March 13, 2014
With satellites crisscrossing the globe and GPS technology available at the touch of a button in everything from cars to cell phones, how did officials lose any sight of an airplane with 239 passengers on board?
Aviation safety consultant John McGraw says it’s easier than you think.
“People are under the impression that every airplane, even when it’s flying across the ocean, is observed on some kind of radar scope, with a human being looking at that scope," McGraw said. "And it's just not the case. Radars don't reach that far.”
But McGraw says there is a lot of technology inside the missing Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 that helps pinpoint its location.
Systems in the jets automatically transmit altitude, weather conditions, position and speed of an aircraft to traffic control. There are also at least three ways the pilot can communicate with officials. If the plane is downed in the ocean, the flight data recorder, or “black box” sends out a sound that is detectable up to three kilometers away.
Former FAA accident investigator Michael Daniel says there are also global regulations.
“The airline has responsibility for what we call ‘flight following,’" said Daniel, managing director of Aviation Insight. "That’s an international standard and they are required to know where the airline is at all times.”
But in the case of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, Daniel says the airline hasn’t provided a great deal of information.
“The standards may not have been followed,” he said.
Rescue crews continue a search to locate the jet and its "black box" to try to find out what went wrong.
After an Air France flight went missing in 2009, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board called for continuously downloading segments of an aircraft’s flight data recorder information in case of emergencies.
“In the past they haven’t been able to justify installing that kind of equipment, because it’s expensive, and because there hadn’t been that many accidents where it would have come into play," said McGraw, the aircraft consultant. "This will certainly provide some additional motivation and there may be calls to do that.”
Militaries and navies from some 12 nations are working collaboratively in the search for the missing plane.
The search, which one aviation expert described as similar to looking for a "needle in a haystack," is being conducted with the help of more than 40 international ships and at least as many aircraft.
Operations are currently stretching across some 90,000 square kilometers of water, with international forces working in a grid pattern as not to overlap efforts.
Sid McGuirk, a professor of Air Traffic Management at Embry -Riddle Aeronautical University, said the search for the missing airliner is very difficult, calling it “one of the most bizarre sets of circumstances" that he’s ever seen in his career. He said the debris field, if the aircraft did impact on water, would be "significant".
Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 disappeared early Saturday on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. Air traffic controllers from both Malaysia and Vietnam, near where the plane was last seen on radar, say they did not receive any messages from the cockpit alerting them that the plane may have been in trouble.
Experts say it is too early to speculate as to the cause of the suspected crash without the cockpit recorder, but say possible scenarios could include catastrophic failure, sabotage or foul play, or some sort of rare occurrence such as pilot incapacitation.
crisscross (v) 縱橫交錯
aviation (n) 航空
consultant (n) 顧問
radar scope (n) 雷達顯示器，雷達螢幕XXXXX*scope一般用來指事物、個人能力或職權的「範圍」；此詞條中用來指協助觀察的器具，與此用法相關的常見字還有 microscope (顯微鏡)和 telescope (望遠鏡)
人造衛星交錯 (crisscross ) 全球，從車子到手機都有的GPS定位只要一個按鈕就能啟動 (at the touch of a button)，相關單位人員怎會追丟了 (lose sight of) 有239名乘客的飛機去向？
航空 (aviation)安全顧問 (consultant)John McGraw說，追丟一架飛機比你想像中的還容易。他說：「一般人總存在有一種印象 (under the impression)，認為每架飛機隨時都有個雷達顯示器 (radar scope) 在觀察，也總有個人會盯著顯示器看，甚至飛越海洋時也是如此，但這並非實情 (not the case)，雷達的範圍沒這麼大。」
aircraft (n) 飛行器XXXXX*本字是「單複數同型」，也就是說可以直接加數字量詞，但字尾不變，如 one aircraft，two aircraft
detectable (a) 可被偵測的
飛機上的系統會自動對飛航管制傳報 (transmit ) 高度 (altitude)、天氣狀況、位置和飛機 (aircraft) 的航行速度，機長至少有三種方式能與地面人員通訊。倘若飛機真的沉入海裡 (. . .is downed in the ocean)，飛行資料紀錄器「黑盒子」(black box)，也能送出三公里內能可被偵測的 (detectable) 聲音訊號。
segment (n) 片段
在2009年的法航飛機失蹤事件後，美國國家運輸安全委員會( National Transportation Safety Board) 就呼籲要持續的分段 (segment ) 下載飛航紀錄器的資料，以防萬一 (in case of emergencies)。
look for a needle in a haystack (idiom) 大海撈針
force (n) 部隊；(組織性的，有任務的)團隊
grid (n) 格狀
bizarre (a) 異常的，不尋常的XXXXX*注意本字的拼法與發音：
debris (n) 殘骸XXXXX*本字是「不可數名詞」，字尾的s是屬於本字自身的拼法，且s不發音：
有航空專家描述這次的搜尋就像海底撈針一樣 (look for a needle in a haystack )。國際間至少有40艘船和40架的飛機在協助搜尋作業執行 (the search is . . .being conducted)。
目前的搜尋作業延展到九萬平方公里的水面，搜尋隊伍 (force ) 以格狀 (grid) 方式進行，避免重疊。
一位航空管理的教授說，搜尋這架消失的客機 (airliner ) 非常困難，這次的事件是他在這行從未見過的「一些非常匪夷所思的 (bizarre) 情況和條件組成」。他說，如果飛機確實衝擊 (impact on) 水面，殘骸 (debris) 散佈的範圍應該會非常「可觀」。
cockpit (n) 駕駛員座艙；駕駛艙
speculate (v) 推測，推斷
sabotage (n) 破壞；妨害
foul play (n)謀殺
incapacitation (n) 喪失行為能力；失能
馬航370班機在周六從吉隆坡往北京的飛行途中 (on a flight from . . to. . . ) 消失。與雷達上最後顯示位置最近的馬來西亞與越南的航空交通管制人員 (controller) 都沒有接收到任何從駕駛艙 (cockpit) 發出，警示 (alert) 飛機異常的訊號。
專家認為，在發現駕駛艙紀錄之前，推斷 (speculate ) 墜機原因都還太早。有各樣可能的情形 (scenario) 發生，有可能是無法恢復的災難性故障 (catastrophic failure)、人為的蓄意破壞 (sabotage)或謀殺 (foul play)，或是某種鮮少發生的 (rare occurrence) 機長失能 (incapacitation)情形。
Check your vocabulary!
Fill in the blanks with a word or phrase from the list above. Make necessary changes. After you finish, select the text below to reveal the hidden answers.
1. She was hit by flying debris from the blast.
He walked off in a most bizarre fashion.
Railway lines crisscross the countryside.
As a consultant to NASA, Cockburn had access to confidential details of the US space program.
The autopsy report showed no evidence of foul play.
Searching for one man in this city is like looking for a needle in a haystack.