Thursday, March 13, 2014

Missing Malaysia Air Flight MH370 Becomes The Object Of Macabre Craigslist Parody Humor

Although the fate of Malaysia Air Flight 370 has yet to be resolved as of this post, the uncertainty as to its fate has triggered a rather macabre expression of humor on Craigslist. Someone posted a parody ad offering a Malaysia Air 777-300 for sale -- ostensibly from Vietnam. Here's the link:

Unquestionably the ad will be taken down in a matter of time -- someone who has access to Craigslist will report it. But here is a screenshot to prove it was posted:

Click to enlarge

While I appreciate bizarre expressions of humor from time to time, it is far too early to be poking fun at this situation. The family members and friends of 239 people are absolutely distraught over the possible fate of their loved ones, and this shows that Craigslist is a garbage dump. It already has an unsavory reputation for being a magnet for scammers, and this merely adds to the negative rep.

According to the latest media information as of this post, the focus of the search for Flight MH370 may now be shifting to the Indian Ocean. A Pentagon official is reported to have said that it has information that the missing airliner went down in the Indian Ocean, although the official did not specify the source of the information. As a result, the USS Kidd was reported to have been dispatched to the area and will reach there from its current search location in the next 24 hours. The alleged change in position of the warship follows reports from the U.S. earlier today that the plane may have continued flying for another four or five hours after disappearing from air traffic control radars. A timeline of events is being maintained by the Straits Times.

This information combines two of the more prominent theories; that the airliner continued to fly for several hours after contact with ground control was lost, and that it made a sharp left or westward turn at some point. This was based upon reports that data was automatically downloaded and sent to the ground from the plane’s engines after the disappearance as part of a routine maintenance and monitoring program, and that Malaysia’s military radars were previously reported to have picked up a signal about 200 miles northwest of Penang, Malaysia that may have been of MH370 on a westward flight. However, this new information also contradicts acting transport minister Hishammuddin Hussein who earlier said that the main focus of the search would be on the South China Sea to the east of Malaysia. Furthermore, the CEO of Malaysia Airlines denies reports that the plane had continued to fly for several hours.

Recommend visiting the Straits Times website for frequent updates to the story by a local source in the area.

A young American undergraduate student at Stanford University has come up with an interesting and plausible theory to explain the disappearance of MH370. Andrew Aude, a computer science student who attended the Boeing 787 roll-out premiere with his father who was a pilot, thinks slow decompression of the plane which left passengers unconscious and pilots disoriented may have caused the airliner to eventually crash. Here's the explanation from the Straits Times:

In his Tumblr post, Aude cited a 2013 Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) Airworthiness Directive for the 777 which spotted a weakness in the plane.

According to the directive which he quotes, there had been a report of "cracking in the fuselage skin underneath the satellite communication (satcom) antenna adapter".

From this, he theorised that MH370 could have experienced the same issue, leading to the failure of satellite-based communications as well as to a slow decompression of the plane which left passengers unconscious and pilots disoriented. "If the decompression was slow enough, it’s possible the pilots did not realise to put on oxygen masks until it was too late," he wrote.

He also noted that the Boeing 777 aircraft does not deploy passenger oxygen masks until the cabin altitude reaches 13,500 feet. By then, passengers were likely to be unconscious if there was a slow decompression. Moreover, MH370 was a red-eye flight and most passengers would be trying to sleep, hence masking the effects of oxygen deprivation.

The autopilot function would have ensured that the plane maintained course and altitude before crashing into the East China Sea, the Sea of Japan or the Pacific Ocean, miles from the intensive search zone in the South China Sea where rescue efforts have been concentrated in the past few days.

This led him to conclude that "this was likely not an explosive decompression or inflight disintegration".

This is somewhat similar to what happened on that fatal flight that claimed the life of golfer Payne Stewart. His plane continued to fly after contact was lost until it ran out of fuel and crashed in 1999. The NTSB ultimately determined that the probable cause of this accident was incapacitation of the flight crew members as a result of their failure to receive supplemental oxygen following a loss of cabin pressurization, for undetermined reasons.

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