Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Mysterious Case Of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH 370

 BBC Map

Saturday, a Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 did something almost unheard of in modern times..it simply vanished.

Flight MH 370 was en route from Kuala Lampur, Malaysia to Beijing,China with 239 passengers. It never arrived, there's no indication so far what happened to it and a wide scale international search is underway.

For an airliner to simply disappear like this is almost unheard of, because of the modern tracking technology involved. Aside from the now routine radar, every airliner contains a flight recorder and a transponder which emit electronic signals, as well as an emergency location beacon, a highly durable electronic signaling device to enable an airliner to be quickly located if something unexpected occurs.

And if trouble occurred in midair en route, the pilot would normally communicate with the control tower, either by voice radio or electronic distress signal. Whatever happened had to have occurred instantaneously.

Ever odder, the plane appears to have changed course without notifying authorities, turning west. It's possible the pilot was attempting to return back towards Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) or to Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah (SAAS) Airport to the northwest. The plane was last seen above the small island of Pulau Perak, miles off course. Even if there was a mechanical failure that necessitated aborting the flight and making an emergency landing, normal procedure is to radio it in, or at least activate the electronic distress signal.

No debris has been found either, which is also highly unusual. An Air France jet was lost in similar circumstances over the Atlantic in 2009, but debris was spotted the next day. It took a year and a half to locate the flight recorders and remains of the fuselage on the ocean floor,but that was in much deeper water. The waters off Vietnam and in the Malacca straits in the area in question are much shallower and the waters are much clearer, and in this case not even any of the normal debris has been found yet.

Another occurrence that has attracted attention is that two Iranians, 19-year-old Pouria Nour Mohammad Mehrdad and 29-year-old Delavar Seyed Mohammadreza were traveling together on the plane with stolen passports and travel documents that would have allowed them to proceed from Beijing to Europe. According to Interpol, the two men knew each other and had traveled to Malaysia from Tehran using their Iranian passports, but obtained stolen Italian and Austrian passports,both of which were reported stolen by the real owners in Thailand.

This appears to be merely a coincidence. Both men were planning on relocating to Europe, had tickets purchased in Kuala Lumpur for their journey to Beijing and Amsterdam and planned to travel together. Nourmohammadi planned to proceed from Amsterdam to Frankfurt, Germany, where his mother lives and Seyedmohammaderza's intended final destination was Copenhagen, Denmark.

Stolen passports are a fairly common item in that part of the world, and these were probably purchased on the black market for cash.There is a large expatriate Iranian community in Kuala Lumpur.According to initial reports, the price for these was $10,000 American.

That doesn't rule out terrorism in the least,but it does rule out these two as active participants.

Here are the things that immediately strike me:

  • The plane had to have disintegrated in a matter of seconds in order for the pilots not to have time to communicate by voice or activate the electronic distress signal. A massive mechanical failure that involved a crash to the ground or into the water would have triggered electronic sensors because of the rapid decompression

  • The cost of the airline tickets to Europe and the stolen passports is fairly prohibitive for a couple of average Iranian would be asylum seekers,especially since one of them was 19 years old. Kuala Lumpur is an international city and one of the transit points for the drug trade from Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia and the Golden Triangle. Stolen passports are also used in the drug trade, especially by couriers. It is not outside the realm of possibility in the slightest that the two Iranians were either knowingly or unknowingly being used as couriers, and that a rival syndicate found out about it and decided to take action to keep the merchandise from being delivered. The fact that the two Iranians were able to find and purchase stolen passports so easily in a city unknown to them is another clue.

    So is the fact that, according to the U.K. Daily Mail, at least five ticketed passengers failed to board the plane, though it's unclear if any of those individuals tried to check luggage for the flight or if any bags under their names were removed from the aircraft before it left Malaysia.

  • The two Iranians may have been transporting something other than drugs, knowingly or unknowingly - like volatile chemicals or explosive components. This could have been a 'work accident'.

    The tickets for the two Iranians were purchased - in cash - in Thailand at the resort of the resort of Pattaya from a Thai travel agent on March 1 by an Iranian businessperson she knew only as 'Mr. Ali'.
    According to what the travel agent told the Finncial Times, She had booked them on other airlines but those reservations expired and on March 6, Mr Ali had asked her to rebook them.

    This sparks my interest because it comes right out of the terrorism 101 textbook - establish a relationship with a local travel agent willing to book flights for cash on short notice, no questions asked...and then do flights as dry runs to test airport security measures and to get jihadis familiar with the layout of targeted planes.

    As a matter of fact al-Qaeda has used this tactic several times.

    This could very easily have been such a dry run that ended up lowing up in someone's face a little prematurely. It would certainly be interesting to have authorities investigate 'Mr. Ali' thoroughly to see whom he's really is and look at other airline tickets he's purchased. And let's also remember that the tickets and the stolen passports both came from Thailand. I doubt that's a coincidence.

  • The final possibility I see (and an unlikely one) is either massive pilot error or a sudden mechanical failure that exploded the plane (probably the fuel tanks) in mid air.The pilot in question, Fariq Abdul Hamid has 18 years of experience and the Boeing 777 has an excellent safety record, although of course anything can happen

  • For now, what happened to Flight MH 370 remains a mystery, but I think that when we find out what happened I wouldn't be surprised to find the answer along these lines.


    louielouie said...

    if this were a southwest flight from, say, houston hoppy to tulsa int'l, i could see what ff was talking about.
    however, this is malaysia.
    they roll a little differently there.
    and let's not get into the fact that most of the worlds carriers are sending their fleets to malaysia for maintenance.
    for starters, who says a flight recorder was on board?
    maybe somebody needed a door stop.
    the co-pilot would routinely invite attractive young females to join the flight crew on the flight deck for an entire flight.
    i was going to say cockpit, but was afraid ff might not post this.
    i think what is at work here are not so much safety procedures, as cultural norms. if the flight crew wants to smoke. they do. on the flight deck.
    all things considered, i have only two(2) questions.
    what is the value of life in malaysia?
    what does a 777 go for on the black market?
    they roll a little differently in malaysia. don't they?

    Stephen said...

    Acc. to the military the flight has changed it path towards Malacca and after that they lost the signal .... even with the advanced technology we are unable to track an missing aircraft ... its shame .....