MH370 Horizontal Stabiliser Located? Maybe Not.



The ominous and mysterious jigsaw puzzle that is MH370 may have another piece.  Authorities in Mozambique have displayed a tiny bit of composite white material they say may have come from the Boeing 777.  It’s a smidgeon of a thing, really really small.

Take a look at the image here.

That’s after a flaperon from a 777 washed up on the island of Reunion last year – more than a year after Malaysian Airlines MH370 vanished with all on board.

There’re still a few lunatics who believe that the crew and passengers are being squirrelled away by some nebulous US/Chinese/Malaysian/Afghanistani/Pakistani etc group.  But for the rest of us who live on the planet full-time,  the plane crashed into the Indian Ocean around 7 hours after it took off.  Speculation would have it that the pilot probably drove the thing South Westerly then settled the aircraft gently upon the water so only a few bits broke off.  Why?  For a host of personal and political reasons that we won’t go into here.  If you’re interested, read my previous blog. 

No aviation mystery since Amelia Earheart has been as pervasive and extensive.  If you remember the terrible Air France 447 disappearance there was not much real mystery about its fate.  Bobbing bits of plane appeared shortly after it disappeared a few hours out of Rio de Janeiro en route to France.  In the case of MH370, not much has appeared besides the flaperon which investigators say its more than likely from the Boeing.

A small triangle of composite washed up off Mozambique with “Don’t Step” clearly emblazoned on the top.  So the president of Mozambique’s Civil Aviation Institute (IACM), Joao de Abreu, told journalists on Thursday 3rd March it may be from the airliner – but warned that any speculation it was definitely linked was premature.


That’s wise.  Unlike the flaperon,  the bit of what could be horizontal stabiliser appears to have no sea-life growing on its upper or lower area.  The flaperon on the other hand had drifted around the sea for a year before it washed up in Reunion.  Marine biologists said the barnacles found on the flaperon were more than likely proof it had been in the water around a year.  And aviation experts confirmed it was indeed a Boeing 777 flaperon.

In this instance,  none of this is apparent.

One thing is, however.  The currents and winds would be able to push this piece from the Indian Ocean off Australia all the way to Mozambique.  That is not being debated.

On March 8 its the two-year anniversary of the plane’s disappearance while on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 passengers and crew aboard.  That timing alone is pretty cruel for the family of those on board.



MH370 & The Six Malaysian Muckups

The interim statement by Malaysian authorities into the mystery of MH370 has been released and its painted an increasingly poisonous picture of aviation in that part of the world.  If you wanted to conduct a Harvard Business School analysis into how NOT to manage your aviation business, Malaysia has cornered the market.

Flight MH370, a Boeing 777-260, registration 9M-MRO which disappeared a year ago.  Courtesy of Plane spotters.
Flight MH370, a Boeing 777-260, registration 9M-MRO which disappeared a year ago. Courtesy of Plane spotters.
  • Item 1: One of the batteries on the plane’s Flight Data Recorder had expired in 2012 and no-one had ever replaced them.  No-one in the Malaysian Civil Aviation Authority picked this up.  Shocking.
  • Item 2:  The Supervisor in charge of Malaysian air traffic was asleep and had to be woken up when it became clear the plane was missing – which would have been a disaster for survivors – in fact it took 5 hours for Malaysian authorities to realise they had a crisis on hand.
  • Item 3: The first Malaysian search aircraft took off TEN HOURS after the plane was officially registered missing.  Half a day almost.  Shame.  Useless.
  • Item 4: Malaysian and Vietnamese air traffic controllers could barely understand one another, and the Vietnamese failed to respond at all to the first emergency call from the Malaysians.  When the latter had eventually awoken from their slumber.  International aviation is governed by an ability to communicate in English.  But these standards are abused – particularly in this region.
  • Item 5: Malaysian commercial and military ATC’s do not talk to each other.  Which compounded the problem and added to confusion.
  • Item 6: Because the Malaysians were so slow they Vietnamese were also slow, taking another 20 minutes to begin asking why the plane had not reported to them in a hand-over call which is usually supposed to happen immediately after a point is reached.  Like as in seconds.  Twenty minutes @ 600kph is a lot of airspace travelled before the decidedly slow officials started to think about why the silence.

By now if you read this blog you’ll know what I think happened.  The pilot disabled the ACARS & Transponder, told the 1st Officer to go get him something – locked the door and switched off the air filtration and compression system after donning an oxygen mask.  The passengers and crew would have succumbed in seconds to the 36000 feet thin atmosphere and passed out – no time to make a mobile phone call. Then he climbed to 40 000 feet just to make sure.  Everyone was dead within 5 minutes.   One positive for the victims. It was painless and not like a wing coming off and spending minutes in terror plunging to the ocean.

CCTV footage of ilot and 1st Officer clearing security.
CCTV footage of ilot and 1st Officer clearing security.

The pilot then turned and dived steeply avoiding radar.  He  followed a low-level path out to sea past Indonesia, and continued at the altitude for a while.  Or not.  We don’t know.

Finally he ditched the plane in a low speed accident that would have meant little wreckage. It sank to the bottom of the Indian Ocean in one of the deepest and most inaccessible parts of the world.

Why?  Because Pilot Zaharie Ahmad Shah’s wife left him taking their three children on the day of the flight.   And only hours before, Shah’s close friend and opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim had been arrested on what looks like trumped up charges of sodomy.   Shah knew that the plane was full of Chinese holiday-makers and businessmen and women and he really really wanted the Malaysian government to feel the full weight of an unhappy Beijing. Specifically because he knew how he could make an entire airliner disappear.  He wanted his children to benefit from his life insurance – unlike previous pilot suicides which were not paid out by life insurers.  So that meant DISAPPEAR.  And he more than likely had switched off the Flight Data Recorder and Cockpit Voice Recorder to further confuse investigators if they ever found the plane.

Simple?  Yes.  Speculation? Yes.  I’m not reporting here.  I’m writing a blog about what I think happened.  Based on a whole year of tracking this event.

Shah also knew what we know that the management of aviation in Malaysia is rife with corruption, maladministration and extremely poor attention to detail so giving this lot the run around was as easy as pie.

And where is Shah?  Did he escape the plane on a raft? No,  he’s more than likely dead.  It was a murder suicide on a massive scale.  Sorry if his relatives feel saddened by this version made public.  But every experienced pilot I’m now reading has come to believe that this is what happened to Flight MH370.

We also now know that the final voice on the ATC recordings was not the 1st Officer as originally reported – it was Shah.

Flight MH370 disappeared with 239 passengers and crew on board after taking off from Kuala Lumpur, bound for Beijing, on 8 March.   We may never find the fuselage.

But we may find something.  Here is a picture of where plastics flow around the world’s oceans, courtesy of

Note how plastic from the area where the plane is thought to have landed ends up in a line to Africa..
Note how plastic from the area where the plane is thought to have landed ends up in a line to Africa..

11 Fearful Things, Doppler Radar & Lickspittle

Starting in January, the first fearful thing is Air Law & Operating Procedures.  Followed in no particular order by Meteorology, Flight Planning & Performance, Navigation, Instruments & Electronics, Principles of Flight, Human Performance, Aircraft Technical & General, Radio Aids & Communication.  These are all exams, good tribesmen and women of cyberania. The night Rating I hope to accomplish within two weeks, and Instrument Rating before the end of February.  That’s the last 2 of 11 Fearful Things.

Or a month an exam and is feasible – but challenging.  That’s because I’m 52.  Everything takes just a little longer to settle into my slowly atrophying memory cell, but that doesn’t mean its all bad.  In fact, my age is a kind of blessing.  Had this happened 20 years’ ago there’s no way I would be able to shoe-horn my hyper-active lifestyle into a proper aviation psyche.

While this is all very well, this is all happening as Aviation experiences one of its worst years for accidents in living memory.  Mostly concentrating in Malaysia.  MH370 remains missing somewhere (we now know) in the Southern Indian Ocean.  QZ8501 flying from Surabaya to Singapore and operated by Air Asia crashed early yesterday morning.  Wild speculation continues about the cause.

The reality is its the third major incident involving a Malaysian airliner.  The other two Malaysian aviation disasters this year involved the state-run company.  MH370 and MH17. The latter was reportedly shot down over Eastern Ukraine, apparently by Russian-backed rebels using a mobile ground-to-air missile.

So why consider taking up aviation at this point, you may ask?   I prefer to think of this in a different way.

The three Malaysian accidents are all linked to the culture of doing business in that country. If you consider how the disappearance of MH370 was mishandled by authorities you’d see a country in a curious malaise where the paternal hierarchy leads to Big Man problems inside the cockpit.  This is not my experience of aviation in South Africa. Sure there have been a couple of incidents involving corruption, but these have been rooted out and dealt with.   So far.

However, the SAA board fiasco is centred on executives.  The pilots and crew who fly are in some ways distant from these shenanigans because they don’t earn enough money to warrant some drooling ruling party connected lackey trying to steal a pilots license in order to garner a few rands in a dubious tender.  Its one thing to lie about your matric or some little BA degree from Unisa to plant your bum on a butter seat in the SABC or SAA executive, its another trying to lie your way into the cockpit of a commercial jet by flashing a bogus CV.

Ruling party connections won’t help you land a plane.  I’m waiting for some lickspittle type to try.  Then we can all watch as he or she flies straight into the granite cloud, screaming something about the aeroplane being reactionary.

Yes, the pilots are very well paid but compared to actually taking control of an executive position – its peanuts.

So we’re safe for the moment from the grandiose largesse-based bribery plaguing the upper echelons of SAA making its way directly into the cockpit.  The foot soldiers of aviation continue to ply their trade in an honest way because its just too difficult to make it all the way to captain and 10 000 hours by being “politically connected”.

These are the fine gentle-folk whom I would aspire to emulate and eventually don my commercial pilots license wings with matching flashing toothy smile.

But before leaving you, a note about in-flight Doppler Radar.  The Cirrus I plan to fly around tonight has the Garmin 1000 with a great deal of weather reading technical gadgetry.

This includes the pilot-adjustable horizontal scan angles of up to 120° allowing me to focus on trouble areas, vertical scanning which beads in on storm tops, gradients and cell buildup at various altitudes.  It also comes with Weather Attenuated Colour Highlight (or WATCH), which allows a pilot to identify areas beyond the radar’s capability that may contain even more hazardous areas of precipitation.

Garmin 1000 weather warning system.
Garmin 1000 weather warning system.

Which is all very well.  However, if you’re already at 32 000 feet and want to avoid a cumulonimbus towering to close to 50 000 feet, go around.  I’ll be tottering along at 7000 feet in a propellor driven plane and in a training area, which means I can skedaddle back to Lanseria if the weather gets bad. The Cirrus SR20 has a ceiling of 17 000 feet anyway.

So what happened to QZ8501?  Without resorting to rampant ill-informed speculation, reports from professional pilots and aviation authorities suggest the Airbus may have entered an area of extreme turbulence. Between that fact and the reality the plane has crashed, we await further information.

RIP those on board.