On the 777-200, the supply bottle for the pilots is located in a space below and just aft of the cockpit, close to the main avionics bay, through which much of the plane’s communications equipment is routed.Some have speculated that the oxygen bottle could have exploded, knocking out nearby equipment, including transponder and ACARS (this would explain the loss communications data just as the flight was crossing into Vietnamese airspace) and, more critically, causing a decompression.But, they have to respond quickly and appropriately.
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These are plausible theories, yet they haven’t gotten much traction — possibly they’re plausible, unlike some of the more sensational ideas being passed around. And barring a small miracle, we’ll never learn for certain what happened. In today’s New York Times, it says, “Angus Houston, the retired head of the Australian military who is overseeing the country’s search, said in an interview earlier this month that he assumed the flight would have been on autopilot even if a conscious pilot had been at the controls.
That is because commercial aircraft have their autopilots engaged during the cruise portion of flight. It has nothing to do with the planes being difficult to fly.
With its occupants unconscious, the jet would have continued on its last programmed routing until running out of fuel and crashing.
And no, to answer a question several readers have put forth, the jet would not have been guided via autopilot to a smooth touchdown on the ocean surface.
Which equipment you’re using to communicate depends where you are and which air traffic control facility you’re working with.
What happened in the case of flight 370, of course, is that all of this equipment stopped working — it was either switched off intentionally, or failed.
What makes this one different, maybe, is that major air crashes are so rare to begin with nowadays. Oh sure, radios, transponders, emergency locator transmitters, GPS, real-time position streaming, satellite tracking. The wreckage is out there somewhere, nestled invisibly in some immense undersea fissure or canyon, in the ink-black darkness beneath thousands of feet of seawater. There are two possibilities, just as there always have been. There’s a new report out claiming that a computer belonging to flight 370 captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah, a home simulator enthusiast, contained a simulated flight routing, deep into the Indian Ocean, eerily similar to the route believed to have been flown by MH370 after contact was lost.
On top of that, we’ve come to expect and demand easy and fast solutions to pretty much everything, with a fetishized belief that “technology,” whatever that even means anymore, can answer any question and fix any problem. You can see the two routings, side-by-side, in this graphic. The similarities are startling — particularly the segment that backtracks northwesterly through the Straits of Malacca. What did the other simulations look like, and how many were there?
Once the engines quit, the plane would have stayed stable for a certain amount of time, then eventually would have stalled and/or plummeted and crashed. It’d somewhat depend on which modes of the autopilot had been engaged, as well as the plane’s altitude and speed.
If the engines failed simultaneously (unlikely) the plane would stay aloft somewhat longer.
Earlier this week, the multi-nation team investigating the 2014 disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight 370 announced that the hunt for the missing Boeing 777, which had been concentrated in the southeastern Indian Ocean, was at last being called off.