updated 3/9 re: pilot experience and water landings
updated 3/10 re: cellphone calls connecting but not answered
clarifications 3/10: changed first paragraph from ‘”consistent”‘ to ‘reportedly “consistent”‘; clarified description of fuel dump: added “although jet fuel is highly volatile and dissipates fairly rapidly in open water.”
Two oil slicks that are reportedly “consistent” with the kind of slicks that would be left by a crashed jetliner have been sighted off the coast of southern Vietnam. Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 was flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8th. The last contact the flight had with air traffic controllers was reported to be around 2:40 a.m. local time, two hours after takeoff, but there is some discrepancy between flight tracking systems. The New York Times reported:
[T]he timeline seemed to suggest that the plane stayed in the air for two hours — long enough to fly not only across the Gulf of Thailand but also far north across Vietnam. But Mr. Lindahl of Flightradar 24, a flight tracking service, said that the last radar contact had been at 1:19 a.m., less than 40 minutes after the flight began. A Malaysia Airlines spokesman said on Saturday evening that the last conversation between the flight crew and air traffic control in Malaysia had been around 1:30 a.m., but he reiterated that the plane had not disappeared from air traffic control systems in Subang until 2:40 a.m.
There are two unusual aspects to the flight’s disappearance:
- Two of the 227 passengers listed on the flight manifest were in fact not on the plane. An Italian and and Austrian each reported that their passports had been stolen while they were traveling in Thailand.
- The Los Angeles Times reported that the airline’s CEO, Ahmad Jauhari Yahya, told a news conference in Kuala Lumpur that there was no distress call or bad weather report from the pilots before the plane lost contact with air control 120 nautical miles (140 miles) off the east coast of Kota Bharu, Malaysia.
Several analysts and experts have said that it was highly unusual that all communication would have been cut off without any indication from the crew that there was a problem, although an Air France flight that crashed in 2009 had also never issued a distress call. Mary Schiavo, the former Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Transportation, told CNN, “That plane has many different ways to locate it: Automatic beacons that tell you where it is; there are several ways to contact it both with radios and GPS, as well as computer communications within the cockpit.” A senior administration officer from the industry, speaking to Chinese media on condition of anonymity, explained that a plane is equipped with several sets of communication devices, which function simultaneously. Even if all of them fail to work, the plane can be located through radar code.
What could explain the sudden and complete communication silence? The obvious explanation is that Continue reading