March 19, 2014

Malaysia Flight 370 — news of March 17 week (updated)

Special update, March 19 — Perhaps finally at the end of its tether on incompetency plus shame in the eyes of the rest of the world, the Malaysian government is finally asking for outside help, namely from the FBI.

Update, March 18more indications that either the pilot or first officer deliberately took over the plane. And, if Malaysia won't quickly hand over what it's learning from the pilot's home computers, I'm sure the NSA had garnered some information on its own, or else is now from Malaysian government computers and phones. Even with the Snowden revelations, it's probably reluctant to say much in public, but may be leaning on Malaysian officials, and leaning hard, in private.

Update 2, same date: A Canadian pilot is claiming a possible aircraft fire overwhelmed the crew. But, if you go to the original posting by him on G+, which I link and not the edited adaptation on Wired, there's a number of commenters with some degree of skepticism. Were it not for residents of the Maldives claiming to see a low-flying plane, I'd give Goodfellow's idea even less credibility. 

The Times of India story about the Maldivan alleged sighting? If this were a plane fire, would the plane really have flown that far? And, even still been at 5K feet? If this is the plane, it's entirely separate from Goodfellow's claims and does not automatically support that.

One problem IMO, as a nonpilot totally, but a reasonably knowledgeable student of geography. On pretty much a straight line of the current path, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) is not much further away, if any, than Kuala Lumpur, at time of last contact. And, I doubt that there would be no other contact otherwise. And, there's some other debunking on his original G+ by those more knowledgable about flight than me.

Per Facebook friend Leo, the old Tan Son Nhat airbase has two runways that are both over 10,000 feet, more than long enough to drop that plane.

I knew a couple of guys where were at Tan Son Nhat in Nam when it was the big USAF base. Didn't know, but makes sense, that it was remade into an airport. And, the last known sighting, per that nice large map, is equidistant from Ho Chi Minh City and Kuala Lumpur. 

So, no, this is likely not correct. Of the two, I think the Maldivan sighting is more likely correct, but without Goodfellow's cockpit fire.

And, Goodfellow is further refuted here, on Slate, for various reasons, one his over-simplicity, the other, more fundamental, being that:
Goodfellow’s theory fails further when one remembers the electronic ping detected by the Inmarsat satellite at 8:11 on the morning of March 8. According to analysis provided by the Malaysian and United States governments, the pings narrowed the location of MH370 at that moment to one of two arcs, one in Central Asia and the other in the southern Indian Ocean. As MH370 flew from its original course toward Langkawi, it was headed toward neither. Without human intervention—which would go against Goodfellow’s theory—it simply could not have reached the position we know it attained at 8:11 a.m.
And I don't care if Patrick Smith of "Ask a Pilot" fame likes Goodfellow's theory because, as he notes, he mentioned it five days earlier himself, I think he's wrong too.

So, I'd politely tell Goodfellow to put a sock in it. And per a note at the end of the Slate piece, quit making ad hoc changes to your claims, ones that further strain credulity. I'd more politely and respectfully say the same to Smith; Wise's refutation of Goodfellow on Slate applies to you too, unless you have more elaborate caveats than Goodfellow, in which case, probably, my "strain credulity" applies to you, too.

Goodfellow and Smith also suffer from the "trying to have their cake and eat it too," phenomenon.

The idea that nobody ever asked for directions or assistance further undercuts their theory. On the plane fire theory, you can't have it both ways on it cutting off different transponders at different times, about an hour apart, but cutting cabin contact in a flash.

Plus, we now know that the copilot's "sign-off comment" was uttered 12 minutes after the plane had started turning west. So, the fire theory is now officially as dead as a doorknob.

Meanwhile, that Times of India story about the Maldivan sighting has a bit of "aroma" to it, too.

Either Bob Woodruff is putting words in some fisherman's mouth, or else he's mugging for Western media. He knows the plane was at 5,000 feet how? As for the detailed description? They do have a newspaper there, I'll venture. Maybe television, too. Wouldn't be too hard for a resident to know what that plane "should" look like.

Or, if that fisherman were north and east of the islands themselves, and Malaysian Airlines has any flights out of Columbo, Sri Lanka, he could have seen that.

And, according to Business Insider, that would put it well too far north of the southern "cone" based on the engine transponder pings. That said, who knows how precise this triangulation is?

Yet more on the Maldivan reports here.

Back to the original post ...

So, to update, here's the latest we know, more on the government of Malaysia than on the missing Flight 370.

First? We do know that Malaysian officials are corrupt, and as a result, some mix of stupid, devious, and conniving.

Confirming the incompetency of the Malaysian government? Somebody pulled strings to call in Uri Geller on the search. And, as of March 17, it's changing its story on when the ACARS system stopped broadcasting.

And, the idea that the man whom pilot Zaharie Ahmed Shah supports, Anwar Ibrahim, is a troublemaker or anything similar (other than being troublesome) to a corrupt semi-dictatorship is ridiculous. Ibrahim has led the Malaysian political opposition for years, and suffered for his pains before his current trial. As Dobson notes, allegations behind this reinforce the ineptitude born of corruption that lies behind this government.

The Daily Mail spread quasi-disinformation in calling Shah's support for Ibrahim "fanatical." I shouldn't have posted the link at first without caveating it.

As for being a religious fanatic? Shah's Facebook page, per Mother Jones, suggests just the opposite, if anything.

It's no wonder Malaysia rejects more outside help. That would only put on display its ineptitude and corruption, even as whispering campaigns and statements at cross purposes with one another continue to be released.

Meanwhile, contra Ted Rall's second guessing, it did NOT get to Kazakhstan. Given Baikonur Cosmodrome and nuke testing in Kazakhstan, there's got to be a gazillion radars there. It would have had to cross either the India-China or India-Pakistan border, with all of its radars and bristling military hardware, too, where it would have been shot down. Rall should have stuck with his first speculation, that it's in the Indian Ocean.

On the radar issue, he tweeted back that Indian officials say they turn off most their radar systems at night to save money. Tis true, on the radar shutdowns. Here's Reuters on that issue. That said, Russia has a bit more money than India or Pakistan. So does China. If the plane turned northwest, depending on when, it would have had to cross Chinese airspace under some flight paths, too. 

Besides, even the typical airline pilot wouldn't be guaranteed to know that India hit the snooze button on at least parts of its radar system. Ditto for a terrorist in the passenger compartment. As for a friendly welcome, Kazakhstan's never been a supporter of terrorist versions of Islam. And, even in more remote parts of that underpopulated country, you still have to land the damned plane somewhere.

Rall's still an an odd duck at times, even if right about India's radar. I agree with about 60-70 percent of what he says, even his controversial stuff, but probably still disagree with 15-20 percent, and to the final 15-20 percent, he says, I say what the fuck?

He's now followed his radar comments by something of the WTF 20 percent. As for why no cell phone calls from passengers? His post suggest that, at best, he committed an elementary memory lapse and at worst left upon the possibility he's a 9/11 Truther, at least without further investigation. 

Actually, teh Google tells me that he's not a Truther EXCEPT for questioning the official account of the downing of Flight 93. And, unless somebody can point me to something definite on Flight 93's cockpit, post 9/11 Commission, some skepticism, if not necessarily quite as heavy as his, is the correct stance

So, I could just call it a brain fart on cell phones mixed with overexcitedness. But, I won't. Rall has explained himself on that, but not retracted/edited the "duh" on cell phones, despite multiple requests by me to do so; his explanations on that are now doubling down on disingenuousness. And, one of his commenters claims that land-related reach of cell phones out to sea is getting greater all the time, so, because!

And, even over land, you have to be over or near an area of cell tower density for good reception. Flight 370, after the turn, wasn't.

So, while I've long learned to generally not underestimate or discount Ted Rall, in this case ...

I AM! Sorry, Ted, you're wrong. The cell phone part, in particular, shows that you're just being stubborn on this issue.

Per your own rhetorical question of, "Is it possible the plane made it to Kazakhstan?" I respond, "Is it likely, or even close to likely?" and respond with a definite "No."

Now, the "why"? Otherwise known as "let's have fun speculating"?

As for the idea of a hijack, not a terrorist takedown? At some point, you have to ask for ransom. It's been a week and we haven't heard that yet. It's also been a week with nobody spilling the beans, even in a semi-deserted Kazakhstan. That's further reason to discount Ted Rall. The longer people are held hostage, even in a theoretical plan as devious as this, the more somebody is likely to talk, or some outsider is to spot some incident.

As for hijacking the plane just for the plane? Ghost ships do exist after being taken over and thoroughly overhauled, but I've never heard of that being done to a passenger jet.

As for it going down? Well, the possible southern flight path is looking more and more likely for that.

And, if it's in the southern Indian Ocean, it could take many years to find the wreckage. Whether by air or sea, the southern Indian Ocean is little crossed. Due to great circle lines, flights from South Africa to India or China largely hug the east African coast. Only transit between southern Africa and Australia crosses significant portions of the southern Indian Ocean. 

Here's a great circle mapper, which makes jet stream and other allowances; it produced that sample map of a Johannesberg-Beijing flight shown here. You can see that, setting aside  east African coastal waters above Madagascar, it doesn't cross the southern Indian Ocean at all.

It took two full years to find the wreck black box of the Air France plane lost off the coast of Brazil. In that case, we had a plane that never turned, and wreckage visible on the surface at least somewhat near being due overhead of the plane's oceanic resting site. If we should find wreckage relatively soon, with the southern Indian Ocean being much wider than the South Atlantic, greater drift is likely.

Stonekettle Station adds to the angle of how hard it will likely be to spot the wreckage, as well as telling Rall to get a clue on Kazakhstan.

Otherwise, this post is to otherwise remind you that we still know not a lot more than bupkis, other than that the communications problems within the Malaysian government are really a sign of corruption and ineptitude. 

No comments: