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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

MH370 missing - transponders deliberately put off .. what colour is black box ?

Down under, Qantas boss Alan Joyce will face his second Senate inquiry in five days as unions step up their opposition to the scrapping of foreign-ownership restrictions, warning it will lead to a break-up of the airline and the loss of jobs. Qantas (Qantas Airways Limited) is the flag carrier airline of Australia.  The name was originally "QANTAS", an acronym for "Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services". Nicknamed "The Flying Kangaroo", Qantas is Australia's largest airline, and the second oldest in the world overall……. A couple of years back, Qantas named their A380 fleet after some legends and among them was David Warren, guess who ?

In the 10 days that went past, the most read about is perhaps the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 that disappeared on 8 March 2014 en route from Kuala Lumpur International Airport to Beijing Capital International Airport. There have been aircraft crashes, not that hi-jacks are new ….. yet the mysterious missing of aircraft with 12 crew members and 227 passengers  is quite unheard of………. .

Theories are floating around on air …. Some say, it flew too low to be detected by Radar while another puts it that it flew above 45000 ft – where there would be no signals !?!?  …… the area is not remote and still the plane hid away from the view of military radars does raise awkward questions over security in several parts of the Asia-Pacific. Another mystery is the reported switching off the transponder that made the flight vanish from controllers' radars flying into a navigational and technical black hole.  Whether someone was so technically equipped to chose the place and time to vanish into radar darkness could be the height of meticulous planning.  By signing off from Malaysian airspace at 1.19am on March 8 with a casual "all right, good night," rather than the crisp radio drill advocated in pilot training, a person now believed to be the co-pilot gave no hint of anything unusual. Reports suggest that 2 minutes later, at 1.21am local time, the transponder — a device identifying jets to ground controllers — was turned off in a move that experts say could reveal a careful sequence.

Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak  is quoted as saying that these  movements are consistent with the deliberate action of someone on the plane. He says that the communications systems of missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 were deliberately disabled. According to satellite and radar evidence, he said, the plane then changed course and could have continued flying for a further seven hours. It is feared that the movements are consistent with deliberate action.  The search operation is now concentrating on huge areas to the north and south of Malaysia, after locational 'pings' detected by a satellite appeared to indicate the plane was somewhere on an arc stretching either north up to to Central Asia, or south, to the Indian Ocean and Australia.

In science and engineering, a black box is a device, system or object which can be viewed in terms of its input, output and transfer characteristics without any knowledge of its internal workings. Its implementation is "opaque" (black). Almost anything might be referred to as a black box: a transistor, an algorithm, or the human brain. The opposite of a black box is a system where the inner components or logic are available for inspection, which is sometimes known as a clear box, a glass box, or a white box. In aviation, a "black box” is an audio or data recording device in an airplane or helicopter. The cockpit voice recorder records the conversation of the pilots and the flight data recorder logs information about controls and sensors, so that in the event of an accident investigators can use the recordings to assist in the investigation. The two aviation recorders currently combined in a single assembly referred to by the media as a "black box" are the Flight Data Recorder and a Cockpit Sound Recorder also identified as a Cockpit Voice Recorder. ~ and they are not black in colour but are actually bright orange colour , to facilitate their being found after a crash.

Photo courtesy : BBC

When a plane crashes, it can take many months or years to find the black box – but these boxes are sturdy enough to remain in tact surviving the toughest of the crashes. The flight data recorder (FDR) (also ADR, for accident data recorder) is an electronic device employed to record any instructions sent to any electronic systems on an aircraft. It is a device used to record specific aircraft performance parameters. The other -  cockpit voice recorder (CVR) records conversation in the cockpit, radio communications between the cockpit crew and others (including conversation with air traffic control personnel), as well as ambient sounds. Due to their importance in investigating accidents, these ICAO-regulated devices are carefully engineered and stoutly constructed to withstand the force of a high speed impact and the heat of an intense fire.  The  exterior of the FDR is coated with heat-resistant bright orange paint for high visibility in wreckage, and the unit is usually mounted in the aircraft's empennage (tail section), where it is more likely to survive a severe crash. To protect the stack of memory boards that store information, black boxes are wrapped in a thin layer of aluminum and a 1-inch layer of high-temperature insulation, and then encased in a corrosion-resistant stainless steel or titanium shell.

According to The Wall Street Journal, data from the missing Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777′s engines continued to be transmitted for four hours after its transponder stopped sending signals. The story, unconfirmed by Malaysian investigators, suggests that newer airliners already are sending a tremendous amount of important flight data to ground stations while flights are underway — even in remote parts of the world.  So, perhaps the blackbox technology itself is outdated.

Getting back to the first para ‘David Warren”  [Dr David Ronald de Mey Warren] who passed away in July 2010 was an Australian scientist, best known for inventing and developing the flight data recorder  ~ the blackbox..

With regards – S. Sampathkumar.

18th Mar 2o14.

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