Malaysia Flight MH370: What Happens When a Plane Climbs Above 45,000 Feet?

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By Parismita Goswami | March 29, 2014 10:25 PM EST

The Malaysia Airlines flight MH370's disappearance, coupled with the news that aircraft climbed above 45,000 feet and rapidly dropped to about 23,000 feet, has aroused several queries as to whether the passengers can survive at such high altitude. However, according to experts, if the radar data that indicates the aircraft's altitude is accurate, there is a possibility of passengers surviving such circumstances.

Though Boeing 777 is not certified by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to fly above 45,000 feet, it does not necessarily mean that a plane cannot climb higher than the certified altitude.

Any aircraft flying above 45,000 feet tend to suffer from catastrophic failures but the radar data of NH370 indicated no such issues. All aircrafts that soar above 10,000 feet have pressurized cabins that mimic the pressure experienced by humans at less than 8,000 feet altitude, which means that at 45,000 feet, passengers would possibly experience the same cabin pressure as that of a normal altitude and they should be safe, as reported by Forbes.

Again, another theory says if a plane climbs above 45,000 feet, it can quickly cause unconsciousness and disorientation to the passengers, and can even lead to death if oxygen masks are not used, as reported by the Guardian.

"Simple physics tells us that the reduced external pressure at 45000 ft will imply greater effective pressure from inside on the body of the aircraft and it can get close to design margins. Further, the effectiveness of the engine in very low-density atmosphere can lead to serious compromise on lift (if required)," P Sreekumar, Director of Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Bangalore told IBTimes India

MH370 Fact File:

The plane carrying 239 people onboard was reported to have disappeared from the civilian air-traffic control radar on 8 March, an hour into its journey from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

26 nations have been involved in the massive search for the plane but none of the sources have been able to find as to why and how the ill-fated flight landed up in the southern Indian Ocean.

Authorities have not been able to verify if the jet was hijacked. The circumstances around the aircraft's disappearance have made it the 'biggest mystery' in the history of aviation industry. 

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(Photo: Reuters / )
Malaysian Flight MH370: What Happens When a Flight Climbs Above 45,000 Feet?
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