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Malaysian Airlines MH370 –The data breakdown

March 26, 2014
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Many questions arise when we talk about the Malaysian airlines MH370. The main focus has been on how technology can fail in such a fool proof highly tech. plane Boeing 777. There can be many reasons behind the technology fail. Let us analyse in a systematic manner how the event unfolds.

After more than a week since the accident, investigators remained uncertain about its whereabouts. There are many insights into what may have happened.

Malaysian Airlines MH370 wreckage (Source -

What we know: Nothing. "For the aircraft to go missing just like that ... as far as we are concerned, we are equally puzzled as well," Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, director general of the Malaysian Civil Aviation Department, said this week. The aircraft model in question, the Boeing 777-200ER, has an excellent safety record.

What we don't know: Until searchers find the plane and its voice and data recorders, it may be difficult to figure out what happened. CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen says the range of possible reasons behind the disappearance can be divided into three categories: mechanical failure, pilot actions and terrorism. But all we have are theories.

There are cases like this that have happened before.

It's rare, but not unprecedented, for a commercial airliner to disappear in midflight. In June 2009, Air France Flight 447 was en route from Rio de Janeiro to Paris when communications ended suddenly from the Airbus A330, another state-of-the-art aircraft, with 228 people on board.

One of the most storied and enduring legends of aviation history, ace pilot Amelia Earhartdisappeared in her twin-engine monoplane Electra over the Pacific Ocean in 1937 in an attempt to circumnavigate the globe.

A U.S. military flight left Guam in 1962 with more 90 personnel headed for the Philippines, but it never arrived. The pilots never issued a distress call, and 1,300 people involved in the U.S. military search never found any trace of wreckage.

It took more than 50 years to find any trace of the 11 people aboard a 1947 flight that disappeared in the Andes Mountains. A pair of Argentinean rock climbers discovered engine wreckage in the Andes in 1998.

Many of the disappearances have been linked to technical failures and data imbalances. We have made a clear tree chart of reason and we will try to derive reasoning for better understanding behind planes disappearing.

Possible Reasons for MH370 to Go Missing

In this case there was no call or message of ransom or any demands that was sent forward, so analysing the case we can eliminate acts of terrorism. The pilot that was in charge was a veteran 55 year old pilot that had more than 18,000 flight hours. So there is very little chance of a mistake on the part of the pilot.

Before we get into the details of the technology failure, we must know something about the technology used in a Boeing 777. The technology used in the plane is a range of high technology and basic technology components to work in all conditions and at very moment. The communications range from radios, responders, transistors and vfcs to high tech computer and network systems. The communications are configured in such a way to work in the worst of situations. There are instances of communications staying intact even in the worst of storms and in some occasions in the eye of the storm. So it is very obvious that a communications breakdown is not the reason behind the crash.

Talking about the data perspective, everything that is coded and inclined to run with the plane is data. From fuel processing to auto-pilot everything is binary data that is stored in the planes data drives and computers. So how is so much data stored and what is the data that is relevant in a plane?

Everything is controlled in binary

Everything a plane does and everything that it should follow is stored as binary data. The amount of fuel that must be pushed into the pistons, the blade speed, wing inclination, tail angle, everything is fed as binary data in the end.

Other high end functions like communications, systems, operators, GUI all use data. Other than this the flight route, records, black box data and flight history is also stored as data. So how does this affect the plane?

Well one small change in even one bit of data changes the entire system of the plane. One thing about binary data is that it is only understood by the computer systems which follow instruction without question. Any change in the binary codes will result in mass changes to the systems.

So what is it that might have happened?

The most trending reason that is widely been accepted is a fuel tank burst. At that altitude and speed a fuel tank burst should disintegrate the plane. This may be the reason why the plane wreck was not found. So how does a fuel tank malfunction? Again everything goes back to data. The binary code that controlled the fuel tank may have been tampered or changed due to mismanagement.

How do we manage huge data like in a plane?

Big Data: What it is!

Big data is the term for a collection of data sets so large and complex that it becomes difficult to process using on-hand database management tools or traditional data processing applications. The challenges include capture, curation, storage, search, sharing, transfer, analysis and visualization. The trend to larger data sets is due to the additional information derivable from analysis of a single large set of related data, as compared to separate smaller sets with the same total amount of data, allowing correlations to be found to "spot business trends, determine quality of research, prevent diseases, link legal citations, combat crime, manage flight processes and determine real-time roadway traffic conditions.

So how do we use and control big data?

Hadoop is a software framework for storing and processing Big Data. It is an open-source tool build on java platform and focuses on improved performance in terms of data processing on clusters of commodity hardware.

1. Hadoop comprises of multiple concepts and modules like HDFS, Map-Reduce, HBASE, PIG, HIVE, SQOOP and ZOOKEEPER to perform the easy and fast processing of huge data

2. Hadoop conceptually different from Relational databases and can process the high volume, high velocity and high variety of data to generate value

Controlling Big Data

Big data is also useful to a large number of other applications and people. It is useful in analytics, engineering, traffic simulation, IT/Software and much more. It is very beneficial career wise to be able to handle big data.


To learn more about big data click here

To read about other applications of big data click here.

To enrol for big data classes click here

Read more about the MH370 crash click here


About the Author

Roshan is a B.E (Hons.) from BITS Pilani and Director at BITSMUN society. Recently out of the student grid, he has good experience with current affairs and trends. He has worked with student bodies and organizations all over India and specializes in Model United Nations Emporiums.


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