Mystery of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 – Were There Any Phone Calls from the Aircraft?


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

There were 239 people on board the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 that took off from the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on March 8, 2014 at 00:41 MST.

On Saturday, March 22, 2014, The Telegraph published the cockpit communication aboard the missing Malaysia Airlines flight from its taxi on the runway to its final message at 1:19 am of ‘all right, good night‘. The transcript starts at 00.25 with general instructions from the control tower to the pilots. The detailed conversation begins at 00.36.

Transcript of the final 54 minutes of communication from Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 (Source: telegraph.co.uk)
Transcript of the final 54 minutes of communication from Malaysia Airlines flight MH370. (Source: telegraph.co.uk)

KL CONTROL TOWER
00:36:30
MH370: ATC, this is MH370, good morning
ATC: Good morning, MH370, This is KL control tower, please remain in A10 32R

00:36:50 MH370: A10, MH370 copies that

00:38:43
ATC: MH370, please get on the runway from 32R A10

MH370: runway from 32R A10, copy that

00:40:38
ATC: MH370, position 32R, runway ready, permitted to take
off. Good night
MH370: position 32R, runway ready, permitted to take off. MH370 copies that. Thank you, goodbye.

KL AIRPORT
00:42:05 MH370: MH370 has left the port

00:42:10 ATC: MH370 position confirmed, flight altitude 180, follow the command and turn right, target IGARI waypoint.

00:42:40 MH370: Alright, altitude 180, direction IGARI waypoint, MH370 copies that

00:42:52
ATC: MH370, you’ve entered KL Radar 132.6, good night
MH370: 132.6, MH370 copies that

KL RADAR
00:46:51
MH370: KL ATC, This is MH370

ATC: MH370, please climb to flight altitude 250

00:46:54 MH370: MH370 is climbing to flight altitude 250

00:50:06 ATC: MH370, climbing to flight altitude 350

00:50:09 MH370: This is MH370, flight altitude 350

01:01:14 MH370: MH370 remaining in flight altitude 350

01:01:19 ATC: MH370

01:07:55 MH370: MH370 remaining in flight altitude 350

01:08:00 ATC: MH370

01:19:24 ATC: MH370, please contact Hu Chi Minh City 120.9, good night

01:19:29 MH370: All right, good night

Today, everyone has a cellular phone and some would even have two phones. If so, there should have been a minimum of 250 cell phones among the 217 passengers and 12 crew members on board the missing aircraft.

In 1991, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), an independent agency of the United States government, prohibited the use of cellular devices for making phone calls or surfing the Web in-flight by passengers while on board an airplane because the FCC suspected that the radio frequency emitted by cell phones could cause an airplane’s communication equipment to malfunction.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the national aviation authority of the United States, agrees with the FCC that cell phones may cause substantial interference with aircraft systems and supports the ban for all commercially operated airplanes. Many airlines comply with FCC’s rule. However, some commercial airlines have instituted different policies about when passengers can turn their cell phones on and off while on board their airplanes.

The use of cell phones on private or charter planes is not regulated, and many private flights permit passengers to use cell phones while in flight.

When United Flight 93 was hijacked on September 11, 2001, passengers managed to make two cell phone calls during the flight’s final minutes. Several other calls were made using air-phones.

In 2005, the FCC announced that it might consider lifting the ban on the use of cell phones on airplanes above 10,000 feet, with certain restrictions.

Latest cellular phones are able to operate on very low power settings, and may not interfere with the aircraft’s communication systems. The FCC is trying to establish an acceptable threshold of radio frequency emissions to allow cell phones to be used on airplanes without any fear of causing failure to the aircraft’s navigation system or disrupting service on the ground. These devices will still need to be in airplane mode during takeoff and landing.

Earlier, the European Commission allowed only 2G wireless services to be used aboard flights above 3,000 meters. In November 2013, the European Commission adopted new rules to allow passengers use devices with 3G and 4G data connections.

Now, the often asked question on social media is: “Did the passengers on board the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 make calls using their cell phones?

On Monday, March 17, 2014,  at a news conference Malaysia Airlines CEO Ahmad Jauhari Yahya said: “So far, we have not had any evidence of any telephone company of any member trying to contact.”

One reason might be that once the aircraft cruises to a certain height the cell phones are no longer in the range of the cellular network because cell phone towers are not built to project their signals that high.

Was the Flight MH370 flying too high?

According to radar analysis, the plane had been flying as high as 45,000 feet and as low as 23,000 feet, which the experts say is too high to register with mobile towers.

Also, according to telecom experts, when the plane flies too fast the cell phone fails to register with cell towers. Typical cruise speed of a Boeing 777 aircraft is Mach 0.84 (560 mph, 905 kph, 490 knots) at a cruise altitude of 35,000 feet (11,000 meters).

Bill Rojas, director of telecom research at IDC Asia Pacific said that passengers travelling on high-speed trains in Japan and other countries manage to make telephone calls using 3G networks at speeds of up to 150 mph (240 kph) but cell towers do not register a signal beyond those speeds. According to Rojas the aircraft would need to have been flying at speeds below 155 mph (250 kph) and at an altitude less than 10,000 feet (3,050 meters) for passengers to make or receive calls.

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