MH 370: Crash confirmed, the Answers to ‘How’ and ‘Why’ Still Hidden in the First Hours

Did the pilots try to land at three airports, one after another?

By Jacob K Philip

With the announcement made by Najiv Razak, the premier of Malaysia, that “flight MH370 ended in the southern Indian Ocean”, let us hope the prolonged suffering of the dear ones of the people aboard the flight would find a definite closure.

Because, most of the hijack and other related conspiracy theories were in fact giving the family members a false sense of hope.

When it was only common sense to conclude by the end of first week of the missing of the aircraft that the plane and its passengers were no longer alive, Nations, especially Malaysia, seemed to be stupefied by the avalanche of theories, counter theories, (false)leads, analysis and suggestions.

So the greatest significance of Najiv Razak’s statement, though severely criticized by many as hastily and without sufficient proof, is in its conclusive nature:

The plane and all its passengers are lost in Indian Ocean. That means a crash.

The investigations of all the past air crashes had proved one point irrespective of the widely varying nature of the tragedies: Crashes never are caused by a single event, unless they are executed by people. They would always be the ultimate conclusion of a chain or chains of events. Only when there is definite, well planned and direct human intervention that the pattern of events that had led to the ultimate crash would look simple. Like a straight line. A hijack is such a straight line. A pilot-suicide-incident is another.

The final picture drawn by a series of unintentional occurrences that had culminated into a catastrophic event will always look too complex. Just like it is in the case of MH370.

Though the very complexity is the biggest give away of an accident, it is an ideal breeding ground too- for theories to sprout up: Again like what happened these days.

And just like it is for all cascading failures, it would be wise to start the analysis at the beginning.  The complexity would only have started to go up at that point.

From the full transcription of the communication between the pilots and the ATC from 00:36:30, it is evident that there were nothing abnormal about MH370 till 01:07:00. Though it was suspected otherwise, it was later proven that the ACARS might have stopped working after the, “All right, Good Night”.

Just as it had been explained in the post published March 18, the highly erratic and seemingly complex flight path the plane followed from 1.21 to 2.40 am (as corroborated by the eyewitness accounts), indicate an on board emergency that manifested suddenly, after 1.21 AM. The U turn, the climb to 45,000 ft and drop to 20,000(if primary radar readings were exact), the zig-zag path followed- all might have been the external manifestations of the desperate attempts by the humans inside to tackle the problem.

The widely shared reasoning put forward by Mr. Chris Goodfellow, who has been a pilot for 20 years, was the only other voice along this line. He said the aircraft might have been looking for an airport to land after undergoing a massive system failure caused most probably by a fire on board.

The aircraft of course might have been looking for an airport to land. But unlike what Mr.Goodfellow had suggested, the airport MH370 so frantically was flying to might not have been Langkawi.

Langkawi, around 380 km from the eastern cost of Malaysia and located on the western side, was so distant an airport to try for an emergency landing. Actually, the distance to Kuala Lumpur airport from the east coast is less- only around 275 km.

So if MH370 was indeed was looking for airport, it would have done so for an airport at a distance less than 275 km. (The length of the runway was of not that importance. B777 could land on runways as short as 6000 ft, with a little expertise).

After reaching back  the east coast, the pilots would naturally have tried to locate and land at the nearest possible airport.

And there indeed were TWO airports so close to Marang and Bachok, where the aircraft was spotted by local men that night.

1. Sultan Mahmood Airport , Kuala Terengganu ( WMKN)


View Larger Map

2. Sultan Ismail Petra Airport (WMKC), Kota Bharu.


View Larger Map

The distance from Marang, where the first group of eyewitnesses seen the aircraft, to Sultan Mahmood Airport, is less than 50 km. The distance from Backhok, where the second eyewitness seen the craft , to Kota Bharu airport, is just around 25 km.

The most significant fact that support this theory is the seemingly erratic path chosen by the pilot. After reaching the east cost, it simply turned north west. Eyewitness 2 at Bachok said he thought the craft was going towards the sea. Need not had been.
After an attempt to land at Sultan Mahmood Airport near Marang failed , the pilot(s) must have decided to try , Sultan Ismail Petra Airport Airport, near Bachok, roughly 150 km away. The seaward flight must’ve been to aim for the Kota Bharu airport.

The reason for aborting the landing at both the attempts is evident, though.

The operating hours of Sultan Mahmood Airport is from 7.00 AM to 10.00 PM and for Kota Bharu, it is 6.00 AM to 11.30 PM.

It of course is unlikely both the pilots were ignorant of this fact. But the situation- whatever that could be- that might have been worsening by each passing seconds, might have urged the crew to resort to this desperate measure. But without any visual indications of the runway and with no means left to communicate with the airport, MH370 would have ascended again to the gloom of the night.

If MH370 had tried to land at two airports that were known to close before 11.30 PM, the on board emergency would have been that serious, and fast escalating. So the chances are remote for the aircraft to have tried for another airport.

But, if the location where the crash occurred was indeed Indian Ocean, the aircraft might have crossed the Peninsular Malaysia. That is, again a U turn after trying to land at Kota Bharu Airport. If MH370 indeed had flown towards the western coast, that might have been to try for the third time, to land.

Which would have been the target airport this time around? A big airport, not too far from Kota Bharu and one with night landing facilities. The nearest airport that match the requirements was Penang International Airport (WMKP).  The runway (4/22 ) length   is 3352 m. The airport functions round the clock. The distance from Bachok (or Kota Bharu Airport) was less than 230 km. (To Kuala Lumpur, the distance would have been around 340 km).

Only after the CVR and DFDR are recovered, these assumptions can be proved, of course. And for the relatives of the 239 people who were aboard the flight, the answer to ‘how’ matter so little. Even then, picking up the thread of reason, however feeble and slender it is, from among the misleading myriads of facts, fiction and hearsay, is always worth the attempt.

(Jacob K Philip, a Kochi based aviation analyst, is the editor of Indian Aviation News Net. He can be reached at jacob@indianaviationnews.net)
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Malaysia Airlines Flight 370: The Plotted Path Could be All Wrong

The aircraft could have been flying towards Thailand; Accident is the most probable scenario

By Jacob K Philip

The actual path taken by the missing  Flight 370 of Malaysia Airlines after it disappeared from the civilian radar can be drastically different from the path now being considered to be that of the aircraft.

Path 1 shown below is the  one accepted by the investigators for the time being and 2 is the path the aircraft might have covered actually.

Path1

Path2
While Path 1 was plotted depending solely upon the radar data, Path 2 was developed considering both the radar data  and another information more closer to reality, the eye witness accounts of a group of people and that of an individual.

Eyewitness account 1:

Time: Around 1.20 AM, 8th March.
Location: Marang Beach, East cost of Peninsular Malaysia

Eight villagers (of Marang) here lodged police reports Tuesday claiming that they had heard a loud noise last Saturday coming from the direction of Pulau Kapas. One of them, Alias Salleh, 36, said he and seven fellow villagers were seated on a bench about 400 metres from the Marang beach at 1.20 am when they heard the noise, which sounded like the fan of a jet engine. “The loud and frightening noise came from the north-east of Pulau Kapas and we ran in that direction to find out the cause. We looked around the Rhu Muda beach but did not see anything unusual,” said the lorry driver.
-Bernama, March 9, 2014

It is evident from the timing, location and the direction, that it was MH370, which vanished from the civilian radar at 1.20 am, March, 8.
Allowing a margin of 5-10 minutes, the zooming in of the plane could have happened a few minutes after the plane vanished from the civilian radar at point A. The eyewitness on the Marang beach seen the plane coming from the sea towards them. So the plane was coming from the ‘vanishing point’ back to the land.
At what altitude?
Must be too low. Something between 1000-2000 ft. Only a plane flying that low could be heard that loud. Note the men said they were so frightened by the voice that they ran.

To where the plane was heading ?

The answer is here:

Eyewitness account 2:

Time: Around 1.45 AM, 8th March.
Location: Bachok Beach, East cost of Peninsular Malaysia

A businessman in Ketereh claimed that he saw a bright white light, believed to be of an aircraft, descending at high speed towards the South China Sea about 1.45am on the day flight MH370 went missing. Alif Fathi Abdul Hadi, 29, told the New Straits Times what he saw after lodging a report with the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) in Tok Bali earlier today.
Alif said he was in the compound of his home when he saw the bright white light, which he described as similar to the ones used by airplanes during night flights.”I was walking towards my back door when I caught a glimpse of the white light.”It was moving towards the sea, towards Bachok area, which was unusual.”Usually, aircraft that fly over here have their usual route pattern, but this one went completely towards the other way,” he said. Alif said he watched the light’s movement for about five minutes, before realizing that it was descending.”
-Bernama, March 10, 2014

If the men at Marang had seen the flight coming from the sea towards them, what Alif Fathi Abdul Hadi witnessed was a plane at a higher altitude, but descending, moving towards the sea. The sighting at Marang was around 1.20 AM. Alif saw the plane by around 1.45. The distance between the two locations is around 150 km. If it was MH370 itself, why 25 minutes to cover the short distance for a plane that can cover 550 km in an hour, even while descending ?
The answer is the bizarre climb and dive by the plane said to have gone through, as detected by the Air Force radar. Radar readings had said the aircraft climbed to 45,000 feet after the ‘vanishing point’ A and then descended to about 20,000 feet.
When Alif seen the plane, there were no frightening sound, only a white light moving away in the calm night. The altitude could have been something around 5000 to 10,000. But not 20,000.  The discrepancy could be attributed to the errors that can creep in to radar readings when the object it tracks is farther.
If these two eyewitness locations are joined (B to C), that will give the path of the plane after it returned to the land from the point above sea at which it vanished.

It may be noted that the bearing of the track is approximately 330 degrees.

Now see what Aviation Herald wrote about the accident on March 8:

On Mar 8th 2014 aviation sources in China reported that radar data suggest a steep and sudden descent of the aircraft, during which the track of the aircraft changed from 024 degrees to 333 degrees. The aircraft was estimated to contact Ho Chi Minh Control Canter (Vietnam) at 01:20L, but contact was never established.

So the initial path followed by MH370 was like this:

  • From A , the point of last contact to B, the Marang beach:  Track changed from 24 to 204. Change in altitude: from 35,000 to 1500 feet.
  • From B to C, the Bachok point: Change in altitude: Climbing from 1500 ft to 15,000 ft and then descending to an unknown altitude. Track: 330.
  • From C onwards: Details not yet known

It can be seen that the official path is plotted based on the assumption that the jet followed  the well known, published flight corridor that extent from way points to way points. Why this assumption?  Mainly because the point at which it vanished from the civilian radar was too close to a waypoint called Igari (Latitude 065610N, Longitude 1033506E).  The next sighting of the plane by the air force radar near the west coast.  And there again was a way point: Vampi (Latitude N06105600, Longitude E097350800). By now, the analysts had reached a conclusion- MH370 was travelling along a definite flight path of which, by these two and the following were way points:  Gival (Latitude N07000000, Longitude E098000000) and Igrex (Latitude N09432800 Longitude E094250000). So it was concluded that the flight was being guided by some one very familiar with navigation.

The fact that track of the path between Gival and Igrex was 308 degrees further strengthened the speculation.   308 was more or less close to 333, the number already identified as the angle of the path of the object traced by the radar.

But it can be seen that this chain of assumptions had taken MH370 much far from the more plausible path of the flight that could have been derived from a more reliable mix of data: Eyewitness accounts and the known radar data.

It may be also noted that the path from Givel to Igrex and that from Marang to Bachok are almost parallel. Or, the tracks are almost identical for both paths.  When the Air force radar read the track of the unknown flying object as 330, the object or MH370 could have been moving from Marang to Bachok and onwards. Not from Gival to Igrex as interpreted later by the investigators.

If the flight indeed was proceeding along this newly plotted path, where it was heading to?

The answer to the question is of course the key to solve this puzzle.

It can be seen that not only the directions  but the overall behavior too  of the flight was entirely different from what is being said about the initial hours of the plane.

After the transponder was switched off  one minute before way point Igari, the plane was actually going back and descending to an alarmingly lower altitude.  It was only after reaching above the land at altitude 1000-2000, that it climbed to 45,000 ft and dropped to 23,000 feet; not  after it vanished from the civilian radar. After that part of the ‘journey’, it again traveled north-east and further descended. It didn’t go west to cross the peninsula or didn’t climb to 29,000 ft after the crossing, as the radar data interpreters now tell.

So it obvious that, unlike what being widely believed now, the movements of the plane were never precise or calculated. And the highly erratic or frantic moves were sure indicators of an unexpected crisis on board.  There were no strict adherence to a well defined flight path formed by a set of  known way points. But only an alarmingly disoriented flying. Flight MH370 was sure not going to a secret terror rendezvous, but was only trying to escape from an impeding disaster. 

But, if the aircraft had indeed crashed soon, how come the pings or electronic shake hands between a satellite and the plane for at least another six hours? There of course an explanation: For the satellite to pick up, the plane need not be airborne. A running engine was sufficient. Where ever it was.

The Silence that Speaks in Volumes

After 8.11 in the morning of 8th March, 2014 (the time of last ping from the satellite to the aircraft), there were no information/communication from the plane or its passengers.

All the analysis/theories now we have are based on the happenings before 8.11 AM, March 8.

What could be the implication of the fact that absolutely no new developments/events after the morning of 8th?

What could be the meaning of the total silence from the other side of the curtain beyond which 239 human beings and a modern jet liner had gone in the early hours of March 8, 2014?

Why no communication between possible terror cells leaked out during these 10 days preceding the incident?

Seems the answer is obvious.

There were no conspiracy, no planning, no hijacking and no terror attack.

It was a plain, simple case of an air crash. Most probably in land.

(Jacob K Philip, a Kochi based aviation analyst, is the editor of Indian Aviation News Net. He can be reached at jacob@indianaviationnews.net)
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Flight MH370 crashed in the forests of Peninsular Malaysia ?

 By Jacob K Philip

The decision taken today to shift the main area of search to the west for the missing flight MH370 of Malaysia Airlines may be the first major step in the right direction to solve the puzzle of the lost plane. Looking more intently at places other than South China Sea is a wise move. But if the search parties continue to ignore the land mass of peninsular Malaysia, the final answer to the puzzle could evade them further.

Because, by all probabilities, the crashed aircraft would be somewhere in the forests in the districts of Terengganu or Kelantan in peninsular Malaysia.

Actually, from day first itself, there were ample indications for this.

The Radars
The radar of Flightradar24 had plotted the path of the aircraft only up to the point of Lat: 6.97 & Lon: 103.63 in the South China Sea area around 1.41, Saturday morning. At that point, the elevation was 35,000 feet, Airspeed 471 knots, track 40 degrees. MH370 simply vanished next second. The location was South-East of Thochu Island and between the Marang coast of Malaysia and the cape of Ca Mau of Vietnam. By 8th morning, with news of the missing flight spreading fast, the images of this plotted path as captured by Flightradars24 too had been shared by many.

mh370fr24But Malaysian Air Force soon released the path of the same aircraft from their own radar. That was a little longer. And it was seen in that the plane turning almost 180 degrees to align with track 230. After the turning, the plane vanished from the military radar too.
This discrepancy between the two radar recordings was soon explained by flightradar24 in their face book page:

Today there are reports in media that MH370 may have turned around. FR24 have not tracked this. This could have happened if the aircraft suddenly lost altitude as FR24 coverage in that area is limited to about 30000 feet. FR24 have not tracked any emergency squawk alerts for flight MH370 before we lost coverage of the aircraft.

So there was a sudden loss of altitude, just before the aircraft taking the U turn. Why the drop and why the drastic turn? Reasons could be many. Encountering a sudden turbulence and falling in an air pocket could be one explanation. The fall could have been be so severe that it reached some 20,000 feet within seconds. The drastic drop might have damaged the very structure of the aircraft and many passengers aboard would have suffered injuries. Assessing the severe damages to the plane and considering the passenger injuries, the Captain would have decided to go back home- for an emergency landing. By then the integrity of the fuselage too could have been compromised. Rapid depressurization would have necessitated loosing altitude further. That explains the vanishing of the plane from air force radar after the turn. The turn and fall could also because of some hijacker demanding that. But the hijackers-on-board theory has been discarded by now by the Interpol and the Malaysian Police.

Now see this report by Bernama:

Eight villagers (of Marang) here lodged police reports Tuesday claiming that they had heard a loud noise last Saturday coming from the direction of Pulau Kapas. One of them, Alias Salleh, 36, said he and seven fellow villagers were seated on a bench about 400 metres from the Marang beach at 1.20 am when they heard the noise, which sounded like the fan of a jet engine. “The loud and frightening noise came from the north-east of Pulau Kapas and we ran in that direction to find out the cause. We looked around the Rhu Muda beach but did not see anything unusual,” said the lorry driver.

It may be remembered that Marang and Pulau Kapas are exactly along the plotted flight path of MH370.
Note the ‘loud noise’ and the direction ( ‘from Pulau Kapas’) from which that came. It is obvious that, the plane, having turned towards the land of Peninsular Malaysia, flew past the villagers at a low altitude, in the direction of Kuala Lumpur.
But why there were no communication to the ATC?

Reasons could be the two:
1. The pilots could have been be too preoccupied with getting things under control. A damaged fuselage, severely injured passengers, and failing/failed systems.
2. Time was too short. The aircraft eventually crashed a few kilometers away.

But is it possible for a crashed aircraft to go unnoticed by the villages for four days?

The answer to this question is the crash of Kenyan Airways flight 507 , a brand new Boeing 737-800 in the night (01:06 local time)of 5 May 2007. Immediately after take off from Douala International Airport, Cameroon, the plane crashed in to a small forest just 5.4 km away from the end of the runway. (It was established later that a series of errors committed by the pilots had caused the crash) .The plane hit the ground almost vertically, nose first and by the force of the impact, considerable length of the fuselage penetrated deep in to the swamp. All 114 on board were killed. The signals emitted from the craft were so mangled that, all the search for the craft were concentrated in an area 120 km away from the runway. It was almost after two days, by the evening of May 7, that a hunter accidentally spotted the crashed plane in the forest.

Elimination of other causes
All the other possibilities like terror attack, hijack or mid air disintegration etc. have been eliminated by now : The passengers with stolen passport were kids with no crime records or terror connections; The plane had not landed at any airport/airstrip and there were no communication by possible hijackers; no widespread debris could be found neither on land or in sea.
So the only plausible explanation remaining is a crash on land away from populated areas.

And this provides a satisfactory explanation to something else also: The reported ringings of the mobile phones of many passengers even after two days of the disappearance of the flight.

(Jacob K Philip,  a Kochi based aviation analyst, is the editor of Indian Aviation News Net. He can be reached at jacob@indianaviationnews.net)
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Clapping & whistling onboard: If charged, Kerala Strikers can get 1 year imprisonment

By Jacob K Philip

The troubles of the 28 members of Kerala Strikers, the celebrity cricket team, who were deplaned at Kochi airport by the Commander of a Kochi-Hyderabad Indigo Airlines flight, are far from over.

If the Indigo Airlines Commander is to follow proper procedure, there are every chances for all the Strikers to get booked soon. And if the charges are proved, they might get a punishment of one year imprisonment and/or a fine of Rs 5 lakhs.

It was aboard Indigo Airlines Kochi -Hyderabad Flight 314 that the drama unfolded on Friday afternoon. As per the media reports, while the air hostesses were busy giving flight safety demonstration inside the aircraft, just before takeoff, the Strikers clapped and whistled loudly. Some other passengers said to have objected the behavior of the team. Feeling offended and insulted, the cabin crew rushed to the Captain and complained. The Captain in turn informed the ATC and brought the aircraft back to the apron and ordered the celebrity cricket team out.
Later, the organizer of the Celebrity Cricket League (CCL) told the media people: “There’s no rule that says you can’t clap on board. Clapping is not a crime. We didn’t misbehave with anyone.”

Clapping is of course no crime. But disturbing the crew of an aircraft definitely is. Especially when the crew were performing a crucial duty directly related to the safety of the aircraft.

See the 23rd & 22nd rules of Indian Aircraft Rules (1937):

Rule 23
Assault and other acts endangering safety or jeopardizing good order and discipline.–
(1) No person shall, on board an aircraft, ─
(a) assault, intimidate or threaten, whether physically or verbally, any person,
(b) intentionally cause damage to or destroy any of property,
(c) consume alcoholic beverages or drugs,
which is likely to endanger the safety of the aircraft or of any person or jeopardizes the good order and discipline on board the aircraft.

Rule 22:
Assault and other acts of interference against a crew member – No person shall, on board an aircraft, ─
a) assault, intimidate or threaten, whether physically or verbally, a crew member which may interfere with the performance of the duties of the crew member or lessens the ability of the crew member to perform those duties;
b) refuse to follow a lawful instruction given by the Pilot-in-Command, or on behalf of the Pilot-in-Command by a crew member, for the purpose of ensuring the safety of the aircraft or of any person or property on board or for the purpose of maintaining good order and discipline on board.

If the Kerala Strikers indeed had clapped and whistled while the safety demo was on, it is obvious that they are guilty of violating the above rules.

Now, can the Commander decide to not to proceed further with the issue?
Of course not.
As per a circular (F.No. AS/CABIN SAFETY/CIRCULAR/2010 CABIN SAFETY CIRCULAR NO. 2 OF 2010) released by DGCA on 27th January, 2010, it is mandatory for the Commander to report such incidents without any delay.

This is to reiterate that the procedure to report incidents of unruly/disruptive passenger is same as that for any reportable incident. However for the benefit of all concerned the reporting procedure is as below:
All incidents are to be reported to Director Air Safety – Headquarters (Cabin Safety Division) and in addition to Director Air Safety / Regional Controller Air Safety in whose region the flight lands after the incident.
The information is to be immediately reported by Chief of Flight Safety/Cabin Crew Nodal Officer (telephonically) as above and written information should be submitted within 12 hours of the landing of the aircraft as per the enclosed performa.

The penalty too is there in the rules. See schedule VI of the Aircraft Rules 1937 .

Offences punishable with imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year or with fine not exceeding five lakh rupees, or with both.

(Jacob K Philip,  a Kochi based aviation analyst, is the editor of Indian Aviation News Net. He can be reached at jacob@indianaviationnews.net)
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Now anyone can bid for Air India Operations site

The operations website, airindiaops.com, that Air India has been maintaining for the last 14 years is now down for 17 days.

Reason: The national carrier could not renew the site before the date of expiry, 2013-11-15.

The site, which was the only online source of  information regarding crew rostering, training schedule, advisories, announcements etc was a sort of intranet site used religiously by thousands of cabin crew, pilots and ground staff from across the globe. The applications for leave could filed through this site, incidents could be reported and the full duty schedule for the next week could be downloaded.

Now the crew get this pagewhen trying to login.

The re-directed page inserted by the hosting company (Network solutions) now displays advertisements to raise some revenue. The following announcement also is there:

airindiaops.com expired on 11/13/2013 and is pending renewal or deletion.

And now any one can bid for the domain.

Just go to this page.

Minimum bid amount is $647 and starting bid was 69 $USD.

And be quick. The bidding will close on December 18.

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Now take this: An International Airport where only ATR-42 can operate

By Jacob K Philip

The recent awarding of Environmental Clearance for the controversial airport project at Aranmula, Kerala, is nothing less than a joke.

The gist of the proposal, M/s KGS Aranmula Airport Ltd had placed before Ministry of Environment & Forests was this:

“Development of Airport at Mallappuzhasserry, Aranmula and Kidangannur villages, Kozhencherry Taluk, Patthanamthitta District, Kerala on a plot area of 500 Acres to cater to air bus A – 300 aircraft. The length of the run-way in the first phase will be 2800 mtr. x 45 mtr. Construction will have G+1 floor of terminal building of 1250 sq.m. in phase I and 15000 sq.m. in phase II.”

And what the Ministry now permits to build?

From the approval letter the ministry has sent to the promoters:

10. SPECIFIC CONDITIONS:

(iii) Though the site is not a wetland, in view of the presence of various plants species, Proponent shall fill only minimum area required for runway, apron,taxiway etc and the remaining area will be preserved in its natural form as committed. Only the area required for runway 1000 x 150 mts shall be filled with 1 mt height…”

That is, the total length of the runway basic strip is only 1000 m.  Because it is mandatory to leave 90 m on both ends of the runway as RESA (Runway End Safety Area),  the total effective length of the runway  will be 180 m less.

So what is the length of runway  KGS people are actually getting instead of the 2800 m they asked for ?

Just this much: 1000-180 = 820 m

And what kind of an aircraft will be able operate from this 820 m runway?

That is the most difficult question the promoters will have to find an answer for themselves- that is, if they really are determined to build an airport at Aranmula.

The smallest aircraft scheduled airlines have in these parts of the world is ATR-42-300. The minimum runway length (Take off field length) required for this 45 seater turbo prop aircraft is 1040 m. But this is for a runway at sea level altitude, with no wind along the runway and with an atmospheric  temperature of 15 degrees Celsius. When the temperature and elevation are higher, runway length required would be more. With wind also, the aircraft would require to run longer.

So the only option left for the airlines would be to operate the ATR with a load penalty – that is with reduced capacity.

And in India, how many airlines operate ATR-42-300 aircraft?

Only Air India.

The maximum distance the aircraft can fly non-stop is only 840 Nautical Miles (1556 km).  So there is no question of international operations.

And can KGS expand the airport after a few years of operation, so that airlines could operate aircraft like A300 from here to foreign destinations?

The answer is a firm no.

See these two paragraphs from the MoEF letter:

“Proponent shall fill only minimum area required for runway, apron, taxiway etc and the remaining area will be preserved in its natural form as committed. ”

“Only minimum area required for runway, apron, taxiway etc would be filled and the remaining area will be preserved in its natural form. The previous owner had filled the runway of 1000 x 150 mts for airstrip. Therefore, only the area required for runway 1000 x 150 mts will be filled to a height of one meter and the soil required forland filling will be met from the elevated area of about 14.5 acres available within the site itself.”

So what really the M/s KGS Aranmula Airport is getting in the end?

A very small airport with 820 m runway from which only Air India operates a few domestic flights. The Terminal building will also be too small because the maximum number of passengers the airport will be handling per day will be some 60-80.

Now see one of the numerous news reports on the proposed International Airport getting MoEF approval:

.. Promoted by KGS Aranmula International Airport Ltd, the Rs 2,000-crore project has witnessed stiff resistance from both the political Opposition and environmentalists….  For the first phase, 500 acres of land have been acquired. Work will start soon and the airport will be ready for commercial operations in December 2015. There is no compulsory eviction of even one cent of land, George reiterated. All land acquired has been bought at market price. An integrated airport city will be developed with a Special Economic Zone. A multispecialty hospital, shopping mall, hotels and an international school are the other planned facilities. George said Malaysian Airport Holdings, Emirates, AD Paris and Changi Singapore are being invited to bid for airport operation. The airport’s ‘influential zone’ will be close to multiple tourism destinations such as Kumarakom and the backwaters of Alappuzha. It is only an hour away from Sabarimala, the second largest pilgrim centre in the country….

Really ?

(Jacob K Philip is an aviation analyst based at Kochi, India. He also edits Indian Aviation News Net. He can be reached at jacob@indianaviationnews.net) 

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Air India Express Flight 4422: No Aviation Rule to Charge Passengers

Court acquits 2009 Indigo Airlines ‘hijack’ case accused of hijack charges; Conviction only for communicating false information that endangered passengers

By Jacob K Philip

Hijack or no hijack, it is next to impossible to prosecute any of the passengers who were aboard the controversial Air India Express Flight 4422,  on October 19, 2012, on the basis of Aviation rules of the land.

The conviction on Thursday of a Chartered Accountant who three years back had caused a hijack scare aboard an Indigo Airlines flight, makes this all the more evident.

On February 1, 2009, Jitender Kumar Mohla (45) announced aboard the Indigo Airlines flight that was flying from Delhi to Goa that he was hijacking the aircraft.

Though he was accused of trying to hijack the aircraft, Mohla is now convicted not under Anti-Hijacking Act, but section 3(1)(d) of the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Civil Aviation and 336/506/170 of the IPC. He got acquitted of charges under the Anti-Hijacking Act as “nothing incriminating was found in his possession when he was arrested. And there were no evidence on record to show that the accused entered the cockpit”.

Now let us examine again the ‘hijack’ case of Air India Express Abu Dhabi – Kochi Flight which landed at Thiruvananthapuram on October 19 morning after being diverted from Kochi. The passengers got agitated when the Pilot made the announcements that they had to make their own arrangements to reach Kochi and that she was leaving the aircraft because her flight duty time limit was exceeded. The furor that followed ended in the Pilot sending an emergency transponder signal and telling the Control Tower that the situation was ‘Hijack Like”.

It was already made evident that, because the aircraft was not in flight, the Anti-Hijacking Act, 1982 could not be  invoked.

The only remaining act applicable is “The Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against Safety of Civil Aviation Act, 1982″, just as it was for the Mohla case.

Here is what the act has to say about the possible offenses aboard an aircraft:

CHAPTER II, OFFENSES

3. Offense of committing violence on board an aircraft in flight, etc. —

(1) Whoever unlawfully and intentionally —

 (a) commits an act of violence against a person on board an aircraft in flight which is likely to endanger the safety of such aircraft; or

(b) destroys an aircraft in service or causes damage to such aircraft in such a manner as to render it incapable of flight or which is likely to endanger its safety in flight; or

(c) places or causes to be placed on an aircraft in service, by any means whatsoever, a device or substance which is likely to destroy that aircraft, or to cause damage to it which renders it incapable of flight, or to cause damage to it which is likely to endanger its safety in flight; or

(d) communicates such information which he knows to be false so as to endanger the safety of an aircraft in flight, shall be punished with imprisonment for life and shall also be liable to fine.

 (2) Whoever attempts to commit, or abets the commission of, and offense under subsection (1) shall also be deemed to have committed such offense and shall be punished with the punishment provided for such offense.

Now,  (1) (a) is not applicable because the aircraft was not in flight.

(1) (b) also does not come in to play because no damage was done to the aircraft.

(1) (c) is not relevant as no device that can endanger the aircraft was involved in the incident

(1) (d) also is irrelevant as it deals with an aircraft in flight and no false communication was made by anyone.

The other two offenses listed in the act are the following:

3A. Offense at airport

4. Destruction of, or damage to, air navigation facilities.

3A deals obviously with incidents outside an aircraft and 4 is again not applicable because no navigational facilities were damaged.

That means no aviation safety law is violated by the passengers .

Now it is up to the local Police to invoke or not the sections of Indian Penal Code based on the written complaint of the Pilot-in-Command of the aircraft.

- jacob@indianaviationnews.net

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Why No One Can Charge the Six Passengers of Air India Express Flight 4422

By Jacob K Philip

It now has become more evident that Capt. Rupali Waghmare, the Pilot-In-Command of Air India Express flight 4422 was gravely at fault when she informed the young Controller at duty at Thiruvananthapuram Air Traffic Control in the morning hours of  Friday the 19th that her aircraft was in a hijack like situation.

The Boeing 737-800 aircraft from Abu Dhabi to Kochi was being diverted to Thiruvananthapuram in the early morning hours because of poor visibility at Kochi. Because the Captain, who had exceeded her flight duty time soon after landing, allegedly told the passengers that they would have to travel to Kochi on their own. The fracas then followed eventually culminated in the Captain telling the ATC over R/T that there was a hijack like situation aboard, though the transponder button She had pressed was  7700 indicator of ‘Emergency’.

The Anti-Hijacking Act, 1982 (65 OF 1982), clearly indicts the Captain who deliberately told the ATC man that  the situation was hijack like.

This is how the Act defines a Hijack(Chapter II -3):

Whoever on board an aircraft in flight, unlawfully, by force or threat of force or by any other form of intimidation, seizes or exercises control of that aircraft, commits the offence of hijacking of such aircraft.

That means, only an aircraft in flight can be hijacked.

And what is a flight?

See the next paragraph of the Act:

“an aircraft shall be deemed to be in flight at any time from the moment when all its external doors are closed following embarkation until the moment when any such door is opened for disembarkation..”

Now see these news reports:

According to airport officials, some of the aircraft’s passengers also alighted the aircraft and stood around it while waiting for the flight to take off.

 A fracas broke out between the passengers and crew members when the commander, a woman pilot, with 22 years of international flying experience, opened the cockpit’s cabin door to disembark from the aircraft.

So the doors of the plane were opened already for disembarkation.

A ceased flight and a nonexistent hijacking.

So there never was a case against the six passengers the Pilot named in her complaint. And there never was any need for the Police to question them.

And the ATC people also can never be blamed.  Because the Commander of the aircraft had uttered the word hijack while talking with them over R/T, they had absolutely no choice but to initiate all the actions assuming that the aircraft had already been hijacked (Directive 36.7.2 Operations Manual of AICL, Issue 1, 24.04.2012) – even if they had seen from the tower that the doors of the craft already were opened and some passengers had disembarked.

If there still is a case, it ought to be charged against only one person- The PIC of Air India Express flight 4422.

– jacob@indianaviationnews.net

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The Hijack That Never Was: Captain Responsible for the Fiasco

‘H word’ Overruled the Code; Controllers Acted by the Manual

 By Jacob K Philip

It is learnt that  the specific usage of the word “Hijack” by Capt. Rupali Waghmare that triggered all the anti-hijack procedures at Thiruvananthapuram Airport on Friday when the  Abu Dhabi-Kochi Air India Express flight 4422 she had been commanding was parked at the airport.

It also has become evident that the transponder code the Captain used was not the one that indicates a hijack.

Trouble started at 7 am on Friday when the flight landed at the capital city airport after being diverted from Kochi because of poor visibility. The Passengers protested on being told they would have to travel by road to Kochi and went in to agitated arguments with the flight crew. Then Capt. Rupali send an hijack alert to air traffic control, it was reported.

Though the transponder code from the aircraft received by the radar at Thiruvananthapuram control tower was 7700, indicator of (technical) emergency, the young controller was being compelled to initiate the anti-hijack procedures because the captain had spoken to him over the Radio Transmitter that there was a HIJACK LIKE SITUATION on board.

Because the word ‘HIJACK’ had been uttered, the controller had absolutely no choice, but to initiate the process of the post-hijack drill that eventually  did cause so much inconvenience to the passengers of the plane who already had been taxed beyond their endurance.

And the well experienced Captain could never have not known the implications of the word.

The rule 36.7.2 of the Operations Manual (Issue 1, 24.04.2012) of Air India Charters Ltd, a copy of which is with Aviation India, tells thus:

Use of phrase “HIJACK” can also be used when possible and the ground stations will take it to mean “I have been hijacked”, and initiate necessary action and give assistance to aircraft.

Operations Manual, Air India Charters Ltd

From the Operations Manual of Air India Charters Ltd, the Company that owns Air India Express

But then why she did not use the 7500 transponder code indicating “Unlawful Interference” or hijacking?

Only two possibilities could have been  there:

  1. It was just a mistake. She pressed  button 5 instead of 7
  2. It was a deliberate attempt to evade responsibility

If number two was the case, we can see that she has  succeeded to an extent. Only yesterday that Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh vouched for her telling the media people that the pilot sounded only an emergency alert (read  7700).

It is also pointed out that to handle a situation like that, there never were the need to talk to the control tower, switching on the R/T. There were  ample facilities for the pilot whose aircraft was parked at the airport, to communicate with the airline’s staff or with the security personnel. But when the Captain preferred  to talk with the ATC instead, the very character of the whole situation altered dramatically.

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Mangalore Crash: Yet Another New Evidence Surfaces

Aviation India Demands Reopening of Air India Express Flight 812 Crash Investigation

By Jacob K Philip
It has now become clear that the Court of Inquiry that investigated the crash of Air India Express Flight 812 on May 22, 2010 had never considered a vital evidence that would have altered the very character and course of the investigation.
The  ‘Flying Programme’ of Air India Express for the period of  17/05/2010 to 23/05/2010, a copy of which is now with Aviation India, throws light to the following facts:

  • Capt. Zlatco Glusica, the Serbian Captain of the crashed aircraft was drawn in last minute to command the flight.
  • The flights to and from Dubai (flight No. 811 & 812) were supposed to be training flights for Capt. Ahluwalia, who was due for a hike to Commander level.

In the programme, that was prepared on 13 May 2010, the name of the First Officer of the flight of course can be read as  A. H. Ahluwalia. But in the column where the name of the commander was to be typed in, what appears is just three letters: TRG.
TRG means training. Should be commander training for Ahluwalia. But why the actual name of the Pilot in Command was not printed? Might be because Air India Express people were undecided about the person, when the schedule was prepared. But when it was actually decided to fill that gap with Capt. Glusica? When did Capt. Glusica, who had returned to India only on May 18 after a vacation in his country, was informed of this decision? Answers to these questions are very crucial because, in their eagerness to put all the blame on Capt. Glusica, the Court of Inquiry had repeatedly stated in the report that the Captain had slept , atleast for 100 minutes, in the return flight, inspite of  getting adequate rest prior to the flight. And according to the CoI, the inertia caused by that sleep was the main cause of the accident.

From the Report:

The contributory factors (of the crash) were:
(a) In spite of availability of adequate rest period prior to the flight,the Captain was in prolonged sleep during flight, which could have ledto sleep inertia. As a result of relatively short period of time between hisawakening and the approach, it possibly led to impaired judgment. Thisaspect might have got accentuated while flying in the Window ofCircadian Low (WOCL).
(b) In the absence of Mangalore Area Control Radar (MSSR), due toun-serviceability, the aircraft was given descent at a shorter distance onDME as compared to the normal. However, the flight crew did not planthe descent profile properly, resulting in remaining high on approach.
(c) Probably in view of ambiguity in various instructions empoweringthe ‘co-pilot’ to initiate a ‘go around’, the First Officer gave repeatedcalls to this effect, but did not take over the controls to actuallydiscontinue the ill-fated approach.

What if Capt.Glusica was informed of the flight only some hours before?
What if he had not slept for the previous day being not aware of the sudden change in schedule?What if the Captain was not physically well after the long journey back India?
The scope of investigation of the CoI had never entered these zones exactly because this particular schedule mysteriously had escaped their notice.
The significance of the three letters, ‘TRG’ is in addition to this.
If it indeed was a flight in which the eligibility of Capt. Ahluwalia to get promoted to the post of Commander was to be checked, many of an observations and accusations  the Court of Inquiry had put forward regarding the unhealthy ‘steep gradient of authority’ in flight 812’s cockpit suddenly becoming null and void.
A TRG flight justifies Capt. Glusica’s decision to pay not much heed to the first officers suggestions.
A TRG flight makes it clear why  Ahluwalia never took over controls.
A TRG flight again makes it obvious why the Commander allowed the First Officer to do almost all the R/T communications.
The flying Programme of Air India Express for the period of 17/05/2010 to  23/05/2010 clearly is a new and material evidence on the basis of which a reopening of the investigation of the crash of Flight 812 can be ordered.

Jacob K Philip is Editor of Aviation India. He can be reached at jacob@indianaviationnews.net

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