Skip to comments.Boeing 777 Pilots: It's Not Easy To Disable Onboard Communications (No idea)
Posted on 03/14/2014 5:04:12 PM PDT by Drango
Commercial aviation pilots tell NPR that they would have no idea how to disable all the systems designed to automatically communicate with ground stations, though they could probably figure it out from checklists and other documentation available aboard an aircraft.
Aircraft such as the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777, which disappeared over the Gulf of Thailand a week ago, are equipped with transponders that give their position to air traffic control. The transponders can be switched off with a flick of a switch. But modern planes like the 777 have two other systems as well: cockpit radios and a text-based system known as aircraft communications addressing and reporting system, or ACARS, which can be used to send messages or information about the plane.
But the plane's transponder appears to have been intentionally shut off and the ACARS may have been shut down as well.
Turning off the radios and ACARS would be more difficult. NPR's Geoff Brumfiel spoke with commercial pilots, including two who have flown Boeing 777s similar to the jet that vanished with 239 people aboard. He says the pilots tell him that those systems are "pretty hard-wired into a modern aircraft.
"They said you'd have to go through big checklists, you'd have to possibly pull circuit breakers if you wanted to deactivate [all the communications equipment],"
"So, to do this, you'd have to have some degree of premeditation and a lot of knowledge of the aircraft," he says.
Even without those systems, the plane's satellite antenna appears to have kept communicating for at least 5 1/2 hours after Malaysia Air MH370 disappeared from air-traffic controllers' radar.
"That's caused many to speculate that somebody tried to make this plane vanish," Brumfiel says.
"Every hour, [a] satellite would send a signal going, 'Are you still there?' and the plane would send a signal back saying, 'Yep, I'm here,' " he says, adding that for whatever reason possibly because Malaysia Airlines hadn't paid a nominal fee to providers, there was apparently no avionics data being relayed from the aircraft.
Even so, he says, "it may be possible that the company that owns the satellite, Inmarsat, might be able to get a sense of where the plane was, where it was moving and what it was doing."
Meanwhile, a U.S. government official who is being updated on progress of the investigation says the working theory remains "air piracy," an umbrella term that could mean either the pilot or someone else commandeered the aircraft.
NPR's Tom Bowman reports that a U.S. official familiar with the investigation says that U.S. government agencies are working with their Indian counterparts to take a close look at radar data to see if the plane flew over the Indian Ocean, as one theory suggests.
Bowman says Malaysia has asked the U.S. Navy to send the destroyer USS Kidd to the Andaman Sea to patrol, and a P-3 Orion anti-submarine plane has searched west of the Malaysian peninsula to roughly the island of Sri Lanka, a distance of about 1,000 linear miles. The Navy is now sending another aircraft, a P-8, which has more surface search radar, to the Bay of Bengal, after Malaysia requested a search in that area.
Everything is easy if you know how to do it.
Great now they are in on the cover up
Senior pilot was a tech geek who had his own flight simulator at home...
It is doable if you board the plane with the knowledge of such and the intention of such. The average pilot would not.
This thing just gets curiouser and curiouser.
which is: just how well are we checking out everyone who's servicing the planes?
It’s time that somebody brought up an Occam’s Razor to this investigation.
That's news to me. I heard it was about 4 hours after disappearance, or 5 hours after takeoff, and that was disputed by Boeing and Mal Air anyway.
That's an incredibly mundane thing to say.
...And Captain Zaharie was said to be so keen to maintain his high professionalism that he had even set up a flight simulator in his own home.
Does anybody think that NPR is worth the money poured into it?
I don’t know if this story is accurate or not, but, could it be that any pilot who would speak to NPR possibly isn’t the brightest of the bunch?
I know if NPR called me to talk to me about my job, I’d tell them to go pound sand.
The more I read about this, the more convinced I am that it was some kind of freak, once-in-a-million-years occurrence, and that nothing sinister is involved.
Yep, the headline tells the story they want to to see and remember, and the body buries the truth they want you to miss.
There is no such thing as signal intelligence.
There is no such thing as electronic warfare.
There is no such thing as “spoofing.”
Therefore pilots cannot learn anything about that stuff.
Democrats and communists?
The more I read about this, the more I wish that there be no explanation whatsoever ever, like when my socks disappear in laundry!
If Malaysia Air Flight 370 was indeed commandeered, the person or people responsible for it knew enough about civil aviation to know how to turn off the transponder. Of course, this is exactly what happened with three out of the four planes that were hijacked on 9/11 so it's a technique that is not unknown.
Not to cast aspersions, but there were no less than 20 people onboard that plane that worked for a computer software company.
A Boeing employee might know. Or other techies. The passenger list is crucial to this investigation, I think.
“That’s caused many to speculate that somebody tried to make this plane vanish,” Brumfiel says. “
And it worked. :-)
I hate to say it, but it is probably the most accurate story about pilot knowledge of the communication systems on the 777. Shutting down the ACARS is not something someone could do without specific training on the 777. Boeing airplanes are pretty standard, but there are major differences in how the ACARS is set up and functions in the 767, 777, and the 747.
If ACARS on say a routine flight quits working or trips a breaker does the crew get any notificiation? Audible or visiual cue?
So do I. And I wouldn’t have a clue.
I agree, none of the information that has come out about all this deviating and turning back has been absolutely confirmed by Boeing, the engine makers, the US government or the Malaysian or Chinese government, it’s all coming from “anonymous sources”.
My suspicion is that when the plane is found, it will be found near where it was supposed to be and a simple catastrophic failure caused by pilot error, mechanical failure or an old-fashioned bomb will be the explanation.
I believe the satellite "pinging" has been confirmed by Inmarsat.
What these pilots know or don't only indicates that whoever turned those systems off (provided someone did) had taken enough time to do their homework and learn how, and that (at least some) pilots normally don't bother or need to learn these things. Their not knowing doesn't preclude someone else knowing, it just indicates the knowledge is apparently not common knowledge among the pilots.
The transponder is shut off with a switch by pilots, the ACARS system requires a breaker to be pulled in the lower electonics bay, it reqires some knowledge.
It’s easy if that’s what you as a passport stealing terrorist, have been trained to do. Some terrorists pilots don’t bother learning to land or take off. Call them specialists.
If you can get access to where the boxes that are and control the various systems on the airplane are located, you can turn them off by simply by disconnecting the cables hooked up to them.
Regardless, the pilots should be able to turn anything on the panel off, either by its power knob or switch or by the breaker.
If the plane crashed, there's a decent chance the ELT(s) should be broadcasting as designed unless damaged or destroyed.
Information is controlled these days, so are we, the masses, up to speed on what is actually known or are we being strung along like with most everything else on the one stream media?
If the pilot was pulling circuit beakers to shut off comm and nav systems to disable them, I could see him shutting off the radar altimeter. Then as he is flying, he has to rely on air data instruments. If they were not calibrated correctly, or he did not have accurate barometric pressure settings, the altimeter could be off by several hundred feet at that altitude.
If the pilot was pulling circuit beakers (or hijacker)
from what I understand, the “pings” were from the engines, not the cockpit...Rolls Royce has it built into their engines.
But one wonders why none of the tech guys etc. didn’t manage to call home? Anyone know the technical aspects of this?
“Boeing 777 Pilots: It’s Not Easy To Disable Onboard Communications”
MISSING MH370: Father of MAS engineer shocked over news of son missing
BERA: Malaysia Airlines (MAS) engineer Mohd Khairul Amri Selamat was assigned to Beijing to carry out repair works on MAS aircraft but unfortunately, the 28-year-old never made it to his destination.
Sort of. If the Satellite voice goes out, we get a message on the EICAS (engine instrument display). If Satellite data goes out, we get the message and a link to the short checklist. Out of VHF range if we lose satellite data, we lose the ACARS.
With other types of failures, we would figure it out when we went to use it. It's used all the time. Takeoff Data, weather, release verifications, ATIS etc. all come through the ACARS. Consequently, ACARS problems create a big increase in workload.
Thanks. Had one of my brothers been hired after when he applied at
that big desert overhaul field in Calif.-— but they only wanted big jet Maintenance experience and his was F4—F16—F111-—T38 and F5; OR when he applied at Renton with Boeing( but they were about to do layoffs) ; then I’d have been querying him on stuff.
That’s why he had a flight simulator at home — so that he could practice doing those things that most pilots would never do in a lifetime of flying.