…by Simon Ludgate
What really happened? It was shot down – not lost in the Southern Ocean as BBC’s Horizon programme says, claims aviation documentary maker and author Simon Ludgate.
MH 370 – a Boeing 777-200
In a recent British TV documentary, the BBC Horizon strand (http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b047czkj) investigated the possible whereabouts of Flight MH370. The programme was touted as having new information which would bring the actual fate of this mysterious story into clearer perspective. It did anything but by missing some glaring clues which lead to one inevitable conclusion which, if eventually confirmed as true, will be even more painful for the relatives and friends of the 239 passengers and crew on board the plane who disappeared.
My view about the lies and false trails surrounding the disappearance is that something almost incomprehensible happened to that plane and is a much more bitter pill to have to swallow. It was shot down by someone who set a trap for it, laying in wait like a predatory animal, then pouncing as the plane flew into range.
What the BBC Horizon programme failed to examine properly amongst many oversights was the flight characteristics of a 777, the fuel load this particular plane was carrying and the way the autopilot behaves in an emergency. And the programme was a perfect example of how the establishment disinformation system works. Present it as gospel and it becomes fact. Even if it is wrong.
Added to the confusion are a series of carefully-choreographed drip feed revelations they refer to in the programme which have kept the global news channels busy and effectively put investigators off the scent and hid the real reason for the disappearance.
First of all – the fuel/range calculation. A Boeing 777 can carry an absolute maximum of 45,000 US gallons of fuel which gives it a range of 8,000 km. MH370 was only loaded with 16,000 US gallons for its intended flight of 4,300 km to Beijing. This gave it a range of 5,000 km. Enough to make the flight with the required FAA safety margin of 10% and a bit more.
Pay attention because this is where those admittedly boring stats get interesting! This allows for take off and climb to an efficient cruising height of 35,000 where the plane will have already used up 25% of its fuel load – think of it like having to drive through a big city with the car rammed with kids and suitcases making lots of stops and starts until you smooth out on the highway and your fuel consumption doubles or trebles and everyone falls asleep. Except the driver hopefully!
On any long-distance airliner this means there is not enough fuel left to muck around, do a few steep turns and manoeuvres or, most importantly, make a drastic change of height. Not until you are on final approach and you sort of glide in with the engines throttled right back.
Remember the height factoid. Horizon didn’t. And neither has anyone else it seems.
Second, flying modern planes automatically is nothing like what you might remember from watching the movie “Airline”. The autopilot is not a sex-mad inflatable doll. It is a complex computer which will not work fully in an emergency. This is designed to help the crew, not hinder them. What happens if there is a systems failure or a fire, absolutely any kind of problem, is that the autopilot jumps out of full auto. On auto the little box flies the plane to the next navigational “landmark” or waypoint then makes an adjustment to its direction to the next one and so on til you land.
These days a plane can fly itself completely automatically from after you are lined up to take off til your wheels touch down at the other end. Pilots don’t choose to do this to give themselves more to do and keep their hand in.
But in an emergency, and assuming the navigation systems aren’t part of the problem, the autopilot which is guiding the plane on a given height, direction and speed will stop controlling direction. This is so the pilot can make instant course adjustments in an emergency without having to worry about fighting with the autopilot, pressing any buttons or looking down.
Ironically this is the very thing which caused A320 XL Airways Flight 888T crash over the Mediterranean. The sensor which tells the autopilot what angle the plane is flying at froze up and as a result the autopilot stopped working partially – as it is designed to do. The pilots didn’t notice and they stalled. The plane dived into an unrecoverable spin then crashed into the sea.
XL Flight 888T which crashed off Toulouse because of over-clever avionics.
So…even when the plane is trying to help the pilot, it may not work out for the best due to pilot error. Pilot error causes a lot of crashes. And before you cancel next week’s flight, it’s still a very safe form of moving around despite these horror stories.
Which is the point. Modern planes, including the Boing 777 – 200 like Flight MH370, which has been in service for 19 years, are extremely safe. They are designed and tested like you would not believe. If someone so much as strikes a match anywhere on a 777, the pilot will know. All its control systems – and it has three complete sets like all modern airliners – are installed a minimum of 3 metres apart. This is to stop all three being compromised at once.
Which is what happened to the brand new Qantas Flight 32 A380. It suffered a destructive engine failure out of Kuala Lumpur. They managed to land it using just engine thrust like you drive a tank. Then there was UA Flight 232 which had the tail-mounted engine engine explode and destroy all three of its identical control systems with the resulting red hot engine shrapnel – a freakish accident which ended a lot less happily than the Qantas emergency.
It’s this sort of freak accident which makes planes crash and keeps investigators guessing, sometimes for years. But it doesn’t match the information which has emerged about what allegedly might have happened to MH370.
Now the Australian investigation team says there may have been an electrical interruption on board shortly after it took off, perhaps involving the shutting down of both engines until the auxiliary power unit in the tail cut in. The Malaysian authorities say they have found suspicious files on the pilot’s flight simulator seized from his apartment…three months ago. That second whopper would take me about five minutes to establish, not three months. After they declared him innocent. Lies, lies and more lies. And perhaps some statistics.
One other aspect of how modern planes systems work – or rather don’t – in an emergency is also very relevant and was completely ignored in Horizon’s eagerness to look clever and exclusive. It had the opposite effect for them. The programme omitted to mention that when a modern “glass” cockpit where all the meters and screens are tiny digital computer screens – hence the “glass” – and the plane flies by digital commands sent down a wire not a pulley system like in old-fashioned airliners similar to the “Airplane” movie style 1960s jets like the Boeing 707 – has a problem, it restricts much of what the pilot can do. It’s called Protection Mode.
Wreckage from TWA 800
The reasons for this are based on previous crash investigations where the pilot has done things like mistakenly sent a damaged engine to full power and shut down the good undamaged one. This happened in the British Midland crash near East Midlands airport where the plane hit the motorway. It’s designed to stop pilots making more mistakes in an emergency and crashing a plane which should have survived.
About the only thing which could have knocked MH370 out of the sky before Pilot Shah or Co-Pilot Hamid had a chance to issue a Mayday would have been a sudden explosion, or a very large fire…or a missile. Yes, it was carrying 200 kg of Lithium Ion batteries tightly packed in the hold. Yes, they have been responsible for an amazing 74 flights declaring emergencies. But they declared an emergency and landed. Not one crashed.
And you’ll notice you won’t have heard a peep from anyone officially from Boeing who make the plane or Rolls Royce who make the engines. This is normal in these circumstances. But it took three weeks for the Malaysian authorities to admit there were Lithium Ion batteries in the hold at all. Available information has been as plentiful as rain in the Atacama Desert. Where it hasn’t rained once in forty years by the way!
Let’s look at the timeline here. The plane is heading due north to Beijing and is told by Kuala Lumpur Air Traffic Control approximately 10 minutes after it takes off at 00:40:30 am to adjust its course and route to the east slightly over Igari, a familiar waypoint. No known reason is given for the adjustment.
At 01:21:04, MH370 passes directly over the waypoint. Are you keeping up? Because this is critical and is going to make you appear so well informed the next time you are with your friends arguing about what happened! This was only 3 minutes after the last spoken communication with forward ATC in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam.
By now MH370 is no longer visible on Kuala Lumpur radar. It is however still there as a four digit number – its squawk or transponder code. It lasts much longer as a target on what’s known as secondary radar rather than primary radar.
Horizon got that bit right but this is where they – and the world’s dim media – missed a huge trick. Military radar sites in Malaysia and Vietnam are localised and powerful. That plane was on the scopes of as many as a dozen different military and civilian potential locations – and that’s not allowing for any US or Chinese airborne early warning systems. They only mentioned this much later in the programme but then from a position of actually believing the information to be true when in fact this is impossible.
Let me explain why.
When the transponder of MH370 disappeared nine seconds later, the Malaysian and Vietnamese military played dumb for a month and withheld critical radar data allegedly showing the plane’s position after it “disappeared”. Now why do you think that is? Were they hoping someone would find the plane and solve the mystery or were they too unwittingly or otherwise part of a carefully-choreographed cover up?
Which do you think it is? Would it not make sense for any information to be offered to try and locate the plane? Even it if were handed over in secret?
I don’t believe the data which was used subsequently is even legitimate. I think it was disinformation designed to obscure and confuse the search. It took four hours to even start looking – because they were waiting for daybreak – and yet the immediate search in the area where the plane should have been yielded nothing. 500,000 pounds of plane fully loaded and 16,000 gallons of fuel, oil and literally acres of surface area of the plane disappeared apparently without trace.
When British satellite data company Inmarsat were given the planes automatic much-trumpeted “handshake” data (and how many weeks was it before the dim-witted media twigged such a thing even existed? I was shouting at the tv screen on day one to check it and emailing sky news offering to give them a lesson) to analyse by scientist Alan Schuster Bruce (of Air France 447 fame), they worked out the distance anywhere in a circle the plane could have been from the satellite each time it pinged.
Inmarsat were among the same search team who failed to find the remains of Air France A330 Flight 447 for two years, even though the tail section – the size of half a tennis court – was located after just two days.
The sort of find the MH370 search teams can only dream about. The tail section of Air France Flight 447 which was located after just two days.
According to them, the last ping would have given a one dimensional fix, ie distance only, in a theoretical circle of 5,000 km. Remember the numbers game from earlier? This conveniently was the credible absolute maximum possible range of MH370 with its half full tanks. The curve of the plotted course was derived from measuring the distance from the satellite calculating the micro second it would have taken between the ping and the acknowledgment by the satellite.
If MH370 had flown on using autopilot (virtually impossible as I have explained) with no one at the controls and it had headed due south it would have described that circle claimed by Inmarsat as it continued to ping. Why? Its inertial navigation system would have possibly been set say due south. As it moved over the earth’s surface for five hours that straight line would appear as a curve to us as the scenery was moving east below. Draw a line directly towards yourself and pull the paper to the right slowly as you do so and you’ll get what I’m on about.
OK? Done that? Shall we continue?
Now here’s where it gets even murkier and less believable. According to the Malaysian military data which Inmarsat “stumbled on” with a bit of prodding by the US – they had to appear eventually, right? – the plane turned left and dived to 5,000 feet then climbed to 45,000 feet (virtually impossible with a full passenger load even with half a tank of fuel as that is the very highest altitude a 777 will achieve on a good day, light and empty).
This manoeuvre would have burned perhaps another 20% of its available fuel. As a result even if this data were true it would never have been able to fly on for the claimed seven hours and 4,000 km more. No way Jose. Horizon completely overlooked this.
And anyway to do so it would have needed to have a human controlling any updates to its height, speed and direction. Suicide? The crew and passengers theoretically had five hours to do something about it. No one called anyone. No one saw the plane apparently. Er, apart from at least two independent witnesses who claimed they saw a burning plane dropping from a great height north of Malaysia. But their testimonies have been “forgotten” and where are they now? Probably bought off or floating face down in a puddle behind the bike sheds.
Here’s the final kicker. The plane had a new tracking system called Automatic Dependency Surveillance Broadcasting, a direct satellite link which records its position every second. It can pinpoint a plane’s location and height anywhere in the world – even radar deadspots – BUT it ceases to function when the Transponder is switched off.
So either someone deliberately switched off both with the intention of evading detection – if the pilot was hellbent on suicide and wanted to take everyone with him in a mysterious end location. Or it was because it and everything else stopped working simultaneously in a cataclysmic explosion. The sort of explosion which blows a plane into tiny bits.
This story, because of the stops and starts and false leads, has all the hallmarks of one big lie. Can you recall there ever being so much confusion or attention around a plane crash? People can smell a rat. Even the slow-witted news ponies. The sudden disappearance nine seconds after MH370 reached an unscheduled point, the lack of any Mayday call, the failure to locate the black box voice and flight data recorders conveniently and the contradictory data and the plane’s post disappearance invisibility in this surveillance-obsessed world, all point to one thing.
A naval ship was waiting at the waypoint, its missile radar warmed up and locked onto its target. I grew up in a military household and military men love precision, punctuality and tidiness and it’s rubbed off on me. I get how the military mind works and plans. It would take about ten seconds for a surface to air anti-aircraft missile to reach 35,000 feet from sea level (they run at between 3,500 and 5,000 kph). The nine second interval between MH370 passing the Igari waypoint and its disappearance feels so much like a pre-set to me, it makes me itch.
A well-rehearsed military clean up operation in a relatively small area of a known trajectory would be relatively easy to contain. A sprinkling of Corexit oil dispersant (like the stuff BP used in the Gulf of Mexico post Macondo), wreckage salvaged, bodies and flotsam floating recovered. And I wouldn’t be surprised if an agent hadn’t already immobilised the blackboxes and disconnected their locator beacons before the plane took off. And bypassed the systems failure warnings circuit buses so the crew would not notice anything was amiss. Plenty of specialist electronics employees looking for work.
That’s what I would do. Wouldn’t you? Routine for a CIA operative at least.
So while the Malaysians are blundering around blindly in the wrong area, the military finish the clean-up job at their leisure. They would have had all the time they needed under the guise of a standard military exercise perhaps with a “classified” blanket on the surrounding countries. Meanwhile the search is being sent in the opposite direction. It’s almost like the basis for a comedy.
And Horizon missed all of this. Of course as a member of the mainstream media who are all gagged and hobbled by the forces of darkness, this is to be expected and to an extent, sympathised with. I had the same frustrating restraints and instructions to lie about things you knew to be explosive when I worked for similar bosses to theirs.
But it is all a lie. In my opinion MH 370 was shot down for the following reason.
There were 20 Freescale Semiconductor employees on board on their way to Beijing to meet with Chinese representatives. The people in question on board were either Malaysian or Chinese themselves. One of their biggest clients, an American who worked for US software systems giant IBM, was travelling with them. Freescale are at the forefront of secret semi-conductor design, missile guidance systems and radar jamming systems.
Technology the US would not want to fall into Chinese hands. The US publicly reprimands China for industrial espionage regularly as they are so good at it. And consider the data blackout from the Malaysian military on the radar information they claimed to have on MH 370. They weren’t exactly forthcoming were they? Neither were the Chinese or – and now you know why – were the US.
If this seems far-fetched and unbelievable, consider this: it wouldn’t be the first time a civilian airliner has been shot down by the military. It happened to a Korean Airlines 747 over Russia when everyone on board was killed. It has happened near Moscow. The jury is still out on TWA 800 out of New York. And these are amongst the ones we are aware of. The unconnected disappearances and crashes which have never been attributed to military intervention I suspect are in the hundreds.
KAL Flight 700 – shot down by Russia.
Author of The Accidental Wizard and new thriller Gabriel’s Lyre. Now available in paperback and Kindle download through Amazon.