Could Uighur separatists have hijacked MH 370?

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Good morning:

Keeping in mind that no wreckage has been found and we do not know who commandeered Malaysia Airlines Flight MH 370 or why they did it, I ask the following question:

Could Uighur separatists have hijacked the flight?

In my last post, we took a look at radar coverage along the northern corridor to determine whether it is as impenetrable as many officials and experts claim. We discovered that in some places, it’s operated during the day on an as-needed basis and turned off at night.

Why?

Because it’s too expensive to operate.

We also are discovering that the Southeast Asian nations are reluctant to admit the limitations and weaknesses of their respective radar systems. While understandable, this reluctance constitutes a barrier to solving the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH 370.

CNN is reporting today,

Jeffrey Beatty, a security consultant and former FBI special agent, says someone could have planned a route that avoided radar detection.

“It certainly is possible to fly through the mountains in that part of the world and not be visible on radar. Also, an experienced pilot, anyone who wanted to go in that direction, could certainly plot out all the known radar locations, and you can easily determine, where are the radar blind spots?” he said. “It’s the type of things the Americans did when they went into Pakistan to go after Osama bin Laden.”

In fairness, CNN notes in the same article,

U.S. officials have said they don’t think it’s likely the plane flew north over land as it veered off course. If it had, they’ve said, radar somewhere would have detected it. Landing the plane somewhere also seems unlikely, since that would require a large runway, refueling capability and the ability to fix the plane, the officials have said.

The northern corridor crosses the highest and most rugged terrain in the world, the Himalayas, a place where radar would not function very well.

Assuming for the sake of argument, that the last recorded ping from MH 370 originated along the northern corridor, the 777-200 ER could have reached Central Asia in the vicinity of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. The latter three of those nations border the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region in China, which is just to the east.

Who are the Uighur?

Russia Today reports:

The Uighur are a Turkic ethnic group living primarily in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region in China, where they are officially recognized as one of the ethnic minorities. In 2009 violent riots broke out in the region’s capitol Ürümqi that mainly targeted Han (ethnic Chinese) people. Over 1,000 Uighurs were arrested and detained during the riots, over 400 individuals faced criminal charges. Nine were executed in November 2009.

On March 1st, just a little over two weeks ago, a group of assailants wielding knives killed 29 people at a train station in the south-western Chinese city of Kunming.

Daniel Politi reported in Slate on March 2, 2014:

The bizarre mass stabbing that killed at least 29 people and wounded 143 at a train station in southern China was the work of separatists from the far west of the country, according to authorities. Police fatally shot four of the estimated 10 masked assailants, bringing the total death toll to 33, according to the official Xinhua News Agency. Although the identities of the attackers are still unknown, Xinhua publishes a separate story noting that “evidence at the crime scene showed that the Kunming Railway Station terrorist attack was orchestrated by Xinjiang separatist force.” The far western region of Xinjiag is where members of the Muslim Uighur community have launched a rebellion against Beijing.

/snip/

How did 10 people manage to kill and injure so many people in such a short period of time? It seems speed, big knives, and aiming for the heads all played a role, according to witnesses who talked to Reuters. “I was terrified … they attacked us like crazy swordsmen, and mostly they went for the head and the shoulders, those parts of the body to kill,” one injured 20-year-old said.

The Uighur separatists have not claimed responsibility for the attack.

China has good reason to be concerned about the Uighur separatists.

153 of the 239 people on Malaysia Airlines Flight MH 370 were Chinese nationals. Whether the flight was hijacked to acquire the aircraft for use at a later time, in which case I would be looking for it in Xinjiang in the northern corridor, or if it were hijacked as part of a suicide mission, in which case I would be looking for it in the southern corridor, I would be focusing on the Uighur separatists as the group most likely responsible.

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23 Responses to Could Uighur separatists have hijacked MH 370?

  1. Malisha says:

    Wow, never thought of it. Our whole world is really embroiled in turmoil and rage. Knowing more has made us both HAVE more to be angry about and to BE angrier even about things we once did not feel or know we had to be angry about and (bad grammar excepted) (and accepted) now it seems an irremediable progression towards solidified aggravated inter-hostility.

    When plain ordinary hatred and brutality could have been enough.

  2. Malisha says:

    If I were intending to hijack and airplane and I had an elaborate flight simulator in my home, I would definitely program 40 or 50 totally false leads into the “history” of the flight simulator to keep investigators busy after they conducted their search and seizure.

    After all, we all watch TV; we all know what the clever folks do when they plan out an exciting crime!

  3. kllypyn says:

    Rush nutjob thinks the plane was shot down. Apparently his tiny barely fuctioning mind doesn’t get the fact that no wreckage has been found which MEANS IT COULDN’T HAVE BEEN SHOT DOWN..AT LEAST THERE HASN’T BEEN ANY EVIDENCE FOUND YET IT HAD CRASHED.

  4. This is new information that came out today:

    CNN is reporting:

    A law enforcement official told CNN Tuesday that the aircraft’s first turn to the west was almost certainly programmed by somebody in the cockpit.

    The official, who has been briefed on the investigation, said the programmed change in direction was entered at least 12 minutes before the plane’s co-pilot signed off to air traffic controllers, telling them, “All right, good night.”

    BTW, FOX News erroneously reported this development as the aircraft had already executed the turnback before the copilot signed off.

  5. The change in the flight plan could have been done anytime after the pilot and copilot boarded the plane, but not after 1:07 am. The plane took off at 12:41 am.

    I believe the change in the flight plan (i.e., the turnback) must have been included in the last ACARS transmission at 1:07 am.

    Otherwise, how could anyone have discovered it?

    Maybe that’s a clue. Seems the pilot and copilot would have known that the change in the flight plan would be included in that communication.

    If the goal of the person or persons who hijacked the plane were to disappear where it went, I don’t believe they would want anyone to know about the change in the flight plan.

    Can the presence of the change in direction in the data conveyed at 1:07 am be a message from the pilot and copilot that they were not involved?

  6. New development:

    The AP reported last night that Malaysian officials have disclosed that flight-simulation files were deleted on February 3rd from the pilot’s flight-simulator hard drive.

    Forensic investigators are attempting to recover those files.

    Malaysian officials are cautioning people not to make any assumptions pending recovery of the files because the deletion may have been an innocent effort to free-up space on the hard drive.

    • On the other hand, CNN reports:

      But experts consulted by CNN said it’s relatively unusual to delete such data from a simulator: The files are extremely small and are often kept by desktop pilots to gauge their progress, said Jay Leboff, owner of HotSeat, a simulator manufacturer.

      “It would be suspicious to me, because there’s no need to do it,” he said.

  7. Two sides to a story says:

    Prof, your suspected scenario sounds plausible.

    Personally, I think all this hatred and aggression we see in the world takes far too much energy than love and getting along. But then, China has a long history of aggression against surrounding countries, so it’s to be expected that some group or another would retaliate.

  8. Boyd says:

    Note to self. Never fly Air Malaysia, Air Vietnam, Air Thailand or Air Indonesia, Air Iran, Air Eygpt. etc etc

  9. Boyd says:

    No Asian country likes China. The Uighur angle should have been researched on the passenger manifest. I still believe a crazy pilot flew it to the long tall grassy part of the ocean field. They should check out insurance policies, and track and interrogate down both pilots Mosque buddies. I chose interrogate on purpose.

  10. towerflower says:

    http://www.wired.com/autopia/2014/03/mh370-electrical-fire/

    The link is from a pilot with a very good explanation of what might have happened.

    I don’t believe the highjacking scenario, things changed after 911 and that is what now goes through passengers minds in a highjacking. I doubt very seriously that the passengers would sit and be quiet during a highjacking knowing how it could turn out now. The background of all the passengers has been looked into and with the exception of the two passengers with stolen passports it appears everyone checks out. They still can’t find anything suspicious with those two–training in terrorist camps, links to various organizations, etc. Everything in me and using my experience as an Air Traffic Controller, tells me that this plane suffered from a massive failure of some type.

    If the airplane crashed on land their ELT system would activate and send out a signal. ELT’s on planes aren’t designed to work underwater but for impact.

    Yes while the helicopters involved in the OBL raid used the terrain to help hide them they also had top secret helicopters (at the time it was a secret) that was developed to help make them invisible to radar–stealth. If another country shot down the jet I’m sure that the US or China or Russia, somebody, would have heard chatter about it by now. It serves no purpose to hide it, think about the Korean airliner shot down by Russia when it strayed into their airspace.

    You still have the problem with India, India is always on high alert with Pakistan and I doubt they would have turned off any system.

    All my years as a controller you have to also understand that sometimes a pilot just can’t get out a mayday transmission. I’ve worked several in which a mayday call was never given prior to the crash. I had one in which the plane ran out of gas and it was me who questioned the pilot when I noticed his altitude kept going down only then did he tell me he had a problem–landed on a road safely. But sometimes they are so busy trying to save the plane and themselves that telling ATC they have a problem is their last thought.

  11. karen503 says:

    A hijacking could easily occur if a perpetrator, possibly (probably?) either the pilot or the copilot, brought a canister of nerve gas or some other kind of aerosol onto the plane that rendered passengers (and possibly the other pilot) unconscious or dead, and discharged while wearing an oxygen mask.

    I doubt the perpetrator was one of the passengers. It’d be a lot more difficult to bring the device and a mask along, and obviously he/she’d have to be a pilot.

    BTW, do pilots and plane attendants go through a bypass security corridor when they approach the concourse? I honestly can’t remember ever seeing airline personnel go through the security checkpoint like I do, and get patdowns, etc.

  12. Welcome back.

    I’ve been hoping you would weigh in since you have more knowledge and experience about commercial aviation than all of us put together.

    What’s your take on the change to the flight plan by programming the turnaround into the flight computer at least 12 minutes before the copilot responded to ATC Kuala Lumpur’s directive to switch to ATC Ho Chi Minh City by saying, “All right, Good night”.

    The transponder stopped transmitting its location 2 minutes later just before the auto pilot began executing the turnaround.

  13. New Development reported by CBS News:

    CBS News has confirmed the FBI has been provided electronic data to analyze from the flight simulator. It is expected the hard drive will be brought to an FBI lab in the United States. This FBI is lending technical expertise, not taking over the investigation.

    U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said U.S. investigators are prepared to help any way they can.

    • towerflower says:

      They said it might be an innocent act of trying to free up hard drive space too. So far they haven’t noticed any unusual airports that would make warning bells go off. Sounds like he practiced flying into airports he flew into.

  14. towerflower says:

    First the guy who is making this claim is a “former FAA spokesperson”, a FAA spokesperson is nothing but a PR person and I can tell you they have passed on quite a bit of ca ca in the past. The person is not an aviation expert but nothing but a spokesperson for the news and as such when asked technical questions they can’t answer them. They also made a claim that the controllers wouldn’t have noticed the turn…..BS! No commercial airplane turns on a dime but the turn programmed into a nav system to a new point would have been noticed by controllers. Straying off an airway (think highways in the sky) would have caused the controllers to question the pilots and the new claim say this was all done before they checked off the final time.

    The system they are talking about is called ACARS (Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System). It is used for several things. One it is used in Air Traffic Control (ATC) to relay clearances and new flight plans to the pilots when they are flying over areas that are not covered by radio communications, the pilots can also use it to relay their requests to ATC when they want a new flight plan. Pilots will also receive weather information via the system. It will also relay information about the health of the aircraft’s systems. This system helped determine what happened to the Air France aircraft when it relayed airspeed information that proved to be a key factor in the crash. I could find nothing that says that ACARS will transmit a newly inputted flight plan/course that the pilot programs into their navigational computers (2 different systems). I did not have to deal with ACARS so I’m still looking at more.

    Now the ACARS system is now being reported as going off line at 1:07am and I wonder about this report. They have also reported that they got information for another 6 hrs about the engines—ACARS sends this. But if the ACARS went off line at 1:07 it could be the first warning of trouble. Not being a commercial pilot I don’t know if the pilots would have gotten a warning about the system going down. To disable the ACARS it requires a technical knowledge and to climb down through a trapdoor into the hull of the aircraft to remove it’s circuit breakers…..not all breakers are located in the cockpit.

    I’m still believe the best theory out there is with the link I provided. I believe that this aircraft went down somewhere in the Indian Ocean and finding something like that is like trying to find a needle in a haystack. I don’t believe most of the conspiracy theories out there. Hijackings are viewed differently now, no longer are passengers going to believe that everything will be fine and it will be just an inconvenience as they fly to a new destination. I don’t believe that they piggy backed another flight since the timing required to do that is, well…..I just don’t believe anyone is that good to plan that.

  15. towerflower says:

    Australian PM made an announcement that satellite images have produced possible debris field just under 1500 miles WSW of Australia in the Indian Ocean. He is calling it credible information. Boats and planes are enroute to the area to confirm.

  16. New Development:

    Satellite images from March 16 show 2 objects floating in ocean approximately 1500 miles WSW of Perth, Australia. The largest object is about 80 feet long and might be part of a wing. Two reconnaissance aircraft, including the P-8A, went to the area but were unable to locate the floating objects and had to return to Perth. Poor visibility, bad weather and the onset of darkness, however, made it difficult to see anything.

    The good news is they spotted something with radar.

    USA Today is reporting,

    The objects, found in satellite imagery, are “of reasonable size and probably awash with water,” John Young, general manager of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, said at a press conference in Canberra, Australia’s capital, on Thursday.

    /snip/

    Earlier, the crew of the Poseidon told ABC News that their aircraft was getting radar hits of “significant size” in water’s beneath the surface near the objects but that it was too early to tell if these hits were related to debris from the missing plane.

    “This is a lead, this is probably the best lead we have right now, but we have to find them, see them, assess them,” Young said of the objects.

    A Norwegian merchant ship has reached the area and is searching it.

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