Malaysian plane has wheels that can help it to land on a shorter, softer runway

  • Saptarshi Banerjee, Hindustan Times, Kolkata
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  • Updated: Mar 16, 2014 15:00 IST

The Malaysian Airlines plane that disappeared on March 8 has a set of wheels that enables it to land on a softer surface and a shorter runway than those used in international and domestic airports, aviation professionals told HT on Saturday.

If the indication of the Malaysian Prime Minister that the plane was possibly hijacked is true, the type of the wheels that the aircraft was equipped with might just help in landing it in locations other than regular airports.

The aircraft, a Boeing 777-200, has Bogey wheels, a combination that helps landing on weaker and shorter runways.

Pilots and engineers familiar with this model of aircraft told HT that in this plane the main landing gear (rear wheels in other words) have six wheels on each side, making it 12 in total.

Bogey wheels also help these aircraft to land on softer surfaces. The logic is simple: the weight of the aircraft at touch down gets distributed over 12 wheels instead of four or two wheels featured in many models.

“This configuration helps big aircraft to land safely and takeoff from a short strip. If the hijackers indeed took control of the plane they could have landed it safely somewhere,” said captain Sarvesh Gupta, chairman of Airport Operators Committee (AOC) at Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International (NSCBI) airport in Kolkata.

Not all aircraft has bogey wheels, an Air India commander told HT. “But generally big aircraft such as the one in the news has bogey wheels,” said the Air India commander on condition of anonymity.

“This generation of aircraft are so advanced that there is virtually no need for any external aid to fly them. The entire operation - to determine where it will go and cruise at what heights - can be executed with aids inside the aircraft,” captain Sarvesh Gupta said. “Perhaps they had carried out a dry run also,” he said.

“The aircraft could not have disintegrated since a short reply was received sometime after the aircraft went missing. In addition, we cannot also come to the conclusion that the plane crashed on something, hit the waters or land because, in that case, the emergency locator transmitter (ELT) fitted in the plane would transmitted a signal. The ELT only gets activated whenever the plane suffers an impact,” said Gupta.

“Therefore, there is a possibility that the plane landed safely as per plans,” captain Gupta said. He also said there are shadows (dark areas) and passing through these areas would ensure that no radar could detect the plane. Flying very low could also deceive radars at times, he said.

The maximum range of Boeing 777-200 aircraft is 5,240 nautical miles (9,700 km) and, therefore, the aircraft has the capacity to fly almost anywhere in the world. If we look at routes, then according to Boeing website, this particular aircraft type has the capacity to fly to Europe, West Asia, Africa and even Australia depending on the fuel the aircraft was carrying.


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