Questions about SAR in light of MH370

Profile picture for user Mostlyharmless

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12 years 4 months

Posts: 196

A couple of questions spring to mind, they might have very simple answers but I wondered if anyone could fill me in. Firstly would it not have been more effective and efficient to have airborne refuelling assisting the search rather than only getting an hour on station and then having to travel hours back to base each time? Secondly the aircraft have spotted debris of some sort today but have now got to return home and hope a ship can re-find it on Saturday. Is there nothing that could have been dropped into the debris field to help guide the ships? At least it would move with the currents unlike a gps fix. Thirdly would this kind of thing not benefit from a seaplane SAR that could actually land (in appropriate conditions) so that things could be collected? Sadly not the case this time but if survivors were in the sea I'd imagine it would be a bit disappointing to see the Orion heading off for home again.
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13 years 5 months

Posts: 784

A couple of questions spring to mind, they might have very simple answers but I wondered if anyone could fill me in. Firstly would it not have been more effective and efficient to have airborne refuelling assisting the search rather than only getting an hour on station and then having to travel hours back to base each time? Secondly the aircraft have spotted debris of some sort today but have now got to return home and hope a ship can re-find it on Saturday. Is there nothing that could have been dropped into the debris field to help guide the ships? At least it would move with the currents unlike a gps fix. Thirdly would this kind of thing not benefit from a seaplane SAR that could actually land (in appropriate conditions) so that things could be collected? Sadly not the case this time but if survivors were in the sea I'd imagine it would be a bit disappointing to see the Orion heading off for home again.
Ahh... the aircraft mostly involved here of the coast of Australia are the P-3 Orion, which cant be refuelled air to air.... Next the Chinese have two IL-76 here.... and did not bring a tanker with them. They are dropping beacons/ smoke markers to assist in marking items as well as passing on the GPS info. There are also civilian aircraft involved. Its a big ocean out there and unless you have ever done a sea search you wont understand just how difficult it is to actually see something (I have done about 12 many yrs ago, as far as 500km offshore) As for a seaplane? What seaplane out there has a 2500km range?? Not to mention that conditions are not smooth and would be extremely difficult to land. There are several ships both naval and civilian in the area as well. They have only been there a week and given that the plane went missing over 2 weeks now (?) there would be little chance of finding any survivors given the ocean conditions should a successful ditching had occurred, which it would not have (again this area they are looking at now is not nice)

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11 years 7 months

Posts: 353

A couple of questions spring to mind, they might have very simple answers but I wondered if anyone could fill me in. Firstly would it not have been more effective and efficient to have airborne refuelling assisting the search rather than only getting an hour on station and then having to travel hours back to base each time? Secondly the aircraft have spotted debris of some sort today but have now got to return home and hope a ship can re-find it on Saturday. Is there nothing that could have been dropped into the debris field to help guide the ships? At least it would move with the currents unlike a gps fix. Thirdly would this kind of thing not benefit from a seaplane SAR that could actually land (in appropriate conditions) so that things could be collected? Sadly not the case this time but if survivors were in the sea I'd imagine it would be a bit disappointing to see the Orion heading off for home again.
Harmless, most of the aircraft involved in the search are not equipped to recieve fuel while airborne. For aircraft to recieve fuel they must be either equipped with a refueling probe (probe and drogue refueling) or with a recieving recepticle (boom type refueling). The P-3 Orion is not equipped with either system. This is not just a simple bolt on modification, although the UK came up with some quick solutions in the Falklands war. The new P-8 Poseidon from the USA is equipped to recieve fuel from a boom equipped tanker, but perhaps only one of the P-8's was/is involved. Some C-130's can recieve fuel. None of the smaller aircraft involved can recieve fuel while airborne. Aircraft can drop data marker buoys. These are routinely used in SAR efforts. They can be dropped and easily found again by ships or aircraft by a signal they emit. The signal will last days/weeks. If an aircraft spots something of interest they can drop the bouy so they refind the position. They are designed to drift as would a survivor or debris in the water. One type here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-locating_datum_marker_buoy Yes an seaplane might be useful, but in practice the need for the aircraft to actually land and pick up survivors is very rare. In most cases of long range SAR, an aircraft can be used for the search part, and then vector other assets to conduct the rescue. They can also drop rafts and supplies to survivors in the water. Seaplanes are a huge compromise in design, being heavier, having more drag and more costly than land based aircraft. From the images I have seen from surface ships, the sea state would likely not allow landing. Only the Japanese and Russians still have large seaplanes/amphibious capability. Unsure if any are being used for this case. Several other countries have medium and small ampbibious capability, mostly for firefighting.
Profile picture for user Jonesy

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19 years 9 months

Posts: 4,875

Couple of good vid clips on this page: http://www.businessinsider.com/these-incredible-videos-show-how-hard-searching-is-in-the-southern-ocean-2014-3 ...that would give you an idea of the challenges involved in trying to set down a flying boat down in the southern ocean. The second clip, of the Aurora Australis, shows the conditions actually on a good day albeit with a stern quartering sea by the looks!. I heard one radio piece that they were reporting 17m wave heights in the rough target area a few days a go. I have to admit my first thought was for the lads on HMS Echo, at 'just' 90m not a perfectly optimised hull to be coping with those conditions, who were heading for the area.
Profile picture for user Mostlyharmless

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12 years 4 months

Posts: 196

Cheers for the replies and information, that explains a lot. I should have checked about the P3, I'd always just assumed they were equipped for refuelling like the MR2s had been for the RAF. I've nothing but admiration for the majority of the work being done out there, I've not been able to find car keys in a fruit bowl before now so the task they have is beyond comprehension for most people. Thanks for the videos too, conditions look awful and I'm sure visibility is equally poor.