Lack of Cellphone Use Baffles Officials Seeking Missing Jet

Monday, 17 Mar 2014 08:57 PM

By Jason Devaney

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With the fate of the missing Malaysia Airlines plane still unknown, all possibilities are still being considered. But there is one big question looming: Why didn't any of the passengers or flight attendants attempt to call loved ones on the ground with their cellphones?

Up to this point, investigators have not been able to find any phone calls, emails or social media postings that originated from the missing plane.

The New York Times quotes Malaysia Airlines chief executive Ahmad Jauhari Yahya as saying there hasn't been any evidence of communications from the plane, "but anyway, they are still checking and there are millions of records for them to process."

Passengers on the hijacked flights during the 9/11 terrorist attacks called loved ones using cellphones. In the more than 12 years since that day, technology has moved forward at a tremendous rate. A 2012 report said that three-quarters of the world's population has access to a cellphone.

So if, as the data suggests, the plane continued to fly for several hours after it lost contact with ground radar, why didn't anyone try to make a call? Or post a message on Twitter or China's micro-blogging site Weibo?

There are a number of plausible reasons, according to the Times story. For one, whoever was in control of the airplane could have depressurized the cabin, which would have rendered the passengers unconscious. Death would have followed.

There is evidence the plane climbed to 45,000 feet shortly after losing contact with ground radar. In a depressurized cabin, the Times report says a person would slip into unconsciousness within seconds at that altitude.

Or perhaps the plane was flying at too high of an altitude for cellphones to acquire a signal. But there are other reports that say the plane was flying very low — at around 5,000 feet.

Another question pertains to the 10 satellite phones that were in the airplane's business class section. Why didn't anyone use them? One theory, according to the Times report, is that someone could have disabled the in-flight entertainment system. If that goes down, so do the satellite phones.

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