Let’s run through the latest updates on MH370 for the past 1 week. It does not look great but then again, perhaps no news at all could be good news . There’s still hope.
(Summing up the status on MH370 as at today – click on the image to enlarge it. Infographic source: http://visual.ly/still-flying-after-seven-hours)
When we first heard about the missing plane, we were anxious, very worried and feared for the worse. We were practically glued to the TV for days waiting for any positive news. One week down the line, we were still hopeful despite the search & rescue team not finding any clues or wreck of the plane. But the reality is that the longer the plane could not be found, any chances of finding survivors was getting slimmer too. We have been hearing contradictory statements and very few positive updates. The earlier rumored turn about have now been confirmed and the search for the plane have moved from the South China Sea to now the west side of Malaysia and the vast Indian Ocean.
And now, it is entering into the 2nd week, things seems to be going from bad to worse:-
Authorities have said that someone on board deliberately disabled the plane’s Aircraft and Communications Addressing and Reporting System, or ACARS, at 1:07 a.m. March 8, with the transponder — which identifies it to commercial radar systems — getting shut down about 14 minutes later.
The Government now had confirmed that the plane had indeed turned (earlier it was suspected but was not confirmed) around and may have headed towards one of the 2 possible air corridors. Added to this is the notion that someone had deliberately switched off the transponder. Another security hole at KLIA? The Government is keeping their silence on the notion of the plane may be been hijacked but have not ruled out any possibilities. If it was deliberately turnoff and the plane had not crashed, all signs seems to point to a hijack.
The search & rescue now focuses on the 2 possible air corridors whilst a parallel investigation is on-going on the crew and passengers (they should also investigate the Immigration officers who failed to detect 2 Iranian imposters). And assuming that the plane did not fly off to another country using one of the two air corridors, the Indian Ocean is one huge place to search (it’s possible that we would never find the wreck if it had crashed into the sea). Almost immediately India and Pakistan had come on air, denying that the plane pass through its airspace:-
Indian military authorities have dismissed the possibility that the Malaysia Airlines (MAS) flight MH370, which mysteriously disappeared eight days ago en route to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur, could have flown over India on its way to Kazakhstan-Turkmenistan in Central Asia, the Times of India reported.
“If the jetliner had tried to cross the Indian mainland, our primary radars (which bounce radio signals off targets) would have picked it up despite its transponders being switched off (secondary radars beam signals that request information from a plane’s transponders),” said a top Indian Air Force (IAF) officer. “The five Airports Authority of India radars at Delhi, Kolkata, Ahmedabad, Chennai and Mumbai are integrated with IAF’s air defence network. The possibility is far-fetched,” said an officer.
One cannot underestimate the overwhelming web of radars and detection system that India and Pakistan had deployed in, what one had said, one of the potential flashpoint in the world. But if it has indeed had flew undetected, no one is coming forward admitting the shortcoming of their radars. Many too dismissed that it is not possible for the plane to use the northern corridor for a simple fact – there were too many radar installation & tracking system in many countries that could detect the missing plane. It is not easy for a Boeing 777 to simply slip by undetected by so many countries. So was the case until I read this:-
The major roadblock to this theory has been the insistence from India and Pakistan that their radar network showed no such unidentified aircraft entering or traversing their airspace. It would seem highly unlikely given such information that a Boeing 777 could indeed slip through undetected.
It is my belief that MH370 likely flew in the shadow of SIA68 through India and Afghanistan airspace. As MH370 was flying “dark” without transponder / ADS-B output, SIA68 would have had no knowledge that MH370 was anywhere around and as it entered Indian airspace, it would have shown up as one single blip on the radar with only the transponder information of SIA68 lighting up ATC and military radar screens.
Well, that is one theory that may explained that MH370 may have slip into the northern corridor undetected by the Indians and Pakistanis. That it tail-gated another Boeing 777 and presented itself invisible to the web of radars. Another theory on how it could have gone missing is this – by an AWACS jamming the detection:-
What could make a plane disappear from civilian radar while at 36,000 feet yet still be visible on military radar? ONE THING, and it looks like a UFO (as some have speculated) only it’s attached to a Boeing jet – the antenna on a U.S. Air Force AWACS plane. The fact that this missing jet vanished from civilian radar yet remained visible on more robust military radars proves well enough for me that this indeed was an AWACS hijacking, just like we saw on 9/11 where AWACS planes were seen on video observing if not controlling the crashes into the twin towers.
Once the plane flew far enough West, AWACS was obviously enough to jam both civilian and military radars, probably because they entered a zone where the angle of both incoming signals allowed for their simultaneous cancellation. That is where the plane finally “vanished” forever, an hour after the “official” vanishing act.
And now, the issue of fire on board have resurfaced:-
For me, the loss of transponders and communications makes perfect sense in a fire. And there most likely was an electrical fire. In the case of a fire, the first response is to pull the main busses and restore circuits one by one until you have isolated the bad one. If they pulled the busses, the plane would go silent.
It probably was a serious event and the flight crew was occupied with controlling the plane and trying to fight the fire. Aviate, navigate, and lastly, communicate is the mantra in such situations. There is no point speculating further until more evidence surfaces, but in the meantime it serves no purpose to malign pilots who well may have been in a struggle to save this aircraft from a fire or other serious mechanical issue.
Capt. Zaharie Ahmad Shah was a hero struggling with an impossible situation trying to get that plane to Langkawi. There is no doubt in my mind. That’s the reason for the turn and direct route. A hijacking would not have made that deliberate left turn with a direct heading for Langkawi. It probably would have weaved around a bit until the hijackers decided where they were taking it.
These are just some of the speculations circulating on the internet (including this) on what might have happened to the plane (read here for more theories). We still have a missing plane to search for and so far, there has not been any concrete leads.
(The possible 2 routes of the missing plane but one have admit that it is one big area to search. We only have less than 2 weeks before the black box batteries runs out. Image source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk)
There is a growing talk on the internet that there has been indeed an hijack and the Malaysian Government knows what had really happened to MH370 but they are buying time to negotiate for the safe return of the passengers from some secret location. This is a bit far fetched, if you ask me. Even if it was kept in secret by the Malaysian Government, things would have leaked and the foreign press would have reported by now. So, I don’t think there is any negotiations going on in the back ground.
Someone also raised the connection between the pilot and his support for Anwar and that he may have committed suicide when he learned that the court had found Anwar guilty. This was absolutely a nonsense and at the most, a very sickening hit below the belt attempt at Anwar (a very typical line of thought by some politicians – if you don’t support us, then you must be the enemy).
Whilst the search continues, the incident of MH370 reveal the glaring shortcomings with the Malaysian Government dealing with a missing plane. I have covered the point on crisis management last week and the foreign press already had a field day on this (from day one). It also questioned on the capability of RMAF in detecting plane that had deviated from its flight path and the failure to scramble the jets to intercept the plane. If that had been done, we would have known whether MH370 indeed turned about to the west much earlier:-
This aspect of the flight raises other questions. Even without its transponder the plane was clearly seen, though not identified, by Malaysian military radar. Yet nothing was done about it. No aircraft was scrambled to see what this mystery object was. In its long hours of flight to the west of Malaysia, was it seen by other military radar, such as India’s, or if it flew north-west, by Thailand or even China. It is difficult to believe any of these countries, seeing an unidentified aircraft approaching or entering their airspace, would not have done something to find out what it was.
Whilst this may be disputed by those are familiar with the workings of the military SOP and use of military radar, one must remember that anything that touches on military radar and strategy, also touches on national security and I don’t think any military commanders out there would approve a free for all information to be circulated openly in the media. Who knows what really took place. Perhaps it was known that the unidentified plane was indeed MH370 but they needed time and clearance to inform others. Perhaps RMAF did sent interceptors to check on the plane but they could not identify the plane as MH370. We will never know. One would just hope that the Government will think hard again on the weaknesses of the present air surveillance over Malaysia and take immediate actions to address the shortcomings.
There is only have less than 2 weeks before the black box battery runs out. Time indeed running out for the crew and the passengers. Meantime, the comedy in Malaysia continues. At time when the whole of Malaysia is united in praying for the return of the crew and the passengers and being hopeful on the missing MH370, some politicians on the other hand have proven time again that they are still stuck to their 3rd world way of thinking – that Government knows the best, can be highly secretive and can dismiss any questions & oppositions at their whims & fancy:-
Kuantan MP Fuziah Salleh today claimed that Acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein has bypassed Pakatan Rakyat MPs in his invitation for parliamentarians to attend briefing on the missing MH370 tomorrow. “What he is doing clearly goes against the Parliament convention. It is parliamentary briefing, yet were are not invited. “This is very unbecoming of a minister who is also an Umno vice president,” she said when debating the motion of thanks on royal address in Parliament today,
The Acting Transport Minister’s response to this was rather dumb that he did not invite the Opposition MPs because they never ask for it. It is no wonder that Business Week in the beginning of the crisis mentioned that the Malaysian Government is “handling a huge global issue as if it was domestic politics”. Some things will never change, don’t they?