The 240th Person on Board MH370
  Preamble

The theory below is predicated upon the premise that:

a.  There is insecured access to the Main Equipment Centre (E&E Bay) from a floor-hatch abeam the forward galley. This has received very limited publicity as a 777/747 Achilles Heel (due to the design of these aircraft pre-dating 911). There is also external access to the E&E Bay from the ground via belly hatch.

b. Besides the possibility of unauth'd inflight access, inspection of the E&E bay ceases after preflight prep (i.e. an individual could secrete himself in there sometime prior to the pax boarding and engine start (perhaps in the guise of cleaning, catering or engineering staff)- and would not be detected even after engine start and gear-pin stowage through that belly hatch).

c.  There is E&E Bay access to both cabin outflow valves for inducing a rapid depressurization.

d.  There is an intercom jackplug for direct headset intercom with the cockpit.

e.  Omnivision views of the E&E Bay's cavernous interior is at:  http://tinyurl.com/ob9974s     =  HawkEye Media: Boeing 777 Avionics Compartment VR Panoramic Photography

f.   A You-tube video about the insecurity of the inflight accessible (i.e. insecure) E&E bay hatch is here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mLmzvF2qkDY

 

Introduction

The lurking "bastard in the bomb-bay" theory about the hideaway culprit in the Main Electronics Centre (aka E&E bay)  has some legs – until proven otherwise. Nothing else would seem to explain the rapid disabling of so many systems and comms – unless it was the un-enacted FAA Airworthiness Directive for 777 upper fuselage cracking .... and its vaguely ominous consequences . Outcome of that may well have been cascading systems outages and included a rapid depressurization. Never discard the possibility of a hypoxic pilot making a bad spur of the moment decision with respect to disengaging the autopilot, turning, descending and holding his breath, ultimately neglecting to don his mask. It's not as if any airline pilots are subjected to altitude chamber runs and hypoxia experiences..... like all military pilots are (regularly). But, more importantly, how easy would it be for a disgruntled ex-employee to secrete himself in the E&E bay before engine start and remain undetected. The E&E Bay's external hatch is only ever opened for a quick gear-pin stowage after engine start. Nobody ever does pre-start checks inside the E&E Bay  for interlopers. He'd have access to everything electronic (and even pilot oxygen lines) inflight.... including the cabin pressure outflow valves for an induced  rapid depressurization. Very few main or nose-gear stowaways are ever detected prior to their frozen death plunge to the ground on runway finals at destination. They usually enter their main-gear hidey-holes prior to  the pilot's walk-around check.... yet remain undetected. The same goes for cargo-handlers who wake up inflight, enroute to their cargo's destination.

 

That sudden turn and dive at "Lost Contact"

.... and the sudden subsequent zoom-climb to 45,000ft?  It may be all about pitch "trim".

i.e.  Recall the Air New Zealand very experienced trio that missed the tiny message within their attitude display that they should use manual trim (because an auto-trim sensor failure had caused an unexpected and unfamiliar flight-control mode change). Because all pitch-trim was then necessarily to be by the manual trim wheel  (which is so rarely used by fly-by-wire pilots), they were wholly unaware of that indistinct advisory – and so their low altitude/low-speed regime was inevitably terminal and quite unrecoverable (http://tinyurl.com/n68y7ye  -  D-AXLA (ZK-OJL), test flight GXL888T from Perpignan to Perpignan (France)). They missed the cue that they needed to increase side-stick pitch authority by manually trimming forward on the trim-wheel. The frozen angle-of-attack sensors that caused the auto-trim failure on that leased ANZ A320  was caused by the post-paint job aircraft wash that was non-standard i.e. by high pressure water-hose. Trapped water in both sensors froze at height and the hapless crew suffered an uncommanded pitch-up (which proved to be non-reversible). But if they’d seen that tiny caution on their ADI, they’d have manually trimmed forward and lived to see a “happy-ever-after” outcome. Yet that caution was (and still is ) totally inadequate for getting the attention of a crew in extremis. Relevance to MH370?

 

When the depressurization alert sounded, the MH370 pilot would've disconnected the autopilot and turned left and forced the nose down, but as with the ANZ trio, he also forgot/or was unaware (i.e. not actively alerted to the fact that) he’d have to trim forward into the descent (i.e. it’s a really alien action for a FBW pilot to grab the trim wheel and start winding it around). But the nose-drop of the turn itself disguised the need to oppose yoke pressure by manually trimming forward (i.e. if you turn steeply enough, the nose will drop sharply of its own accord anyway). Having forgotten to don his mask, and having initially needed little or no forward pressure to hold the nose down......  and after rolling out on heading (for (say) Pulau Langkawi airfield, he'd have soon passed out Of course he'd then have relaxed any forward pressure on his yoke - and the aircraft would've, of its own volition, pitched up and re-entered a climb. The nose-up pitching moment would have been quite significant once the pilot lost consciousness. A zoom-climb peaking at 45,000 ft would be within the aircraft's capability....even if it was too heavy to maintain that height.

 

Why turn?

Priority for an emergency descent is to turn 90 degrees (at least) to clear the airway (as traffic beneath will be as little as 1000ft below - under RVSM rules). My guess is that the MH370 pilot rolled out on a rough heading for either Penang or Pulau Langkawi (East coast Malaysia) and then passed out. The untrimmed aircraft (with high power set and at a higher speed and with its autopilot disconnected and never having been trimmed nose-down) would have then, quite per its aerodynamics, pitched up nose-high and zoomed back up to FL450 or thereabouts. At that height, all the rear-enders would’ve been beyond the capabilities of the diluter-demand drop-down oxy mask system and would have soon passed out. The aircraft would’ve nose-dropped (i.e. ran out of its inertia steam) at its FL450 zoom-ceiling and thereafter abided by its natural sinusoidal phugoid  (e.g. up 500ft slowing, then down 1000ft speeding up) eventually subsiding, after around 30 minutes, down to a self-damping equilibrium and levelling off at around 18,000 feet….. having found its pre-set trim-state stability regime. Their position by then? My guess would be around the Northern tip of Sumatra.

 

That two-man Vulnerability

If a pilot had suddenly realized that hypoxia was a real and present threat (e.g. other pilot collapses), his first action would be to disconnect the autopilot, turn off the airway at least 90 degrees (SOP ingrained action as opposite direction traffic on the airway could be a mere 1000 feet beneath).... while simultaneously stuffing the nose down to descend. All well and good - if that pilot hadn't then also passed out. Why wouldn't he have first donned HIS mask. Well, by the time the first pilot (a smoker?) had visibly and alarmingly succumbed, the other pilot's state of mind would've been quite befuddled. Seconds become minutes quickly when alerts and aural alarms are playing out their audio distractions. And it's just a minute to fall foul of debilitating hypoxia (found to be a factor in JAL123's fatal crash of a 747 due to cracking of the tail pressure cone - none of the flight crew donned oxy-masks even after recognizing an explosive decompression at 20,000 ft. ). At MH370's 35,000 feet, the time of useful consciousness is mere seconds. This fact has a weighting of 50% in that Occam's Razor factors evaluation. Hurrah for locked cockpit doors - and two man cockpits. One-two incapacitation just wouldn't happen in a three man cockpit IMHO. But in a two-man cockpit it can and has.

 

What if that emergency descent had continued? (result: a 911 scenario?)

There was still a chance for MH370 if the descent had continued - however it did not. Why not? 777 pilots don't often hand-fly or if they do, they'd likely  (for pax comfort) be using the yoke in Control Wheel Steering mode. In CWS you don't have to trim the aircraft in pitch manually, the auto-trim takes care of that. But if you manually disconnect the autopilot, which is an instinctive action dependent upon your prior training, and then simultaneously turn, you're likely to forget to trim the aircraft nose-down into a continued descent (i.e. the nose naturally tends to drop in a steeply banked turn so there's no action-trigger for any nose-down trimming manual task). So, assuming that the remaining conscious pilot passed out whilst holding slight forward pressure on the yoke in the steep turn left, what would happen once he'd rolled out on that westerly heading, passed out and relinquished that slight forward pressure that he'd held in the turn? Upon rolling out, the aircraft would tend to zoom up as a function of increased speed, being untrimmed in pitch and courtesy of an incremental thrust increase due to the added speed of descent with power on. Would it have then zoomed up as far as Flight level 450? All Top-of-Climb a heavy well out-of-trim aircraft has the inertia-derived ability to zoom-climb higher than their operational ceiling, but weight and available thrust will always be the limiting factor on sustaining that height. Once the airspeed had subsided toward a near nose-high stall, the nose would pitch down and subsequent events would be a function of the aircraft's speed and heading stability characteristics (more on that later). But no matter how quick the visit to 45,000 feet or how fast or sedate the subsequent descent, the fact is that that extreme height, once depressurized, would've been a lethal factor for all aboard. That's the point at which MH370 likely became a ghost flight. The unalerted surprise factor would have likely precluded anybody down the back going on portable oxygen. And the deployed passenger oxy masks would not have been any solution or assistance once above 40,000 feet. Note also that if the second pilot had simply disengaged the autopilot's baro hold (pressure altitude maintenance) and set a preset heading roll-out  bug on his HSI - and turned and descended using CWS, the aircraft's onward progress may have been quite different (ie, the CWS dictates an attitude that's desired to be held, and the descent would've continued). You'd have to reflect that a non-hypoxic AF447 pilot of an A330 still got it wrong and climbed his aircraft into a deep-stall after a relatively minor malfunction - and then held it there in a deep-stall until impact. Does that make this described MH370 chain of events more digestible? Aircraft being flown manually at TOPC tend to be fractious and indelicate for manual handling, even for a non-hypoxic and unpanicked airframe handler. Perplexion and non-normal events go hand in hand. Once there's an untimely and unexpected happenstance, there's a >50% chance that it will be the lead that bleeds.

 

A Pilot Regains Consciousness

As the pilot, by the time you recover to a semi-conscious state at that intermediate height, you've overflown peninsular Malaysia  and your thinking is muddled to say the least. You revert to doing what comes naturally. Vaguely aware that something is very wrong, you re-engage the autopilot and start punching in diversion waypoints on the FMS control panel. By that time there may be just one surviving pilot who'd regained consciousness (probably the non-smoker) ..... and the E&E bay occupant/instigator would be dead.

The magic about 18,000 feet...

.... is that below that height you can briefly revive and survive in a semi-comatose state. Significantly above that height you will soon die of anoxia and the biting cold. Sustain that height and you will soon be a semi-conscious vegetable in terms of available Time of Useful Consciousness - i.e. after a very few minutes (think 5 at most). But that's long enough to start doing what comes naturally for a nowadays airframe manager. You start punching in diversion destinations into the FMS. If you fat-finger PER instead of PEN for Penang, you are on your way to Perth. But if you remain at high power at 18,000feet, you will flame-out before you get there..... it's the much higher fuel consumption that will flame you out short..... and maybe you left those draggy airbrakes out in the attempted emergency descent?

It's interesting to note that the 777-200 that was MH370 would've had in its FMS database the following call-up routes

PEK: destination

PEN: where they'd track to after their turn (i.e. best diversion following any depressurization)

PER: The Perth-bound track (that they were on immediately prior to fuel exhaustion impact).

But why no comms, transponder, ACARS?

First priority for the uninvited guest in the E&E Bay would be to disable all means of external comms and flight-following systems. Out of his depth technically and through ignorance of the system's intricacies, he'd fail on the ACARs to InMarsat half-hourly hand-shaking quirk ..... that would soon lead the search towards its present locus. Why would a saboteur (terrorist or otherwise) want the aircraft not to be found? That may not have been his intent. He may simply have wanted to avoid alerting ATC or the military prematurely. i.e. a 911 style suicide mission may have been circumvented by the pilots passing out in the zoom climb - and the saboteur himself also expiring unexpectedly at that juncture. He'd have been expecting an emergency descent when he opened the outflow valves, not a zoom-climb. Keep in mind also that the flight-deck door lock can be disabled from the E&E Bay. I'm guessing that MAS pilots don't bolt their cockpit door on the inside. The saboteur may have been planning to eventually enter the cockpit and assume control.

Copilots cell-phone cell-tower check-in

There seems to be a popular conundrum about why the copilot's cell-phone should've contacted a Penang cell-tower via handshake but no pax phones did so. The simple answer is that cell-phones in the baggage hold and cabin luggage and in a pax pocket or purse are inside the Faraday cage of the fuselage - so signals would only emanate if the cell-phone was held up against porthole glass. Such is not the case for the flight-deck. It's "the hole in the Faraday Cage".

The Pax and Crew Background Checks

These may disclose nothing because the E&E Bay saboteur would be presently "person or persons unknown". FBI, Interpol and Malaysian Security should be concentrating upon technicians or pilots familiar with the 777. Someone who worked for MAS and left bearing a grudge perhaps? Or someone with a terminal illness? It's not always a religious zealot.

Lack of floating wreckage

See my explanatory link at:  http://www.pprune.org/rumours-news/535538-malaysian-airlines-mh370-contact-lost-482.html#post8425922

How to verify?

Find someone who qualifies but is now missing - and back-track him to KL or environs. Run it by your 777 qualified contacts. It's all quite straightforward..... and strictly follows those rigid rules of "logical sequitur". Those are the underlying rudiments for an Occam's razor explanation. At the end of the day, it all comes down to system design, training deficiencies, the foibles of failure and human factors. Unpredictable is unforeseeable. Whether or not there was a mystery pax #240 with or without a false passport, the outcome was still a self-evident (but unintended) zombie flight and nobody's fault - once the disabling dementia of depressurization has kicked in. Shock, awe and then confusion. That's the nature of rapid or sudden depressurization.

Lost without Trace

The solution to "loss without trace" was first addressed by me in 1998. (see http://tinyurl.com/m8uymnz) and more specifically, in

http://tinyurl.com/kv2owv

 

 

  This article to be found at:    http://tinyurl.com/l76c2sg
  also see:   http://tinyurl.com/l2xh9ud
 

The inference is that, following the depressurization zoom to 45,000 feet (autopilot disengaged for the instinctively entered emergency descent and turnback), the pilots had passed out and then (once the aircraft had zoomed to 45Kft and then had settled into a self-flown descent to a survivable depressurized altitude (of say, 18,000 feet) and one or both pilots had partially recovered), an attempt may have been made to reconnect the autopilot and then to insert PEN into the FMS for a diversion to Penang (but the semi-conscious pilot had inadvertently "fat-fingered" PER into the FMS and the aircraft then turned for Perth from its "present" Straits of Malacca location)..... with the pilots passing out again after their oxygen had been depleted (or if oxygen had been disconnected in the E&E Bay, once the FMS had commanded a climb to a diversion level above 18,000 feet).

I doubt that they will now locate any surface debris (flotsam) because the black-box and impact area is likely to be 100's of miles away from where they're towing their arrays. Logic behind that? Having sowed many many large passive listening sonobuoy fields for LOFAR location of submarines, I'm of course familiar with the phenomenon described below. 2nd and 3rd convergence zones are in theory toroidal but, in actuality, because of the canyon echoing effect of a signal emanating from a "bottomed" source in that topography, the annulus of the 2nd and 3rd (and 4th?) CZ's are likely to be very distorted and incomplete doughnuts. That would explain why the pinger signals are fading in and out. An experienced Jezebel operator could tell 2nd from 3rd CZ by its fuzziness and the rate at which its signal crossed the Jezebel sowed sonobuoy field.

If you tow your ship's array from the outer annulus ring directly towards the annulus centre your signal duration (between the rings) may be very short. If you track tangentially across the annulus (with its centroid on your beam), then 150 minute long detections are quite explicable. Think of the Convergence Zone annulus as being an ever moving feast, like a smoke ring slowed down manifold times, yet often moving to and fro over scores of miles as a result of thermal layer mixing, diurnal variation and intermediate currents at varying depths. These currents flow through the oceans and give rise to such phenomenons as El Niño (La Niña is a coupled ocean-atmosphere phenomenon that is the counterpart of El Niño as part of the broader El Niño–Southern Oscillation climate pattern.). The upshot is that impact area and debris field could easily be many hundreds of miles from where they're search due to sound channel ducting.

see:    http://www.oc.nps.edu/~bird/oc2930/acoustics/