UPDATED 1/29/16: Here’s an image from Victor Iannello showing how EY440 diverted from its normal flight path about two minutes after takeoff on January 7, when it was still climbing and at an altitude of 5000 feet:
Just to clear up any potential confusion, it seems most likely that this incident does not have anything to do with MH370, but it’s very interesting in its own right. What is the dynamic at work here? Is it part of a trend? If so, does it potentially represent a system-wide vulnerability?
Here’s another image from Victor showing the plane’s continued path over Malay Peninsula. He writes: “I re-examined the FlightAware ADS-B data and noticed that there is a gap starting at BIBAN and ending at Kota Bharu. The FlightRadar24 coverage looks more comprehensive than the FlightAware data, especially in the South China Sea (SCS). I have re-plotted the flight path such that each underlying FlightAware data point is shown, and estimated the path in the SCS from the FlightRadar24 video. The path does indeed seem to follow airways across the SCS. (It would be helpful to have the underlying FR24 data.) The route seems to be ANHOA-L637-BIBAN-L637-BITOD-M765-IGARI-M765-Kota Bharu-B219-Penang-G468-GUNIP-HOLD-Langkawi-B579-Phuket.”
The case of missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 is an incredible strange one, as we all know. But what only the true obsessives know is that orbiting around the giant mystery is an Oort Cloud of lesser enigmas. I’d like to briefly diverge from this blog’s main line of inquiry to cast a glance at some of these issues.
My first installment concerns Etihad Airways Flight 440, which took off on January 7 for Ho Chi Minh City bound for Abu Dhabi. Scheduled to depart at 20:10 UTC, it actually left 13 minutes early. Then, instead of flying along its normal route, to the northwest, it flew almost due south, crossed waypoint IGARI, then flew along the Thai/Malaysia border to the Malacca Straits, where it flew in circles for an hour before finally heading off in the direction of Abu Dhabi. By this point, however, the plane no longer had the fuel to reach Abu Dhabi, so it stopped to refuel in Bombay and reached its destination many hours late, leaving some passengers irate. (Special thanks to reader @Sajid UK for bringing this to our collective attention via the comment section.)
This is all very strange, but what makes it interesting to the MH370 crowd is the fact that a portion of its bizarre route was an exact match with that taken by the Malaysian 777 when it initially took a runner. Had EY440 been taking part in some kind of experiment to recreate MH370’s route, perhaps to get a better understanding of the Inmarsat data or the radar data?
We may never know. Katie Connell, who heads up Etihad’s media relations for North America, was very friendly when I called her and asked her what had happened. She said she’d check with her colleagues at the head office in Abu Dhabi. “It was simply a scheduling decision by ops that was later adjusted,” she wrote me in a text earlier today. I wrote back, asking if her contacts had been able to explain why the plane had flown south instead of northwest, and why it had flown a holding pattern over the Malacca Strait. She answered: “No; I did not get into that level of detail. I go with what my folks said.”
So there you have it. Make of it what you will. Read the rest of this entry »