The coordinated search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight 370 has highlighted some interesting facts about airplanes, flying, and the world in general. Here are 10 of the 16 facts ABC News has compiled:

  • Some parts of the Indian Ocean can reach 25,000 feet deep. That’s 20 times the height of the Empire State Building, which measures 1,250 feet tall.
  • Brain death can occur at 45,000 feet in the air. Airplane oxygen masks can only provide about 10 to 15 minutes of air for passengers, which is more than enough time for a pilot to return a plane to lower altitude.
  • Interpol introduced a worldwide database of lost or stolen passports, which has details of more than 40 million stolen or lost travel documents (passports, identity documents, visas) from 167 countries. The only countries that regularly check travelers against the database are the United Arab Emirates, the U.S., Britain, France and Switzerland according to Interpol officials.
  • Intense focus has been placed on finding the plane’s black boxes, consisting of a cockpit voice recorder and a flight data recorder. Both are bright orange and each about the size of a coffee maker. Searchers only have about 30 days to find the boxes before the box stops pinging, making it much more difficult to locate. Even after the pinging stops, the batteries last for years and the data should be intact.
  • The flight data recorder will detail the last 25 hours of the plane’s activity, from engine performance to the position of flight control surfaces, while the cockpit voice recorder tapes the sounds on the flight deck and cycles after two hours.
  • Both cockpit voice and flight data recorders work to an ocean depth of 20,000 feet, with a signal range of about 2 nautical miles, depending on variables like sea conditions. The signals are located using a device operated on the surface of the water or towed to a depth. The deeper the water the more difficult it will be to detect the pings.
  • Flying is still one of the safest methods of transportation. On average, travelers would need to take one flight a day for about 10,000 years before they would involved in a fatal crash.
  • The European Transport Safety Council (ETSC) estimates 90 percent of aircraft accidents worldwide are survivable.
  • The best option to maximize your chances of walking away from a plane crash is to sit in the rear end of the plane. One study found those sitting near the plane’s tail are 40 percent likelier to survive than those in the first few rows.
  • The search is taking place in an extremely remote part of the Indian Ocean between Australia and the Antarctic known as the “roaring forties” for its sharp westerly winds and rough waters.

Check out the remainder of the list of 16 interesting facts from ABC News here.

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JustSaying March 24, 2014 - 7:46 pm

Just curious if we have such great satellite technology why the black box function would not move to a satellite system that would “always” be there waiting to be pulled………seems like a lot of money is spent searching when upfront investment of technology seems better…..or does the technology not exist?

CarpeDingo March 25, 2014 - 8:11 am

…and @Mwwalk…

There was a lengthy discussion about this on another site, the name of which escapes me now (, maybe?). Anyway, the result of it was that the amount of planes in the air at any one time and the total amount of data that would need to be transmitted would be prohibitively costly as satellite time isn’t free; in fact it can be quite costly. Plus, all planes would have to be outfitted with a new system that transmitted that data. This would include rewiring all planes, writing new code/programs that would transmit the data, etc. It’s not as simple as “just reroute data paths to transmit black box and CVR info to the satellites.” We’re talking millions of dollars per fleet of aircraft. Unless there’s some sort of int’l mandate that would require it, I’m not sure we’ll see any change in the near future.

Mwwalk March 25, 2014 - 3:32 am

I’m pretty sure the technology exists and could cost less than the black box units which are really expensive. They’d probably still have to have a black box though.


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