Sunday, March 9, 2014

Missing Airliner Mystery - UPDATED - [11 March]

Aircraft disappeared from radar two hours into flight

Click here for related story [CNN - Jim Clancy and Andrew Stevens]

Malaysian Airlines, Flight 370, a Boeing 777-200ER, flying from Kuala Lumpur bound for Beijing, broke contact with international flight controllers at 2:40 am, over the South China Sea -- approximately two hours into the flight of 2,300 miles.  There were 227 passengers; 12 crew.

Signals and oil slick reported here

Xinhua News Agency reported that signals [possibly from the plane's Black Box] were detected about 120 miles southwest of Vietnam's Ca Mau province.

And, the Guardian reported that possibly two 12-mile long oil slicks were confirmed in that same area.

The possibility that there were any survivors is almost negligible.

Two passengers were aboard using stolen passports - one Austrian, the other Italian.  Although one passport was reported stolen two years ago, and was in Interpol's database, many airlines reportedly don't check that database when issuing tickets.  At this point, terrorism is considered a possibility, but can't be confirmed.  If so, a bomb may have been placed aboard the aircraft and set to explode over open water to make recovery difficult to impossible.

Weather conditions were favorable, and pilots had reported nothing abnormal in their communications with ground controllers.  The flight captain has 18,000+ flying hours, while the First Officer has nearly 2,800 flying hours.

The abruptness of the end of communications and the disappearance from radar would indicate the plane exploded, or was shot down.  Since it was flying at 35,000 feet in uncontested airspace, the probability of it being a "shoot-down" is remote; leaving the probability of an explosion being fairly high.  FBI agents have been dispatched to investigate.
USS Pinkney

Rescue operations include ships, fixed and rotary wind aircraft, and satellite imagery. 

The US Navy has ordered the USS Pinkney [DDG-91], a destroyer to the southern Vietnamese coast to aid in the search.

P3 Orion

A P-3C Orion electronic surveillance aircraft is providing long-range search efforts.   It's designed to detect submarines via its distinctive tail stinger "MAD Boom" a magnetic anomaly detector -- which identifies anomalies in Earth's magnetic field -- a useful tool in finding metallic debris.

The design also allows extended loiter times of up to 21.5 hours over a target area.

Additionally, China, Vietnam, Singapore, and Malaysia are participating in the search.

Of the passengers, only three were US citizens.  However, 20 of the passengers were employees of Freescale Semiconductor, an Austin, TX company. 

[Updates to this story will be added as available]

UPDATE [11 March]

Relatives and coworkers of passengers and crew are reporting that the cell phones continue to have ring tones - vs service provider message that the phone is no longer working.  If the plane had crashed into the ocean, the phones would not be functional.  So, we're concluding this may, in fact, have been a hijacking.

UPDATE [10 March]

The two men who used the stolen passports to board the missing plane have been identified as Iranians who had bought the stolen passports in Kuala Lumpur.  Their destination was Amsterdam, via Beijing.  According to their friend in Kuala Lumpur, they wanted to go to Europe to start new lives.

UPDATE [9 March]:

1) The two tickets purchased using the stolen passports were bought together, with a destination in Europe; thus, they would not have had to get Chinese visas, and the individuals would most likely have been Caucasians to match their passports.
2) One of the passports in question was stolen at a motorcycle rental shop in Thailand

3) Debris has been sighted off the coast of Vietnam which may be a door and the tail section.
4) A pilot in a plane in the general vicinity reported what he thought was a transmission from the missing aircraft's copilot; he described the transmission as sounding like "mumbling"

5) The missing aircraft reportedly went silent and disappeared from radar after climbing to 35,000 feet; if there were a bomb aboard, it could have been set to detonate with an altimeter fuse.
6) Alternatively, given the missing plane's copilot's mumbled transmission, and reports it may have been turning off course, it's possible that a gas agent, such as BZ was connected to the plane's air conditioning system, slowly incapacitating both passengers and crew over a period of two hours.  

     a) As a Central Nervous System depressant, it disrupts the functions of memory, 
         problem solving, attention, and comprehension.
     b) Higher concentrations produce toxic delirium, destroying a pilot's ability to perform 

          his flight tasks, resulting in mumbling and inability to function.  
     c)  BZ was used by the Russians in 2002 to capture the Moscow theater seized by terrorists.