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The Almighty Buck Transportation Technology

Most Expensive Aviation Search: $53 Million To Find Flight MH370 233

Posted by timothy
from the what's-the-right-amount-to-spend? dept.
mdsolar (1045926) writes "The search and investigation into missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 is already the most expensive in aviation history, figures released to Fairfax Media suggest. The snippets of costings provide only a small snapshot but the $US50 million ($54 million) spent on the two-year probe into Air France Flight 447 — the previous record — appears to have been easily surpassed after just four weeks.... The biggest expense in the search has involved ships, satellites, planes and submarines deployed first in the South China Sea and the Malacca Straits, and then in the remote reaches of the southern Indian Ocean."
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Most Expensive Aviation Search: $53 Million To Find Flight MH370

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  • It's worth it. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ScentCone (795499) on Friday April 04, 2014 @09:09PM (#46666879)
    Understanding what happened could be worth a lot more than $50m, or twice that.

    Major issue with the airframe, or propulsion? Very important to understand that. There are a lot more of them flying around.

    A third party's influence and/or an attempt to steal the plane? Whether that ended in a crash or a successful theft, we need to know everything we can about who, what, why, to what end. If it was stolen and landed (extremely, very unlikely), gotta know where and why. If it went in the drink during an attempt, still have to understand what the game plan was.

    Suicide? Hiding in regular traffic, then flying low and into the most remote, deepest water possible in the interests of never finding the plane - the better to make sure family collects on insurance money? Would be good to know, and will remind airlines to get harder about knowing their pilots and the pilots' current circumstances.

    Regardless, the navy assets out looking are using the whole thing as an excellent training exercise. Lots of smart people have had to whip up new ways to think about what happened, using only traces of satellite/comms data.
  • Re:But Terrizm! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by noh8rz10 (2716597) on Friday April 04, 2014 @09:12PM (#46666897)

    the only explanation that makes sense to me is okham's racer: plane was flying to beijing, a fire broke out or depressurization in the cabin or hold. pilot turned around to go back to the nearest airport, but they ran out of oxygen and it became a ghost ship on autopilot until it ran out of fuel in the indian ocean. the altitude changes is consistent with a fire because apparently one way to fight a fire on an airplane is to go really high where there is less oxygen.

  • Re:Tracking` (Score:4, Insightful)

    by R3d M3rcury (871886) on Friday April 04, 2014 @09:22PM (#46666945) Journal

    First, I don't imagine that Malaysia Air is paying that $50,000,000. Malaysia Air is out the cost of a Boeing 777 and probably some death benefits. But I'm sure those things are insured. On the other hand, Malaysia Air would have to pay for this tracking system.

    Second, I'd point out that the last big "disappearance" (i.e., nobody immediately knew where it crashed) was in 2009--five years ago. And it's not like it's that common that airplanes crash and are not found within a few days. So you're spending money on the off chance that an airplane of yours crashes somewhere difficult to find. You'll probably spend that money for 50 years before you ever take advantage of the system. So, yeah, it's not really worth it to Malaysia Air.

    Third, let's say you add the trackers. You spend the money year in and year out and, eventually, it comes in handy. So what? You can look and say, "Yup! The plane just crashed in the middle of the Indian Ocean!" Now what? You're still out the plane. You're probably not going to have much for survivors on a plane that crashes in the middle of the Indian Ocean. It's not going to make a difference in your insurance premiums. You're adding costs for basically no benefit.

  • Why the search? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by AndyCanfield (700565) <andycanfieldNO@SPAMyandex.com> on Friday April 04, 2014 @09:24PM (#46666951) Homepage

    Look, yes. But why are 'they' spending more money for one downed airplane than the airplane costs originally? Why the fortune in searching? Why the massive ongoing search? Why is every government in a panic?

    I suspect that aurhorities fear a nefarious actor, and they want to find out exactly who did what so we can make sure it doesn't happen again. What if the air transport regulators never find out what brought the MH370 down, but Al-qaeda knows already?

  • by SuperKendall (25149) on Friday April 04, 2014 @09:33PM (#46666999)

    Fire is a really, really REALLY answer to this mystery. It requires a fire powerful enough to disable communications minutes after they finished speaking for the last time, while at the same time avoid detection by a multitude of fire/smoke detectos around the plane.

    Then after the fire finishes off every single person on the plane, it decides to chill out for seven hours while the plane flays without issue, despite that having happened with no serious airplane fire ever.

    It's nice that you have an active enough imagination to believe in this mystical all-powerful sky fire, but to me it's vastly more convoluted to have fire be responsible do to the seriously amazing number of things to have to go right (or wrong) for that to work. Either suicide or terrorists taking the plane is FAR more likely if you are going to apply a test of simplicity.

  • Re:Tracking` (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Savage-Rabbit (308260) on Friday April 04, 2014 @09:53PM (#46667127)

    And yet, people stated that "it would be soooo expensive" to add proper tracking to planes.

    It is. As a manufacturer you have to machete your way through a jungle of red tape, get all manner of safety assessments etc. to even be allowed to install the ADSC-B/C equipment [wikipedia.org] on the aircraft. This is very time consuming and expensive, which is one reason why all aircraft avionics and generally anything that goes into an aircraft is by definition obscenely expensive to buy (right down to LCD screens and coffee makers) and why old airliner designs get reworked (it's a smaller bureaucratic workload to get a new variant of an existing design flying than a totally new design). If this seems like dumb bureaucracy keep in mind that aircraft have been lost to crappy installation of retrofitted electronics (a good example being Swissair Flight 111 [wikipedia.org]). To install the equipment your airline has to ground the aircraft for at least a week (installation costs and lost revenue). Depending on the type of aircraft you operate and its age there may not even have been provision for the ADSC-B/C equipment which means airframe modifications and more downtime (yet more lost revenue and expenses) followed by more certifications and inspections. On top of that different ATC areas sometimes require you to have different equipment. Even simple stuff like software upgrades only happen at a glacial pace so if you think that fixing a simple software bug on an airliner is as simple as downloading an install package from the support section of the Boeing/Airbus website, uploading it to your USB stick, plugging it into a USB socket in the dashboard of your Boeing 777 airliner and selecting "Update firmware" on the FMS screen you have another thing coming. Airliners are one of the safest modes of transportation but that comes at a cost in time and money.

  • Re:But Terrizm! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Giant Electronic Bra (1229876) on Friday April 04, 2014 @10:32PM (#46667303)

    You don't turn around, you vector for the nearest runway long enough to stop on and scream for help! There wasn't so much as a single SOS from this aircraft, yet it made several turns and altitude changes, which wouldn't happen with an aircraft that was flying uncontrolled. It just doesn't really add up. Its also VERY unlikely a 777 would continue to fly at all after electrical system damage so extensive that its ACARS, transponder, and all radio systems failed and the flight crew was either killed or completely unable to enter the cockpit. That would require quite a weird and selective type of damage.

    How about a hack? Software could do all of that stuff and is a lot more believable than a fire...

  • by Max_W (812974) on Friday April 04, 2014 @11:34PM (#46667527)
    Why about 100 foam plastic balls of orange color with a plastic orange flag and LED light (blinking for 3-4 months after contact with water) cannot be placed inside the fuselage on an aircraft which costs hundreds of millions?

    The size could be of a tennis ball, an additional weight and cost almost zero.
  • most expensive? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by the_Bionic_lemming (446569) on Saturday April 05, 2014 @12:32AM (#46667695)

    What would the Amelia Earhart' search cost in today's dollars when you factor in all of the historic effort?

    20 years from now, if a jet goes missing, it'll be the most expensive search in history.

    The same as if another massive Hurricane hits in a populated area 20 years from now It will be the most expensive in history.

    Heck, if inflation keeps up, 70 years from now if a factory burns down, the cost will dwarf the famous chicago fire simply because the reporters will be intellectually dishonest and just make sure that the cost will lack any simple comparison of monetary value and effort over a period of time.

  • by Overzeetop (214511) on Saturday April 05, 2014 @12:13PM (#46670607) Journal

    Great idea...and it's already been tested an priced. Just $60,000 per aircraft for a known-working system.

    With roughly 31,000 commercial passenger aircraft in use, that's about 1,800,000,000 (1.8 Billion) dollars to equip. You could mount searches for 35 lost planes for that money, and a plane goes missing (of this magnitude) once every 3-4 years. So about a 120-150 year payback period, or about 3-4x the life span of the aircraft in question.

With all the fancy scientists in the world, why can't they just once build a nuclear balm?

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