Today is MH 370 Day

We generally know March 8 as International Women’s Day. In years to come it may well become known as MH 370 Day. On this day in 2014, a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 with 239 aboard disappeared soon after it took off from Kuala Lumpur for Beijing on a flight listed as MH 370. It was a totally routine flight until the transponder was switched off at 17.19 UTC/GMT (or 22.49 IST). Three years later, the final location and fate of the plane and its occupants remain a mystery.

Whatever is generally known is given here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malaysia_Airlines_Flight_370

There are numerous forums/mailing lists still devoted to this incident. One of the better ones is

http://jeffwise.net/

You may also be interested in this bit I wrote about the Indian angle. It has some general information about the Andaman and Nicobar Islands:

https://abn397.wordpress.com/2015/03/07/mh-370-the-indian-angle/

 

 

The shortest flights in India and elsewhere

As we have seen in the previous article, there are many international flights which cover over 10,000 km non-stop. The ultimate aim would be to have an aircraft which has a range of about 20,000 km (being half the circumference of the earth) which could travel between any two points on the globe without stopping. It would, of course, be useful to have such a missile and probably the US, Russia and even North Korea must have done something towards this end.

Now we look at short flights in India at present. This would appear to be Mumbai-Pune, operated by a 737-800 of Jet Airways. The point-to point distance is 123 km but distance flown may be as much as 211 km (which can be seen from sites such as http://uk.flightaware.com/ ) Quite wasteful for a 737. Other flights under 200 km include Kolkata-Durgapur (164 km), Diu-Porbandar (167 km), and Kochi-Thiruvanthapuram (195 km, actual distance flown 237 km). Some of these sectors are covered by ATR turboprops, others by 737s or A320s which probably doesn’t do much for fuel efficiency.

In the last decade, there have been flights linking Kanpur and Lucknow (63 km) and Jorhat and Lilabari (also 63 km). In the former case the airports are quite far from the city centre so even ordinary buses may turn out to be faster. However, IIT Kanpur now has a helicopter service linking its campus to Lucknow airport. In the latter case there is no satisfactory land route, and it involves crossing the Brahmaputra where, until recently, there was no bridge for hundreds of kilometres.

The real record was held by the Tripura hopper operated by the then IAC in the early 70s, which linked Calcutta with Agartala, Khowai, Kamalpur and Kailashahr with a DC-3.

The distances were:

Agartala-Khowai: 42 km

Khowai-Kamalpur: 23

Kamalpur-Kailashahr: 28

And there are Pawan Hans helicopter services in Arunachal Pradesh which may have similar sector lengths.

Here is an article which mentions the shortest international flights: Kinshasa-Brazzaville (20 km) and Vienna-Bratislava (30 km): http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/travelnews/11330814/Is-this-the-worlds-shortest-international-flight.html

But the clear champion for the world’s shortest flight goes to Loganair’s flight between Westray and Papa Westray in Scotland’s Orkney Islands. This has been appearing in the Guinness Book since at least the 80s, and many articles and videos can be found on the net. This flight is timetabled at 2 minutes but can cover the distance of less than 3 km in 47 seconds in favorable winds. The present fare appears to be about USD 30. Here is a typical description along with a video:

http://www.amusingplanet.com/2013/08/worlds-shortest-commercial-flight-is.html

Longest non-stop flights within India

(Revised and updated in February 2017).

In 2015 Emirates announced the advent of what would be the world’s longest non-stop flight between their Dubai hub and Panama City with an estimated flight time of over 17 hours.  That service has not started yet. The current longest service (in km) is the Qatar Airways flight between Doha and Auckland, which is 14,534 km.It is scheuled at 17 hours 40 minutes. Details of these and other long hauls are given here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Non-stop_flight#Longest_flights

Note that the Delhi-San Francisco flight over the Pacific may turn out to be somewhat longer than 14500 km although the time taken is less than 15 hours due to tailwinds. It has once flown 16980 km in 14 hours 5 minutes.

This made one wonder which would be the longest non-stop flights within India. There are numerous websites where the great-circle distance can be found merely by feeding in the airport codes, such as: http://www.gcmap.com/

This site also gives details of the actual distance flown which will be more than the great-circle distance which is the theoretical minimum: http://uk.flightaware.com/

We get these as the four longest non-stop flights wholly within India:

(This has been updated with the inauguration of the Delhi-Thiruvananthapuram non-stop service by Indigo in January 2016)

Delhi-Thiruvananthapuram (DEL-TRV): 2224 km great circle, actual 2301 km, time 3 hr 20 minute (scheduled)-one pair of flights by Indigo daily.

Mumbai-Guwahati (BOM-GAU): 2073 km great circle, actual 2207 km, time 2 hr 55 minute (scheduled)-two pairs of flights by Indigo daily.

Delhi-Kochi (DEL-COK): 2040, 2112,3:10

Bengaluru-Guwahati (BLR-GAU): 2036, 2113,2:45

As you can see, scheduled timings depend on wind and other factors so the DEL-COK flight ends up taking slightly longer than the BOM-GAU flight.

There are various multi-leg flights which are longer: Delhi-Kolkata-Port Blair (1315 + 1301 = 2616) and Dehradun-Delhi-Bengaluru-Thiruvananthapuram (207 + 1703 + 529 =2439 km). A single-leg flight on these routes would be 2480 and 2407 km respectively, which should be technically feasible but would not attract enough traffic to be economic.

The same article also gives details of the longest flights for different aircraft models as well as airlines (though it does not include Spicejet and Indigo): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Non-stop_flight#Longest_flights

You can also look up the shortest flights, in https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Non-stop_flight#Shortest_flights which tells us that the shortest scheduled airline flight is 93 km between Mumbai and Pune, operated by Jet. There are scheduled helicopter flights in the North-East operated by Pawan Hans which may be shorter.

In the Dakota age, there were some legs operated by Indian Airlines which were less than 50 km, as summarized in: https://abn397.wordpress.com/2015/06/27/a-slice-of-history-indian-airlines-in-1972-and-the-tripura-hopper/

which mentioned one sector in Tripura which was 21 km long.

Here is a news item about the DEL-TRV flight:

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/thiruvananthapuram/Tpuram-Delhi-is-the-longest-non-stop-flying-route-now/articleshow/50481743.cms?from=mdr

MH 370: The saga STILL continues

I have written on this topic before. Here is a summary of what was known in December 2014:

https://abn397.wordpress.com/2014/12/27/mh-370-the-saga-continues

and a later comment on the Indian angle:

https://abn397.wordpress.com/2015/03/07/mh-370-the-indian-angle/

As mentioned earlier, one forum which attracts a fair number of well-informed comments is:

http://jeffwise.net/

Sometimes a single article attracts over 1200 comments, which are worth reading if you want to know about this deepest of mysteries.

Basically the old idea that the crash’s location was determined by the BFO transmissions is being given less credence now-so if the plane did not go to the southern Indian Ocean, where else could it have gone? This aspect is studied by Victor Iannello here:

http://jeffwise.net/2015/04/29/guest-post-northern-routes-for-mh370-ending-at-airports/#more-3915

Anyone a bit familiar with Indian aviation would see something wrong in his scenario. Look at the map and then see my comment (among the first few).

A 1962 article on Indian Airlines

The now-defunct magazine Flight  now has most of its old issues (from 1909 to 2005) archived as pdf in this website:

http://www.flightglobal.com/pdfarchive/index.html

You can find some interesting articles pertaining to Indian aviation here. The only irritant is that each page is stored as a separate pdf file.

For instance, here is a 6-page illustrated article from early 1962 on the Indian Airlines Corporation as it was then. It is particularly interesting to see a map showing all the routes being flown then and the average number of passengers daily. Even the famous Agartala/Khowai/Kamalpur/Kailashahr flight is there on the map and gets due mention.

This should be of interest to anyone interested in the history of civil aviation in India.

Please read the following pages in order:

1962 – 0202      1962 – 0203      1962 – 0204

1962 – 0241      1962 – 0242       1962 – 0243

Past air crashes linked to pilot’s actions

Much is being said about the crash of Germanwings’ flight 4U9525, including the fact that the co-pilot was somehow responsible for this. It is not always possible to exactly identify the cause in accidents of this sort, but there is fairly strong evidence in several instances which have not been highlighted in the press so far. This list appears to be more exhaustive:

http://www.itv.com/news/2015-03-26/eight-pilot-suicides-recorded-in-past-40-years-killing-hundreds-of-passengers-crew-and-people-on-the-ground/

This seems to draw mainly from the site: http://aviation-safety.net/  One can also see the Wikipedia articles for more details of the respective incidents.

There is even one from India which did not get much publicity as it was not a commercial flight:

http://aviation-safety.net/database/record.php?id=19920827-2

And of course, something of this sort might have happened in the case of MH 370 although there are several other theories which can explain its disappearance.

MH 370-the Indian angle

As the anniversary of the disappearance of MH 370 draws around, we look back at some news reports from last March considering what India may have been able to do at that time and why they did not do anything.

We first look at this report discussing possible landing sites in the Andamans and the nearby Coco islands (which are Myanmarese territory). This was written before the Inmarsat pings and the Southern Indian Ocean trajectory became common knowledge.

http://www.ibtimes.co.in/missing-malaysia-airlines-mh370-deliberately-diverted-towards-andaman-and-nicobar-islands-list-of-unused-airports-where-the-plane-possibly-landed-photos-543391

Of course, landing at the Indian airports at Campbell Bay, Car Nicobar, Port Blair and Shibpur could not have happened without the knowledge (or connivance) of the Indian armed forces. And the path to the Coco Islands should have been detected by Port Blair’s radar if it was working.

As this is the most remote part of India, a few maps may be helpful for orientation:Andamans-A 001

Note that the Andamans and the Nicobars are distinct island groups. They are grouped together as a single territory called “The Andaman and Nicobar Islands”, as in the map above.

Most of the population is in the Andamans, and the Nicobars have little population outside the Indian military bases. The forests of both island groups are largely inhabited by tribes who have little contact with the outside world. (You may recall the poison dart man from “The Sign of Four”).Very few Indian civilians (other than those employed by the government) are allowed to travel to the Nicobars.

Another point of interest is that the islands are considerably closer to Myanmar and Indonesia than they are to India. In turboprop days the Indian Airlines Viscount flights from Calcutta to Port Blair used to refuel at Rangoon. Direct flights started only with the 737s.

The islands had been occupied by the Japanese for a long period during WW2.

A closer look at the Andamans (and the Coco Islands):

Andamans-B 001

Here you see the main town of Port Blair, its airport (which is run by the military, who allow civilian flights for part of the day), the little-used airstrip at Shibpur and the Coco islands.

And finally the Nicobars:

Andamans-C 001

Here we see Car Nicobar with its 8900-ft airfield which was wrecked in the 2004 tsunami and promptly rebuilt, and the smaller base at Campbell Bay which handles smaller aircraft and probably has little or no radar. Car Nicobar does handle 737s and A320s on military charters, besides Il-76s and the smaller military transports such as AN-32s.

Note the proximity to Banda Aceh which would have been circumnavigated by MH 370 as many believe.

Now a couple of articles by an Indian aviation expert. This newspaper and the writer are generally considered to be reliable. Of course, these articles are based on what was known at the time of writing.

From the Hindu of 18/03/2014:

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/disturbing-scenarios-on-mh370/article5797358.ece

and from the same paper of 26/03/2014:

http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/the-possibility-of-pilot-suicide/article5831677.ece

These two articles reflect what was known at that time. I am not sure whether the writer’s comments about the state of affairs at the radar facilities at Car Nicobar and Port Blair are fully reliable. But if the Car Nicobar radar was functioning, it would certainly have caught some part of the track of MH 370 before if it disappeared towards the South Pole (or to the Maldives or Diego Garcia if you believe that theory).

However, even if you stick to the northern path to Baikonur or nearby, it would be difficult for it to get through the radars of Kolkata international airport and several large air force bases in eastern India where the radar would be better monitored than in the sleepy outposts in the islands.