Commentary on the economic , geopolitical and simply fascinating things going on. Served occasionally with a side of snark.
Tuesday, April 8, 2014
Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 Mystery - April 8 , 2014 -- Day 32 ............. Search for missing plane set to move to sea floor , Angus Houston, head of the Australian agency coordinating the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, said the month-long hunt was at a critical stage given the black box recorder batteries were dying - or had died.........
08 April 2014| last updated at 08:51AM
MH370 Tragedy: Search for missing plane set to move to sea floor
SYDNEY/PERTH: A robotic search vehicle is likely to be sent deep into the Indian Ocean on Tuesday to look for wreckage of a missing Malaysian jetliner on the sea floor, as officials say the chance of finding anything on the surface has dwindled.
Angus Houston, head of the Australian agency coordinating the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, said the month-long hunt was at a critical stage given the black box recorder batteries were dying - or had died.
An Australian ship that picked up signals consistent with the beacons from aircraft black box recorders over the weekend had not registered any further pulses, Houston said.
"The locator beacon has a shelf life of 30 days and we are now passed that time and as a consequence there is a chance that the locator beacon is about to cease transmission, or has ceased transmission," Houston told Australian Broadcasting Corp radio.
"It's all very finely balanced and I think it's absolutely imperative to find something else."
Houston said the chance of finding anything on the surface was greatly diminished due to strong currents and a cyclone that had passed through the area in the past week.
The black boxes record cockpit data and may provide answers about what happened to the plane, which was carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew when it vanished on March 8 and flew thousands of kilometres off its Kuala Lumpur-to-Beijing route.
Authorities have not ruled out mechanical problems as a cause of the plane's disappearance but say evidence, including loss of communications, suggests it was deliberately diverted.
A US Navy "towed pinger locator", which has been trawling an area some 1,680 km (1,040 miles) northwest of Perth, picked up two "ping" signal detections over the weekend - the first for more than two hours and the second for about 13 minutes.
Houston said the Australian ship Ocean Shield was still pulling the pinger locator in an effort to regain contact but would likely move quickly to remove that equipment and instead send down an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) named Bluefin-21.
The Bluefin will scour the ocean floor in 20-hour missions using sonar in an attempt to find the Boeing 777, before its findings are downloaded and analysed on board the Ocean Shield.
If anything unusual is spotted, the sonar on board the robotic vehicle will be replaced with a camera to take a closer look. The potential search area was 4.5 km (2.8 miles) deep, the same as the Bluefin range.
Malaysia's acting transport minister, Hishammuddin Hussein, told reporters in Kuala Lumpur he was "cautiously hopeful" that the signals picked up would lead to a positive finding soon.
Houston said he was confident the search teams were looking in the right area, based on analysis of sporadic radar and satellite data.
"We are pretty confident that we are in the right area because the calculations of the search area are right where we are picking up these transmissions," Houston said, adding that a decision to deploy the Bluefin would be made later on Tuesday.
"We've probably got to about that stage now," he said.
It could be several days before the Bluefin had anything to report.
"Nothing happens fast when you're working at depths of 4,500 metres," Houston said. "It's a long, painstaking process, particularly when you start searching the ocean floor."
Up to eleven military planes, three civilian planes and 14 ships will take part in the search on Tuesday, with the Australian coordination centre reporting good weather in the search area.
A second search area was being maintained in waters where a Chinese vessel had also picked up "ping" signals at the weekend in an area more than 300 nautical miles from the latest signals.
Chinese patrol ship the Haixun 01 reported receiving a pulse signal with a frequency of 37.5 kHz, consistent with the signal emitted by flight recorders, on Friday and again on Saturday.
Houston said the Chinese and Australian discoveries of pings were consistent with work done on analysing radar and satellite data but the Ocean Shield's leads were now the most promising. -- AP
08 April 2014| last updated at 08:03AM
MH370 Tragedy: Search and recovery continues (Day 32)
PERTH: Up to eleven military planes, three civil planes and 14 ships will assist in today's search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.
AMSA has directed the search of one large search area today of approximately 77,580 square kilometres, 2268 kilometres north west of Perth.
The first flight is expected to depart at 6:00am WST.
Good weather is expected for searching throughout the day.
The underwater search continues today, with ADV Ocean Shield at the northern end of the defined search area, and Chinese ship Haixun 01 and HMS Echo at the southern end.
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau continues to refine the area where the aircraft entered the water based on continuing ground-breaking and multi-disciplinary technical analysis of satellite communication and aircraft performance, passed from the international air crash investigative team comprising analysts from Malaysia, the United States, the UK, China and Australia.
Tuesday, 08 April 2014 07:19
M'sian minister DENIES report MH370 'skirted Indonesian airspace' to evade radar
KUALA LUMPUR - The crashed Malaysia Airlines flight, MH370 had not skirted Indonesian airspace in a bid to evade radar detection as reported by CNN, said acting Transport Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein.
"I got the Chief of the Malaysian Defence Force to contact his Indonesian counterpart, and they have confirmed they have had no sighting of the plane," said Hishammuddin at the MH370 press conference held at the Royal Chulan here on Monday.
Hishammuddin had been asked about the report made by CNN senior international correspondent Phil Robertson, who quoted a "senior Malaysian Government official" confirming that the information regarding the flight of the Boeing 777 had been determined based on radar data from Malaysia's neighbours.
"After the Malaysia Airlines flight 370 took that left-hand turn and deviated from its path to Beijing, flew across Malaysia... the official now says that they know from looking at radar data from neighbouring countries that the flight then skirted the radar airspace of Indonesia," Robertson had said in his report from Kuala Lumpur.
MH370, which had been missing for 17 days before it was declared by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak on March 24 to have ended its flight in the Southern Indian Ocean, disappeared from Malaysian radars at 2.15am on March 8 after taking off from Kuala Lumpur International Airport for Beijing at 1.30am. It carried 239 passengers and crew. -Asiaone
Published: Tuesday April 8, 2014 MYT 11:54:00 AM
Updated: Tuesday April 8, 2014 MYT 11:57:03 AM
MH370 search: Sub launch several days away as more signals sought
PERTH: The hunt for underwater signals from missing Malaysia Airlines (MAS) flight MH370 is likely to continue for days before a robot submersible is deployed to comb the seabed, the Australian search chief said Tuesday.
“We need to continue that (search) for several days to the point at which there is absolutely no doubt that the pinger batteries will have expired,” Joint Agency Coordination Centre chief Angus Houston said.
“Until we stop the pinger search we will not deploy the submersible.” – AFP
Exactly one month since the plane vanished, no trace of signals heard from ocean depths over weekend
April 7, 201410:26PM ET
Search crews have failed to relocate faint sounds heard deep in the Indian Ocean, possibly from the missing Malaysian jetliner's black boxes whose batteries are at the end of their life.
Angus Houston, the retired Australian air chief marshal who is heading the search far off Australia's west coast, said sound locating equipment on board the Ocean Shield has picked up no trace of the signals since they were first heard late Saturday and early Sunday. The signals had sparked hopes of a breakthrough in the search for Flight MH370.
Finding the black boxes quickly is critical, because their locator beacons have a battery life of only about a month — and Tuesday marks exactly one month since the plane vanished. Once the beacons blink off, locating the black boxes in such deep water would be an immensely difficult, if not impossible, task.
"There have been no further contacts with any transmission and we need to continue (searching) for several days right up to the point at which there's absolutely no doubt that the batteries will have expired," Houston said.
If, by that point, the U.S. Navy listening equipment being towed behind the Ocean Shield has failed to pick up any signals, a sub on board the ship will be deployed to try and chart out any debris on the sea floor. If the sub maps out a debris field, the crew will replace its sonar system with a camera unit to photograph any wreckage.
Houston's comments contradicted an earlier statement from Australia's acting prime minister, Warren Truss, who said search crews would launch the Bluefin 21 autonomous sub on Tuesday. A spokesman for Truss said the conflicting information was a misunderstanding, and Truss acknowledged the sub was not being used immediately.
Houston said Monday that the Ocean Shield detected late Saturday and early Sunday two distinct, long-lasting sounds underwater that are consistent with the pings from an aircraft's "black boxes" — the flight data and cockpit voice recorders.
Houston described the find as "a most promising lead" in the month-long hunt for clues to the plane's fate, but warned it could take days to determine whether the sounds were connected to Flight MH370.
Finding the black boxes is key to unraveling what happened to Flight MH370, because they contain flight data and cockpit voice recordings that could explain why the plane veered so far off-course during its flight from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing on March 8.
"Everyone's anxious about the life of the batteries on the black box flight recorders," Truss said. "Sometimes they go on for many, many weeks longer than they're mandated to operate for — we hope that'll be the case in this instance. But clearly there is an aura of urgency about the investigation."
The first sound picked up by the equipment on board the Ocean Shield lasted two hours and 20 minutes before it was lost, Houston said. The ship then turned around and picked up a signal again — this time recording two distinct "pinger returns" that lasted 13 minutes.
"Significantly, this would be consistent with transmissions from both the flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder," Houston said.
The black boxes normally emit a frequency of 37.5 kilohertz, and the signals picked up by the Ocean Shield were both 33.3 kilohertz, U.S. Navy Capt. Mark Matthews said. But the manufacturer indicated the frequency of black boxes can drift in older equipment.
The frequency used by aircraft flight recorders was chosen because no other devices use it, and because nothing in the natural world mimics it, said William Waldock, a search-and-rescue expert who teaches accident investigation at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Ariz.
"They picked that so there wouldn't be false alarms from other things in the ocean," he said.
But these signals are being detected by computer sweeps, and "not so much a guy with headphones on listening to pings," said U.S. Navy spokesman Chris Johnson. So until the signals are fully analyzed, it's too early to say what they are, he said.
"We'll hear lots of signals at different frequencies," he said. "Marine mammals. Our own ship systems. Scientific equipment, fishing equipment, things like that. And then of course there are lots of ships operating in the area that are all radiating certain signals into the ocean."
Geoff Dell, discipline leader of accident investigation at Central Queensland University in Australia, said it would be "coincidental in the extreme" for the sounds to have come from anything other than an aircraft's flight recorder.
"If they have a got a legitimate signal, and it's not from one of the other vessels or something, you would have to say they are within a bull's roar," he said, using an Australian colloquialism to mean quite close. "There's still a chance that it's a spurious signal that's coming from somewhere else and they are chasing a ghost, but it certainly is encouraging that they've found something to suggest they are in the right spot."
The Ocean Shield is dragging a ping locater at a depth of 1.9 miles. It is designed to detect signals at a range of 1.12 miles, meaning it would need to be almost on top of the recorders to detect them if they were on the ocean floor, which is about 2.8 miles deep.
Houston said the signals picked up by the Ocean Shield were stronger and lasted longer than faint signals a Chinese ship reported hearing about 345 miles south in the remote search zone off Australia's west coast.
The British ship HMS Echo was using sophisticated sound-locating equipment to determine whether the two separate sounds heard by the Chinese patrol vessel Haixun 01 were related to Flight MH370. The Haixun detected a brief "pulse signal" on Friday and a second signal Saturday.
The Chinese reportedly were using a sonar device called a hydrophone dangled over the side of a small boat — something experts said was technically possible but highly unlikely. The equipment aboard the British and Australian ships is dragged slowly behind each vessel over long distances and is considered far more sophisticated.