An Apparent Intentional Collision by a Vehicle at Hong Kong

An interesting short video, likely shot by a passenger while waiting at the airport terminal in Hong Kong. The vehicle proceeds slowly, appearing to be doing normal airport activities, but in the final seconds the driver makes a hard right turn to collide with the #1 engine of a taxiing Airbus A330. One gets the impression this was either an attempted suicide or an attempted terrorist attack. A large number of emergency response crewmembers arrives, indicating that at least perceived this was not an act of terrorism (no fear of an explosives-laden vehicle).

A couple questions arise:

  1. why would someone do this? Will the investigative report convincingly establish… was it a digruntled aviation employee, a zealot whose terrorist attack failed, or what?
  2. and, on the larger picture, how secure are our airports when incidents such as this can happen? This was in Hong Kong; could it happen in LA or Chicago or elsewhere? With our present commercial aviation system focused on serving airline profits with enormous superHubs, have we created a system vulnerable to sabotage and disruption?

Real time tracking, FDR transmission needs to happen now

Scott Hamilton at Leehamnet nails it again: aviation regulators need to get off their butts and implement effective tracking and transmission of flight data, to support timely search and rescue after remote crashes.

The failure to mandate what should be a relatively cheap system installation and operation cost only encourages the news media to spin off wild misinformation, seeking to fill the news information void. In a recent post, Mr. Hamilton noted that this “… is to the great disservice and most likely distress of the families and friends of the victims on the flight….” It also substantially undermines the public’s perception of the safety of today’s passenger aviation program. Mr. Hamilton goes on to note, “…for the industry, it all comes down to costs and in this context, dead people don’t matter, only cost matters. It’s the infamous tombstone mentality that enough people have to die before there is enough of an outcry to force regulators to do the right thing and force the airlines to follow….”

A Simple & Inexpensive System

The solution is a simple combination of technology and regulation. FAA and other regulators would simply require that all commercial passenger flights operating beyond continuous radar coverage must install a system that would transmit a basic data bundle in the event of a potential emergency.

Essentially, the system would track (each second) the flight’s basic data, including latitude & longitude, altitude, indicated airspeed, pitch angle, bank angle, and heading. The system would also apply logic to identify substantial heading/speed/altitude changes within the previous 15-seconds.

A transmission of data bundles would be triggered by odd parameters, such as excessive pitch angle and/or bank angle, abnormal speeds and/or altitudes, or substantial heading/speed/altitude changes. Once triggered, data bundles would be transmitted each second.

Each data bundle would require only three basic parameters: position (lat/long), altitude, and indicated airspeed. A few additional parameters would be added to the data bundle, as appropriate; for example, if the system noted excessive pitch angle or bank angle, or substantial heading/speed/altitude changes within the previous 15-seconds, these parameters would be included in the data bundle. On the assumption that this is a flight emergency, the transmissions would continue indefinitely.

For security purposes, if the transmission was triggered during a flight, the shutoff/override authority would NOT be in the aircraft. Instead, it would be by the ground dispatch/monitor personnel, who would need to communicate with the crew via radio, satellite, ACARS etc., to ensure the transmission is an anomaly, not a real emergency.

The Truth is the First Casualty of any Air Crash

Geoffrey Thomas, at in Western Australia, seems to have one of the best factual views of the QZ8501 tragedy. And he is doing a great job posting coverage since the Indonesia AirAsia flight disappeared nearly six days ago. One of his Posts on New Years Day re-declares the maxim that, when anything bad happens in aviation, facts are the first things to disappear.

He’s correct, but it should not be this way. Every nation has an aviation authority, such as FAA in the United States. These agencies are stuffed full of employees, theoretically there to serve the Public. In their early years, these agencies did very important safety and infrastructure development work. But, as these agencies have matured, they seem to have become less and less productive, more about quietly helping the airlines than about aggressively speaking up for safety. So, when an accident or incident occurs, they tend to say nothing. It is as if their speaking up might get in the way of how the accident airline needs/wants to manage the PR spin.

Given this, when an incident like QZ8501 happens, we end up with a deep informational vacuum. Neither airlines nor regulatory authorities take charge to clearly and timely articulate the known facts. And as we all know, where there is an informational vacuum, rumors and other garbage will quickly fill the void. This is happening (AGAIN!) with QZ8501, while victim’s families suffer, and while millions of others ponder just how safe aviation is.

It’s a new year.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if FAA’s leadership chose to set a new, higher standard for the world to follow, by aggressively working for maximized aviation safety? Wouldn’t it be great if, when a serious accident or incident happens, the relevant national authority would step forward and firmly assert the known facts, and then stay up front to keep us all urgently posted? This is kind of the way NTSB’s Deborah Hersman handled the investigation, in early 2013, when the B787 battery fires were happening.

Can we make that our new standard for aviation safety transparency?

The Lack of Tracking

20150101cpy.. QZ8501 crying prayingIn today’s aviation, hundreds of people can disappear in an instant. We have the technologies to safely track flights, but implementing these technologies does not conform with the fiscal bottom line. So, one flight disappears, tens of millions are spent fruitlessly searching, then another disappears, and we just stumble about … while the families and friends of those lost grieve horribly. They grieve for their real personal loss, and their pain is intensified by the cold lack of explanations.

Granted, we will not necessarily save lives by showing up at an oceanic crash scene within three hours. But, let’s not forget that one of the primary reasons for preserving this flight data is to learn from the incident and prevent it from happening again. In the U.S., we have spent decades studying civil passenger aviation and slowly acquiring new knowledge. We have learned about: wake turbulence, microbursts, crew coordination (and the need for crew resource management), icing, spatial disorientation, and basic human fatigue. In most cases, we have applied the lessons learned to create new technologies, new procedures, and new protocols. All for safety.

Today, perhaps more than ever, our government regulators are clearly teamed up with corporate officials to encourage the rapid growth of a robust trans-oceanic passenger airline industry. Countries like Malaysia and Indonesia are prime markets, owing to their populations and multi-island geography. But, we as passengers are left to wonder: are our government regulators placing enough emphasis on safety and risk reduction, to learn from one accident so that a repeat accident never happens?

Case in point: the flight data recorders, aka ‘black boxes’. These devices have been around for six decades. They record all the key flight data, but they function remotely, like padlocked desktop computers without an Internet connection. When an accident happens, we still have to find the black box and hope it provides the data we need to see. And within these black boxes, the design anachronistically records voice over what was recorded two hours earlier. This is the design standard approved by agencies such as the FAA. It is as if we want to minimize our odds of producing hard data. And yet, if we can put thousands of songs on a slim personal device, surely we can record an entire flight’s worth of flightdeck conversations, right?

Is anyone served well by the current program? No. Though, in an odd way, the lack of hard data denies legal proceedings. Instead, that lack of hard data fosters a quick round of apologies and payouts to victim families, followed by head-scratching and ‘let’s forget this happened, now, and get back to the business of growing this business’. Which, seemingly, is a lousy way to run a business.

“Given that a standard iPhone can record 24 hours of audio, surely the black box should have sufficient memory to record cockpit conversation for the full duration of any flight.”

– Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, after the disappearance of MH370

Basic Streaming Data for Flight Incidents

There is no valid reason that a system cannot be deployed to stream basic flight data for all commercial passenger flight emergencies. A device that assesses the flight second-by-second and, if key flight parameters are exceeded (rate of descent, rate of climb, bank angle, pitch angle, airspeed, altitude above terrain, distance from planned route, etc.), once any parameter is exceeded, the system independently transmits the basic data for accumulation into a data cloud. A small investment, to share data to a satellite, in a situation where an on-board device senses a developing incident.

Each second, a bundle of data gets stored for quick access by others, including rescue authorities. This is not a huge and expensive bundle of data. This bundle reduces to just three basic parameters: position (lat/long), altitude, and indicated airspeed. And, if the system notes substantial changes within the previous 15-seconds, add just a few other parameters to the bundle: the heading, and/or the pitch angle, and/or the bank angle. This way we can see if the aircraft went into a spin, perhaps related to catastrophic failure. This is a mighty small bundle of data, and the least that should be done for passengers on these over-water flights.

We’ve had the technologies for many years. Now, we need the will and the leadership to use them, to start collecting data from failed oceanic flights.

See also:

A Rare Victory for an Aviation Security Whistleblower?

On the same day that Republicans scored nationwide victories and control of the Senate, the Supreme Court heard the case of whistleblower Robert MacLean. We will have to wait for their official legal decision, but the NY Times article, USA Today article, and other news reports indicate the Justices leaned strongly in favor of Mr. MacLean, in what may be a rare victory for Whistleblowers.

But, here’s something to think about. There is a saying, “Justice delayed is justice denied.” It has been nearly nine years since TSA retaliated against Mr. MacLean. He spoke up about an aviation safety issue way back in mid-2003, while employed at the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). TSA fired him in early 2006. He then went to the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB), but they did all they could to pretend his case was not within MSPB jurisdiction. [NOTE: this is standard operating procedure at this miserably failed federal agency; MSPB does almost nothing to protect merit principles.] MSPB issued their initial decision in August 2008, rejecting MacLean’s appeal. So, MacLean went to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, where a panel of judges quickly determined MSPB should properly hear the Appeal. Mr. MacLean then went to the full MSPB (in DC), where he was again rejected in June 2009.

Another round with MSPB then followed. Same pattern: an Appeal to the regional MSPB, a nearly-automatic rejection, and a Petition for Review to the full MSPB. This was during 2010 and 2011. It produced the same predictable tone-deaf MSPB outcome: MSPB sustained the TSA firing. So, MacLean appealed higher, this time to the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, where a panel of three Judges ruled unanimously for MacLean. In a concurring decision, Judge Evan Wallach wrote: “Mr. MacLean presented substantial evidence that he was not motivated by personal gain but by the desire to protect the public.” [see the analysis, by POGO]

Common sense should have led the leadership at TSA to clean up their act, but they did not. Instead, they doubled down. It seems that bureaucrats have plenty of resources (spend all the time and money you want) and nothing to lose (who cares about accountability). So, TSA filed an appeal, this time to the Supreme Court. TSA has its own team of lawyers, but on matters like this, the ‘lawyering’ is handed off to a higher office. The Deputy Solicitor General tasked with defending TSA stupidity, Ian Gershengorn, was thus given the crummy job of arguing on behalf of, well, TSA’s vindictive stupidity. It made for an easy day for nine Supreme Court Justices. One comment by Justice Sonya Sotomayor: “The facts are very much in your favor.”

In time, we will learn if Mr. Gershengorn’s weeks of preparation will prove to be just one more example of pointless government waste by an arrogant and out-of-control federal agency; yet another Publicly-funded ordeal … just like the abusive retaliation TSA and MSPB continue to deal out to MacLean. This has been going on for nearly nine years now. What a colossal waste….

We Need a Change

Maybe the new Congress will start taking their work seriously, and start making federal agencies like TSA clean up their act. If the new Congress does, well, good for them. And, if they don’t, they deserve to be voted out in the next election.

When employees in any profession, be it aviation, food safety, nuclear energy, or whatever, put their job on the line to speak up about a safety or fraud issue within a federal agency, they should not become targets for agency retaliation. And we, as the public who pays for and is allegedly ‘served’ by these agencies, should expect high levels of agency performance (and transparency), to know that our money is not being wasted and our personal safety is not being endangered.

And, FAA is a Ripe Target for A Very Close Look by the New Congress

In the past decade, FAA brutally destroyed the careers of some of its bravest employees, who responsibly blew the whistle about fraud and safety issues. Many were fired in the same timeframe as Mr. MacLean, and many others were fired later, especially in the 2008-2009 presidential transition period. These people were wronged, but even worse, FAA and MSPB have done NOTHING to make these people whole. Here is a short list, of just a few: Gabe Bruno. Ed Jeszka. Jeff Lewis. Peter Nesbitt. David Pardo. Glen Siwarski. Anne Whiteman. Rich Wyeroski.

…And, who knows how many others….

Back in 1981, President Reagan fired thousands of air traffic controllers when their union, PATCO, ordered a strike. The wheels of political change moved slowly, but eventually thousands were hired back. In the early to mid-1990’s, many in their forties and even fifties were rehired, given new jobs at FAA ATC facilities. It has been done; it should be done again, but this time for a far smaller number of far more deserving employees.

Just because FAA and MSPB are broken, does not mean the Public cannot expect these federal agencies to get it right, at least some of the time. These FAA Whistleblowers are all good people, and they deserve to be appreciated. Their careers should not have been arbitrarily destroyed, nor should they have been re-victimized by a broken MSPB, just because they each bravely spoke up to serve the Public.

Maybe, just maybe, this new Congress will put the right pressure on FAA to clean up their act and make these inspectors, controllers, and other FAA Whistleblowers whole.

Here are a few comments submitted to the 11/4/2014 New York Times article by Adam Liptak:
If the court rules the way that it seems they might, i.e., to once again whack the bureaucratic hands of power, maybe, finally, people will wake up to the undue power that we have handed to this unelected and unaccountable fourth branch of government. Far too much legislation is passed that simply hands the keys of power to these people, will bills chock full of “the Secretary shall create rules…” type of language. The Code of Federal Regulations is an enormous monstrosity, growing like a cancer. Congress in particular needs to wake up and stop writing overly complex bills and allowing the permanent bureaucracy to bolster and protect its own turf by promulgating thousands of new pages of rules each and every year.
How wonderful. Our tax money being wasted on a shameful prosecution of a whistleblower who alerted the public to an issue that — who else but – homeland security and TSA themselves have argued was dangerous. The point of the government prosecution is obviously to terrorize anyone who might consider ethical obligations to the citizens of the US as more important than loyalty to a provincial subset of secret “security” bureaucrats.
He acted per his conscience to protect our national security. Give this man everything he is asking for. Then give him a medal. This is exactly the type of person I want working for the government.

ANALYSIS: High-Altitude Shoot-Downs in Ukraine Started Just 3-Days Before the MH17 Crash

20140717.. MH17 debris and investigators in wheat field 7-22-14For the past ten days, the world has witnessed an intensive propaganda war where both sides are trying to spin the story of how MH17 ended up widely scattered over wheatfields and farms in east Ukraine. The one known element of the story is that the Boeing 777 was shot down. The consensus is that the source was a ground-based Russian-made SA-11 missile, also known as a BUK or ‘gadfly’, but it is also conceivable that the aircraft was shot down air-to-air.

On the one side we see the Russians and pro-Russian rebels, who are seeking to separate from Ukraine. On the other side we see Ukraine. And there are other players, such as the U.S., whose top officials have satellite imagery and other advanced intelligence and certainly know far more than they are sharing with the Public.

One core element of the spin aims to create plausible deniability for the prospect of involvement by major states. Early news stories talked about Russian SA-11 missile launchers being moved into eastern Ukraine, then being seen moving back to Russia shortly after MH17 was shot down. There does not appear to be any substantial denial of these movements; instead, the early spin aims to claim that the SA-11 units were brought into Ukraine then used by separatist rebels who ‘accidentally’ shot down MH17 while aiming for a Ukrainian military aircraft. It seems hard to imagine that a complex system* would be delivered by anyone other than a trained crew, and even harder to imagine that they would then let others play with the system.*Experts note that the SA-11 has three separate vehicle units: a radar (for target acquisition), a control center, and tank-like launchers with four loaded 18-ft missiles. It seems far more plausible that the SA-11 was used by trained Russian soldiers, under a cover claiming the separatists pulled the trigger. Alternatively, there have been some charges that the Ukrainian military used their own BUK to intentionally shoot down MH17, with the intent of pinning the blame on the Russians. Given known world history, it is difficult to reject this as the possible true story.

In a world of spin-control, one strategy is to launch a diversionary story. Ukraine was shockingly quick to release a collection of alleged intercepted communications, first between rebel leaders and Russian military officials and then amongst rebel leaders. They reflect that the news story broke as a shoot-down of an An-26 military aircraft (as first happened three days earlier, in the first high-altitude shoot-down, on 7/14/14), but soon transitioned to a realization that a civilian aircraft had been hit. Some charge that this is all a fabrication to cover for what may have been an air-to-air missile shoot-down from a Ukrainian jet.

One key area where Ukraine is clearly blocking Public knowledge is their refusal to share ATC data. The airspace is managed by Ukrainian air traffic controllers, under an international agreement. Sadly, that agreement does not mandate each state to be transparent and produce data, even after a major incident such as MH17. Interestingly, Russian radar claims to have tracked portions of MH17, and in a Defense Ministry presentation on 7/21/14, Russian officials offered radar data which they interpret as showing a Ukrainian military Su-25**Ten days earlier, on 7/7/14, an Su-25 was reportedly captured by separatists. So, conceivably, the alleged shadow Su-25 may have been Ukraine, rebel, or even Russian. shadowing 3-5 kilometers from MH17. If this is true, perhaps Ukraine is trying to hide the important fact that they did have a military aircraft in close proximity to the downed airline. That same Russian Defense Ministry presentation had many other strong arguments questioning the veracity of western claims, many of which are laid out near the bottom of the lengthy 7/26/14 report by Andre Vltcheck, at Global Research.

High-Altitude Shoot-downs were New on 7/17/2014

The first high-altitude shoot-down was just three days earlier, on 7/14/14, when an An-26 was hit; eight parachuted out and two died. Then, on 7/16/14, two Ukrainian Air Force Su-25’s were downed, apparently at higher altitudes, producing no fatalities; one was claimed to have been a MANPADS hit, and the other was claimed to have been an air-to-air hit by a Russian fighter. Prior to 7/14/14, there had been numerous shoot-downs, but most were helicopters, and all were at low altitudes, generally during takeoff or approach. In other words, the SA-11 system appears to have been first used on 7/14/14, just three days prior to MH17. Given the higher altitudes, it is quite conceivable that the two Su-25’s on 7/16/14 were also shot down using the SA-11.

Certainly, the major world military powers know the precise date and time that the Russian SA-11’s were delivered into and became operational in eastern Ukraine … but we don’t know that, because the leaders are hiding this information. The spin-games will continue and all parties will ensure the Public is in the dark. This is a pattern we have all come to expect in recent decades … from the U.S., Russian, Ukraine, the agencies (e.g., FAA), the airlines, etc. It is said that power corrupts; here, it appears a key part of the corruption is to control the flow of even basic information. Where is a good Whistleblower when we need one?

We Have to Look Elsewhere for the Facts

An outstanding resource for information on aviation accidents and incidents is AviationSafetyNetwork (A-SN). It includes two databases: one that covers major aviation incidents, and another that allows user-inputs to compile data and news links for even minor GA incidents. The A-SN database was queried by, using a filter to show all recent Ukraine accidents. Nearly all ‘accidents’ are war-related; all shoot-downs are listed in the table below:

5/2/2014 (2) Ukrainian Armed Forces Mi-24 helicopters, shot down near Luvyansk, using MANPADS. 5 fatalities.
5/2/2014 Ukrainian Armed Forces Mi-8 helicopter, damaged by gunfire near Slavyansk. No fatalities.
5/5/2014 Ukrainian Armed Forces Mi-24 helicopter, shot down by ground-fire near Luvyansk, crew is rescued, then Ukrainian Su-25 fires to destroy the downed helicopter. No fatalities.
5/29/2014 Ukrainian National Guard Mi-8 helicopter, shot down by ground-fire near Slavyansk. 12 fatalities.
6/3/2014 Ukrainian Armed Forces Mi-24 helicopter, shot down by small-arms fire near Slavyansk. No fatalities.
6/4/2014 (3) Ukrainian Mi-24 helicopters were damaged/destroyed by MANPADS and ground-fire near Slavyansk. No fatalities.
6/5/2014 Ukrainian Air Force Mi-8 helicopter, hit by small-arms fire near Slavyansk, forced to make emergency landing. No fatalities.
6/6/2014 Ukrainian Air Force An-30 jet with 8 on board, hit by ground-fire near Drobyshevo, catches fire and crashes. 5 fatalities.
6/14/2014 Ukrainian Air Force Il-76 jet, hit by MANPAD while on approach to Lugansk airport. 49 fatalities.
6/24/2014 Ukrainian Armed Forces Mi-8 helicopter, hit by MANPAD while taking off near Slavyansk airport. 9 fatalities.
7/1/2014 Ukrainian Air Force Su-25 jet, on an attack mission and hit by defense forces but able to return to its base. No fatalities.
7/2/2014 Ukrainian Air Force Su-24 jet, on an attack mission and hit by defense forces but able to return to its base. No fatalities.
7/12/2014 Ukrainian Air Force Mi-24 helicopter, on an attack mission near Snezhny, shot down by MANPAD. No fatalities.
7/14/2014 Ukrainian Air Force Su-25 jet, destroyed by separatists (no other information available). No fatalities.
7/14/2014 Ukrainian Air Force An-26 jet, shot down at higher altitude (6,500m) near Izvaryne. 2 fatalities.
7/16/2014 (2) Ukrainian Air Force Su-25 jets, one shot down by MANPAD, the other allegedly shot down by Russian fighter, both at altitude around 20,000-ft, near Ukraine-Russian border. No fatalities.
7/17/2014 Multiple older aircraft damaged/destroyed by Ukraine forces while parked at Tarasovka Airfield, northwest of Crimea. No fatalities.
7/17/2014 MH17 shot down at FL330, flying east of Donetsk. 298 civilian fatalities.

Terrorism Comes Home

Both days were bright and sunny, and yet both mornings brought the darkest of news.

20010911.. twin towers pic, second impactIn September 2001, I awoke to yet another beautiful day in Fremont, CA, and prepared to run before heading to my afternoon shift, working as an oceanic air traffic controller at FAA’s Oakland Center. I was renting a room in a house where an 89-yr-old former merchant marine was being cared for by his niece, with extra care provided by a cheerful Filipina who arrived each day. He lived in a reclining medical chair/bed next to the kitchen, adjacent to a phone and a breathing machine, and his TV was often on. I came out ready to run and walked by just to say ‘good morning’. I stopped when I saw his TV showing the images of the first tower strike, and minutes later I watched as the network showed images of the second tower strike. I watched a bit more, in shock, then went for my run. Not a quarter mile later I stopped and I bent over and I cried.

In July 2014, I awoke in my rural Oregon home, with plans to harvest more blueberries and finish building planter boxes for my Fall garden. I was having some coffee and checking the news online when I learned that a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 had crashed, and was possibly shot down by a missile. I spent the next few hours learning as much as I could about Ukraine, Russia, the history of the area, and the emerging details of what soon was confirmed to be a terrorist attack that killed all 298 aboard.

Thirteen Years Later, Things are Just Slightly Different

In 2001 I cried, but in 2014 I did not. Was it that they were different, in Ukraine, not American? No, not at all. In fact, as I hurriedly searched for information about the crash/attack, I was frankly stunned when I saw the local videos on YouTube. I was stunned, not by the black smoke and falling debris, but by the peripheral image: the rustic farm buildings, the vibrant mid-summer garden, the young walnut tree — it all looked just like my home, here in rural Oregon. 20140717.. MH17 screen-cap showing black cloud and gardenAs I studied the images, I heard the muffled crying of Ukrainians, also shared by YouTube. These Ukrainians were witnessing this event with debris and bodies raining upon their homes, and I felt they were just like me and my neighbors here in Oregon. God, this debris could have fallen here today. It has been a week, yet I still cannot help but to wonder: the way things appear to be trending, how many years will it be before domestic terrorists bring down U.S. airliners upon sleepy agricultural areas in the American heartland? Really, just how sick is humanity?

I cried in 2001 because this terrorist act was new and ramped up; and, it indicated how the world was changing in the wrong direction. I cried for my kids, and for our future. But, in 2014, I did not cry. At least not yet. I think it was the numbing effect, of a horrific human tragedy repeated. It makes us stoic; it destroys our humanity.

Malaysia Flight #370: An Update, 10-days After the ‘Disappearance’

Although authorities have been terrible about delaying the release of information, some information continues to slowly emerge. Now, ten days after the ‘disappearance’, a NY Times article presents more precise information, clarifying the transition of the flight from normal radar ATC handling over the Malaysian peninsula, to crossing over the Gulf shoreline, to loss of contact midway across the Gulf. (takeoff at 12:41 AM, reached cruise FL350 at 1:01, last ACARS message sent at 1:07, crossed the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia at 1:08, and transponder was either turned off or lost connection due to distance at 1:21)

All the more interesting are some exceptional comments by readers who are concerned not just about what happened to the flight, but also about how it is being mishandled by aviation authorities worldwide. Here are four selected NY Times comments, showing the Public intelligence that deserves to be fed real information, not spin…

A perspective from an Ex-Malaysian, new york city posted…

I grew up in Malaysia, came here for college and have stayed since for the past 20 years. I am now an American citizen. There have been a lot of conspiracy theories of the Malaysian government covering up some elements of the incident. I could probably shed light on this, by stating old adage – never attribute to conspiracy what could be easily explained by incompetence. I have relatives and friends in Malaysia and I am back there once a year. The government through years of corruption, single-party rule and a highly cultivated patronage culture, has truly atrophied – there’s a terrific NYT article here that points to this. There’s a general malaise in the country in terms of what’s considered as “good enough” is good enough. Another element at play is the face-saving culture of the patriarchal society. First question asked among the politicians invariably involve “how can we manage this so we don’t look stupid or have our political flanks exposed?”, ironically. Even though it’s a democracy, it’s a fairly authoritarian country where press is owned by the government. Elections are bought and paid for, when it gets tenuous, like this recent one. What you see on display in the conference today is just the tip of the iceberg on the level of incompetence. Welcome to my world in the first 19 years.

alan brown, manhattan posted…

Malaysia’s government and the Malaysian Airlines officials doubtless knew this the first day. Their first concern was not the plane or its passengers but the effect of potential pilot complicity or hijacking/terror on the reputation of the country and its national carrier. They put at risk, because of this concern, many pilots from other nations with their disinformation. By delaying the search of the homes of the pilots they may have fatally compromised the effort to pin down the cause and motivation behind this tragedy.

BHC, Twinsburg, OH posted…

Hundreds of lives.  Thousands of grieving family members not knowing what has happened.   A plane worth a third of a billion dollars.   And missing because the international industry is opposed to spending a few thousand dollars per plane to send a signal to a satellite with the following data: flight number, altitude, longitude, latitude. Not being a physicist, I am not sure these data would provide enough information to find the rest of the plane with the black box, but I am sure the problem is not beyond reach.   It sounds like there is more sophisticated homing device equipment on inexpensive drones. We listened to this issue after the Air France tragedy and nothing was done.

JenD, New Jersey posted…

This is so sad and must be excruciating for the families and loved ones of the missing passengers and crew. I hope they at least get some answers soon.

UPDATE, 3/17/14: — another detailed article at Among other details, it states the 27-yr-old copilot has been identified as operating the flight radio during the last regular transmission.
UPDATE, 3/24/14: — they Malaysian Prime Minister today declared that the flight crashed in the south Indian Ocean. This declaration was based on a new analysis of satellite data by the British company Inmarsat. [article]

Malaysia Flight #370: Charts & Flightplan

Eight days after this Boeing 777 ‘disappeared’ between Malaysia and Vietnam, radar and satellite information is slowly being revealed. The revealed data is increasingly pointing toward what was effectively a hijacking of the flight, though it is as yet not revealed if the action was taken by on-board terrorists or members of the flight crew.

Click on this link to an page with some analysis, including charts describing the filed flightplan and the locations where key actions occurred.

UPDATE, 3/16/14: — a news article out of New Zealand discusses the taboo nature of ‘pilot suicides’, which some believe is under-reported and under-recognized.