Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Missing Flight MH370

I shall start this post with a bit of a disclaimer in that I shall say the following is my own opinion and by ncurrentlys fact. I shall reference the facts where I can in order to show what is fact.

As I'm sure most of you have heard in the news, Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to Beijing, China went missing on Friday (7th March) evening/night. Neither the whole aircraft nor any wreckage has been found at the time of writing this ~23:00GMT 10th March 2014. (At least no confirmed wreckage.)
The Aircraft itself was a Boeing 777-2H6ER, Tail number 9M-MRO, powered by a pair of Rolls-Royce Trent 892 engines.
9M-MRO Departing Charlesconspiracyle Airport in Paris in 2011
Laurent Errera [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Boeing_777-200ER_Malaysia_AL_%28MAS%29_9M-MRO_-_MSN_28420_404_%289272090094%29.jpg]

My Opinions
With so many conspiracies floating around and news reporters getting things wrong I thought that I would try to shed a little light on some things. 

Firstly I feel I am being a little picky as in a state of slight irritation at the lack of journalists insight and research into these things I ended up contacting the BBC over one of their mistakes. In one of their short videos they were suggesting that modern aircraft can simply disappear from radar, whilst this is true, the example they use was the crash of Air France 447 in 2009. AF447 did disappear from radar, exactly as expected when the flew beyond the range of Brazilian radar out into the Atlantic.
Now it is possible that an aircraft can disappear from radar, however (and I apologise for the technical aspect of this) there are only a few ways to be invisible to radar. From the perspective of primary radar (radar that give a return from radio waves bounced off an object) you have to be a stealth aircraft, and unless this 777 was heavily modified (it wasn't) then that isn't going to happen. Of course I don't know enough about Malaysian radar to know whether they have both primary and secondary radar systems active but I would suspect that they would (secondary is actually the main radar type). From further reading it may well be the case that MH370 was out of primary radar range. Secondary radar (reliant on the transponder of the aircraft broadcasting information including a squawk code, altitude and other information) works over a longer range however, it can easily be disabled during a terrorist takeover by pulling the correct circuit breaker in the cockpit (a problem evident on 9/11 when the USA relied on only secondary radar). Of course you may be thinking this is similar to AF447 in that the aircraft flew beyond radar but judging by the cheap wall map in my room I would not expect that it was beyond radar range. A final system is ACARS (Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System), this system is designed to send reports for maintenance crews for when the aircraft lands (a big factor in the AF447 crash). This article from The Guardian mentions ACARS but as yet I am unaware what information has been gained from the ACARS system installed on this 777.

A quick segway from radar to the possibility of a terrorist attack: I have at no time seen any information regarding the use of the international hijack squawk code 7500.

Looking at the available flight data on http://uk.flightaware.com/live/flight/9MMRO/history/20140307/1635Z/WMKK/ZBAA/tracklog I would say that a mid air breakup of the aircraft due to a material seems unlikely due to the fact that the aircraft reached a cruising altitude of 35,000ft whereas most structural failures happen at around 17-18,000ft as this is the point at which there is often a large enough pressure difference between the inside and outside of the aircraft to cause failure. Of course a structural failure is possible at higher altitude if an increased force was required. Looking at the flight data this is a possibility as it would appear that the aircraft was just levelling off at the top of the climb. If there was a failure of the aircraft structure however, then I would suspect that it may well be a terrorist attack (though no-one has claimed responsibility). We will probably never know for sure unless the aircraft itself is found. There is of course some suspect to the fact that there were 2 people travelling on stolen passports aboard the aircraft though this is expected to be for immigration purposes. (As a quick side note, it sill amazes me that in this day and age we could not have a marker or something on a computer system to question 2 passports know to have been stolen.)

Continuing the terrorist theme, there was no radio call and no known cellular calls made (these may well have been out of range). Interestingly relatives of passenger are still reporting that mobile phones are ringing when called which is a possible reason for the suggestion of a hijack in which the aircraft has been flown to a remote airport. In my opinion it would be fairly difficult to hide a 777 and over 200 people that most of the world is concerned about finding. And again, as far as I am aware no-one has claimed responsibility and also no demands have been made.

Anyhow, it is all still a mystery to me, dual engine failure is highly unlikely and even so the aircraft would have had a fairly long glide range and enough time to start the auxiliary power unit and make radio contact. This means that if it were a dual engine failure then it would have been due to a lack of fuel which I would hope 2 pilots would notice within the first half hour of a flight. Whatever happened it must have been fast as there was no contact with air traffic control to declare an emergency or recover the plane in a way in which to fly it to safety.


I shall draw things to a close here and I shall try and make updates and amendments where I can so please let me know of your thoughts. My main issue at the moment is the mobile phones that are still ringing (possibly electronic survivors of a crash on land?).

Either way I am sure you will all join me in prayer and wishing the best for all involved in search efforts as well as all of the 239 people on board and their families.

 UPDATE 14:22 GMT 11/03/2014

Firstly as it says in the comments from last night: "There were no signals from ACARS from the time the aircraft disappeared," a source involved in the investigations said.

(and from now onwards my opinions are going to be in brackets just to separate things out)

An update from BBC News saying that Malaysian Air Force radar suggest that the aircraft mad a turn to the west away from its planned route. (Why has it taken so long to look at the old radar footage??) Due to this the search area has once again been widened. These zones now include more of the Malacca Straight as well as a large section of mainland Malaysia. (I don't know how remote some parts of Malaysia are, but if phones really are ringing and the aircraft had made a turn to the west, then I am starting to think that it may be possible that there may have been a mechanical failure that left the aircraft in a 'flyable' state to allow for a crash on land. Without the plane we won't know but it would have to be a very remote area as I would suspect that there was enough fuel on board to cause a fairly substantial fire. The problem would also have had to cause a major electrical fault in order to take out the transponder and radios.)

It also states the names of both the men travelling on stolen passports and neither have any links with terrorism. (As expected.)

Another article that I am reading says that US military satellites in the area that are designed to detect the flash of a missile launcher did not detect anything. (This in itself is not particularly useful until a wreckage is found but is at least comforting to know.) The same article also backs up my theory that an explosive decompression of the cabin is possible (though unlikely) as the aircraft had not long reached its cruising altitude, though it also says (and I agree with this) that it may well just be a coincidence.

Finally for this update I was listening to the #PaxEx podcast last night and I think that Mary Kirby raises an important issue of streaming black box data. (In the modern world we DO have the technology and capabilities to stream the data from black boxes that are often so hard to find or become damaged in fires. Airlines are claiming that this is too expensive and of course it would increase costs but in a situation like this we may be able to have more of an idea of what happened to the aircraft and also a better location for it. As Max Flight says we will most likely retrieve the information in the end but currently it would be of great comfort to families to have an idea of what happened and it would give investigators a lot more to work from than a radar track that simple stops.)

Please comment with your thoughts below and correct me on any mistakes you think I have.

And please continue to join me in prayer (or though) for all involved.

UPDATE 01:27 GMT 12/03/2014

After a little more research I am inclined to start agreeing with the views of Karlene Petitt. Karlene's views still hold true with the new 'evidence' from the Malaysian military who claim to have tracked an aircraft which is likely to be MH370 across the country to a point in the Malacca Straight at 1000ft. 

Further reading also suggests that the ringing mobile phones may only be ringing whilst the call is trying to connect and then end as the mobile at the far end is not found.

So to clarify things a little...

My current questions are:

-If the aircraft continued to fly back across the country why was no radio contact made with anyone?
-If this is an act of terrorism then why has nothing been said either by the pilots, the terrorists on board, communication from the cabin or a declaration by an organisation?
-If this is an act of terrorism a large number of people would have been required to take control of the aircraft without anyone broadcasting anything. Surely one of them would show up on a system like Interpol.

My current though on what happened:

Assuming that the radar data from the Malaysian military is true the aircraft made a turn to the west and made a flight over Malaysia descending to a very lo altitude over the sea at the end of the flight. The cause for turning must have been either an act of terrorism or a fault on the aircraft. The lack of communication suggests to me that a fault on the aircraft that resulted in a lack of power to the flight deck meant that no communications could be made by any system including the data and voice communication system on the aircraft. Whatever fault this was it left the aircraft in a flyable state and the pilots opted to turn back to try and land in Malaysia where it is likely the aircraft could be repaired (though this may take a time longer than a few hours). With no navigational systems the pilots felt lost and descended to a low altitude in order to navigate. From here on I am defiantly speculating with very little evidence but I suspect that the aircraft possibly struck the water at a shallow angle and low speed meaning that the aircraft was mainly in tact but quickly filled with water resulting in the aircraft sinking without any debris being released. This could have been cause by dual engine failure after the electrical failure. The lack of an Emergency Locator Transponder (ELT) also due to the electrical failure and in tact landing has meant that the aircraft is yet to be found.

Again, that is all my own opinion and is only loosely based on fact. I would hope that if my suggestion is correct they would have found the aircraft by now, but it may be evident that they are looking in the wrong place after days of searching.

I continue to wish the best for all involved, but it is also becoming more and more important for the aviation world that we find the aircraft in order to try and gain an understanding of what happened and why it took so long to find the aircraft in order to make sure this does not happen again in the future.

Update 12:21GMT 12/03/2014

The Malaysian military are now denying reports that they tracked MH370 across the country to the Malacca Straight which does beg the question of why people have been searching there for the past few days. With this information my 'prediction' from last night no longer holds too well and in my mind the aircraft is much more likely lost in the south China sea somewhere outside of the current search area. Even if the aircraft did crash within the search area I would have though by now that it is highly likely that any floating debris would have moved a reasonable distance. 

As I said at the very start of this post I am simply trying to shed a little light on the mess of conspiracies currently floating around. I was trying to do this by using the most credible sources I could for information, however it would seem that even the most credible of news agencies have not been able to report fact. For what reason I am not sure, but it is the job of organisations like the BBC to provide reliable, unbiased information to the public and in the case of MH370 they have failed. In my mind although these organisations are under pressure to provide us with news they would be better to say that they simply do not know. As many 'avgeeks' will know, what the media report is often based on their opinion anyway as, in general, reporters have very little understanding of the systems that they are talking about. (Radar for example is often thought of in a world war 2 sense where a pulse of energy is sent and a reflection of this is received. This is how primary radar works however, as mentioned earlier we are now heavily reliant on secondary radar systems.)

Currently I would suggest that the search is taking place in the wrong area, what we can do about this I don't know, the aircraft should be in a location where locating it should not be an issue, even AF447 was found in the middle of the pacific ocean faster (though I think that people should avoid comparison to other incidents as each is unique and are cause by different sets of circumstances). Until the aircraft is found we are unlikely to know what happened which is an issue for both the families of the passengers and crew, as well as the aviation community.

To finish this update I shall just say to be very careful of what you read regarding this situation, fact and fiction currently seem to have equal publicity which is not making things very clear. I think that the only useful news to hear now will be the discovery of the aircraft which will allow for some understanding of the truth.

Update 02:03 GMT 13/03/2014

So there is now a possible sighting from a Chinese satellite of large floating objects, supposedly accompanied by smoke. From what I can see these satellite images are from just outside the enlarged search area, I assume that the debris has floated away from the search area, explaining why it had not yet been found. 

For now I will leave it at that until this is investigated tomorrow and I will provide another update if physical evidence is found (or the ELT signals).

Friday, 7 March 2014

Health and safety gone mad

A very quick post before I go to bed.

Firstly the Redbull Air Race in Abu Dhabi from last weekend is now available to watch (and is well worth it) http://www.redbullairrace.com/en_GB/event/abu-dhabi#

Secondly, the health and safety bit...

How dangerous is litter picking??
Maybe a little, but enough to warrant 2 people using a litter picker whilst wearing a full set of high viz clothing... and hard hats!?!?
I'll let you make your own mind up about whether or not it's gone too far, but I think you can probably guess my opinion.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Red Bull Air Race - Race 1 (Abu Dhabi)

A quick post for you all now...

As I mentioned a couple of months ago, the Red Bull Air Race is back!!!

The first race took place over the last weekend in Abu Dhabi and Paul Bonhomme won (Woop!)
For more info on what happened and possibly an on demand catch up of the races then check out the website http://www.redbullairrace.com/en_GB/event/abu-dhabi 

Tickets are also on sale for the UK race at Ascot in August!

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Arduino Time

In my last post I said back to normal, though I'm not sure I know what normal is any more. Either way I'm just making excuses once again for my delay in posting.

On to what this is all about...

Just over 2 weeks ago I ordered myself an Arduino Mega, for those not familiar with the Arduino set-up, "Arduino is an open-source electronics prototyping platform based on flexible, easy-to-use hardware and software." (www.arduino.cc)
An Arduino Mega 2560 [http://store.arduino.cc/]
My plan for the Arduino is to make a cheap and easy 'cockpit' for flight sim. I say 'cockpit' as the plan is to have a small set-up with some main functions on flight sim. Although I'm sure I probably could make a full cockpit with a few Arduino's, (not quite sure of the plural there,) while I'm at uni I just need a small set-up that means I'm not trying to click on things in the screen whilst everything shakes around mid-flight.

The 'Cockpit'
The main things I plan to include are:
-Main Battery, Alternator/Generator and Avionics switches
-Light Switches
-Annunciator lights
-Gear & Flaps switches and indicators
-Clock (FSX time)
-Fuel %
-Com radios
-Nav Radios
-Other radios (ADF, Xpndr, DME)
-Basic Autopilot

Hopefully I can get all of that working. Currently I have the gear and flaps as well as a few other bits working and at this point I must say thanks to Jim for his 'link2fs multi' software (http://www.jimspage.co.nz/).

Aside from my personal cockpit build I have also written the code for and made a start on some F1 style starting lights for the Engineers Without Borders Pedal Powered Scalextric, a videos is attached below, I will put another one up in a separate post when I have finished it (currently waiting for a second arduino to arrive).

Anyway, that is all...

Like and Subscribe,
Any comments or questions then post below!