Too much information

There is a truth about information.  Too much of a good thing can be bad.  But too much means just that.  I found that recently in following the Malaysian air crash where bad information appeared to be all we had.  Take a look at what usually is a font of detail and well thought out aviation commentary ,

As I followed the incident,  usually informed pilots began a series of really bizarre speculation after flight MH370 disappeared.  The most fallacious of these was the theory  that an on-board fire had led to some kind of incapacitation.  As I read their commentary, it became apparent that the commercial pilots were all fumbling about trying to find a reason not to blame the accident on a possible crew member.

Now weeks later the speculation continues with stuff about how the plane could have filled with smoke, the pilot turned around and lost altitude and then tried to make it back to Malaysia.

But the facts (and they are facts) just don’t add up.  The plane was flown by a highly trained pilot in order to accomplish the difficult and sudden reversal of course, then flew a route AWAY from known ground based radar, back over the north of Malaysia, then towards northern Indonesia.  Once again, it was turned AWAY from known ground based radar,  and the last course was deep into the southern Ocean.

What motivated the pilot to commit this act?
What motivated the pilot to commit this act?


None of these can be explained by an on board fire.  What we do know is that whomever changed course initially did it at PRECISELY the point where Malaysian ground radar would lose the plane,   and Vietnamese ground radar would supposedly pick it up.  At that very moment – and we’re talking less than a minute here – the pilot and possible assistants switched off the transponder,  turned and in the next three minutes disconnected the additional reporting technology on board.

Apart from a ping from the Rolls Royce jet engines every hour that has allowed us just the faintest whiff of a trail.

Any attempt at suggesting fire is just a smokescreen, if you excuse the crude pun.  But what’s worrying me is the phalanx of baloney spouted by really smart long-serving pilots whom I formally respected greatly.  During the Air France crash over the Atlantic,  I followed the same kind of pilot commenting on the zone and they were far more informed and less likely to be emotional.

At the same time, the Kuala Lumpur authorities have not only been criminally abysmal in their reporting, they’ve damaged the perception of their country by lying because of some kind of weird “saving face” culture.  All that succeeded in doing is angering the Chinese and  confusing the already poorly informed journalists.  The Malaysian chaos response was pathetic and I kept thinking about the families of the passengers and crew.  How callous for a person in authority  to crack jokes and expound on mumbo jumbo they clearly fail to understand,  with so much death and dispair ignored?

So what next?

Months/years of undersea scouring leading to an eventual location of the remains of the plane.  And given what we’re heard and seen,  I believe the wreckage will NOT be scattered across the floor.  It will be condensed because what is now clear is that the highly experienced pilot in control of MH370 took the plane as far off its course as is humanly possible,  then ditched the aircraft in an oily sea – probably only losing part of a wing,  or perhaps landing well enough to maintain the aircraft’s integrity.  Allow me a speculative moment.  He (likely) tried to do a Miracle on the Hudson landing in order to obfuscate any search by ensuring a most unlikely scenario.

That it sank in one or a handful of large pieces.

Thus, we have no sign of mass debris, the doors were closed so cushions and life vests and bags and hats and coats which remain on board are contained within the fuselage.

And so too the bodies which await discovery around 26 000 feet down on the ocean floor.

What of the motive?  We can’t say until we find the wreckage and begin to piece this strangest of air crashes together.


Malaysian Airlines MH370

A search and rescue operation is under way for MH370, Malaysian Airways Boeing 777 which was en route between Kuala Lumpur and Beijing.  239 people were aboard and it looks like there were no survivors.

The most effective aviators site to monitor incidents is PPRUNE,  professional pilots rumour network.

PPRUNE image thans pjm.  From all accounts this is the mostly location of wreckage.  Last known position 86-56'N 183-35'E
PPRUNE image thanks pjm. From all accounts this is the  location of wreckage. Last known position 86-56’N 183-35’E

Despite there being rumour in the title, its a cut above most other forums which discuss aviation.

Here are two facts about the flight which are starting to worry me.  The first is that there were two people on board who were carrying stolen passports.  The second was the extremely slow response by Malaysian authorities, who were still denying an incident two hours after the plane was due to land in Beijing.

While carrying a stolen passport is not that unusual in our crime-riddled world, the extraordinary fact is that both feature Europeans.   One an Italian and the other, Austrian.  Both were not on the plane.  But their passports were,  in the hands of someone else.  And the ticket numbers were linked.

MH370 was carrying mostly Chinese passengers on a flight from Malaysia, while the other nationalities are all from Asia or Australasia,  and an American, according to the manifest.

If one of those on board was in possession of a stolen Chinese passport, we could then put it down to co-incidence.  But the fact that at least two passengers were carrying illegal Euro passports is very unusual and immediately raises a red flag.

As speculation starts about what’s behind the accident, there are two main scenarios.

1) Massive failure of the airframe – technical.

The crew did not report any problems, the plane simply  vanished.  Possible. Unlikely.

2) Act of terror – bomb.

Two men carrying large cases which were insufficiently screened by tired staff servicing a flight that took off close to midnight?  Not out of the question, particulary as both carried “safe” passports – Europe.   Possible. Likely.

While the wreckage has yet to be found, its starting to look like Malaysia has been drawn into some kind of act targeting China.    Sorry to leap to conclusions,  but other data from tracking agencies make this likely.

SkyVector search area, the ocean here is around 80-100m deep, so divers could reach the remains if required.
SkyVector search area, the ocean here is around 80-100m deep, so divers could reach the remains if required.

The plan descended from 35000 feet to 0 feet in 10 nautical miles according to FlightRadar24.  While PPRUNE pilots are arguing back and forth about how accurate FlightRadar is,  there’s no doubt that at at around 1.43 local it plunged into the ocean.

One of the puzzling aspects of this incident is that the Chinese have said very little.  Why were the Malaysians so slow to respond?

Now the families of those involved wait.  And if anyone leap to conclusions about the pilots,  the PIC had over 18000 hours.  But compare this incident with Air France 447 which stalled and fell into the Atlantic Ocean off Brazil.   They are similar in that the crew failed to send a message,  they were in an area where they had completed top of climb and on auto-pilot, and heading towards that post-midnight period where humans don’t perform too well when it comes to quick thinking.  Still,  I’m tending towards something more sinister.

The weather was excellent,  the PIC highly experienced,  no turbulence, a relatively short flight which means little chance of exhaustion, two men who weren’t who the said they were,  it’s looking more like terror than the French flight.