There’s been a lot of speculation in the media about what happened to Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. I have some ideas based on my passion for flying. [Full disclosure: I am not a pilot.]
A transponder is a device that “squawks” a unique code for each airplane allowing people on the ground to know where the plane is. I called a good friend and colleague, a former U.S. Navy Top Gun fighter pilot. I wanted to confirm that a transponder can be switched off. It can also “squawk” an emergency code to advise people the plan has been hijacked.
It’s been said “the plane disappeared from radar.” This isn’t exactly true. What is true is the plane stopped squawking it unique identifier telling others on the ground it’s airline, flight number, aircraft type, altitude, speed, departure airport and arrival airport. For example, when I look at www.flightaware.com for an inbound flight into San Jose, I see a flight with the following information transmitted via its transponder:
SWA1188 = Southwest Airlines Flight 1188
B737 = Boeing 737 Aircraft
71 260 where “71″ equals the altitude (7100 feet) and 260 equals 260 knots forward speed
KLAX KSJC tells me the flight departed from Los Angeles International and is destined for San Jose, California
3:28 pm is the estimated arrival time
So, what do I think could have happened?
The transponder quit transmitting which suggests it was either destroyed in either a catastrophic explosion or turned off someone in the cockpit intent on bringing down the plane. With the transponder “off,” people on the ground really have no idea where the plane traveled next.
- The fact that there has been no debris found in the area where the plane last was identified suggests the possibility of that the plane may have flown away from where it was last identified via its transponder. The searchers simply aren’t looking in the right area.
- It is possible that one of the cockpit crew wanted to use the plane as a means to commit suicide. If someone was intent on doing that, it would be reasonable to turn off the transponder. And, they might fly in a different direction with the transponder off to make it harder to confirm what actually happened in an attempt to cover up their intent.
- If an intruder or terrorist hijacked the plane, they, too, would want the transponder turned off so the plane could not be tracked.
- If there was a catastophic explosion, that, too, could disable the transponder.
I’m not hearing the media discussing these scenarios.
I pray for all who have died and all the families and friends of those who perished and are struggling with their loss.
What do you think?
Dave Gardner, Gardner & Associates Consulting http://www.gardnerandassoc.com