You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to SpringfieldNewsSun.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and interactive features. Starting at just 99c for 8 weeks.

X

Welcome to SpringfieldNewsSun.com

Your source for Clark and Champaign counties’ hometown news. All readers have free access to a limited number of stories every month.

If you are a News-Sun subscriber, please take a moment to login for unlimited access.

breaking news

Male victim, 16, identified in West Liberty school shooting

Black box could shed light on plane mystery

Some say no known signal from device suggests it was deliberately disabled.


Satellite images of what could be the remains of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 in the Southern Indian Ocean set off renewed speculation among local experts about the sequence of events that led up to the jet’s disappearance.

While everything from terrorism to black holes have come up in round-the-clock discussions, some angles are taking on greater prominence as the search continues.

Ken Curell, a veteran commercial and military pilot with decades of experience flying large passenger jets and fighter aircraft, is focused on the fate of the nearly-indestructible black box that should have been aboard. If the plane had crashed either in the ocean or on land, it’s likely the box would survive. The black box contains a digital recording of the aircraft’s flight and transmits a locating signal.

If a crash happened in the water, it should also be transmitting now and providing a signal for searchers. The fact that there is no known signal from the device is additional reason for thinking something beyond the ordinary occurred.

Was the box disabled by pilots in the cockpit or before the flight by someone on the ground? Did a technical problem cause it to malfunction? Could the plane have plunged into a deep ocean trench that prevented the signal from being located because radio transmission limitations?

The box should have been checked for functionality before the plane left the ground, Curell said, and is capable of signaling a malfunction. There are also two detachable emergency transmitters on board and no signal has been reportedly heard from those devices either.

One speculated scenario is that the crew was overcome by smoke and fumes in the cockpit before they were able to turn the jet around. In that sequence of events, the plane’s autopilot would take over and keep the craft flying until the fuel was exhausted.

Curell said it would take considerable activity in the crew compartment of the jet to shut down or compromise the data reporting system and the plane’s transponder. Assuming there were no technical failures, shutdowns of that equipment on similar aircraft would require some very deliberate circuit-breaker pulling, Curell said.

If the aircraft broke up in flight, the black box would most likely remain intact; once the device hit the water, the signal is water-activated and would start sending out a location beacon over an emergency frequency. Satellites monitor those signals to pinpoint locations of crashed aircraft.

“Again, we’ve heard no reports of such a signal being heard,” Curell said.

Donna Schalagheck, chair of political science at Wright State University, said although there has been a decline in the number of international hijackings since Sept. 11, in part because of all the safety precautions that have been implemented, modern terrorism has shown it is adaptable.

Screening passengers and crew, locking cockpit doors, and other security methods would have to be circumvented.

“Terrorism does not cease to surprise or adapt,” she said.

Schalagheck wonders what evidence government officials in the Peoples Republic of China have about the plane’s disappearance.

“China has been very quiet,” she said. “Half of those on board were from there. What is going on behind the scenes there?”

If the plane landed in some remote area as part of some terrorist plot, it would still need jet fuel to take off again, a very difficult logistical problem, she said.


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in News

Knowing the indescribable

From Aeon: “We know many things without being able to express them, and there is nothing mysterious about that at all. I know how to play the violin, but my explanations about how to hold the instrument and move the bow would not be enough to impart this knowledge to you. You would have to acquire ‘knowledge-how’ to play a violin...
Party on at 'Wayne’s World' 25th anniversary movie screenings
Party on at 'Wayne’s World' 25th anniversary movie screenings

Here is news that will make Wayne’s World fans say, “Schwing.”  The celebrations culminate July 4, when the city will try to set a world record for most people headbanging to Queen’s song “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
How to get young people involved in history?

David Shumway is one of our regular community contributors. Historical societies everywhere are seeking to expand membership and involvement to younger generations. But such societies too often conjure up images of dusty old people doing dusty old things; no one seems interested in history until they have lots of history behind them. This is particularly...
Local schools offer condolences to West Liberty
Local schools offer condolences to West Liberty

Residents of West Liberty were shocked as the news of the West Liberty school shooting, that took place about 7:30 a.m. Friday, shook the area to its core. As news spread about the shooting, local school from around the area took to social media to offer their condolences and support.
West Liberty, surrounding communities react to school shooting
West Liberty, surrounding communities react to school shooting

Residents of West Liberty were shocked as the news of the West Liberty school shooting, that took place about 7:30 a.m. Friday, shook the area to its core. As news spread about the shooting, people took to social media to offer their condolences and support.
More Stories