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Susan Smith-Harmon

Susan Smith-Harmon

   WASHINGTON (AP) — Ever since Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 disappeared, a fascinated public has asked: Why can somebody in the cockpit shut of the transponder?
   It turns out there are several legitimate reasons why a pilot might want to shut off this key form of communication that allows air traffic controllers to identify and track airplanes.
   Authorities believe that Flight 370's transponder was intentionally shut off, delaying search and rescue efforts and helping to conceal the plane's location — a mystery unsolved more than 10 days after the Boeing 777 vanished.
   It's rare for a pilot to turn off a transponder during flight, but occasionally there is cause.
   — Sometimes a transponder malfunctions, giving out incorrect readings.
   — The device could have an electrical short or catch on fire. Pilots would want to shut it down rather than risk a fire spreading to the rest of the cockpit or airplane.
   — Pilots used to routinely turn off transponders on the ground at airports so as not to overwhelm air traffic controllers with so many signals in one location. That is increasingly less the case as pilots now use "moving map" displays that take the transponder data and show them the location of other planes on the ground, helping guide them around airports without mishaps.
   "As long as there are pilots, they'll be able to switch off systems," said Andrew Thomas, editor-in-chief of the Journal of Transportation Security.
   Airplanes have two transponders. There are two knobs in the cockpit — one on the right, the other on the left — that control one or the other. When one transponder is on, the other is normally in standby mode.
   To turn off a transponder, a pilot turns a knob with multiple positions and selects the "off" setting. The second transponder doesn't automatically activate if the first one is shut down — a knob would also have to be turned. In this case, it appears one transponder was turned off, and the second not activated.
   Ross Aimer, a retired United Airlines pilot and former 777 instructor, said it is possible that one pilot could reach up and turn off the transponder without the other pilot seeing it, say if one was looking away or distracted.
   If the plane was in contact with an air traffic controller, the controller would alert the pilots that the transponder signal had been lost. But, Aimer — now head of Aero Consulting Experts — said, if they were not in contact with an air traffic controller, a pilot might miss it if the other shut down the transponder.
   In the case of the missing Malaysian plane, even pilots are a bit puzzled by somebody turning off the transponder.
   John Gadzinski, a Boeing 737 captain, said that among fellow pilots "there is a raised eyebrow like Spock on 'Star Trek' — you just sit there and go, 'why would anybody do that?'"

   The St. Louis County Library System will go ahead with plans to tear down two older library buildings and replace them with new structures despite recent opposition.  

   About 100 people attended the Board of Trustees meeting Monday, many pleading with board members to spare the buildings that house Lewis and Clark branch in Moline Acres and the Tesson Ferry library in Green Park.  Preservationists pleaded to save the modern architecture and stained-glass windows of the Frederick Dunn designed Lewis and Clark branch.  It's slated to be razed and replaced with a $6.2 million building with more space for computers and technology.  

   The Tesson Ferry branch on Lin-Ferry Drive will be replaced by a new $16 million structure on Musick Road, across from Grant's Farm.  

   Despite the opposition, Director Kristen Sorth tells the St. Louis Post-Dispatch the library is moving forward with its plans.

Illinois primary Tuesday

Tuesday, 18 March 2014 02:10 Published in Around Town

   Illinois voters are going to the polls Tuesday to choose a Republican challenger to Democratic Governor Pat Quinn.  Billionaire businessman Bruce Rauner is leading in the polls and fundraising heading into today's primary election against state Treasurer Dan Rutherford and state Senators Bill Brady and Kirk Dillard.  

   The race has drawn intense interest from labor unions after Rauner said he would model his governorship after Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who championed anti-union legislation.  Dillard is seen by many as the more union-friendly alternative.

   Quinn isn't unchallenged for the Democratic nomination.  He's expected to win his party's primary over the lesser-known political activist Tio Hardiman.

   Besides nominees for Governor, voters will also choose party candidates for U.S. Senator, Lieutenant Governor, State Attorney General, Secretary of State, Comptroller, Treasurer, U.S. House members - All 18 Districts, State Senators in 19 districts, State Representatives in all 118 districts along with several judgeships, county and regional officials.   

   Polls are open from 6:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m.   

 

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