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Sunday, March 16, 2014

Oh my... Main suspects in Malaysia Airlines disappearance are... the pilots!

My post about EgyptAir 990 last week was apparently prescient. CNN is reporting that US intelligence officials believe that the pilots are the primary suspects in the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 last Friday night.

As I already reported last night, Malaysian officials have searched the home of the pilot, Zaharie Ahmad Shah, 53, and now it turns out they've searched the home of the co-pilot too.

Let's go to the videotape. More after the video.

As the video reports, the pilots apparently turned the jet at the perfect spot - at the point where the jet was handed off from Malaysian to Vietnamese controllers. But if the Malaysian authorities found anything in their homes, they're not saying.
The Malaysian government had been looking for a reason to search the home of the pilot and the co-pilot for several days. But it was only in the last 24 to 36 hours, when radar and satellite data came to light, that authorities believed they had sufficient reason to go through the residences, according to the U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
"The Malaysians don't do this lightly," the official said. It's not clear whether the Malaysian government believes one or both the men could be responsible for what happened when the Boeing 777-200 ER disappeared March 8 en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.
The officials emphasize that they don't know yet what really happened to the plane. But here's the best theory. To those of you who have been following it should sound familiar. It's the southern corridor theory.
Flight 370 took off from Kuala Lumpur at 12:41 a.m. on March 8. The last satellite communication from the plane occurred at 8:11 a.m., Najib said, well past the scheduled arrival time in Beijing.
That last communication, Najib said, was in one of two possible traffic corridors shown on a map released to the press. A northern arc stretches from the border of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan to northern Thailand, and a southern arc spans from Indonesia to the southern Indian Ocean.
"Due to the type of satellite data, we are unable to confirm the precise location of the plane when it last made contact with the satellite," Najib said.
Because the northern parts of the traffic corridor include some tightly guarded airspace over India, Pakistan, and even some U.S. installations in Afghanistan, U.S. authorities believe it more likely the aircraft crashed into waters outside of the reach of radar south of India, a U.S. official told CNN. If it had flown farther north, it's likely it would have been detected by radar.
Nonetheless for the last 36 hours, the U.S. military and intelligence community has been reviewing all satellite imagery and electronic data it collects from the region for any sign of an explosion or crash, according to another U.S. official directly familiar with that effort.
Najib said authorities were ending search operations in the South China Sea and reassessing the deployment of assets.
"This new satellite information has a significant impact on the nature and scope of the search operation," he said.
Investigators, he said, have confirmed by looking at the raw satellite data that the plane in question was the Malaysia Airlines jet.
The same conclusion was reached by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, the British Air Accidents Investigation Branch and the Malaysian authorities, all of whom were working separately with the same data, he said.
Well, if it didn't crash it landed on some abandoned island somewhere in the middle of the Indian Ocean and we'll hear a ransom demand sometime soon. That appears unlikely. Given the level of satellite information available today, it seems really unlikely that there would be an airstrip in the middle of nowhere that could land a 777 that hasn't shown up on the satellite data.

If you're wondering how they flew out of the corridor undetected, this might have had something to do with it.
Hours before Najib's announcement, U.S. officials told CNN the flight had made drastic changes in altitude and direction after disappearing from civilian radar.
Malaysian military radar showed the plane climbing to 45,000 feet -- which is above its approved altitude limit -- soon after disappearing from civilian radar screens and then dropping to 23,000 feet before climbing again, a U.S. official familiar with the investigation said.
The jetliner was flying "a strange path," the official said on condition of anonymity. The details of the radar readings were first reported by The New York Times on Friday.
What's unsaid in all this is that Malaysia is - you guessed it - a Muslim country.  As is Egypt. I hear from Israelis all the time how it's 'safe' to fly Turkish Air and Royal Jordanian to the US and the Far East, and by the way it's 'cheaper.' Maybe this incident will make them rethink that assessment.


I meant to add this to the post this morning and I forgot.

Can someone please explain to me why the ACRS and the transponder on a commercial jetliner can be shut off? This isn't a military plane flying stealth. Why shouldn't the ACRS and transponder be on at all times?

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At 5:48 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

Hmm. Is there really a greater chance of this sort of thing happening on Muslim countries airlines?


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