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Missing Malaysia Airlines plane: why didn't passenge...

News Direct Follow
  • Video description
  • 5 years ago
Originally published March 20, 2014

Families of those on board missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 are growing increasingly anxious as officials continually come up empty handed in the search for the aircraft. Many are now asking why passengers aboard the plane didn't use their mobile phones to call for help.

The first reason may be that many or all of the passengers weren't aware that anything was wrong, according to Jeff Wise, contributing editor at Popular Mechanics and Travel + Leisure, specializing in aviation, adventure, and psychology.

As the plane disappeared in the middle of the night, many passengers may have been asleep at the time. It also would have been too dark for them to detect any change in course, as there would have been no visual reference for them to know where they were.

Mobile phones also do not pick up signals in planes cruising at 30,000 feet in the air, according to Wouter Pelgrum, assistant professor of electrical engineering at Ohio University. Although mobile phones can still ping off towers at 3,000 feet, they do not get obtain signals from cell towers, which have their antennae pointed down toward the ground, not up at the sky.

Passengers aboard United Flight 93, which was intended to be used as part of terrorist attacks in the U.S. on September 11, 2001, were able to make phone calls because they used GTE AirFones. This technology, which relied on radio waves to communicate with the ground, is no longer in use. Although Malaysia Airlines offers an "air-to-ground phone" service in business class that also allows passengers to send email, this can also be shut down from the cockpit.

Furthermore, if the cabin was depressurized when something went wrong, passengers likely would have quickly lost consciousness. Even those who were able to put on oxygen masks likely would not have been able to remain conscious after 15 minutes, when oxygen levels probably depleted.


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