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« When It Comes To GOP Primaries, Thomas Sowell Is Wrong | Main | Chris Christie...You're Damn Right I Expanded Medicaid! »
March 19, 2014

Five Runways Located Around the Indian Ocean Found on Flight 370 Captain's Flight Simulator

This doesn't seem to lead to a definite answer.


Why isn't it as compelling as it seems? Because most of these landing strips seem to be unlikely endpoints.

The Berita Harian Malay language paper quoted unnamed sources close to the investigation as saying that the airport runways were Male International Airport in the Maldives, Diego Garcia and three runways in India and Sri Lanka.

I assume terrorists would not land at an international airport. Nor at Diego Garcia, where quite a few American servicemen might offer them a welcome warm as gunfire. There are of course terrorist groups operating in India but the country is held by an anti-terrorist government and, if I were trying to not be detected, I'd stay away from India altogether.

There are terrorist groups in Sri Lanka, of course, but I don't know anything else about Sri Lanka.

This is more interesting:

The unconfirmed report then goes on to say that all runways programmed into the simulator are 1000 meters long.

Why is that interesting?

Because a Boeing 777-300 has a listed minimum runway length of somewhere between 1,300 and 1,750 meters, depending on other conditions (such as landing weight, elevation of the airport, whether the runway is wet or dry). You'll want 1,500 meters at a minimum for wet runways, and you always have to consider the possibility of rain. (See correction below.)

So he's practicing emergency-style landings on a runway below the minimum runway length for the 777-300 located around the Indian Ocean. (See correction.)

Maybe this was prudence; maybe it was planning.

Note that other sources on the internet claim the minimum runway for a 777-300 is even longer than what that document says; some recommend 8,000 feet of runway. (See correction.)

Via Hot Air, Malaysian investigators are trying to recover recently-deleted files on the pilot's home flight simulator. (Note that it's possible the chronology here is muddled and the headline information -- about the five Indian Ocean runways -- is the result of these efforts.)

There's also a very simple explanation offered to explain all of this: There was a fire on the plane, the fire was electrical in nature, and the fire knocked out the transponder and ACARS. The pilots therefore turned west, towards the nearest possible runway for an emergency landing.

At some point, per this theory, they lost control of the plane and crashed.

If NBC's reporting that the new westerly waypoint was entered before the "All right, good night" signoff, that would seem to disprove this theory, as the pilots wouldn't divert for an emergency landing and then just say a polite goodnight as if nothing at all was wrong.

Of course, NBC's reporting could be wrong. There has been so many false reports, we don't know anything.

Correction: Andy says:

- The plane's a 777-200, not a 777-300

- Wikipedia says the runway at Diego Garcia is 3,659 meters long, which makes sense because we used to (and maybe still do) base B-52s there and those bad boys need a hell of a lot more than 1,000 meters.

I screwed up badly on the plane's type. A 777-200 does not require as long a runway for a landing -- but still over 1000 meters under best conditions (lowest weight, sea level airport, dry runway). It looks like you'd need a runway from around 1,150 meters to 1,700 meters, depending on conditions.

As for the runway at Diego Garcia: I'm asking Andy right now if Diego Garcia has only one runway. He confirms: It's just the one. So the news report I linked is flat-out wrong in at least one respect.

Sigh. Everything reported in this story is always wrong. Apologies for adding to the wrong reporting.

[Update - Andy:] The plane's a 777-200ER, to be precise. And there's one 3,659m runway at Diego Garcia.


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posted by Ace at 10:50 AM

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