What Could Have Happened to MH370?

MH021 estimated track
source: Australian Transportation Safety Board

It’s been two months since I last posted about MH370, so I think I’m overdue for an update. The big news that’s happened in the meantime is that on June 26th, the Australian Transport Safety Board (ATSB) released a report that laid out in admirable detail what the authorities felt they knew about the circumstance of MH370’s disappearance and how they had come to narrow down its likely location to the current search area. We now have a much clearer understanding of just what Inmarsat’s data reveals about the last four hours of the flight.

In the report, the ATSB explains that sometime after the plane vanished from radar screens at 18:22 GMT, whoever was in control  most likely became incapacitated and the plane flew on autopilot until it ran out of fuel and crashed into the depths of the Indian Ocean some time after 0:19 GMT. Its impact point, according to the ATSB’s calculations, was most likely somewhere in a region 1,000 miles off the coast of Western Australia.

As you’ll notice, that last sentence is extremely vague. The reason is that, as we now understand, the data is incapable of telling where the plane went with any degree of certainty. That is to say, you cannot recreate the airplane’s flight path using Inmarsat data alone. This is kind of a shocker, because for months now, Inmarsat has been telling the public that their mathematical wizardry had allowed them essentially to solve for the plane’s final location. This turns out to be false. For any given flight path, we can now calculate the expected BTO and BFO values; but given a set of BFO and BTO values, we cannot derive a unique flight path.

Take a look at the route chart at the top of this post, which comes from page 31 of the ATSB report. It shows the actual path of a Malaysia Airline jet that flew on the same day at MH370, as well as an “estimated” path generated from the BFO and BTO data recorded from that same airpline. If you’re like me, when you first saw this chart, you assumed that Inmarsat had decoded the BFO and BTO data so thoroughly that they could generate specific flight paths like this one. Give them BFO and BTO data, and they could draw you a line on the map; no wonder they say they know exactly where to spend $56 million scouring the sea bed. But if you read the accompanying text, what it says is: “Using only the starting location and an equivalent number, and approximate time spacing, of BFO and BTO values as the accident flight, predicted paths were created and compared against the actual flight paths.” Reading between the lines, the ATSB was able to generate not just the route illustrated here, but dozens or possibly hundreds, and chose this one as the most promising for MH021.

There’s another disappointing realization embedded in the ATSB report. Many have long assumed that before its final straight leg to the south, the plane made a single turn from its northwest heading. However, as the ATSB report makes clear, the data that Inmarsat received from MH370 does not actually allow such a simple scenario. If the plane flew straight on its final leg, then between 18:22, when the plane vanished from above the Malacca Strait, and 19:41, when the first “handshake” ping was detected, the plane would have had to have taken a long time to fly a short distance, as the chart from the Independent Group experts illustrates:












In order to fit all the data points, then, the plane would have to have loitered near the Malacca Strait for the better part of an hour before heading south. It could have flown around in circles, or it could have landed somewhere, waited, and then taken off again. Or, alternatively, the plane didn’t loiter, and did take a single leftward turn — but then, instead of flying straight, followed a curving path during its final hours. Either way, rather than a simple turn and straight-ahead run, “The data suggests that a more complicated path was followed, which may have included changes in speed, direction, and altitude,” as  Victor Iannello puts it.

In short, whatever happened to MH370 had to be more complex, and more puzzling, than the scenario that the authorities initially expected. All of which makes it harder to come up with a convincing explanation for what might have happened aboard the missing airliner that night.

Given all that, I think it’s an appropriate time to recognize that we’ve wrung out everything we can from the data on hand, and see what we can make of it. So I’d like to throw open the doors. Do you have theories that you’ve been cooking up about MH370 that you’d like to share with the world? If so, feel free to let loose in the comments section. Or if your ideas require more space, write it up your theory in whatever form you like and shoot me a note via email form on this website. If it’s fit for human consumption I’ll give it a page and link to it from here.

I’ve already started compiling scenarios, and here’s what I’ve gotten so far. In each case, clicking on the headline will take you to a separate page devoted to that theory. You can comment about each one either on its page or here. And if you’ve got your own (reasonably non-insane) theory you’d like to put out there, just let me know.

Victor has come up with a scenario to explain the mysterious loitering that seems to have occurred between 18:29 and 19:40, based on our understanding of the BFO and BTO data.

Kent Smerdon, a 767 pilot, has come up with a very detailed description of how a suicidally minded captain might have made his airliner permanently disappear.

103 thoughts on “What Could Have Happened to MH370?”

  1. Jeff, thank you for giving us the opportunity to continue our discussions of what happened to mh 370.
    Hopefully the two scenarios from Victor Ianello and Kent Smerdon will inspire old and hopefully some new commenters to come up with fresh ideas.
    What happened to the plane between 18:22 (the time of the last purported radar sighting) and 19:41???
    While the official report choose to ignore it, the independent group pointed out, that the plane cannot have flown a straight line during that time. It must’ve ‘loitered’, flown in circles or might even have landed. To me this seems to be one of the key moments of the mystery. Every scenario should include a discussion of what might’ve happened during that time.
    Victor Ianello’s landing scenario takes care of that, while Kent Smerdon’s suicidal captain theory does not. It is only fair to point out, though, that the ‘mh 370 geek community’ hasn’t been especially aware of that problem at the time he came up with his scenario. And I think it can be mended. Other commenters here have developed versions of ‘the captain did it’ theories, which adressed those missing minutes. Kent Smerdon offers valuable insights from a pilot’s point of view.

  2. What are your thoughts on possibility of some form of hijack or shoot down?

    I do not buy the theory that the plane managed to fly all that time on auto-pilot without being picked up by either the jorn radar or radar at diego garcia.

  3. JS – I’ve gone and chucked your post from the previous thread here because I reckon it belongs here.

    Hi Littlefoot, and thanks. I don’t subscribe to Alex’s floating SDU theory, but I admit it can’t be ruled out. I watched on live TV a US Airways plane float down the Hudson for hours, so anything is possible.

    The problem with the coincidences is that there really isn’t a coincidence. The path plotted by the BTOs can be explained by so many different theories. That path becomes more of a “default” than some mystical route.

    For example, those BTOs would be generated by:

    1. MH370 heading towards the SIO on autopilot
    2. A misidentified SDU heading from JED-JNB (which matches BFOs as well)
    3. A misidentified SDU heading in almost any formulaic route – any arc or line (the shape is dependent on speed) (though most of these do not yield BFO matches)
    4. A manually generated (spoofed) signal, whose creator chose the simplest path possible – 180 South – and the hardest place to search.
    5. A misinterpreted satellite log file (logging something other than BTO – you can obtain these BTO values using the satellite position or even the time of day with the right co-efficients.)
    6. A miscalculated BTO prior to logging – such as a sign inversion or a bad co-efficient.
    7. A plane floating for hours requires one of the above as well.
    8. A plane sitting at an airport (also requires one of the above.)

    The reason is pretty simple – any object moving in relation to another object will be approaching, then receding. That motion will create a curved set of points. The only meaning to these points come from the co-efficients – such as the value used as the “nominal terminal.”

    So my conclusion at this point is, well, great, we have 7 points along an arc. We have no data from previous MH370 flights, no data from any other flights under similar satellite positions. We have weak precendents for every one of the scenarios above except the spoofing, but it’s widely admitted that spoofing a signal is within the capabilities of any state actor, and probably any individual who can obtain an SDU.

    I would suggest that they all go back to the drawing board, and just confirm even the most fundamental part of this equation – that a plane causes BTO values to be logged, and those correlate to location. I mean correlate WELL, not just 17 points while the plane was moving around the airport but on some long routes. Maybe even they could publish the real equation instead of the “demo” equation they derived from the airport BTOs.

    Littlefoot – it would be interesting to work out the probability for the plane/sat correlation you refer to, north west then south? If it was my research paper I would be nervous about that bit.

  4. Jeff: Thanks for your contributions to date, your post today and for hosting the next wave of MH370 conversations.

    Littlefoot and Matty-Perth: hope you two don’t take off any time soon.

  5. There is the security alliance between the five, Malaysia, Singapore, UK Australia and NZ explains a hide up, as these are the only countries being active in this event:
    Malaysia: Lost the plane and holds information.
    Australia: Strangely took the lead on the search.
    UK: Strangely came with Inmarsat, days after the disappearance, to save the situation.
    NZ: Helpped the search and probabely silenced Mike McKay, the oil rig witness.
    Singapore: With the most advanced technolgy and expertise in the region, is expected to to have known what’s going on in the regions skies, and the kept silence.
    Inmarsat provided a zigzagging graph of straight lines and this is not how things work in real life.
    A ping does not drive the plane. A maneuver made to satisfy given BTO and BFO is done any time between two pings and rarely, exactely at the time of the ping. This can even complicate the prediction of the routes, and there are going to be thousands of them, or the possible ones larger in area.
    The plne seem to have crashed not far from its disappearing point. In flightradar24 There is an extreme shift of the plane to the right and few seconds of zero altitude while other parameter do not change, before it disappears from the screen. This means the shift (right turn) and the transponder disabled, happened at the same instance. This means trouble.
    The plane may have suffered the same fate as Air Algiers AH 5017 over Mali, which plunged, still propelling at a speed of about 650 KM/hr. Nothing much was left of it. In the case of MH370, it is more difficult as it should be under water.
    The authorities know the where about and what happened to MH370 and have their good reason to hide this fact from the public.
    Obamas rare trip to Malaysia and Abbots “business” trip to China, add to the mystery.

  6. Apologies JS – when I re-posted you stuff a bit of my crap ended up on the bottom of it.

    This bit: Littlefoot – it would be interesting to work out the probability for the plane/sat correlation you refer to, north west then south? If it was my research paper I would be nervous about that bit.

  7. I certainly agree with the Capt. Smerdon that the evidence points strongly to Capt. Zaharie as the culprit.

    Smerdon omits that there is an obvious candidate motive or trigger for Zaharie’s act provided by political events which took place just a few hours before takeoff. Also, given that circumstance, one would not have to assume that Zaharie was deranged to commandeer the plane, nor is it necessarily the case that he saw suicide as the inevitable end game, or that he started out with the firm intention to murder the passengers and crew. That Zaharie saw the act as essentially political is also suggested by reports of his uncharacteristic military comportment on leaving his home for the flight.

    As it stands, Smerdon’s theory does not explain the return to Malaysian airspace, nor does it deal with the “loitering” after the plane retreated from Malaysia and before the final southward turn. It does not explain why Zaharie rebooted the satcom system after the retreat, around the time the “loitering” commenced. I’d also note that the scenario he lays out, in which Zaharie murdered the crew and passengers more-or-less immediately after seizing the cockpit, is not especially compatible with the co-pilot’s turning on his cellphone, as occurred. It is also, of course, completely incompatible with what we know of Zaharie’s values and character.

    In sum, I agree that Zaharie commandeered the plane and that no criminal conspiracy was involved. While I would not rule out a murder-suicide planned from the get-go, or a psychotic break, I think it more likely Zaharie took the plane with the intent of staging a political protest. He was ignored or rebuffed and chose suicide rather than ignominiously giving himself up to the authorities. The matter will be forever hushed up by the ruling family in much the same way as happened when MH653 was hijacked, back when Hishammuddin Hussein’s father was Prime Minister. So it goes.

  8. @Matty, thanks for moving JS’s comment.
    @JS, thanks for answering. I will go into details later.

  9. @Nihonmama, thanks. As long as real life permits, I’m not leaving any time soon and I hope the others stick around, too. While this sordid business is heart breaking for the passenger’s families, and the aviation industry might implement new safety procedures, I have to confess that I hate unsolved mysteries and riddles.But I’m certainly not smart or knowledgeable enough to get to the bottom of this. So I’m grateful for all contributions from experts, who can help to keep us grounded and correct our misconceptions.

  10. I’d be interested to hear Kent’s view on why the SDU fired back up when it did? Not very stealthy. The mass murder angle does in fact mean that Shah had totally lost his mind – in my view at least.

    Kent describes a huge impact where nothing floated, but AF447 debris was showing up 2 years later. I’ve been told that there is plenty of material in the cabin and elsewhere that will not sink, and a heavy impact will fragment and release it, and every rubbish patch down there was itemized by every satellite company in the world for no result. Yes it’s a big ocean but the surveillance was unprecedented.

    Why didn’t he avoid Indon airspace? Did he really coldly asphyxiate 238 people? That’s a pretty big brain snap. It doesn’t involve any wild plotting but it fails to make great sense to me either, so there is still no one theory that has broken clear of the pack as yet lol – imho.

  11. On the terror angle again (my favourite) I saw a documentary recently where a retired intel boss said that in the case of 9/11, “we lacked imagination.” Well not me, my mind went haring away in that direction immediately, then calmed down a bit, then settled back on it. 2014 will go down as a very big year for the Jihadi’s and it’s still August, so kudos to Victor for getting off his square. The pilot had an hour to kill and is Kent implying that he did this with a plane full of corpses? And stayed off radar.

    I don’t think we really know what the state of the investigation is, it just went dead quiet which could mean anything. There could be plenty of loose ends, we don’t know.

  12. @Luigi, I revisited ‘The-Captain-Did-It’ theory recently, because I read Geoff Taylor’s and Ewan Wilson’s recently published book ‘The Truth Behind The Loss Of Flight 370’. Surprisingly it was included in my kindle loan program 🙂
    The book was probably written too early, but it isn’t half bad. For casual readers it’s very informative, although it doesn’t feature any critique or discussion of the satellite data. Nothing of the official ATSB report is questioned. But it definitely offers some new insights into the catastrophal mismanagement of the Malaysian authorities and into the life of Captain Zaharie. One of the authors went to Kuala Lumpur and talked to friends, acquaintances and Zaharie’s brother-in-law. There are tell tale signs that he was estranged from some of his children as well, and he made a trip to Australia shortly before his doomed flight in order to visit his daughter Aisha, whom he hadn’t seen for a while. He was very close to her. Basically the book features Kent Smerdon’s theory. If you combine this theory with Luigi’s contention, that Zaharie might’ve been guided by political motives and circled for a while between 18:25 and 19:41 in order to negotiate with another faction, you end up with a very comprehensive and slim scenario featuring just one perp, which is hard to ignore.I think that is the reason, why Jeff put up this scenario for discussion. I favored and supported it for quite a while, too. I developed some doubts for several reasons: not a single scrap of wreckage, which could have originated in the SIO, has turned up after more than 5 month (Taylor and Wilson contend, that Zaharie might’ve carefully ditched the plane). Researchers at Curtin University have picked up a sound, which could be interpreted as a crash sound at the right time, but in the wrong location. They picked up nothing at the right location(the ATSB report mentions this, but contends, that most crashes wouldn’t necessarily generate a recognizable underwater sound). The so called black box pings, which prompted the futile search of the yellow submarine robot, haven’t really been explained satisfactorily so far. After the shoot down of mh 17, Mary Schiavo mentioned, that there are documented incidents of ‘decoy pinger seeding’. The Sowjets apparently tried this after they shot down a civil airliner over Kamschatka.And if we accept that the above mentioned mh 17 incident is somehow connected with the loss of mh 370, then the ‘Captain-did-it-alone’ theory doesn’t work anymore.
    But the many facts which point to Zaharie are hard to ignore. Taylor and Wilson point out correctly, that not all of them come from dubios tabloids. While I don’t think anymore, that Zaharie did it all by himself for personal and political motives, I wonder if he wasn’t involved to some degree after all.

  13. Two very smelly factors here – the missing hour and the SDU firing up – they seem to go together. The unit itself can be removed(I’m told?) so a landing(Victor) allows you to do that. Would it have back up batteries in it? Could it have been bumping around in the back of a van after that? A complete SDU would be a very handy item to have for those so inclined. My brainstorming the other day involved using a hacked SDU to enter airspace.

    The really bad news is whatever happened, it looks like someone killed those passengers one way or another.

  14. Hi Jeff,

    Thank you for providing an opportunity for discussion of the mysteries surrounding the diappearance of flight MH370.

    In your opening post, you write:

    “If the plane flew straight on its final leg, then between 18:22, when the plane vanished from above the Malacca Strait, and 19:41, when the first “handshake” ping was detected, the plane would have had to have taken a long time to fly a short distance, as the chart from the Independent Group experts illustrates:
    In order to fit all the data points, then, the plane would have to have loitered near the Malacca Strait for the better part of an hour before heading south.”

    I have some difficulty understanding that statement. If the plane had continued on the extended radar track after the last known primary radar position at 18:22 UTC at about 480 kts, it would have traversed the 195 miles in about 21 minutes, and would have crossed the 19:41 arc at about 18:49 UTC. However, that is just an arbitrary assumption. At 19:41 UTC the airplane could have been anywhere on the 19:41 arc within a radius of about 650 nm from the last known radar position(LKP). The only information we have for the time between 18:22 and 19:41 are the ping arcs at 18:25:27.421 and 18:28:05.904, and 86 messages received on the C-channel between 18:39:55.354 and 18:40:56.354 with very stable BFO values between 86 – 90 Hz. If the BFO values on the C-Channel are subject to the same calibration as those received on the R-Channel, they would indicate that the airplane was travelling south during that one-minute time interval.

    The only other information that can be used narrow the 650 nm radius from LKP is the SATCOM log-on request emitted by the airplane at 00:19 UTC, indicating that the available fuel was exhausted at about that time and at that distance from the satellite.

  15. On second thoughts a detached SDU would need to be powered up? I’m off to put a bag of frozen peas on my head.

  16. Thank you all for your comments, and a special thank you to Kent for presenting his scenario, which offers some reasonable explanations for much of the data.

    Much of our knowledge of the incident comes from the ATSB report which is focused on defining the search area for the plane. There is supposedly a parallel, more comprehensive investigation of the incident being led by Malaysia. Unfortunately, Malaysia has shown a pattern of releasing impartial, edited, and incorrect information, so I have little hope of more data from that source. Perhaps they are trying to hide their incompetent actions in the time period just after the plane’s disappearance from secondary radar. Perhaps there are other reasons for not disclosing the evidence. I know that the ATSB is as frustrated as the rest of us that there is not more radar data.

    Without the further release of information from a witness, a whistleblower, Malaysia, or somebody in the intelligence community, our only option is to speculate using the few data points we have, and connect the dots in a reasonable way. I would much rather do a hard analysis rather than speculate, and I would certainly review and modify my scenario if additional or conflicting data is presented.

  17. Just a thought experiment:

    Maybe what we need is a cost effective way to map the seabed. With just a handful of submarines it might take years if successful at all at finding the aircraft. So how about producing cheap, purpose built autonomous devices that don’t search, but simply collect radar data from the seabed and then process the data afterwards?

    Start with just a few devices from a most likely point and start moving the devices in circles. As the circle widens, you can add devices in between.

    Disclaimer: I’m not an expert on any of this.

  18. @Ron,

    I meant to comment on your post when it was published on duncans blog. The sharp turn looked somewhat discontinuous and I share your suspicions.

    However, that same original image has a similarly sharp turn soon after take off from the airport. If we accept that the radar track is that off MH370, we should also accept that your sharp turn is still a possible sharp turn.

    Having said that, there is a difference between both sharp turns. The second is an accute angle, while the first is not. Maybe this is significant?


  19. @Gysbreght, your question is adressed by Duncan Steel himself here:


    Look for the paragraph
    ‘Other areas in need of clarification include’

    The Independent Group has calculated a likely location for the crossing of the 19:41 ping ring. And this location is only 195 miles away from the last acknowledged radar spotting at 18:22. If those calculations are correct we have to ask ourselves what the heck the plane has been doing between 18:22 and 19:41. Certainly not flying a straight course since it can’t have been that slow.

  20. Victor’s landing plus cargo plane scenario and Kent’s ‘The Captain-Did-It’ theory have one thing in common: the plane is flown into the remote SIO in order to hide the nature of the crime and destroy evidence.
    For my taste we have paid far too little attention to the 4 ELT-beacons on the plane. Wouldn’t a perpetrator who developed a detailed plan to make the plane disappear, find a way to deactivate the ELT-beacons before the last leg of the journey into the SIO? If even one of them went off, all his plans to hide the plane and the evidence would’ve failed. I don’t think, such a well organized perp would leave this up to chance. So, how would the perp(s) deactivate the beacons?
    Also, we all asked the million-dollar question, why the SDU might have been rebooted at 18:25. But shouldn’t we ask as well why it was disconnected in the first place?

  21. @Ron – interesting to see from your link that Inmarsat immediately suspected SDU impersonation when the pings carried on. Those youtube vids are gone so I would be keen to know what their verification was.

  22. Littlefoot – I’d say that is right. If the pilot intended to discreetly disappear the plane he could not afford to leave the elt’s lying about because the probability was that one or more of them would activate and the whole plan goes up in smoke. Just turns out they didn’t activate?? Once again a scenario hits a wall.
    I’ve said it before but five months later, looking at the overall route, that southern leg looks artificial. It may just represent a bunch of dodgy signals. No elt, no wreckage.

  23. Do we need the ELTs to be functional at all, at any time during the flight? I’m not exactly buying the “ditch it in the SIO to cover it” theory, but if that occurred, I’d expect the ELTs to be disabled long beforehand. From what we’ve heard about the black box batteries, it wouldn’t be a surprise if they were missing altogether, let alone being carefully disabled. Nor would I be shocked if nobody noticed.

    (Thanks Matty for the repost, no worries on the add-on)

  24. JS – I think what Littlefoot is getting at re the elt’s is that they are spread around the aircraft(4?) and an unstable pilot would need to get about and disable them all, or he may not have the reasonable prospect of hiding the plane at all. That would point to more than one person so the SIO ditch is getting harder to sustain – to me.

  25. @MuOne

    Thanks a lot for noticing the sharp corner after takeoff. It certainly weakens the ID duplication argument. It seems the radar software makes turns appear sharper than they really are.

    There is a difference between the two corners: the first was recorded by Malaysian radar at short range (if the radar is near KLIA) and the second by Vietnamese radar at long range. Assuming similar angular resolution (should be checked…) the different ranges will produce higher spatial resolution in the first case. Since the lower resolution is associated with a sharper corner it probably indicates we are seeing artifacts. The fact that both corners appear too sharp supports this conclusion.

    I don’t know if the different angles are significant or not.


  26. Yes, Matty, I agree completely. It has always been hard to reconcile the 6-hour SIO route with an intentional act. I think the point about the ELTs further constrains the possibilities – the actor could do much less by himself and/or without advance planning.

  27. @Matty, yes, you’re right, I meant, that it would’ve been plain silly to develop an elaborate plan to crash and hide the plane without taking care of the ELT’s. So, my question is, if the ELT’s can be disabled from within the plane. If that is not the case, it must’ve been done sometime before the plane took off, which would point to more than one perp, and helpers on the ground. Not especially compatible with the captain-did-it-alone scenario.
    Or, as others might contend, the plane never crashed in the first place…

  28. I should add: the absence of any ELT signals is not conclusive proof, that they were disabled or that the plane didn’t crash at all. It’s unlikely, alright, but there are known cases, where non of the beacons went off (AF 447 is such a case, if I remember correctly).

  29. @Matty, Inmarsat suspected indeed initially a spoof or impersonation, when they discovered the ongoing pings. Unfortunately they never explain in the documentary why they were sure eventually, that this wasn’t the case.
    This is one of the many open questions. If they could answer satisfactorily why a spoof or impersonation is impossible, we could stop worrying about this scenario.

  30. @littlefoot:

    The Independent Group writes in its Interim Statement: “To better understand the ATSB results, we have computed a similar path starting at 19:41 that approximately satisfies the BTO and BFO data and terminates in the “priority” search area from the report. This leads to a location at 19:41 which is only about 195 miles from the location at 18:28, (…)”.

    As illustrated by the tracks shown for Analyses A, B, and C in the ATSB report of 26 June, and by the discussion on Duncan Steel’s blog, there are many paths that ‘approximately satisfy the BTO and BFO data’. It all depends on random errors in the BTO and BFO data, and in particular on the assumed Fixed Frequency Bias (FFB). The ATSB satellite working group in Analysis A assumed a uniform probability density function for FFB values between 147 Hz and 152 Hz, meaning that all values within this range are deemed to be equally probable.

  31. @Gysbreght, the starting location at 19:41 is based on the assumption that the plane flew a straight path at constant cruising speed on it’s last leg and ended up in the priority search zone.
    If you can make a good case, that the plane followed a curved route at varying speeds on it’s last leg, the crossing of the 19:41 ping ring might’ve happened at another location, as Jeff pointed out correctly.

  32. @Gysbreght, and I might add, that in a scenario, where the plane followed a curved path maybe at varying speeds and altitudes after 19:41, there might not be any missing minutes to be explained. But Jeff has pointed that out already.
    As he said: ‘whatever happened to mh 370 had to be more puzzling, more complex than the scenario the authorities initially expected’.

  33. @littlefoot

    Thanks for your replies. We’re still waiting for the Independent Group report explaining the basis for their path.

    They seem to have assumed an average groundspeed of about 480 kts. An average groundspeed of about 390 kts would put the airplane on the equator at 19:41.

  34. Gysbreght,

    The calculation from the Independent Group that determined the missing time was based on the following:
    1. A straight-line(rhumb) path after 19:40.
    2. Variable ground speed to allow for winds or changes in air speed. A second-order polynomial was used.
    3. An end point in the priority search area.
    4. A best fit for BTO and BFO values as determined by minimizing the RMS error.
    5. A BFO bias of 150 Hz.
    6. An altitude of 35,000 ft except for 00:19 UTC

    The position at 19:41, the track, and the variable speed were outputs from the analysis.

  35. JS/Littlefoot – It sounds like Inmarsat are in no position to guarantee that the SDU signals are fully legit, and I don’t think they do. Might hinge on probability alone but I know that dodgy pings is embarrassing while real ones are a publicity bonanza. Tempting to go one way isn’t it?

    As for the flight – Transponder goes missing, ACARS goes missing, SDU goes missing, an hour goes missing, SDU comes back, as the plane goes missing. And if you viewed whole flight as data then it’s tempting to suggest that southern leg was spliced in somehow, and you know there was discontinuity with the data/apparatus. It doesn’t look right.

  36. @VictorI,

    Thanks for that essential background.

    The ATSB satellite working group writes on page 28 of the report: “A sensitivity study determined that a change of 1 Hz in the fixed frequency bias was approximately equal to 100 km along the 7th arc. In order to appropriately bound the results, the most northern and southern solutions were used and an error margin of 5 Hz (observed tolerance of the FFB) or 500 km was applied.”

    Wouldn’t it be nice to see figs. 24, 25 and 26 of the ATSB report extended to show the northern part of paths shown? That should answer these questions IMHO.

  37. @Matty, I would give Inmarsat the benefit of the doubt here. Why would they tout knowingly dodgy numbers? That would be extremely bad for their reputation, if it turns out to be true, especially since they are in the middle of launching a very expensive brand new satellite net (global xpress) with one satellite up in the sky and working already. Another is waiting for it’s launch from Baikonur, since some of the Russian rockets exploded recently, and it’s deemed unsafe to jeopardize another new satellite.
    Anyway, they want to sell capacities, and they won’t do that by distributing knowingly iffy numbers.
    That said, I would like to know, why they trust them now, after they have initially by their own admission contemplated a spoof or an impersonation.

  38. Just wondering if ELT would be picked up by satalite way down in the Southern Indian Ocean? It’s been reported that there is no sat coverage there.

  39. Littlefoot – that’s basically my point. There is no guaranteeing the numbers so they ignore one possibility and focus on the other. Imagine for a moment that flight route was a graph of some kind and half way your main sensor blinks out mysteriously for an hour, then comes back on and streams totally different numbers for six hours. Would you be worried? If a big step in the data coincides with a known discontinuity of the sensor you could forget getting published.

  40. If the deactivation of the ELT’s couldn’t have been done from within the plane, I think we can make a very strong argument against Zaharie being the sole perpetrator.
    Can we also say, that the perpetrator(s) very likely had helpers working for MAS, or at least had connections to people working for MAS? After all, the fire in the avionics shop isn’t the only misadventure, which has happened to MAS in the last 5 month…

  41. I’ve just re-upped this on Twitter so, thought I’d post here as well. The implications of this story, if true, are obvious and the relevance, potentially huge. But somehow, it didn’t get the attention it should have:


    Now this may be a plant – and a red-herring – someone’s game in Malaysia to implicate the crew of MH370. I certainly don’t want to cast aspersions, but the fact is, we really don’t have enough information to exclude ANYONE on that plane.

  42. “The information hasn’t changed the priority search area for the missing aircraft in the southern Indian Ocean, Truss said.”

    Doesn’t change the search area? Does it do much to the BFO’s?

    Didn’t they come out a while back and say the opposite?

  43. New info out of Canberra:

    1. MH370 may have turned south ‘earlier’ than thought.

    2. Investigators have traced the SAT phone call

    3. “areas a little further to the south — within the search area, but a little further to the south — are of particular interest and priority”


    Interestingly, Astro Awani (http://t.co/EPzTxj1cf1) and NST (http://t.co/GzmK5niSun) ran identical ‘turned south earlier’ pieces, but neither mentions the Sat phone trace.

  44. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wwhlsOTc4Ww




    This 4 part MH370 doco showed up on youtube. Not too much new stuff but they do seem to be saying that the plane can ping away with the SDU switched off, via the antennae?? A good bit from Zaharie’s sister, and atm, if there were multiple perpetrators I reckon Zaharie probably wasn’t one of them.

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