Why Did Australia Change the Search Area?

This is happening late at night and will bear further discussion in the morning, but I wanted to get something up online quickly to explain the basic gist of the situation. A little over an hour ago, at 9.30pm EDT here in the US, the Australian government announced that it was abandoning the current search area and moving to a new one 11oo km to the northeast. The reason, they said, is:

The search area for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 has been updated after a new credible lead was provided to the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA)… The new information is based on continuing analysis of radar data between the South China Sea and the Strait of Malacca before radar contact was lost. It indicated that the aircraft was travelling faster than previously estimated, resulting in increased fuel usage and reducing the possible distance the aircraft travelled south into the Indian Ocean.

This explanation really doesn’t make any sense. I want to quickly explain why, and give some context of where all this is happening geographically.

First, here’s a very crude chart I’ve made on Google Earth showing  the old search area and the new search area (very roughly estimated). You’ll recall that earlier this week Inmarsat released an analysis of its “ping” data that plotted different routes the aircraft might have taken. The upshot was that if the plane was flying at 450 knots, it would have wound up at a spot on the 8.11am ping arc marked “450.” If it had flown at 400 knots, it would have wound up around the spot marked “400.” (click to enlarge)

new search area


As you can see, it appears that the old search area assumed a flying speed of a bit more than 450 knots, and the new search area assumes a flying speed of a bit more than 400 knots, with prevailing currents causing debris to drift to the southeast.

The shifting of the search area to the northeast would seem to stand at odds with the assertion of the press release, which implies that new radar analysis finds the plane was flying faster then originally estimated. In fact, it was flying slower than originally estimated.

At any rate, the abandoning of the old search area, after such significant assets had been lavished upon it, raises the question of why they were so confident about it that speed estimate in the first place. And then raises the obvious sequela: Why are they so confident in this one?

BTW, here’s that graphic from the Inmarsat, showing the 450 and 400 knot plots:

Screen Shot 2014-03-27 at 10.48.57 PM

445 thoughts on “Why Did Australia Change the Search Area?”

  1. @Littlefoot – Now that Cern is involved all bets are off! Now on side note… Bear in mind that my only physics experience is from highschool. So I was wondering about whether light had mass. I had come across the idea that black holes or other stellar phenomena could bend light. If that is true then light must have mass? Wait a second! If light has mass, then what does that do to calculations involving Einstein’s relativity? Light having mass travelling at the speed of light would have infinite mass. It doesn’t feel that heavy? Brain melts. Okay. Maybe gravity isn’t acting on the mass of light. Then what is gravity acting on that causes light to bend? Or it’s not gravity. Maybe some other force? Wait. No… That’ll bugger unified field theory… Brain is now an egg on a hot frying pan… I have it now! This mystery force is what has grabbed the plane. Call the Jedi because now it’s on!

  2. @littlefoot

    Anwar was sentenced to five years in prison at a hearing which took place hours before MH370 pushed back from the gate. There was some reporting that Zaharie actually attended this hearing — I am not sure if that has been proved or disproved. Here’s the Sydney Morning Herald’s story on the sentencing on March 7:


    Anwar has been jailed before, in what is evidently a long-running, politically-motivated corruption of the judicial process designed to keep the nepotistic oligarchs who rule Malaysia in power. He has held high office before, remains very popular, and his wife is a prominent politician, so there are some limits as to what the Najib, Hishammudin, et al can do to keep him down:


    I’m not really seeing a hard negotiation option in the pilot-did-it scenario. Malaysia may be a sham democracy (Zaharie certainly thought so), but it is not overtly a dictatorship. I doubt it would be presentable for Anwar to be pardoned by an edict from the PM’s office, never mind the optics of that being done in response to the seizure of a plane. However, violent political protests are typically carried out with the goal of extracting concessions from authorities, without necessarily being “transactional” in nature. That doesn’t work if the protest has no clear aim or motivation. At minimum, the targeted authority needs to know what action or change is being demanded.

  3. @littlefoot

    Anwar was sentenced to five years in prison at a hearing which took place hours before MH370 pushed back from the gate. There was some reporting that Zaharie actually attended this hearing — I am not sure if that has been proved or disproved. Here’s the Sydney Morning Herald’s story on the sentencing on March 7:


    Anwar has been jailed before, in what is evidently a politically-motivated corruption of the judicial process designed to keep the nepotistic oligarchs who rule Malaysia in power. He has held high office before, remains very popular, and his wife is a prominent politician, so there are some limits as to what Najib, Hishammuddin, et al can do to keep him down.

    I’m not really seeing a hard negotiation option in the pilot-did-it scenario. Malaysia may be a sham democracy (Zaharie certainly thought so), but it is not overtly a dictatorship. I doubt it would be presentable for Anwar to be pardoned by an edict from the PM’s office, never mind the optics of that being done in response to the seizure of a plane. However, violent acts of political protest are typically carried out with the aim of extracting concessions from authorities, without necessarily being “transactional” in nature. That doesn’t work if the protest has no clear aim or motivation. At minimum, the targeted authority needs to know what action or change is being demanded.

  4. @Luigi, I know all that about Anwar Ibrahim, and I’m with you, that the opposition leader probably would never agree to such a deal. But if you look at other plane abductions, or other abductions, for that matter, the demands made by the abductors, are for something a little more concrete than political freedom for the opposition, free press or something similar. If the pilot did it, because he wanted to bargain for something, IMO, it must be something, which can be done within a few hours; and he should at least have the illusion of being able to control the outcome. And keep in mind, to hatch a plan like that,one must probably be a bit irrational and not in one’s normal state of mind in the first place.
    I know, that Anwar Ibrahim’s trial was just a day, before the plane vanished, but that date has been known for a while, and the sentencing wasn’t a big surprise. But the freshness of it all, and a possibly unstable marriage situation,might’ve pushed the pilot over the edge, and induced him to do something desperate.Just imagine for a moment, he really demanded Anwar Ibrahim’s freedom, and the opposition leader refused to be set free on such terms, because it would hurt him more than it would help him, wouldn’t that provide a very strong motive for subsequent suicide? I don’t really believe, it has gone down quite like that. I just want to show, that one has to be in a pretty desperate state of mind to abduct a plane in the first place.
    @Gene, now my brain is fried, too, but light has no mass. It has particles (photons), but they’re buzzing around all the time and are considered massless, at least as far as resting mass is concerned. Light can be bent by mass, though… Maybe, that fries one’s brain even more….

  5. @Littlefoot (ladies first) sorry about the email address; will send tomorrow.

    @Chris Ships? Whose? Indeed, what the heck are they up to?

    @Gene Boy, you sure are getting a little punchy. Maybe you should take a break. No, better, keep it coming; we need something to tide us over for the next TEN YEARS. I hope you guys like to play cards online.

    @Luigi My profile of the Captain is largely built around your assertions, so don’t get wobbly on me now! But seriously, in my counseling practice (yep, the crazies are the shrinks), among the most vulnerable people are men newly estranged from either wives or their children. Men often feel that they are losing their families in a divorce, and it can often be very painful. I even had a case with an otherwise normally functioning client where he was having audible hallucinations due to sleep deprivation. Women are generally more resilient in the they are more community (as opposed to agency) oriented and have a broader and deeper network of friends and close family members. Anyway, my point is that the Captain could very well have been on edge. If his wife was leaving him because he had actually begun to go a bit looney, well, there you go.

    I stipulated a 1. a hostage situation; or 2. a weaponization of the aircraft. I recognize your struggle to find rationale for a reasonable hostage scenario, and I largely agree with you. On the other hand, it’s the same sort of intuitive feeling that I generally have in any hostage situation. I always want to tell the hostage takers: “You guys need to watch more movies. It will never work.”

    Could there be some other reason for a return to Malaysia? Something that only a lunatic would likewise do, yet a functional lunatic?

    Come on, GIVAL is on a base leg to an approach leg turn to KL and less than 30 minutes away. Short of turning 180 degrees back to KL, it was the shortest route back to the KL, situated on the Straights. Take your pick: 1. the northern arc and Shangrila…really? 2. the southern arc, with Nevernever Land as the destination; or 3. Malaysia. We look at a map and it appears to be a short distance to Xinjiang. Sitting in a fancy flying beer can, however, doing something your not supposed to be doing, must be incredibly stressful and would warrant a reasonably quick fulfillment of ones intentions.

    The destination for the diversion must have been Malaysia, but what had the pilot(s) intended to do with the aircraft?

    BTW, for all you diehard lovers of the norther arc, the place up in Xinjiang near Almaty that Duncan Steel has identified as a possible terminus for the flight is the locus of the East Turkestan separatist movement. In 1991 or thereabouts, I was up near there in Baren Xian (Baren County) in the wake of an fairly large anti-Chinese local takeover resulting in a more than nasty government crack down. The people there great fun, even if they don’t drink (they do smoke hash like drug fiends), but you don’t want to cross them, as they’ll simply rip your eyes of your head.

    Time for bed; I’m feeling a bit punchy myself.

  6. @Rand,

    Good morning. Whose ships? Australia and China by the looks of it on marine traffic.com

    My game’s Euchre by the way.

  7. @Littlefoot – Photons being massless, but having the ability to acted on by gravity or gravitational masses is cheating. It’s like having your cake and eating too. I won’t stand for it. Anyway, I am splitting gravity in two. There will now be strong and weak nuclear gravity. I don’t know how yet, but this will solve everything!

    Also are you proposing that the pilot may have had some sort of psychotic break or something?

    It occurred to me that in the case of the aircraft being commandeered that nobody tried or was able to break down the cockpit door over that six or seven hour period seems a little strange. Even it were heavy steel I would think something could have been used as a lever or battering ram to pop it open.

  8. @Gene, IF the captain abducted his own plane for whatever reason, in order to head North, South, or to hang out in his own backyard, something very strange must’ve been going on in his head, no? As Rand said: Even Hollywood could tell you, those schemes never work. But even, if he was completely delusional about the consequences of this action, that doesn’t mean, he couldn’t still be functioning on a high level in his own little domain, the cockpit.
    BTW, here is a highly amusing variation of the ‘crazy crew scenario’:
    That must be it: carbonmonoxyde poisoned the crew’s minds, and made them do all sorts of apparently devilishly intelligent things, which just by chance conspired to bring the plane to it’s final resting place in the ocean. The author doesn’t have the foggiest, how this devious gas got into the cabin, but nevertheless, that’s, how it must’ve happened 😉
    He has some interesting things to say, though, when he talks about the out-of-fuel-scenario, and how the plane would break up.
    Another thing: I just watched some youtube clips about the guys in CNN’s flight simulator, and those news, that the plane was flown like a fighter jet, must be greatly exaggerated: A B777 simply can’t do those things without breaking apart. So, if the plane climbed high, and then dropped it’s altitude quickly, it must have done so a little softer than this tidbit of news suggests. Or Malaysia’s primary radar was malfunctioning…
    Gene, I think, the photons don’t have any cake, but they’re eating it nevertheless!

  9. @Littlefoot – So would it be better to say that the captain was potentially in an altered state triggered by recent personal events?

    Imaginary cake eating protons sounds a little too much like Inmarsat’s super fantastic math…

    The air and surface search seems to be in hunt and peck mode again. This does not inspire a high degree of confidence.

  10. @Littlefoot – I think in general that large airliners exchange air with outside air fairly quickly and so I am not sure about carbon monoxide?

  11. Littlefoot I have been waiting for our resident Japanese Red Army expert to chime in – nice explanation of the captain’s state of mind and how he would have processed things. Luigi, there you have it: people can indeed become so overwrought with rage, shame or resentment that rationality is impaired. “I’ll show them…” would be words indicative of such a state.

  12. There are a couple of interesting reads in the comments on Jeff’s “About The Author” page by a Jim and a Tim. Opinions anyone?

    @Littlefoot – I forgot to mention that the rest of that article you cited was very interesting and plausible. That and I confused my protons and photons.

  13. Gene Thanks for pointed out the comments in the About the Author section.

    Tim has resorted to a bit of hyperbole and ventured quite far down the path of speculation, but if we stop at the fact that Malaysia was the destination and Malaysia has not been forthcoming, then we have a behavioral smoking gun implicating Malaysia at some level. Again, assets and processes post 9/11 are all over this incident, and there must be incredible pressure being brought upon the Malaysians, given that it represents one of the largest Muslim nations. Again: it’s not that this is an islamist terrorist incident, but rather that US assets are dedicated to the US Islamist terror paradigm and it is these assets and their processes that have been brought to bear on this incident. It is ridiculous to assume otherwise.

    As for Jim, I am with him on the coincidence of the handoff and the possibility (.05 probability) that the plane may have flown west, but what is more important is his logic that a start-to-finish mechanical failure is unlikely; and that the northern arc hypothesis lacks rationale in the absence of terrorism; and the southern arc simply doesn’t provide for any sort of rationale.

    Again, many are getting lost in the weeds of the Inmarsat analysis by way of a subtle form of ‘scientism’ where the focus is on the data that is available. The problem is that the data set is incomplete – there is a paucity of data – and this is leading to confirmation bias. This is most readily illustrated by the following statement: “The plane remained airborne for seven hours, therefore it is to be found seven hours from the Straights of Malacca. The aircraft’s destination whether decided by a pilot, the auto pilot or the fly-by-wire system was therefore, seven hours from the Straights of Malacca.” This statement is true up until the last statement, and false in the second sentence.

    The aircraft is most likely to be found in the S. Indian Ocean; this simply was not its intended destination at the point of the diversion, and the Malaysians have a lot more to say about this, because they, in fact, know quite a bit more. They have been gagged by issues of liability, complicity, fear of China, fear of a loss of votes for those seated in power if there cooperation with the US is ever revealed – it could be anything. Regardless, if we assume the destination was Malaysia, ALL makes sense in terms of the gulf of unanswered questions.

    The aircraft was intended to fly to a destination. Pick one, and follow the chain back from there and test them make. Uighur separatists? A crash in the Himalaya or near Almaty? The data might indicate such, but the soft, subjective stuff does not. Place objective data over subjective information at your peril, for it is their integration, their dance together, that makes the world go round.

  14. Apologies for the typos: “thanks for pointING out…”, etc.

    Most importantly, “This statement is true up until the last statement, and false in the second sentence,” was to read:

    The plane remained airborne for seven hours, therefore it is to be found seven hours from the Straights of Malacca. The aircraft’s destination whether decided by a pilot, the auto pilot or the fly-by-wire system was therefore, seven hours from the Straights of Malacca.

    This statement true in terms of the first sentence, and false in terms of the second.

    By doing this sort of analysis and testing for confirmation bias is how I arrived at hypothesis of a two-stage event, where the aircraft had an intended destination for diversion and THEREAFTER there was a catastrophic incident that sent the aircraft on its terminal run to the south. What was this incident, what are the range of choices and their probabilities? They are not continuous, they are discrete, and you can select for one or more occurrences as being more probable than the others.

    BTW, I am going on the assumption that it is indeed impossible to breach the cabin door of a 777. I would think that there is a fire axe somewhere on the aircraft.

    All pilots push back and take off with a destination or destinations in mind…

  15. @Gene


    Well, Malaysia is run by bad people who do bad things that tend to piss people off. Probably this led to a senior pilot at Malaysia Airlines (“Unexplained Acts of Air Piracy ‘R’ Us”) going postal and stealing a plane. The bad people who run Malaysia have been trying to bury this embarassing turn of events since they have had a very good idea from early on (possibly even before the plane went down) who did this thing and why. The plane is now at the bottom of the Southern Indian Ocean. The wreckage will be located by sonar within the next few weeks to months. The black box will probably not reveal much that we cannot already guess. If the pilot was alive and yacking on a satellite phone to the Minister of Defense during the last two hours of the flight, or dictating a political testament to the Cockpit Voice Recorder, that could briefly cause a bit of heat for the powers that be. In that worst case scenario, the Defense Minister’s office would issue a press release saying that (1) Hishammuddin was advised by law enforcement not to discuss any communications with the flight deck given the possibility of a wider conspiracy involving Al Qaeda or supporters of Anwar Ibrahim, (2) that they made their best efforts to convince the relatives asap that there was no hope, and (3) a committee is being organized to look into the whole matter and make recommendations for how to handle these events better in the future. The Defense Minister will re-tweet the key talking points from the Executive Summary, and breath a sigh of relief that he can no longer be blackmailed by the U.S. based on NSA satcom intercepts. More likely, the pilot was already dead by the time the CVR rolled around, we will never know the details of what happened, and it will go down in the history books as “one of those things,” like the hijacking of Malaysia Airlines 653 back in the days when Hishammuddin’s dad was running the show.

  16. Luigi I dig it. Break it off at “…issue a press release.” full stop, and you are on it.

  17. Luigi You come up with great stuff. I need to read the second half of your statement more carefully and give it some thought.

    I think this process of advancing too far and oscillating back downwards once again is great way to flush out the more valid assumptions.

  18. @Luigi and Rand, your comments about the possible content of the voice recorder sparked an idea in me:
    If the captain really aborted a hostage/blackmail mission for whatever reason, it’s unlikely, that he has filled the voice recorder with final messages in the last two hours of the flight. If he had done so, he would’ve crashed the plane in a more accessible place, where the voice recorder had a good chance to be found.
    But supposed, the voice recorder caught failed negotiation attempts of the pilot and he didn’t want the public and his family to read transscripts of his failure, didn’t want to be remembered as the crazy guy, who didn’t achieve anything by abducting his own plane. What would he have to do? He would have to keep flying for at least two more hours, since the voice recorder only saves the last two hours before a crash. That could be a valid reason not to crash the plane immediately after aborting plan A.
    The question is, could the pilot have simply disabled the voice recorder, after he went rogue? Until recently, I’d have thought, that this isn’t possible. But apparently it happened at the SilkAir flight, which crashed over Indonesia, and was one reason, why pilot suicide was suspected. But that was almost 20 years ago, so maybe that has changed.But even if it could be done, investigators would notice, when the device was turned off, and get suspicious. The easiest way to erase incriminating or embarrassing recordings was to keep the plane in the air for a few more hours.

  19. @Gene, good morning!
    I wasn’t especially hopeful about the oil slick. Was a long shot, considering how much time went by.I’m more worried about them hinting at giving up on bluefin after only a couple of days. But then, this bluefin doesn’t seem to be all that smart. Hardly better than a vaccuum cleaning robot. Has anyone experience with such a guy, btw. I hate vacuum cleaning.
    Jeff announced at twitter, that he will give as a new post soon. That would be great and maybe attract more people to chime in. We’re only a hand full now, hardly enough for a good card game. Chris suggested ‘Euchre’, I prefer ‘Doppelkopf’. It has the charm, that two teams play against each other, but you don’t know at the beginning of a rubber, with whome you’re teamed up. You have to find out while playing. That’s like in real life.

  20. Still working the postal-pilot scenario, a couple of additional questions:

    1). What was the Captain’s thinking regarding the end game or alternate end games/decision tree?

    2). When and how were the passengers quelled and silenced?

    The two issues may be linked. On the latter question, the obvious potential tactics are vomit comet maneuvers, cabin depressurization, turning off cabin internet and satcom access (if available), and flight over water well outside of cell tower range. If the captain did it, then he could have also used his authority to mislead the passengers initially. I tend to doubt this, because it’s likely the co-pilot would have been locked out of the flight deck from the get-go, which would give the game away pretty quickly. Still, earlier on in the flight the captain could have been more insistent than usual about shutting off cellphones, reducing the potential for a distress call getting out during the “mission.” Having a rookie co-pilot on his first 777 flight would have given him extra cover for being strict on that point.

    Depending on the duration and extent of depressurization, passengers could either be killed or rendered unconsciousness. I’m wondering how practical it would be to calibrate that outcome. It raises the question of whether Zaharie could have started the mission with a “preferred” exit strategy that involved giving himself up to (non-Malaysian) authorities after a safe landfall with few if any fatalities. For sure, it doesn’t seem especially plausible. If we assume Zaharie was simply a monster, then there’s no problem and the rogue pilot theory is a slam-dunk. However, we have pretty good evidence that he was far from being a monster, so it’s worth considering this possibility.

  21. That’s an interesting direction, Littlefoot. If Captain Zaharie had indeed grown cognitively and morally compromised by whatever personal existential crisis and had succumbed to grandiose thinking (i.e., “I’ll show them…” then, when his plans were foiled, he could have likewise eventually succumbed to shame and become intent on saving face. Rationale for a long deliberate flight.

    Assigned probabilities for motives for diversion: .40 for weaponization of the aircraft; .40 for politicization/hostage scenario; .20 pathological suicide.

    Any other motives? I have defined motives as independent of any intended destination.

    I have thought of an important pivot that we have yet to cover; of course there are more. Namely, we need to consider to what degree a 777 flight deck door is impervious to intrusion, to include by a co-pilot or a crew member. 7 hours is a long time for nobody to have crashed the party.

    BTW, the International edition of the NYT has a story Apr 16 regarding the Sea World hydrophone nonsense and their satellite photos of sofas floating in the Indian Ocean. A US official said that it was all nonsense and, just as we suspected, aimed at garnering a bit of prestige at home and abroad. The dolphin phone was designed for use in shallow water, and the HMS Echo, having been sent to investigate, was soon “quietly pulled” from the area.

    Littlefoot: Doppelkopf sounds fun; will send you my probability weighted statements tomorrow. Now looking for a probability tree sharing application.

  22. Luigi Sorry, posted before I saw your post. I need to go to bed…

    If whomever piloted the plane was locked into the cockpit solo from IGARI, and we assume that there were other cell phone pings, does this take care of the passenger issue?

    As for the aim of any outcome, I am inclined to go with Littlefoot and state that diversions/hijackings aren’t all that well thought out in terms of their resolution, and that they usually involve a keen desire for a quick resolution.

    The captain could indeed have instructed the cabin crew to check all passengers for operating cell phones, with most in airplane mode. We can assume generally homogenous behavior given that the majority of passengers were Asian, and that many phones would have local subscriptions only (i.e., no roaming), as these are quite common in China. Finally, not all phones would have a strong enough receiver to receive a signal. In short it can be assumed that not all that many cell phones would have been activated and pingable by the cell tower.

  23. @Rand, yes, this abduction-by-pilot scenario is only viable, if we are able to come up with a fairly plausible reason, why the plane kept flying for hours to it’s final resting place instead of being crashed near Malaysia. That he wanted incriminating material to disappear from the voice recorder in an unsuspicious way, would be a very simple and logical explanation. Maybe, he wanted to save face and spare his family the humilation of being associated with a mass murderer.
    One caveat: this could only work, if the persons, he might’ve bargained with, would keep quiet. I remember, that the Malaysian authorities focussed on the captain within days after the plane had vanished, but never talked about a motive. Do they know but don’t want to come clean about their own part, because they wouldn’t look so good themselves? The Malaysian authorities behaved like they had something to hide from the get go for sure.
    Rand, I don’t really think, the captain wanted to use the plane as a weapon. Otherwise he would’ve probably done it and gone out in a blaze of glory. But he well might’ve threatened to weaponize the plane in order to make the situation more urgent and terrifying.
    I heard, btw, that those cockpit doors are pretty safe post 9/11. I can’t see passengers and crew members knocking them down. They were designed to keep terrorists out after all.
    I have also thought, what was supposed to happen to the passengers and the rest of the crew. In a hostage scenario, they might not have been killed right after the plane went on the run. That wouldn’t have made sense, unless the pilot had planned to deceive the persons/authorities, he wanted to bargain with. Since this is all hypothetical anyway, I don’t want to go down this nasty alley right now. The final outcome unfortunately can’t be in doubt. If the captain was really behind this, I do hope, he spared the passengers and the crew hours of mental suffering.

  24. @ Littlefoot –

    The cockpit door is a ballistic door. You would need serious equipment to get through it. I can’t go along with the negotiation angle – from the moment you divert a big jet you are already at a point of no return. There is nothing you could negotiate that would prevent you from being arrested if you landed. When you divert it’s a one way trip. PM Abbott doesn’t sound half as confident as he did a few days ago. Reading into his words then I assumed this would over within a week, now he seems to be attending to the possibility that it’s a fizzer. I just wonder, these signals are not the kind subs use to communicate to each other I know, but, they are level with the coastal facility that is used by the Australian Navy to reach it’s subs the world over. What else is going on there? Also highly likely a joint facility with US ingredients as our subs work very closely with US Navy. It would be very secret, very sophisticated – could it be the source of all this? Funnier things have happened.

  25. @Littlefoot – Hey howz it going? I wasn’t sure what to think of the oil slick. As usual I had my questions. Jeff mentioned somewhere on CNN that it could be like the U.S.S. Arizona slowly leaking at Pearl. Another commentator thought that at those depths, the pressure and temperature would render the oils into something akin to asphalt. I wanted to know how large the oil slick was and then try to imagine that against the amount of oil on the plane. The Bluefin has not inspired a lot of confidence yet. I’m sure it has a lot potential, but maybe it’s not the most efficient in a situation where it needs to cover a large area. I also had thought about the carbon monoxide scenario. What if the plane had some sort of noxious cargo that leaked?

    I am quite curious to see where Jeff’s investigation has gone. What new perspectives and understanding that it may give. Ironically my participation will become limited in the coming weeks. I have a small seasonal business and the it has been delayed because of unseasonably cool temperatures. But this will change soon which means six or seven days a week in the sun without a hat involving stuff that contains methyl ethyl ketone and other grey matter dissolving ingredients. In short, future posts may not be entirely lucid. 🙂

    Cards? I’ll think about it. As long as it doesn’t involve money. That’s for beer.

    @Rand – When using the word math, is there a consideration if it is translated or someone who is not a native English speaker? If so, what sort of influence does it have?

  26. Time for everyone to take a break, guys. Too much speculative circular musing.
    If it turns out that there is no plane down below,in the designated search area, things will get very interesting and serious, and force public disclosures, particularly of the weak and purely hurestic nature of the Inmarsat Doppler analysis, especially the latest enhanced satellite temperature adjustments which supposedly pinpointed the crash area (together with never to be disclosed US intel data).
    And then the question of who dropped the decoy pinger in the water ?

  27. Arthur T I would venture that speculation if inherent to a process oriented approach is perfectly acceptable. We can spend our days waiting for information regarding the facts to emerge, or we can take the down data and the information available, put it through a probability tree and arrive at several reasonably plausible scenarios. Though we are less I informed than the investigators (who engage in the exact same processes), there is a certain probability of arriving at a conclusion that proves factually true, or in the face of permanent unknowns, a conclusion that comes damn close. This is fun, it keeps your noodle alive, and it beats the wick out of being spoon fed information in a catatonic state while watching TV (apologies, Jeff!).

    That US intel assets have informed the search seems highly probable. That the Inmarsat data set has not been and cannot be solely relied upon to develop the search parameters is highly probable. That they will never discover remains of the aircraft is highly improbable, just as speculating that a pinger was tossed into the drink is highly improbable. My probability assessments are subjective, but my subjective faculty of intuition is as factual I terms of it’s existence as is a set of binary data.

    You are correct: we are prone to spinning off into circular, tautological lines of reasoning. But I would suggest that there are methods to the madness of opening up a multitude of doors of perceptive, only to find that they are empty. With practice and the discarding of a lot of empty bottles along the way, one can find our way evebtually to some large room that holds a reasonable facsimile of the truth – and have fun along the way.

    That said, I’m going to take your advice and oscillate downwards once again in my next post. And welcome back, Arthur!

  28. I think it’s about to get interesting again. Abbott sounds like he is priming everyone for a let down, then what?? They are up the creek here, thousands of miles away from where they started, do they go back to square A. 7.5 hours to travel roughly half the distance. I thought you needed fuel burn expertise to keep it up there for that long? I know one thing – if there is nothing there we can ditch the idea of subs pinpointing the plane.

  29. @Littlefoot Re the rationale for a long flight. Go back up the probability tree, keeping it simple: there was a secondary diversion of the flight path (leaving the vicinity of Malaysia), which may or may not have been with the intent of erasing the voice recorder. There are other probabilities for a secondary diversion. The probability of our intuiting specifically and correctly the causal event decreases dramatically from intuiting that there was a secondary diversion.

    @Matty Being arrested upon landing could be perfectly acceptable in some frames. Anwar is in jail, for example. Nelson Mandela went to prison and remained there for years rather ‘deliberately’; it is this sacrifice that healed his nation. Acceptance of death or prison would indeed be a pre-requisite for diverting the aircraft. Going back down the tree, was the aircraft intentionally diverted, true or false? I am willing to intuit that it was intentionally diverted.

    Working towards a base construct, then:

    If we back down the probability tree in a like fashion, deleting (transformational grammar) more speculative assertions from our statements as we go, we can arrive at a stipulation that is inclusive of the least number of low probability assumptions (while remaining inclusive of the higher probability assumptions).

    An example of a statement of probable facts and assumptions follows. This statement is restricted by higher probability assumptions that, regardless, do imply a particular frame: namely, that the intended destination post diversion at IGARI was Malaysia and that as yet unknown secondary event sent the aircraft on flight trajectory that took it out of the vicinity of Malaysia. The general heading was either north or south. We are, after all, testing a hypothesis, and it is perfectly within reason to stipulate a hypothesis and from there see if it is able to not only hold up to scrutiny, but if it also can be validated as new evidence emerges.

    Example hypothesis:

    MH370 was intentionally diverted at waypoint IGARI in the moment between the handoff of radio communications from KL ATC to Vietnam ATC. It is not known who diverted the aircraft. After the diversion, the aircraft flew in a southwesterly direction, back over Malaysia. Government officials and analysts have indicated that the aircraft appeared to behave in a way that would indicate that it was intentionally navigated by a pilot, with some of these officials and analysts stating that it navigated additional discrete waypoints beyond IGARI.

    At all times prior the aircraft arriving at a point that Duncan Steel has designated as 06.70 degrees North, 95.30 degrees East, at the estimated time of 18:29 UTC, it remained in the vicinity of Malaysia at a maximum range of no more than 1 hour flight time from KL. Again, Malaysian authorities generally are reluctant to comment on the aircraft’s behavior and their response to its behavior while it was in their airspace and in proximity to their airspace, although there are number of official references to both that can be examined and tested for veracity.

    KL is a city on the Straights of Malacca. It is noted that the most expedient return route for MH370 from its intended flight path to Beijing and back to KL from IGARI, with the exception of making a 180 degree turn, would be to initiate a base leg turn at IGARI towards GIVAL; and from there an approach leg turn at GIVAL towards Kuala Lumpur. GIVAL to KL is an approach leg over water that can be completed in less than 30 minutes at 400+ knots.

    Approximately two hours into the flight and at a geographical point (above) designated by Duncan Steel as the last known point of radar contact, there appears to have been a secondary event, the causation of which remains unknown. This event sent the aircraft on a loosely defined yet discrete flight trajectory either north or south as defined by a data set and an analytical methodology presumably developed by Inmarsat. Given that the White House indicated the southern Indian Ocean within five days of MH370 pushing back at KL, as well as the fact that the US has spent years in the wake of 9/11 developing assets and processes specifically designed for such an event, we can assume that there is a reasonable probability that the information derived from ‘the Inmarsat methodology’ was informed by data and information outside of the publicly disclosed data set.

    Duncan Steel, in a post on his website dated 18 April has stipulated that in the ‘general vicinity’ of Malaysia (rather than discrete airspace) is the proper frame for viewing any potential radar or other contact with MH370 by the Malaysian authorities. He has also stipulated that there could be additional information supplementing the Inmarsat data set and its methodology that is presently not in the public domain; he highlights Malaysian primary radar in this instance but does not exclude other sources. He also made references to various ‘pet theories’ being advanced, while he is rather focused on data derived ‘evidence’ regarding the flight trajectory and the present location for the remains of flight MH370. This is most prominently revealed in his clearly stated assertion that there is presently no evidence in the public domain to support the conclusion that the aircraft terminated its flight somewhere on a flight trajectory bound by the parameters of the ‘southern arc.’ Finally, he asserts that any locator ping data cannot be considered as evidence as he defines it as there has yet to be any ping locator data produced in the public domain that can be subjected to independent analysis.

    @Gene use of the word math is a tip off that the person using the colloquial term ‘math’ generally is an American or someone educated in the US or having a close relationship with an American. A Common Wealth speaker or a non-native speaker likewise associated with a CW speaker would use the term ‘maths.’ I don’t know if this answers your question, but there you have it.

  30. Hmmm…Well just to remain contrarian I’m going to stay “off the reservation” and hold on to the north possibility. Who? How? Motivations? I can’t go there. I will throw in the odd thought for southern possibilities though.

    @Rand – Given your initial hypothesis, what would be your further refinements in regards to it? Location, education, and nature of possible relationship.

    @Littlefoot – It seems at this point that Bluefin is making very good images of the sea floor. An empty sea floor. Hmmm…

  31. Hello everybody,
    Yes, I know, we’ve been speculating our heads off in the last few days. And when we presented possible scenarios, we have not many verified facts to build on. But unfortunately that is true as well for those, who employ math and physics. Because we all are in the same ‘hermeneutical hell’. Everything we can base our speculations and calculations upon, was presented to the public by people, who may or may not have told the truth or who have withheld crucial information for various reasons.We have not much firsthand observations, we can trust unconditionally.Duncan Steel has apparently discovered discrepancies between the reverse engineered ping rings and the Burst Frequency Offset chart, given by Inmarsat. Thus, he rejected the chart as unreliable. The sad truth is of course, that the ping rings might be unreliable, too, since the reverse engineering was based on Inmarsat data sets, too. And why should we reject Inmarsat’s data sets, but accept the story of pings coming from a possible location of the black box, and vice versa? The data set of the pings, discovered by the search teams, haven’t been made public so far, but David Mearns, an authority in the field of wreckages, found them plausible. And that’s all that can be done by arm chair detectives: internal plausibility checks.
    That’s, what the speculators amongst us are doing, too, though admittedly in a more jumbled and less organized way. We look at various scenarios and try to assess, if they are plausible. The ‘hostage’ or ‘negotiating scenario’ for example falls to pieces, if the perpetrator(s) hadn’t planned for a reliable channel to communicate with a party on the ground without giving away the location of the plane in real time.
    I think, if the wreckage isn’t found anytime soon, more and more circumstantial information will surface, and again, all the public can do, is checking the plausibility.
    By now, the whole story is such a mess, that I have a hunch, even found wreckage pieces or the black box won’t convince everybody, that the end of this ‘hermeneutical hell’ is near. I heard already accusations, that there was enough time because of all the search delays and dead ends, to plant evidence of the wreckage somewhere in the ocean.
    That’s a bleak post of mine, but then it’s Good Friday. And Good Friday is always a bleak day in Germany. If the weather is bad, I normally watch the umpteen’s rerun of ‘Lawrence of Arabia. And for the umpteen’s time I try to figur out, what this film is trying to tell us.
    I wish everybody a good holiday, whereever you guys are 🙂

  32. The math the experts are tossing out regarding how long it will take the BF21 to cover the area of the pinging is bizzare. One such expert just stated on CNN that it will take 60 days to cover the 17 mile stretch that the pinging was heard, at the same time he said the BF21 can scan 40 square miles a day. Those numbers just don’t jive. Even a 20 mile by 20 mile stretch would be just 10 days, 20-25 days at most with technical delays, etc.

  33. http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/cops-find-five-indian-ocean-practice-runways-in-mh370-pilots-simulator-bh-r

    On reflection, I don’t think it’s implausible that Zaharie had hopes of pulling off a stunning act of political protest with few if any casualties. I’ve been tending to take it as read that the passengers and other crew members were killed early on by a deliberate depressurization of the aircraft. While that’s quite possible, it’s far from being a certainty. People who hijack planes usually start out hoping they won’t end up killing all the passengers, and typically that’s not how things end. MH653 and MH370 represent the exception rather than the rule. It all depends on how the negotiations go in each particular case.

  34. Lawrence of Arabia? Intellectual goes to desert. Firmly held in is hands are the romantic notions of his generation decides to engage in war. Intellectual goes a little native. Intellectual possibly raped by Turks. Intellectual ends up with layers of PTSD.

  35. @Luigi, exactly my thoughts as well. While there might be completely innocent reasons for having practiced those simulated landings, it could also have given him the idea for conceiving a heroic act of political assertion, a least from his point of view. From all we know about the captain, I’m willing to believe that his original plan didn’t necessarily include killing every single soul on this plane, though he might’ve ended up doing just that.
    @Gene, re: ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ I might add to your list: Intellectual finds out, he has the reverse Midas touch. Everybody, with whom he connects, gets killed or betrayed. Which adds a guilt complex to his PTSS. The exception from this rule is Sheik Ali, who does remarkably well, considering his strong bond with ‘El Aurence’. But I guess, there was a female audience to be reckoned with. You simply cannot kill off Omar Sharif.

  36. @Littlefoot – Lawerence of Arabia Summary?:

    1) Don’t over-romantacize or over intellectualize any situation.

    2) Maintain a healthy personal boundary.

    3) War is a dirty business. There are victors, but no winners.

  37. @Gene, well said, especially the third point.
    I might add: Remain aware of those lessons, while enjoying the stunning audiovisual eye candy. It draws me in each and every time I watch the movie, and is such a contrast to those sobering messages.

  38. Thanks! I’ve cross-posted it to Jeffwise.net to give you guys some fresh commenting space :). I’ve been pretty jammed lately what with CNN but have been reading the comments assiduously and am very grateful for and impressed by the high level of discussion that you guys have been conducting here. It’s not only encouraging for me but also very helpful and thought-stimulating; it’s very interesting for me to go from reading the discussions going on here to the very similar kinds of points being discussed on the CNN analysts’ email chain.

  39. Gene If you are ‘off the reservation’ and selecting for the northern route, then I am way out on mars, and I a lost…

    My assigned probability values for an intended DESTINATION are: Malaysia .50; a northern arc location .20; a southern arc location .25; a ‘western’ location .05.

    My assigned values for the present LOCATION of the remains of the aircraft are: S. Indian Ocean .70; a northern arc location .30.

    As for ‘refinements,’ I’m not sure I follow you in terms of the ‘education and nature of possible relationship.’ Regardless, I think the big fat pivot in the hypothesis is a secondary causal event (and redirected flight path); the almost nearly as fat pivot is the Malaysia as a destination assumption. Both require more information before they can be confirmed as more or less true. I am in line with Littlefoot: more information will soon be forthcoming.

    I see this emerging from two fundamental domains of the investigation: 1. the identification of a primary suspect for the diversion; and 2. further disclosures regarding the flight path and radar or other contact within Malaysian airspace. They are most likely going to encounter difficulty in producing remains of the aircraft in a timely fashion, and thus will their ‘efforts’ move into Phase III: the investigation. Phase III (discussing the investigation) may begin sooner rather than later; they have been fairly quiet of late.

    I can understand that Malaysians want to keep their mouths shut before they get their facts straight and begin yapping about who did what, but I can assure you that the Chinese are not going to be patient. This is going to evolve into a matter of some public concern in China, with expectations being for Beijing to pursue justice. When one of the next of kin enters the Kubler-Ross stage of Anger and begins criticizing Beijing for their Sea World phone and doing little else, they are either going to be either elevated and leveraged, or arrested. Either way, this person will then become the icon for a sort of mini MH370 justice movement, which will gain traction in China, which will in turn prompt Beijing to force the Malaysians to play their hand. The ‘elite team’ that Malaysia has sent to Beijing? They ain’t about showing their concern for the next of kin. Rather, they need to know when this is about to happen, they need to know as soon as an iconic leader amongst the next of kin emerges. They then need to decide who in Malaysia is going to take the fall for this politically.

    Does anyone know if Duncan worked his methodology on the flight path segment from IGARI (point of diversion) to GIVAL and/or his established last point of radar contact at 06.70 N, 95.30 E? Hal? Gene? Thus far, I can’t locate where he would have analyzed this segment.

    On another note, I reviewed the press releases from the Malaysians. The White House was indicating the S. Indian Ocean on 12 Mar while Malaysia was denying ‘rumors’ being circulated by the media regarding US officials commenting as to such up until Mar 15! It was also clear that they have been constantly distancing themselves from the US and the US investigation, which is standard stuff given widespread concern amongst voters re: sovereignty.

    Luigi: I like it re the negotiations angle. If you think about it, a return to KL with all safely aboard would have achieved whatever political objective. Sure, jail time and no more playing fly-boy, but the point would have been made. Or the pilot intentionally depressurized the aircraft to murder all passengers and the crew. Again, which is more plausible? No wiggling, just choose between the two, and neither is a statement of fact.

    I saw a photo in the NYT, I believe. Zaharie was wearing a ‘democracy’ t-shirt from some event held in 2013. He had apparently been radicalized.;-)

    Littlefoot LoA (a favorite) informs me that heroes are complex characters generally not to be trusted given their rabid ideologies, and that they usually die. Better to be an archetypal clown.

    Bed time.

  40. I guess, since Jeff has posted the new slate article here, too, we all better move over.

  41. Rand,
    I agree completely with your April 18, 3:45am post.
    It Has been highly improbable that there is no plane at the bottom of the ocean in the area designated by the beacon pings. But every day it becomes less improbable. Jeff has been pressing on CNN that the pings could only have been picked up in a very small few mile circle, and they have already surveyed the bottom in that area.
    It has been stated that sound waves can be channeled for large distances in the deep ocean under unusual circumstances, like temperature stratification. Where is the research on this ? Is it classified ?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.