Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 — It’s STILL all about what we DON’T know

Boeing 777-2H6ER, Registration 9M-MRO — The now infamous Malaysia Airlines Flight 370

Well, I did try to warn everyone.  Remember this post?  Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 — What We Know and What We Don’t.  I did say that it’s not about what we know at this point (and that isn’t much).  Rather, it’s about what we do not know, and won’t until the aircraft is found, the CVR and DFDR are retrieved, or until other information surfaces.

Despite that clear warning not just from me, but also others who are expert in the field, the usual Internet Commandos are subjecting everyone to nothing less than a steady stream of garbage.  These armchair “experts” in everything are sitting before their keyboards in their underwear delighting in spewing forth a steady stream of unsubstantiated rumors and crazy theories all the while grasping at any piece of misinformation that comes their way if it even remotely makes it appear that they know what they’re talking about.

The Boeing 777 that became MAS370 (IATA Code MH370)

What I find really reprehensible is when the head of the Malaysian Air Force — General Rodzali Daud — prematurely breaks unconfirmed military radar “information” that not only appears now to have been completely erroneous, but which served to divert critically needed naval and airborne resources from the primary search site to go on a wild goose chase several hundred miles away.  The general has since tried to back away from those public comments, but the damage was already done and many critical hours were wasted in the search.

Now for a primer on civilian air traffic radar versus military defense radar:  Civilian radar displays both primary radar (reflected radio energy bounced off a “target”) and secondary radar (an “interrogator” signal sent by radar to an aircraft’s transponder, which encodes information and sends a “reply” signal back to the radar antenna.  Military radar does the same, but whereas civilian radar operators are more concerned with the information supplied by secondary radar returns, the military’s central interest are the primary radar returns.

That’s because air traffic control is designed to guide and assist aircraft that want to be seen, and the military is geared more toward detecting an enemy that does not want to be seen.

Did the Malaysian military see a target overfly Malaysia that night from east to west?  Very possibly.  Do the Malaysia military have a way of knowing who that aircraft was?  Not unless the primary target was tracked from its point of origin, or the operator maintained a track on a target from before the secondary radar transponder was no longer sending a reply.  In other words, they couldn’t possibly know that target was MAS370 unless they’d been tracking the aircraft before it went from a secondary radar target with an operating transponder to just a straight primary target in what some would call a “stealth mode” that isn’t really all that stealthy.

Would Malaysian military defense radar operators be watching a civilian target that closely, closely enough to maintain positive identification the whole time from the moment the transponder was deactivated?  Why would they?  They’re looking for the guy who is running without a transponder trying to sneak into their airspace.  They don’t care about a civilian airliner unless that airliner becomes a threat, and they won’t know that until they get a call from civilian ATC telling them that the airliner is no longer responding to air traffic control instructions.  In that case ATC is going to tell military defense precisely where the target is so that military radar can initiate a positive track on the aircraft and keep it under surveillance.

So, who are the experts in the media whom you can currently trust for your information?  Here’s the test of a true aviation expert:

Beyond the straight, verified, concrete facts, the more someone tells you that they “know” about this situation the less of an “expert” that person is.  The true experts are still waiting for more information before they go spouting off about what “may” have happened to MAS370.  The faux “experts” are telling you what happened and what didn’t based upon information that just isn’t there.



Filed under Aircraft, Aviation Safety

6 responses to “Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 — It’s STILL all about what we DON’T know

  1. Pingback: Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 - Page 2 - WaltherForums

  2. Pingback: Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 — What We Know and What We Don’t | R. Doug Wicker — Author

  3. There’s a lot of speculation currently, most of it useless. For example, the two passengers travelling under stolen passports have by now turned out to be otherwise perfectly harmless people trying to immigrate illegally into the EU.

    Though I’m still a bit queasy that my Dad will be travelling to the exact region this weekend, part of the flight on the same type of plane (but different airline) and part on Malaysia Airlines. Of course, it’s extremely unlikely that something similar will happen again in the same region.

    • Whatever happened, you’re not likely to see a repeat of the situation anytime soon, Cora. Both Malaysia Airlines and the Boeing have outstanding safety records . . . or at least did up until a few days ago.

      • I don’t recall Malaysian Airlines ever having any serious issues. I’ve actually flown them, too, though that was more than twenty years ago. Plus, it’s only the last lag that’s Malaysian – most of the trip is KLM, which is excellent and usually my airline of choice.

        It’s probably just one of those weird coincidences. My Dad had another when he flew the same route, same plane type and same airline two weeks before the 2008 Spanair crash at Madrid airport. And friend of mine flew to the US on a Pam Am flight approx. a month before Lockerbie. Again, some airline, same route, same plane type. These things happen.