Data feedback from missing plane 'normal'

Feedback from a data monitoring system on board missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 appears to rule out problems with the plane's engines or instruments.

The flight carrying two New Zealanders vanished on Saturday while flying over the South China Sea.

A massive search operation by nine countries has failed to find any debris from the plane.

Hamilton commercial pilot and city councillor Ewan Wilson said much of the media attention had focused on efforts to locate the jetliner's wreckage, including its flight data recorders, commonly known as black boxes.

But vital information on what may have happened to the ill-fated aircraft would have been transmitted during the flight from the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) on board the plane, Mr Wilson said.

ACARS is a continous data monitoring system which transmits data automatically between aircraft and ground stations via radio or satellite.

During its journey, flight MH370 would have given engineers on the ground up-to-date information on the performance of its engines and instruments.

In a written statement sent to the Waikato Times, Malaysia Airlines confirmed all its fleet was equipped with ACARS.

"Nevertheless, there was no distress calls and no information was relayed," the company said.

Mr Wilson, who is at present studying toward gaining an air accident investigation qualification, said Malaysia Airline's comments were "hugely valuable".

"My interpretation of what they are saying is that up until the plane stopped communicating with air traffic control all the data from ACARS was normal," he said.

"People will often speculate over whether there was an instrument or engine failure but all that would have been picked up by ACARS.

"If they are saying no data was sent then I take that to mean everything was normal."

Mr Wilson said if air accident investigators could rule out engine or instrument failure, then the next question would be what caused the aircraft to suddenly disappear.

"For the plane to suddenly stop reporting and for the crew not to declare an emergency that implies a significant catastrophic event such as structural failure brought about by either aircraft fatigue, an explosion or pilot suicide.

"Pilot suicide appears less likely because that would require a deliberate act which would have triggered a series of ACARS messages."

Meanwhile, a New Zealand air force Orion - an aircraft used for maritime surveillance and searches - has also been sent to join the hunt for the missing passenger jet.

Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, director general of Malaysia's Department of Civil Aviation, said at a news conference in Kuala Lumpur yesterday that flight MH370 was an "unprecedented missing aircraft mystery".

Waikato Times