Malaysian officials say Flight #MH370 could have flown as low as 80 feet off the ground.
SimFlightKL director Captain Amin Said (left) briefing an NST team member on the simulator at Subang Skypark yesterday. (Pic by Azmaidi Abidin)
The government performed tests with an Airbus simulator since a Boeing 777 simulator was not available.
Malaysia’s New Strait Times reported:
KUALA Lumpur is waiting with bated breath for the first among 26 nations it had sought assistance from in tracking missing Malaysia Airline flight MH370 to indicate which airspace the jetliner had flown through.
As the search for the Boeing 777-200ER enters its 11th day and with the Malaysian-led international investigating team sifting through clues that could help narrow down the search area, no country has offered any positive outlook.
Until that new lead comes, investigators are looking at a search area spanning some two million square miles.
Several countries that lie in the northern and southern corridors, where the plane’s last satellite communication was reportedly established, have said their radars did not detect any signs of the missing flight entering their airspace.
However, investigators told the New Straits Times this only meant that the likelihood that the aircraft had gone through these airspace had been reduced and more analysis would have to be carried out…
…Yesterday, it was revealed that investigators poring over MH370′s flight data said the jetliner had descended to an altitude of 5,000 feet, or even lower, to evade commercial radar detection.
This was soon after the turnback at waypoint Igari.
An NST team leased SimFlightKL’s flight simulator at Subang Skypark to re-enact critical portions of the flight yesterday.
They include the turnback, and disabling of the cockpit transponders and aircraft communications addressing and reporting system (ACARS).
The team also wanted to see if a commercial airliner could be flown “on the deck” using terrain masking to avoid radar detection by someone with simulator training.
Since finding a Boeing 777-200ER simulator was no easy task, the team had to make do with an Airbus A320.
Both aircraft types are of different classes, but they share the same basic layout of twin turbofan engines and digital fly-by-wire flight control system.
With the guidance of several instructors, we replicated what is known of MH370′s flight path…
…The second part of the experiment was to see if a fully laden jetliner could be flown low to evade commercial radar detection. Switching to manual flight control with a click of a switch on the sidestick controller, we took the jetliner down to as low as 80 feet in some parts, hugging the terrain.
Built-in inhibitors in the flight control software kicked in during some parts of this phase. Overspeed, stall warnings, excessive bank angle and master alarm warnings kicked in.
On an actual flight, these manoeuvres at low altitudes would have exerted tremendous loads on the airframe and passengers. This would have created panic in the passenger cabin.