Kuala Lumpur. There seems to be no clue to the missing Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777-200 aircraft except that somebody on board took it deliberately towards the depths of the southern Indian Ocean.
Why and Where and for What reasons, and many other questions are unanswered three weeks after the painful and tragic loss of lives of 227 passengers and 12 crew on board, including possibly the person responsible for the criminal diversion of the aircraft from its Kuala Lumpur-Beijing flight path on March 8, some 40 minutes after takeoff.
About a dozen aircraft and several ships have been looking for the debris, here and there after different satellites from different countries spotted unidentified debris at different places. On April 2, a report from Perth, from where the Australians are leading the search, said that a British nuclear submarine, HMS Tireless, was in the area now “with her advanced underwater search capability will be able to contribute to the attempts to locate the missing plane”
There have been unconfirmed reports of US and Chinese nuclear submarines also around there but as the movement of nuclear submarines is nearly always secret due to strategic reasons, no confirmation can be obtained.
Twenty Six countries in fact had responded to Malaysia ’s call for help in Search and Rescue (SAR) and India even sent one Indian Air Force C 130J Super Hercules and one Indian Navy’s highly advanced Boeing P8-I to Subong at Malaysia’s disposal besides deploying other aircraft and ships in an area as advised by authorities in Kuala Lumpur.
Eight satellite pings were sent by a device on the aircraft, which was not switched off, between 1.11 am and 8.11 am – over seven hours after it officially lost contact with air traffic controllers. The satellite which picked up the hourly pings, was a 20 year old system without the GPS. Experts from the company followed a new method to calculate the possible flight path and concluded that the Beoing 777-200 ended its flight deep in the southern Indian Ocean.
The new method “gives the approximate direction of travel, plus or minus about 100 miles, to a track line”, Chris McLaughlin, senior vice-president for external affairs at Inmarsat said, adding: “Unfortunately this is a 1990s satellite over the Indian Ocean that is not GPS-equipped.”
Nonetheless, results produced by Inmarsat have reasonably been corroborated by satellite imagery given by half a dozen other nations as also by pictures taken by Australian aircraft. Till March 27th however, no debris had been picked up due to the deterrent and violent weather in the region, some 2,000 to 2,500 km from Perth.
Significantly, the Black Box in an aircraft is also programmed to emit signals – or pings – for 30 days. If weather impoves, ships could float ping detectors to locate it. Its by battery life would run out by April 6 or 7.
After that, it would be very, very difficult to locate and extricate this vital device.That could also make it impossible to solve the deadly mystery of the plane that went missing on March 8.
The aircraft’s Black Box should be emitting a signal for about 30 days – say till April 7 to 10 – as per the built in power specifications, and the US Navy has supplied a couple of Black Box detectors to the Australian and British Navy. The system is towed underwater and is capable of picking up faint signals.The search is now conducted by ships and aircraft from Australia, Britain, US, South Korea, Japan and China. Beijing is particularly perturbed as most of the victims of the missing flight were Chinese.
The biggest problem is finding the aircraft location even in approximate terms. According to Australian Vice Chief of the Defense Force, Air Marshal Mark Binskin, “We are not searching for a needle in a haystack but still trying to define where the haystack is.”
The search has been moved a couple of times, hundreds of kilometers away and hundreds of thousands square kilometers away, depending upon satellite imagery inputs from different countries. Then, there is the issue of violent storms and undercurrents. The waters are described as deep, dark, turbulent, dangerous and mostly inaccessible. Objects sighted once move miles away within hours in unpredictable directions.
Some pieces of debris, sighted by satellites, have been picked up but they had nothing to do with the missing or any other aircraft.
In the absence of any confirmation, many rumours and preposterous stories have come up on the social media. Families of those on board have declined to believe the finality of loss of lives of their kin and have accused the Malaysian Government of hiding the truth.
Coming under a lot of pressure, Prime Minister Najib Razak himself took part in a flight on April 2 to search the missing aircraft.
It may be noted that after reports from Inmarsat and British Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) officials, Mr Razak had announced on March 24 that the flight had ‘ended’ in the southern Indian Ocean and that there was no hope of any survivors.
The reports were based on the periodic pings – or signals – that its global network of satellites picked up eight times during the seven-hour duration of the flight.
“Based on their new analysis, INMARSAT and the AAIB have concluded that MH 370 flew along the southern corridor, and that its last position was in the middle of the Indian Ocean, west of Perth,” Mr Razak said adding that the flight operated by Boeing 777-200 ‘ended’ in the deep, dark and violent waters of the Indian Ocean with no possible landing sites anywhere around.
He had to conclude with “deep sadness and regret” that there was no hope of any survivors. The families of those on board had been informed, Mr Razak had said.
Significantly, the transponders of the aircraft were switched off, deliberately either by one of the pilots willingly or under coercion as the aircraft was diverted from its northerly direction towards south-west in an inverted V-turn. This is the conclusion of nearly every aviation expert.
Ground radars of several countries failed to register the aircraft but the London-based Inmarsat, a satellite navigation company, said its satellites had picked up eight signals of the aircraft over a duration of seven hours and after certain calculations, it could be concluded that the aircraft crashed deep in the southern Indian Ocean.
Notably, even if the Black Box, and the Cockpit Voice Recorder are recovered, the information may still not be conclusive as they work in a loop, erasing data after a fixed time while loading new data. The aircraft flew for about seven hours, and data available may only be of the last two hours.
The Boeing 777-200 is a sophisticated and reliable aircraft, and why it went up to about 45,000 feet, then low to around 12,000 feet and then again to a steady height of 30,000 feet is not known. But it shows the hands of somebody who knew how to operate a modern flying machine.
Most of the passengers on board the ill-fated airliner were Chinese. There were five Indians on board, including parents of an expatriate son who is married to a Chinese lady and working in China. They were going to meet the young couple.
© India Strategic