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The PJ Tatler

Bryan Preston


March 17, 2014 - 12:24 pm

Airliners are not built to fly in the way that whoever was piloting MH370 apparently flew it after breaking contact with the ground.

As the search for the missing flight MH370 enters its 10th day with few clues as to its whereabouts, the New Straits Times said today the Boeing 777-200ER dropped 5,000 feet (1,500m) to evade commercial radar detection.

In an exclusive story, the government-backed paper said investigators analysing MH370’s flight data revealed that the 200-tonne, fully laden twinjet descended 1,500m or even lower to evade commercial (secondary) radar coverage after it turned back from its flight path en route to Beijing.

The Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200ER (9M-MRO) disappeared on March 8 with 239 people on board. Malaysian authorities said on Saturday the plane was deliberately diverted and its on-board transmission devices switched off to avoid detection.

Its last contact was at 8.11am north of the Strait of Malacca.

Investigators poring over MH370’s flight data had said the plane had flown low and used “terrain masking” as it flew over the Bay of Bengal and headed north towards land, the NST reported.

Officials, who formed the technical team, were looking into the possibility that whoever was piloting the jet at that time had taken advantage of the busy airways over the Bay of Bengal and stuck to a commercial route to avoid raising the suspicion of those manning primary (military) radars, the paper said.

“The person who had control over the aircraft has a solid knowledge of avionics and navigation and left a clean track. It passed low over Kelantan, that was true,” the NST quoted an anonymous official as saying.

Depending on the terrain, flying low to evade radar can make for a very rough flight. Planes evading radar essentially hug the ground, going up and down over hills as needed to remain close to the terrain. Jet fighters do it well, while the C-130 I once flew in during a simulation drop run don’t take to it well at all. Ordinary turbulence can combine with the terrain-hugging to produce a nauseating experience. The 777′s passengers in this case probably had a rough run as long as they were over land.

The apparent fact that MH370 flew low to evade radar might hint that it didn’t actually go very far once it went off course. If there was a plan to steal the plane for some later purpose, it would have made sense to have it shut off communications, go off course, go low to evade radar and then once it passed Malaysian military radar and went fully off the grid, head for some nearby airstrip to save fuel for whatever the plane’s eventual purpose was. The seven hours that the plane was said to be in communications with satellites could either have been an oversight by the thieves, or a diversionary tactic to throw investigators off the trail.

Bryan Preston has been a leading conservative blogger and opinionator since founding his first blog in 2001. Bryan is a military veteran, worked for NASA, was a founding blogger and producer at Hot Air, was producer of the Laura Ingraham Show and, most recently before joining PJM, was Communications Director of the Republican Party of Texas.

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All Comments   (5)
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Bryan - I saw a Navy Seal comment on one of the news stations. He suggested that the passengers were dead while the plane was flying out 5000 ft. His reasoning was that when the plane went to 49000 feet, the oxygen ran out in the passenger compartment, and so the passengers first fell asleep and then died. All we can say now is, that someone really good and really knowledgeable about the 777 was flying the plane.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
Have we considered a transponder taken from another aircraft and turned on when MH370 passed over a recording point and "disguised" MH370 as the looted a/c for the rest of it's trip?
Consider the end game here. If the 777 was to be destroyed, this was a very elaborate plan and no one has taken credit. What has happened to the people? If they are still alive, then the perps must have a large organization to keep them captive until... until what? If they aren't alive, that suggests an organization and little risk of oversight.
What can the NSA tell us about the Captain's calls and contacts? This need planning and resources.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
Takeaway: More than half a century of military and aviation r&d and hundreds of millions (billions? trillions?) of infrastructure spending, and you can still fly a jumbo jet under the radar right into foreign airspace.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
You're assuming it wasn't flown into a nation involved in the incident.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
I think there's an error in the quoted statement:

the New Straits Times said today the Boeing 777-200ER dropped 5,000 feet (1,500m) to evade commercial radar detection....

the 200-tonne, fully laden twinjet descended 1,500m or even lower... "

As it's written, it's saying that the airliner was at it's normal cruising altitude, and dropped 1500 meters (5000 feet). So, if it was at 30,000, it dropped to 25,000 feet.

I think what they meant to say was that the airliner dropped to 5000 feet.

50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
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