Malaysian Malaise over Flight MH370

Last I heard, the Malaysian spokesman was denying everything. I think he would have denied reports the sky was blue, instead of reporting clouds…“The analysis used radar data and satellite pings to calculate that the plane diverted to the west, across the Malayan peninsula, and then either flew in a northwest direction toward the Bay of Bengal or southwest into the Indian Ocean.” Anyway, thanks to networking protocols that remained alive when lots of data-sources on the plane were apparently manually disabled, a periodic ping gave a reasonable idea of the final location. “Location” needs to be taken with a grain of salt because it’s a huge area, or rather two large areas of the Indian Ocean. There are two simply because the areas are near the equator where a couple of satellites in geo-stationary orbit gave good guesses as to the circles of constant distance holding the plane. Two circles near the equator intersect in two locations. If more satellites or more radar-stations had been involved there might be a better outcome but as it is we will be lucky to find the pinger on the black boxes before they expire.

It has been embarrassing to watch the Malaysian briefings. Clearly, a politician was not a better spokesman than some engineer/techie. It often seemed the spokesman did not understand the words he was using and the press did not understand the words he was using. Then the leaks began. Folks who knew what was happening could no longer contain themselves… Fortunately, a lot of the tech has connections to US businesses/military, so leaks kind of bypassed Malaysia and got to the people who needed the information. Still, days passed before the US NTSB got involved. They know how to investigate a crash. Last I heard, the Malaysian authorities were guarding the pilots’ homes but had not searched them despite knowledge that one pilot had his own flight-simulator and could easily have left a plan for some initiative in the cockpit. Sigh. It will be major crime if the pingers stop (or worse, people die) before we can locate the wreck just because Malaysia did not pull out all the stops. There are times when parallel processing and thinking outside the box work really well. One of those times is when a problem is huge and difficult. Then, many minds make light work of it.

See CNN Exclusive: Analysis shows Flight 370 crashed in Indian Ocean.

See also, Crash: Malaysia B772 over Gulf of Thailand on Mar 8th 2014, aircraft missing

UPDATE: With a different spokesman comes a much different message. Malaysia is finally looking into passengers and crew. Based on the latest analysis, investigators have tightened the possible terminal locations to a stripe north of Pakistan possibly including northern Thailand or a stripe in the southern Indian Ocean. I would bet those northern regions will have better radar-tracks.

About Robert Pogson

I am a retired teacher in Canada. I taught in the subject areas where I have worked for almost forty years: maths, physics, chemistry and computers. I love hunting, fishing, picking berries and mushrooms, too.
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19 Responses to Malaysian Malaise over Flight MH370

  1. oiaohm says:

    ram some of that in those links is intersting. Duel Satcom is meant to be fitted to the airframe and 5 other radios. 3 VHF and 2 HF. The aircraft is never out of HF radio range.

    That is without the direct engine monitoring or cargo trackers. I just find it odd that there has been no cargo tracker information. Its a really rare aircraft not to have one on board.

  2. ram says:

    oiaohm is right about all the satellite coms on board. Commercial airliners don’t simply disappear.

    The short position in Malaysian Airlines was huge. It is also traceable. I doubt, however, if the countries responsible will.

  3. oiaohm says:

    Robert Pogson like any other data transfer plan you have to pay for the rights to login and transfer with sat. Cost savings limit the number of sats you can use. At the end Aircraft was flying under a sat it should have never came into range of.

    It all comes down to the fact the aircraft was not where it should have been is the most likely reason we don’t have better information. The modems would either have been not configured to talk to the final sat or had wrong login details for final sat or been pinging and seeing wrong sat id again not talking.

    Yes network protocols are an ass. This also is showing aircraft should be mandated to buy a universal data transfer licenses to sat so they are always in coverage.

    Robert Pogson also engine data loggers lack GPS. Rolls-Royce data-loggers basically could tell you if it was flying or landed but that is basically it.

    SATCOM the owner of the satellites also allows them to be used for cargo tracking devices and sat phones and ….. almost anything. This is the problem a SATCOM response from the aircraft does not have to be anything built into the aircraft. Something in cargo could have been on and pinging the Sat. We need the black box it will tell us if the aircrafts own SATCOM is on or off. If it off there was something else.

    Ram case of a odd trade could be the fact someone had a SATCOM tracker in cargo those do have GPS data. Again may not have been paid for connection to the next sat over.

  4. oiaohm wrote, “Robert Pogson no the data loggers in the engines don’t have to use the main radios of the aircraft.”

    Then why isn’t Rolls-Royce telling the world where those engines are?

  5. oiaohm says:

    Robert Pogson no the data loggers in the engines don’t have to use the main radios of the aircraft. Main reason for the data loggers in the engine having direct uplinks is for the simple fact due to damage in the aircraft the other reporting system can be wrong yes the ACARS can be wrong. You can see on the ACARS that everything is fine but something is critically wrong in a engine. Engine data loggers operate in data pulses like 1 once a hour or 1 once a half hour to keep sat usage billing down. They Operate like cargo data logger with straight uplinks to sat.

    Now if the engines are not fitted with the diagnostic data loggers with sat uplinks then tracing the aircraft is harder.

    Robert Pogson by the way we don’t know if that ping every hour with the aircraft ID was the main modem the aircrew can control.

    Basically there is more than 1 sat modem in a jet. 1 on each engine 1/2 in the main airframe for air crew. Unknown number in the cargo hold. These all can be active. So what one we have a message from we don’t know without the aircraft blackbox.

    Remember their is a major problem. The aircraft has left its air route. This now means the modems on the aircraft may not have a valid password to transmit data by the sat above them. So all you have is modem wanting to send data pinging and being rejected. So the question is what data logger on the aircraft was trying to transmit data every hour. It could be a cargo it could be a engine or it could be main flight system. So 3 possible sources of the pings.

  6. oiaohm wrote, “The in engine data loggers transmitting to sat the off switch is turn engine off. There is no breaker in the aircraft.”

    That still has to go through a radio on the plane or we would know within ~200miles where the plane hit. The current location information came just from the modem. There was no data in it except the ID of the plane, the carrier frequency, amplitude and the timing of the return. If the pings had been 5 minutes apart we would be laughing but they were 1h apart, not good enough.

    I chuckle when I see what the talking heads of Malaysia and CNN understand about high school physics/maths. In the whole food-chain, they don’t seem to have anyone who understands GPS-like geolocation and Doppler shift simultaneously. Instead they call it “new technology” etc. and question its reliability. Not one has included the concept of errors in measurement, propagating through calculation, something I taught for decades.

  7. oiaohm says:

    oiaohm wrote, “if the aircraft is fitted with Sat uplink that does not turn off”.

    The pilots were unaware of that, I bet. The next nuts will find that breaker.

    Th problem here the breaker is not that simple. The in engine data loggers transmitting to sat the off switch is turn engine off. There is no breaker in the aircraft. So fairly much turn off the last transponder you are going down. You wish to fly without these transponders it swap the engines.

    Yes there is no need for pilots to know about transponders in/on engines as they cannot do anything about them by using the flight controls or the breakers they can access. Yes these can be after market fitted as well.

    So lets say the terrorist has managed to swap the engines with ones without tracking.

    Robert Pogson there is still another level of transponders. Cargo transponders these are not dependant on any flight system.

    The last location of aircraft might still be better conformable. If there was expensive cargo on-board or handle with care cargo on board it might have had a cargo gps tracker. Yes a 777 is rated to have cargo gps trackers on-board.
    Next problem the aft cargo “NO Ventilation” In fact the aft cargo without diving gear entering while in flight is die. In-fact can be impossible to enter at all while in air. This is true for a lot of aircraft. Why you have a jet engine generator at back of aircraft to hold the electronics up. So the aft cargo gets filled with CO2 and CO fumes to start off with and is normally unpressurised..

    So dumping the cargo or searching it all while flying would be required. There is only one major problem aft cargo only way to get rid of that is land.

    Basically take away for terrorists don’t steal modern jets and expect to be untraceable. You will have a down right hard time being sure all tracking devices are removed.

    MH370 we have been down right unlucky. It is rare for an aircraft not to have at least 1 cargo transponder.

    ram there is a very big case that someone knew it was off course due to the fact they had cargo on the aircraft with a cargo transponder. Now if they had a transponder it would give a really good track. Cargo transponders also change into once every 5 mins if cargo leaves in the defined geofence.

    There are just too many layers of transponders for an aircraft to have none unless someone is able to get a electronic warfare device on board to jam them. Again this will ruining the flight controls and most likely bring the aircraft down again.

    This has been my problem all along there is just no way to take a jet and it be untraceable. Hard to trace yes but never untraceable.

  8. ram says:

    Another interesting factoid, the financial markets knew the plane was going to disappear before it did:

    This is not making the US, UK, Australia, or Malaysia look good.

  9. ram says:

    Malaysia is still lying. They lied from the beginning and continue to do so.

  10. oiaohm wrote, “if the aircraft is fitted with Sat uplink that does not turn off”.

    The pilots were unaware of that, I bet. The next nuts will find that breaker.

  11. oiaohm says:

    dougman and Bob Parker. Even that it possible to turn off the core system of the ACARS if the aircraft is fitted with Sat uplink that does not turn off this is why a circle was make able to search.

    Robert Pogson next problem. If something is not in your official airspace you are not meant to be watching it unless you were asked to by who airspace it is. So even that Thailand could see the aircraft had turned due to stupid international regs they were not meant to see.

    Policies when it comes to commercial flights needs to be changed. Anything with transponder off should automatically become suspect and reportable.

    Higher speeds make using wing tip to wing tip impossible. Australia has had a few cases of aircraft with everyone on-board dead due to cabin air systems malfunction. Fires in one of those destroyed the ACARS. This is how come I was so sure there should have been still tracking and why I was going where was it.

    The one thing we have learnt the processing of sat uplink data on aircraft is down right pathetic. A lot of time would have been saved if the uplink ping data alone was open to air traffic control. Aircraft cannot be landed or crashed if you are still getting pings. There should have been a information conflict even without Thailand.

    There is a lot we can do better. The 777 has a lot of updates to prevent it being fully lost. What we have learnt is that the tracking systems are not built to take advantage of what the 777 has.

    The fact a flying aircraft will still answer pings there is still a CPU running. It would not take much of an extension to add GPS location to pings to sat.

    Australia started it search MH370 3800Km off the Australian coast line due to long range radar. 100mils or 160 km off coast line is all you are technically required to cover by international standards for country security(yes the were written in the by gone age of cannon balls).

    To fill in the dead zones in the radar network will take time. Reality lot of focus should go to covering existing flight corridors that still has holes large ones. But this aircraft left all conventional corridors.

  12. dougman wrote, “ACARS can be shut down for safety reasons, namely for fire and electrical system protection, it’s important to have the ability to isolate a piece of equipment, either by a standard switch or if need be, through a circuit breaker.”

    This is a conundrum. If we try to make the plane safer by securing communications, we could set it afire…

    All such problems have solutions such as passive ID, like Radar. Unfortunately, some military radarmen seem to sleep on the job… Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand all seem to hold “national security” (we were asleep at the console…) above securing planes. Do we need to have non-military radar-stations scattered around the globe to do what incompetent militaries refuse to do? Whatever happened to “serve and protect”? Who will protect the people from such drones?

    ATC need buzzers to go off when a target drops its transponder. That is a role that doesn’t need to change anything on the planes. Militaries need to be compelled to scramble fighters/interceptors when that happens. Problem solved. Oh, the plane might still crash but at least it would not be lost. (a side-note: During WWII, my father witnessed British fighter-pilots putting a wing under the wing of “buzz-bombs” to steer them away from London. Were militaries more proactive in the good old days?)

    Further, I think as long as commercial planes don’t use “stealth”, the world should just make sure there are no dead zones for radar, not over the horizon and not “below radar”.

    People should just refuse to fly until the world of aviation gets its act together. It’s not as if folks should be surprised transponders can be turned off. The 9/11 attackers did that… Are they smarter than the rest of us? Of course, I am retired. I don’t have any need/interest in travelling at all. Just cart me out to some shack in the bush and I shall die happy. You young folk have to make a life-style choice not to fly. Fool the powers that be, the terrorists and the news-media.

  13. dougman says:

    Design Fault?…..Everyone is a pilot, software engineer and/or usability expert with computers these days….LOL.

    “ACARS stands for Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System. It’s a way for planes to relay information about their engines and other systems back to ground stations so that repairs can be made more efficiently. This happens mostly automatically, though the system can be set up to support manual text messaging between pilots and other aircraft, or between pilots and the ground.”

    ACARS can be shut down for safety reasons, namely for fire and electrical system protection, it’s important to have the ability to isolate a piece of equipment, either by a standard switch or if need be, through a circuit breaker.

  14. Bob Parker says:

    IMO allowing flight crew to turn off ACARS is a major design fault.

  15. oiaohm says:

    I would say middle track for disappeared. The south track includes the outer area of Australia rescue zone that is full covered officially by Australian over the horizon radar. Yes is simpler to do rescue processes when you have coverage.

  16. ram wrote, “Odds are overwhelming the plane landed at Diego Garcia.”

    That runway is nowhere near the circle of confusion surrounding the satellite that received pings from the plane. I think the plane went north if terrorists wanted it. I think the plane went south if it was a suicide mission. I think that the southern concept will yield to a search for debris simply because the ocean is rather flat and there’s no way for the tail fin to hide. The northern concept probably will yield to a search for radar tracks. I assume every country will be forthcoming. I would guess that separatists in China are the most likely. There could even be surviving passengers in that case, hostages. There is a theory that passengers were killed by decompression. In that case it could be just a plane for sale or vengeance. I still think terrorists win extra points if they can keep the bodies from being recovered… Prangs into mountains with fuel exhausted can be hard to find as well as ditching in the deep ocean with little debris produced. Exhausting fuel before ditching would reduce the likelihood of an oil-slick. I wonder if the flight simulator shows ditching practice.

  17. ram says:

    Odds are overwhelming the plane landed at Diego Garcia. Draw your own conclusions.

  18. oiaohm says:

    This is why I could not believe that aircraft was full lost.

    Really this shows there is more work required in aircraft monitoring the fact the aircraft was still flying and the ground could not find out to scrabble incepts means there is tons of work from this disaster ahead.

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