Even 10 days after the Malaysia Airline’s Kuala Lumpur-Beijing flight MH370 went mysteriously missing, no definite information has been made available either to the families of the passengers, or in the public domain. Several theories have been floated on what could have happened to the aircraft. Aviation expert A. Ranganathan analyses the probable theories and comes up with a scary scenario:

What could have happened to the Boeing 777 aircraft? Looking at various data and information that are now available from different credible, international sources, the following sequence of events seems most probable:

1. The climb to 45,000 feet when they turned west after switching of ACARS and Transponders:

Here is the scariest scenario. If the two pilots acted in tandem or the captain sent the co-pilot out under some pretext or the other and then locked the cockpit door.

Get the crew O2 mask on and open both outflow valves after cancelling cabin warning systems. The aircraft will depressurise and the Time of Useful Consciousness is a mere 9-15 seconds unless the passenger O2 masks are donned within that time.

An expert’s hand

At 1:30 a.m., the chances are that most passengers are asleep and they may not get these on within 15 seconds. Even if they do, if the pilot continued the flight at FL450 for longer than 21 minutes, everyone in the cabin will be brain-dead, and they will not be a threat to the person in the cockpit for the rest of the flight.

Scary thought, isn’t it? It has to be done by someone who really knows the aircraft well.

2. Descent to 23,000 feet.

If the earlier flight scenario at 45,000 feet took longer than 21 minutes, he would have to descend to a lower altitude, repressurise the cabin and get cockpit temperature up so that he could function comfortably.

3. Climb to 29,500 feet.

The VFR altitude used by military aircraft in RVSM airspace. Or, an aircraft with communication failure !!

This will not alert the military radar if they are awake at that time to monitor!

4. Flight along an airway from VAMPI to IGREX.

A very clever ploy so as not to alert the AF radars who will not react much to a blip going along an airway

5. After IGREX.

The flight will definitely not move in a northern path as the AF radars are too alert in that area. The southern route is a sure bet and here is the reason that will make you all sit up.

The Car Nicobar radar was destroyed in 2004 during the tsunami and I heard that they have not replaced it with a modern radar and have only a mobile radar that is not manned during night! Even if they do have the radar on, Carnic is just a helicopter base! How are they going to catch an aircraft travelling at 0.85M?

Out of range

The Port Blair radar has an effective range of just 70-75 nautical miles. If the aircraft turned south/southwest at IGREX, there is no way it would be picked up and the radar is off during night hours.

My bet is that MH 370 has flown the southern route, maybe landed on an island like GAN, or, flown all the way south into the Indian Ocean and put down at high speed into the bottom of the ocean that will prevent any visible debris for a long time.

If it is a heist, and the aircraft is going to be used against any Indian target, this is the easiest location.

(Capt. A. Ranganathan is a former airline instructor pilot and aviation safety expert)

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