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Retired Pilot: Missing Malaysian Plane Did Not Crash

By Frederick H. Lowe

It’s pretty clear that Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which disappeared March 8 while cruising at 35,000 feet from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, China, did not crash because there isn’t any debris and neither the cockpit voice recorder nor the flight data recorder, which send pinging signals for 30 days to search and rescue teams, following a plane crash, have been activated, a former commercial airline pilot told The NorthStar News & Analysis.

The flight data recorder is often referred to as the “black box,” although it is bright orange in color so it can be found easily at a crash site. The flight data recorder or accident data recorder is an electronic device employed to record any instructions sent to any electronic systems on an aircraft. It is a device used to record specific aircraft-performance parameters.

The cockpit voice recorder records conversations in the cockpit and radio communications between the cockpit crew and others, including air traffic control personnel. It, too, is bright orange in color.

Both the flight data recorder and cockpit voice reporter are located in the rear of the plane, mostly in a plane’s tail because that section of the plane is most likely to survive a crash. The flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder are double wrapped in corrosion-resistant stainless steel or titanium. They are designed to emit an underwater locator beacon for up to 30 days and can operate in a depth of up to 20,000 feet.

The underwater locator beacon assists in helping to find a plane in the event of a crash in water. The device, which is called a “pinger,” is activated when the recorder is immersed in water.

Search personnel also have not received a signal from the Emergency Locator Transmitter, which sends out a signal when a plane crashes. The ELT also is located in the tail and the cockpit or another part of the cabin. In the instance of a plane crash, the ELT located in the cockpit is taken by the crew and turned on and the one in the tail is automatically activated.

In 2009 when Air France Flight 447 en route from Rio de Janeiro to Paris crashed into the Atlantic Ocean, search and rescue teams were able to locate the plane because of floating debris although the plane crashed in 15,400 feet of water.

“The flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder helped pinpoint the crash,” Edward Horne, a retired international 747-400 captain told The NorthStar News. “The signal continues for 30 days and so far there are no reports of transmissions from any of the devices.”

Horne was a pilot for Japan Airlines, TWA, United Parcel Service and a retired search and rescue HC130 pilot for United States Air Force. In the Air Force, Horne’s job was to listen for signals from aircraft that crashed into the water.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said during a news conference on Saturday, March 15, that government authorities are investigating what caused Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 to deviate from its original flight path.

Government authorities are searching a northern corridor, stretching approximately from the border of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan to northern Thailand, or a southern corridor, stretching approximately from Indonesia to the southern Indian Ocean, Razak said. The last confirmed communication between the plane and a satellite was 8:11 a.m. Malaysian time on Saturday, March 8th.

As of Saturday, March 15, 14 countries, 43 ships and 58 aircraft have been involved in the search for the phantom Boeing 777.

The investigation is heating up on the ground. Police searched the homes of plane’s pilot, Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah, 53, and 1st Officer Fariq Ab Hamid,27.

Retired Captain Horne said it is not known what type of cargo other than passengers the plane was carrying.

“Many of these international flights carry valuable cargo such as gold and diamonds in the cargo hole,” he said.

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