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The stuff we learn after a plane goes missing

During the search for Malaysian Airlines flight 370, many interesting facts have cropped up - about how planes navigate, how phones ring, even disturbing things like pilot suicide. What other secrets does the world of aviation hold?

March 16, 2014 08:09 pm | Updated May 19, 2016 11:56 am IST

While we search for flight MH370, what else have we learnt? Photo: Vasudevan Mukunth

While we search for flight MH370, what else have we learnt? Photo: Vasudevan Mukunth

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Ringing phones aren't actually ringing. Yet.Air-traffic controllers don't always know where the plane is*Radar that controllers have access to don't work so well beyond a range of 150-350 km**If a plane's communication systems have been disabled, there's no Plan B For pilots, it's aviate, navigate, and then communicate The ocean is a LARGE place... even when you know exactly, and I mean EXACTLY, where to look, it's still extremely difficult to find scattered bits of airplane or, to be blunt, scattered bits of people in the water. As a navy sailor, I've spent days searching for lost aircraft and airmen, and even if you think you know where the bird went down, the winds and the currents can spread the debris across hundreds or even thousands of miles of ocean in fairly short order. No machine, no computer, can search this volume, you have to put human eyeballs on every inch of the search area. You have to inspect every item you come across - and the oceans of the world are FULL of flotsam, jetsam, debris, junk, trash, crap, bits, and pieces. Often neither the sea nor the weather cooperates, it is INCREDIBLY difficult to spot [an] item the size of a human being in the water, among the swells and the spray, even if you know exactly where to look - and the sea conditions in this part of the world are some of the worst, especially this time of year.One of the simplest ways armored units know what they're seeing in the sky is not a missile but a civilian aircraft is by their trajectoryThe global positioning system doesn't continuously relay the aircraft's location to controllersSmaller nations advance pilots with fewer flying hours than is the norm in bigger nationsPilot suicideThe Boeing 777 is one safe carrier... is the sum of the proportions of passengers killed for each fatal event. For example, 50 out of 100 passengers killed on a flight is an FLE of 0.50, 1 of 100 would be a FLE of 0.01. The fatal event rate for a set of fatal events is found by dividing the total FLE by the number of flights in millions.Southeast Asia is a busy area for aviation

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