Mineral Wells Index, Mineral Wells, TX

Community News Network

March 18, 2014

Why didn't the missing airliner's passengers phone for help?

— One of the most commonly asked questions we've received is: Why didn't the passengers aboard missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 use their cell phones to call for help? We all remember United Flight 93, whose passengers communicated with the ground by phone after the plane was hijacked during 9/11. Given how famous the incident subsequently became, it's hard to see why none of the 227 passengers aboard the Malaysia Airways flight attempted something similar.

One part of the answer is that, at least at first, many or all of the passengers might well have been oblivious to the fact that anything was awry. There is no evidence that the takeover of the plane was violent; the view has become increasingly widespread among investigators that the captain himself diverted the plane. By this time, it was past 1 a.m., and many passengers were no doubt asleep. Apart from the lights of the occasional ship, the sea below would have been completely dark. In such a situation, without visual reference or navigational instruments, it is almost impossible to determine one's orientation. The only way a passenger could have detected a change in course is if he happened to be watching the plane's course on the entertainment system - but the cockpit can shut that down. "There's the circuit breakers for all that stuff," says retired 777 captain Gerard Baer.

Some reports indicate that after the plane turned off its transponder and changed course to the west, it climbed sharply to 45,000 feet and then descended even more abruptly. If true, such maneuverings quite conceivably might have alarmed the passengers. But it's hard to know how much weight to give the altitude-deviation reports, since it seems unlikely that a fully-loaded 777-200ER can reach such an altitude and flat-out impossible that it could have descended so quickly. So the data might have been produced by faulty instrumentation.

At any rate, once an airliner is at 30,000 feet, cell phones no longer work. "At 3,000 feet, you can make a call, but go much higher and you can basically forget about that," says Wouter Pelgrum, an assistant professor of electrical engineering at Ohio University. "You don't have coverage." Part of the problem, he says, is that cell tower antennae are pointed down, toward the ground, not up into the sky. If you're over a city, with its dense cluster of coverage, you'll have a decent chance, but not in a rural area, and even less so over the ocean.

So what about the United Flight 93 passengers? Most of their calls were made using GTE AirFones, a technology no longer in use that relied on radio waves to communicate with the ground. Malaysia Airlines offers an "air-to-ground phone" service in business class that also allows passengers to send email, but the captain can shut this down, too. Only in the later stages of United Flight 93, when the plane was nearing Washington, D.C., and below 10,000 feet, did a few cell phone calls manage to go through.

One reason for this lack of pinging might be that the passengers all had their phones in airplane mode, and it never occurred to them that something was amiss. If the plane's final destination was near Kyrgyzstan, it would have landed within an hour of dawn, giving passengers little time to notice that something was wrong with the landscape outside their window - and by the time they did, they might have been over sparsely populated landscape with little cell phone service, and/or at low altitude, where electronic transmissions of any kind would have been hard to detect.

Text Only
Community News Network
  • wd saturday tobias .jpg Stranger’s generosity stuns Ohio veteran

    Vietnam War veteran David A. Tobias was overwhelmed recently when a fellow customer at an OfficeMax store near Ashtabula, Ohio paid for a computer he was purchasing.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • Screen Shot 2014-07-28 at 1.33.11 PM.png VIDEO: High-dive accident caught on tape

    A woman at a water park in Idaho leaped off a 22-foot high dive platform, then tried to pull herself back up with frightening results. Fortunately, she escaped with only a cut to her finger.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • CATS-DOGS281.jpg Where cats are more popular than dogs in the U.S.-and all over the world

    We all know there are only two types of people in the world: cat people and dog people. But data from market research firm Euromonitor suggest that these differences extend beyond individual preferences and to the realm of geopolitics: it turns out there are cat countries and dog countries, too.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • How spy agencies keep their 'toys' from law enforcement

    A little over a decade ago, federal prosecutors used keystroke logging software to steal the encryption password of an alleged New Jersey mobster, Nicodemo Scarfo Jr., so they could get evidence from his computer to be used at his trial.

    July 25, 2014

  • 072214 Diamond Llama 1.jpg Llama on the loose corralled in Missouri town

    A llama on the lam cruised Main Street Tuesday before it mistook a resident’s fenced backyard for a place to grab a meal and freshen up.

    July 22, 2014 2 Photos

  • Wal-Mart to cut prices more aggressively in back-to-school push

    Wal-Mart Stores plans to cut prices more aggressively during this year's back-to-school season and will add inventory to its online store as the chain battles retailers for student spending.

    July 21, 2014

  • The terrible history of passenger planes getting shot out of the sky

    What is more clear is that, if initial reports are true, this would be the deadliest incident of a civilian passenger plane being shot down in modern memory. In some instances, the causes of the disaster are still shrouded in mystery. Here are some of the worst events.

    July 17, 2014

  • 20110929_bowling.jpg Why fewer people go bowling

    Like other industries facing tough economic times, America's bowling centers are trying to reinvent themselves.

    July 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • NWS-HB0713-HowardMartin-004.jpg Airman laid to rest back home in Indiana six decades after death

    The mystery of what happened to a military transport plane that disappeared in the fall of 1952 into an Alaskan glacier was solved two years ago when a helicopter crew spotted the wreckage. But it took another two years to retrieve the remains of Airman Howard Miller and 16 other servicemen passengers. Saturday, Miller was laid to rest in his hometown of Elwood, Ind., with full military honors. Hundreds turned out for the funeral and burial services.

    July 13, 2014 2 Photos

  • Why North Korean cheerleaders may soon descend on the South

    When you think of North Korea, "cheerleaders" may not be the first thing that springs to mind. The Hermit Kingdom is perhaps better known for less savory things like gulag-like labor camps and leadership purges.

    July 8, 2014

Featured Ads
Mineral Wells Index


Click on a photo to visit our SmugMug page

Front page
Weather Underground Radar
Twitter Updates
Follow us on twitter
AP Video
Kerry: Humanitarian Cease-fire Efforts Continue Raw: Corruption Trial Begins for Former Va Gov. The Carbon Trap: US Exports Global Warming UN Security Council Calls for Gaza Cease-fire Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating 13 Struck by Lightning on Calif. Beach Baseball Hall of Famers Inducted Israel, Hamas Trade Fire Despite Truce in Gaza Italy's Nibali Set to Win First Tour De France Raw: Shipwrecked Concordia Completes Last Voyage Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge From Nest Raw: Massive Dust Storm Covers Phoenix 12-hour Cease-fire in Gaza Fighting Begins Raw: Bolivian Dancers Attempt to Break Record Raw: Israel, Palestine Supporters Rally in US Raw: Air Algerie Flight 5017 Wreckage Virginia Governor Tours Tornado Aftermath Judge Faces Heat Over Offer to Help Migrant Kids Kangaroo Goes Missing in Oklahoma More M17 Bodies Return, Sanctions on Russia Grow
Must Read
Seasonal Content
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
Stocks
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide