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 importance of Reunion island

Reunion may be a tiny island, but there some interesting things about it.

You probably have no idea where it is, so we start with its location:

https://www.google.co.in/maps/@-21.1306888,47.5723779,6z

Its nearest neighbours are the similarly-sized Mauritius and the much larger Madagascar.

What makes it special is its legal status-it is thousands of km from the French mainland but is governed as a part of France (not as a French colony). France, like Britain, had a vast and complicated empire with various grades of colonies. While Britain never declared any faraway colony as a part of Britain, France has done this for the following five:

Reunion (Indian Ocean)

French Guiana (South America)-known for Devil’s Island and Papillon, while its capital Cayenne gave its name to a variety of pepper

Guadeloupe (Caribbean)

Martininque (Caribbean)-known for the Mt Pelee volcanic disaster

Mayotte (Indian Ocean)

In all these places Marcon is the president and the Euro is the currency, and members are elected to the French parliament.

This gives rise to some interesting trivia-as one of the world’s longest domestic flights goes from Paris to Reunion (5809 miles/9352 km nonstop). One may say that it is not what one normally understands by a domestic flight. Similarly for flights between Hawaii, Alaska and the “Lower 48” states of the US. And the Netherlands has a similar non-stop flight to Bonaire in the Caribbean. The longest “genuine” domestic flight is between Adler and Khabarovsk in Russia (4287 miles/6902 km). For more on this topic:

http://weekendblitz.com/top-10-longest-domestic-flights-in-the-world/

Then there are other cases like the flights from Calcutta to Port Blair which used to stop at Rangoon up to the mid-70s.

Coming back to Reunion, it is a vacation spot of some importance to the French but it was in the news because of this:

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-34145127

This piece remains the only identifiable piece of debris from MH 370 ever found. Unfortunately, we are still far from any clue as to how the plane crashed or where more debris can be found. The French authorities seem to feel that the condition of this piece of the “flaperon” indicates that the aircraft ditched at sea rather than crashing at high speed (which would be expected if it ran out of fuel without anyone at the controls). More confusion. Meanwhile, the presence of several varieties of barnacles (not the blue blistering barnacles beloved of fans of Captain Haddock and Tintin) promise to give some indication of where the piece floated on its way to Reunion.

http://habilis.net/blistering-barnacles/

Those who want to keep up with developments in the story can refer to jeffwise.net where the comments are generally more informative than the original posts.

An interesting point of coincidence (or deliberate manipulation, if you are a conspiracy theorist) is that this piece of debris reached the one spot in thousands of square km which is under the control of a technically advanced country which would thoroughly examine it.

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).

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.

While the transponder on MH 370 ceased to function while approaching the Vietnamese coast, it was still trackable by primary radar until it went out of range. This is the last definitive information we have about its path:

MH370_flight_path_with_English_labels.png

Note that at the last point it is heading towards the Nicobar islands.

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 those theories).

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.

Footnote: A total of 239 persons were aboard the missing aircraft, being 12 crew and 227 passengers. 5 passengers were listed as Indian citizens. There may have been a few crew members and passengers from Malaysia with Indian-sounding names.

MH 370-miscellaneous notes

What India and Pakistan had to say about the “Northern Route” last March:

http://www.ibtimes.com/malaysian-airlines-flight-370-india-pakistan-say-they-know-nothing-saw-nothing-1562057

What the Maldivians said they saw on March 8:

http://www.maldives.com/destination-guides/debris-missing-flight-mh370-washed-beach-maldives/762

http://www.maldivesfinest.com/maldives-eye-witness-furious-mh370

And if they did see something, could it be from this airline which has cargo flights between Sri Lanka and the Maldives:

FitsAir Wiki

The colour scheme of the DC-8 is not too different from that of MAS. Here is a closer look:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FitsAir#mediaviewer/File:Expo_Air_Douglas_DC-8-63CF_Rioux.jpg

Their current website is below. Perhaps someone in Colombo could take a closer look at them:

http://fitsair.com/out-of-sri-lanka.html

MH 370: The Saga Continues

The disappearance of MH 370 on March 7/8 continues to be one of the biggest unsolved mysteries the aviation world (rather, the world) has seen. If you Google for “aviation mysteries” you will find a large number of articles from the mass media. The long-running stories include the disappearances of Amelia Earhart, the British “Star Dust” and the Bermuda Triangle’s so-called mysteries of Flight 19, “Star Ariel” and “Star Tiger”.

All of these have longish articles in Wikipedia if you need to refresh your memories. These articles have a number of links to pursue if you are really interested. The standard book debunking the Bermuda Triangle myth is the one by Lawrence Kusche: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Larry_Kusche

Some unsolved mysteries (notably the ones involving the Bermuda Triangle) remain unsolved but there are reasonable explanations for these disappearances. Some mysteries eventually get solved; there several instances such as the Star Dust where the aircraft’s wreckage was located after many years. Lesser known cases include some from India; an IAF AN-12 with 98 aboard disappeared between Chandigarh and Leh in 1968 and was untraced until 2003. Another IAF plane, a Dakota carrying troops to Srinagar in 1947, crashed in the Pir Panjal range and was not located until 1980.

It is not generally known that dozens (if not hundreds) of US transport planes disappeared over the Himalayas while flying between Assam and China during World War 2. At that time the area now known as Arunachal Pradesh was quite inaccessible and not much was done to locate crashes unless there were survivors. It is only in recent years that a determined and well-funded American researcher  has located many of these crash sites. See http://www.miarecoveries.org/

Back to MH 370. There are a number of books listed on Amazon (mainly on Kindle). Some are pure fantasy but some reasonably sensible ones worth reading are: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00JTELTJE/ref=rdr_kindle_ext_tmb

and http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00MB938XE/ref=rdr_kindle_ext_tmb

I have put together what one may call a “Dummies Guide to MH 370” which can be seen here-designed to be a PPT presentation for 20 minutes. The main points as they were known in end-November are summarized here:The Mystery of MH 370’s Disappearance

If you want to follow some up-to-date sensible discussions on the ongoing searches and related technical matters, the best resource appears to be the blog http://jeffwise.net/

As it often happens, the comments are usually more enlightening than the blogger’s original post. I would particularly recommend his post of Dec 1 and the links starting with “The Spoof: Part 1” which make up an intelligent guess as to the modus operandi of the conspirators. Mr Wise later says that his explanation should not be taken too seriously but it does fit all the facts. It may be worth looking into his blog every few days if you are really interested in MH 370.

What happened to MH 370?

Here is a brief presentation made by me during a conference of industrial safety at IIT Gandhinagar on Dec 4. See the Powerpoint which covers most of the facts known till now in a simple manner.The Mystery of MH 370’s Disappearance

Those who are interested in a logical explanation of the mystery should follow the blog http://www.jeffwise.net – especially his post of Dec 1 and all the links in it.