Flight MH-370 – an Aviator’s Perspective

Combat Flying knows no boundaries or Air Traffic Routes as Commercial Flying does. Fighter Pilots, hence, are responsible for their respective Air Defence Zones in general during peace time, International Borders being their bench mark.

Commercial flying, however, has set patterns and pre-defined flying routes known as ATS (Air Traffic Services) routes. Every day commercial jets get airborne, fly at different places around the world, in different continents. They know the environment which prevails while they are airborne. Commercial jets have an onboard transponder on all aircraft and when they taxi out, an Air Traffic Control clearance is given which specifies the Runway for departure, SID (Standard Instrument Departure), initial Airway to clear the Control Zone, Flight Level (Altitude to fly at) and Squawk Code (transponder code for SSR (Secondary Surveillance RADAR) which has to be set on the transponder panel in the cockpit. As they are lining up, they have to put the transponder on TARA (Traffic Alert/Resolution Advisory). As soon as a commercial jet takes off, and is handed over from ATC to Area RADAR, it paints (tracks) the aircraft (because of transponder) on their RADAR screens and announce ‘RADAR contact’. The aircraft is continuously tracked thereon till it lands. When the flight transitions from one FIR (Flight Information Region) to another, again the Controller announces ‘RADAR Contact’. If due to any reason, the transponder stops working or in other words, the blip disappears from the RADAR screens of the ground station, it is a situation of an alarm. Pilots are immediately informed and other measures as per SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) are taken by the controllers.

Missing-Malaysia-Airlines-flight-MH370-3236708
When the transponder is turned off or goes unserviceable, the controllers become more alert. They try to re-establish RADAR contact. If not possible, they create an alert. The Air Defence RADARs and military authorities are immediately contacted. The Air Defence RADARs are passive RADARs. They continuously monitor their airspace through low, medium or high level RADARs. Any unidentified aircraft entering their airspace is challenged. If no response is given/obtained, then Air Defence Alert (ADA) Fighter Jets are scrambled to identify the object and/or take tactical action. If the aircraft is entering any danger, prohibited or restricted airspace, then countries have the option of shooting it down.

Missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370
In case of Malaysian Air MH-370 Boeing 777-200, once the transponder was shut down, it flew for hours as has been determined beyond doubt. Modern commercial aircraft have ACARS (Aircraft Communication, Addressing and Reporting System) for digital communications primarily for maintenance or traffic tracking. By this system, certain information is sent by the aircraft engines, doors or even parking brakes through VHF, HF and now satellite systems. Again, digital data was received through aircraft systems, after it had disappeared from the civil RADAR screens, meaning thereby that the aircraft was flying.
I do not buy the point that if the aircraft was flying, it was not tracked by any MILITARY RADAR. Not possible even in a million years.

Asserting that the plane might be in Pakistan with 25 countries on the hunt in 11 different nations, should be a reason enough to admit Rupert Murdoch to the nearest mental asylum.

murdoch

Aircraft like Boeing 777s have a big RCS (RADAR cross section). Furthermore, it is absurd to even think that it may have crossed the FIRs in countries like Burma, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan, China, Nepal, Tajikistan and Afghanistan, and nobody was aware of that aircraft.
The other possibility is that it could have flown Southwards to the wide expanse of Indian Ocean. However,  to head in that direction, it certainly would have passed through the Air Defence RADARs of Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and Australia. Again none challenged an unidentified aircraft nor intercepted it. Strange and unbelievable.
Whether it was hijacked, flown deliberately by the pilots on these perceived routes or pilots and passengers were incapacitated (by slow/rapid decompression) and aircraft flew on autopilot on the fed-in route on FMC (Flight Management Computer), is not an issue of primary concern. To me more important is to determine and find an answer, why it was not detected by Air Defence RADARs of so many countries in the region. It was not a dual-seater Cessna with extremely small RCS. For the love of thy Lord, it was a Boeing 777-200, a huge aircraft.

To me the answers are with Malaysian authorities and for whatever reasons, resting any conspiracy theory, the truth is not being told and the masses are played off their negligible knowledge of aviation. “Why they are hiding it?” is the strongest question and hence reiterates the strongest of the reasons to hide the facts. The other possibility is that it disappeared into thin air due to some super natural phenomenon. I leave it to you to guess.

My concern primarily is the well-being of the passengers onboard MH 370 and the agony of their families and friends. Having said that, I must address the apprehensions and skepticism it has given birth to in the minds of many of my friends, as far as Air Travel is concerned (reminds me, Jemima Khan is one of them too). Well, let’s compare the statistics via different modes of travel here shall we. Fatalities attributed to the air-crashes in 2013 were 265. Also, for every 100 commercial flight fatalities, there are 46,000 deaths by road accidents.  The same ascribed to the bi-cycle/pedestrian accidents in Europe alone are 4000 in a said year. Please rest your premonitions and believe in the wings. Happy landings. Godspeed!

SOURCES:

1. Bureau of Safety Statistics, National Transportation Safety Board [ http://www.ntsb.gov]

2. Aviation Safety Network [ http://aviation-safety.net/ ]

3. Twitter

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One thought on “Flight MH-370 – an Aviator’s Perspective”

  1. Thanks for your input as pilot. 99 percent of the stories written over the last 11 days have been misleading rather than informative.

    One question, though. You are saying it is unlikely, or even impossible, that a 777 entered the airspace of a country in the region without being noticed. I do share this opinion, although I have no knowledge of aviation. It wouldn’t make any sense. Some of the countries in the region are at war.

    Still, according to today’s reports, China is searching for the plane along the northern corridor. How would you explain this, are they actually searching for the aircraft or are they for some reason not telling the truth?

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