Into Thin Air
Hannah Beech and Nikhil Kumar

In an era of GPS and Google Maps, how does a jet plane disappear?

It sounds like a real-life version of Lost: a 272-ton Boeing 777, one of aviation’s trustiest workhorses, takes off from Kuala Lumpur International Airport and vanishes less than an hour into a flight to Beijing, falling off air-traffic radar screens and triggering a massive search involving high-tech warships, nimble supersonic jets, all-seeing satellites–the combined technological resources of 26 countries. Days go by without a trace of the airliner. Big Brother looks high and low–and finds nothing.

The world lost contact with Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 in the early hours of March 8, somewhere in no-man’s-sky between Malaysia and Vietnam. Every day that followed brought new theories of what might have happened as dark turned to dawn. Was the plane hijacked to some remote landing strip and, if so, where are the passengers? Or had the jet malfunctioned and crashed into the ocean–and if so, where was the debris? As search teams looked for answers to these questions, the millions of people worldwide who were watching for updates about MH 370 were left wondering how, in 2014, technology could come up so short, allowing a 209-ft. (64 m) airliner carrying 239 people to disappear for the longest period of time in modern commercial-aviation history.

The strange saga of MH 370 doesn’t fit into the narrative of our omniscient era. The world’s intelligence agencies can watch and listen to millions of us as we go about our lives. Even we nonspies have plenty of tracking technology at our disposal. Pull up a web browser and with a few keystrokes we can locate our lost iPhones, track satellites as they circle the earth, use Google Maps to explore far-off lands. How, then, with our mind-bogglingly complex infrastructure of bits and bytes, did we fail to track a jumbo jet?

The answers are disturbing. For all the post-9/11 security protocols we submit to every time we get on a plane, much of the basic technology that is meant to track our progress through the sky is full of holes. And even our most modern aircraft can be rendered invisible by the human hand.

A week after MH 370 vanished, Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak gave his first official statement on the matter, saying the disappearance was no accident but the result of a “deliberate action by someone on the plane.” Less than an hour after its departure, at 12:41 a.m., someone switched off the aircraft’s two main modes of contact: the automated Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) and the transponder that sends the plane’s unique signals to ground control. At 1:19 a.m., according to subsequent statements by Malaysian authorities, the plane’s co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid, 27, uttered the last known words from MH 370 to air-traffic control: “All right, good night.” (The pilot, Zaharie Ahmad Shah, 53, was a 33-year veteran with more than 18,000 flight hours.)

The aircraft then strayed from its original flight path. Someone with knowledge of flight systems had punched new coordinates into the plane’s computer. Instead of making its way north toward China, MH 370 abruptly banked west, heading back over peninsular Malaysia. It then crossed over the Strait of Malacca, one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world. Days later, it was discovered that the jet’s progress had been tracked by a series of electronic handshakes sent to a commercial satellite system to which Malaysia Airlines had not subscribed, much like a cell phone making contact with an unknown carrier. The last satellite ping came at 8:11 a.m. on March 8. But the data could narrow down the possible end point of the plane’s journey only to a 3 million-sq.-mi. (7.8 million sq km) swath stretching from Central Asia to the southern Indian Ocean.

If the airliner had turned northwest and headed to Central Asia, it should have been picked up by the radar systems of nations like India, Pakistan and China, and U.S. bases in Afghanistan. Or not. The truth is that the infrastructure that watches our skies has been cobbled together over the decades in bits and pieces. It doesn’t change until disaster strikes. There are no laws mandating that the most up-to-date communications wizardry be used, and retrofitting airplanes is expensive. “In my business, there’s what they call a tombstone mentality–to get things done, you have to have blood on the ground or dead people,” says Robert Benzon, who spent 25 years as an aircraft-accident investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). “When things go right, it’s very difficult to spend money on anticipating something going wrong.”

If that’s not unnerving enough, try this: some radar systems–like those in the region where MH 370 went missing–are kept switched off, ready to be powered up only in the event of regional tensions. High costs prevent governments from keeping all their air-surveillance systems on at all times.

A dearth of trust among Asian nations–India and Pakistan, for instance–further complicates the issue: governments can be reluctant to share any data that is considered militarily significant, or they can dawdle during times of urgency. On March 18, Thailand revealed that shortly after MH 370 stopped communicating with ground control, its military radar might have picked up the missing airplane. Although the disclosure did not trigger a change in the investigation, the fact that it took Thailand 10 days to share potentially significant military intelligence underlined the challenges involved in coordinating an international search effort.

Cooperation over international waters, meanwhile, is a patchwork: shore-based radars are effective no more than 250 miles (400 km) from land, meaning different ground stations are in charge of tracking a flight at different times. This can lead to an airplane falling through the cracks.

A more-than-70-year-old technology, radar is also limited to line of sight, meaning it doesn’t work through mountains or bend to match the earth’s curvature. “When an aircraft is in a remote area or over the ocean, there essentially is no tracking system in place,” says David Ison, assistant professor at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Fla.

There are more-modern technologies available, but the industry simply hasn’t taken them on board. “There should be a real-time GPS tracking system with the technology we have today,” says William Lawrence, a retired U.S. Marine pilot and aviation expert in Fort Worth. Such a system, called Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast (ADS-B), does exist. But many parts of the globe, including the continental U.S., still rely on radar and radios. The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration plans to convert to ADS-B usage by 2020.

For airlines, adopting the latest technology is prohibitively expensive. Malaysia Airlines was already teetering financially before MH 370 vanished. A jet, after all, is not an iPhone. It has a life span of 30 to 40 years, and the product-development cycle alone runs up to a decade from paper to plane. Upgrading fleets with the newest avionics just costs too much. Consider this: adding wi-fi to jets costs around $250,000 a pop.

Even modern GPS systems work only until someone switches them off, as most of us do to conserve our smartphone batteries. It’s a fair bet you didn’t know before MH 370 disappeared that it’s also possible to turn off virtually all the communications systems on an airliner. Not only can a pilot switch off a plane’s transponder, but he or she can also disable the flight recorders–known as black boxes–that record inflight activity, according to Jim Cash, a retired NTSB expert on black boxes. Even if they are functioning properly, black boxes are useless if they can’t be found. MH 370′s flight recorder should emit a search beacon for 30 days, but only if it is less than 2 miles (3.2 km) underwater. The average depth of the southern Indian Ocean, where the missing airplane might have crashed had it followed a southwesterly route, is more than 2 miles.

Why do planes have locating devices that can be turned off? One reason: deliberate sabotage of the system is extremely rare, so there has been no reason to change it. Additionally, transponders were originally outfitted with an off switch so they wouldn’t interfere with radar at airports. Newer radar systems aren’t confused by airplane beacons, but again, large commercial airliners haven’t been updated with automated transponders that turn on once a plane is airborne.

The focus on human intervention in the cockpit spawned speculation about who might have been behind the disappearance and how they might have flown under the radar. Was the captain or his first officer suicidal or a fanatic? Did a passenger with aviation expertise force his or her way to the controls? It seems more likely that the plane flew undetected over the southern Indian Ocean rather than taking the northern route, which bristles with many countries’ military radar. But yet another hypothesis made the rounds: perhaps the plane flew in the wake of another airliner, escaping radar notice like a remora attached to a shark.

The possibility that MH 370 might have crashed into the ocean put many in mind of Air France Flight 447, which vanished over the Atlantic in 2009 en route to Paris from Rio de Janeiro. But the two cases differ in important respects. A combination of bad weather, crew errors and wrong readings of airspeed relayed to the cockpit led Flight 447 to plunge into the South Atlantic, killing all 228 on board. It took two years to recover the plane’s black boxes, but that was because they were 13,000 ft. (3,960 m) underwater: investigators knew where to look. “In Air France, there was floating debris right away, which was a pretty good indicator, and that gave them an area to search,” Benzon says.

The MH 370 mystery has also thrown a spotlight on security procedures at airports around the world. Since 9/11, we have gotten used to packing our toiletries in transparent bags and automatically raising our arms for airport pat-downs. But that didn’t stop two men from boarding the plane with stolen passports. This was revealed soon after news of the jetliner’s disappearance broke, and attention focused on the pair, who were later identified as young Iranians. It turned out they were not terrorists but illegal immigrants seeking new lives in Europe. That they were able to easily evade immigration checks raises troubling questions. Interpol has cataloged some 40 million stolen or missing passports in a database–including the two documents used on MH 370. Yet fewer than 20 nations use the registry. The Malaysians clearly didn’t tap Interpol’s resources.

Fixes to procedure and technology, even if they are implemented, are for the future. They do not ease the anguish of the families of those who vanished on MH 370. The majority, 153, were Chinese, and at a Beijing hotel where their relatives had been cooped up waiting for any word, some threw water bottles at Malaysia Airlines staff members they felt were withholding information. “The families have been taken as hostages,” said a man surnamed Ye, whose brother-in-law, businessman Chen Jianshe, 58, was on the plane. “It is like they have a rope around each family’s neck and they are pulling it bit by bit. It gets tighter each day.”

Many of the passengers were among China’s new middle class and relatively new to the wonders of air travel to foreign lands. Some of the relatives are only a half-step removed from China’s farms and factories. With their sunburned necks and ill-fitting suits, they wandered, lost and exhausted, around the hotel’s grand ballroom, which had been turned into a Malaysia Airlines command center. But there was little information to command. For weatherbeaten farmer and urban sophisticate alike, it is hard to make sense of the disappearance of MH 370.

≪ 空へ――消えたMH370≫

GSPやGoogle Mapがある時代に、ジェット機の行方が何故わからないのか。



MH370便の奇妙な運命はテクノロジー万能時代の現代にはふさわしくない。世界中の情報局は、何百万の人々の日常をすべて監視できる。スパイとは無関係な我々でさえ、自分の好きなように追跡する多くのテクノロジーを持っている。ウエブブラウザを使って幾つかのキーを叩くだけで、失くしたiPhoneを見つけたり、地球を周る衛星を追跡したり、Google Mapを使って遠隔地を探索できる。だとしたら驚くほどに複雑なビットとバイトによる情報基盤を使って、何故ジャンボジェット機の行方を追跡できないのか。




< 誰が上空を監視しているのか >
もし旅客機が北西に向きを変えて中央アジアに飛行したとすれば、インド、パキスタン、中国、それにアフガニスタンにある米軍基地のレーダー・システムが探知していたはずだった。それともされていなかったのか。実のところは、世界の空を見張っている監視網が何十年もの間、ただの情報の寄せ集めでしかなかったということだ。大惨事が起きるまで変わらないものだ。最新技術を装備した交信装置を完璧に使用することを義務付ける法律はないし、航空機を改良するのはコストがかかる。「航空業界には『死者が出るまで動かない体質(tombstone mentality)』があると言われています。現実に負傷者や死者が出て初めて重い腰を上げるのです」とロバート・ベンゾンは言う。ロバートは米国家運輸安全委員会(NTSB)で飛行機事故の調査を25年間経験した。「すべて順調の時は、事故を想定して経費を使うのは難しいのです」





もっと近代的なテクノロジーも使用可能だが、航空産業は採用する気がなかっただけだ。「今ではリアルタイムのGPS追跡システムもあるはずです」と米海兵隊退役パイロットであり、フォートワースの航空機専門家ウイリアム・ローレンスは言う。例えば自動従属監視信号(ADS-B:Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast)というシステムがある。しかし米国本土を含む世界の多くの地域では、未だにレーダーや無線を使っている。米連邦航空局は2020年までにADS-Bを導入する計画だ。


< なぜシステム・オフのボタンが必要なのか >





< 人智の及ばないところ >


Questions Remain as Malaysia Declares Fate of Missing Airliner
Hannah Beech
March 27, 2014

By the time the text message arrived, 17 days had passed since Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 disappeared en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. It was addressed to the loved ones of the 239 passengers and crew, and the tone was clinical: based on an analysis of satellite data, Malaysian authorities had concluded “beyond any reasonable doubt” that MH 370 had plunged into the southern Indian Ocean seven hours off its intended flight path. There were no survivors.

For the families of those aboard MH 370, the news, which was grounded in calculations by a British satellite firm, could not have been a complete surprise. Nevertheless, as the days passed and the mystery deepened over what had caused the airliner to cut most communications less than an hour into its March 8 flight, it was natural to cling to even the faintest filament of hope. Perhaps the flight had been hijacked and the passengers were holed up in some Central Asian mountain hideaway? After all, the Malaysian government had said it believed the plane had been deliberately diverted by someone on board.

At a hotel in Beijing, where relatives of 153 Chinese passengers had been camped out, mourners fainted after Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, speaking during a March 24 press conference held just minutes after the text message went out, said MH 370 had indeed been lost at sea.

But even if there was clarity on the ultimate fate of those on board, other mysteries festered. As of March 26, no confirmed wreckage from the plane had been discovered. Chinese warships and the nation’s first icebreaker vessel, the Snow Dragon, chugged to waters where international satellites had picked up possible debris among the choppy whitecaps. Planes from Australia, China, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea and the U.S. flew search sorties from western Australia, which is some 1,500 miles (2,415 km) northeast of the suspected crash site.

Finding floating debris will be far easier than recovering the plane’s black boxes, which could help verify one of several theories about MH 370: pilot suicide, hijacking, a freak electronic failure or fire. In the case of an Air France flight that pitched into the Atlantic Ocean in 2009, it took two years to find the flight recorders deep in the ocean, even though some of the plane’s wreckage was located six days after the crash. Australian Defense Minister David Johnston has described the swath of Indian Ocean suspected to be the resting place of MH 370 as “one of the most remote parts of the planet.”

Still lacking crucial details, Chinese families marched on March 25 from their hotel toward the Malaysian embassy in Beijing, demanding better treatment and more information. It was a rare public protest in China, allowed by a government that normally snuffs out any sign of popular dissent. But this demonstration was against another country and its national carrier. The same day, Chinese President Xi Jinping appointed a special envoy to Malaysia to deal with “issues surrounding the plane’s disappearance,” according to the official Xinhua News Agency.

Back near the Malaysian embassy, the messages were more personal. A parent of one of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370′s passengers held aloft a placard. Mommy and Daddy’s hearts are broken, the sign said. come home soon.

Questions Remain as Malaysia Declares Fate of Missing Airliner










A Time to Cry
Hannah Beech
March 27, 2014

Beyond what happened and why, Flight MH 370 is above all a tragedy of human loss and sorrow

The 239 passengers and crew who boarded Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 were a human mosaic of our globalized times. They were any of us. Some on the March 8 red-eye were frequent fliers, traversing a popular trade route from the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. Most were members of China’s new middle class, thrilled at a tropical respite from a smoggy winter back home. Two passengers, it turns out, were Iranians traveling on stolen European passports in hopes of starting new lives in the West. A few expatriates living in Beijing filled out the Boeing 777′s manifest, like a Canadian couple returning from a romantic Southeast Asia holiday. The pair had left their two young sons at home, the elder child—like so many boys

Along with a dozen Malaysian crew, five children under the age of 5 and a cargo hold filled with tropical fruit and lithium batteries, MH 370 took off from Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) at 12:41 a.m. Less than an hour later, the plane basically vanished. On March 24, Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak announced that, based on extensive satellite-data analysis, MH 370 had crashed into the southern Indian Ocean after a mystifying seven-hour journey totally off the flight path. For the families and loved ones of those on the plane, hopes of life, however infinitesimal, were extinguished. No accounting of MH 370′s uncertainties will diminish the grief of the relatives and friends of the passengers and crew.

For the rest of us, the inchoate fears of flight we all share, no matter how many airline miles we have racked up, coalesced into a sharper dread. The Boeing 777 is one of aviation’s most dependable planes. Malaysia Airlines is subsidized by the government, but it’s no third-world carrier; it is one of only seven airlines worldwide awarded five stars by air consultancy Skytrax. The flight’s pilot, Zaharie Ahmad Shah, 53, joined the carrier at age 20 and had accumulated more than 18,000 flight hours. Security at KLIA may not be as rigorous as in the U.S., but it isn’t notoriously lax either. How could someone board, as the Malaysians have indicated, only to deliberately divert the plane?

As we dissect the failings that led an airliner to dive into the water, we must remember that whatever technical or security lapses occurred, the case of MH 370 is, above all, a human tragedy. And we must balance a need for security with a preservation of faith in humanity. In police states, there is no confidence in the good of the people. Swathed in surveillance, these places do not bestow upon their citizens a chance to think or express themselves freely. Hatred and extremism exist in all societies, but they flourish most in the meager soil of authoritarian governance.

In many ways, KLIA, the airport from which MH 370 departed, is a symbol of our modern, multicultural world. The world’s 11th busiest airport in terms of international passenger traffic, KLIA is a showcase of a state composed of majority Malay Muslims and sizable Chinese and Indian populations. True, Malaysia has suffered its share of race riots and has hunted down Islamic terrorists among its population, and the nation’s leadership is too cloistered, with one political alliance dominating power ever since independence. But the 38 Malaysians on board, as well as the 13 other nationalities on the flight, hewed to multiple faiths and held many dreams. They included a couple on a belated honeymoon, and an IT specialist who promised chocolates for his children upon return from a business trip in Beijing. For them, as for us, flying was not only about vanquishing fear but also relying on trust. Only with such suspension of disbelief can we soar.

A Time to Cry
≪ 慟哭の時 ≫








Globalization in Reverse
Rana Foroohar
March 27, 2014
What the world’s trade slowdown means for growth in the U.S.—and abroad

Recent conflicts everywhere from Ukraine to the Middle East and the South China Sea remind us (as Robert D. Kaplan wrote in TIME’s March 31 cover story) that geography still matters, even in a globalized age. Politically, the world is certainly not flat. New economic figures show how increasingly rocky our world is becoming economically too. Globalization is often defined as the free movement of goods, people and money across borders. Lately, all of those have come under threat–and not just because of sanctions limiting travel and the flow of money among Russia, the U.S. and Europe. Over the past two years, global trade growth has been lower than global GDP growth. It’s the first time that has happened since World War II, and it marks a turning point in the global economy, with sweeping implications for countries, companies and consumers.

There are many reasons global trade is growing more slowly than it has in the past. Europe is still struggling to end its debt crisis, and emerging markets are expanding more slowly than they were. But one of the biggest factors is that the American economy is going through a profound shift: the U.S. is no longer the global consumer of last resort. As HSBC’s chief economist, Stephen King, pointed out in a recent research note, during postwar recoveries past, “the U.S. economy acted as a giant sponge,” absorbing excess goods and services produced by the rest of the world. Booms would bust; markets would crash and recover. And whenever they did, you could be sure that Americans would start spending again, and eventually our trade deficit–the level by which imports exceed exports–would grow. That’s now changing. After nearly five years of recovery, the U.S. trade deficit isn’t growing but shrinking. In fact, it was down by about 12% from 2012 to 2013.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing for us. Part of the reason the deficit is shrinking is that our shale-oil and gas boom means we are buying less foreign fossil fuel, and our manufacturing sector is growing. But part of it is that wages haven’t come up since the crisis, and consumer spending is still sluggish. In order for the U.S. and the world economy to keep growing, somebody has to shell out for the electronics, cars and other goods we used to buy more of.

Unfortunately, no one is doing that. Europeans, still stuck in a debt crisis, probably won’t spend again for another five years. Emerging-economy countries, in various levels of turmoil, are growing at roughly half the rate they did precrisis. The Chinese, who picked up a lot of the global-spending slack after the financial reckoning of 2008, are now in the midst of a financial crisis of their own. Japan did its bit last year, but Abenomics–the government’s plan to encourage spending, named for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe–is running out of steam. Everywhere, says Mohamed El-Erian, chief economic adviser to insurance giant Allianz, “there is a mismatch between the will and the wallet to spend.”

With global economic integration seemingly in reverse, at least for the moment, many economists and trade experts are beginning to talk about a new era of deglobalization, during which countries turn inward. Some of the implications are worrisome. Complaints to the World Trade Organization about protectionism, intellectual-property theft and new trade barriers are rising. Trade talks themselves are no longer global but regional and local, threatening to create a destructive so-called spaghetti bowl of competing economic alliances.

Yet deglobalization isn’t necessarily all bad. As U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman said at an economic summit in Washington recently, it also “means companies are looking at their extended value chains, supply chains, and deciding whether they want to move some production back to their home country.” That’s already happened in the U.S. A study by the Boston Consulting Group found that 21% of all manufacturing firms in the U.S. with $1 billion or more in sales are actively reshoring, and 54% say they are considering it.

Whether or not those jobs will help boost wages is something the Federal Reserve will be watching carefully. One of the hallmarks of the past 30 years of globalization was an easy-money environment. As Fed Chair Janet Yellen indicated at her latest press conference, we are coming to the end of that era. In this new economic age, not all boats will rise equally or smoothly. Markets, which had more or less converged for the past 30 years, will start diverging along national and sectoral lines. Our economic landscape, like our political one, will become more volatile and less predictable. Get ready for a bumpy ride.

Globalization in Reverse









*訳注 スパゲティボウル(Spaghetti Bowl):バグワティ(Bhagwati)が1995年に出版した"U.S. Trade Policy”の中で初めて、自由貿易協定で規制や規定を決めることで原産地規則が混乱する問題点を形容して使った言葉。2国間自由貿易協定(FTA)や地域貿易協定(RTA)の下、各協定で異なる優遇措置や原産地規則がボウルの中のスパゲティのように交錯し、切っても切れず、整理してもなお乱れている状況を指す。

*訳注 リショアリング(Reshoring):製造部門などで、海外に移した生産拠点を再び自国内に戻すこと。

inserted by FC2 system