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Power Transportation

MH370 Beacon Battery May Have Been Expired 178

New submitter Limekiller42 writes Malaysia's transport ministry released its preliminary report on the disappearance of MH370 that disappeared almost a year ago during flight and has yet to be located. The report states that the maintenance records for the solid state flight data recorder underwater locater beacon [indicate that its battery] expired in December of 2012 and there is no evidence it was replaced prior to aircraft going missing.
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MH370 Beacon Battery May Have Been Expired

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  • by garyisabusyguy ( 732330 ) on Monday March 09, 2015 @05:16AM (#49213507)

    They were also carrying a load of lithium batteries, which other passenger airlines refuse to carry due to past accidents

    "It confirms that a large consignment of lithium-ion batteries was aboard the Boeing 777 and outlined in a red box was the warning: “The package must be handled with care and that a flammability hazard exists if the package is damaged. Special procedures must be followed in the event the package is damaged, to include inspection and repacking if necessary.”"
    http://www.thedailybeast.com/a... [thedailybeast.com]

    • Yep because speculation and conjecture will really help at this point.

      Large consignments of lithium-ion batteries get carried all the time without issue.

      • Yep because speculation and conjecture will really help at this point.

        Large consignments of lithium-ion batteries get carried all the time without issue.

        It's not just "speculation and conjecture" As the Daily Beast's companion article [thedailybeast.com] states (emphasis mine),

        One item in particular jumps out from the cargo manifest: a consignment weighing 5,400 pounds that included a large number of lithium-ion batteries, radio accessories and chargers.

        Tests conducted on a similar consignment of batteries in a cargo hold by the Federal Aviation Administration have shown that they are vulnerable to a “thermal runaway” when one battery overheats and a chain reaction occurs. In several of the tests, smoke and fumes reached the airplane’s cockpit in less than 10 minutes. Another test caused an explosion that blew open the cockpit door. This week United Airlines joined Delta in deciding to no longer carry shipments of the batteries in the cargo holds of passenger flights.

        This issue was also brought up quite recently in a related discussion right here on Slashdot [slashdot.org].

        • by thsths ( 31372 ) on Monday March 09, 2015 @06:52AM (#49213755)

          It's not just "speculation and conjecture" As the Daily Beast's companion article [thedailybeast.com] states (emphasis mine),

          One item in particular jumps out from the cargo manifest: a consignment weighing 5,400 pounds that included a large number of lithium-ion batteries, radio accessories and chargers.

          Tests conducted on a similar consignment of batteries in a cargo hold by the Federal Aviation Administration have shown that they are vulnerable to a “thermal runaway” when one battery overheats and a chain reaction occurs. In several of the tests, smoke and fumes reached the airplane’s cockpit in less than 10 minutes. Another test caused an explosion that blew open the cockpit door. This week United Airlines joined Delta in deciding to no longer carry shipments of the batteries in the cargo holds of passenger flights.

          Yes, and that is a perfectly rational risk assessment. It is not possible to say how big the risk is exactly, but it is easy to avoid for a moderate additional cost, and therefore I would expect any airline to come to the same conclusion - unless maximising profit is the only significant consideration.

          However, that does not really explain what happened, because it seems that the aircraft did not blow up, but it just followed a rather strange and irregular flight path.

          • Yes, but "smoke and fumes reaching the airplane's cockpit" is not the same as "blow up". It is possible that fumes from overheating batteries incapacitated the flight crew resulting in the plane flying on autopilot until it ran out of fuel.

            • Yes, but "smoke and fumes reaching the airplane's cockpit" is not the same as "blow up". It is possible that fumes from overheating batteries incapacitated the flight crew resulting in the plane flying on autopilot until it ran out of fuel.

              Then why did the pilots not declare an emergency (or at the least radio someone/anyone) upon seeing the smoke/smelling the fumes? It's not like smoke and fumes make you unconscious immediately.

    • by Richard_at_work ( 517087 ) <richardprice@gm a i l . com> on Monday March 09, 2015 @06:01AM (#49213635)

      They were also carrying a load of lithium batteries, which other passenger airlines refuse to carry due to past accidents

      You make it sound like Malaysian Airlines is the odd one out in allowing shipments, when infact the norm at the time of MH370 was to allow lithium battery shipments - sure, some airlines had bans in place already (Cathay, BA) but others such as United Airlines put their restriction in place just this month, while Delta put theirs in during February.

      • by praxis ( 19962 )

        It only sounds that way if you misread it as "all other passenger airlines". Malaysian Airlines was not the odd one out, and I don't think it sounded that way. It only sounded like there were at least one other airline which had refused to carry lithium-ion batteries.

    • How would a cargo of lithium batteries cause a plane to drastically alter course (towards the pilot's home island, no less)?

      • Probably by causing an emergency, such as a fire, of a nature that pilots would have had time to react to, but alas, not enough time to recover from.

        • So why no contact with the outside world via any of the numerous systems available to the pilots?

          • by garyisabusyguy ( 732330 ) on Monday March 09, 2015 @12:29PM (#49215837)

            The priorities of a pilot are Aviate, Navigate, Communicate
            https://www.faasafety.gov/gsla... [faasafety.gov]

            Aviate
            It does seem that they kept the plane in the air, even climbing to a higher elevation for some time, pure speculation here, but they may have thought to use the high altitude to help extinguish the burning batteries

            Navigate
            There has been mention of them following waypoints to another airport, whether this navigation consisted of punching the numbers inot the autopilot or a pilot guiding the plane is unknown

            Communicate
            This did not happen, but there are plenty of things that could have occurred in the prior two steps; pilots incapacitated by smoke, pilots incapacitated by low oxygen, communications system affected by fire on board..., which would have prevented communication

            All of these things have been points of discussion for the past year, what was not included in the discussion until this month was the potential source for the sudden fire

            • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
              That's the order for new and bad pilots. Good pilots know that 2-seconds out of a 6 minute fall into the ocean is going to make more difference than aviating for those 2 seconds. When the plane was landed in the Hudson, the pilot had a conversation with ATC discussing navigation and the cause of the incident. THe first response was to call it in. The last response was to notify ATC of the landing location.

              In practice, communication is top of the list and bottom of the list, but they leave it off the
              • I totally agree with you, and in a modern aircraft with GPS and satellite communications, I would expect the discussion of communications should be in the range of, 'Should we sent aircraft updates in one second or one minute intervals?", not "Should we disable automated communications in order to save money on our maintenance contract with Boeing and Rolls Royce?"

                I suspect that there were also cultural issues with communications and the desire of the pilots not to announce information over air traffic cont

        • by ledow ( 319597 )

          I think it was hours off flight-plan when the engine data stopped being returned to the Boeing systems, wasn't it?

      • by kevinbr ( 689680 )

        Possibly to head to the closest runway available ....... Note the Fex Ex Dubai crash, the smoke was so bad the pilots could not see the instruments, and in the end, the fire burned the oxygen lines. The pilot left the cockpit to seek an oxygen bottle but never returned, presumably overwhelmed by fumes. The co-piot crashed alone in the cockpit. Fire indicates getting down to the nearest runway ......

        • by AC-x ( 735297 )

          But the first step would have been to radio ATC and request emergency clearance at the nearest runway, as without that the pilots would have no way to know the status of nearby runways and whether it would be possible to land.

      • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
        What does the home island have to do with anything? Is that yet another red herring by the conspiracy theorists?
        • It lends a little weight to the "suicidal pilot" theory. Some pilots have suggested the tight turns it undertook before it disappeared were to provide a view of the island.

    • A fire is highly unlikely; Inmarsat continued to pick up ACARS pings/handshakes once every 70-90 minutes until roughly 8am, some seven hours after radar/transponder contact was lost with the plane. The ACARS functionality was turned off, but the SATCOM low-level communications layer was still alive. The transponder and ACARS were also disabled at roughly the same time and no radio calls were made, which seems unlikely for a progressive fire.

      There are really only three possibilities left, and all of them

      • by Kobun ( 668169 )
        In the event that it was a hijack, we now get to wonder when the plane will mysteriously show up flying again and what it will be loaded with when it does.
  • by monkeyxpress ( 4016725 ) on Monday March 09, 2015 @06:17AM (#49213661)

    One thing I wondered about is whether some country's military has a better fix on where the plane went down (the last partial handshake). Iridium only have a very sparse satellite array and hence could only generate very rough ranging information. But it seems inconceivable to me that many of the military constellations (e.g. GPS, GLONASS) do not have the capability to triangulate a well defined Iridium signal. I would have thought doing this would be bread and butter for them.

    I wouldn't expect anyone to step up and talk about this 'capability', but I would have thought someone could have quietly nudged things towards a set of coordinates earlier on. I guess there is a lot of game playing when it comes to acknowledging any sort of military capability but it intrigues me to think that somewhere there could be people who have an accurate plot of that aircraft's journey.

    Having said that, one of the revelations of the whole event is that you can fly an unidentified jumbo jet across the Malaysian peninsula, have it detected by expensive military radar, and then have the military do precisely nothing about it.

    • by Richard_at_work ( 517087 ) <richardprice@gm a i l . com> on Monday March 09, 2015 @07:01AM (#49213775)

      The satellites in question would have to be looking for the signal - GPS and GLONAS are passive systems, they send signals out in a broadcast sense, not a 1:1 client communication sense, so there is nothing for them to track.

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) *

        I bet there was some radio traffic picked up my military spy satellites though. The same data that the engine monitor system satellites were picking up, only with better positioning capability.

        • Seems quite logical that someone would have been looking at the area, though the Indian ocean is a massive expanse of absolutely nothing but water. Generally speaking most LEO birds would have been in darkness for most of the flights duration in that region - I would humbly suggest another possibility would be that spy satellite operators take that as an opportunity to conserve power by shutting down EW kit, it is probable nothing was picked up at all - then again, why build a satellite that could pick up t

        • The SIGINT satellites with the sensitivity to pick up the sort of transmissions from the plane's transponders have steerable antennas that must be pointed in the vicinity of the target to get a usable signal. Unless you come up with an elaborate conspiracy theory where the US planned this whole thing, that couldn't have happened.

    • by ledow ( 319597 ) on Monday March 09, 2015 @08:00AM (#49213953) Homepage

      The military won't track every authorised, flight-planned route over every foreign territory. It's just pointless and expensive and outside the scope of the military.

      On their own soil and to a certain extent nearby international waters, they rely on air traffic control and their systems to spot UNAUTHORISED aircraft. That's all they care about.

      A plane on a detour is a daily occurence. A scheduled plane outside a border and no visible threat, isn't their problem.

      And then you get into "which" military? The world's militaries are not co-operative. Likely one countries military did watch the aircraft, but then once it's leaving and not posing a threat it's up to another country to spot it and worry about it. Flying out over international waters into the middle of nowhere, which military is going to care? Even the Malaysian probably doesn't, or they'd be chasing their tails all done long for the slightest things of a company redirecting a plane for maintenance, to cover a late departure, etc.

      And then you have to actually choose it as a target, watch it (GPS and GLONASS *do not transmit* from the aircraft, the aircraft uses signals SENT from the satellites to triangulate its OWN position, not the other way around - this is such a common misconception that it drives me mad), percieve it to be a threat worth monitoring and store all the data, including potentially classified capabilities, to hand off for a hunt for a plane where we knew everyone on board was dead the first day it doesn't check in.

      It's just nothing to do with the military.

      It's certainly nothing to do with any particular military for more than a fleeting moment at all.

      And also, they probably have certain capabilities but they aren't active all the time and to this level of detail for everything that ever happens.

      Sorry, but really don't buy into this stuff. The UK recently didn't realise that a couple of Soviet bombers were circling around its airspace until they'd already got half-way round and then it took almost forever for them to scramble an aircraft to meet them and see them off. And that's a CREDIBLE threat.

      Spotting a commercial airplane going off-flight-plan is for the local air-traffic control. And between countries that link is capable of being "lost" between ATC's. And over international waters there IS not ATC.

      Maybe someone did spot them and see them, but they would have paid them no attention as they weren't reported missing, weren't giving out Mayday, were broadcasting their positions as expected, over international waters, and so it never gets recorded and wouldn't be any use if they did (we knew roughly where they were flying, we don't know where they went down).

      Even then, the ocean in the area is HUGE, you'd have a task spotting anything that you weren't specifically targeting.

      • The military won't track every authorised, flight-planned route over every foreign territory. It's just pointless and expensive and outside the scope of the military.

        How's the weather back in August, 2000?
        Half of what the US military does is "pointless and expensive and outside the scope of the military".

    • they probably do have records of it while it was between vietnam and sumatra

      but as soon as it started heading toward the south indian ocean, it wouldn't surprise me if no one was looking

      there is just nothing, absolutely nothing, to look at there

    • There's been some speculation that somebody's military might have a really good idea about where the plane went and they aren't sharing it deliberately because it's in their strategic interest to not let other nations know that they have this capability. But ledow does have some rock solid arguments for why nobody may have noticed the flight at all and it may be that nobody paid enough attention to be able to help investigators know where it went. At this point either nobody knows anything or those who do
  • by some old guy ( 674482 ) on Monday March 09, 2015 @09:34AM (#49214467)

    The battery was not dead. It was just pining for the fjords.

  • When the Indian Ocean search began, the first areas searched were the places judged to be where the plane was most likely to have come down. And those areas were searched with a pinger locator. After 30 days, the searchers moved on to other areas and used different equipment to map the sea floor.

    What if the plane actually is in one of the first places they looked, though - but because it wasn't pinging, and they weren't scanning the sea floor, they missed it? Should the searchers return to those areas and look on the sea floor, or have they already?

    • by ledow ( 319597 )

      Several thousand square kilometres. If you are able to search a square kilometre or so a day, I'll be impressed.

      Several thousand days. Years. At enormous cost. To find an aircraft we know has been downed.

      • They search using side scanning sonar and look for anomolies. Many square km's can be scanned per day.

        • by ledow ( 319597 )

          Let's say it's ten a day.

          That's still hundreds of days. Maybe still thousands.

          And that's if it even shows up on side-scanning sonar at all, in any way, whatsoever now.

          Just finding a cable that you KNOW is exactly down THERE to within a good error margin can take weeks.

    • Aviation parts have huge margins on them. My guess is that even an expired battery was only down less than 10% in capacity compared to spec. Achieving the amazing safety record that planes have requires that all parts be designed to have a high safety margin, and be replaced long before their are significantly degraded.

  • there is no evidence it was replaced prior to aircraft going missing

    And it seems even less likely that they were replaced after the aircraft went missing. Unless someone was able to get ahold of one of those liion batteries in the cargo hold and replace it.

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