Monday, March 31, 2014


Hello World,

Before I begin, A quick recap of what happened so far:

The aircraft goes missing. Days later, the aircraft is claimed to have detoured from its designated flight-path and was caught by defense radars and satellites. The next set of news suspected the passengers who flew MH370 with stolen passports. The recent news downplay possibility of passengers' involvement (terrorist attack) while the friend of one of the pilots is interviewed, where he reveals the pilot was not stable-minded during the time of the incident owing to domestic issues.

Now, here's my analysis:

The questions repeated are still indicating the possibilities of someone intentionally 'Switching-Off' the communication system but no question so far has involved the possibility of 'Aircraft with Faulty Equipment' or 'Aircraft Encountering Equipment Failure.'

So far the official statements have been repeatedly pointing at 'Deliberate Action' in the cockpit but no substantiating information has been released. But when a theory of on-board equipment failure is presented, 'Lack of Evidence' seems to block everyone's view.

Why would the pilot's friend come out and say his friend was mentally disturbed? What is in it for him anyway?

Why would someone get himself in the trouble of police investigation by mentioning the unstable mental condition of a dead friend? He is either an attention craving conspiracy theorist or was persuaded by the authorities to make such statement to the press?

Any type of stress disorder over domestic issues would usually involve behavior pattern such as alcoholism or drug abuse or domestic violence before the concerned person enters a suicidal phase. The pilot could have committed suicide in so many ways than diving with the plane full of passengers.

The satellite pings have been stated as the basis for tracking the aircraft's path after its disappearing from the radar. Please note that the aircraft was detected by defense radar later.

The regions where MH370 has been reported to have disappeared from radar and spotted on defense radar, fall under the Inmarsat Spot Beam Coverage regions. Now please note that these spot beams are there to enable land-mobile satellite phone communication. The following images are from Inmarsat and Stratos literature publicly available to inform about the Inmarsat spot beams coverage for satellite phone communication:

Satellite pings from that region has not been released and not discussed either. Why is that the military radar and the private satellite detect the aircraft at two different locations but no system seems to have detected the aircraft in between? How many hours did the aircraft fly after its detection by the military radar and before it being 'pinged' by the satellite? At what intervals do the satellites execute such pings? How come the satellite did not ping the aircraft in the region where it has such concentrated and overlapping spot beam coverage? Why is that data not available for scrutiny?

If the satellite could execute a ping, then the satcom system must have been 'On' (partially at least). Why did the pilot not make any calls? More importantly, How many calls did the Malaysia Airlines Flight Operations make during the 'Out-of-Radar' phase of MH370? Why is the record of calls made and messages sent not being released by Malaysia Airlines? Surprisingly, nobody seems to be interested in knowing that either.

If my cellphone was detected by a tower, then how is it possible that I did not make a call and nobody called me, when I was believed to be missing? Using this analogy for MH370, if the satellite could execute a ping, why was the aircraft not able to contact Flight Operations (Malaysia Airlines) and why did Flight Operations not make any calls or send text messages?

The on-board mobile usage is a highly subjective thing as only those passengers who purchase that service will be able to access their mobile network through the cabin satcom system. If the aircraft's satcom system got pinged by the satellite, it indicates that the aircraft was indeed connected to the satellite at that moment. If the system was deliberately switched off, why was it switched back on (to make it eligible for a satellite ping)?

If the satellite has pinged more than once catching the aircraft at multiple points, then the question to be answered is what happened to the system in between those two points. Why was the satcom intermittently 'on'? In case of those instances when it was actually on, why did the pilot not make a contact and why did the flight operations not make a contact? How can a 'no-connectivity' claim by the airline be accepted as a credible statement in this regard?

This satellite ping indicates that the satcom was intermittently 'On'. The perpetrator will have completely disabled the system if that was the intention. The intermittently 'On' satcom indicates the possibility of interrupted instrument/communication availability which in turn indicates the possibility of on-board equipment failure which, looking at the circumstances already discussed on my previous post, must have been the case of an on-board fire resulting in a disconnected electrical power system. 

If there is no evidence for on-board equipment failure due to fire, it has to be promptly acknowledged that there is no evidence for the pilot to be suicidal. A third person's view cannot be perceived as evidence for the judgement of the sanity of the suspect without the suspect being examined by a psychologist and psychiatrist.  

Flying at an altitude of 40000 ft, at after midnight when it is the darkest time of the day, the pilots can only fly with the help of the instruments/indicators. Even during the day, they can look down through the wind shield only during take-off/ascent and descent/landing stages of their flight. The only other option is when they intentionally fly low with an objective of looking down for something (the SAR teams are doing the same as we discuss).

The MH370 pilots, after realisation of the equipment failure turned back to execute an emergency landing but they were probably flying in too fast and before they could climb down to look for land, they crossed over Malaysia. In another frantic attempt, the turned again hoping they would get over Indonesia where they can do an emergency landing. But since what they were facing was a GNC failure (failure of of Guidance, Navigation and Control owing to disconnected or wearing out electrical system), they had no clue where they were headed, how they were headed and had very little control over their flight (control systems run on electrical power too). Once they realised they came too far to actually fly over Indonesia, they have tried to fly into the sun (remember, while it is dark over Malaysia, Australia sees daylight), hoping to navigate further and catch any land (Australia as the last resort). All pilots are taught to navigate by keeping the sun as the reference and finding the nearest land in case of emergencies. Depending upon the region of operation, the pilots always make themselves aware of the local 'Follow-the-Sun' or 'Put-the-Sun-to-the-Right-and-Fly Straight' methods of flying back home if they feel they have detoured and they don't trust their instruments. Looking at the possible detour tracks released so far (although I have no clue which was released by Malaysia Airlines and the credibility of the different images out there as we discuss), I strongly believe, the pilots of MH370 did their best to get the aircraft back. Again, a GNC failure, means they had no idea where they were headed, how they are heading and a diminishing control over the aircraft. The aircraft is designed for controlled glide but that is not even close to what would be needed for an emergency landing demanding more controlled air time. Talk to a pilot and they will go for days talking about this. Ask a certified pilot before you believe what I am discussing here. 

Will someone from the media please request the maintenance records of MH370 and other B777-200 owned by Malaysia Airlines for an audit? Will the airline release that data in public domain to prove it has not faltered on any of the maintenance procedures as mandated by the Malaysian Civil Aviation Authorities and ICAO? Last but not the least, Can we please speak in person to the Flight Operations Controller/Flight Dispatcher on duty when MH370 went out of radar?  

If these cannot happen, then the pilot cannot be accused for a suicide based on 'Testimony from Long Time Friends & Family.' For an on-board fire, everyone needs concrete flight recorder data but for a dead human being's sanity, a third person's opinion is assumed to be equivalent to a psychologist's or psychiatrist's testimony under oath. This is beyond unfair. 

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Tuesday, March 18, 2014


Hello World,

I am not happy writing this post but I think I need to. I am writing this with the hope that the passengers of MH370 are still alive.

Image Source:

Having followed the news of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 incident, which has so far reported a missing Boeing 777-200, I am here with my analysis of what might have happened.

To begin with, here's something I have to share:

Most of the B777-200 issues involve smoke in cockpit/cabin and burning smell. Engine failures are also mentioned along with lithium battery fire.

Failures do happen with the most reliable aircraft. Proper maintenance is the determining factor for continued operational reliability.

I don't think this Malaysian Airlines incident might have been an act of terror.

Image Source URL:              Primary Image Source: Malaysian Govt. (as quoted by NY Times)
The black dot to the left indicates the position of the satellite that picked the last signals from MH370 and the red arcs represent the possible positions of the aircraft when its signal was detected by the satellite.

The last seen spots for the aircraft are very close to Malaysia, Vietnam and Indonesia and from the map, it seems like their guarded maritime borders must be very close.

Assuming that the perpetrators switched-off comm. systems, the aircraft would have still been visible on the radars of any of the countries' naval bases.

When they spot an aircraft without an authorized digital signature, the bases raise an alarm and categorize it a security threat, the news of which will flash immediately on the media as they might even initiate military action when unidentified aircraft continues to remain anonymous in their airspace in spite of Identification, Friend or Foe (IFF) interrogation from the respective civilian/military ATC.

Also in case of a highjack, the detour forced by the hijackers will be over or towards the nearest foreign land and not over the ocean, across the homeland as indicated by the maps in news.

So if the aircraft has been highjacked and is safe somewhere, the perpetrators have friendly forces within the concerned naval bases which is unlikely to happen.

The way I see it, the aircraft went through a GNC (Guidance, Navigation, Control) failure owing to an accidental fire (most probably in the electrical distribution buses) resulting in a disconnected power system. The generators are usually connected to the engine/gearbox from where they get the source power.

I will acknowledge the possibility of a mechanical failure resulting in rapid decompression, knocking everyone on-board unconscious but in that case, the aircraft debris would have been spotted somewhere along the designated flight path. Cabin decompression need not instantaneously knock-out the transponders alone and still allow the pilots to ‘Detour’ as being claimed by the recent news. The probability is too low for the possibility to be weighed upon others, in my view.

My friend who is an expert in civil aviation regulations and aircraft maintenance reminded me about the Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT) that will send the signals in case of an unforeseen accident. True indeed. But there could only be two options to this: 1. The ELT disintegrated during the accident 2. The signal was detected but covered up for reason unknown. I am not completely aware of ELT's 'working range' and the requirements for its signals to be picked up. The fact remains that the very mention of ELT has not occured until now.

A triggered blast (terror attack) would have resulted in instantaneous disintegration of the aircraft and it may not have detoured as being claimed by the news reports, quoting the military.

As long as the engines run, the generators are on but if the connecting buses burn out, the power will not reach the dependent systems. The Auxiliary Power Unit is there and if the accident has occurred in stages spanning at least a few minutes, the pilots would have had the chance to utilize the back-up power to raise a distress signal. They however are trained to aviate, navigate and then communicate. To aviate the aircraft, engines alone can buy some time but to navigate and communicate, electrical power is required which is what they lacked as they detoured hoping they are going back over their homeland for an emergency landing. (Based on the detour track suggested by recent news reports).

Also for an advanced jet aircraft weighing 230-280 tonnes (max. design take-off weight), controlling itself requires large control surfaces that are operated with control systems that run on electrical power.

Flight controls and instruments get top priority when it comes to using electrical power. The flight controls have at least one dedicated source while access to the other auxiliary units. The instruments have access to multiple sources too. Redundancy is the key feature for electrical systems of aircraft, especially the large commercial ones.

Since the electrical systems are connected with the engines, any problem with them will eventually impact the engine as they are connected. This means that a fire in the electrical system can propagate to other parts of the aircraft, including the engine and fuel storage. 

With 2 Integrated Drive Generators, 2 Electrical Distribution Buses and 1 Auxiliary Power Unit (alternator driver by an auxiliary gas turbine), the aircraft facing an instantaneous power system failure is very unlikely unless it had been an instantaneous blast which contradicts the ‘Detour Theory’ that has surfaced quoting the military as a source. 

If the ‘Detour Theory’ had been true, then the aircraft had flown after the commencement of the power system failure, which had happened in stages giving the pilots time to raise a distress signal which contradicts the ‘No Distress Signal Received’ claim. 

If, in my opinion, by the remotest of chances, the aircraft had been highjacked, transponders forcefully switched-off and the event ended in a secret safe-landing of the aircraft after a detour, then the terrorists had crafted a fool-proof plan and the pilots are in-arguably the top-notch aviators of this era to have achieved such a thing using limited instruments under life-threatening circumstances. But I can only wish it were true.
When the electrical power system fails, the pilots don't have access to all the onboard instruments. They have to navigate using the available analog, pitot-based instruments and just hope to see some land before they can execute an emergency landing. If the analog instruments have digital displays, then they will not function as well.

Around 1 am, in the dark, flying at about 40000 feet, failed instruments are the most probable reason why an aircraft would go on a detour. An act of terror would have announced the highjack and taken the aircraft towards a foreign land and landed.

Also the military radar and satellite signal reception data were released after a few days from the incident. Why did the military not take efforts to declare an unidentified aircraft?

If the satcom satellite picked up a signal, then the satcom system on-board was on and that points at the connectivity of the aircraft with the flight operations via satcom. Why is the flight operation not mention that before? How come, there was no distress signal received by the flight operations?

Generally a commercial aircraft is expected to have at least 3 VHF channels (at least 1 datalink), 2 HF channels (1 HFDL), Satcom (based on the news of satellite picking signal) and ACARS. How can the 'No-Connectivity-with-the-Aircraft' be trusted?

How would this be possible on an aircraft with 2 generators, 1 APU and the communication systems capable to function on 28VDC (they can be powered by battery pack if the gensets are out).

If it is an Inmarsat satellite (I am not sure), then Inmarsat covers up to around 82 degrees on either side of equator, which takes us to the next question, how did the aircraft stay out of satellite connectivity until the 2.40 signal pick up incident. Satcom satellite are there for seamless connectivity.

The news releases seem to be concocted to support a future pilot-error/terror-act-gone-wrong theory that will eventually shut the case tarnishing the flight crew's credibility. What do you think of this?

Summing up, in my opinion, based on the limited knowledge and understanding I have, the aircraft encountered an electrical system failure resulting in total GNC failure. The aircraft either disintegrated in air and fell into the sea or crashed into the sea and drowned. I also suspect, someone apart from the pilots, cabin crew and passengers learned about this unfortunate incident as it happened but had no way of helping them out other than hoping that the pilots would do miraculous emergency landing which had not happened.

I honestly wish that the events turn out to be something else and I be proved completely wrong. 239 lives definitely mean more than the analysis of a curious Research Analyst.

A clear closure to this case will be a public release of the black-box data. 

Regulators should take this as a lesson and make ‘Always-On/Never-Off’ transponders and on-board health monitoring systems mandatory for commercial aircraft, redefining the flight operations standards accordingly. Preventive control is the only way to avoid such mishaps in future.

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Sunday, March 9, 2014


Hello World,
Have you ever wondered how the militaries get so much technologies at their disposal and use a lot of cool stuff to fight the bad guys? Well it is a vast domain out there but the most prominent one is what is called the C4ISR domain. Here is a very brief discussion of what it is with some views of mine on what could possibly help militaries get better. Enjoy and feel free to comment.

Here's an image from an interesting C4ISR blog that I came across:

The famous OODA loop (Observe, Orient, Decide, and Act) is considered to be one of the founding principles behind the development of most modern warfare mechanisms, especially the C4ISR platforms (Command, Control, Communication, Computer, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance).

What started off as a simple post-war analysis after a certain air combat against the North Korean air force by late Colonel John Boyd of the US Air Force, went on to be interpreted and applied in many areas of the Department of Defense, rewriting the basics of what are now known as the modern warfare mechanisms, C4ISR being the most prominent one in this context.

C4ISR may be simply understood as an integrated network-centric warfare mechanism, which tends to maintain an open-architecture form, integrating the land, sea, air and space segments of the defense platforms with the operators and decision makers via the internet. This mechanism may take any size depending upon the scope of implementation and the number of players involved, enabling this system’s capacity to interoperate across joint, inter-agency, inter-government and multi-national military operations.

Although the C4ISR has the capacity to interoperate, its feasibility and operational efficiencies tend to vary depending on the extent of interoperability which in turn depends on the compatibility of the participating military segments with the network-centric integration process, especially when multi-national forces are involved.

In this brief discussion, we would attempt to identify and understand the key features of C4ISR, its objectives and modern day warfare challenges pertaining to it.

Objectives of C4ISR
The primary objectives of C4ISR are:
  • To connect multiple forces and enable multi-faceted & unified military operations
  • To create ever aware, self-sustained & precision powered warrior systems
  • To enable development and implementation of customized, mission-specific warfare methods

Defense ministries across the globe have been continuously attempting to improve their respective defense capabilities and the need to work together in combat situations has arisen in the modern times. Working together calls for integration and interoperability among defense platforms and C4ISR, is an attempt to realize the same.

The operational objectives of C4ISR, from the systems standpoint are:
  • To improve and facilitate rapid employment of operational capabilities
  • To enable quick synthesis of “Go-to-war” requirements
  • To facilitate the free sharing of information across defense platforms and enable the creation of and access to a Common Operational Picture

Salient Features of C4ISR
Digitization being the backbone of modern warfare mechanisms, C4ISR effectively exploits this area to add value to its implementation across defense platforms. Operational battle space digitization is a prominent feature of C4ISR and most of its capabilities are connected and dependent on this feature.

Providing informational and strategic support to war fighting units, C4ISR enables the detection, location, identification, fusion and dissemination of target intelligence to the concerned war fighting units in a secure, real time manner.

With the inclusion of the space segment, C4ISR provides real-time navigation, control and guidance measures, across defense platforms, enhancing the military operations in the network-centric warfare environment.

C4ISR enables the constant connectivity of defense intelligence, decision makers and operators across forces and defense platforms, facilitating a real-time situational awareness among all the participating units.

Major Challenges of C4ISR
Being an open-architecture network-centric warfare mechanism, C4ISR may allow the inclusion of multiple platforms and forces but the consequential operational effectiveness may vary based on the interoperating capacities of the participating forces and its systems. When international military forces, with differing standards pertaining to one or more elements of C4ISR, are involved, their collaborative efforts may tend to face conflicts due to their inability to interoperate and allow unified network-centric integration.

Time-Critical-Target Engagement
Defense departments actively involved in C4ISR implementation are looking to reduce the time taken to engage a time critical targets, potentially employing faster weapons and unmanned systems. This would translate to the challenges in reducing the latency concerned with the transmission, processing and decision processes revolving around sensor-to-shooter data flow and related tactical mission tasks.

Measures for Future Growth of C4ISR
Common Standards for Systems and Operations
When the participating forces re-align themselves with newer standards of operations and employ integration-compatible systems, their involvement in any C4ISR implementation would be conflict free and beneficial to all forces involved. Defense ministries of friendly nations can work together to develop and implement a common set of standards in their respective defense platforms so that, their participation in C4ISR implemented collaborative military operations becomes more feasible and profitable.

Ongoing Analysis Procedures
The participating forces can evaluate themselves with the following analyses on a regular basis and assess their readiness and compatibility to the growing C4ISR interoperability requirements:
  • ISR/Connectivity Analysis
  • C4 Architecture Analysis
  • Precision Engagement Analysis (Past Missions)
  • Battle Management Analysis (Past Missions)
  • Interoperability Study (With respect to the partner forces/platforms)
The scale, scope and depth of these analyses may vary depending on the current and future mission requirements and the instructions as approved by the respective defense ministries.

Continuous Improvement Policies
The defense ministries, forces and supporting defense contractors may work together to develop and implement policies that govern their processes so that their systems and methods allow integration of emerging technologies and facilitate decentralized execution of centralized command while operating in a network-centric warfare environment. Conventions may be organized to provide a platform for exchange of ideas among friendly forces and defense ministries from time to time.

Military Spending Patterns
Defense ministries should carefully plan their defense spending keeping the C4ISR element as one of the basis for their purchase decisions on various platforms. If the entire budget is spent on the platforms, the C4ISR will just take a long time to get implemented keeping the forces far from network-centric warfare capabilities. A good way to proceed will be to allocate a certain percentage of the annual budget for C4ISR integration. Having the available platforms connected will add more value to the military power than a mere increase in the number of platforms. Just my thought.

Platform Compatibility Assessment
Ageing platforms are difficult to integrate with the modern systems simply because they either do not have the support capabilities or they are too old to carry modern systems. Adding newer systems on-board the ageing platforms will just add to the electrical power loads of the platform, compromising its basic mission survivability. The militaries must assess their platforms for C4ISR integration compatibility, narrowing down to those platforms that can be integrated with minimum equipage while possibly not compromising with their overall range, reliability and mission capabilities.

Performance Based Maintenance Contracts
Militaries are increasingly implementing performance-based maintenance contracts, engaging suppliers and service providers to handle fleet wide platform maintenance support. Militaries that are aiming to modernize their forces and implement network-centric warfare methods must look into the future and arrange for suitable performance-based maintenance programs that pay the service provider on the basis of ‘Platform Availability.’ Platform availability and mission readiness are the top priorities of modern military forces, especially those that have implemented C4ISR integration.

Having discussed very briefly about what C4ISR is and how militaries can go ahead with their plans in a very generic way, I believe, this post will serve as an introduction with C4ISR to those of you who are curious about defense technology. I have merely shared my views on the topic which I think is very interesting, especially because this topic reminds me of all the techie war movies that I have watched. Feel free to share your views and comments on this topic. Have a good one!!!