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First Turn in Missing Plane’s Path Was Programmed into the Computer

The New York Times is reporting that the first critical turn (the U turn) was programmed into the computer system. The change input into the computer system could only have been made if and only if someone on the plane intentionally programmed that turn  into the  computer system on the plane.

So the turn was not made by someone who grabbed control of the controls  — it was programmed by someone on that plane or programmed before that plane took off.

Someone reprogrammed the plane. Was the pilots? Were they in cahoots? Was it the Uigher flight engineer on the plane?

Timing off system shutdowns is now unclear.

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) – Officials revealed a new timeline Monday suggesting the final voice transmission from the cockpit of the missing Malaysian plane may have occurred before any of its communications systems were disabled, adding more uncertainty about who aboard might have been to blame.

The search for Flight 370, which vanished early March 8 while flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board, has now been expanded deep into the northern and southern hemispheres. Australian vessels scoured the southern Indian Ocean and China offered 21 of its satellites to help Malaysia in the unprecedented hunt.

With no wreckage found in one of the most puzzling aviation mysteries of all time, relatives of those on the Boeing 777 have been left in an agonizing limbo.

Investigators say the plane was deliberately diverted during its overnight flight and flew off-course for hours. They haven’t ruled out hijacking, sabotage, or pilot suicide, and they are checking the backgrounds of the 227 passengers and 12 crew members, as well as the ground crew, to see if links to terrorists, personal problems or psychological issues could be factors.

Also contrary to previously thought, the co-pilot (not the captain)  ‘spoke last words’.

His neighbourhood mosque’s imam, Ahmad Sharafi Ali Asrah, has described Fariq as a mild-mannered “good boy, a good Muslim, humble and quiet”, who also attended occasional Islamic courses. (here)

A signaling system was disabled on the missing Malaysia Airlines jet before a pilot spoke to air traffic control without mentioning any trouble, a senior Malaysian official said Sunday, reinforcing theories that one or both of the pilots may have been involved in diverting the plane and adding urgency to the investigation of their pasts and possible motivations. (here)

Screen Shot 2014-03-17 at 9.28.25 PM Screen Shot 2014-03-17 at 9.28.18 PMThe co pilot and the pilot going through security and patdown.

CCTV images are thought to show the pilot and co-pilot going through security checks at Kuala Lumpur airport

Officials in Malaysia say they believe the co-pilot of missing flight MH370 spoke the last words to ground controllers before it vanished.

Investigators are looking into the possibility that the aircraft’s crew were involved in its disappearance.

The search for the plane has extended into two vast air corridors.

Change in Plane’s Path Was Entered via Computer NY Times, March 17, 2014

WASHINGTON — The first turn to the west that diverted the missing Malaysia Airlines plane from its planned flight path from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing was carried out through a computer system that was most likely programmed by someone in the plane’s cockpit who was knowledgeable about airplane systems, according to senior American officials.

Instead of manually operating the plane’s controls, whoever altered Flight 370’s path typed seven or eight keystrokes into a computer on a knee-high pedestal between the captain and the first officer, according to officials. The Flight Management System, as the computer is known, directs the plane from point to point specified in the flight plan submitted before each flight. It is not clear whether the plane’s path was reprogrammed before or after it took off.

 

The chief executive of Malaysia Airlines says it is unclear when the missing plane’s communications system, known as Acars, was switched off.

Prime Minister Najib Razak of Malaysia told reporters on Saturday that his government believed that the plane had been diverted, because its transponder and other communications devices had been manually turned off several minutes apart. American officials were told of the new information over the weekend.

But Malaysian authorities on Monday reversed themselves on the sequence of events they believe took place on the plane in the crucial minutes before ground controllers lost contact with it early on March 8. They said it was the plane’s first officer — the co-pilot — who was the last person in the cockpit to speak to ground control. And they withdrew their assertion that another automated system on the plane called Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System, or Acars, had already been disabled when the co-pilot spoke.The Flight Management System reports its status to Acars, which in turn transmits information back to a maintenance base, according to an American official. Acars ceased to function about the same time that oral radio contact was lost and the airplane’s transponder also stopped, fueling suspicions that foul play was involved in the plane’s disappearance.

Investigators are scrutinizing radar tapes from when the plane first departed Kuala Lumpur because they believe the tapes would show that after the plane first changed its course, it passed through several pre-established “waypoints,” which are like virtual mile markers in the sky. That would suggest that the plane was under control of a knowledgeable pilot, because passing through those points without using the computer would have been unlikely.

Continue reading the main story

According to investigators, it appears that a waypoint was added to the planned route. Pilots do that in the ordinary course of flying if air traffic controllers tell them to take a different route, to avoid weather or traffic. But in this case, the waypoint was far off the path to Beijing.

Whoever changed the plane’s course would have had to be familiar with Boeing aircraft, though not necessarily the 777 — the type of plane that disappeared. American officials and aviation experts said it was far-fetched to believe that a passenger could have reprogrammed the Flight Management System.

Normal procedure is to key in a five-letter code — gibberish to non-aviators — that is the name of a waypoint. A normal flight plan consists of a series of such waypoints, ending in the destination airport. For an ordinary flight, waypoints can be entered manually or uploaded into the F.M.S. by the airline.

Transponder

Secondary Radar and Text Updates

Air traffic controllers typically know a plane’s location based on what is called secondary radar, which requests information from the plane’s transponder. A plane also uses radio or satellite signals to send regular updates through Acars, the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System. Both of those systems were turned off.

Primary Radar

Two Malaysian military radar stations tracked a plane using primary radar, which sends out radio signals and listens for echoes that bounce off objects in the sky. Primary radar does not require a plane to have a working transponder.

SATELLITE

Satellite Communications

If Acars updates are turned off, the plane still sends a “keep-alive” signal, that can be received by satellites. The signal does not indicate location, but it can help to narrow down the plane’s position. A satellite picked up four or five signals from the airliner, about one per hour, after it left the range of military radar.

ABC News reported on Sunday that the programmed turn had led investigators to believe that it was being controlled by the pilot or hijackers.

One American safety expert, John Cox, a former airline union safety official, said that someone taking such pains to divert the plane does not fit the pattern of past cases when pilots intentionally crashed and killed everyone on board.

“There’s an inconsistency in what we’ve seen historically,” he said, comparing the disappearance of Flight 370 with two murder-suicides, of an Egyptair flight off Nantucket Island in 1999 and a SilkAir jet in Indonesia in 1997. In those crashes, he said, the pilot involved simply pushed the nose of the plane down and flew into the water. The authorities searched the homes of the pilots in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday, seizing a flight simulator that one of them had in his home.

In an effort to determine whether the pilot had practiced taking down the plane, the authorities have reassembled the simulator for experts to examine. American investigators would like access to the flight simulator and any other electronic information seized from the pilots, but as of Monday night they had not been given access to those materials.

Meanwhile, as the search for the missing Boeing 777 jet stretched into a 10th day, two of the nations helping in the hunt, Australia and Indonesia, agreed to divide between them a vast area of the southeastern Indian Ocean, with Indonesia focusing on equatorial waters and Australia beginning to search farther south for traces of the aircraft. To the north, China and Kazakhstan checked their radar records and tried to figure out whether the jet could have landed somewhere on their soil.

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