Searchers Depending On Satellite Data to Find Missing Malaysian Airlines

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By Parismita Goswami | March 17, 2014 6:31 PM EST

As the search of the missing Malaysia Airlines continues, searchers are depending on satellite data which were never used before. Authorities now suspect that someone on board in the missing plane must have shut down portion of the airplane's messaging systems, thus resulting in aircraft's disappearing from civilian radar. However, an Inmarsat satellite could connect to the part of messaging system that was still under operation for some hours after it disappeared from the radar's range.

REUTERS/JUNAIDI HANAFIAH
Searchers Depending On Satellite Data to Find Missing Malaysian Airlines

Based on the hourly satellite connections with the aircraft, investigators have been capable of drawing two huge arcs - a northern arc from northern Thailand to the border of Central Asian countries Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan and a southern one from Indonesia to the Indian Ocean. Investigators believe that the plane is somewhere along those arcs.

Such kind of satellite data was never used by air crash investigators earlier, but as other leads in the search mission has failed in the mission; it remains to be the best option.

"The people that are doing this are thinking outside the box. They're using something that wasn't designed to be used this way, and it seems to be working. In terms of search and rescue, they're probably going to have rewrite the book after this." News Daily quoted William Waldock, who teaches accident investigation at the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Arizona.

Authorities believe that the aircraft crashed into the ocean, but the possibility of the plane somewhere on the land also cannot be ruled out. 14 countries are involved in the search mission using 58 airplanes and 43 ships.

"If it really is out there in the Indian Ocean, they're going to need a lot more than that. It's immense. It takes a lot of effort, a lot of people, a lot of ships and airplanes." said Waldock.

In case the aircraft crashed into the ocean, there are high possibilities of some lighter-weight items floating on the water surface. Items such as seat cushion, life jackets, insulators and bodies not buckled to seats would float into the water as heavier parts of the aircraft would sink deep down the ocean.

When the satellite spots suspected plane debris, nearby ships or airplanes are sent to the site. Life raft or small boat has to be lowered into the water in order to zoom in the debris and verify if it might be a piece from the missing plane.

If airplane debris is found, it is believed that ocean currents will move the debris away from where the plane actually went into waters. Searchers will have to then understand the current of the location and estimate from what direction the debris came.

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(Photo: REUTERS/JUNAIDI HANAFIAH / )
Searchers Depending On Satellite Data to Find Missing Malaysian Airlines
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