Three pieces of evidence point to jet's takeover

Mar 16, 2014 by The Associated Press

There are three pieces of evidence that aviation safety experts say make it clear the missing Malaysia Airlines jet was taken over by someone who was knowledgeable about how the plane worked.

TRANSPONDER

One clue is that the 's transponder—a signal system that identifies the plane to radar—was shut off about an hour into the flight.

In order to do that, someone in the cockpit would have to turn a knob with multiple selections to the off position while pressing down at the same time, said John Goglia, a former member of the National Transportation Safety Board. That's something a pilot would know how to do, but it could also be learned by someone who researched the plane on the Internet, he said.

ACARS

Another clue is that part of the Boeing 777's Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) was shut off.

The system, which has two parts, is used to send short messages via a satellite or VHF radio to the airline's home base. The information part of the system was shut down, but not the transmission part. In most planes, the information part of the system can be shut down by hitting cockpit switches in sequence in order to get to a computer screen where an option must be selected using a keypad, said Goglia, an expert on aircraft maintenance.

That's also something a pilot would know how to do, but that could also be discovered through research, he said.

But to turn off the other part of the ACARS, it would be necessary to go to an electronics bay beneath the cockpit. That's something a pilot wouldn't normally know how to do, Goglia said, and it wasn't done in the case of the Malaysia plane. Thus, the ACARS transmitter continued to send out blips that were recorded by the Inmarsat satellite once an hour for four to five hours after the transponder was turned off. The blips don't contain any messages or data, but the satellite can tell in a very broad way what region the blips are coming from and adjusts the angle of its antenna to be ready to receive message in case the ACARS sends them. Investigators are now trying to use data from the satellite to identify the region where the plane was when its last blip was sent.

GUIDED FLIGHT

The third indication is that that after the transponder was turned off and civilian radar lost track of the plane, Malaysian military radar was able to continue to track the plane as it turned west.

The plane was then tracked along a known flight route across the peninsula until it was several hundred miles (kilometers) offshore and beyond the range of military radar. Airliners normally fly from waypoint to waypoint where they can be seen by who space them out so they don't collide. These lanes in the sky aren't straight lines. In order to follow that course, someone had to be guiding the plane, Goglia said.

Goglia said he is very skeptical of reports the plane was flying erratically while it was being tracked by military radar, including steep ascents to very high altitudes and then sudden, rapid descents. Without a transponder signal, the ability to track planes isn't reliable at very or with sudden shifts in altitude, he said.

Explore further: US suspects missing plane flew on for hours

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Mayday
not rated yet Mar 16, 2014
Out of curiosity, I tried something on a common flight simulator app on my iPad. Flying a 777 northbound in level flight at 35,000 feet, I added a touch of back trim (due to the limits of the sim, I was already near full throttle). With no further control input, the plane climbed steeply into an accelerated stall at 45,000 feet before rolling off to the west and diving steeply. Regaining speed, it nosed up at 20,000 feet (yes, it took about a minute to get down there) and began porpoising along. This mimics the reported flight path. My only cheat (admittedly a big cheat) was to add a little right aileron to keep it from corkscrewing on the dive (as rudimentary wings-level autopilot might). Curious.
Squirrel
not rated yet Mar 17, 2014
What about Sherlock Holmes' dog that did not bark? No group has claimed responsibility? It had to be a group--233 people could not be neutralized by a lone wolf or a suicidal pilot. But if it was a takeover, why the silence?

Could it be that having failed to 9 11 the Petronas Twin Towers, the group discover a second and better terrorist reward--the hit upon Malaysian's government reputation created by its incompetence (military radar not spotting its land crossing; failure to disclose important facts; wasting time).

If so no terrorist group will now claim responsibility and allow closure--the longer no more facts are found, the greater the political knock on Malaysian government's credibility as government. That unintended gain from a failed terrorist attack could now be richly prized by its planners. This situation might be the "dog that did not bark in the night" clue that at present has been missed.