MH370

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Ever more bizarre…

Prime Minister Najib Razak of Malaysia announced on Saturday afternoon that Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 left its planned route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing as the result of deliberate action by someone aboard.

Mr. Najib also said that search efforts in the South China Sea had been ended, and that technical experts now believed that the aircraft could have ended up anywhere in one of two zones — one as far north as Kazakhstan in Central Asia, and the other crossing the southern Indian Ocean.

That conclusion was based on a final signal from the plane picked up on satellite at 8:11 a.m. on March 8, nearly seven hours after ground control lost contact with the jet, he said.

There have been a few comments around the internets to the effect “How, with all of our military hardware, could we possibly have lost an entire plane?”  The answers are relatively straightforward.  First, most of what we know about a given aircraft’s position and direction comes from information supplied by the plane itself.  When position monitoring devices are disabled by the crew or by malfunction, we lose most of the data we have access to.  Second, “active” radar monitoring is, especially at sea and in relatively underdeveloped areas, far more sparse than you’d expect.  We don’t have a series of radar picket ships or floating radar stations monitoring every expanse of sea, and unless radar-operating warships have some reason to track a civilian airliner, they generally don’t pay much attention in any case.

Still, this has moved firmly into realms of “weird” and “disconcerting.”

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