NYT reports Malaysia plane changed altitude dramatically, shifted course repeatedly

The NYT is now reporting that shortly after Malaysian Air Flight 370 lost contact with ground control (in other words, went off of civilian radar), the plane climbed to an elevation of 45,000, well above standard cruising altitude, and then went down to 23,000 feet, well below standard cruising altitude.

All of this occured after the plane had done a more-or-less u-turn.

They know this because of new Malaysian military radar data.

Then, after the plane descended to 23,000 feet, it turne from a southwest direction to a northwest direction, gained altitude and flew in the direction of the Indian Ocean.

One of the NYT reporters responsible for the story, Michael Schmidt, was just on CNN.  Schmidt says this has led investigators to determine the plane was clearly not flying itself. So the question is “who” was flying the plane?

Schmidt also said that the “pings” from the Rolls-Royce engines suggested that the plane dropped 40,000 feet in one minute, but that information is considered imprecise, at least per Schmidt’s article.
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EARLIER STORY: Reuters is reporting, and CNN has further explanation, that missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 was spotted by military radar passing near various way points for a period of hours after its last official communication with ground control.

This is different from the “pings” the equipment reportedly sent to satellites (a theory that still has not been debunked, by the way, according to reports).

This is actual military radar that plots a series of “waypoints” along a flight’s path.  In this case, the plane passed near at least 3 waypoints after it did it’s u-turn around one hour into the flight.

See this graphic from CNN:

malaysia-air-way-points

Now, from what I can glean, this does not mean the plane flew over each way point and then turned right and then left.  You simply need to fly near the waypoint for it to be set off.  So this suggests the plane flew in a direction from Igari towards Igrex (the first and last waypoint).

CNN’s Richard Quest noted that it’s still possible that the pilot plotted a destination once the plane was at Igari, and that the plane, on auto-pilot, simply flew by Vampi, Gival and Igrex on its own.  But, CNN is saying, that this suggests that a human being who knew how to fly a plane chose to fly the plane in that direction on that specific path.

AP is reporting, via the NY Daily News, that “the plane’s transponder stopped about a dozen minutes before a messaging system quit pointed to “human intervention.”

Judging by the articles, and the history on this issue, that may not be the “last” waypoint, or the last data, that might come available.


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Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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