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March 12, 2014



Very true. The sky is big and in some ways the sea is bigger. And ATC is more like the ideal type Peel police force than MI5 - it's a system that works on the basis of the consent of the policed.

The scary thing is that Malaysia isn't the DRC or somewhere. It has the world's tallest buildings and an air force that operates both the F/A18 and the Su-30.

Barry Freed

the Pentagon reports that it detected no midair explosions in the area

That's a very interesting capability being revealed there. How small would the explosion have to be that they couldn't detect it? And how much of the planet are they routinely surveilling for such events?

des von bladet

How small would the explosion have to be that they couldn't detect it?

I didn't detect any mid-air explosions either. Feel free to fear me!


A copywriter boarded a plane
With some work that he'd been dreading
He appeared in the paper the very next day
Far from his original heading.


Barry: the US has long had a group of satellites that detect big infra-red flashes, originally to confirm ICBM launches and nuclear events, but which have also been used to look at forest fires.


How small would the explosion have to be that they couldn't detect it? And how much of the planet are they routinely surveilling for such events?

All of it, pretty much, I should think. The (three?) Defense Support Program satellites are in geostationary orbit looking for the heat bloom of a missile launch. DSP is being replaced by SBIRS, which is in various orbits (geostationary, Molniya and low earth orbit). I have no idea about the sensitivity but apparently SBIRS or DSP detected the midair explosion of TWA 800, and have detected missile launches down to SAM size.

There are a scary number of commercial imaging satellites up there now. I had a very interesting chat with someone in the business who said that, pretty much, he could get me a one-metre visual spectrum overhead of anywhere in the world every fifteen minutes, and a half-metre overhead, or a one-metre radar overhead, every half hour, for a fairly small cost.
But the thing is that he wouldn't necessarily be able to get it for me retrospectively because the cameras aren't on all the time. He might, but that would be a matter of chance, ie someone else having already ordered those particular images. Which I would have thought is fairly unlikely for a random bit of mid-ocean.

DSP is on all the time, of course.

Barry Freed

I was thinking more along the lines of the ability to detect an explosion punching a hole in the fuselage like Pan Am 103 before it disintegrated rather than something like TWA 800 which on second reading Itake it is what they meant.

belle le triste

Don't know if it's still there, but last time I went -- two or three years ago -- there was a little mobile electronic orrery in the Science Museum which showed (so it said) every man-made satellite then in orbit, in the position it was at that moment in. There were a lot of bright little dots spinning around.


The single most disturbing suggestion I've read is that MH370 ascended to 45,000 feet for a time in a deliberate attempt to asphyxiate the passengers and cabin crew.


And am now vaguely wondering what sort of logistics you'd need to construct a runway in the boonies somewhere (assuming visual approach) and then arrange concealment for the landed 777. Doesn't seem impossible.


I'm beginning to lean towards the argument (from Brendan Koerner) that there was a plan to land it somewhere but, due to weather, they ran out of fuel. It would be worth asking about suspicious activity around old airfields.


I suppose I'd want to know which areas were in daylight at the relevant times: a night landing on a bare bones airstrip seems unlikely. The reported flight simulator in the captain's house looms pretty large: if you had accurate terrain data, you could rehearse all sorts of manoeuvres, in private, a lot. I'd be surprised at a fuel miscalculation given how polished everything else seems.


Charlie: that's an interesting point. The aircraft vanished at about 0100 local, so everywhere nearby would be in darkness. Say it had five hours flying time left - by 0600 Malaysia itself was still (just) dark, as was, obviously, everywhere west of Malaysia.
This map, meanwhile, gives you the range - which rules out Russia and all but the very south of Japan. To get a list of possible areas if Charlie's right, basically you want the right-hand half of that circle.


Then again, the suicide theory has proponents, with the main idea being that the pilot or co-pilot planned to put the plane in the deepest bit of ocean within range. Am reluctant to believe it but can't say why.


I think the ACARS thing did its last ping at 8:11 (UTC +8?) by which time everything east of Bangladesh is in daylight.

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