MH370 Search Area Still Too Far North, Independent Experts Suggest (UPDATED)


Yesterday the “Independent Group” (IG) of technical experts looking into the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight 370 (of which I am a part) released a new report which made the case that the official search area now being scoured by undersea robots is not where the plane most likely crashed. The reason, the group explained, is that the Australian Transport and Safety Board has relied on a statistical model in which hundreds of possible paths were generated, then winnowed down to include only those that fit the timing and frequency data from the seven handshake pings; this resulted in a distribution whose greatest density coincides with the current search area. The Independent Group, in contrast, began by asking what possible routes most closely match the flight speeds and altitudes that a pilot would most likely choose:

The ATSB analysis used two basic analysis techniques referred to as “Data Driven” and “Flight path/mode driven”… While we agree that these statistical methods are reasonable techniques, both tend to overlook or minimize likely human factors in favor of pure mathematical statistics. This ATSB approach appears to have resulted in a conclusion that the most likely average speed was approximately 400 kts (Appendix A). However, 400 kts is not consistent with standard operating procedure (typically 35,000 feet and 470-480 kts), nor is it consistent with the likely speed a pilot would choose in a decompression scenario (10,000 feet and 250-300 kts). A speed of 400 kts may minimize the BTO and BFO errors for a given set of assumptions, but the errors can also be shown to be very small for other speeds. Given all the tolerances and uncertainties, we believe it is important to consider human factors with more weight… B777 pilots consistently tell us that under normal conditions, the preferred cruise attitude would be 35,000 feet and the TAS would be approximately 470-480 kts. We believe this is the most likely case for MH370, and note that the last ADS-B data available indicated that MH370 was at 35,000 feet and 471 kts at that time.

As can be seen in the chart above, the differing approaches result in search areas that are some 500 miles apart. The full report can be found online here.

UPDATE 9/12/14: Richard Godfrey has pointed out that a recent report from the ATSB  shows that the seabed-mapping effort has recently been extended some 200 nautical miles toward the IG search area:




571 thoughts on “MH370 Search Area Still Too Far North, Independent Experts Suggest (UPDATED)”

  1. @Gysbreght

    Re: the sim…..For our discussion purposes that link is fine…….Just a note though, I don’t believe that sim is approved by Boeing either.

    As to the phugoid……. I find it reassuring that Boeing designed the multi-million dollar 777 not to drop like a rock thrown in a pond as some have suggested.

  2. @Rand

    A belated welcome back.

    If the cause of the diversion was a jihadist plot, that *might* motivate a Malaysian/US/international cover-up. If, OTOH, it was Z, it’s a no-brainer. Pointing the finger at Z would immediately focus attention on the questions: “Why did he do it?” and “What exactly happened?” The answers are unlikely to be career-enhancing for would-be PM Hishammuddin Hussein or Uncle Najib. So, don’t hold your breath waiting for the results of this investigation.

  3. @LaurenH

    “Without a person or system available to control the plane, what compensates for the the rudder offset?”

    Here’s a relevant response to your question from a description of a sim. Boeing indicated this to me, and we found it in our sim reviews.

    When the first engine failed TAC (Thrust asymmetry compensation) automatically applied rudder. The speed reduced from 320 knots indicated to 245 knots indicated. It was able to maintain 245 knots and FL250. __When the second engine failed the rudder trim applied by TAC was taken out and the trim went to zero.__ The autopilot dropped out and the flight controls reverted to direct mode.

    Hope this helps

  4. @Matt at Sept.16th at 01:07 am:
    Where did you get those Zaharie quotes from? I’ve never seen them before. And I agree with you, I do find them somewhat troubling – if taken together with the facts, that he apparently did practice sharp turnarounds with runs deep into the SIO and landings on islands in the Indian Ocean with short runways on his flight simulator. And that he apparently had no entries in his social pages after March 8th. If we take all this at face value and also consider the fact that MAS Airlines, Zaharie’s own working place for decades, might’ve been involved in an election scam with theses charter flights, then we really can’t say anylonger IMO, that nothing hints at Zaharie, and that he had no motives.
    @Matty, of course it needed a major brain snap, if he really abducted his own plane, but these things do happen. That a lot of us might rather like and admire his fight against a corrupt government shouldn’t make us blind against the possibility that on that day he might’ve crossed an edge and did something indefensible. It can happen if people are very passionate about something and get frustrated again and again.
    I started out with the scenario of Zaharie abducting his plane for some kind of political statement, which went wrong somehow and drove him literally over the edge into the SIO. And it’s still a powerful and credible scenario – if there wasn’t that little matter with mh 17 and the ongoing calamities of MAS Airlines. That doesn’t really fit the narrative.
    But IMO it would be wrong to say nothing at all hints at Zaharie. Even if each single pointer is no big deal and doesn’t prove anything, the cumulative effect iy pretty powerful.
    It’s of course quite possible that we are looking at an attempt to frame Zaharie. Or that other factions with a very different agenda were involved who might have misused Zaharie’s idealism.

  5. Lauren H,

    The FMS is irrelevant in this regard. The autopilot disengages after flameout of the second engine, see the ATSB report.

    The TAC is not an autopilot function, nor is it unique to the 777. It is a feature of the fly-by-wire flight control system, also present on the Airbus FBW airplanes. It is not an ‘on/off’ function. It continually calculates the thrust of both engines, and the deflections of rudder and aileron needed to compensate any asymmetry. If the asymmetry reduces, the deflections of rudder and ailerons reduces. When an engine flames out, it does not loose all thrust immediately, it spools down in a few seconds, sufficiently slow to allow the TAC to adjust to the momentary thrust asymmetry, increasing for the first engine flameout, decreasing for the second. Look at the instruments in the WA video, the airplane heading does not change at all after the first flameout, neither at the second.

  6. @Luigi, while I still think, your scenario has a lot of merit, I disagree, that a cover-up by the Malaysian authorities can be explained easily if Zaharie was the sole perp. I think the opposite is true: the Malaysians zeroed in pretty quickly on Zaharie as a likely culprit. And while each scenario is unpleasant for the powers-that-be, Zaharie, the staunch supporter of the opposition, as suicidal mass murderer would be the easy way out for the current government. Only if there was some undisclosed communication going on, maybe while the plane was circling, and the government didn’t react and hushed it up, it could get a little unpleasant. But on the whole Zaharie as perp should suit them just fine and they never discouraged that notion actively. That’s why I think a frame up isn’t out of the question.

  7. Gysbreght: point taken: clearly the autopilot and other avionics systems aboard a 777 could apparently be easily manipulated so as to both divert and ‘cloak’ the flight. Testing for proper pilot training amongst the passengers or crew, then, is a dead end. This doesn’t discount an investigation revealing more regarding prior communications, motive, etc.

    Luigi, my old friend: I have not abandoned my prior conclusion with the Captain as the perp and Malaysia as the intended destination for the diversion; this remains the most likely scenario in terms of probability, in my view. I have put it aside for the moment, however, to open once again to other perspectives and possibilities. Regardless – and despite your discounting of the level of investigative wherewithal, Littlefoot – the level of silence that has now clearly settled over things now has my attention. And I agree, of course: a stifled investigation intended to cloak knowledge of the diversion happening at the hands of the Captain (or the First Officer) would similarly serve those in power in Malaysia.

    As for Perth as an intended destination, I would say that it is more likely than the SIO. Perhaps it was a secondary destination after the original plot was foiled. Which again raises the question: what event or series of events transitioned the flight from one with an intended destination to a sad, terminal flight to nowheresville?

    Perhaps I am only being hopeful, but something surely must emerge out of this silence, as I don’t really buy the ‘great mystery’ thing.

    BTW, I just spoke with the Chief of Staff of the DAP once again. They are encountering nothing but absolute silence from all ministers. They hope to raise the issue once again and submit their queries when Parliament resumes next month, but it seems that the MH17 has obscured the lines of the process somewhat, and that MH370 no longer really has a constituency. This is criminally tragic in my view, and I guess that I am just as hopeful that someone on the inside of this beast will come to realize the same and surface what they know, State Secrets Law be damned.

  8. @Rand, I can perfectly see that the tragic incident of the mh 17 shootdown obscures the lines. On the surface MAS can hardly get blamed for that and is in the role of the victim here. Eery silence…ok, that’s a great pity indeed.

  9. This is some good information re: dual engine flameout and simulators. Excerpt below, – the entire article can be accessed here:


    Lastly, Pinnacle has changed its simulator training. Since the accident, a dual engine flameout has been added to the simulator training, with the captain taking control. “It wasn’t regarded as high probability at altitude” before, explained Palmer. Prior to the accident, he explained, the crews trained for a single engine failure and total electrical loss, which looks the same on the cockpit instruments (and in fact in this case the first officer loses his instruments). Crews were given a powerpoint presentation on dual engine loss.

  10. I always read that the ping at 00:19 indicates when and where the plane crashed. Could the ping not just indicate the deliberate shutdown of the Satcom in order to fake the crash? If the plane landed in Banda Aceh, the plane could have refueled and then flown on for many more hours.

  11. Gysbreght & John – Thank you for correcting my misunderstanding of the operation of the TAC.

    Cheryl – If (and just about everything to do with this flight is preceded by ‘if’) the plane was heading south by 18:40 and its location was within about 20 minutes of the last radar and Aaza Dana’s inadvertent jibe (gybe) was at 19:10 and at N6 37.720 E94 26.408 and that is when Kate saw the ‘orange’ airplane, it wasn’t MH370. If, however, the GPS time data for the Aaza Dana was off by exactly one hour, the jibe would have been at 18:10 UTC and its 18:40 location would have been about 3 nm east of NOPEC heading east (72° True). If MH370 headed north towards IGOGU after NILAM at around 18:22 and then turned south, it would have passed the stern of the Aaza Dana around 18:40 from port to starboard.

  12. littlefoot: Plucked directly from his rabid period of facebook posting (prior to the elections, and shortly thereafter). Then, after averaging approximately 14 posts a day over a period of 5-6 months, we have almost complete cessation of ANY posting whatsoever. I point this out because I feel, as you correctly observe, that the cumulative effect of EVERYTHING is beyond compelling, and points squarely to his culpability.

    The idea that he was veritably framed is much to complex for my tastes…and I rule it with absolute certainty. However, that a communication took place between Zaharie and the government in some way, shape or form I very much subscribe to. This would explain, most logically, the behavior of the ruling elites…otherwise, transparency would be much more forthcoming. Mr. Hishammuddin wouldn’t have to LIE about whether KLATC ever tried to contact MH370, or, at what time it was that he first became aware of the aircraft ‘going missing’.

    Come on fellows, Fariq (the first officer) had nothing to do with this and was tragically a victim of circumstance. That he was able to get a call off (I believe this report to be accurate) is demonstrative of the desperation on board, and who the TRUE hero was.

  13. Jeff: Thank you for providing us with this forum and allowing us to speak the truth. It is incomprehensible how the media has ignored Zaharie and the political dimension of this travesty. The FACTS are there for all to see, yet so many choose to look the other way.

    I would literally bet my life on Zaharie being the ‘lone soldier’ (please look at the previous poem that I posted, it is eerie in that it depicts an enactment of just what Zaharie has done here).

  14. Matt/Littlefoot – If it was Zaharie then we are looking at a sole perpetrator? He either coldly murdered the cabin occupants or suicided in the cockpit with the door closed and left them all back there. That’s some protest. I don’t think the media has ignored Zaharie, rather there is a limit to how far they can go, and he’s on the radar as a suspect.

    Ordinarily as a member of a political group you are wary of doing/saying anything that would not have the support of your peers so it would be something out of the box. A cessation of posting can mean issue burnout.

  15. Littlefoot,

    Yes either as you say someone is targeting MAS with these series of calamities that have recently unfolded, or in their financial crisis have they (MAS) skimped on maintenance and air mandates and software upgrades? I would hope that is not the case, that maintenance would be paramount. The fire in the avionics shop happened if I am not mistaken about 3 days after that flight was diverted to Hong Kong due to a generator problem, thus making it eerily coincidental.

    Had the recent flight not diverted due to the autopilot defect, does anyone know what would the aircraft have done, how would the aircraft have performed in flight with some defect in it’s autopilot?


    That is the first I have heard of such postings from Captain Zaharie Shah too. But thank you for bringing them to light. I don’t think it completely incriminates him, many people can be livid with their governments but it still doesn’t mean they would take leave of their senses and use 239 people as pawns in a chess game or for bartering chips. It could be as Rand Mayer says, that this thing is simply much larger than just Captain Zaharie Shah, or even yet a series of bizarre mechanical catastrophes. The friend on the Four Corners show, Mr. Peter Chong, in his words said that the idea that Captain Shah would concoct that plan just hours after the court decision is “ridiculous.” He should know his friend and there is something so innocently believable in Mr. Chong’s words. Captain Shah is the easiest one to blame in all of this.

    I still keep these things in mind:

    Pilot Les Abend: “Don’t Blame The Pilots”
    Mary Schiavo: “What appears to be terrorism is often heroism”
    Duncan Steel: “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence”


  16. @jeffwise – Thank you again for hosting us. I know that you’ve closed a few topics, which is certainly reasonable. I’m not sure which ones are closed, so please accept my apologies if the following is:

    @Matty – yes, I am outside the BTO/BFO orthodoxy, and without any firm opinion on where the plane went or how long it flew.

    Most of the theoretically possible explanations/excuses for the BTOs would be influenced, to varying degrees, by the satellite motion or other values with periods equal to one day – temperature rise and fall or satellite latitude, for example. Also, any object moving in a straight line past another object will produce a curved distance graph.

    One interesting test would be to generate a BTO and BFO set of graphs for every flight on a given day. It would require 1) a list of points for each flight from ADS-B data, 2) the satellite’s position at any given time, and 3) a lat-long to BTO formula, and 4) a lat-long-vector to BFO formula.

    It would be interesting to see just how much variation there is between known routes.

  17. Convicting Shah means somebody with high professional integrity, strong and sincere social conscience with a solid political engagement turned mass murderer. There are a bazillion poems written about a soldier, and thousands of people have home simulators. Fariq Hamid even flew models….or so I read.
    One 767 pilot I knew was mad into kites.
    A 777 pilot I knew had his own small timber mill. They seem to have their eccentric pursuits.

    Littlefoot – The simulated remote Indian Ocean strips is still not official, and where they say the plane went there are none at all. I think they are leaking against him.

  18. JS – All I know is that if you were out there researching BTO/BFO this data would have to be thrown out. It just wouldn’t do.

  19. And I forgot to add that half the brain crush has been trying to marry these numbers up with human motivation in the case of Shah. Both could be way out.

  20. @littlefoot

    There have hardly been a whole series of calamities at Malaysia Airlines. There have been two losses, one of which is pretty well understood as the outcome of the Ukraine-Russia standoff and seems most unlikely to be related to the other. Okay, if you go back to the days when Hishammuddin Hussein’s father was PM, you have the still-unexplained hijacking/crash of MH653 (admittedly, the most lethal act of air piracy of its time). The scuttlebutt on MH653 seems to be that it was another palace intrigue/air rage story that was hushed up. Basically, nationalized airlines and corrupt, nepotistic, oligarchical regimes don’t mix well, which is something I think we can all understand.

  21. Cheryl: I, too, feel that it “Captain Shah is the easiest one to blame in all of this.” That is precisely why he remains a prime suspect, in my head and in that of many others. As for Mr. Peter Chong, he may very well be correct in stating that it is “ridiculous” to suppose that Captain Shah could have had culpability. It may also prove that he is incorrect. I can tell you that those of us with whatever level of sociopathic tendencies who present as quite charming in their approach are often so seductive that even our closest family members, friends and lovers regularly ignore the depths of shade that accompany all that fun and brightness. In more extreme cases, the subtle manipulations that are the trade craft of the sociopath are not detected; worse, the sociopath’s personality disorder can present as rather hopeless and untreatable, precisely because they themselves are completely unaware of their behavior and its impact on others. At the far end of the spectrum, they are chillingly devoid of any sense of empathy (in the interest of full disclosure, I rank myself a 4 on a scale of 1-10. :-)…but my main point here is that we all maintain some level of ability of dissemble, and thus the good Captain can not be excused from the room based upon an anecdotally exculpatory personality profile. And perhaps Mary Schiavo speaks to truth with her little poster rubric, while not quite fully understanding the full complexity of the delicate dance between terrorism and heroism out on the extreme frontiers of each where the thin subjective membrane that separates the two often melts away. Littlefoot has spoken to this dynamic repeatedly, and while I am not one to fall into the trap of relativism, neither am I willing to embrace simple, comforting constructs of polarity. In short, it’s not a matter or whether Captain Shah was a good person; it’s more a matter of whether he was or was not culpable. Profiling him only produces a probability associated with him being culpable in terms of having the personality for the diversion. Yes: it looks like family, flight and food. And what then, for example, do we do with the diversion occurring immediately after “goodnight, Malaysia,” and the “Goooood morning Vietnam!” (RIP) that was never transmitted? How do we weight this element of the mix?

    Matt: can you provide us with more Facebook postings from the good Captain? This all quite interesting to me, too, as his level of frustration is palpable. We would be seeking, I would think, further hints of a longing for heroic action and perhaps book titles or a particular volume of verse (not to be too Sherlocky about it).

    Matty: I forgot to acknowledge your psych background. Anyway, your doubting nature as one of Nihonmama’s Shadow Seekers is revealed in your writing; I don’t suppose you would trust me or anyone with so much as ensuring that the car was properly gassed up.

  22. Back in April, the astute ‘Mung’ made a very interesting comment on DS blog:

    2014/04/18 at 03:12

    One can not discount the reports early on that RR said their data showed a full and proper shutdown of the engines. That was quickly discounted by the media, but never proven to not be true. Then there is the fact that Boeing never said that the statements from McInerny, that the plane was in Pakistan were not true.
    Sometimes you have to look at the early data and reports and try to find the truth before it is covered up.

    “RR said their data showed A FULL AND PROPER SHUTDOWN OF THE ENGINES. That was quickly discounted by the media, but never proven to not be true.”

    The comments closed before I was able to ask Mung for the source of his comment (and still chasing down), but notably, and as far as I’m aware, Mung was never challenged on accuracy by anyone on DS.[If anyone here is in touch with Mung and can ask him to reply here with the source for his comment, it would be most appreciated.]

    Now let’s go back.

    On March 13, five days after MH370 vanished, Andy Pazstor and Jon Ostrower wrote this WSJ article:

    U.S. Investigators Suspect Missing Malaysia Airlines Plane Flew On for Hours

    “U.S. investigators suspect Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 flew for hours past the time it reached its last confirmed location, based on an analysis of signals sent through the plane’s satellite-communication link designed to automatically transmit the status of onboard systems”

    On the same day this article was published, aviation tweep FlyingWithFish tweeted that his NTSB source said that the WSJ story was “credible”

    Then guess what happened?

    Pazstor and Ostrower changed their story.

    “An earlier version of this article and an accompanying graphic incorrectly said investigators based their suspicions on signals from monitoring systems embedded in the plane’s Rolls-Royce PLC engines and described that process.”

    And Rolls Royce AND Boeing denied receiving any data from MH370 after 1:07 (17:07 UTC)

    Now when I queried Mike Exner (airlandseaman) about this, he replied:

    “Boeing/RR data flows through ACARS computer before going to the AES. ACARS was off, but AES was on after 17:07, thus no RR data.”

    So the ACARS was off. At least that’s what we’ve been told.

    But what’s my point? There’s a huge disconnect in this story.

    Isn’t it reasonable to think that Pasztor and Ostrower talked to Boeing and Rolls Royce for the original article? After all, wouldn’t they, the manufacturers of the plane and engines, know better than anyone else what data was or wasn’t being transmitted from MH370?

    And, as the MAS CEO said (and note his choice of words): “We have contacted BOTH POSSIBLE SOURCE OF THE DATA, Rolls Royce and Boeing. Both had said they did not receive the data”.

    Further, IF MH370’s ACARS was in fact off and IF Boeing and Rolls-Royce were the sources for the WSJ story, isn’t it reasonable to think that Boeing and Rolls-Royce KNEW that ACARS was off — and would also have conveyed that fact to Pazstor and Ostrower, the result being that there would have been no “flying for hours” story?

    Where did this story, written by two well-regarded aviation journos (who, it should be noted, DID NOT IDENTIFY THEIR SOURCE), come from?

    1.The WSJ reporters made up the original story.

    2. Rolls Royce and Boeing told the WSJ MH370 “flying for hours” but that story was not true.

    3. ACARS was off but neither Boeing nor Rolls Royce knew that when they (presumably) talked to the WSJ journos.

    4. Rolls Royce and Boeing talked to the WSJ journos and told them that their data showed MH370 “flying for hours”. But RR and Boeing were subsequently directed to deny the story.

    5. The source for the original WSJ story was neither Rolls Royce nor Boeing. If so, who was the source? And if there was a third source and if the source’s information was correct, why would Pazstor and Ostrower have needed to CHANGE the story?

    Unless there’s been a development I’ve missed, “Rolls Royce, the aircraft’s engine manufacturer, has not released any of its MH370 data.”

    Why not? Why all of the confusion on this very critical issue?

    IF, as Mung stated, Rolls Royce data showed a proper shut down of the engines (and that would have been at 1:07), is that why Boeing and Rolls Royce ended up denying the “flying for hours” story?

    One thing’s for sure – a proper shut down does not suggest a crash – on land or in the ocean. It does, however, imply a landing. And that, at the end of the day, may be the real reason the story changed.

  23. Rand – I reckon the big plunge we have seen with these numbers has been something to watch. When it comes to experiment design I think if something can go wrong it generally will. In this instance could we design a more frail arrangement to catch this kind of data? Applying Murphy’s law and any scientist should be nervous about it, but they don’t show it. The caveats should be up front. If they were I think the public would have washed their hands long ago. It’s like working from the smudged fingerprint of a missing man, but the trust in the data is always proportionate to the effort that is spent on it. If it leads to the plane – good.

    JS’s experiment would be interesting, and if we did a large comparative study with BTO-BFO the current numbers would be cut.

  24. Rand,

    I agree with something you said I think awhile back, that the IGARI diversion was with the intended destination of Malaysia. They are not even heading to KLIA, they seem to be aiming at the closest airports. Whether that was nefarious or not far be it for me to know, all that the official investigative team put on the table as the reasons for it from the get go are still there no matter how we shake it up, until they start ruling things or people out. It’s either an on-board emergency and something technically very wrong, a hijacking and diversion under duress, or a pilot sabotage diversion.

    I wish they HAD said “Good Morning Vietnam” and all was well that night. I wish we could reset the entire sky that night and put the moon, stars, even the bollides back in place, put our hands up collectively and turn them around at IGARI, reset the audio recording, and let them fly off and land happily this time in Beijing and none of us were hashing this out in the blogosphere.

    I bet if Jeff, Duncan, and the other IG group members could play Sherlock over there for awhile this thing would be solved. I hope Jeff goes back on CNN when the search resumes.


  25. @Rand:

    +10K your last post, especially this:

    “neither am I willing to embrace simple, comforting constructs of polarity.”

  26. Someone said “The sociopath’s personality disorder can present as rather hopeless and untreatable, precisely because they themselves are completely unaware of their behavior and its impact on others.”

    Looking at some of the recent comments, I couldn’t agree more.

  27. @Rand, thanks for your last post, and nihonmama is quite right in praising it.
    Something else: Why are so many of you looking for a hero of this tale? So far I fail to see any evidence for this. Simply turning a plane around after an emergency -if that really happened- doesn’t qualify as a heroic deed IMO, at least not ln it’s own. The pilot was simply doing his job. Matt on the other hand said that the copilot might have been a hero because he switched on his cell phone -if that really happened. Again, I fail to see the heroism here. Mary Schiavo talked about potentially heroic acts. Early in our discussion a poster suggested that Inmarsat’s engineers are the real heroes of this tale.
    But I think right now we should simply try to look at the facts as objectively as it is possible in the bloggosphere. As Rand said, it doesn’t matter if the captain was a good person or not, or if we can identity with him or like him. He still might’ve abducted his own plane -or not. The same is true of course for any other suspect.
    Maybe, if the truth will ever be found out, heroes and villains will emerge – or it will simply remain a tale without such clear cut characters.

  28. I suppose we are still having this conversation because there is nothing really incriminating wherever you look. Zaharie is on the list but I just don’t have him on top because I’m leaning away from a sole perp.

  29. @JS Posted September 16, 2014 at 9:06 PM

    “Most of the theoretically possible explanations/excuses for the BTOs would be influenced, to varying degrees, by the satellite motion or other values with periods equal to one day – temperature rise and fall or satellite latitude, for example. Also, any object moving in a straight line past another object will produce a curved distance graph.

    One interesting test would be to generate a BTO and BFO set of graphs for every flight on a given day. It would require 1) a list of points for each flight from ADS-B data, 2) the satellite’s position at any given time, and 3) a lat-long to BTO formula, and 4) a lat-long-vector to BFO formula.”

    Quoting from the ATSB report of 26 June:

    “The BFO analysis was validated by several methods:
    An independent recreation of the satellite communication system model. This simulation was able to prove definitively that the BFO value is influenced by the location, speed and heading of the aircraft.
    Using nine previous flights of the accident aircraft (registered 9M-MRO) and 87 other aircraft with the same SATCOM terminal equipment in the air at the same time as MH370, some path prediction analysis techniques were verified.”

    If you want to calculate BTO and BFO for any location, speed and heading of the aircraft at any given time, I would recommend the excellent “BTO and BFO Calculator” posted by Yap on the DS blog.

  30. @Matty, for many reasons I also think, we’re not dealing with a lone perp. But for me, that doesn’t knock Zaharie from the list of suspects. He might’ve even been misused by other factions. His political leanings and his discontent were well known. The election manipulations with the charter flights and Ibrahim’s renewed conviction might’ve been the last straws. It wouldn’t be the first time, that someone like him would’ve been instrumentalized and seduced into doing dirty work out of idealism for unscrupulous factions. Maybe he didn’t even know the real agenda.
    I’m not saying that’s what happened, I’m simply saying that a theory with a group of perps doesn’t necessarily exclude Zaharie.
    And the Malaysian authorities might not exactly frame Zaharie outright, but they might be very interested in holding up the ‘lone perp’ theory and hush up other people’s or groups’ possible involvents.

  31. @Matty
    >All I know is that if you were out there researching BTO/BFO this data
    >would have to be thrown out. It just wouldn’t do.

    The BTO/BFO techniques are validated by the data from the other flights where navigation data is available, not from MH370. It is always the case that the data for the difficult or interesting cases is partial or noisy – the aim is to get the best from the data that is to hand, it can’t be ‘thrown-out’.

    In the end the thesis is that the techniques work and therefore the aircraft is in the predicted final search box. That thesis will be proven if the aircraft is found, or visa-versa.

  32. There is no evidence of a diversion but on the assumption that there was such a diversion and a further assumption that the diversion was nefarious, nihonmama is absolutely correct in saying that all on board (with the exception of the children), would theoretically be suspects.

    However the argument that the pilots would be the prime suspects in the event of a nefarious diversion by virtue of their presumed command of the plane and/or ability to fly the plane, has no merit.

    A case can be made for the reverse of that argument, that is to say that if there was a nefarious diversion, as between the pilots and a passenger or passengers all other things being equal, it is more likely that it was a passenger or passengers who were responsible for the diversion.

    The pilots would be on the plane because that was part of their job. In contrast, every passenger on the plane would be on the plane because they chose to be on the plane ie they had a choice, unlike the pilots. Their choice may be motivated by a variety of reasons, hijacking being one of them.

    Statistics do not lie. The instances of hijackings by a passenger or passengers far outnumber cases of pilot suicides/’hijackings’. Those who continue to point the finger at the pilot or pilots without any supporting evidence and without any knowledge of the profile of any of the pasengers, should bear the foregoing in mind.

  33. Richard – I accept what you are saying, and I appreciate we don’t have the luxury of throwing away the data. My point was, and maybe not too well articulated, that if you set out to study BTO values looking for anything that may be impacting them, this data might not be part of the study as we don’t know what went on with the plane and everything/everyone on it? Valid point?

    I admit to not even bothering to stay up with the convolutions of the model jockeys because I felt from the beginning it would unravel. I think every day that passes with no plane the likelihood that something is amiss with the SDU etc goes up? Is there concern that the reboot is associated with the data spearing away?

  34. @nihonmama, I just read your comment from yesterday about the data allegedly received by Rolls Roice.
    I do think there is a lot of merit to take a look back once in a while and check what has become of the early reports and statements. This Rolls Roice story has always confused me. Have they received data or haven’t they? What do those data indicate, if they were indeed received? That are pretty straightforward questions which could easily be answered. Yet, as the investigation moves on we never hear more about it. The whole investigation is littered with such abandoned statements and storylines. And many of them seem to be pretty straightforward and not difficult to answer. To an interested watcher like me it almost feels like storylines having been tried out and then abandoned because they don’t work. As time went by everything got more streamlined and a lot of subjects simply weren’t touched anymore.
    So, back to nihonmama’s question if Rolls Roice had initially said, the engines had been shut down properly. Which wouldn’t exactly suggest a crash. But about what time frame were they talking? When did this purported shutdown happen? After IGARI? Or after the last ping? There’s a difference of 7 hours between the two. What were you getting at, nihonmama? You are right, many of those early stories were not yellow press at all, but came from respectable journalists.

  35. @Matty, I think I understand now what you meant: If someone were to write a paper about planes and their BTO/BFO data and how to compare and interpret them, one wouldn’t include data from mh 370’s after the reboot, because we do not know for sure what happened to the plane and it’s SDU. Therefore it wouldn’t make a good speciman. Have I got that correctly?

  36. Littlefoot – sounds like I’m getting there. Problem is I write like I think sometimes – a bit everywhere lol. Even if we knew the exact track the plane took you wouldn’t know exactly how that number was built. And even before the reboot, if you knew there was stuff going on in that cockpit. What I’m saying is it’s not great data.

  37. In the early days after the disappearance of MH370, many rumours made the round of the media. Most turned out to be false or uninformed speculation. I recall only one public statement from Rolls Royce. It said that data were received from the aircraft, that these were sent at the appropriate time(s), and indicated nothing other than perfectly normal operation of the engines.

  38. @Matty, I guess we’re talking about the differences between scientific research and a criminal investigation here. If I were writing a paper, I would indeed throw out the data of mh 370’s last flight, because I couldn’t be sure about the exact conditions that produced them. But as Richard said, in this investigation it’s all they have. Those who have studied the data closely, like Victor, say they’re probably legit.
    Richard says, in the end the proof is in the pudding -or rather in the trenches of the SIO. If they find the plane the data must’ve been legit. In principle he is right of course. But there are some small problems. What if they don’t find the plane? Since the terrain is very difficult and there’s still a lot of uncertainty left if they’re even searching the correct area, that’s a distinct possibility. What then? So, the correctness of the data can be verified by finding the plane, but apparently it doesn’t work the other way round and we can never be quite sure about the data.
    For many there might even be problems if they find the plane. Short of the whole plane and it’s black boxes with corroborating data nothing might be good enough, since so much time has gone by. I’m sure accusations of manipulations will come up.

  39. Littlefoot – Yes, it’s not a research paper, it’s our best forensic platform. But if we discard it for quality reasons…..

    The BTO’s are most likely legit – contingent on the plane actually turning in the matter they think it did. If it was your experiment and the SDU went on the blink, then came back on heading off on some tangent would you be worried? I’d call it a toss of a coin job, so is there any verification in place here? Just asking.

    If there is no plane at the end Inmarsat will switch to uncertainties and the vastness of the search. I’m sure they are in there trying to find the thing, but I’m also sure they saw an opening early on.

    Alex – I don’t want to get you into trouble here, but if the plane did float along in the South China Sea for a lengthy period, should there have been an emergency beacon go off, at least one of them? If you can think of a good reason why not just say yes and we can leave it at that lol.

  40. Littlefoot: back towards the end of May/early June, I believe it was, I recall reading in the WSJ, quoting a Boeing official, how “radar data” had cross-referenced/been important to their “analysis.” I may have cut and pasted the quote here, but can’t recall if I actually did so. I lugged the article around for a couple of months, but it seems that it was lost in our move. I found it significant at the time, as it represented a rare reference to radar data actually playing an integral role in any analysis. I mention it here again as perhaps Boeing was involved in an analysis of the engine data.

    Alex: if one takes a probability approach rather than a statistical approach to the problem, the “evidence” does indeed favor an intentional diversion, and then for reasons other than a mechanical failure. As for the official pilots being included (as opposed to excluded for statistical reasons) amongst the suspected perpetrators for the diversion, there is the fact that the cockpit produced a “goodnight, Malaysia” while it did not immediately hail Ho Chi Minh ATC as was to be expected. The lack of a standard transmission of a hijacking code compounded with the the perpetrator having some knowledge of the route (i.e., the interval between the handover from KL to HCM ATC was chosen for the diversion) also would raise the probability of one of the pilots being culpable. Together with the supposed disabling of additional communication systems, I would then raise the probability of the involvement of one of the official pilots.

    Meanwhile, there yet remains a certain probability that there was a catastrophic mechanical failure; that the aircraft was hijacked with the pilots being coerced to do so; and that a hijacker knew of the timing and diverted the aircraft without the involvement of the pilots. There is likewise a certain probability that can be assigned to the aircraft never having been diverted with the Malaysians deliberately misrepresenting their own radar data. While I would acknowledge the possibility of this occurrence (just as I would your particular construct), I would assign both a relatively low probability.

    On top of the above, there was (and perhaps remains) quite a bit of official suspicion regarding the Captain and the First Officer as being complicit. And while we have most likely purposely been kept in the dark regarding important aspects/information concerning the flight, the trade off is that we have enjoy the luxury of not only examining for evidence of culpability, but also exculpatory evidence. Indeed, we have the luxury of creating all sorts of constructs for which the dots apparently line up, while there is no actual hard evidence for any particular scenario – now is there?

    The pilots stay on the list. And you can add two stowaway MAS ground crew, if you are going to add one. I actually quite favor this idea (and had not considered it before), as it does indeed provide an out to the official investigation finding a big zero in terms of a prime suspect amongst the crew and passengers.

  41. Rand – the stowaway thing is a bit of Littlefoot gold. But, if they were MAS types they would now be dead or missing, so it would have to be ring-ins?

  42. Yes, of course you are correct, duh: I referenced MAS a little too carelessly. But then we know nothing of the investigation. This is such a place (i.e., a missing person) where I wring my hands in hopes of a leak.

  43. @Matty and Rand, the stowaways aren’t my idea. That honor goes to others in the twitterverse, who discovered the shockingly unprotected avionics bay. I might’ve added the ‘ground crew’ to the list of unnamed suspects though, since the stowaways or illicit cargo for that matter must’ve gotten into the plane somehow. The ground crew has the advantage of hopefully being alive and well and able to tell a tale. So let’s hope they really exist.

  44. @Matty
    >I think every day that passes with no plane the likelihood that something is amiss with
    >the SDU etc goes up? Is there concern that the reboot is associated with the data
    >spearing away?

    To be fair there has been no real searching since the end of the Ocean Shield programme some months ago, and that was with very limited equipment. The clock only starts running on the underwater search when the first towed sonar array goes into operation.

    I guess a simple reboot/restart of the Satellite Terminal will have been tested endlessly on a similar system and the effects included in the analysis. Failures induced by a reboot/restart are different, but the data fits well (from what I have done) to simple path models. This doesn’t match major failures which could slew the data massively. Subtle failures could be another matter if they only caused a few Hz of BFO error, for example.

  45. The missing ELT signals are another frustrating problem. Apparently they are notoriously unreliable, but nobody can say exactly how unreliable. MH 370 had four of them. How likely is it than none of them goes off in a crash? Well, since they are supposed to be not too sensitive, because they are not supposed to go off at every hard landing, they might stay silent if the impact was rather soft. If they then sink quickly, one might not hear them underwater. The ELTs of AF 447 didn’t go off when the plane crashed into the Atlantic Ocean. The big problem is that there aren’t any reliable numbers as to the likeliness of them all failing.
    The only thing which seems certain to me is, that if someone planned to hide the plane in the SIO (as in Victor’s scenario)or elsewhere, we can assume that the perps have deactivated them somewhere along the line. They certainly wouldn’t risk the failure of the operation because of an untimely blaring ELT unit.

  46. @Nihonmama – there is one other scenario that is still consistent with the early press releases, and a claim of normal engine shutdown (though I’m not sure that the last part was stated that way), and that is that the engines shut down at 17:07, not 00:19:

    Both engines could have been shut down normally around 17:07, for unknown reasons, and that could have been transmitted back to RR.

    The SDU could have been powered down around the same time.

    If the APU was in-op, a restart would have likely involved a high dive maneuver over the South China Sea.

    At some later point, an SDU reboot could have been performed once the situation stabilized.

    It would not be a surprise if the APU was in-op – at least on domestic flights I’ve been on in the US, it happens frequently. It would also not be a surprise if we were never told that by MAS.

    An in-op APU would be at least partially consistent with some of the press reports. Why both engines would be shut down is an entirely different story, but not inconsistent with either a fire or an attempt to evade heat-seeking missiles. For those questioning a shoot down alternative – 1) Look up the KAL shoot down which targeted the engines, and 2) really?

    The radar is inconsistent with a gliding plane for more than a few minutes, but only if we believe the radar story.

    One last thing, in response to Richard’s post: The simplicity of the path post-reboot is exactly the reason it is suspect in the BTO contrarian club. It looks like it is no longer itself after the reboot.

  47. @luigi
    The intriguing aspect to me about the 40 ,000 votes being flown in on charter flight by Malaysian airlines is who pillioted those flights, was captain shaw involved ?The million dollar question is who released the incriminating Malaysian airlines internal emails Essentially conforming these flights were real and connected to the ruling party.

  48. @Tdm, I remember I was asking myself exactly that question when I read first about the voter shuttling: who piloted the charter planes? I doubt somehow that Zaharie flew some of those missions. His political persuasion was well known. Why should they use him for such a shady operation? But this is a political scandal which is tied directly to MAS. Some airline personnel was bound to know about this. Maybe not only Zaharie was incensed about it.
    Victor wrote in one of his comments that the last 6 month established MAS as maybe the unluckiest airline in recent history. Are they still a target? In a German news magazine there was an article recently about their ongoing financial trouble.They are flying with more than half empty planes on many routes. Apparently a lot of passengers try to avoid MAS atm.

  49. @Littlefoot:

    “The whole investigation is littered with such abandoned statements and storylines. And many of them seem to be pretty straightforward and not difficult to answer. To an interested watcher like me it almost feels like storylines having been tried out and then abandoned because they don’t work.”

    Thank you – and right on point.

    As Mung so rightly noted:

    “Sometimes you have to look at the early data and reports and try to find the truth before it is covered up.”

    BEFORE it is covered up.

    Hanging chads all over the place with respect to MH370 and if there were ever a low-hanging fruit story for an aviation journalist to chase, it is this one. And yet (someone please correct me if I’m wrong), not one aviation journalist has gone back to get to the bottom of this massively incongruent story.


    Unfortunately (and this is not directed at you Jeff Wise), what is sorely needed in this case (but what is clearly lacking) are aviation reporters who act like investigative journalists. I understand that it’s all a tricky business, particularly given that defense and aviation are longtime bedfellows. But if the aviation press is unwilling (or unable) to speak truth to power, then neither the interests of the flying public — or the MH370 families — are being served.

    Yesterday, in response to criticism by Glen Greenwald that the NYT’s Dean Baquet killed a scoop (while he was at the LAT) from a whistleblower re AT&T and the NSA, Baquet said that at the time, the LAT couldn’t confirm facts for a publishable story, even though the whistleblower’s story would prove true a decade later.

    I don’t know if Baquet is being completely truthful or not.

    But we may (and I truly hope this is not the case) have a similar situation in the case of MH370. Much of the information needed to understand what happened is currently in the hands of Inmarsat, Rolls-Royce and Boeing — and likely, the intel agencies of various governments. Some would say (and have said to me) that we should just wait for the investigators to sort it all out, and then the truth will be known. So stop talking about it and stop asking questions, because asking questions, after all, is tantamount to ‘speculation’. And who are we to speculate, when the authorities know best.

    Well given how things have gone thus far, I personally have not one iota of faith that the investigation into MH370 will yield the truth. But it will most assuredly produce a narrative that the (largely uninformed) public will swallow. And rest assured that whenever the ‘truth’ is revealed, it’ll be a long way away — because we’ve already been informed that the (very expensive) search in the SIO could take “years.”

    If this is a nefarious event of a certain variety (read: terrorism), it may be in the interests of one or more of the aforementioned parties that the truth about MH370 is not revealed — for a long time — or ever. And if that is the case (there are many indications that SOMETHING is being hidden), the aviation press should be challenging, not enabling, the cover-up.

  50. @JS:

    Thanks much for your comment.

    “Why both engines would be shut down is an entirely different story, but not inconsistent with either a fire or an attempt to evade heat-seeking missiles.”

    Under either scenario, with BOTH engines shut down, how long would MH370 have stayed in the the air?

    Moreover, if there were missiles fired at MH370 and the pilots had sufficient knowledge to enable them to respond, wouldn’t the likely first strategy be to evade, not stop? — the point being that even if the engines were shut off, there would still be a heat signature. And if there were a fire (and BTW, I’ve never bought that theory), how could the plane have flown 7+ hours?

    The big point I wanted to make in the Rolls Royce post is this: if people are focused on crunching (questionable) data and considering scenarios that might fit the data, but are not paying (close) attention to how the story is being reported (or not), they’re missing an important part of the story.

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