The black box is not really black

KUALA LUMPUR: It has been exactly two weeks today that we have been looking high and low for the missing Boeing 777-200 aircraft. Flight MH 370 is the code that has been used in almost all common conversations in our daily life for the past fourteen days. (Even my 18-months-old son can utter three-seven-oh, but he can’t say mummy- yet).

For the past two weeks, I have been quite popular, answering calls from friends and families seeking for leads and the slightest clue on the poor aircraft. But what do I know aside from the things that the whole world knows? But at least I now know that the black box is not actually black (thanks Adilah). It was previously black but now it is orange. A black box is a flight management system and it tells us ALL that had happened on a flight. And that is why it is very crucial that we find it.
Black box

For a journalist and TV producer like me, whose inclination is (obviously) towards lifestyle and fashion and design, I have to admit that I am a bimbo when it comes to technicality.

But really, my 'curiosity kills the cat' attitude helps me get by, filtering what i wish and want to learn. And so, I can’t help but learning the aviation jargon. To me, every day is about learning and understanding - even if it isn't my niche.
So, if you are like me, here is a primer on the 10 things or aviation jargons that have been overly used in press conference and in the media that will help you understand the situation better.

1) ATC – Air Traffic Control is a service provided by ground-based controllers who direct aircraft on the ground and through controlled airspace, and can provide advisory services to aircraft in non-controlled airspace with purpose to prevent collisions, organize and expedite the flow of traffic, and provide information and other support for pilots. Air traffic controllers are people trained with highly specialized knowledge, skills, and abilities to maintain the safe, orderly and expeditious flow of air traffic in the global air traffic control system.

2) Ping - A protocol that sends a message to another computer and waits for acknowledgment, often used to check if another computer on a network is reachable.

3) Transponder - a radio transmitter in the cockpit that works with ground radar. It emits an identifying signal in response to an interrogating received signal. When the transponder receives a signal from the secondary radar, it returns a four digit identifying cod or squawk code, which helps air traffic control to recognize each plane with its position and altitude. It is constantly being radar pinged, helping air traffic controllers on the ground determine the airplane's speed and direction, too.


4) Primary radar - a pulsed beam of ultrahigh frequency radio waves that blips in a circle from a rotating aerial. If the radar beam 'illuminates' an object, some of the energy is reflected back. How much an object reflects depends on its size, shape and material. The bigger the object is, the bigger the reflection. 

5) Secondary radar – Secondary Surveillance Radar (SSR) is a radar system used in ATC, that not only detects and measures the position of aircraft i.e. range and bearing, but also requests additional information from the aircraft itself such as its identity and altitude. Unlike primary radar systems that measure only the range and bearing of targets by detecting reflected radio signals, SSR relies on targets equipped with a radar transponder that replies to each interrogation signal by transmitting a response containing encoded data.

6) ACARS – (pronounced ay-karz) is Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System, a digital data link system for transmission of short, relatively simple messages between aircraft and ground stations via radio or satellite.

7) ATB – is short for Air Turn Back which means the return of an aircraft to air port origin as a result of suspected malfunction or simply when an aircraft made a U-turn.

8) Southern Corridor – areas stretching approximately from Indonesia to the Southern Indian Ocean

9) Northern Corridor – areas stretching approximately from the border of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan to northern Thailand.

10) Way points - sets of coordinates that identify a point in physical space. Coordinates used can vary depending on the application. These coordinates can include longitude and latitude as well as altitude for air navigation. A way point is a reference point in physical space used for purposes of navigation.

This writer continues praying for the missing flight MH370 and wishes for nothing but the best for all family members of the passengers on board.