Featuring Towerflower about what happened to #MH370

Friday, March 21, 2014

Good morning:

It’s now 10:24 am EDT.

10:24 pm in Kuala Lumpur and Perth.

The searchers did not find anything during their daylight search and there is a possibility that the 79-foot-long object spotted by the satellite may have sunk out of sight.

Another possibility is the unidentified object may have been a shipping container that fell off a ship during a storm. I regard this possibility to be unlikely because containers are not that big.

Nevertheless, I’ve read estimates that as many as 10,000 shipping containers are lost every year. I would not be surprised to discover that a significant percentage of them were stolen and reported as lost at sea.

Yet another possibility is currents have carried the object beyond the area searched by the planes and the Norwegian container ship.

Bad weather and poor visibility have complicated the search so it’s possible that the object is still on the surface and will be found after the weather clears.

Patience, cooperation and perseverance are required.

Wouldn’t hurt to pray either.

We are fortunate to have someone in our group who is an expert regarding aviation and air traffic control (ATC). Towerflower has been an air traffic controller for many years starting in the military and later as a civilian.

Here is Towerflower’s take on what happened to MH 370.

Air Traffic Control uses two different types of radar. One is used in Terminal environments (basically located near airports) in which they control airspace from basically 18,000′ and below. They utilize both primary and secondary radar. Primary radar is just a slash (-) that shows up on radar. The STARS system that the US uses in most of their terminal facilities gives you the ability to tag a primary target–meaning we can have the computer track the slash and input the callsign, destination, an assigned altitude, and type aircraft. The computer systems will figure out the airspeed and will display that with the target, the only thing we cannot receive or know for sure is the actual altitude of the plane but if I assigned 8,000′ ft to it I can put in A080 as a reminder to me that was he assigned altitude.

Centers operate airspace typically 18,000′ and above and to operate in this airspace it requires an operational transponder, why? Because their system only follows secondary targets that they get from an operating transponder. Shut off or have a transponder go bad for whatever issue and the airplane will go into what we call “coast” It will track for a couple of sweeps and display CST (coast) and it will no longer display altitude and it will drop off the controller’s screen. Since you like 911 conspiracies, think of what the hijackers did, they shut off the transponders to make them invisible to the centers but the terminal facilities can and did still track them.

There is no radar over large expanses of open water, like the oceans. Controlling aircraft there is done by time. So much time has to pass before another aircraft is allowed to occupy the same intersection at the same altitude. Aircraft will give position reports as they pass by these intersections so that the times can always be updated and since there is no VHF radio coverage over the ocean it is done via the ACARS system and HF. A long range radar system will go out 200 miles but typical terminal facilities have shorter ranges. Radar coverage will “weaken” when you get to it’s limits, you might no longer pick them up at lower altitudes regardless whether they have a working transponder or not. There can also be “blind spots” caused by large buildings (as in height) and the terrain…..meaning mountains.

GPS in the aviation community is currently only used for navigation purposes and not radar tracking. The FAA and NASA are currently trying to develop the next satellite based system using real time tracking of planes using GPS, it is called NexGen and it is still many years from being implemented and does not exist yet, so in other words Satellites do not track airplanes for controllers.

As a controller, I can say it is quite possible for a terminal controller to ignore a primary target going across their screen if they didn’t have any planes near it for it to be a factor for their concern (calling traffic). Military units would track any unknown target, especially if ATC doesn’t call them to let them known of an aircraft with a malfunctioning transponder, coming into their airspace and that would cause many nations along the northern route to scramble their jets to investigate, there is no way China nor India would just let a jet come into their country’s airspace without sounding an alarm.

As a controller, my theory has been, that the jet suffered some sort of decompression or most likely smoke in the aircraft. Smoke from an electrical fire makes more sense since there were a series of failures to the avionics and radios. The pilot quickly programmed in a new heading to the closest airport that could handle their jet. Oxygen would not be turned on since oxygen and fire don’t mix well. With all the toxic types of materials on an airplane people would be quickly overcome by the fumes and pass out and die. I have heard that pilots have smoke hoods but that gives you only a couple of minutes. An airplane at 35,000′ getting down to the surface takes longer than a few minutes. With the pilots and everyone else overcome by fumes the airplane would continue on it’s last programmed heading and continue until it ran out of gas and went into the ocean. It is also possible for there to be a smoldering type of problem which would produce the smoke but not the increasing flames of a spreading fire.

Let us know what you think happened to #MH370.

21 Responses to Featuring Towerflower about what happened to #MH370

  1. elizbowe says:

    Is the pilot possibly a hero? Preventing the plane from crashing into cities? Thank you towerflower, You pointed out that the oxygen masks would not drop in the event of fire but that the pilot would be able to survive for a few minutes with his smoke hood. He may have changed course knowing that the plane could continue to travel and go over the ocean, and not cause death on land because in his expertise he believed the plane was irreversibly damaged.

    • bettykath says:

      The course the plane took suggests an attempt at an emergency landing at the closest airport, but the pilot was unable to actually land and the plane continued out over the ocean.

      Use Google maps to find Langkawi. Zoom in and you will see a long runway that runs NE to SW. Zoom out and see it’s relationship to Kuala Lampur and the route the plane took when it took the left turn. Then, keeping in mind where Langkawi is relative to Kuala Lampur, zoom out some more so you can see Australia. (You will “lose” Langkawi in this zoom b/c it’s so tiny). Perth is on the western coast of Australia, a bit more than half way down. Well off the coast but in the “neighborhood” of Perth is where they found the debris of the size of a wing. A wing empty of fuel would float for some time.

      There may be other airports with long runways in the area with Langkawi as only one.

      There are still a lot of questions and my scenario is speculation but a bit more realistic than aliens or black holes.

    • towerflower says:

      Pilots want to live just as much as anyone. I know of one case in which a DC-10 came down in which they asked the controllers to keep them away from a city. It was UAL232 which crashed in an emergency landing in Sioux City. They had the middle engine fail in which shrapnel severed all the hydraulic lines on the aircraft. They were only able to control the plane by changing the throttle controls on the engines on the wings. They used the throttle controls to also prevent a rollover of the plane that would have been fatal. To this day no one has been able to simulate their achievement on a simulator with the same results…..more than half of the passengers survived the crash.

      I still believe that the pilot changed course to get them to the closest airport that could handle their plane and were overcome before reaching it.

  2. towerflower says:

    I was watching on CNN tonight, evidentially a British newspaper was able to get the entire ATC/Pilot record of the flight. An “expert” tried to say that the lack of precise readbacks was a “signal” that something was wrong…..BS. In a perfect aviation world every controller and every pilot would use by the book phraseology and read backs….but….that world does not exist and both controllers and pilots cut corners and deviate from standard phraseology. So don’t fall for that one, it is nothing. Just like they made too big of a deal of the pilot saying good-night.

  3. masonblue says:


    (CNN) — American investigators reviewing a hard drive belonging to the captain of missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 have found deletions of information even closer to the final flight than first indicated by Malaysian officials, law enforcement officials tell CNN.

    Crane-Station here, sorry if that came out bold, it is a cut and paste.

    • bettykath says:

      Pilots, especially professional pilots, think a lot about what can go wrong and what they need to do about it. They are tested on a regular basis on emergency procedures. They also think about where they will land if things go to totally wrong.

      As a glider pilot I was trained to think about where I would land at all times, starting with the take-off roll. If the tow rope broke – when do I land straight ahead, when can I do a 180 and land downwind, when can I do a regular pattern. Situation awareness throughout the flight always included knowledge of where I could land.

      Professional pilots have that same awareness. It would be consistent with a serious problem that required an immediate landing that the pilot would go to the nearest/best airport. The pilot would know at all stages of his flight where that nearest/best airport would be.

      When Captain Scully landed in the Hudson, he knew of all the airports in the area. He rejected a return to his originating airport, LaGuardia (over high rises of the city), usually first choice, and Teterboro. He chose the Hudson River. This was not a knee-jerk, on-the-fly choice. He knew ahead of time that it was a choice if he needed it. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he had made that landing in his imagination, just in case.

      Consider 337. If it all went to hell just about the time they signed off with ATC and the captain had started emergency procedures, they would go dark and quiet and headed for the nearest airport, apparently at Langkawi. It would explain the sharp turn to the west and then a turn of unknown direction with the pilot lining up for a landing and then losing consciousness A plane that’s trimmed would then continue in that SW direction, the general direction that would take it off the west coast of Australia.

      I also wouldn’t be surprised if the pilot practiced simulator landings at various airports along his route, just in case.

      This is pretty much what an experienced pilot wrote. I don’t have the link handy but it may be on another thread.

      • masonblue says:

        Crane-Station here again. Totally agree, and for real, it would be cool if every pilot had a flight simulator in the home. What is the general practice regarding deleting files from a flight simulator hard drive, as opposed, for example, to storing them on an external drive? Is it common to periodically delete records of those hours? I honestly do not know, and that is the part I find a bit curious, unless, of course, it is common to do this.

        • bettykath says:

          Depends on what was deleted. I have to periodically clean out my hard drive to make room for new stuff and still have decent performance. Getting ready for a new defrag now which will move stuff around to give more space.

      • towerflower says:

        It also helped that Capt. Sulley was a glider pilot and knew how to approach that landing in the water.

        • bettykath says:

          Power pilots also get engine out/off training but with the newer, more reliable engines I suspect that isn’t as much emphasis as there used to be. Certainly his glider experience was helpful. 🙂

  4. Malisha says:

    Today I was involved in a think-up about the missing flight, in view of Towerflower’s theories. How could so much go wrong? That was my first thought. But then something that recently happened in my life made me ruefully think about it differently.

    A friend of mine was snatched up by the police and taken against her will to the geriatric psych ward because while she was venting on the telephone to someone out of state, she said words to the effect of, “Oh what is my life for? Why should I go on living?” and he phoned in a report of her being suicidal. She was not and she is not, but she does get agitated and express herself rather dramatically. (She comes by that honestly.)

    Three cops show up and they end up involving a private agency that makes money putting people in hospitals if they have good insurance (and she has both good insurance AND Medicare). Whoosh, she’s in for 72 hours’ observation. But since her name on her birth certificate is not the same she uses with her own private doctors and dentist (she uses a nickname and a married last name), she gets hospitalized under a name nobody recognizes any longer. She is not permitted to take her medications that have been prescribed for her by her own physicians because the prescriptions were written for “someone else.” It took me 11 phone calls to get SOMEONE to see to it that she could have her own medications, which she needs. Everyone was telling me, “We can’t do this because of that and we can’t do that because of this” and then I was questioned as if SHE had caused herself to be improperly recorded with the wrong name (as if I could have controlled THAT).

    A very small matter. It took 11 phone calls and two hours of dedicated effort to even begin to get it worked out. So look at the way things get. It is probably no surprise that things go totally upfuckt-wrongheadedly-FUBAR; it’s a surprise that anything DOESN’T!!

    • masonblue says:

      Crane-Station here on Fred’s screen. Excellent point.

    • towerflower says:

      When it comes to airplane incidents there is the “Swiss Cheese Factor”. It is not one event on it’s own that causes a problem but several that compound an event and led to an incident. Sounds like your friend got caught up in such an event. I hope things are better for her, good thing she has a good friend like you to help.

  5. towerflower says:

    Part of the problem with the Aussie photos is that they were examined and gone over for 4 days before they released the information. In 4 days there was also a weather front that moved through the area and the first day of the search was impacted by this front. Debris in the ocean can move quite a bit in 4 days. Hopefully they have some good information about the surface currents in the area to know where to move the search area.

  6. This sounds like quite an explanation of what happened rather than thinking of some malice on part of the crew or someone else on the board and to believe it to be another act of terrorism!

    I was a bit curious if this is what actually happened and if suppose we were lucky enough to know this immediately when it happened with potentially 4 hours on hand before the jet would go out of the fuel and crash in the ocean and that there is no one on the board capable at that time to change the course of the jet what could have been the options for us to potentially save the jet from crashing, perhaps landing it safe and try to rescue/save the life of at least some of people on the board who are not completely dead but may be unconscious?

    Experts your comments please!

    • I am not an expert on aviation, but I doubt that it would have been possible to attempt a midair rescue.

    • towerflower says:

      Sadly there is nothing that can be done. There was a situation a few years ago where a pro golfer’s jet took off from Central Florida and when the reached cruising altitude it suffered from a decompression event. Everyone on board died very quickly, they actually had fighter jets join up and noticed the windshield of the cockpit was frosted over with ice. All they could do is follow it until it ran out of fuel and crashed. Luckily it crashed in a field in Iowa and not any populated area.

  7. Two sides to a story says:

    Interesting, Towerflower. Good possibility, of course.

    Have the Aussies determined what the debris they found is?

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