What We Know Now About MH370

It’s been more than six months since MH370 vanished, and in some ways we know no more now than we did in late March: no new clues have emerged, no more data has been discovered.  In a sense, though, we have come a very long way. For one thing, we now understand how many of the “breaking news” developments that occurred in the early days were actually untrue. (There were no wild altitude swings, no “fighter plane-like” maneuvering, and probably no cell-tower connection with the first officer’s phone.) What’s more, thanks no doubt to a drumbeat of public pressure, the authorities have released a tremendous amount of data and provided useful explanations of how that data is being interpreted. And finally, a spontaneous collaboration between technical experts and enthusiasts around the world has provided a trove of insight into avionics, aerodynamics, satellite communications, and a whole host of other topics that collectively shed light on what might and what might not have taken place on the night of March 7/8, 2014.

While a great deal of information has become available, it has not always been easy to find; much of it, for instance, has been exchanged via email chains and Dropbox accounts. For my part, I often find myself rummaging through emails and folders looking for information that I’m pretty sure I’ve seen, but can’t remember where. So what I’d like to do with this post is try to aggregate some of the most basic facts — a set of canonical values, if you will, of the basic data on MH370. Necessarily, some of this data comes with implicit assumptions attached, so as far as possible I’ll try to make these assumptions explicit.

Okay, on to the data. What we know now:

The bedrock data. In the wake of MH370’s data, there were numerous news reports concerning information leaked by anonymous sources from within the investigation and elsewhere that have subsequently been either disproven or inadequately verified. For the purposes of the present discussion, the following are considered the bedrock sources of information upon which our understanding of the incident can be built — the “Holy Trinity” of MH370 data:

  1. Up to 17:21: radio communications, ACARS, transponder, ADS-B
  2. 17:22-18:22: military radar track. This information is of uncertain provenance but has been endorsed by the governments of both Malaysia and Australia. Furthermore, it plausibly connects the prior and following data sets.
  3. 18:25-0:19: Inmarsat data, especially BFO and BTO values. There is some discussion as to how this data is best interpreted, but the numbers themselves are assumed to have been received and recorded by Inmarsat from MH370 via their 3F-1 satellite. The “ping rings” in particular are derived through relatively simple mathematics and should be regarded as established fact unless someone comes up with a specific mechanism by which some other result could be obtained.

Timeline. Courtesy of Richard Godfrey and Don Thompson, here is a basic timeline of MH370’s disappearance (all times UTC):

  • 16:41:43 MH370 departs runway at KUL runway 32R
  • 17:01:14 MH370 flight crew report top of climb at 35,000 feeet
  • 17:07:48.907 Last acknowledged DATA-2 ACARS message sent from plane
  • 17:19:29 Last radio voice transmission
  • 17:21:04 Plane passes over IGARI waypoint
  • 17:21:13 MH370 disappears from air traffic control (secondary) radar screens
  • 18:22 Last primary radar fix
  • 18:25:27 Inmarsat log-on request initiated by aircraft
  • 0:19 Final transmission from aircraft to satellite

A more complete table of values, including the location of the plane at each point in time, can be found here, courtesy of the inimitable Paul Sladen. And Don Thompson has created an impressively detailed breakdown of the sequence of events, with a special focus on radio communications between the aircraft, ground, and satellite, here.

More stuff after the jump…

Physical characteristics. MH370 was a Boeing 777-200ER. Its “zero fuel mass” (ZFM) was 174,000 kg. With 49,200 kg of fuel aboard, its takeoff weight was 223,200 kg. (We know the fuel aboard on takeoff at 16:41 thanks to Paul Sladen’s deciphering of ACARS data shown briefly onscreen during a CNN segment. Note that in a press statement Malaysia Airlines indicated that the fuel load on takeoff was 49,100 kg.) UPDATE: Thanks to the October ATSB report, we now know that the fuel remaining at 17:07 was 43,800 kg.

UPDATE 2: Don Thompson has rounded up four publications which contain a wealth of 777 technical information: Boeing 777 Flight Management System Pilot’s Guide, Qatar Airways 777 Flight Crew Operations Manual, United Airlines 777 Aircraft Maintenance Manual/Satcom System, and Honeywell Multi-Channel SATCOM System Description, Installation, and Maintenance Manual.

Communications. In addition to a traditional transponder for use with ATC secondary radar, MH370 was equipped with ADS-B equipment that was operational the night it disappeared. The plane was equipped with VHF and HF radios for voice and data communication, which could also be sent and received via a satcom system that relied on one low-gain and two high-gain antennae mounted near the rear of the aircraft. (Specs, courtesty of Don Thompson, here.) These antennae were connected to a Honeywell/Thales MCS6000 satellite communications system located in the ceiling beneath them; this unit received location and velocity information needed to aim the high-gain antenna and to precompensate the transmission frequency via ARINC cable from the Inertial Reference System in the E/E bay. After the plane disappeared from primary radar, Malaysia Airlines made three attempts to reach its crew via satphone, but the calls did not go through; Don’s signal analysis of the three attempted phone calls suggests that the high-gain antenna might not have been working properly, perhaps because the antenna was not steered correctly.

Wind speed and temperature aloft. Stare at this for a while if you want to. If you like your data a bit rawer, you can find historical radiosonde data at the website of the University of Wyoming. For a more granular idea of what the weather was doing on the night in question, Barry Martin has compiled a large table of reanalyzed weather-model data from NOAA here.

Speed. As part of his paper detailing his estimate of where MH370 might have gone, Dr. Bobby Ullich has produced an impressive analysis of MH370’s speed before it disappeared from radar. While I’m agnostic as to the correctness of Bobby’s conclusions, I think he makes an excellent point with regard to the plane’s speed, which is that it clearly accelerated after the diversion at IGARI. The ground speed before the turn was about 470-474 knots, after, it was around 505-515 knots. Given that the winds aloft at the time were somewhere around 20 knots from the east-northeast, this would be broadly consistant either with an acceleration in airspeed or with a steady airspeed in the range of 490-495 knots.


Bobby Ullrich speed values

In his ongoing analysis of MH370’s performance, Barry Martin points out that a likely speed for the plane to fly would be “Long Range Cruise,” or LRC, which can be selected through the flight management system. LRC is faster than the Maximum Range Cruise speed and 1 percent less fuel efficient. To quote a Boeing manual: “This speed… is neither the speed for minimum fuel consumption nor the speed for minimum trip time but instead is a compromise speed somewhere in between. It offers good fuel mileage but is faster than the maximum range cruise speed.” LRC is given as a Mach number, and varies with weight. At MH370’s takeoff weight, LRC at 35,000 feet would be Mach 0.84, which translates to 481 knots in a standard atmosphere. At the time, however, the temperature was 11 deg C higher than that of a standard atmosphere, so its true airspeed would be 494 knots.

It’s worth noting as well that Brian Anderson has devised an entirely different means of calculating airspeed, based on the observation that between 19:40 and 20:40 the plane reached its point of closest approach to the satellite; by calculating this distance, and estimating the time at which it occured, one comes up with a groundspeed that turns out to be, by Brian’s (and other’s) reckoning to be in the neighborhood of 494 knots. Brian observes that “by removing the wind vector, the answer becomes about 486 knots TAS.”

Richard Godfrey has run the numbers for the early part of the flight and come up with slightly different figures from Bobby Ullich.

The last ADS-B data shows a speeds around 471 to 474 knots. Last calculated Ground Speed was 474.3 knots. The average Ground Speed required to follow this path from the turn back point and get to Pulau Perak by 18:02:37 for the start of the Beijing Radar Trace is 510.7 knots. The difference between 474.3 and 510.7 is accounted for by an 18 knot head wind that becomes an 18 knot tail wind after turn back. The wind in the area was around 18 knots at the time. This would make the Air Speed 492.5 knots. The Ground Speed required to get from the start to the end of the Beijing Radar Trace by 18:22:12 is 503.6 knots.

He adds:

The major turns and turn back flight path occur at borders between Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore, Thailand and India. Indonesian Airspace is carefully avoided in the Malacca Strait. The major turns are just out of range of the Malaysian, Thai and Vietnam radars. The Satcom Login at 18:25:27 is just 14 seconds after reaching NILAM which represents the point just out of range of the Malaysian and Thai radars.

Performance. As the plane flew along, it burned fuel, and thus became lighter. As a consequence its optimum altitude — that is to say, the altitude at which it would experience the greatest fuel efficiency — became higher, and its LRC at a given altitude would become lower. Additionally, as the plane moved to higher latitudes, the air would have gotten colder, which would reduce its true airspeed for a given Mach number. All these factors would tend to gradually reduce the measured ground speed of the plane, which is indeed what we see geometrically for straight-line flight through the ping rings. For more on aircraft performance, see Barry Martin’s excellent Analytic Fuel Flow Analysis.

The Satellite. From 18:25 onward the sole evidence we have of MH370’s fate comes from the analysis of a handful of electronic exchanges between the plane and Inmarsat satellite 3F-1, which occupies a geosynchronous orbit above the equator at 64.5 degrees east longitude. Its position was not fixed; two years before, due to the fact that its hydrazine thrusters were getting low on fuel, Inmarsat had begun to let its inclination slowly increase. By March 7/8, it had reached an inclination of 1.7 degrees. Paul Sladen has published a table of ephemera. Here is a chart produced by Duncan Steel, showing the progression of the subsatellite point during the course of MH370’s final hours (click to enlarge):


The Search. Via Don Thompson: As announced at a JACC press conference 28th April, on the occasion of the end of surface search, “Australia has been coordinating the search for 41 of the 52 days since MH370 went missing. In this period, more than 4.5 million square kilometres of ocean has been searched. There have been 334 search flights conducted, an average of eight a day for a total of over 3000 hours.”

On September 24, 2014, the ATSB announced that “over 106,000 square kilometres of the wide search area have been [bathymetric] surveyed.”

Inmarsat Raw Data and ATSB report. For two months after MH370 disappeared, members of the press and the general public begged and pleaded for the authorities to release the raw data logs of transmissions between Inmarsat and the missing plane. On May 27, 2014, they finally did.

In June, the Australian Transport Safety Board released a report (later updated) that provided even more useful information, this time explaining how the raw data had been interpreted. More recently, Inmarsat’s Chris Ashton was the lead author of a paper in the Journal of Navigation explaining how the company conducted its analysis.

Thanks to these documents, we now have a much better understanding of what transpired, and have the wherewithal to undertake a critical assessment of the official investigation–which, as I described in my last post, seems to be paying off.

Burst Frequency Offset is a measure of how the signal received by the satellite from the airplane has been shifted by various factors. You can measure how closely a prospective route matches the values recorded from MH370’s actual flight by using Yap’s BFO calculator.

End of the flight. The BFO data associated with the final “half ping” at 0:19 is anomalous in comparison to the preceding pings; it values that could not be generated by any combination of speed, location or heading that is physically possible for a 777. The data is compatible with a steep descent into the ocean at an acceleration of 0.7 g, which Mike Exner, Victor Iannello and others have interpreted as a spiral dive resulting from the fuel tanks running dry. There is some dispute at present as to whether fuel exhaustion would result in such a dramatic maneuver. While plans to enlist a professional-grade simulator are underway, John Fiorentino reports that he has already researched such an experiment, and says that the plane did not spiral dive but instead descended wings-level in a phugoid oscillation, that is to say, with the plane pitching down and gaining speed, then pitching up and losing speed, then pitching down and gaining speed, and so on. I’ve excerpted his report here.

More to come…




344 thoughts on “What We Know Now About MH370”

  1. @ALL……FYI,,FYI

    BEIJING—When French businessman Ghyslain Wattrelos landed in Beijing on Saturday afternoon after a flight from Paris, he expected to reunite with his family. Instead, he was met by two French diplomats who informed him that a Malaysia Airlines 3786.KU -1.96% jetliner that had been carrying his wife and teenage son and daughter was missing.

    Mr. Wattrelos had been in the air himself when the Malaysian carrier announced Saturday morning its flight MH370 had disappeared from radar screens the previous night and never landed in Beijing as scheduled. Members of his family, along with the son’s girlfriend, were returning to Beijing where they lived after a beach holiday while he was working in Europe.

    Unedited, (uncorrected)>>>>>>>>>

    these are the questions ghislain wattrelos was able to ask of inmarsat, and their responses.

    I went to the conference organized by Inmarsat in London. It was 2 hours presentations and 25 mn questions.

    It means not a long time for questions, it was not possible to ask all your 13 questions but these are the answers I got from the questions I have asks :

    1. complete, un-redacted log, including all GPS positions and fuel rptd via ACARS. Inmarsat said no line of datas were deleted and the investigation team has received everything; it is the responsability of investigation team to release it.

    2. Using a corrected BTO Bias (-495,659 vs. ISAT -495,679 usec) reduces the 7th arc radius 5 NM (closer to the subsatellite point). The Biais was calculated with 17 messages they had from the plane when it was in KL airport. They confirm that the max difference between those biais correspond to + or – 10 km

    3. We believe the BTO Bias calculated by Inmarsat was off slightly. They only used 17 of 497 available records. Why not all (or most) 497?
    they used those 17 because they know perfectly where the plane was at that time with a very good precision (in KL)

    4. Why has a complete, unredacted satellite communications log not been made publicly available? – The log released on May 27th had various lines missing, and in particular the several lines right at the very start, at power-up at 16:00 UTC (when the aircraft was on the ground, obviously). We need those few lines so as to calibrate the subsequent apparent SATCOM power-ups when the aircraft was flying (notably at about 18:25 UTC, and00:11 UTC on May 08). they said no line is missing

    5. A better calibration still of the BTOs would be possible if, instead of needing to use the positions of the airborne aircraft, instead we could use the more-precise aircraft positions from the ACARS data. However, the ACARS data have not been released publicly. Why not? Why is this vital information being kept secret, when it is not of any use except in terms of helping to find the missing aircraft? they said they used 3 acars from the plane before IGARI point to calibrate. those ACars were at 16:42 16.56 and 17.07

    I also got the info that they have tested their theory on 16 over flights , some flying the same day and all flights from the same plane from 1st to 6th of march. Their conclusion was the model works at + or – 10km and + or – 5 HZ

    Their presentation was quiet was very well prepared and leaving no real room to criticize or challenge.

    yes, there is still the question if we believe the data, but there is a larger question of WHY the investigation team deleted information before releasing it to the public. WHERE is it now? there is no way that what they released is the full set of data.


  2. @JS

    “I understand the differences of opinion but does it impact the search in any meaningful way? Considering they’re probably going to keep expanding the search area until they find the plane, regardless of how big the initial search area was?”

    Firstly, there is NOT an unlimited budget, nor any assurances they will keep searching till they find the plane. In fact, that is highly unlikely.

    As to where to begin, let me start with the IG’s target. There is no ego involved here. (Not for me anyway)

    If they find the plane, that will be great. That after all is our goal.

    Personally, I will soon be releasing my coordinates for MH370 which is far away from Ulich, the IG and ATSB……so there will be plenty of time for snickering and snide remarks.

    What I don’t want to see happen is 50 years from now we find the plane 6 inches from the Easternmost underwater sweep simply because some people were too smart for their own good.

    Right or wrong, this has never been done before. Perhaps a little prudence is in order?

  3. Wettrelos’ experience with the Q&A following Inmarsat’s presentation is interesting, in that it further substantiates the frame of 1. Inmarsat is constrained commercially, legally or politically from releasing the full logs; 2. Malaysia, as head of the investigation team, has deemed it not to be in their interest to release the unredacted logs.

    That Inmarsat has deleted (transformational grammar) the statement “we provided the unredacted logs to the Malaysian authorities”, is quite obvious and not of any real importance.

    What is relatively important is that, again, we have substantiation of the frame that the Malaysian authorities are withholding information central to the search effort. The next question, of course, is what other information is likewise being withheld by the Malaysian government. Indonesian radar data comes to mind. Unreported or underreported radio or satcom communications with the aircraft.

    It would increasingly appear that neither Inmarsat nor the US government are responsible for what is emerging as clear efforts on the part of Malaysia to withhold data and information associated with MH370. Likewise, neither the US government nor Inmarsat deems itself in a position to pony up information associated with the search.

    The Inmarsat representatives basically stood up there before their audience and informed Mr Wettrelos et al. where the missing data that is in their possession is to be found. Have they EVER once directly released a schedule of data with missing fields? I am uncertain (I am slothful in this regard), but I would guess that they have not. Regardless, I am now reducing the probability of “this dead animal of incompetence over here” another ten points and increasing the probability of the Malaysians behaving as “that nasty animal of obfuscation over there.”

    BTW the scenario of an electronics bay-driven hijacking or hack: Yes, it’s possible, and it’s a highly visual, intriguing back-stage way to frame a possible hijack, either solely in your head and with the assistance of Miles O’Brien’s fine work projected on a flat-panel visual interface. But we need “filter for this filter”, and intermittently cover that part of our neocortex that hangs out of heads, ironically in the interest of “seeing” more. Yes, we would be better to cover our eyes occasionally, just as we must ensure that we have not been cognitively seduced by the sophisticated wonders of human technology. A more kinesthetic approach is just as valid, but you can’t be shy about it, or feign a deference to social decorum in the interest of good taste. No, you need to stand in the middle of your living room and simply invite yourself onto a flight deck and whack somebody over the head with a roofing hammer with all your might, and – oh, what a mess. It’s what Tarantino would do.

  4. A whistleblower will ultimately crack this case. Please, sire or madam, step forward, now is the time. It is simply the next right thing to do.

  5. @Rand:

    “in the interest of ‘seeing’ more.”


    “A whistleblower will ultimately crack this case.”

    +10K. Ad we hope (pray) for both.

  6. @Rand and John –

    Thank you both. I see two competing justifications for getting the size of the search area right:

    1. If the area is set too small, we run the risk of missing a plane just outside of it. (John’s point)

    2. If it’s too large, there is an opportunity cost, and the search resources are unavailable to move to a new area. (not quite Rand’s point, but inspired by it.)

    Assuming both candidate search areas share the same point* of highest probability, and the search starts at this point, an issue only arises when the searched area reaches the edge of the smaller “dive” search area. At that point, a decision has to be made to either abandon the area and risk missing the plane, or expanding the area and risk delaying the search of a new area.

    I see the reason for the controversy, but I don’t think it’s upon us YET. Right?

    *”center” would be a poor choice to describe the starting point, because the probability might not be equal in all directions. The search areas are probably cardioid shaped?

  7. Hi @John,

    You are a true master of suspense! Good ol’ Alfred would be proud:

    John Fiorentino
    Posted September 29, 2014 at 1:55 AM
    “I explained previously why I feel it would be inappropriate to discuss my theory further at this time.”

    John Fiorentino
    Posted September 30, 2014 at 9:44 AM
    “That should be very soon…”

    John Fiorentino
    Posted October 1, 2014 at 5:51 PM
    “Hope to get this all out asap…”

    John Fiorentino
    Posted October 2, 2014 at 1:25 PM
    “I will shortly be releasing a report detailing….”

    John Fiorentino
    Posted October 2, 2014 at 5:07 PM
    “I should have the new report in a day or so.”

    John Fiorentino
    Posted October 5, 2014 at 6:53 AM
    “Accordingly, I will delaying the issuance of my next report…”

    John Fiorentino
    Posted October 5, 2014 at 10:51 AM
    “In any event, I’ll have this and more in my upcoming report.”

    John Fiorentino
    Posted October 6, 2014 at 7:18 AM
    “I will also shortly be publishing a report outlining…”

    And now for the grand finale (or so I’d wish):

    John Fiorentino
    Posted October 8, 2014 at 8:06 PM
    Personally, I will soon be releasing my coordinates for MH370…”

    Hmm, I can’t wait! My nails are chewed up to my knuckles.

    As my uncle used to say: “Mach ma Butter bei die Fische!”

    Well, seriously, get on with it then! Release your report! Then the other experts can enter a proper discussion with you about the merits of your assumptions, findings, derivations, analyses and conclusions, and you can enter into a fruitful response and defense cycle on your report.

    Or is that something you fear and the real reason behind the repeated delay in releasing your now well and truly sufficiently announced report?

    P.S.: No “snide” or “snickering” intended. More inspired by a need to verbally express a hearty yawn.


  8. @jeffwise – re NOVA – Well done!

    With all the above discussion regarding tolerance on the calculated impact zone, I do not remember reading any estimates on the possible distance between the point of impact and the debris field. I suppose that value would be dependent on the currents, depth, sink time, and degree of breakup.

    @MuOne – Be nice. I guess you have forgotten that we are still awaiting CIA approval.

    @Bobby Ulich – Impressive white paper. In support of your findings, using 49,200kg fuel at takeoff (instead of the 49,100kg at push-back and also incorrect fuel burn rate that I had used previously in my “kludge” methods.), I get an average fuel burn rate of 6.5mt/hr. Then using your 3726nm (there I go mixing units) you would get an average ground speed of roughly 490kts (or about 481kts before 18:22 and 500kts after 18:22). Taking posted fuel burn rate tables, I interpolated and then extrapolated to get an average TAS of around 480kts at 35,000ft. Knowing the position and remaining fuel at the last ACARS could further refine these values.

    I noticed that Fig. 6-1 looks like a Skyvector.com plot I believe that Skyvector cannot model turns as accurately as you have and also does not allow you to input separate ground speeds for each leg of the trip. Those restrictions result in the total time of 7h 24.5m in Fig. 6-1 versus the approximate 7h 38m total flight time. If you change the average speed from 503kts to 488kts it will give a better representation of the total time in Figure 6-1.

    Also, did I misinterpret the yellow dot on the 20:41 Ring on Fig. 5-1? If not, you have two “Most Likely Impact Point” dots on this map.

    @D Hatfield – The explanation is the 23:13 telephony attempt reset the 1-hour timer so the 23:41 projected handshake was skipped. The next handshake occurred about one hour later at 00:11. Note, the first of the series of hourly handshakes started about one hour after the 18:39 telephony attempt.

  9. Hi @Lauren H,

    You said “@MuOne – Be nice. I guess you have forgotten that we are still awaiting CIA approval.”

    I thought, I WAS nice! At least I tried. But you know, I am a nice guy, and you know what happens to nice guys… as they say…

    No, I have to admit, I was not aware that you are awaiting CIA approval for (I Infer from your post that you are one of @John’s investigators?) @JohnFiorentino’s report, before it can be published. I must have missed that earlier post explaining that.

    I went back quite a few pages on the various threads here on JW blog to find John’s respons(es) to the IG, as he requested, I’d do. But, then, I got side-tracked by the numerous announcements of the imminent report.

    I guess, I have to retract my verbally expressed yawn and aquire some Awe about the obvious depth and impinging nature of the upcoming report, as it, by the very lack of it actually being released by now, appears to imply a required CIA classification, hence lack of approval for public release as of now.

    As I said in an earlier post, I’d welcome @John’s assistance in overcoming my “troubles of understanding the complexities of all this”. But according to your comment, it looks like, the CIA first has to vet me, before @John’s report can be released. I apologize for any delays caused by me.

    I will sit tight then and await the call from the CIA, cooperate fully and hopefully eliminate any cause of delay on my part. Or, maybe, they do all that in the background and I won’t even know that they are doing it to me (Hi @NSA!). Either way, I won’t stand in the way…I will cooperate…


    PS: @ManvBrain, this is the last, I promise. Will only engage again, if I think, I have something positive or useful to contribute to progressing the cause of solving the #MH370 mystery.
    PPS: This one (maybe) inspired by one too many Honey Whiskeys on Ice, with half a squeezed (squashed?) lemon..

    Cheers again

  10. @MuOne – My comment was in support of your Oct. 9, 4:43AM post as you omitted his response to LGHamiilton’s request for his curriculum vitae. He said, “I’d have to clear that with Langley.”

    Actually, I thought you were very nice in your posts that were directed towards him.

    One thing that I find bothersome is, in his response to questions, he directs you to his home page rather to the specific page that includes the answer. Then, the home page has at least 10 links to various articles but you must click each to find the most recent.

    Being an engineer, my command of english is not great but, I find the tone of many of his posts to be either condescending, arrogant, or obnoxious. I’m just not sure which of these words best describes my impression.

    Also, it bugs me how often he posts corrections to his preceding post. I would read a post and have difficulty understanding his point until I get to the correction post. For example, in the Oct. 9, 5:24PM post he wrote “there is an example” where I believe he meant “there isn’t an example” and in the same post “simply have idea” I believe was intended to say “simply have no idea.”

    I compose most of my posts using a separate word processor and have it check for grammar and spelling. I then copy and paste it into the comments text box.

  11. @Lauren H

    “I compose most of my posts using a separate word processor and have it check for grammar and spelling. I then copy and paste it into the comments text box.”

    You’re to be commended on your posting MO. I’ll try to clean up my act.


  12. @MuOne

    Just so nothing is omitted, here’s my complete response to Mr. Hamilton

    John Fiorentino
    Posted September 28, 2014 at 6:49 AM


    At over 60 years of age and retired, I’m afraid there is no “direct link” to my CV.

    Do you have a job opening?

    In any event, I’d have to clear that with Langley……. 🙂

    But you certainly can read about (most) of my dealings with MH370 here:


  13. The head of Emirates, Sir Tim Clark, has come out questioning the satellite handshakes.

    Though I assume he is not a scientist, he is nevertheless the highest ranking aviation industry person to cast doubt on the SIO theory.

  14. @JS

    While you certainly don’t need to be a scientists to cast doubt on the SIO theory (or anything for that matter)..

    Unfortunately Mr. Clark doesn’t even know why pilots need to have the ability to shut off their transponders after landing.

    Doesn’t give me much faith in air travel in general.

  15. @John – he is definitely a businessman.

    What’s interesting is his distaste for a new tracking system. In a sense, he’s right, because we already have tracking systems, they’re just allowed to be turned off.

    It would seem there is a conflict between two noble requirements here – always-on tracking, and the pilot’s ability to turn devices off.

    I’ve read recently that at least some of the risk of fire stems from the ever-increasing complexity of the cockpit wiring, as a result of a never-ending stream of must-have safety devices.

    I don’t know if that’s true with the advent of glass cockpits, but if Tim Clark’s main point is “figure out what happened before adding more equipment,” I’d say it’s a valid one. I haven’t really heard a good suggestion for uninterruptible tracking without compromising the pilot’s ability to turn off electrical systems in an emergency.

  16. @JS

    Yeah, there’s many ways aviation safety could be improved.

    Starting perhaps with “bosses” that really demonstrate by their own comments that they know very little about their own businesses,

    I mean, how do you get a job like that anyway??

  17. Exellent collection of data. i think more can be found from thrflight radar24 data,specially the other objects in the vicnity and the planes tiny changes of course. the pilot must have been alive and landed the plane exactly where he planned, other wise debris would have been found. My location.is in the deepest canyon shown on the maps the pilot could have known about. I think he got the plane exactly there and scuttled the plane. Weather he went down with it or had an escape plan also could be resarched, from ship movements etc.

  18. Here are my thoughts to this puzzle . The missing ping at 23.41 may indicate that MH370 was on the ground with systems switched off just before 23.41. I propose that it was then flown again at 00.11 from a point on the northern 00.11 ping ring and flew for just under another hour through ping ring 00.19 to its final destination . As it happens ping ring 0011 in the northern arc can coincide with a runway in the middle of Azerbaijan near Gushgara from where it flew to ?? Well draw a circle of radius 500 to 600 miles and see whats within striking distance !! BTW MH370 could have reached Azerbaijan with crossing all ping rings published by turning west at the last known flight position mid way to Vietnam and flying at M.84-.86 on a near constant vector to Azerbaijan. I admit fuel would be right on the margin but seems possible it could just make it. I have flown many hours on 777s as a passenger to Asia from the US and always had the flight map up. 600- 680 mph is very normal, in my view this is possible.

  19. Jeff .Sorry that I missed that point ! So do you know who or what tried to call MH370 at 23.13 ? Where is that record to be found ? Any way that still does not discount the theory of a landing at around 23.30 does it ? In fact it gives more leeway for this to occur. Thanks for efforts your team has put together so far.

  20. Jeff, I’m a private pilot, radio-astronomy, electronics background, self-appointed accident root-cause analyst for hospitals and aviation. (see Comair 5191 crash analysis here: http://www-personal.umich.edu/~schuette/iweb/publications.html ).

    Your New York piece mentioned today in the Huff Post critically misses what seems to me a much more likely scenario — that, having access to the electronics bay, they actually swapped out the electronics cards with different ones prepared to send the desired signals and fly the plane. They’d need to kill power for, oh, 3 minutes, to do so.

    Of course I’m not saying “Aha, I’m a new true believer!” What I’m saying is, in my mind, with serious funding and simulator training (and now with an entire 777 as a practice and training simulator for future such attacks), this can’t be ruled out.

    And, since it is an attack route that is “unimaginable” to higher powers, ( since they wouldn’t know how to do it so it must be really really hard ), the barndoor to the electronics bay remains open.

    Of course, if they can hijack the electronics with a powerful transmitter and a laptop alone, they wouldn’t even need to do that, but the 3 minute blackout suggests, to me, electronics swap-out.


  21. With all due respect Jeff, while your Russian hijack theory is intriguing, I think that it’s too far-fetched to be believable. Tampering with the BFO values would, by your own admission, “…require an almost inconceivable degree of sophistication.”

    The question then begs – Why bother? If a hijack was the objective, then why not simply make the plane go dark? Doing so would create an impossibly large circular search area, rather than the long arcs that a BFO spoof signal would produce. The most likely scenario is the the perpetrator(s) simply did not know about he ACARS “keep alive” signal.

    I’m going on the Occam’s razor principle – The simplest explanation is that the pilot did it, and the ATC transcript provides some subtle clues to support that theory:


  22. Jeff, I’ve read your Kindle book and NY article and it seems like you have beat the satellite data to within a millimeter of its mathematical life.

    Is anyone doing a similarly rigorous study of ocean debris? We have several years of AirFrance parts washing up on Atlantic coastlines and there’s at least 1-2 other mid-ocean crashes of large aircraft.

    Are any of your arithmetic friends working on an algorithm that uses zero debris over X weeks times miles of coastline– factoring in wind and current– to equal a probability that MH 370 did NOT crash into the sea at any location anywhere on Earth??

    It seems to me that proving beyond doubt that MH 370 never impacted the ocean anywhere would substantially strengthen your northern route theory.

    I remember the global ocean current study done decades ago, and still used today, that had at its heart only a single container of athletic shoes washed overboard in a Pacific storm. Over the years, shoes were discovered on almost every beach in the world!

    How many pieces of floating debris have been recovered to date from the AirFrance crash?? Would zero debris equal no ocean crash??  Over how much time??

  23. I read the article in New York Magazine and came here. I’ve thought there was a possible Russian connection for a long time, because of the nature of the cover-up.

    I don’t get so certain about things even when things partially fit.

    Now here are some points:

    1. I think it was probably a hijacking and

    2. It was an inside job.

    Only that explains Malaysian Airlines not wanting the plane to be found. It doesn’t mean that somebody high up wanted the hijacking – someone high up coulld simply have been responsible for somebody getting a job irregularly.

    3. I see no reason to suppose that once it was hijacked, the plane was always under the control of the hijackers. That’s the history of hijackings, but there is nothing inevitable about it, and the zig zag course seems to argue a struggle. The passengers of United Airlines Flight 93 on September 11, 2001 almost recovered control of the airplane, and hijackers here should have been less well trained.

    I can’t understand why the possibility of recovery, possibly by inexperienced people, isn’t even discussed.

    It therefore follows, that first the plane was going one place – possibly to Kazakhstan or Russia and then it went in another direction.

    It is possible that whoever was at the controls at the end did not know the radio was off, did not know where they were, and did not know how to improve the situation.

    The alternative theory is that the pilot wanted to not just die, but disappear, but is there anything consistent with that idea? It seems we had a lot of false rumors like that.



    4. It may have been hijacked, but the purpose of the hijacking may not have been achieved

    5. The hijackers probably did not know about the fact that the plane was not completely cut off from contact with the outside world.

    6. Most passengers and probably cargo could not be the reason for the hijacking because nobody knows in advance what plane anyone or anything would go on.

    The idea that specific passengers were the reason for the hijacking is even worse if you assume that they could only use that plane.

    7. You are probably missing some pieces of the puzzle. the reason that you can’t figure out why Putin might have doine this means you are missing pieces of the puzzle. You
    can’t piece togetehr a jigsaw puzzle if you are missing crucial pieces. We don’t know them, but might find out.

    8. The wrong conspiracy theories not no
    accident. Many are part of the cover-up.

    9. Unlike the case of the Titanic, the people involved in the cover-up have not settled on one account (in the case of the Titanic, that it hit an iceberg. It did not. It fell apart because the steel was brittle in cold water and it made a very sharp turn. It’s sister ship, the Britannic, also sank, and there is no good explanation for that. It is supposed to have been hit either by a German mine or aGerman torpedo, but there is evidentaly no actual proof of that. The truth must have been known at least till 1937, becaus ethe third sister ship, the Majestic, did not sink, and taht could only be because the captain knew what not to do.)

    10. You have these multiple leaked wrong theories because no theory actually works.

    11. All the bad theories seem to have the passengers still alive. Therefore, they probably are dead.

  24. Jeff

    I downloaded the Kindle book, The Plane that Wasn’t There.

    Presumably you are aware of Keith Ledgerwood’s theory. Why didn’t you reference it in this ebook?


  25. @David Tarrant, Yes, of course, it was my favorite early theory before it got ruled out by the ping rings. I mentioned it in my first draft of the New York mag piece but it was cut as length was trimmed from 6000 words to 4000.

  26. Folks: I’ve long speculated that there are some subtle clues in the ATC transcript of the flight that point to the crew’s culpability. The link below points to an extract that I just posted to my blog; I did so to solicit the opinions of other pilots. Do any of you find the frequency omission and superfluous altitude reports to be at all odd? I’d love to know what you all think.


  27. Hi there,

    Since I’m no expert I only have one question for the experts:

    Could the plane theoretically end up on (or very near) the South pole?

    Reason for asking: I actually find the north route very probable no question. The reason I ask this is not technical. when hearing about the pilot or one of the pilots with the estranged wife and all data wiped off the home laptop but also a home made simulator installed in the house that made me thinking: this guys might have wanted to commit the perfect crime. With no plane I assume no insurance benefits after him etc…
    He knew his plane and probably the technical or procedural loopholes how to pull this off.

    Anyway I just want to rule this out but no technical expertise to do so.

    Thanks for your thoughts,
    Laszlo Winter
    It consultant

  28. I DON’T BUY IT!!!

    1) Assuming that hi-jackers had access to the electronics bay, why would they fool with the Inmarsat BFO, even assuming they could figure out how, adjusting an OCXO buried in hardware. More likely they would pull the circuit breakers of the Inmarsat along with the “alleged” disabling of the transponder and VHF radios.

    2) What is the motive? If some group did this to steal a plane, why would they bury it? What is the political motive to kidnap or kill these Chinese passengers?

    3) I posted a suggestion on the Steel website that the BFO was unreliable because the stability of the TCXO oscillator on the aircraft was subject to frequency error due to fire or extreme cold (decompression). It was obvious that the OCD Maths experts on that site all subscribed to a hijacking theory, and thus the possibility of an in flight fire and/or subsequent decompression was dismissed. The “experts” pout blinders on. Steel himself lashed out at me for even suggesting this.

    4) Personally I think anyone continuing to rely on the Inmarsat data is deceiving themselves. Unfortunately this has resulted in a focused search where the plane is unlikely to have crashed. The truth will wash up on a beach, much like the fire bottle on the Maldives. Please someone explain why that item has not been fully addressed.

  29. @Laszlo, i too have wondered from the get go about the possibility of MH370 making it to the Antarctica. All it would have taken was if more fuel was onboard, It is the captains responsibility for how much fuel was onboard, with “extra” fuel it could easily have made it to the south pole, hence no wreckage.

  30. Why is Australia = Dolan saying MH 370 will not be found when there is 4 months left until June is over?

    I hope I do not have to be a FACEBOOK member to comment.

  31. @Donald, Presumably they realize that they’ve already searched all the highest probability areas and are preparing the public for what is very likely at this point to be disappointment

  32. Can someone please advise me where this plane came from (its prior couple of routes) prior to taking off at KL? Also it sounds to me like there is a big question mark over how much fuel was on board. I would also like to know what it would take to avoid radar detection over land or indeed is radar detection avoidable by not having ACARS or any other means of electronic detection activated on board?

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