Slate: Why Inmarsat’s MH370 Report is a Smokescreen

Inmarsat chartFive weeks into the search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, more than $30 million has been spent scouring great swatches of the southern Indian Ocean. Yet searchers have still not found a single piece of physical evidence such as wreckage or human remains. Last week, Australian authorities said they were confident that a series of acoustic pings detected 1,000 miles northwest of Perth had come from the aircraft’s black boxes, and that wreckage would soon be found. But repeated searches by a robotic submarine have so far failed to find the source of the pings, which experts say could have come from marine animals or even from the searching ships themselves. Prime Minister Tony Abbott admitted that if wreckage wasn’t located within a week or two “we stop, we regroup, we reconsider.”

There remains only one publically available piece of evidence linking the plane to the southern Indian Ocean: a report issued by the Malaysian government on March 25 that described a new analysis carried out by the U.K.-based satellite operator Inmarsat. The report said that Inmarsat had developed an “innovative technique” to establish that the plane had most likely taken a southerly heading after vanishing. Yet independent experts who have analyzed the report say that it is riddled with inconsistencies and that the data it presents to justify its conclusion appears to have been fudged.

Some background: For the first few days after MH370 disappeared, no one had any idea what might have happened to the plane after it left Malaysian radar coverage around 2:30 a.m., local time, on March 8, 2014. Then, a week later, Inmarsat reported that its engineers had noticed that in the hours after the plane’s disappearance, the plane had continued to exchange data-less electronic handshakes, or “pings,” with a geostationary satellite over the Indian Ocean. In all, a total of eight pings were exchanged.

Each ping conveyed only a tiny amount of data: the time it was received, the distance the airplane was from the satellite at that instant, and the relative velocity between the airplane and the satellite. Taken together, these tiny pieces of information made it possible to narrow down the range of possible routes that the plane might have taken. If the plane was presumed to have traveled to the south at a steady 450 knots, for instance, then Inmarsat could trace a curving route that wound up deep in the Indian Ocean southwest of Perth, Australia. Accordingly, ships and planes began to scour that part of the ocean, and when satellite imagery revealed a scattering of debris in the area, the Australian prime minister declared in front of parliament that it represented “new and credible information” about the fate of the airplane.

The problem with this kind of analysis is that, taken by themselves, the ping data are ambiguous. Given a presumed starting point, any reconstructed route could have headed off in either direction. A plane following the speed and heading to arrive at the southern search area could have also headed to the north and wound up in Kazakhstan. Why, then, were investigators scouring the south and not the north?

The March 25 report stated that Inmarsat had used a new kind of mathematical analysis to rule out a northern route. Without being very precise in its description, it implied that the analysis might have depended on a small but telling wobble of the Inmarsat satellite’s orbit. Accompanying the written report was an appendix, called Annex I, that consisted of three diagrams, the second of which was titled “MH370 measured data against predicted tracks” and appeared to sum up the case against the northern route in one compelling image. (See the chart at the top of the post.) One line on the graph showed the predicted Doppler shift for a plane traveling along a northern route; another line showed the predicted Doppler shift for a plane flying along a southern route. A third line, showing the actual data received by Inmarsat, matched the southern route almost perfectly, and looked markedly different from the northern route. Case closed.

The report did not explicitly enumerate the three data points for each ping, but around the world, enthusiasts from a variety of disciplines threw themselves into reverse-engineering that original data out of the charts and diagrams in the report. With this information in hand, they believed, it would be possible to construct any number of possible routes and check the assertion that the plane must have flown to the south.

Unfortunately, it soon became clear that Inmarsat had presented its data in a way that made this goal impossible: “There simply isn’t enough information in the report to reconstruct the original data,” says Scott Morgan, the former commander of the US Air Force Rescue Coordination Center. “We don’t know what their assumptions are going into this.”

Another expert who tried to understand Inmarsat’s report was Mike Exner, CEO of the remote sensing company Radiometrics Inc. He mathematically processed the “Burst Frequency Offset” values on Page 2 of Annex 1 and was able to derive figures for relative velocity between the aircraft and the satellite. He found, however, that no matter how he tried, he could not get his values to match those implied by the possible routes shown on Page 3 of the annex. “They look like cartoons to me,” says Exner.

Even more significantly, I haven’t found anybody who has independently analyzed the Inmarsat report and has been able to figure out what kind of northern route could yield the values shown on Page 2 of the annex. According to the March 25 report, Inmarsat teased out the small differences predicted to exist between the Doppler shift values between the northern and southern routes. This difference, presumably caused by the slight wobble in the satellite’s orbit that I mentioned above, should be tiny—according to Exner’s analysis, no more than a few percent of the total velocity value. And yet Page 2 of the annex shows a radically different set of values between the northern and southern routes. “Neither the northern or southern predicted routes make any sense,” says Exner.
Given the discrepancies and inaccuracies, it has proven impossible for independent observers to validate Inmarsat’s assertion that it can rule out a northern route for the airplane. “It’s really impossible to reproduce what the Inmarsat folks claim,” says Hans Kruse, a professor of telecommunications systems at Ohio University.

This is not to say that Inmarsat’s conclusions are necessarily incorrect. (In the past I have made the case that the northern route might be possible, but I’m not trying to beat that drum here.) Its engineers are widely regarded as top-drawer, paragons of meticulousness in an industry that is obsessive about attention to detail. But their work has been presented to the public by authorities whose inconsistency and lack of transparency have time and again undermined public confidence. It’s worrying that the report appears to have been composed in such a way as to make it impossible for anyone to independently assess its validity—especially given that its ostensible purpose was to explain to the world Inmarsat’s momentous conclusions. What frustrated, grieving family members need from the authorities is clarity and trustworthiness, not a smokescreen.

Inmarsat has not replied to my request for a clarification of their methods. This week, the Wall Street Journal reported that in recent days experts had “recalibrated data” in part by using “arcane new calculations reflecting changes in the operating temperatures of an Inmarsat satellite as well as the communications equipment aboard the Boeing when the two systems exchanged so-called digital handshakes.” But again, not enough information has been provided for the public to assess the validity of these methods.

It would be nice if Inmarsat would throw open its spreadsheets and help resolve the issue right now, but that could be too much to expect. Inmarsat may be bound by confidentiality agreements with its customers, not to mention U.S. laws that restrict the release of information about sensitive technologies. The Malaysian authorities, however, can release what they want to—and they seem to be shifting their stance toward openness. After long resisting pressure to release the air traffic control transcript, they eventually relented. Now acting transport minister Hishammuddin Hussein says that if and when the black boxes are found, their data will be released to the public.

With the search for surface debris winding down, the mystery of MH370 is looking more impenetrable by the moment. If the effort to find the plane using an underwater robot comes up empty, then there should be a long and sustained call for the Malaysian authorities to reveal their data and explain exactly how they came to their conclusions.

Because at that point, it will be all we’ve got.

This is a cross-posting of an article that was published on on April 18, 2014. You can read the original here.



505 thoughts on “Slate: Why Inmarsat’s MH370 Report is a Smokescreen”

  1. Mattty,
    What do you make of this?

    Was the radar on? Why no answer?

  2. I actually left a comment on that story, just pasted it in.

    Matty – Perth • a day ago
    With Jindalee I think that people forget that it doesn’t work like a normal radar. It involves directing a signal at the ionisphere, deflecting back onto the earth surface, then back up to the ionisphere, then back to where it was sent. What comes back is noise that has to be sorted out by a big computer and very touchy/secret software. I gives us the ability to monitor pretty much what we want to in a huge arc. But it was never intended to give us real time surveillance over that whole area – in the direction of Seychelles in the west to the line of Fiji in the east – extending thousands of kilometres out. The data requirements alone would be astronomical remembering that normal radar installations are getting instant feedback from a circular sweep of around 200 nautical miles. Jindalee is tasked to do certain things at certain times. If 370 crashed where they are looking and someone was watching, it would have gone in right there on the screen, and no need to go roaring down to the southern Indian Ocean like they did. Also Abbott was very slow off the mark if they really did have radar intel. 1st week was spent in South China Sea, and he waited for his cue to head south, and there were Australians on the plane.
    1 • Edit• Reply•Share ›

  3. Something Nobody seems to give much thought too is the claim MH370 dropped to 5,000ft and flew west through the Straits of Malacca is physically impossible within the timeframe available, just 39 minutes .

    At low altitudes, a Boeing 777 is aerodynamically limited how fast it can fly.

    Butterworth Radar saw the unidentified aircraft over Pelau Perak at precisely 18:03 UTC flying NW from the southern tip of Penang (77nm). From there to Kota Bharu was 133nm and from that point to BITOD where last seen by transponder return at 17:24 UTC was 127nm, total track distance = 337nm.

    VMO for a Boeing 777 below 10,000ft is 329 KIAS/0.625M and assuming 30 deg C for sea level temperature that translates to about 365kt (True Airspeed) TAS to cover 337nm in just 39 minutes.

    To cover that distance MH370 would have to have flown at 518kt TAS, something quite impossible flying at 5,000ft, or even at 12,000ft.

    MH370 could not have flown this route in the time prescribed at 518kt TAS at altitudes less than 32,000ft and in that case would have been high enough for half a dozen radar stations to spot it.

    This also disproves the claim that MH370 flew low over Kota Bharu. Indeed if any aircraft did fly low over Kota Bharu on Malaysia’s northeast coast it was not MH370.

    It is time the whole claim that MH370 turned back and flew west was challenged. It simply does not stack up.

  4. MH370 – THE TRUTH : FACTUAL INCIDENTS ABOUT MH370 OVERFLYING KERALA-INDIA – TRIPLE OBJECTIVES BEING transfer of secret Mearsk cargo to Diego Garcia Military Airfield&refueling in Maldives,Spiriting away of 20 Freescale Electronic Warfare experts & primarily a 9/11 type plot to crash our area – MH370 CURRENTLY BEING HOLED UP IN SRILANKAN AIRFORCE BUNKER

    Searching for MH370 would reprove the slightly embellished old saying that ‘Facts are indeed stranger than fiction’ as also ‘Truth is always bitter’ as the following real life incidents reveal.Finding MH370 and rescuing its passengers is only possible by taking into account the following factual incidents of its landing.And ocean searches are futile when the overwhelming possibility of landing is ignored.

    That the triple objectives of MH370 hijack by rogue pilot was to transfer(such smuggling is routine and would have taken place even if the flight outcome was normal) around 20T of secret[{in this case believed to be contraband heroine smuggling by D-Company of Karachi also judging by the elation among the DComp-ISI-MSS module members here boasting that the entire world cannot find the MH370,esp kingpins advs S Manoj of Prakkanam&Mathur Suresh of Pathanamthitta where the latter was arrested many years back on Feb5,2005(VIDE all press&media reports including Indian Express,The Hindu&Malayala Manorama etc dt 6/2/2005&later but again covered up by the predominantly rogue police&parties which are the worst in the world and under payroll of DComp etc modules due to gross&unchecked corruption. now seriously threatening social,national&international security as the MH370 episode shows)in a counterfeit currency case as well as increased threat perception also from extensive rogue sections here}Mounting threat levels here from the DComp+ modules&rogue sections(who are unto tracffcking to terrorism many of which has been foiled by my Intelligence&Crime stopper alerts,including a publicized threat by JEM with collaboration of the DComp+ module in the SABARIMALA temple bombing plot in Jan 2001 VIDE press report in The Hindu&Malayala Manorama),to murders for land grabbing to betting&blackmagic sacrifices etc)of police ever since I reported about MH370 OVERFLYING here,surely indicate that the entire hijack plot has been partly or fully plotted&financed by DComp-ISI-MSS combine on the heinous mission of dominating world by SUBVERTING other countries but fortunately has started backfirng upon themselves]Maersk cargo(about which neither Malaysian Airlines and govt nor Maersk would disclose)to rogue sections at Diego Garcia military Airfield and refuel at Maldives(despite credible sightings by many people in Male,govts are covering up and such a roundabout flight with deviations and detours can only be possible after refueling);spiritng away of 20 odd Freescale Electronic Warfare experts by the predominant rogue sections in Iran&China to learn exclusive patented EW tech(otherwise more suitable flights could have been used for the primary purpose);the primary purpose was for a 9/11 type crash over Prakkanam area in Pathanamthitta Dist of Kerala state in India.

    Where I was witness to the large and low flying around 2000-3000 metres altitude and very
    slow flying B777 just after 9am IST (GMT+5.30) on Sat March 8,2014 OVERFLYING directly overhead from North to South direction.Though some people including children in our area had looked in wonder at the large plane but nobody in their wildest of imagination could ever think it was MH370 assuming it to have crashed in the South China sea or hijacked into nearby areas.The Maldives sighting departing from NW to SE direction a little before 7am IST (6.15-6.30 Maldivian time GMT+5)mean MH370 had taken a detour along the Eastern coast(Tamil Nadu)of India to overfly our area from N to S.Which in itself is BREAKTHROUGH LOGIC given the close to ~2hour gap in timings of Maldives&Kerala sightings.The motive of the plot to crash here would be that I had become a hindrance to rogue sections predominanting nations in their aim to grab Global Supremacy by SUBVERTING other nations VIDE my forecast of Terrorism and Economic warfare(VIDE favourable reply No FMD.MSRG.839/02.09.010/2013-14 DT NOV 19,2013 from Reserve Bank of India to take corrective steps in countering predatory etc economic policies of rogue nations against which I had petitioned the PM of India)BOOMERANGING upon its originators viz Pakistan and China.

    The matter was reported by me to Media-MI the same day and NIA,Interpol and FBI later.On 26 March another identical B777(but without the reddish streaks of the earlier)was seen OVERFLYING our area in the southern sky from SE to NW direction at 10.30am which on tracking was found to be the Emirates EK651 Colombo-Dubai flight departing from Colombo at 10.05 then.This indeed made the cat come out of the bag since this flight at around 3000-4000 metres alt instead of its normal flight alt of (~10000 metres )35000 ft and slow too deviated more than 80kms south toward our area for what can be rightly inferred as a trial run.This again was reported by me to NCTC,Boeing,Freescale,CTBTO etc.

    Which also mean that out of the 5 airfields where the rogue MH370 pilot was training only two namely Male and Diego Garcia has been disclosed with 2 other in South India most probably being Coimbatore IAF (a possible touchdown is suspected for logistic support because of MH370 accurately flying directly overhead our house despite all signals&transponders being switched off and alternate GPS support of rogue nations too is expected)a hotbed of rogue activities&flights and abnormal fighter crashes due to sabotage by removing securing split pins as was found in AMBALA JAGUAR crash where another JAGUAR readied for flight(VIDE Warbirds of India-crash report archives)was also found with the crucial SPLIT PIN removed in May7, 2004(against which I had to complain to Indian PM&military earlier VIDE unfavourable reply No. Air HQ/S 20170/2/1/Al(S) DT 7/Dec/12 from Directorate of Intelligence-IAF)and most probably the 4th being our area and the 5th and final SRILANKAN one is of particular interest in being at the terminal end of the flight path plot will surely give lead as to where exactly MH370 now is that is secretly holed up in an SL AIRFORCE bunker.More the so since to carry out their failed third objective of crashing in our area MH370 needs to be parked in airfields in neighbouring countries or in India itself near to our area close to the southern tip of India and not far away in Africa or Australia. After getting really moved on reading your news article interview by Moni Basu in CNN I decided to send this vital mail which will crucially help you find the missing MH370 and wife and mother of your beloved daughter as also other passengers.The real life incidents though unbelievable are true to its fullest extent and and is a definitive lead.Though I had informed the authorities from Media-MI,NIA to NCTC upto PM as well and very recently JACC&AFSB-Australian search team but for obvious reasons of powerful rogue sections in many countries from Malayala,China,Russia,Pakistan,India,SRILANKA,Maldives,USA involved in the matter,there is a grand cover up at national and international levels.Copies of the over 30000 characters cimplaints sent to the authorities can be forwarded for your valued perusal.I cannot afford not to complain and take up the matter since myself being the primary target and so with the plane stashed away in neighbouring countries poses immense and imminent danger.And only due to the Divine Grace of Lord Vishnu and the protection of our Family-clan deity Durga Devi temple that fortunately nothing happened with the plane and passengers intact and an emergency and forceful search team will be able to find the plane and rescue the passengers&crew.So international cooperation and coordination is imperative for which tactful handling is required so as not to hurt national sensibilities even as the extensive and well entrenched rogue sections are isolated and exposed.That a far more sophisticated operation than 9/11 was carried out can be understood with rogue section in different countries helping and it is not a delinquent pilot out of his mind flying away with a plane

    With no nearby airports and our area being neither civil nor military flight corridor there is no reason for the B777 MH370 to overly our area and that too directly overhead other than to crashland here.

    A day after the killing of Pakistan Taliban chief-Mehsud by American drone attack,on Fri 1/11/2013 a rogue fighter jet most probably on tracking&unmistakably was a SUKHOI fighter jet from THANJAVUR AIRFORCE STATION which overflew here from NEE to SWW direction with great speed but malicious intent just after 3am but due to Divine Grace they could not attack because to tell the truth they are afraid of my downing their jet by my Yogic or Meditation power.Nevertheless I cannot afford not to complain since the risks increase manifold during wartime but both Pakistan and China really fear fighting India since they are still overawed by the Indian victory in 1971 divesting East Pakistan(now Bangladesh)from West Pakistan(now only Pakistan)and hence their mean&cowardly multi-decade long terrorism etc spreading worldwide and now culminating in the MH370 hijak.Had timely action been taken against the Dcomp-ISI-MSS(the illknown Chinese intelligence-Ministry of State Security) module&their offshoots and the extensive&well entrenched rogue sections then things would not have come to such a pass.Instead the national&international coverup is only inviting Nature’s wrath in the ever increasing intensity&frequency of Cyclones to Earthquakes which cannot be explained by Global Warming alone.Clearly&Certainly it is prudent to realise that the citadels of power will get destroyed if GOVTS DONOT WALK THE PATH OF RIGHTEOUSNESS and REMEDY the gross travesty of Justice

    Since such a MH370 stashed away in our neighbourhood countries poses immense danger here,to strategic and VVIP areas so Indian PM,Army,Navy and AIRFORCE have been informed.Though there is less of a chance of a second attempt here due to Divine Grace and Protection but World capitals are all the more at risk from its reuse or such use of other passenger planes.

    Therefore to put search operations on track in and around the five suspected airfields found on the rogue pilot’s simulator,very recently AFSB&JACC-Australia entrusted with search operations too have been informed.Since hope lies in the old adage ‘Better be late than never’.And with speedy action tactfully handled it is never too late and passengers and crew can still be saved for which the help and right action of media,organisations&individuals as well as authorities is very much essential. Had the MH370 crashed here as planned then the whole world media and security would have dawned here for coverage&probe.Undoubtedly nothing but solely due to Divine Grace now ATLEAST that crashing has been thwarted ensuring plane&its passengers to remain intact and what is mandatory now is a meticulously and forcibly directed emergency search that will unfailing find MH370 and save the passengers&crew.And far from being just a law enforcement one due to the coverup the issue is already turning into a high stakes military matter. ESP IN LIGHT OF THE COVERT NUCLEAR THREAT FROM CHINA IN THE FOLLOWING WEEK AFTER MH370 HIJACK TO SUPPRESS FACTS&NEWS FROM EMERGING AS ALSO A MILDER RECENTLY AFTER THE 100DAYS,IT WOULD BE WISE ON THE PART OF PREDOMINANTLY ROGUE NATIONS TO REALISE&BE FOREWARNED THAT WITH MOST IF NOT ALL OF THEIR COVERT&HEINOUS TERRORISM&TREACHERY STRATEGIES BOOMERANGING UPON THEMSELVES,THE CONSEQUENCES ON THE ACCURSED COUNTRIES WILL BE CALAMITOUS WITH SOCIAL,CONVENTIONAL&ESP N-THREAT BACKFIRNG

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