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Friday, March 14, 2014

Into The Twilight Zone: Malaysian Airlines Flight MH-370

Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 has gone missing.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last week, you know that already.

Those longtime readers who are familiar with my military background know that I have some experience in looking for downed aircraft, and other things, lost at sea. Most Navy sailors do. If you spend any significant time at sea, sooner or later you’re going to be looking for missing airmen, foundering vessels, and men overboard. That is simply the terrible nature of the beast. As a former intelligence officer who directed and coordinated certain aspects of visual and electronic searches using shore, surface, and air assets, I perhaps have a bit more insight into this process than the average Sailor, but any person who spends time in the fleet know at least something about it. We’re trained that way.

Which is no doubt why people asked me about it. 

Much of what follows appeared on my Facebook page two days ago. That social media post was simply intended as a quick casual response to my Facebook audience in answer to queries about the missing airliner and the various conspiracy theories that have sprung up since the plane mysteriously disappeared from radar.  I hadn’t intended it to be an actual essay like the kind that typically appear here on Stonekettle Station. However, that simple Facebook post went viral, and continues to spread virally across the internet and various news media. It has been reprinted in a number of places, sometimes with permission and sometimes without, and I’ve been receiving offers to appear on various radio and TV shows to discuss my comments further. This amuses me and I’ve declined all such offers so far.

I apparently underestimated interest in this topic.

Nor did I realize just how utterly starved the public is for any reasoned counter to the raging and rapidly mutating conspiracy theories surrounding this strange event.  If you’re a member of the media, especially somebody who has the power to influence format and content, you might want to give that some hard thought – seems to me there just might be a vacant niche in the 24 hour news cycle for actual, non-hysterical, non-conspiracy laden, non-partisan, good old fashioned fact-based reporting.

But I digress.

Back to the missing jetliner:

On Saturday, March 8th, Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 with 239 passengers and crew onboard disappeared somewhere between Kuala Lumpur and Beijing.

A week later, the fate of the aircraft and the people onboard remains unknown. No wreckage, no debris, no trace of the aircraft or the people have been found.

Weird, man, weird. I mean, it's totally got to be alien space pirates or Langoliers or Dirty Dick Vader, right?

I mean, what else could it be, right?

Folks, I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that based on my experience with this sort of thing, we can safely rule out alien abductions and inter-dimensional rifts in the space time continuum. And I have it on good authority that Dick Cheney was home all night, nursing an acid stomach over Obama's reluctance to invade Russia.

Now, I suppose it's just, just, vaguely possible that the missing aircraft is parked on a secret jungle runway in Sumatra or Cambodia (or Bangor, Maine), hidden under camouflage netting, with the passengers and crew secured in an underground prison and its mysterious cargo now in the hands of a heretofore unknown shadowy cabal of international criminals with a really cool and evil acronym for a name. But until the Queen gets a coded message demanding 36 Billion British Pounds in gold bullion to be hand delivered by Sean Connery himself, let's just go ahead and label that Alternate Theory #007.

Most likely, and by "most likely" I mean the probability is approximately 99.999999999999%, the plane and its unfortunate passengers are scattered like confetti across a large portion of the seafloor under the Gulf of Thailand or the Andaman Sea.

Okay, Jim, I hear you ask in that long suffering tone you use when you’re convinced I’ll see reason if you repeat the bit about Obama and his Magic Negro Ray of Evil Chocolate Mojo just one more time, if the plane went into the ocean why can't they find the wreckage? Huh? What about that?

The search and recovery teams haven’t found the (presumed) wreckage of MH370, because the earth is a damned big place.

Nowadays, largely due to advances in air travel and ubiquitous instant on-demand broadband global communication, many people seem to think that we’ve conquered this planet. It appears that we humans inhabit every nook and cranny from the deepest ocean rift to the highest mountaintop and beyond right up into orbit, and there is nowhere left for a single human to hide, let alone some lost place for a large airliner to crash and its location not to be instantly tweeted and instagrammed and Facebooked to every corner of the globe. But it only appears that way.

Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately depending on your point of view, that is simply not even close to true.

The world and especially the sea are vaster than you can imagine unless you've travelled across it, inch by inch and mile by mile – and maybe not even then.

If the plane fell into the ocean, which is the most likely scenario, even when you know exactly, and I mean exactly, where to look, it is still extremely difficult to find scattered bits of airplane or, to be blunt, scattered bits of people in the water.

And yes, I mean exactly that: scattered bits of people. 

A comment in the Malaysian Times, which reposted my Facebook comments without permission, boggled that I would say such a thing, scattered bits of people. But that is how it is. When an airplane hits the water at high speed, it might as well be hitting a slab of concrete. Ditto if it comes apart at altitude, from explosion or structural failure, aerodynamic forces tear the airplane to pieces fairly quickly and what ends up in the water is scattered bits. Bits of plane, bits of cargo, bits of people. Most of which is burned and torn and unrecognizable to the untrained and inexperienced – which is why crowd-sourcing the search and rescue process is likely to be unhelpful.

Over two and a half decades as a navy sailor, I've spent many days searching for lost aircraft and lost human beings in the unforgiving ocean.  Even if you think you know where the bird went down, the winds and the currents can spread the debris across hundreds or even thousands of miles of ocean in fairly short order. No machine, no computer, can search this volume, you have to put human eyeballs on every inch of the search area. You have to inspect every item you come across, every scattered bit no matter how small – and the oceans of the world are full of flotsam, jetsam, debris, junk, trash, crap, bits, and pieces. Often neither the sea nor the weather cooperates, it is incredibly difficult to spot an item the size of a human being in the water, among the swells and the spray, even if you know exactly where to look - and the sea conditions in this part of the world are some of the worst, especially this time of year. And again, to be blunt, after a few days, a human body and a waterlogged tree stump are nearly indistinguishable from each other, all you see is a dark wet lump in the water – if you see anything at all – and to find out which is which you’ve got to put a boat over the side of the ship and go look at it in person.

Yeah, but what about a fuel slick, we should be able to see that, right? That would be huge, impossible to miss, right?

Again, you just don't understand how big the ocean is.

A fuel slick from an airplane this size, assuming the fuel hit the sea in one mass and wasn't vaporized into an aerosol by break-up of the aircraft at 30,000 feet, might cover, what? a square mile? Probably much less.

A standard search area, a rectangle 50 miles wide by 200 miles say, along the airplane's flight path encompasses ten thousand square miles - every inch of which has to be searched by the Mark 1 MOD 0 human eyeball. If you fly over it in an airplane, that’s like looking out the window for an object the size of a man, or smaller, over a distance equal to three and a half trips between San Diego, California and Bangor, Maine.

But it’s much worse than that.

The search area now covers more than two hundred thousand square miles. That’s 200,000 square miles, and more.

That’s like driving the distance from earth to the moon, looking out the windows hoping you don’t miss scattered bits of debris that may be no larger than a pack of cigarettes.

Starting to get the picture?

And yes, a fuel slick is maybe much bigger than the rest of the debris, but we're not talking thick heavy bunker oil, a big black sludgy stain on the surface of the sea.  No, we’re talking about high grade light fuel, like the kind burned in commercial jet turbines. Jet fuel evaporates quickly. Slicks are broken up by wave action and wind. And in heavy seas the sheen of oil on water is nearly impossible to spot. There's a very finite amount of time for finding a fuel slick on the surface of the ocean, assuming that one even exists, that time is past for Flight 370.

Yeah, but how come they don't know exactly where it is? Don't we track all airplanes via radar?

No. And certainly not over the oceans between countries or even over remote territory like northern Canada or the Gobi Desert or undeveloped areas of Africa, Central America, and Mexico.  Hell, if we could track every plane in detail, the US and other countries wouldn’t have so much trouble with airborne drug smugglers, would we?

Commercial Air Traffic Control radar systems don't work the way you think they do, at least not exactly, and not all of the time. What Air Traffic Controllers see on their screens depends on where they are and what their particular job is.  Near an airport, the images are usually very accurate and in real time, but out away from those concentration points things aren’t quite so clear. Why? Money mostly. Ironclad coverage takes money and lots of it. And it’s not practical in a lot of places. It’s damned hard to build and man a radar tower in the middle of the ocean, or the jungle, or the Arctic. Oh, it can be done, and has been. I’ve been stationed in places so remote you wouldn’t even believe they exist, Shemya Island at the far tip of the Aleutian Islands for example, we built radars there and in even more harsh and distant places during the Cold War – but those were military systems and the cost is astronomical.  There are other constraints such as International cooperation, or the lack thereof, and limited and widely mixed technologies, some modern some dating back decades. And so on.

Well, Okay, but you mentioned military radar systems, how come the military wasn’t tracking the plane?

Most military radar isn't concerned with commercial air traffic on standard routes flying at 30,000+ feet. The skies are full of jetliners. Most just appear as a contact on a tracking scope. A blip. Since commercial flights are regular and known and their schedules are public knowledge, those blips are predictable and expected. They’re watched briefly as they trundle along in a straight line across the sky, and are then ignored.

Military people are concerned with threats.

Threats typically move in a ballistic trajectory, or a flat fast powered arc, or much closer to the surface moving in patterns that a trained radar operator recognizes as a suspicious contact. 

Military radar records might be helpful in figuring out what happened, but unless Flight 370 was behaving like a threat while passing through somebody's radar envelope, it's unlikely that anybody would notice or bother to identify it. And so those recordings will have to be analyzed, and the hundreds of contacts will have to be sorted out just to determine if MH370 even appeared on their scopes. Also military people charged with defending their airspace don't like showing people from other countries their radar systems, and for damned good reasons, so it's going to take some time to get those records.  It's going to be a while before a complete search those recordings can be done.

Sure, Okay, but what about the ringing phones?

You ever call a cell phone that was turned off? Ever call somebody and it goes straight to voicemail, but you know the phone is active and the other person has call waiting? You ever call somebody, their phone rings and rings and rings and rings and then they finally answer and when you ask, the guy on the other says his phone only rang one time? 

Folks, you hear ringtones even when the phone you’re calling isn’t physically ringing because the cellular network doesn’t want you to hang up while it tries to connect the circuit. Minutes equal money, if you hang up, if your call isn’t connected, the phone company is out profit.  So, they send you a ringtone while the systems looks for the phone you want.  If the phone doesn't respond immediately the network doesn't know if the device is active but in an area of weak signal or limited connectivity or heavy congestion, or roaming out of network, or turned off.

Sometimes you get different behavior depending on what cell system you’re using, analog, second generation digital, 3G, LTE, GSM, and so on.

So, some networks send you a ringtone to let you know they’re working.

Some just give you dead air until they connect.

Some do both depending on programming and happenstance.  There's no standard, even in heavily regulated North America, and sure as hell not across the various countries of Asia. This isn't some big conspiracy, it’s no mystery, this is how the various evolving patchwork cell phone systems work. The information is widely available and you can test it yourself.

Claiming that "ringing" cell phones mean the plane is or was still intact just means that you're ignorant of how the technology works.

Yeah, but what if the plane was intact and underwater. The cell signals might penetrate water even if the people were dead or unconscious, so the phones could ring until their batteries wore out. That might account for the ringing after the plane was lost, right?

No. Wrong wrong wrong.

Take some science classes, radio wave physics for starters.

GPS and cell phones operate above the Ultra High Frequency (UHF) portion of the Radio Frequency spectrum, those wavelengths do not, repeat do not, penetrate water. Period. It doesn’t matter what you read, or what some conspiracy goof said on TV, it can’t happen. Physics is physics, it’s not magic, and the principles are very, very well understood.

Now just wait a damned minute, Jim, I hear you protest, don’t they have those giant radio transmitters that can talk to submarines underwater?

Yes. But those operate in a different wavelength. Very Low Frequency (VLF) and Extremely Low Frequency (ELF) radio waves can penetrate water to a significant degree, but you'd need a cell phone the size of large refrigerator/freezer and an antenna miles in length to use those frequencies and there is no way around that. Also, those frequencies are slow, it takes hours to send a few characters of text, they cannot be used for voice or cell phone communications. Period.

Yeah, but what about reports that the plane turned before losing contact?

What about reports that the plane’s computers continued to send engine performance data hours after last voice contact with the pilots?

What about reports that the 777 might experience cracks around an antenna mounting?

What about the pilots? What about the fake passports? What about this? What about that?

Look, that's what experts are for.

Search and rescue, forensic crash investigation, fault analysis of complex systems, anti-terrorism investigation, air traffic control, all of these things are complicated, they require experience and training and years of education.  Just because you read some stuff on World Net Daily or on Facebook or heard it from the guy in the cubicle next to yours, doesn’t make any of those people experts.

Investigation and analysis takes time, if it was easy and obvious, anybody could do it.

And that's what's taking so long. Maybe the plane turned around, maybe it didn't. Maybe the cabin lost pressure, suddenly or slowly. Maybe the plane exploded at altitude. Maybe it augered in. Maybe maybe maybe. At the moment, nobody knows anything. Period.

Every single person on the planet in this information saturated age should damned well know by now that initial reports are going to be conflicting, contradictory, confused, and just plain wrong.

That confusion is not evidence of some cover up, or even something unusual. This isn’t some big conspiracy, it is unfortunately the nature of the situation. It's perfectly normal and it happens all of the time and it always has and you know it.

Every single human being who lives in the Information Age should understand in their bones that every Joe Shit The Ragman who comes along just might not know what the hell he's talking about, but that doesn't stop him from getting on the TV or the Internet and speculating away. It’s human nature to fill up the unknown with nonsense, and you should be smart enough to recognize that and demand proof and evidence and fact.

Conspiracy theories aren't about the truth, they're about the conspiracy theorist.

Wait for the official word and for the sake of Dread Cthulhu and your sanity, stop listening to TV pundits and World Net Daily. News media has to fill up bandwidth, and they will with whatever drooling idiocity that comes along, but you don’t have to listen to it and you certainly don’t need to go around repeating it. 

It's unusual for a plane to vanish nowadays, yes, especially for a large modern aircraft, but that doesn't mean it has to be the plot of a Stephen King novel, or Ian Fleming for that matter.  Ships, planes, people have vanished before. It happens. It used to happen a lot. They fall into the sea or into the remote jungle or the empty desert and are lost for months, sometimes years and even decades.

The world grows ever smaller, but it is still a vast, vast place, there are plenty of dark holes beyond the reach of technology for things to drop into and vanish for a while. 

I have no idea what happened to this airplane, but the difference between me and the media is that I’m not afraid to admit it.

Again, that's what experts are for, let them do their jobs. Sooner or later, the plane or its wreckage will be found, eventually we'll know the reason why. Mechanical failure, accident, weather, human error, terrorists, or even time-travelling kidnappers from a dystopian future. Sooner or later, you'll know.

Yes, it's hell on the families who wait for news of the their loved ones, but hysteria, wild speculation by the media, and conspiracy theories from the internet sure as hell aren't helping.

This isn't CSI or an episode of 24, sometimes you don't get answers in 60 minutes with time out for piss breaks and a snack.

Act like a rational adult and deal with it.

170 comments:

  1. I would love to hear a talking head say, "We have no news about the plane. You want news about planes? Go watch Fantasy Island reruns."

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    1. Amen to this!

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    2. Unless you're the Boston Blob: http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/ideas/brainiac/2014/03/an_mit_expert_o.html

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  2. Last sentence....ACT not AT. Thank you for some common and intellectual reasoning.

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  3. It really is mind blowing what the media will spill/spit/drool out, even if they have NO real information.

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    1. "We can do the Innuendo,
      Is the head dead, yet?"

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    2. "Bubble Headed Bleach Blonde comes on at 5..."

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    3. Especially if they have no information.

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    4. We can dance and sing
      When it's said and done we haven't told you a thing
      We all know that Crap is King

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  4. I feel just a little be ashamed to say I look forward to the nut jobs posting with their "hidden truths" because, while those perpetrating the conspiracy will tell you all media, every major network, newspaper and/or media conglomerates are kept tightly under control. While these folks can control the big boys they sadly are completely baffled by Youtube and Facebook- nope just not able to figure out how to stop the spread of the truth there. Apparently a 40 year old man, sitting in his underwear in mom and dad's basement, posting to Youtube is beyond their reach AND he is able to discover the truth without even having to go through the indignation of putting pants on and going out in public to discover these truths.

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    1. Lol...looking forward to it too.Any way thanks for the science.Btw Jim,smart move staying away from Fox,they're beneath you.

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  5. Thanks so much for your reasoned response on why it is so difficult to find a missing aircraft, or ship, or person. Even aircraft that disappear over land, with a well defined flight plan, knowledge by air traffic controllers when they lost contact - these airplanes can be missing for years also, until a hiker or someone stumbles upon it. I love the voice of reason!

    I generally just ignore the news stories unless/until the story becomes real, ie: based on reality, not weird theories. So many of the newscasts, even on the mainstream media, is full of false and misleading information.

    Again, thanks for sharing your professional knowledge with us and keeping it sane!

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  6. Glad to know I'm not the only one who remembers Millenium ( http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0097883/ )

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    1. Please, Ewan, if you're going to reference Millennium, reference the book by John Varley!
      http://www.amazon.com/Millennium-John-Varley-ebook/dp/B00AG07ENA/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1394840938&sr=1-1&keywords=john+varley+millenium

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    2. Indeed. Given a choice between Holllllywood and an SF writer--especially one as good as Varley--always go with the writer. Lord knows they get little enough respect...

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    3. Well, from what he says, John Varley was somewhat involved with the movie's development. For what it's worth, he thinks it's a piece of shit too.

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  7. One of my favorite theories on disappearances, I think from the Burmuda Triangle mostly, is massive methane bubbles rising from the sea floor that will displace the water surrounding entire ships (causing them to just drop off into the ocean), or the air around aircraft causing them to immediately stall and plummet to the sea below. While I'm not saying that has any application here, I think it's important for all of us to remember that there are still natural events that we haven't figured out yet, and I guess for us to remember that we've been spoiled over the last two decades with instant information; that's no excuse for arguments from ignorance though. I'm only 26 and I realize this (though as a rationalist, I guess that's my MO) and the fervor surrounding this [possibly] tragic event is getting ridiculous; but then again, this IS the internet...

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    1. I LOVE your giant methane bubble explanation. I'm going to make frequent use of it. I think I saw one just the other day, in Congress.

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    2. If so, why isn't it WORKING? Congress is still there. :-(

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    3. Ah, the old sea fart theory. I love that one.

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    4. Hey, John Barnes got a heckuva scifi novel out of it -- "Mother of Storms".

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  8. Needs more Shopkat. And Nazis. There's NO Nazis!

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  9. There is no conspiracy. Let me repeat that. THERE IS NO CONSPIRACY. The bottom line is that we don't yet know what happened, but the ocean is a BIG place in which to crash.

    Now, you (the feckin eejits) might want to argue with Jim, hell he's a FISHHEAD what the F does HE know about aviation and aeroplanes, right?

    Me on the other hand? Well you might want to listen (or maybe not). I am a retired ROYAL AIR FORCE pilot with more flying hours than you have had sliced bread (and someone who has actually operated in that piece of airspace). I don't know what happened but, as someone who has ACTUALLY flown around there I am not about to speculate.

    I have my suspicions but I will bet you a pound to a pinch of salt they are more considered than any of the manic crap spewing B/S currently doing the rounds on the interweb.

    Bottom line? Calm the FUCK down assholes and let those of us who actually know what we are doing to do our jobs.

    Alternatively, you can all get terrified by the Oglaroonians:

    "Natives to the small forest world of Oglaroon, Oglaroonians have taken what is a fairly universal trait among sentient species (to cope with the sheer infinite vastness of the universe by simply ignoring it) to its ultimate extreme. Despite the entire planet being habitable, Oglaroonians have managed to confine their global population to one small nut tree, in which they compose poetry, create art, and somehow fight wars. The consensus among those in power that any trees one might observe from the outer branches are merely hallucinations brought on by eating too many oglanuts, and anyone who thinks differently is hurled out of the tree, presumably to his death."

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    1. Deborah, as a SWO, I take the term FISHHEAD as a compliment :)

      ____________

      The rest of you,

      I happen to know that Deborah Evans was a RAF flight officer who flew missions in the kind of aircraft that is often tasked with exactly the kind of situation described here, i.e. hunting for objects in the water - only in her case, those objects tend to shoot at you instead of waving for help.

      You don't have to listen to me, but you should damned well listen to her, she knows wherefore she speaks. Seriously.

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    2. Thank you...just thank you for your smart, powerful, and insightful commentary. Oh, and may common sense continue to prevail.

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    3. Jim, as a 'Crab' (RN term for the RAF) and being part of the NATO Combined Forces all my life, I am sure you know how I feel about the USN. :)

      For the feckheads out there, the term FISHHEADS is an RAF term for professional members of the RN and USN.

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    4. Folks object to the term "body parts"? (I have not been following this story, so I am not that annoyed about it or actually interested in it -- until we get some actual expert report on it, in time.) My first though was wouldn't the body parts get eaten rather quickly by ever-hungry sea creatures large and small insofar as possible given whatever the body parts might be enclosed in? And other parts decomposing pretty quickly? Making only the non-human parts subject to finding? I know: grisly. Death is grisly. No way around that, although we do try hard.

      Thank you both for an excellent dose of good sense + experience. So rare these days. Could you comment on the Palin hoax next?

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    5. Deborah Evans, "let those of us who actually know what we are doing to do our jobs."

      I for one am totally relieved that there are people like you and Mr. W out there doing the jobs so many of us wouldn't or couldn't do. The least we fecking eejits can do is thank you for your service and sit by and wait for the facts.

      I got a great laugh from the Oglaroonian story, thanks.

      bd

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  10. We learned that unlike United Airlines, this airline didn't upgrade the subscription to the Boeing aircraft systems satellite data feed. I remember when United airlines maintenance guys helped figure out the problems with a plane in mid flight that had a control problem, saving most of the passengers and crew (incredible air crew as well) using similar data a few years ago. Anyway, it sure would have been nice to have those maintenance signals via Imarsat after the transponders went dark.

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  11. I can still recall watching CNN after the Loma Prieta earthquake; they showed the same burning building over and over and over. It seemed as if the entire city was on fire--thanks, CNN.

    Yes, the oceans are vast beyond our imaginations. We are all too impressed with the importance of Homo Sapiens. People are lost all the time, right here in the USA, and only bones are found much, much later.

    Thanks for the words of adult wisdom.

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    1. I recall coverage of that earthquake as well; I had been watching the World Series and Al Michaels was one of the broadcasters; he was able to correctly identify the area of town where the one burning building was (unlike CNN) and offer some reasonable commentary about transportation in San Francisco.
      Ally House / xenatuba, still suffering with Google account difficulties.

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    2. Yeah, the burning building in SF. They also kept showing a slab of the Bay Bridge upper deck laying at an angle, resting on the lower deck. I was TAD in Bethesda watching it on TV and realizing that--if not for TAD--I'd have been on the bridge or the Cypress freeway. As for MH370: a hypothesis and a rebuttal:

      http://www.wired.com/autopia/2014/03/mh370-electrical-fire/

      http://www.slate.com/blogs/future_tense/2014/03/18/mh370_disappearance_chris_goodfellow_s_theory_about_a_fire_and_langkawi.html

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  12. Thanks for the expanded version with continued well-constructed responses to the questions (and theories) people pose. I would have commented on your FB, which I just started following, but this seemed just as easy. Thanks again for the thought put into this

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  13. A very small nit to pick, but most people say AN item, not A item. (roughly halfway down, IIRC)

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  14. I really am sorry but it's a particular pet peeve of mine. In the phrase, "there's plenty of dark holes beyond the reach of technology", it should be "there're plenty of dark holes". It's become a common mistake which makes me crazy on a daily basis. Just nitpicking and only because my father was an English teacher. Great post, Jim.

    Pam in PA

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    1. This was originally a couple of lines on Facebook. Much more casual form and when I rewrote it for publication here, I missed a number of grammatical errors.

      I hate that error too, thanks for pointing it out. I fixed it.

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    2. Just wondering if this is similar to: "the fact of the matter is..." which I think should be "the fact is..." - maybe it is just me, but this phrase drives me nuts!

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  15. "Every single human being who lives in the Information Age should understand in their bones that every Joe Shit The Ragman who comes along just might not know what the hell he's talking about, but that doesn't stop him from getting on the TV or the Internet and speculating away. It’s human nature to fill up the the unknown with nonsense, and you should be smart enough to recognize that and demand proof and evidence and fact."

    This deserves a media award, or something.

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    1. I nominate Jim Wright for the "Anchor of Reason on the Internet - 2014" award.

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    2. That award would have higher value if the competition for it weren't so abysmal.

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  16. On September 3, 2007, Steve Fosset's light airplane failed to show up at home. This was a small light aviation aircraft with a limited range, flying over land, so there was not a lot of impediments to searches. Yet months of searching both by CAP and by volunteers on land found nothing. It was not until over a year later, on September 29, 2008, that a hiker accidentally found Fossett's identification cards in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California, and the crash site was discovered on October 1, 2008 based on speculation about how far and what distance animals could have dragged remains to get the cards to that point.

    And this was on land. With no ocean waves breaking things up. The airplane was still smashed into fairly small pieces when it smashed into the mountainside, and still pretty much undetectable from the air. It took searchers on the ground backtracking animal trails from the point the ID was found to actually locate the crash site.

    I don't even want to think about the difficulties of doing that sort of thing in the ocean...

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    1. Absolutely correct. Cause unlike the Sierras, water moves around a bit. And last I heard, it's tough to track a shark. Morbid? Yes. True? Yes. It's a tough world. Tommy D

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  17. I think there usually isn't enough national or international news to fill up 168 (24 x 7) hours a week, every week. So the cable network have to run fluff, or crankery, and they usually run lots of both.

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    1. Exactly. How the hell else would the likes of Sarah Palin or Justin Beiber get their mugs on the Telly News?

      Thanks for the insight, Mr W. Excellent perspective as usual.
      bd

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    2. Then they'd have to report on Venezuela or mountaintop mining or tar sands ponds or coal mine retaining pond failure.

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  18. Didn't notice this one until a commenter copied it: fill up the the unknown - one 'the' is enough.

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    1. See? Now I think you're having way too much fun finding the errors :)

      Thanks, it's fixed.

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    2. I thought it might just have been Raven's error until I saw the quotes...

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  19. " ... there just might be a vacant niche in the 24 hour news cycle for actual ... fact-based reporting." Closest one gets is NPR, with the PBS News Hour for round-up and a little bit of deeper discussion. A very sad situation, indeed. Good to have another Voice of Sanity out there, though. (That'd be you, Jim.)

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  20. I always read your essays with interest and relish. (And they are generally more on point and sensible than anything that had occurred to me.) Thank you for for your excellent writing, and for sharing your expertise.

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  21. Wait, wait. You're trying to tell us that this plane is not, due to a sudden shift in the Earth's magnetic field and a transference of the Bermuda Triangle to the opposite side of the globe, now sitting parked next to five perfectly-intact TBM Avengers in the Wizard of Oz's hangar?

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  22. " seems to me there just might be a vacant niche in the 24 hour news cycle for actual, non-hysterical, non-conspiracy laden, non-partisan, good old fashioned fact-based reporting." AMEN! Another excellent post. Thank you

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  23. We've halfway become accustomed to the idea that space is big, and that the world is small (and has shrunk). It's when one does something like drive the length of the Al-Can, or across the vast open desert of Australia... or sails across an ocean... that one gets one's nose really rubbed in just how damned big the Earth is. Not on a scale that anyone looking at the solar system would approve of, but for wee, tiny, poo-flinging apes such as ourselves, it's really, really, really big.

    Most of us can lose important crap in our homes for days, or weeks, or months, or years. That's in a semi-ordered, familiar space that's just a few square meters.

    Finding an aircraft that's almost certainly smashed into unrecognizable bits, on the sea floor or in a jungle, in a circular region that's measured in thousands of kilometers in diameter... is going to take a while. And a lot of work. And a bit of fortune.

    Those who think there's some vast conspiracy at work to hide it should be beaten in public with nerf bats, and laughed at.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've lost important crap on my DESK - a 3'x5' rectangle that is, as a rule, ruthlessly organized. Losing stuff on an entire planet? That's dead easy! After all, look at all the common sense we've lost...

      Delete
  24. If the success of this article (by being so clear and helpful in a sea -- no, ocean! -- of nonsense) means you must write about it again, before actual info is identified, it might be interesting to compare this missing plane with the missing plane of JFK Jr, re location and criss-cross info routinely available, resouces, etc. Because many of us non-aviation people got somewhat familiar with the issues during that long search.

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  25. Interesting that you mentioned the ELF sub communications systems. I found out at his retirement dinner that the West Coast version of that device was designed by my father. (At least the original version, I don't know if it was upgraded since.) He was the chief Electrical Engineer at Mare Island for 12 years. He never told us what he was doing at work because most of it was classified.

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  26. The last work cruise I was on, we accidentally dropped an instrument overboard. It was about 2 feet long and 6 inches wide. The water was about 60 m deep. The seas were glass calm. The boat was anchored, and the instrument went down near the anchor. We didn't move all night. The next morning was sunny, clear, and 70 degrees. The divers couldn't find it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sea monkeys took it. Sweartagod. ROFL

      Delete
    2. Sea Monkeys? No, it was the armored cave spiders! Why else would they be armored? And they were just discovered! Coincidence? I think not.

      http://www.scienceworldreport.com/articles/13509/20140317/new-species-of-cave-dwelling-armoured-spiders-discovered-in-china.htm

      Bruce

      Delete
  27. "Yes, it's hell on the families who wait for news of the their loved ones, but hysteria, wild speculation by the media, and conspiracy theories from the internet sure as hell aren't helping."
    Having lived through a very short and yet, somehow, years long 24 hour wait to hear whether a plane with a family member on it had crashed (yes, it did) and whether there were fatalities ( yes, including my family member) , I have enormous sympathy for those who have family and friends on this disappeared plane.
    And, damn straight, all the horseshit speculating is of no help to those folks.
    Waiting for months for a formal declaration as to cause was hell and whatever happens with this one and whether it takes weeks, months, or years to find out it will be hell for those affected .
    It may well be utterly human to want to know what happened ASAP so plans /strategies/whatever can be made to avert a similar problem but making shit up doesn't forward that goal one bit. And all too often people don't pay any real attention when a matter is finally settled sensibly when it starts with all this wild speculating .
    As regards the reality of finding body parts , friend of mine died in the PSA Flight 182 collision with a Cessna 172 in 1978and another friend was on the ground when the crash occurred:
    "The accident was notable for the carnage it created. Only a few of the bodies were found recognizable and intact. First responders on the scene found pieces of bodies scattered throughout the area, including on rooftops and against trees, and gore splattered on walls. A police officer at the scene said that "there were no bodies to speak of - only pieces. One alley was just filled with arms, legs, and feet... I was no stranger to dead bodies, but I wasn't ready to see the torso of a stewardess slammed against a car.... The heat of the fires and the sun made the whole scene surreal. We couldn't drink enough water. All around us was the stench of kerosene and burning flesh. We did our job by rote, locating the pieces so the SWAT team could mark the spot and cover the body parts"

    I was young enough then to engage in a lot of magical thinking for the weeks it took to have a formal declaration that W died in that crash. It was so hard to think of him gone and tempting to think maybe he didn't really get on that plane... well, excepting for the part where no one could find him afterwards and no one, including his wife, heard from him. In the end , it simply had to be accepted that though there wasn't a body to speak of to verify it all, W died in that crash.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. apologies. I forgot attribution of the quote above
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PSA_Flight_182#Accident

      The description squares with that of friend on the ground working as a first responder.

      Delete
  28. "said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief the media. The official said that hijacking was no longer a theory."—LA Times/AP.

    "The head of the investigation into the missing Malaysia Airlines plane has denied any conclusive evidence of hijacking and said it was just one of a number of lines they're looking at."—Telegraph

    Oh, well. Maybe we'll know more in the morning.

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  29. Latest news is back on hijacking theory- communications systems purposely disable by someone.

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  30. I'll never meet you, I'll probably never read the rest of your blog but thank you. Your final line on here, your post on December 7th and your description of what personality it takes to be a Chief Warrant Officer have just helped a fuck load. Thank you again, Sincerely Daniel, Christchurch, New Zealand.
    Oh and as a side note - my partner works in aviation traffic control and safety and a) you're entirely right and b) the hijack theory is the only other one that makes sense as apparently this would be a very simple thing to achieve if you have a basic understanding of how the aviation world works.

    ReplyDelete
  31. The trouble these days is that reasonable, professional people with expertise get fuck all listeners.
    Apropos du rein Jim, did you see the tiny story about project loon down here in little old new Zealand? A bunch of genius google engineers decided to launch helium balloons for mesh Internet connectivity from the southern alps and float them to south America. Seeing as the flight altitude was one thousand feet the southern ocean ate them all right quick. I wonder what your advice might have been, had they chosen to take it...
    Keep up the good work brother.

    ReplyDelete
  32. When I was a young teen I dove off a diving platform into a pond. Wearing my glasses. (I'm very nearsighted. I almost never take off my glasses.) The water knocked them off my face. The water there was about 8 feet deep and very murky. The bottom of the pond was covered with stones, bottles, cans, and mud. Didn't matter that I knew pretty exactly where I jumped from, where I entered the water, and what area of the pond the glasses were likely to be found in. There was no finding them. The water was too murky, the bottom was too littered and muddy, I could only swim along the bottom groping for just so long. Jet aircrafts look too big to lose to puny humans. But oceans are much bigger than that pond, and it could have gone down anywhere in a very large area. People need to stop imagining lifting a child's toy airplane out of a bathtub of clear water, and start imaging swimming a muddy murky pond bottom looking for a lost pair of glasses or wedding ring.

    ReplyDelete
  33. It amazes me that people who I know to be generally smart folks are so quick to jump at the most improbable theories. Probably theories in this case are accident or hijacking. Logical. Improbable theories are coverup of the crash and/or cover-up of a hijacking and even, Obama has spying gear to cover every inch of the globe and could find it if he wanted. Urg.....

    Thank you for being a voice of reason.

    ReplyDelete
  34. While I am generally not a fan of conspiracy and wacky theories about things that have straightforward and normal explanations, I have been bothered by one thing since the first moment I heard it. The transition (or more precisely the failure to transition) from Malasia control to HoChiMinh City. United Airlines puts Air to Ground radio on channel 10 on many flights and I have listened to this transition hundreds of times.

    It usually goes something like : " MH370, Malasia centre, contact HoChiMinh City control on 119.2, good day" "MH370, HoChiMinh City, 119.2, thank you good day" (Brief Pause while they switch radio channels) "HoChiMinh City Control, MH370, Fl 350, heading 10, 580 Kts, " "MH370, maintain course and speed" "MH370 Roger, maintain course and speed, over"

    The first half of that happened, but the second half didn't. It could very well have been the exact moment something failed, but it is also the perfect time to slip away, Malay control has dropped you, HoChiMinh City isn't really watching you yet, if you change course and Malay Centre sees it, they will assume that Vietnam told you to...

    ReplyDelete
  35. As a Navy man myself I can speak to how hard it is to find things in the ocean. I was on a sub so I never participated in a search and rescue, but I did have to help track a man overboard. We were doing a HUMEVAC off the coast of Kodiak Island when a wave swept one man overboard. Now, this was in February, and the seas on even a nice day off the coast of Alaska are terrible. Our lookout couldn't even get a visual and I had to hop on the scope and search for several minutes to get a visual. Even from a vantage point higher than my lookout, i only had a partial visual on the guy as he bobbed up and down in the waves. As hard as it was to spot a guy just a few hundred yards away, wearing bright orange, I cannot imagine the difficulty in searching thousands of sqaure miles of ocean looking for debris.

    ReplyDelete
  36. Stuart, that appears likely. From the Malaysian PM's statement today: "Based on new satellite information, we can say with a high degree of certainty that the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) was disabled just before the aircraft reached the East coast of peninsular Malaysia. Shortly afterwards, near the border between Malaysian and Vietnamese air traffic control, the aircraft’s transponder was switched off."

    "However, based on this new data, the aviation authorities of Malaysia and their international counterparts have determined that the plane’s last communication with the satellite was in one of two possible corridors: a northern corridor stretching approximately from the border of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan to northern Thailand, or a southern corridor stretching approximately from Indonesia to the southern Indian ocean. The investigation team is working to further refine the information."

    Gaw! That's so much area.

    I wonder if, at least, this will finally persuade the commercial aviation services to adopt tracking technology.

    ReplyDelete
  37. Aaaannndd today - this : http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/200910-expert-us-knows-a-lot-more-than-its-saying-on-missing-plane
    It makes one wonder if what he actually said was something like: "Well, it is remotely possible that it was highjacked & maybe we should check nearby runways" or did he say, "Ook! Ook! Nazis!"
    Obviously, I have not watched the show referenced.

    Bruce

    ReplyDelete
  38. The ACARS was "disabled", then x-ponder was "switched off"? Bullshit. Says who? Pure speculation!
    An electrical system failing over a period of time could have done that. A fire could have done that. Whoever reported it in that manner is implying something (conspiracy) that may or may not have happened. This is not reporting, it's guessing, marinated in hysteria sauce. Take an antacid, or you'll get brain-burn.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Do either the ACARS or transponder systems send a signal when turned off to indicate human intervention, rather than a simple power outage (or physical destruction)?

      Delete
    2. Says the investigation team. "Early this morning I was briefed by the investigation team – which includes the FAA [US Federal Aviation Administration], NTSB [US National Transportation Safety Board], the AAIB [Uk Air Accidents Investigation Branch], the Malaysian authorities and the acting minister of transport – on new information that sheds further light on what happened to MH370."

      You could, you know, have clicked the link to find out.

      Delete
    3. You're right; sorry. My point was that if there isn't actual evidence that the two systems were "turned off" or "disabled" (implying purposeful action), then the statement is speculative, or "guessing" as we in the used dog food industry prefer to call it.

      Delete
  39. Can't help but wonder how many commenters signed into their favorite peanut galleries the last couple days as "Joe Shit the Ragman"...

    ReplyDelete
  40. This is so true: "It’s human nature to fill up the unknown with nonsense, and you should be smart enough to recognize that and demand proof and evidence and fact."

    Also true: sometimes human nature tries to fill up the known with nonsense. Thanks for your clear, rational writing.

    ReplyDelete
  41. I think that this trope pretty accurately describes the whole situation, but Wild Mass Guessing would be a better name for the phenomenon.

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  42. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  43. Love this whole stream. "Guessing, marinated in hysteria sauce".

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  44. Nazis! NAZIS I tells ya!!!!! In fact it's ummmm... ALIEN SPACE NAZIS!!!!! See when they wuz makin that secret Moon Base in the 40's --which NASA nuked during the Apollo missions btw, they found a big ole secret asteroid and madea second base on it cuz the Nazi psychics NEW that the moon base wouldbe nuked a coupla decades. since then they had gots so many years --hang on, gotta take my shoes off I'm runnin out of fingers-- ...., ummmmm, PLENTY of time to prefect an indivisble laser death ray which they can only just now use since the gots the controll codes of all the satellites and spacey telescopes from their RUSSIAN COMMIE PALS during the Snowden torture!!! an they are now USING IT TO TAKE OUT AIRPLANES!!!!! dion't be surprised when HAARP suddenly goes UP IN SMOKE so the USs' main death ray machine won't be able to fight back when THE ALIEN SPACE NAZIS attack from the secret asteroid base!!!!! and OBAMA will hand over the nukular codes to his NAZI COMMIE OVERLORDS!!!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey Jim. I love your writing, and read your posts a lot. This is my first time commenting. The whole deal is so bizarre, and I have to wonder if we'll ever know what happened, especially if the plane's at the bottom of the Indian Ocean. A friend said this, which makes some sense: "So, everyone has an opinion about what could have happened to Malaysia Flt 370. Here is mine (after asking many questions to a former Boeing pilot): After takeoff the pilots had set trim to climb out. Then some sort of major electrical malfunction occurred which accounts for the loss of transponder and the other communications. When an electrical failure occurs, the relief valve which compensates for cabin pressure freezes in the position it was in when the elect failure occurred (which happened to be wide open allowing pressure to leave the cabin). There are alarms going off all over the cockpit. Both pilots became consumed with WTF was going wrong and trying to figure it out along with what to do about it. Meantime, the jet is still climbing and neither pilot has donned an oxygen mask (and that pressure valve is still wide open because of the elect failure). The oxygen masks drop in the back and the passengers put 'em on. The masks last for about 12 minutes. As the jet continues to climb the pilots pass out. No one is flying the plane. The oxygen runs out for the passengers and they pass out as well. The jet hits 45K feet and stalls, dropping until there is enough airflow over the wings for it to start flying again. When it regains flight it is pointed hard left of the original vector. It is still trimmed for climb, so up it goes. The next few changes in direction are due to turbulence. Finally it runs out of fuel and goes in to the water."

      Delete
    2. Except that does not fit with the flight profile as radar shows it, and it doesn't explain the calm communications it had with Air traffic control.

      Delete
    3. Indeed, the plane had already reached an altitude where the relief valve would be shut by the time that the pilots were communicating with ATC, and pressurization alarms would have been going off all over the place if it weren't. Clearly something happened *after* that communication. As for the Malaysian PM, clearly he either misunderstood what he was told by experts or is deliberately trying to protect the reputation of his airline, because there's no way of telling whether the transponder was turned off by manual intervention, by electrical fire, or by smacking into water. At the moment I'm adopting a wait and see attitude towards anything that non-aviation-experts say, including the PM of a small country in South Asia.

      Delete
  45. For what it's worth:

    The South China Sea is 1,350,000 square miles,
    the Gulf of Thailand is 320,000 square miles,
    the Andaman Sea is 230,000 square miles, and
    the Bay of Bengal is 838,000 square miles.

    That's an incredible amount of water.
    One really needs to know where to begin looking.

    ReplyDelete
  46. Ok. After listening to CNN all day, I have it figured out. The co-pilot was actually a space alien (co-author of the award winning cookbook, "To Serve Man," who happened to have a taste for Chinese food). He attempted to take over the plane, but ran into competition from the time-traveling kidnappers from that dystopian future. The conflict led to the entire plane, complete with passengers and space alien, being transported into the future where the two groups fight it out. At the end of the conflict (the time-traveling kidnappers win), the plane re-appears in present time, but due to spacial and temporal miscalculations due to "Daylight Savings Time," a ridiculous concept lost in the mists of time, the plane re-appears at Ground Zero on September 11, 2014. This gives rise to a new enthusiasm and credibility for the 9-11 conspiracy theorists, ultimately resulting in the dystopian future from which the time-traveling kidnappers came in the first place. (All rights reserved.)

    Prove me wrong!

    ReplyDelete
  47. I want to hear more about the ocean farts. Are they from whales?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Clathrates. Be afraid, be very afraid.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clathrate_gun_hypothesis

      Delete
  48. "Obama and his Magic Negro Ray of Evil Chocolate Mojo"
    Bee. Youtyful.

    ReplyDelete
  49. Heck you can get lost in the mountains of California and never be seen again.

    ReplyDelete
  50. Ummm Jim, is moderation still off? If so, the nutjobs seem to realize this is an island of sanity that they cannot penetrate. Nah. You must be moderating as usual. Occam's razor and all. Thanks for the sanity.
    Chandra in MO

    ReplyDelete
  51. This, today:
    http://www.stonekettle.com/2014/03/the-twilight-zone-malaysian-airlines.html

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ignore. Incorrect link.

      Delete
  52. Bad link. Sorry:
    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/mar/15/flight-mh370-malaysia-hunt-speculation

    ReplyDelete
  53. Speculation is now directed at the pilots as possibly flying the plane on a pre-planned route to somewhere other than Beijing. Sometime this week the NRA will propose supplying guns to airline passengers to shoot pilots who are acting odd. You saw it here first - Tommy d

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I saw it, Tommy D. A commenter on one of the NY Times articles was weeping copious tears because passengers aren't allowed to carry guns. (Since it was the Times, the spelling was better than on Yahoo.)

      Delete
    2. A bunch of armed, paranoid, and undertrained civilians sealed for hours in an enclosed, pressurized space dependent on aerodynamics to keep it from crashing to the ground in flames? Sure, that'll work well.

      Actually, the threat of free-for-all firefights erupting in major airports might be an incentive to improve airline service...

      Delete
    3. Bruce Banner quote: "Oh no. This is MUCH worse." Tommy D

      Delete
  54. This article so far the most logical fact I ever read. The rest all has their own speculation n theories which known uncertain.

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  55. I feel your pain, Jim. I work in aviation, and have been fielding quite a few questions about this topic as well.

    I'm trying hard not to speculate too hard when I give answers. Reading things like you just wrote, helps me out. I appreciate it.

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  56. I have said from the beginning that this aircraft was flown to Somalia or Yemen under the control of at least one of the crew--and that the CIA is well aware of it.

    No doubt the muddled information from the news media is by government intent and orchestrated to make it appear that the authorities haven't a clue.

    Meanwhile, the targeted search by drone and satellite goes on near every possible landing spot in Somalia and Yemen.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm sure glad we got to the bottom of that!

      Why didn't they just ask you in the first place and save everyone all that trouble? Also, as you have a great depth of insight concerning the inner circles of the CIA, can you tell me if they found my car keys? I've always suspected they have them, but I have no evidence.

      Delete
    2. That was the 81 Pinto? Your keys are in the mail.

      Delete
    3. No, it was a Vega. ah-HA!

      Delete
    4. First off I doubt that the plane was carrying enough fuel to fly to either one of those countries. Beiging is 2700 miles from Kuala Lampur. Yemen is 3711 miles. (Ain't Google grand?) While the 777 has a range of at least 5000 miles, most airliners do not max out their fuel load on every flight. They carry enough fuel to fly to their destination plus some extra to make sure they can divert somewhere else if needed. In other words, if they flew to Yemen or anywhere else they'd have been flying on fumes by the time they landed, if they even reached the destination.

      Then there's the problem with all the passengers and their mobile devices. You'd have to land the plane somewhere with a cell phone blocker or no service in order to have none of the passengers' phones pinging their location to the home service.

      Odds are, if someone in the plane did attempt to divert it somewhere, they didn't make it to their planned destination. It would take some pretty hefty planning to get that plane hidden where no one of the populace would notice it and hide all the passengers or their bodies. And why would they do such a thing as, if they really wanted to get hold of a plane like that for some nefarious scheme, they could have purchased one and saved all the trouble.

      Delete
  57. My head hurts and I'm trying not to jump into ridiculous inane uninformed yet resolutely confident opining going on near me. I just want to thrust my phone at them and implore them to read your piece, JW. This after trying to discuss 9/11 with a "Truther"(sic) who evidently has no education at all in physics, engineering, or the behavior of fire fed by fuel in a big funnel of air. Head. Hurts. Please keep up the great work. And can I please have a chocolate mojo milkshake?

    ReplyDelete
  58. Did someone say do the math?

    For what it's worth:
    The South China Sea is 1,350,000 square miles,
    the Gulf of Thailand is 320,000 square miles,
    the Andaman Sea is 230,000 square miles, and
    the Bay of Bengal is 838,000 square miles.

    That's an incredible amount of water.
    One really needs to know where to begin looking.


    That's 2,738,000 sq mi.
    A 777 is approx .00016 sq mi*. The math, she is done.


    *In one chunk, which, assuming it went down, even without an explosion, is highly unlikely.

    ReplyDelete
  59. I keep reading about some new supposed clue each time I condescend to read about it. Are they really finding new info? or it it just another part of the spectrum of speculation? I mean the supposed conclusion that the plane changed course? That the two communication systems were turned off at different times? That military radar info was just revealed, offering new info? I guess there were other factoids presented the last few mornings.

    Is any of it real and new? Or is it just the press remasticating it?

    ReplyDelete
  60. What you do so well Jim is to step back away from the fray, look at all angles, let it soak a bit, re-asses and then put forth your articles in a clarity and precision that has nearly gone extinct in the reporting world. Fact based or at least based on what the latest science or reliable statistics tell us.

    I commercial fish in Alaskan waters, have flown over 600 flights in my region of SE Alaska to Anchorage just in one job (not as a pilot). Add another 14 years in everything from Super Cubs, to rotor wing to the radial engine Otters. Between the work on the ocean and air, you are so right, our planet is still so vast that even the most educated mind cannot fathom it.

    Sadly, the clue-less masses operating in an environment so far removed from earths reality and so stupid-fied that they truly believe that this plane simply cannot disappear "not with today's technology". That technology like nothing in else in our history is both helping us as humans and destroying us. Its good stuff, but so were the old ways as well. You can bet the real experts working this case aren't going to be interviewed, they have way bigger priorities and work they are doing than the so called "expert" on MSN who just wants to dump their ego nut on TV. These real experts are certainly using the latest technology AND the tried and true non-technical means of decades past.

    The reliable New Zealander oil rig worker who witnessed a falling fire ball that fell for quite some time from high altitiude, at the right time mark and region is telling to me. Add the data transmitted from the Rolls Royce engines that logged a drop of nearly 40,000 feet in just over a minute. Jet A fuel at that altitude would not leave a trace after 35,000 feet of dilution. Add a plane moving at several hundred miles per hour in an atmosphere way below zero in temp that comes apart and yes, everything gets shredded, human tissue the most. Like yourself, I have participated in air searches on land and sea in Alaska. You rub your eye or blink twice too much and you unknowingly missed a small clue while moving.

    The laws of the land and sea on this earth will never be conquered by humans, no matter how connected or supposedly educated or advanced they are. A Coastal Brown Bear in my area will defend itself and kill any threat, or die trying despite the fact some idiot has a GPS, Mossburg 500 and Patagoochie gear on from head to toe. It simply doesn't matter. An idiot can be in some high tech, obscene version of a maritime vessel and end up vanishing in seconds w/o a trace from a rogue wave or some un-measurable weather micro cell that arrives and fades faster than we can process.

    As you said Jim, time will tell us what happened, statistics and probabilities factor heavy on this. The real history that will be wrote about this aircraft incident won't be the mystery of it's disappearance, if recorded accurately, it will be a history making event from its absolute sheer, dip-shitted and ill guided theories spewed forth by every Richard Cranium, who at this very moment as I type, are bloviating away on some airwave or keyboard.

    ReplyDelete
  61. The fact that there's been so LITTLE attention paid to the obvious and clear sea route to Somalia/Yemen shows that authorities don't want any attention there. That's the reason for all the muddled information. They want the terrorists to feel secure.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Guess you should tell the Israelis to go away, too.......they don't seem to think that Flight 370 is at the bottom of the sea. http://www.timesofisrael.com/israel-tightens-airspace-security-after-jets-disappearance/

      Delete
    2. Anonymous, Stonekettle Station is my property, I'll decide who goes away and who doesn't. Issue orders here again, and that will be you.

      Delete
    3. Well, worry no more: Courtney Love KNOWS what happened. I feel better already.

      Delete
  62. Sitka, the problem with your scenario is that the 40,000 or so foot change in altitude happened early in the flight--and subsequent contacts showed seven or more hours of flight thereafter.

    Is there an explanation for that conflict?

    It seems more likely that the climb to around 40,000 feet would be a premeditated action to kill the passengers. No other reason for this to be done.

    ReplyDelete
  63. I wish you would write an update. I am a total non-expert in all parts of this story, but I'm beginning to be interested in terms of seeing how it unfolds, what "new" data are made public, and of course at the end (when we know all are going to know) I'll be curious to separate the red herrings from actual useful data, and also identify which red herrings (or just stupid speculations) were tossed out deliberately or at random to delude or amuse us, the great unwashed.

    My interest now is just to see why it's unfolding as it is. I would love to hear an update from you: has anything changed? Or are the apparently "new" factoids bogus? or irrelevant?
    Please: separate the wheat from the (mostly) chaff for us now that a few days have passed.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. . . . and also the idea that the missing plane was following another 777 so close that it was not visible on the scans??

      . . . and what about fuel? How long can they fly?

      Delete
  64. I haven't been following this crap, so maybe this isn't new, but...God did it?
    Not aliens, not futurians, not terrorists, but the Big Sky Daddy that loves us all so much he kill all but eight of us and a boat full of critters that one time he got all mad and shit. Yeah, I gotta say that sounds like him...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. With this, CNN has totally and officially "Jumped the Shark." In a just universe, Don Lemon (the CNN anchor) and Brad Meltzer (of the "History" Channel, fergawdsake) would be banned from all further on-air discourse by reason of mental incompetence.

      Delete
  65. News from Chinese media.

    "A Malaysian official involved in the search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 has contradicted public claims from the Malaysian government by revealing that its military knowingly and continuously tracked the plane on radar for more than an hour after communications with ground control was severed in the early hours of March 8.

    The anonymous air force official told Chinese web portal Tencent that despite initial claims that they could not be certain, the Malaysian military knew very well that the plane they were tracking on radar was flight MH370, and followed it as it climbed above the Boeing 777's approved altitude of 45,000ft and took a sharp turn to the west before descending unevenly to 23,000ft on the approach to the island of Penang. The plane then climbed back to 35,000ft and headed northwest towards the Indian Ocean, with the final reading showing it above the tiny island of Pulau Perak in the Strait of Malacca at around 2.40am. "

    "Another Malaysian air force official told Tencent that flight MH370 could have flown west as far as Somalia..." http://www.wantchinatimes.com/news-subclass-cnt.aspx?cid=1103&MainCatID=11&id=20140317000100

    And......" "...it is common knowledge in the aviation industry that both Somalia and southern Mongolia are places that do not require government permission to perform a landing."

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  66. Maybe someone in the aviation field can answer this question. It is probably something obvious and simple, but I have long wondered: What benefit is derived from giving the pilot the ability to disable the I.D. transponder? ...and if there is a benefit, why is there not a separate transponder that cannot be disabled?
    Just seems like a completely unnecessary design feature. Do commercial airline pilots need to be able to, at times, go in to "stealth mode" for some reason?

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  67. Yes, they do. They switch off the transponder as part of the landing procedure so as not to clutter up the air traffic controller's screen with useless information.......so you could say they go into a "stealth mode" at that point.

    They also need to be able to shut if off in case of fire.......like if smoke starts coming out of something electronic--the first thing you want to do is shut it off.

    As to having a separate transponder that is always on and cannot be shut off........who knows? Maybe they'll devise something like that due to this incident.

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  68. "Yes, they do. They switch off the transponder as part of the landing procedure so as not to clutter up the air traffic controller's screen with useless information......"

    Not for us meteorologists - the transponder information is useful in descent (as it is ascent) to get a profile of the atmosphere's wind and temperature around the airport.

    We (KNMI, the Netherlands National Weather Service) use this actively *at present* in automated weather forecasting.

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  69. It may not be on descent, but after landing the huge clump of active transponders driving around and parked at a small place like ATL or ORD would be a mess for the ATC system to sort out.

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  70. Yes, it's after they're on the ground. No point in cluttering the screens. Air Safety trumps the weatherman. :)

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  71. Then why not just have the transponder go off when the landing gear is deployed, or any number of other approach systems are activated.
    To avoid having a cluttered radar screen for ground control? Really? Or fire control from electronic systems? That makes even less sense.

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  72. You'll just have to work that out with the FAA, Anny. :)

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  73. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/18/opinion/out-of-control.html?hp&rref=opinion

    Apparently, it is an issue of some contention:
    "The issue today is exactly as it was on 9/11. Pilots like their locations to be known — for ground assistance, and because the transponder warns other nearby planes of their course and altitude. Only a hijacker at the controls of an aircraft would want the transponder silent."

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  74. I keep coming back to this blog as one of the few voices of reason on this topic. It's starting to remind me of all the crazy conspiracy theories surrounding the ongoing situation at Fukushima. My husband is an engineer working in the nuclear energy sector for almost 20 years. You have no idea (actually, you probably do) what kind of insane babble he has had to endure on the subject of The Approaching West Coast (America) Nuclear Apocalypse. And it continues to amaze me that people will completely dismiss his reasoned statements arising from his expert knowledge of nuclear science, in favor of some unsourced article that mislabels diagrams in a play to monger just a little more fear of the situation. Just like the experts who are commenting on the missing airliner are being ignored right now. When did 'questioning authority' become 'dismissing expert knowledge and scientific fact because some ignorant shit thinks he knows it all'?

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    1. When did 'questioning authority' become 'dismissing expert knowledge and scientific fact because some ignorant shit thinks he knows it all'? Big Tobacco v. Cancer. Fossil Fuel Industry v. Climate change. Pesticides v. Water contamination and endocrine disruption. It's too hard to agree with experts...they use such big words! Ook ook!

      Delete
    2. It all traces back to one word: Creationism.

      Once you buy into that, the rest is easy.

      Delete
    3. I run into " . . dismissing expert knowledge and scientific fact . . " often, in social situations, where my knowledge in certain areas is regarded as buzz-kill, by folks who would much rather share - and perpetuate - mis-information and guesses, and crackpot theories (with zero evidence), than to actually hear a real, factual, answer to a comment/question that begins something like "I've always wanted to know [insert topic of supposed quest for knowledge] . . . . ".
      And this is from supposedly intelligent, well-educated folks.
      Apparently mis-information and ignorance is just toooo much more fun than reality.

      Delete
    4. It also has a whole lot to do with money. The right tends to discredit science in general because it so often presents compelling evidence that the short-term-profitable status-quo is dangerous, unhealthy, environmentally damaging, and/or unsustainable. And you're right, Jim, but don't get me started on Creationism. I taught non-majors intro biology for 13 years in a relatively small conservative city.

      Delete
    5. I did too. And for a while I would actually compare and contrast evolution with creationism, but I had to finally stop because the Christian students complained that I was making creationism look, um, WRONG!

      BWAAHAHAHA!

      April

      Delete
  75. This ex-pilot has a refreshingly simple explanation for the loss - and a couple of avenues to explore too.

    https://plus.google.com/106271056358366282907/posts/GoeVjHJaGBz

    On a more general point, what sort of changes (technical, political and economic) can reasonably be made to stop such an information vacuum after an aircraft loss again?

    OK, clearly the pilots need to be able to pull the breakers to kill systemwide power in the case of a fire (which shuts down comms and tracking kit). If it can be done in case of emergency, it can also be done as part of an act of malice. So, how about a totally self-contained device not powered from the aircraft's main systems?

    Some modern fly-by-wire aircraft already have a windmill that flips out in case of total power loss to keep vital systems powered - how about a pod on the rearmost extremity of the aircraft with a small impeller to power an active pinger?

    Such a device is completely independent of aircraft systems, contains no flammable batteries(!) and cannot really pose any additional risk to an aircraft to which it is fitted.

    Caveats: It stops working when the aircraft stops moving, and there is a limit to how much power one can draw in this parasitic way.

    As an extension to the basic concept, one could add a wide-angle camera that takes snapshots every few seconds and stores them on a huge SD card for later analysis - perhaps an accelerometer that switches into full video mode if it senses a major event.

    Quite apart from the human/emotional cost of 'not knowing', there are vast resources being used to find this aircraft and, if unsuccessful, the aviation industry and society at large potentially loses the opportunity to learn from a failure.

    Just a thought from a medical electronics tech with no aviation engineering expertise.

    Update - hmm, can't seem to get it to recognise my google ID. Ah well, I'm Dermot Dobson

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  76. More on transponders, in case somebody still needs info.

    From this news article: http://www.mprnews.org/story/2014/03/18/malaysian-jet-why-was-transponder-off?from=hp

    """• Sometimes a transponder malfunctions, giving out incorrect readings.

    • The device could have an electrical short or catch on fire. Pilots would want to shut it down rather than risk a fire spreading to the rest of the cockpit or airplane.

    • Pilots used to routinely turn off transponders on the ground at airports so as not to overwhelm air traffic controllers with so many signals in one location. That is increasingly less the case as pilots now use "moving map" displays that take the transponder data and show them the location of other planes on the ground, helping guide them around airports without mishaps.

    "As long as there are pilots, they'll be able to switch off systems," said Andrew Thomas, editor-in-chief of the Journal of Transportation Security."""

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  77. Apparently the turn from the scheduled course was done via a command to the autopilot which seems unlikely if there was a fire on board.

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  78. Exactly.

    And the course that was programmed in (at least as shown by the latest radar contacts revealed by Thailand) is a straight line toward Sri Lanka and the south tip of India.

    That's exactly where one would go to fly undetected around India and then northwest to the Somalia/Yemen area.

    Just sayin'.

    :)

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    Replies
    1. Read the article on the link posted above. The pilot who wrote that made a very good point that the turn took the plane directly toward the nearest runway that could have accommodated the plane in an emergency. He also pointed out that the oxygen supply in the plane is not meant to last that long. So the pilots succumb to smoke, the autopilot keeps the plane flying straight and level from that point until the fuel runs out. That puts the plane somewhere in the middle of the Indian Ocean.

      Delete
  79. Jim - best theory I've seen so far and the simplest. Some kind of emergency (fire/electrical) on the aircraft. Pilot changes course to nearest emergency landing strip available via autopilot. Emergency incapacitates flight crew. Aircraft maintains same course as long as it is airborne and eventually crashes.

    https://plus.google.com/app/basic/stream/z13cv1gohsmbv5jmy221vrfyiz3vdhbop04

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    Replies
    1. wvjohn, if you read the comments on your link you'll see that his theory was shot full of holes in the comments that followed (he was wrong on oxygen use, closest airport and a few other things).

      If you're on fire you don't set a computer course with a very gentle turn for a far away airport......you get DOWN as fast as possible. That plane can be landed in less than 3500 feet and in an emergency (just to get DOWN alive) it could be done in less. Almost any airport would do and ditching in the sea would be an option if the fire was bad enough to threaten to lead to a total loss of control.

      ANYWAY.......new reports today indicate that the course change was pre-programmed......meaning a pilot did it before takeoff or at some earlier time.

      As I said before--the direction of the turn put the plane on a heading for the south tip of India. That's exactly where you would go to fly undetected around India and then head northwest to Somalia or Yemen.

      BTW.......his claims are now being torn to shreds on CNN. His knowledge of aircraft is clearly outdated.

      Delete
    2. Hey VoxEphem - are you a commercial pilot?

      Delete
    3. You don't set a plane down at "the nearest airport". As the article states, the nearest airport WITH A LONG ENOUGH RUNWAY was the one the plane turned toward.

      Delete
  80. GaaaaH! I keep seeing posts all over the place elsewhere, by people who are certain that there's something fishy about not hearing from ANY of the 200+ cell phones on board.
    Like they assume the ocean is littered with cell phone transmission towers, AND/OR that cell phones have unlimited transmission range AND/OR that cell phone calls could somehow piggy-back off of the plane's inactivated systems.
    The stupid just never seems to stop.

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  81. wvjohn, if you read the comments on your link you'll see that his theory was shot full of holes in the comments that followed (he was wrong on oxygen use, closest airport and a few other things).

    If you're on fire you don't set a course for a far away airport......you get DOWN as fast as possible.

    ANYWAY.......new reports today indicate that the course change was pre-programmed......meaning a pilot did it before takeoff or at some earlier time.

    As I said before--the direction of the turn put the plane on a heading for the south tip of India. That's exactly where you would go to fly undetected around India and then head northwest to Somalia or Yemen.

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    Replies
    1. Vox, hit the "reply" button under the specific comment you're actually replying to - instead of the one at the end of all comments. That way the conversation is linked together instead of spread throughout the comment stream.

      Delete
    2. Vox, I discount anything that I hear on the news at this point as either speculation, misinformation, or nonsense. It contradicts itself regularly. The transponder was turned off before the last communication, the news says yesterday. Today the news says, "maybe not". One problem is that the news creatures are interviewing people who are more clueless than a creationist in a paleontology museum. The PM of a country is generally chosen for his political skills, not his engineering skills. Same thing with top generals. The likelihood of them being able to comprehend what they're being told by their subordinates -- if their subordinates are even telling them accurate information, often in Asian countries subordinates won't if the information would cause them to lose face -- is slim to none. Yet these are the people who are being interviewed by the press, because all of these people gravitate to cameras the way magnets suck up to steel and take up all the air.

      Was the autopilot programmed to make the turn before the plane took off? I have no idea. But the fact that some airhead on the news said so doesn't make it true, and the fact that this airhead was interviewing some *other* airhead who just happened to be wearing a military uniform saying he was a top general in the Trashcanistan Army doesn't make it true either.

      We'll know what happened when we find the plane and its black box. Not before. Until then, all we have is bullshit and speculation.

      Delete
    3. Maybe we won't find the plane at all. Maybe it will be found hidden in Yemen. Maybe it will turn up as a weapon in a terrorist attack.

      Israel takes that possibility seriously enough to have gone on high alert for a visit from this aircraft. I respect their ability to identify credible threats.

      When there's a mystery, people will try to solve it. That's just human nature. Those who choose not to play are welcome to their choice.

      Personally, I like to try to solve mysteries and I have the time now to Google the hell out of this to research it, so I'm enjoying the puzzle.

      Delete
    4. Vox, you are missing the one essential piece of information from Jim's essay, namely that in order to draw a valid conclusion, one must have data and not base one's results upon speculation. Computer programmers summarize it pithily as "GIGO, "garbage in, garbage out". You are speculating wildly based upon other people's speculation and unreliable information, i.e. mental masturbation. It may make you feel better, but you're just making a mess.

      Delete
    5. Nobody's been talking about VALID conclusions. It's all about theories. It's about trying to come up with a plausible scenario based on the information available. It's an educated guess.

      That available information is not all speculation, by any means.

      The fact that the plane was carefully and gently turned and last detected on a heading that would take it past the south tip of India has been verified by Thai military radar.

      The fact that that heading selected and programmed by the pilot is the heading that would be used to go to Somalia or Yemen and avoid detection is clear and indisputable.

      The TOTAL lack of floating debris or any sign of a crash is clear and indisputable even though areas where a plane was supposedly seen have been searched.

      It's also a fact that some sort of rare catastrophic incident happening at the EXACT moment of turnover from Malaysian ATC to Vietnamese ATC is simply not credible. The odds against it are astronomical.

      But....... that IS the exact time that criminal human intervention would happen.

      And where in the world would those human criminals take that aircraft? The flight couldn't be over land. It would have to be around the south tip of India and over the Arabian Sea. The possibilities for destinations are are slim. Iran has enough problems right now, so Somalia and Yemen are the only real possibilities.

      Somalia and Yemen contain people who would want the plane for use in terrorism and they have remote areas not in government control that those people could prepare for the aircraft and get it hidden.

      It's not a valid conclusion by any means......just a scenario of what COULD have happened and why. Anybody who doesn't like it should just ignore it.

      The Israelis, however, are taking this scenario seriously. They are not novices in these matters.

      Delete
    6. Vox, I'm curious, did you actually read the essay?

      I can only assume that you didn't, otherwise I'm having a hard time understanding how you thought I'd care to entertain the posting of conspiracy theories here.

      ....It's an educated guess.

      Incorrect. It's mostly uneducated guessing.

      That available information is not all speculation

      A small percentage, perhaps. However unless you're about to tell me that you're plugged directly into the investigation as a qualified expert, then the vast majority of what you're seeing is exactly that, speculation. As is your theory. And not only is it speculation, it's speculation layered on top of speculation on top of speculation - un-validated, unverified, single-source information interpreted by media, reporters, pundits, talking heads, conspiracy theorists, politicians, and self-appointed spokesmen who are unqualified, uniformed, and uninvolved.

      The fact that the plane was carefully and gently turned ... has been verified by Thai military radar.

      No it hasn't. The plane may have made such a turn, it may have been in response to a programmed course change entered into the flight control system. Or not. Until the aircraft FDR and/or the autopilot (or the pilots) are examined directly, that is only a theory. It may be a good one, it may be the most likely, but it mostly certainly is not "verified."

      The fact that that heading selected and programmed by the pilot...is clear and indisputable.

      It is neither clear nor indisputable. In point of fact, the missing aircraft's track is both unclear and in significant dispute. You can't plot a curve from a single point and you for damned sure can't plot an air track from a couple of (possible/probable) radar contacts with any degree of accuracy - and yes, I am expert on that and have done it many times. In this case, you've got a couple of non-validated possible radar contacts that possibly indicate a possible turn by the possible aircraft. You have some additional data from the ACARS system that plots out along a probability curve over an area that encompasses more than two million square miles. That's what you have. There's nothing clear about any of it, otherwise we wouldn't be having this conversation in the first place. QED.

      Delete
    7. The TOTAL lack of floating debris or any sign of a crash is clear and indisputable ....

      Again, this is neither clear nor indisputable. As I said in the post, I have extensive experience looking for debris at sea. The fact that searchers haven't found debris means that a) there might not be debris - which does not mean there wasn't a crash, or b) they just haven't found debris yet. The ocean is vast. Since it appears the search began in the wrong direction, it's entirely possible that by the time the search moved to the Indian Ocean the debris field had become dispersed or had in large part sunk. Again, you may eventually be proven correct, but at the moment, your assertion of "clear" and "indisputable" is unsupported by the few verifiable facts at hand.

      It's also a fact that some sort of rare catastrophic... is simply not credible. The odds against it are astronomical.

      Nonsense. Cum Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc. That's a classic conspiracy theory logical fallacy right there. The odds cannot be calculated, you don't have enough solid data points. Your disbelief is not valid data and it doesn't automatically rule out a catastrophic failure in the given time reference. The only thing that rules out a catastrophic failure is recovery and examination of the aircraft, or a reasonable substitute.

      But....... that IS the exact time that criminal human intervention would happen.

      Perhaps. Perhaps not. You assume criminal human intervention, then you assume that you know what form it took, then you assume that you know its purpose and goals. I suspect that you have no solid data of any kind to back up any of those assumptions. Again, you may be correct, but at the moment your opinion carries as much weight as Courtney Love's photo analysis skills.

      And where in the world would those human criminals take that aircraft ... those people could prepare for the aircraft and get it hidden.

      You're building a house of cards, Vox.

      It's not a valid conclusion by any means...

      That's the first thing you said that I can agree with without reservation.

      Anybody who doesn't like it should just ignore it.

      Vox, as I explained to Anonymous up above, don't start telling other commenters what to do, that'll get you banned from Stonekettle Station quicker than nearly anything else. If you don't like what other commenters have to say about your theory, then don't post it.

      The Israelis, however, are taking this scenario seriously. They are not novices in these matters.

      And neither are we, thanks.

      And on that note, you've restated your theory several times now. You're verging on browbeating other commenters and I'd like you to stop it now.

      How about putting your cards on the table. Other than a penchant for FM Voice radio, what expertise do you have in this matter?

      Delete
    8. Vox- I did not read all the comments and I have little knowledge of commercial aviation emergency procedures. I posted it because it was the simplest explanation I had seen and made sense to me, and in my experience, simple explanations are usually closest to the facts. Obviously, if they ever find the flight recorder that will clear up a lot of questions.

      Delete
    9. I understand. And you were in good company. A lot of people jumped on that bandwagon, including even some in the news media.

      It just shows how eager people are to find some sort of logical explanation to what is thus far a baffling mystery.

      I wasn't going after you, just trying to set the record straight.

      Delete
  82. Plus, if it's in the southern Indian Ocean, that's almost totally off the commercial beaten path. If it took 2 years to find the actual body of the Air France flight, this could take 5.

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  83. Malaysia Airlines Expands Investigation To Include General Scope Of Space, Time
    ‘Why Are We Even Here?’ Officials Probe
    KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA—Following a host of conflicting reports in the wake of the mysterious disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 last Saturday, representatives from the Kuala Lumpur–based carrier acknowledged they had widened their investigation into the vanished Boeing 777 aircraft today to encompass not only the possibilities of mechanical failure, pilot error, terrorist activity, or a botched hijacking, but also the overarching scope of space, time, and humankind’s place in the universe.

    CNN?
    Nope....
    http://www.theonion.com/articles/malaysian-airlines-expands-investigation-to-includ,35524/

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  84. I agree with WVJohn, Occam's Razor favors the pilot essayist's scenario, but as Jim stated in his essay, until we have actual data, until we have the airframe, its contents, and survivors or find the remains of the people who were its passengers and crew. We don't know what has happened.

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  85. The thing that really bothers me about the media shark feeding frenzy? The throwing of the flight crew into the water as "chum" for the conspiracy/hijack theorists. I'm going to quote Chris Goodfellow, the pilot who proposed a (to my mind) extremely plausible scenario which he himself admits is pure speculation at this point:

    "There really is no point in speculating further until more evidence surfaces but in the meantime it serves no purpose to malign the pilots who well may have been in an heroic struggle to save this aircraft from a fire or other serious mechanical issue and were overcome.

    I hope the investigation team looks at the maintenance records of the front gear tires - cycles, last pressure check and maintenance inspection. Captain or F/O as part of pre-flight looks at tires. Is there any video at the airport to support pre-flight walkaround? Any damage on pushback? A day after I wrote the original post a plane in the U.S. blew a tire in takeoff and the t/o was fortunately aborted with a burning tire.

    Hopefully - and I believe now it is a slim hope - the wreckage will be found and the FDR and VDR will be recovered and provide us with insight. Until facts prove otherwise, I would give the Captain the benefit of respect and professional courtesy."

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  86. I have to wonder whether folks taking the failure to find any floating evidence of the plane going down in the ocean as proof of some conspiratorial scenario are thinking that somehow large pieces of the jetliner would (a) survive impact and (b) keep afloat for days upon days? Are they recalling Sully's amazing landing in the Hudson River and somehow extrapolating from that to the idea that (a) and (b) are even possible, let alone so likely that the conspiracy theories we're hearing are the only possible explanation in the absence of waterborne evidence?

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    Replies
    1. CT types are gonna speculate no matter what. It's their hobby. "Does it matter that this waste of time is what makes a life for you?", asks Frank Zappa, and to be perfectly honest, no, it probably doesn't. Some of 'em even manage to make a living at it, and hey, more power to em. And most of 'em seem to either not know or just not care that the rest of us are laughing "at", not "with"...

      As far as the floating wreckage goes, many parts of an airplane can indeed float, especially the foam-insulated pieces, or even some heavier all-metal chunks, if they have an air pocket trapped within. Given the violence inherent in a plane crash, it's mostly the smaller stuff that gets found but, yeah, it's possible. From the link in my "black hole" post:

      "Australian officials said early Thursday that two large objects which may be debris from the plane were spotted a four-hour flight away from that country's southwestern coast".

      Maybe, maybe not. We'll find out when we find out.

      Delete
  87. Jim, thank you again. You remain unfailingly polite, even while chastising a dodo bird. I also love disciplined argument, and the use of QED and cum hoc ergo propter hoc makes me very happy. Brains. Very good. You and most of your commenter's are raising the collective IQ of the interwebs.
    I too wish we would give the crew the benefit of the doubt until the facts are known.

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  88. Jim, I have a question about the military radar, I understand that the primary concern would be flight profiles that are offensive in nature, Ballistic trajectories, etc... But wouldn't an aircraft on any flight path without an active transponder also attract some curiosity as to who it was and where it was going? And why? It could be a spy plane, or an aircraft in distress, I would think that a military would be acutely interested in any (literally) UFO in their area of responsibility. What am I missing?

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  89. And now....Black Holes!
    Back in the '80s, I had CNN on the tube a lot. If I had cable today, they would be a 'black hole" in my channel list...

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  90. Jim,
    The other night I was watching my local NBA team in a game against a bad team so did some channel surfing while the game was on. Landed at CNN and listened for a few minutes while the moderator read tweets suggesting all kinds of silly theories. This is a news channel? Guess it is hard to fill an hour long broadcast of an event when there is no information to relay to the audience. Absurd speculations is what it was. Would have laughed at the show if it were not so sad that 239 people are missing and presumed killed. Anyway..........

    In the section on radars is the sentence, "It's going to be a long while before a complete search those recordings can be done" Sentence seems to need to have "of" added, I believe.

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    1. Those "what's trending" segments when newscasters read inane tweets from random people really get on my nerves. They are as bad as those parts of local news shows when reporters stick a microphone and a camera in an unsuspecting pedestrian's face and ask how he or she "feels" about an issue.

      Delete
  91. My sister-in-law just told me she thinks the plane landed in the Sri Lanka airport and is still awaiting an open gate.

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