Sunday, March 9, 2014

Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 Disappears; Remembering & Recreating China Airlines Flight 006's Six-Mile Vertical Plunge Over the Pacific

A distraught woman at the Beijing Capital International Airport fears the worst for a relative onboard Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, March 8, 2014.

NOTE: I'm a bit uncertain on the dates of the photographs in this entry: I've seen both the 8th and 9th of March. I have marked them as March 8th since the flight disappeared at 1:30AM local time on March 8th.

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In case you haven't heard, there has been what is likely the worst passenger jet accident since American Airlines Flight 587 crashed on November 12, 2001.

Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 en route from Kuala Lumpur International Airport to Beijing Capital International Airport with 239 people on board -- including 227 passengers and 12 crew -- disappeared over the southern Gulf of Thailand at 1:30AM local time March 8, 2014.

A man and woman hold onto each other at Kuala Lumpur International Airport fear the worst after hearing the news of Malaysia Flight MH370, March 8, 2014.

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The jet was flying smoothly around 30,000 feet when it disappeared without a trace from the radar. Oil slicks have since been found off the coast of the southern tip of Vietnam. All on board on presumed dead. The U.S. State Department has confirmed that three Americans were among the passengers including a 4-year old and a 2-year old. The full passenger manifest is available here.

The intended and actual path of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 on March 8, 2014.

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It isn't known what happened but speculation is rampant, and it is thought something catastrophic happened to the jet.

A distraught couple with loved one(s) aboard Flight MH370 pushes through a throng of photographers and reporters at Beijing Capital Int'l Airport, March 8, 2014.

Frickin' reporters and cameras. Imagine the dumbass questions being shouted at them at that moment. 

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The AP story (final link above) states:

"It initially appears that there was either an abrupt breakup of the plane or something that led it into a quick, steep dive. Some experts even suggested an act of terrorism or a pilot purposely crashing the jet.

'Either you had a catastrophic event that tore the airplane apart, or you had a criminal act,' said Scott Hamilton, managing director of aviation consultancy Leeham Co. 'It was so quick and they didn't radio.'

No matter how unlikely a scenario, it's too early to rule out any possibilities, experts warn. The best clues will come with the recovery of the flight data and voice recorders and an examination of the wreckage."

Another distraught relative at Beijing Int'l Airport awaiting word on Malaysia Flight MH370, March 8, 2014.

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Remembering the Nearly Catastrophic 6-Mile Vertical Plunge of China Airlines Flight 006 ...

This situation got me to thinking about the legendary near-catastrophic accident involving China "Dynasty" Airlines Flight 006 on February 19, 1985.


The flight was en route from Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport to Los Angeles International Airport when a minor issue involving one of the four engines of the Boeing 747, and a subsequent series of errors involving a badly fatigued captain and his flight crew, resulted in a HORRIFYING 30,000-foot free fall* of the aircraft that narrowly averted disintegration and/or slamming / been obliterated at 700+MPH (!) into the Pacific Ocean about 300 nautical miles off the coast of San Francisco.

*To clarify, the jet wasn't, strictly speaking, in "free fall" because 3 of the 4 engines were actually still on and the aircraft was "flying" straight down. And even if the engines were all off, the jet would have had its initial forward speed (now directly straight down) AND the acceleration due to gravity -- and combined this would be significantly greater than 1g. For an object strictly in free fall, the acceleration would necessarily be just 1g.

Computer recreation of the unbelievable vertical plunge of China Airlines Flight 006 on February 19, 1985 approximately 300 nautical miles off the coast of San Francisco.

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The jet plunged in two distinct falls about six miles out of the sky from 41,000 feet in the early morning through a thick cloud layer -- reaching a horrifying 5 g's. The pilot and his cockpit crew eventually rescued the aircraft. In the end, all 243 passengers and 25 crew landed safely, although there were some hospitalizations.

I can't really do the story justice. The Wikipedia write up is here and the full NTSB report is here. I can't help but feel badly for Captain Ho.

The jet itself survived maneuvers and forces far beyond any engineering design. That jet simply should not have survived. Fighter jets couldn't survive that situation.

(Updated 3:56PM 3/11/2014) A 2006 episode of the series Mayday entitled "Panic Over the Pacific" recreated the ordeal. (I originally had a YouTube clip of it, but naturally the Wall-P legal stooge sorts swooped in and had it removed.) In any event, the descriptions (by two survivors) and recreation given are just astonishing. I have no idea how I would react in that situation. I would like to think I would be quiet and inwardly reflective in those final moments and not shriek and scream and say or do stupid things, but I just don't know.

--Regulus

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