Ditching in the Middle of the Ocean, Part 2: Answers

After I put up my post on Tuesday, some people questioned why I would even pose such a question whose premise is so unlikely. The reason is that at present there seem to be only two possible end-of-flight scenarios for MH370:

  1. Flying south on autopilot, the plane ran out of fuel shortly after 0:11 and thereafter plunged into the sea at high speed, hitting the surface near the 0:19 ping arc. This is what I would call the mainstream default view; it is implicitly endorsed by the ATSB and the Independent Group, and is the justification for the current subsea search area.
  2. A conscious pilot flew the plane until fuel exhaustion—possibly along a curving path—then guided it to a soft landing (the “ditching” scenario) beyond the current search area.

Scenario 1 has largely been discounted by the failure of the seabed search (the Australians cling to hope that the wreckage will turn up in the extended search area, which should be completed within the year; if it does not they have admitted that they are out of ideas). Scenario 2 would explain the lack of wreckage on the seabed and the scarcity of surface debris; the idea is that the plane could have come to rest on the surface largely intact and then sunk in one piece, leaving little floating debris.

The condition of the Reunion flaperon might also be evidence for ditching, given its relatively intact condition. Some have surmised that the aft portion was ripped away at the moment of impact with the water. (Fans of scenario 1 propose that the flaperon could have been ripped of by aerodynamic forces during a very high-speed descent, and then fluttered intact the surface while the rest of the plane hit the surface at near-Mach speed at was smashed to smithereens. This would explain why the flaperon is intact, but not why the subsea search has failed.)

As I pointed out in the original post, an inherent problem with the ditching scenario is that it is an intentional act that dooms the pilot to a prolonged death. Indeed, while pilot suicides are rare, ditching suicides are so far unknown. It woud be like committing suicide by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge while wearing a parachute.

So how to explain such an occurrence? Here are some of the answers that commenters came up with:

— To hide the crime. First-time commenter @Rob (welcome!) wrote: “If you plan to make the plane disappear into the SIO, and you choose to stay aboard for 6 more hours, this suggests that you personally wanted to make sure the plane was properly ‘ditched,’ maybe to prevent a lot of debris from showing up.” @Jason Skidmore proposed that the disappearance was “some new form of terrorist-type attack.. If the plane is never found, and no one knows what happened it’s going to be pretty tough to prevent it in the future.” PRO: If a perp were to fly the plane into the remotest part of the ocean and ditch it so that it would come to rest intact and sink to the bottom of the ocean without leaving a trace, they would go to their deaths knowing that they had created the greatest aviation mystery of all time. Wrote @Kikeena: “Ever since the 4th century BC people have recognised that others will commit a criminal act to become famous. Herostratus destroyed the temple of Artemis for fame, though he was killed by the authorities to try to quiet the story. I think the reward for Zaharie was in the planning and execution. Suicide wasn’t the main motive, though he was prepared to die in persuit the fame of creating a mystery. And waiting the 6 hours to land the plane would be exhilerating.” CON: They wouldn’t be around to enjoy this knowledge, and if their goal was to become famous by generating an unsolvable mystery, their success undercuts that goal, because no one knows they did it. If, on the other hand, their aim was to achieve some terroristic objective, e.g. to show the bankruptcy of the UMNO regime, the fog of mystery is too vaporous to do so. To put it another way, no one has visibly benefitted from the disappearance of MH370. Also, I wouldn’t put much stock in a plan that requires a 777 to ditch successfully in the open ocean—a manifestly dangerous and perhaps impossible feat.

— Botched hijack. @Zoe drew a comparison to Ethiopian 961, in which hijackers told the pilots to fly to a destination that lay beyond the plane’s fuel reserves; when the plane ran out of fuel, the pilots managed a semi-successful ditching. PRO: Only scenario based on historical precedent. CON: Requires hijackers to be numbskulls, which is contra-indicated by the sophisticated nature of the turnaround portion of the flight.

— Chickened out. This one I came up with by myself. The idea is that Zaharie decided to kill himself, and turned off the cockpit voice recorder by isolating the left AC bus so that it wouldn’t record the sound of him killing his copilot. But then he found himself unable go through with his plan to dive the plane into the sea, and instead just kept flying. Too scared to go home, too timid to nosedive into the sea, he just kept going, maybe turning the plane now and again as if starting to head for home and then thinking better of it. Finally, the plane ran out of fuel, but he was still too scared to face that deadly final plunge, so he eased the plane down into the water. PRO: Seems pyschologically plausible, to me anyway. CON: The acceleration and careful maneuvering post IGARI, as described in Victor’s recent guest post, doesn’t exactly smack of timid indecision.

— Schizophrenia/Hypoxia. It being so hard to find a rational motive for the disappearance of MH370, perhaps it was carried out by someone who had lost their mind, perhaps as a result of hypoxia or a psychotic break. PRO: Removes the need for a motive. CON: Commenter @Roberta wrote that she has personally known people who underwent psychotic breaks: “They are generally unable to function at a very basic level when they are going through a true psychosis.  They have literally “lost their mind” and often do not recognize loved ones, cannot take care of themselves and cannot speak with any clarity about very simple things. This includes psychosis caused by schizophrenia, bipolar mania and depression. Statistically psychotic breaks rarely lead to suicide. Most psychotic people don’t have their shit together enough to make and carry out a prolonged suicide plan, let alone fly a Boeing 777 and precisely know when and how to turn off ACARS, when to fly high or low to avoid primary radar, etc.” Hypoxia produces even more severe incapacitation and is unlikely to leave pilots in a state of steady semi-consciousness for six hours.

— To meet a ship or sub. There was something valuable on board the plane that plotters wanted to steal untraceably, so they arranged for the plane to ditch in the vicinity of a getaway vessel. PRO: Writes commenter @agreen: “No detection by radar or satellite and deep waters to dispose of the plane.” CON: As @alex immediately pointed out, it would be sketchy to plan such a transfer right at the limit of the plane’s fuel reserves. Also, as noted above, a plan that depends on successfully ditching a 777 in the open ocean seems fundamentally flawed.

138 thoughts on “Ditching in the Middle of the Ocean, Part 2: Answers”

  1. @jeffwise
    Thank you for shutting down George Lucas. There have been several laugh out loud remarks recently which sometime help lighten the darkness of the matter, having an embicle making idiotic comments does not

  2. i just logged on so i’m a little out of the loop but Ocean Graphix is owned by three people, one of which is George Lucas……

  3. @Jeff
    Yes, it may be that the perpetrators were not concerned about the incoming satcom call at 18:39 because they did not know the system well enough.

    Yet, if you don’t know if the system (like satcom or a cell phone) can track you, and you receive a call via that system, while your purpose is to disappear into the SIO, then would you not switch it off ?

    After all, you had 6 hours to think about it.
    That is not logical.

    Note that this is only ONE argument why it is unlikely that a live person was in control of the plane at the time it went down.

    Other arguments :

    – If you want to make the plane disappear, to the point where you want to “ditch” the plane nicely, to prevent debris or, why wait until the fuel runs out ?

    – The 7th Arc is a bit far from the 6th arc for cruising speed, which implies an uncontrolled left turn after fuel exhaustion :
    It’s hard to imagine how a “live” person performing controlled decline and controlled “ditching”, would match that pattern of unguided decline so accurately….

  4. @Rob, All excellent points. To be clear, I don’t think that a ditching scenario makes sense at all. Unfortunately, none of the end-of-flight scenarios currently on the table make sense, either. My reason for delving into possible ditching rationales was to see if we could come up with something that wasn’t totally bonkers and implausible. But as you point out, there are deep problems with ditching no matter how you slice it.

  5. 1)

    “Ulich’s suggested area is at the intersection of 40S/85E. Where are the arrows pointing at that exact spot on the SIO current map? They’re going SOUTHEAST.”

    not necessarily, more likely it would wash ashore Tasmania which is extensively searched for debris IIRC

    also if objective was that debris never gets found then he would go for a ditching not high speed impact, and he wouldn’t wait for fuel exhaustion rather find nice calm patch of sea in the middle of IO

    btw how do you explain flaperon on Reunion if debris went SE around Antarctica?

    2) you are comparing psychos that had no viable options left with the experienced pilot with no known psychic problems who could land anywhere…


    “Second, if the plane hit at 40S/85E like Ulich suggests, the current map I linked to shows debris floating south until it reached the circumpolar current, at which point it just spins around the south pole forever.”

    OK so you believe the flaperon is not from MH370 while I am 99% sure it is although it’s not 100% identified as being from it.

    4) again, you want no debris if you don’t want it to be provable, thus you don’t want high speed impact at all

    basic human instinct is to not want death at all

    slamming into 40th parallel doesnt’ satisfy any objective

  6. @jeff

    “To be clear, I don’t think that a ditching scenario makes sense at all.”

    absolutely, and when we come to that point it’s time to introduce another variable(s), did he really fulfill his goal? Was the plane completely operative after FMT? What other thing could go wrong?

    the point is that people jumped on the MSM bandwagon taking for granted that disappearance of the plane was primary goal while it doesn’t have to be so, on the contrary…

  7. “To be clear, I don’t think that a ditching scenario makes sense at all.”

    Perhaps because we cannot think of a scenario where it would make sense?

  8. @Gysbreght – how about a bomb and hostage situation? A standoff in which the perp has the cabin under control, and the only real option the pilot has is to keep flying and hope the situation in the cabin takes a good turn? Perhaps the cabin even demanded the IFE to ensure the plane didn’t try to land?

    Once the fuel runs out, the pilot’s best option is to do what he can and hope they are found.

  9. in the current search area I can’t see one which would make sense, however if we assume he(or someone else) missed the approach to the CI (under very strange circumstances) then yes it could make sense

  10. @JS:

    “Once the fuel runs out, the pilot’s best option is to do what he can.”

    I’ll second that, with or without hope they are found.

  11. @JS

    The problems I’ve always had with the hostage situation is

    1) Lack of a distress call
    2) Lack of 7500 squawk
    3) Timing of 1st turn back relative to final ATC exchange, loss of XPDR, loss of ACARS reporting.
    4) Lack of any claim of responsibility

    It takes time to penetrate a cockpit door in the year 2014. From the moment the pilots were threatened, they would have immediately followed protocols. Tragically, they didn’t.

    These are bits of evidence the “hijack” camp cannot account for.

  12. @Matt

    unless it was one of the pilots that diverted the plane (e.g. something that happened only two weeks before MH370 flight)

  13. @Matt,

    While you raise some valid points, there are certain assumptions you are making which at this point I believe are unsupported.

    In my hypothetical, a hijacker in the back of the plane makes a threat and several demands. The threat is that the plane blows up. The demands are that the plane follows a specific course and that the transponder is turned off. The hijacker does not need to penetrate the cockpit.

    Protocol may govern how a pilot should respond in such a situation. How a pilot reacts to the threat of 239 lives lost is unknown. In a “nobody gets hurt” scenario, the pilot may be far more likely to comply and follow a flight course over water for a little while, even for hours.

    Keep in mind that after 911, hijackers are well aware of transponders, cell phones, and strengthened cockpit doors. It is probably safe to assume from the get-go that any planned hijacking has factored this into the plan.

  14. I don’t know, but I’m not sure they even need to know. If the transponder is turned off, they can’t squawk. How it gets turned off, or how they confirm that it’s off, I can’t say. But I do think that anyone planning to hijack a plane would plan for the transponder.

    The other thing is that we don’t know that the transponder stayed off. We only know that it was off according to the radar that saw the plane. Since nobody else saw the plane, it’s possible that the transponder was on an nobody was in range to get the squawk.

  15. @JS
    1) Why would the pilots turn the XPDR off if the hijacker is in the back of the plane? I’m a pilot and the assertion doesn’t make one bit of sense to me. How could a hijacker verify, much less enforce, that this demand was met? And why would the pilots immediately eliminate one of their best chances to signal their plight to ATC?

    If you “can’t say” why the transponder gets turned off or how they verify, I’d say you really need to go back to the drawing board. It just doesn’t work from an aviation standpoint.

    2) “Nobody was in range to get the squawk.”

    That’s not how a transponder works. Every few seconds, the transponder is interrogated by the ground radar station. You know when you’re being painted because the XPDR has a light that blinks.

    The range of the squawk is roughly the range of the ground set. If the XPDR is turned off, or even to standby, you will cease to be a data block on their screens and you will be a small, unidentified blob.

    We absolutely do know the transponder stayed off (at least until MH370 was out of range of Indonesian radar) because the radar plot subsequent to 17:21:13 had no secondary return. It was a small, unidentified blob on primary radar, with no altitude reporting and no squawk code.

    A B777 has two XPDRs and they report as both Mode-S (radar interrogated) and ADS-B (satellite). Probably over Malaysia and the S China Sea, there’s no ADS-B. Even if there was, turning off the XPDR would render the system useless.

    In the US, we’re slowly transitioning to 100% ADS-B identification, which is GPS based. If they eventually phase out non-approach radar without solving the issue of XPDRs being vulnerable to being depowered in flight (and also being unencrypted and vulnerable to surveillance by bad guys), we’re in deep shit.

  16. Jeff said “To be clear, I don’t think that a ditching scenario makes sense at all.”

    Still, I am glad that you did, since it forces us to think logically about which scenarios are sustained by evidence and which not.

    And it gains a surprising result, if we think logically :

    1) At 18:25 somebody switched the power on and (inadvertently) satcom. Nobody used the satcom after that, so it likely was the perpetrator(s), and the sole survivor(s) at 18:25.

    yet 6 hours later :

    2) There is no evidence that MH370 went down with a “live” person in control.
    In fact there all evidence we have suggests that the plane went down in an uncontrolled fashion.

    There is only ONE logical conclusion from these two pieces of evidence :

    The perpetrator(s) ABANDONED the plane after 18:25 (and likely before 18:39, as I argued before).

    If anyone has another logical solution for the apparent contradiction between (1) and (2), or any piece of evidence why that scenario must be incorrect, please present it.

    Because if the perpetrator(s) indeed abandoned the plane between 18:25 and 18:39, that puts the entire MH370 mystery in an entirely different light.

  17. Rob Posted August 23, 2015 at 2:35 AM: “In fact there all evidence we have suggests that the plane went down in an uncontrolled fashion. ”

    Well, there isn’t really that much evidence suggesting that, and the weak indications in that direction are counter-indicated by the lack of findings sofar.

    But, picking up the yarn, yes, “they” could have descended to, say, FL100, set up the AP for climb at LRC or ECON speed, on a southern track or towards a distant waypoint, and left the airplane via the EE bay external hatch.

  18. A Question and a Theory.
    What were the sea conditions at the time/place of the ditching? If calm and the aircraft configured for landing/ditching, then the aircraft could have done what it was designed to do, splash and float (for a while), then sink. If configured for landing/ditching, the flaps (and flaperon) would be fully deployed, this leading to the damage we see on the trailing edge, where it would have been roughened up by the sandpaper-effect from high-speed contact the water. Supposedly, this landing could have been performed on autopilot with no human intervention.
    If the conditions were rough, chances are that the aircraft would have broken up, even with a skilled human at the controls.
    The seas were calm and there was no human intervention – at least, at the last. That is because the humans in back all died after the aircraft increased in altitude and their supplementary oxygen ran out.
    The human up front then descended to cruise altitude, set up Charlie to fly the course that it did while he rummaged the back cabin for whatever cash and valuables that he could stuff in a relative small pack. My guess is that it would come to a few million.
    He then configured the ac for a landing and then, over the last little island, pulled a DB Cooper, leaving the plane to travel its programmed course to the middle of nowhere.
    Find the last little island and look for a guy sitting on a beach with a maitai and a big smile on his face.

  19. @JS,

    ADS-B has no connection to satellites contrary to what was claimed here. The transponder, in addition to answering SSR interrogations, continuously transmits this data.

    ADS-B allows hijackers to verify if the transponder was disabled or what squawk code it emits. It only requires access to a website like FlightRadar24. If the plane have an Internet connection it’s easy, the hijacker just needs a laptop. Without such a connection an accomplice on the ground could:

    * surf to the tracking website
    * monitor the plane (it should disappear if the transponder
    was disabled, will turn red with any non-ordinary squawk)
    * FR24 used to display the squawk code on the side
    this could be used for verification
    * pick the plane’s ICAO 24-bit Aircraft Address
    (would appear variously as Hex/ModeS)
    * if in hex convert the Aircraft Address to octal
    * use the octal to make a phone call via Inmarsat

    Upon hearing the call chime the hijacker would know the pilots had cheated him. Note that the hijacker may be able to use other means to communicate with his accomplice.

    A responsible airline pilot wouldn’t take risks with the lives of his passengers. You don’t play hero with the lives of hundreds of people at stake. Unless the hijacker tried to crash the plane it’s better to comply with his demands.

  20. Thanks Ron, that makes a lot of sense. Recall that the 911 hijackers didn’t actually make demands, that we know of. So it would appear to me that in nearly every recorded hijacking case, pilots largely followed or negotiated the demand.

    I agree with you as well that a responsible pilot will negotiate while their are lives on board. Only when the situation becomes hopeless, such as the Concorde flight, does the calculus change to saving lives on the ground, rather than on the plane.

    @Matt – unless you believe there is no possible way for the perp to confirm his demands are being met, I’m standing by my comment. Consider the human factor as well as the technology – what if the copilot is in on the scheme, unbeknownst to the pilot? Or someone in ATC? Under the circumstances, you just can’t ignore a demand.

  21. @Gysbreght and @Rob: Whether or not you believe it is possible, I am glad you broached the possibility of the pilot parachuting out around Sumatra. It is a scenario that I and others have quietly been considering.

    Last July 2014, in the course of reconstructing paths, I discovered that a loiter around Banda Aceh followed by a trip south via the waypoints BEDAX-SouthPole matches the BTO and BFO, and predicts a crash on the 7th arc at 34.24S latitude. I have been interested in the possibility of a waypoint of SouthPole (which is entered by setting the latitude of the waypoint to 90S) because it is ensures the plane will fly as far south as possible before exhausting its fuel.

    The loiter could have been an opportunity to descend, parachute via the E/E bay door, and then climb to cruise altitudes and speeds under autopilot.

    A parachuted jump around Aceh also eliminates the need for the person flying the aircraft to commit suicide.

    I should note that Shah did paraglide as a hobby as per the FI, although I have not found evidence that he was a skyjumper.

  22. @JS,

    On a second thought you can listen to your plane’s ADS-B without using external websites. Just buy a cheap ADS-B receiver (there are USB dongles at $20) and using suitable free software on your laptop (e.g. ADSB#) see for yourself exactly what your plane’s transponder is transmitting. A cheap and more reliable solution that doesn’t depend on an Internet connection or accomplices.

    Regarding the question how the hijacker can enforce his will I consider the answer obvious.

  23. If he parachuted, has his family been monitored as to what sorts of action with the house or moving away or resettling elsewhere?

  24. @Ron

    I think your FR suggestion is fabulous. Will admit I’ve never used FR24 and I find it quite impressive.

    However, SATCOM went dark during the exact period that hijackers would have been most interested in what MH370 was squawking. How do you account for that?

    Loss of SATCOM would have eliminated the Hijackers’ connection to FR24. Are you suggesting they had their own satellite internet capability? What provider might they have been using? Inmarsat?

    Also, you wrote: “ADS-B has no connection to satellites contrary to what was claimed here.”


    The only position reporting possible under ADS-B is GPS-based. GPS is a constellation of satellites, yes? If SSR happens to co-locate, that’s great. But as far as position-reporting goes, ADS-B is GPS-only and therefore sat-only.

    Right? Right.

  25. @Ron

    “On a second thought you can listen to your plane’s ADS-B without using external websites. Just buy a cheap ADS-B receiver (there are USB dongles at $20) and using suitable free software on your laptop (e.g. ADSB#) see for yourself exactly what your plane’s transponder is transmitting.”

    I don’t think so. I own the Stratus2S and I use it all the time with ForeFlight. It does many things that I really love and it makes me wish I hadn’t spent so much $$ on my G1000.

    One thing it will not do is tell me what a 777 is squawking from seat 49A.

  26. @Ron

    Apologies, actually.

    What I said about my own ADS-B receiver is true. But I just looked at the stuff you mentioned and I see now that there are indeed tiny little ADS-B dongles and software by some firm in Denmark that allows you to read position data from every AC in range.

    I stand corrected. And I want my $900 back on the Stratus. (Not really.)

  27. @Gysbreght: A small parachute could easily fit in a suitcase. Also, if you look at “first flight” attire, the test engineers and pilots wear parachutes, depending on the airframer’s standard practices.

  28. @VictorI:

    I thought it would have to qualify as carry-on luggage. A suitcase would go in the hold and would not be accessible in flight.

  29. @Victorl

    I also believe there was a loiter around Banda Aceh (maybe Kate the sailoress really saw the plane then?) but not for that reason (although I can’t exclude it completely).

    I believe that was when the conflict in cockpit escalated and it happened soon after captain (or someone else) fiddled with E/E bay.

  30. @Gysbreght: I meant a small suitcase that could be carried on. I use the words luggage and suitcase interchangeably.

  31. @VictorI, @Gysbreght, When Airbus was doing initial flight testing of the A350 I toured one of the test planes for a Businessweek article. The plane was equipped with a railing that ran from the cockpit back to a hatch that exited the right side of the airplane in the event it was necessary for the crew to bailout. As far as I know, it’s never come to that in the testing of modern commercial aircraft. Production aircraft, of course are much harder to get out of in a hurry.

  32. Wouldn’t opening an exterior door to parachute from cause dessurization and maybe some structural damage or instability to fly on further ?

  33. @jeffwise, VictorI, Gysbreght,

    Back in the DS days and prior to the SIO determination, in the context of discussing Kate T’s sighting, I dug out a video of a crash test for a hard landing in some US desert somewhere.

    It wasn’t a 777 but some jet liner featuring a back hatch (with a stair case, if my memory serves me right). That was open. The test pilots set up the AP for a hard landing, made their way through the cabin and exited out the back, parachuting to the ground.

    It has been done in earnest for a serious exercise, not only for Bond style stunts.



  34. If there is a door at rear of b777 to parachute out then maybe I can see it more possible .. Out from front might be risky in tangling up with the engines.

  35. Will, MH – see DB Cooper.

    727s and DC-9s have rear staircases. A few others have optional internal stairs allowing entry and exit without a ground crew. They are VERY rare and I don’t believe any production 777s have one. The ones on DC-9s and 727s were modified following DB Cooper’s hijacking of a 727 in the early 70’s. The plane did indeed continue normal flight with the door open. The mods prevented the door from opening during flight.

    DB Cooper parachuted out of his hijacked 727 at about 10,000 feet, full flaps, etc. He was never found, but a few months later a copycat pulled the stunt off successfully.

    Presumably a 777 can fly even slower, but the problem remains the lack of a suitable door. Humans and 777 engines or horizontal stabilizers do not mesh well at 200 knots.

    But if there’s a way out, it certainly answers a lot of questions.

  36. What was the weather pattern in the supposed ditching area that day, can anyone check? Smooth seas for a Russian sub to pickup the Freescale victims could make sense

  37. Alright, while we’re on the topic of parachuting, I’d like to throw cold water on the “collision with stabilizer” wisdom.

    Clearly, a collision at 200 knots would be disastrous. However, this isn’t a reasonable speed.

    From the back door, the stabilizer is maybe 12 ft back. Inertia would mean that the jumper is traveling at the same speed as the plane. Only after the slipstream accelerated the jumper to a high enough speed would any injury occur.

    How high? I don’t know. But I don’t think it matters, because an acceleration strong enough to cause a significant velocity difference would be strong enough to kill the person on its own. For example, an acceleration from 0 to 200 knots in 12 feet would be about 100 Gs. But people have clearly jumped out of planes at that speed without ill effects from the wind acceleration alone. Hitting the wind at 200 knots is not fatal, and all one needs to do to survive an impact with the stabilizer is not decelarate at more than 1G or so. I can’t imagine wind being able to accelerate an object at 1G.

    Finally, I believe anything heading towards the stabilizer would be in a stream going over or under it, so I’m not sure even if one wanted to hit it they could.

    If there was any further concern, a simple rappel system would get one past the stabilizer.

    The biggest risk, to me, wouldn’t be the stabilizer but the left-behind passengers. But then again, none of them are going anywhere near an open door.

    I’ll let the physicists chime in now and tell me I’m nuts.

  38. Thanks guys, for re-vitalizing the parachuting scenario, especially since at this point it looks like one of very few (if not the only) scenario left over that is consistent with the satcom coming back on-line at 18:25 and no evidence for anyone alive to switch satcom off, nor a controlled “ditch” at the end.

    So it makes sense to seriously investigate this scenario.
    I don’t think that getting a parachute aboard is the biggest concern. Many options there, including MH’s suggestion that a maintenance accomplice let it in the E&E bay (we know the O2 tanks in the E&E bay were maintenanced that day).

    What seems more challenging is to find a way out of the plane.

    I understand that the doors open against the airflow, so is it safe to assume that it is IMPOSSIBLE to open a door ? Or is there a way (maybe at low speed?) to open a door while airborne ?

    Also, a 777 does not have an aft airstair exit like the one that DB Cooper used on that 727 in the 70’s.

    Thus, so far only Gysbreght’s E&E bay front belly hatch is an option.

    However, that hatch may be large enough to dispose of a FDR or other instrument, but at 2×2 ft or so, it would be near certain suicide to try to “jump” through that hatch. If you just stick your leg through, the drag forces would break it instantly.

    Which other ways out are there from a 777-200 ?

  39. All exits are inward opening ‘plug’ doors. They can only be opened if the cabin is depressurized. After pulling them inwards they must turned and pushed outwards and forward, which would not be possible in flight against the pressure of the airstream. The access to the EE bay is at the bottom of the fuselage, no risk of hitting anything. It opens inwards and doesn’t need to be turned and pushed outwards like the cabin doors.

  40. @MH: The assumption is that plane was below 12,000 ft and the cabin pressure was equalized with ambient before the door was opened. After the escape, the plane could climb and continue flying depressurized even at high altitudes. In fact, it might fly even more efficiently than typical if the air bleed for cabin air comfort was turned off.

  41. @Drake

    “What was the weather pattern in the supposed ditching area that day, can anyone check? Smooth seas for a Russian sub to pickup the Freescale victims could make sense”

    the waves were usual 1.5-5m high (depending on area but mostly 3-4m), it’s one of the worst areas in IO for ditching

  42. Is it then the E/E bay belly hatch the only possible exit point if it flies down to below 12000ft and whoever can parachute completely safe from injury by hitting the airframe or engines ?

  43. @VictorI:
    “I have no idea if one was installed on 9M-MRO.” Only maintenance personnel normally enter the E/E bay. Wouldn’t they have a ladder?

  44. @Gysbreght: The ladder allows exit from the aircraft when no ground support is available and outside access to the E/E bay if no maintenance ladder is available. I suppose that is sometimes useful as this modification is currently sold.

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