a reply to: Layaly
I assume you are referring to the (3) calls made from AA77 which crashed into the Pentagon.
This was a little bit of a unique case, but equally an excellent example of some of the points I made earlier. AA77 flew at very low altitudes for
quite a while before the crash. This enabled the calls to be made when ordinarily they would be impossible. The 1st call, the 'May call' (made at
0912L) was placed by flight attendant Renee May to her mother. The call lasted 2 minutes. The 2nd (2) calls, the 'Olson calls' were made by
passenger Barbara Olson at 0916L and at 0922L. The first of these two calls was cut short after one minute, and the second was cut short after 4
minutes. Both of these cut offs were likely due to loss of cell coverage even at low altitude. AA77 impacted the Pentagon at 0937L just 15 minutes
later. Numerous witnesses on the ground reported AA77 passing very low overhead before the crash.
So, yes, some calls are possible under certain circumstances, but even in this instance there were coverage issues. Commercial airliners rarely
travel any distance at very low altitudes. As a pilot, altitude is your friend, but more importantly regulations and economics drive getting to
cruise altitude as quickly as possible. In this respect the flight of AA77 was different and unique making limited cellular phone comms possible.
MH370 was neither low nor over a populated area (it was over water) when the initial events unfolded, so there's a big difference.
Regarding the use of in-seat phones; first off they are rather conspicuous, a bad guy could easily see a passenger attempting to use one. Second,
they aren't particularly easy to use (i.e. swipe your credit card, wait, place the call, wait, etc.) And further, not all aircraft are equipped with
them. I don't know if MH370 was equipped accordingly. Many long range over water aircraft are not so equipped because they are essentially useless
(and one more thing to maintain). In fact, many airlines have phased them out completely because they are expensive and no one uses them, so it's
just something else to break. Their main use was as toys for children who are notoriously hard on objects such as these. Once broken they leave a an
unsightly blight in the seat-back which makes for bad publicity and image for the airline. Image is very important, especially in aviation, hence
their removal from many aircraft.
Your questions are good ones, but I believe there are satisfactory explanations for both scenarios in the case of MH370.
One other data point; many people have questioned why passengers aboard MH370 still had working voice mail after the incident (as if their phone was
still on). There is an easy explanation for this. In the early years of cell phones if the cell phone was out of range callers would hear something
to the effect of "the phone you have called is outside the coverage area, please try again later"
. For cell phone companies this message was
kind of bad publicity telegraphing coverage gaps in their system, so they moved away from this. In it's place they have centrally hosted the
customers voice mailbox on equipment which is at a fixed location (i.e. in a central office like facility). Consequently, anyone who calls a out of
range cell phone will be vectored immediately to the cell phone's voice mailbox account to leave a message. The cell phone it self could be simply
out of range, or it could be smashed into tiny pieces at the bottom of an ocean and it would make no difference...the call would still go to voice
mail. So there's definitely no conspiracy here.