Disappearance of Flight MH370 well-planned

KUALA LUMPUR - Whoever reached across the dimly lit cockpit of a Malaysia Airlines jet and clicked off a transponder to make Flight MH370 vanish from controllers’ radars flew the plane into a navigational and technical black hole.

By choosing that exact place and time to vanish into radar darkness with 238 others on board, the person — presumed to be a pilot or a passenger with advanced knowledge — appears to have acted only after meticulous planning, according to aviation experts.

Understanding the sequence that led to the unprecedented plane hunt widening across two vast tracts of territory north and south of the Equator is key to grasping the motives of what Malaysian authorities suspect was hijacking or sabotage.

By signing off from Malaysian airspace at 1.19am on March 8 (1719 GMT March 7) with a casual “all right, good night,” rather than the crisp radio drill advocated in pilot training, a person now believed to be the co-pilot gave no hint of anything unusual.

Two minutes later, at 1.21am local time, the transponder — a device identifying jets to ground controllers — was turned off in a move that experts say could reveal a careful sequence.

“Every action taken by the person who was piloting the aircraft appears to be a deliberate one. It is almost like a pilot’s checklist,” said one senior captain from an Asian carrier with experience of jets, including the Boeing 777.

But whoever turned the transponder to “off,” did so at a vulnerable point between two airspace sectors when Malaysian and Vietnamese controllers could easily assume the airplane was each others’ responsibility.

“The predictable effect was to delay the raising of the alarm by either party,” David Learmount, operations and safety editor at Flight International, wrote in an industry blog.

“Turning off the transponder indicates this person was highly-trained,” said Weber, of consultancy TECOP International.

The lockdown of MH370 may have begun as early as 40 minutes into the flight at a point when meals are being hurriedly served in time to get trays cleared and lights dimmed for the night.

“It was a red-eye flight. Most people — the passengers and the crew — just want to rest,” a Malaysia Airlines stewardess said. “Unless there was a reason to panic, if someone had taken control of the aircraft, they would not have noticed anything.”

At some point between 1.07am and 1.37am, investigators believe someone switched off another system called ACARS designed to transmit maintenance data back to the ground.

“Occasionally, there are gaps in the communications systems and the guys in ground operations may not think much of it initially. It would be a while before they try to find out what was wrong,” said one captain with an Asian carrier.

Cutting the datalink would not have been easy. Instructions are not in the Flight Crew Operating Manual, one pilot said.

Circuit-breakers used to disable the system are in a bay reached through a hatch in the floor next to the lefthand front exit, close to a galley used to prepare meals.

Most pilots said it would be impossible to turn off ACARS from inside the cockpit, although two people did not rule it out.

After the transponder was turned off, the northeast-bound jet took a northwestern route from the sea off Kota Bahru in eastern Malaysia to Penang Island. It was last detected on military radar around 200 miles northwest of Penang.

Even that act of going off course may not have caused alarm at first if it was handled gradually, pilots said.

“Nobody pays attention to these things unless they are aware of the direction that the aircraft was heading in,” said one first officer who has flown with Malaysia Airlines.

After casting off its identity, the aircraft set investigators a puzzle that has yet to be solved. It veered either northwards or southwards, within an hour’s flying time of arcs stretching from the Caspian to the southern Indian Ocean.

The best way to avoid the attention of military radars would have been to fly at a fixed altitude, on a recognised flight path and at cruising speed without changing course, pilots say.

Malaysian officials dismissed as speculation reports that the jet may have flown at low altitude to avoid detection.

Although investigators refused to be drawn into theories, few in the industry believe a 250-tonne passenger jet could run amok without expert skills or preparation.

“Whoever did this must have had lots of aircraft knowledge, would have deliberately planned this, had nerves of steel to be confident enough to get through primary radar without being detected and been confident enough to control an aircraft full of people,” a veteran airline captain told Reuters.

Meanwhile, intensive background checks of everyone aboard a missing Malaysian jetliner have so far failed to find anyone with a known political or criminal motive to crash or hijack the plane, Western security sources and Chinese authorities have said.

Comments (7)

Dear Lord, we pray that this plane be discovered, wherever it is and whatever happened to it be revealed in the name of Jesus.

Mazvita - 19 March 2014

May the powers that be humble themselves, fly to Lagos Nigeria and pick up Prophet T.B. Joshua who will direct them with precision accuracy to the exact point where the plane is!

FAITH - 19 March 2014

No political motive? It's well-known that passengers from Huawei and ZTE were on board. Both Chinese companies have specifically been declared U.S. national security threats for spying and connections to the Chinese military. Oh, and selling technology to Iran. There were 20 employees from Freescale Semiconductors a U.S. Dept. of Defense contractor) on board as well. Read this and process how threatening these Chinese spies are for the U.S. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/09/us/us-panel-calls-huawei-and-zte-national-security-threat.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

Sam - 19 March 2014

What is TB Joshua reviewing about the missing plane.It seems to a suicidal plot.

Gerald Kapamara - 20 March 2014

What is TB Joshua reviewing about the missing plane.It seems to a suicidal plot.

Gerald Kapamara - 20 March 2014

IAM NOT SURE WHERE IT IS I SAW IT NEXT TO INDONESIA IN INDIAN OCEAN NOW ITS NEAR PERTH DEEP IN THE SEA

T.B JOSHUA - 22 March 2014

Perhaps we should all read this prior to blaming someone. He is Innocent until proven guilty. http://www.wired.com/autopia/2014/03/mh370-electrical-fire/

Dont Blame the Pilot - 24 March 2014

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