how hard would it be to send a GPS long/lat with each packet sent to
the engine monitoring satellites? You'd think location would be important in
engine monitoring but apparently not.
On Sun, 16 Mar 2014 03:35:35 -0400, "Robert Green"
Your little Sansa is not designed to survive a crash and a fire or
being under 2,000 feet of water. The traditional data recorders on
planes write, magnetically, on wire. I don't know if that has been
updated but the aviation industry is always slow to embrace change.
Put it in the same stainless steel armored and insulated box and I am sure
it would survive. I just saw a breakdown of the "modern" flight recorder
and it's antiquated (compared to the lastest technology) POS.
<<The earliest CVRs used analog wire recording, later replaced by analog
magnetic tape. Some of the tape units used two reels, with the tape
automatically reversing at each end. The original was the ARL Flight Memory
Unit produced in 1957 by Australian David Warren and an instrument maker
named Tych Mirfield.
Other units used a single reel, with the tape spliced into a continuous
loop, much as in an 8-track cartridge. The tape would circulate and old
audio information would be overwritten every 30 minutes. Recovery of sound
from magnetic tape often proves difficult if the recorder is recovered from
water and its housing has been breached. Thus, the latest designs employ
solid-state memory and use digital recording techniques, making them much
more resistant to shock, vibration and moisture. With the reduced power
requirements of solid-state recorders, it is now practical to incorporate a
battery in the units, so that recording can continue until flight
termination, even if the aircraft electrical system fails.>>
If you're flying in an airplane old enough to use a wire recorder, you've
got bigger problems that the CVR.
There's slow and then there's glacial. I'm assuming that since everything
of possible interest to investigators has been erased because the plane flew
for so long after the "incident" that they'll be taking a second look at how
these things are designed. Of course, it's beginning to sound like whomever
did this probably had the smarts to disable the CVR, too. Pilots tend to
hate them, at least from what I've read.
The bigger issue is why the satellite engine ACARS units don't have a GPS
built into them that relays the position data along with the engine
statistics. I suppose that's another thing that will change as a result of
this latest mystery. While transmitting all of the info the CVR and the FDR
units do would be expensive, a five, ten or even fifteen minute "packet" of
GPS data wouldn't cost an extra $300M - the estimate given by the airlines
that don't want to institute such a program. This whole mystery wouldn't be
such a mystery if ACARS is also reporting GPS data. Even once an hour
reports would leave searchers in a much better position then they're in now.
The FAA is now considering putting video recorders in the cockpit, too.
It's about time. I have a number of small video recorders (keyfob and pen)
that can take 32GB microSD cards and record for hours with an auxiliary
power source (two hours with the built in lithium batteries). Let's hope
these ultramodern skyliners can eventually be designed so that mysteries
like MH370 never happen like this again. It's still pretty shocking a plane
could fly for over six hours and "nobody seen nothing."
With a two hour overwrite (the rules apparently only require 30 minutes) all
of what happened in the cockpit when the plane changed course is very likely
history. Ironically, with magnetic tape, it's sometimes possible to restore
erased recordings. With the solid-state recorders in use now, that data's
"gone, baby, gone."
They've got jet engines that call home from a satellite to report on how
they are "feeling" but a recorder that goes for more than two hours is
beyond them? They are slow to embrace change that they don't like seems
more likely. Of course, given the incendiary lithium battery problem on the
newest planes, perhaps they're afraid of change because they occasionally
get it so wrong.
On Sun, 16 Mar 2014 20:11:01 -0400, "Robert Green"
Big difference. That information about how the engines are doing is a
proprietary corporate asset.
The FDR and CVR are what is mandated and specified by the government.
Maybe I should have said government regulators is slow to embrace
Having that information is also a liability.
Think about it.
You're Boeing, and you offer a service to airline operators where if
they pay you some amount, you remotely monitor the engines on their
planes, and if there's a problem - you tell them.
Now, if the airline operators don't want to subscribe to your service -
are you really going to still collect their engine data - making you
liable for knowing (but not warning them) about an impending engine
Easy to say today but. . .
For many years the flight recorders did what they were designed to do.
They recorded the last minutes before a crash. They never needed more
than a few minutes so 30 minutes was made the standard. Two hours is
optional. They have never needed more than that in the history of
aviation. You cannot foree every possible situation.
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