The Malaysian Insider
April 12, 2014
As searchers scour the Indian Ocean west of Australia for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an aviation expert told CNN today there should be debris on top of the water.
Jim Tilmon, a former American Airlines pilot and aviation analyst, told CNN that the chances of not having debris on top of the water were remote.
“The amount of flotsam left behind in the crash would most likely vary based on how MH370 hit the water,” Tilmon told CNN.
Since MH370 disappeared on March 8 shortly after departing from Kuala Lumpur, all the possible debris spotted from the air by satellites have turned out not to be from the aircraft.
“It is extremely unlikely that the Boeing 777-200 would have slipped beneath the waves intact,” Tilmon said.
“If it had broken up, then pieces of the aircraft are likely to have been cast adrift on the surface.”
More than a month after MH370 disappeared with 12 crew members and 227 passengers, searchers are still trying to locate the aircraft.
Searchers have been attempting in the past week to home in on the pings which they hope are from MH370’s black box.
As search operations enter the 36th day, there has been no confirmed sighting of the aircraft’s wreckage among the rubbish swept up in the Indian Ocean currents.
“An in-flight break-up would have scattered wreckage over a wide area,” Tilmon told CNN.
“If the aircraft hit the water at a steep angle and at high speed, it would likely have taken much of its frame and contents down into the deep with it.”
That was the case when an Alaska Airline aircraft plunged into the Pacific Ocean off California in 2000, killing all 88 on board.
“It is not like striking your hand into the water, it is more akin to slamming your car into a brick wall.”
He told CNN that was the more likely result of that kind of situation, where there were bound to be a lot of debris.
A less steep angle, even an attempt at a controlled descent, might be more forgiving to the frame of the 60m jetliner.
But when the pilots of a hijacked Ethiopian Airlines flight made an emergency landing in in the Indian Ocean off Africa in 1996, the Boeing 767 still broke apart when it hit the water, killing 125 of the 175 people on board.
Tilmon said it must be remembered that water was like concrete, if an aircraft struck water hard enough, its integrity would be destroyed.
“So you can have pieces which are going to be there and an aircraft will have items which can float,” Tilmon said.
However, the depth of the Indian Ocean where MH370 is believed to have disappeared poses another challenge to searchers.
The pressure of 4,500m is a depth at which the crushing weight of water is the equivalent of one person carrying 50 jumbo jets.
The analogy was supplied by the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Guardian reported today.
CNN reported the most successful water landing in recent history was the so-called “Miracle on the Hudson” in 2009, when the crew of a crippled US Airways flight landed safely on the river off Manhattan after losing both engines.
The Airbus A320 remained intact, and all 155 passengers and crew made it safely off the aircraft.
But the Hudson is “pretty relaxed by comparison” to the remote Indian Ocean, “where you have swells of 10, 12, 16 feet,” Tilmon said.
“It’s pretty difficult to make that kind of landing on water.” – April 12, 2014.