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« Tuesday Morning News Dump | Main | The Museum of Bad Art »
March 18, 2014

Investigators: Flight 370's Westward Turn Was Pre-Programmed into the Flight Management Computer; Thailand Says They Spotted an Unidentified Plane on Their Radar

The Flight Management Computer sits on a pedestal between the captain and copilot, so it could be accessed by either. Or by someone with pre-flight access to the computer.

The change may have been made with as little as seven or eight keystrokes of typing into the Flight Management Computer, simply substituting a new, more westerly waypoint for the original, scheduled one. Waypoints have a five character code; I guess the additional characters would be to indicate a new waypoint, and to hit enter.

The fact that the turn away from Beijing was programmed into the computer has reinforced the belief of investigators — first voiced by Malaysian officials — that the plane was deliberately diverted and that foul play was involved. It has also increased their focus on the plane’s captain and first officer.

The Malaysians, by the way, have officially retracted that previous report (already largely debunked) that the ACARS system was turned off before the copilot's last words over the radio.

The new timeline seems to be this:

1:07 am: Last ACARS ping

1:19 am: "All right, good night" communication from cockpit

1:37 am: Scheduled ACARS ping which never happened, because the system had been shut off. ACARS then was shut off sometime between 1:07 am and 1:37 am, and investigators can't pin it down any more than that (for now).

Flight 370’s Flight Management System reported its status to the Acars, which in turn transmitted information back to a maintenance base, according to an American official. This shows that the reprogramming happened before the Acars stopped working. The 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.

I sort of understand that but note that previously, evidence that these systems had been turned off at different times fueled suspicion that the plane's flightpath was deliberately altered; the new theory is that the fact that all these systems went out at the same time is evidence of deliberate action.

It seems whether they were turned off at the same time or different times, we're taking that as evidence of foul play. I suspect foul play myself, but it's a bit illogical to take exactly-opposite evidence as proving the same thing.

In an effort to determine whether the pilot had practiced taking down the plane, the authorities have reassembled the simulator for experts to examine.

Have I missed something? Was there a previous report the flight simulator had been disassembled? If not, what's that "reassembled" doing in there? Or do they just mean investigators disassembled it to remove it from the pilot's house? (It was a sizable thing, with three computer screens to simulate the view from the cockpit.)

As far as Thailand's spotting of a UFO: If that was flight 370, that would indicate a northwest trajectory for the plane, toward (Ed Morrissey says) India and the Central Asian Republics.

I suppose it would also indicate Pakistan as possible endpoint.

Given that Thailand detected this UFO on the night the plane went missing, there are questions why it took them 10 days to say something. It seems no one wants to admit the capabilities of their radars. Understandable, I guess, but what's the point of military radar if you can't use it to track down a plane possibly hijacked by terrorists?

What the Hell Did I Just Watch? Yesterday Ronan Farrow had on Lester Holt to play show and tell with a flight simulator. Holt owns one, and calls himself a "frustrated pilot" (I think he means wannabe pilot), and Farrow had him on to show the audience just what a flight simulator is.

I suppose the basics of this are useful enough-- there may be some small number of people who don't know what a flight simulator is, or may imagine that the only flight simulators are those huge, acceleration-simulating multimillion dollar things that pros use to train.

But it's very awkward and strange to watch Farrow ask some dumb questions about what is, basically, an elaborate and difficult videogame available for virtually any computer.

Oh: Farrow keeps asking Holt if it's "suspicious" that a pilot should own a flight simulator.

This is not a dumb question, but it is a stupid question to ask Holt. Holt is not an expert or a pilot capable of offering an opinion on this question. He's just a reporter who owns a flight simulator, period.

Farrow is asking a guy with no good way to know the answer the same question, multiple times.

Whether or not it's unusual for a pilot to own a flight simulator, or to be an enthusiast for flight simulators, is a good question, if you ask an actual commercial pilot.

digg this
posted by Ace at 12:05 PM

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