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Local Aircraft Experts Weigh In On The Mystery Of The Missing Malaysian Jetliner

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Alex DeMetrick 370x278 Alex DeMetrick
Alex DeMetrick has been a general assignment reporter with WJZ...
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BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A Malaysian government official says someone with aviation skills was responsible for the plane’s change in course.

So far, there is no evidence linking the pilots to any wrongdoing, but investigators are digging into their background.

Alex DeMetrick explains what it takes to lose a passenger jet.

The failure of multiple communications aboard a jet like the Malaysia flight come down to two causes: mechanical or human.

Commercial aircraft have two automatic ways of staying in touch: radar from the ground and transponders aboard the aircraft that show their locations.

But, “there are distance limitations with transponders and radar systems,” said Katie Pribyl, former commercial pilot.

Pribyl is a former airline pilot and current vice president of the Airplane Owners and Pilots Association.

“Pilots with the intention to complete the flight and the mission successfully would not normally turn off any of those systems during flight,” she said.

But those two systems vanished along with the missing Malaysian air flight.

Even with indications it veered way off course and may have been airborne for hours, it apparently remained out of sight of ground radar and the transponders broadcasting the flight’s identity.

Two possible reasons:

“Clearly, if all the power is lost to the aircraft or something happened to take out that part of the electronics, I mean, the electrical system, that would turn it off. But certainly, one aspect of turning it off is because you don’t want to be seen,” said Tom Haueter, former NTSB director of aviation safety.

The last radio communication was “all right, good night.”

And radio is one system whose failure would not go unnoticed in the cockpit.

“Talking on the radio is still a manual function. You still click the radio to talk,” Pribyl said.

The aircraft flight recorders may answer some questions, but there’s a deadline to finding those so-called black boxes.

“ELT’s will generally transmit for about 30 days. The pressure really to find this aircraft, the urgency to find this aircraft is the human souls on board,” Pribyl said.

Unless the crash is extremely violent, those flight recorders are designed to begin transmitting their location at the moment of impact on land or water.

Crews from 13 countries in at least 57 ships and 48 aircraft are officially involved in the search.

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