March 19, 2014
Aircraft expert Ian Black previously worked as a fighter weapons instructor for the Malaysian Air Force, and is the author of two Haynes Manuals for aircraft, the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom Manual and the RAF Tornado Manual. He flew the Tornado ADV in the first Gulf War and over Kosovo. He is now an A340 Airbus captain with Virgin Atlantic.
Could the aircraft have been ‘swapped’ mid-air?
Generally air traffic radars use something called a “Squawk” code – this is 4 digits, say ‘1234’ – that is then used to transmit information to the ground radar of the aircraft’s position and other relevant detail. This is very easily disabled – it is operated with a simple on/off switch. The Boeing 777 has two separate systems for safety in the event of failure.
There is another angle which I think might be a possibility that the MH370 switched codes. If MH370 had a code of, say 4376, then it would be pretty easy to get another aircraft, say a Gulfstream 5 private jet, to fly up behind it and swap codes. The Gulfstream sets its squawk code to the same as MH370’s code of 4376 then the B777 takes on the Gulfstream’s code, and they then split… It would certainly make it easier for the B777 to continue on undetected.
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