MH370 Evidence Points to Sophisticated Hijackers

777 E:E Bay Access
The 777 E/E bay access hatch. Click for video.


Newly emerged details concerning Malaysia Airlines flight 370’s electrical system indicate that whoever took over the plane was technically sophisticated, possessing greater knowledge of Boeing 777 avionics than most commercial line pilots. They also suggest that the plane’s captain, Zaharie Ahmad Shah, was not responsible for taking the plane.

The new information comes via Michael Exner, a satellite industry veteran who has been one of the most prominent independent experts investigating the airliner’s disappearance. Several days ago Exner gained access to a major US airline’s professional-grade flight simulator facility, where he was able to run flight profiles accompanied by two veteran 777 pilots. “This is a state-of-the-art 777 simulator, level D, part of one of the most modern training facilities on earth,” Exner says.

A little background. As is well known, approximately forty minutes after its departure from Kuala Lumpur for Beijing, someone turned off all communications between MH370 and the outside world. Around the same time the plane turned sharply to the left and headed back over the Malayan Peninsula. Among the systems that were shut off were satellite communications; the transponder; and two automatic reporting systems, ACARS and ADS-B. The plane went dark just as it entered the space between two air-traffic control zones and was temporarily unmonitored, a sign that whoever planned the diversion wished to avoid detection and was well versed in international air traffic control procedures.

For approximately the next hour, MH370’s progress was visible only to military radar. The plane flew straight and fast between established navigational points, indicating that the aircraft had not suffered mechanical accident. At 18.22 UTC the plane was heading west out into the Indian Ocean when it passed out of range of military radar. At that point, the plane became effectively invisible. Shrouded in night, with approximately six hours’ fuel aboard, the plane could have reached any point within a 3000-mile radius and no one on the ground would have been any wiser. But it did not stay dark. Less than a minute later, MH370’s satellite communications system was switched back on.

Over the span of several minutes, between 18.25 and 18.28, the Satellite Data Unit (SDU) transmitted a flurry of brief electronic messages with Inmarsat satellite 3F-1, which occupies a geosynchronous orbit above the Indian Ocean. In a report issued this June, the Australian Transport Safety Board stated that the signals were “generated as part of a Log-on sequence after the terminal has likely been power cycled.”

Until now, it has not been publicly known how such a power-cycling could have taken place.

At the simulator facility, Exner reports, he was able to confirm “that there is no way to turn off the primary power to the satcom from the cockpit. It is not even described in the flight manuals. The only way to do is to find an obscure circuit breaker in the equipment bay [i.e. the Electronic and Equipment bay, or E/E bay, is the airplane’s main electronic nerve center].” Both of the pilots accompanying him told Exner that “pilots are not trained to know that detail.”

Why the satellite communications system was turned back on is unknown. The system was never used; no outgoing telephone calls were placed, no text messages were sent, and two inbound calls from Malaysia Airlines to the plane went unanswered. Aproximately every hour for the next six hours, however, a geostationary communications satellite sent electronic handshake signals, and the SDU aboard the plane responded, confirming that the system was still active and logged on. Though the signals contained no messages per se, the frequency at which they were sent, and the time it took to send and receive them, have been used to determine the plane’s probable direction of travel.

The fact that the SDU was turned back on provides a window into the circumstances of the hijack. For one thing, since the SDU integrates information from other parts of the plane’s computer system, we know that the plane’s electronics were substantially functional, and perhaps entirely so. Second, the fact that the perpetrator (or perpetrators) knew how to access this compartment and how to toggle the correct switches suggests a high degree of technical sophistication.

Further evidence of the hijacker’s sophistication comes from the fact that they also managed to turn of the ACARS reporting system. This is can be done from the cockpit, but only by those with specialized knowledge. “Disabling it is no simple thing,” Emirates Airline CEO Tim Clark told Der Spiegel recently, “and our pilots are not trained to do so.”

For all its importance, the 777 E/E bay is surprisingly accessible to members of the flying public. The hatch, generally left unlocked, is set in the floor at the front of the first class cabin, near the galley and the lavatories. You can see a video of a pilot accessing the E/E bay inflight here. (In Airbus jets, the hatch is located on the far side of the locked cockpit door.) Once inside, an intruder would have immediate physical access to the computer systems that control communication, navigation, and flight surfaces. A device called a Portable Maintenance Access Terminal allows ground crew to plug into the computer system to test systems and upload software.

The security implications of leaving the plane’s nerve-center freely accessible have not gone unnoticed. Matt Wuillemin, an Australian former 777 pilot, wrote a master’s thesis on the vulnerability in June 2013 and submitted it various industry groups in the hope of spurring action, such as the installation of locks. In his thesis, Wuillemin notes that in addition to the Flight Control Computers, the E/E bay also houses the oxygen cylinders that supply the flight crews’ masks in case of a depressurization event and the controls for the system that locks the flight deck door. “Information is publicly available online describing the cockpit defences and systems located within this compartment,” Wuillemin notes. “This hatch may therefore be accessible inflight to a knowledgeable and malevolent passenger with catastrophic consequences.”

Wuillemin reports that, among others, he sent his thesis to Emirates’ Tim Clark. A vice president for engineering at Emirates responded that the airline did not perceive the hatch to be a security risk, since the area is monitored by cabin crew and surveillance cameras. Wuillemin notes that cabin crew are often called away to duty elsewhere, and that the surveillance cameras are only routinely monitored when someone is seeking entry to the cockpit; he adds:

Emirates considered the possible requirement for crew to access the area should there be a ‘small’ in-flight fire. Research indicated there is no procedure, checklist or protocol (manufacturer, regulator or operator) to support this latter position. In fact, Emirates Operations manuals (at that time) specifically prohibited crew accessing this area in flight. Emirates amended the Operations manual recently and re-phrased the section to ‘enter only in an emergency’.

The fact that someone must have entered the E/E bay during MH370’s disappearance diminishes the likelihood of one of the more popular MH370 theories: that the captain barred himself in the cockpit before absconding with the plane. Even if he locked the copilot on the far side of the door and depressurized the cabin to incapacitate everyone aboard, emergency oxygen masks would have deployed and provided those in the cabin with enough air to prevent Zaharie from leaving the cockpit before the next ACARS message was scheduled to be sent at 17:37, 18 minutes after the flight crew sent its last transmission, “Goodnight, Malaysia 370” at 17:19.

It’s conceivable that Zaharie could have acted in advance by leaving the cockpit, descending into the E/E bay, pulling the circuit breakers on the satcom system and then returning to the cockpit to lock himself in before making the final radio call and diverting the plane to the west, depressurizing the cabin, and waiting until everyone was dead before returning to the E/E bay to turn the SDU back on. But if his goal was to maintain radio silence he could have achieved the same effect much more simply by using cockpit to controls to deselect the SDU without turning it off.

As it happens, Wuillemin’s efforts to draw attention to the potential hazards afforded by unlocked E/E bay hatches proved too little, too late. MH370 went missing just two months after he submitted his work to the Australian government.

319 thoughts on “MH370 Evidence Points to Sophisticated Hijackers”

  1. Jeff:

    Based on what the line pilots and the 777 sim trainer tell me, I agree that the AES power could only be “turned off” from the E-bay CB panel, but I still do not see any solid evidence that the lack of satcom communications between 1707 and 1825 was due to the power being off, much less *turned off* by a human. The ATSB June 26th report states on page 22:

    “The 1825 and 0019 SATCOM handshakes were log-on requests initiated by the aircraft. A log-on request in the middle of a flight is not common and can occur for only a few reasons. These include a power interruption to the aircraft satellite data unit (SDU), a software failure, loss of critical systems providing input to the SDU or a loss of the link due to aircraft attitude. An analysis was performed which determined that the characteristics and timing of the logon requests were best matched as resulting from power interruption to the SDU.”

    Thus, ATSB acknowledges that the 1825 login could have been the result of factors other than a power cycle. A power outage may be the most likely cause, but there are several other possibilities that cannot be ruled out, based on the data available. Moreover, even if the 1825 login was due to a power cycle, the return of power could have been due to a variety of (unknown) events on board that had nothing to do with a human manipulating the CBs in the E Bay.

    I would add that the 1600 and 0019 login events are quite clear in comparison. For those two events, we know they occurred to a “power on event”.

  2. Thanks for your comment, Mike. You raised these points via email with me a few days ago and I was going to include them in the piece but decided to hold off for space reasons. I think you’re right that the several factors you mention above could also have caused the SDU to re-logon; however, it also seems to me that all of these causes would have required someone to be in the E/E bay, tampering with the hardware in a way that implies sophisticated technical knowledge.

  3. Jeff,

    Thank you for your willingness to explore this event sequence. As you know, the scenario involving commandeering of the plane via the E/E bay by a hijacker is in my mind the most likely scenario for the reasons that you cite; however,you will have many critics, so be prepared!

    The sequence of events regarding the SATCOM would have to be 1) Power down the SATCOM from the E/E bay. 2) Turn off ACARS in the cockpit. (This is not as difficult as some believe. The SATCOM, HF, and VHF transport preferences can all be deselected via menu options.) 3) Re-enter the E/E bay and power up the SATCOM.

    If it was a hijacking, without a doubt, it required a high level of preparation and understanding of avionics systems on the B777. But considering that the disappearance of a B777 is without precedence, it is not surprising that an unprecedented level of sophistication was required.

    The obvious question that will be asked is, “What was the motivation for the hijacking, and why did the plane end in the SIO?” I have proposed a highly speculative scenario that attempts to answer these questions. Do you have any thoughts that you would be willing to share on the motivation for the hijacking?

  4. Maybe it has something to do with that mystery cargo & those freescale employees. Why? Well research has shown freescale has a “team” of specialists who primary role is installing & maintaining components in electronic warfare. Seems like a good reason to hijack a plane to me. More so what would you do if a plane was hijacked for this reason,let it be flown off to a foreign country or do what you can to bring the plane down? Not likely to admit to this happening either.

  5. Jeff,
    If the actions were to deliberately make the plane disappear by inhibiting voice, transponder, and ACARS transmissions, that could have been manifested from the cockpit. The fact that the SATCOM was likely powered down, and this could only occur via the E/E bay, suggests that the pilots were likely not involved in the hijacking.

  6. Thanks, Victor! I agree entirely. As for motive, I think it’s always going to be problematic. Given that no one claimed responsibility, and no one seems to have tangibly benefited, any scenario you come up with is going to leave people scratching their heads and asking “but what’s the motive?”
    Ultimately, I think we have to leave the question of motive aside and try to figure out as much as we can about what might have happened. As an analogy, I can’t tell you what Ted Bundy’s motives were, but if there are a bunch of bodies buried under his house, the issue is settled.

  7. Thanks, Jeff. Intriguing new information.

    It sounds to me as though a lot of very powerful people would incur a lot of legal, economic, and political liability if exploitation of this vulnerability were determined to be a key determinant of MH370’s fate.

    People in such a predicament might be strongly motivated to cover up this weakness’ role in events – e.g. by delaying recovery of evidence until after the ocean has corroded it away.

    Perhaps even motivated enough to misinform the search teams, so as to keep (make?) the search area as large (and inaccessible) as possible?

    Even under the “sophisticated hijacker via E/E bay” scenario, the ATSB’s “watch your shores, Indonesia” directive is so glaringly at odds with the Inmarsat signal data that it has me wondering about the lengths to which such people might go to cover their tracks. Wouldn’t the political liability deepen if these hijackers managed to get REALLY close to some “high value” target?

    Can you imagine how the general public – forced to endure all manner of post-9/11 delays and indignities just for the privilege of being deemed harmless enough to board an airplane – were to learn that they could still be shot down by their own (or others’) governments? Governments which let airlines leave a barn door WIDE OPEN to a means by which hijackers could still kidnap us at will, and sacrifice us to their cause?

    If debris shows up on Indonesian shores, I will consider it strong evidence that the “turned south” portion of the Inmarsat data was faked. At which point, our pile of evidence will reduce to a) takeover by someone with sophisticated knowledge, b) debris generated a few months up-current of Indonesia, and c) intense cover-up activities carried out by US/UK/AU leaders.

    At which point, “hijacked and shot down defensively” becomes the most INNOCENT explanation those leaders could provide.

    Even if debris shows up on AU shores, I will remain suspicious. The JIT management of the search has thusfar been a joke, and surface debris, I would think, should be as easy to fake as signal data.

  8. Is it necessary to enter the E&E during flight or would it be sufficient to enter it the night before the flight, by a technician, to program the system for the next day, so that all this can happen without entering during flight? Just curious

  9. That’s an interesting idea, it hadn’t occurred to me. I don’t know if we, the outside public, know enough about the computer system to know if it’s possible.
    My immediate reaction, though, would be to say that this could not have occurred, for the simple reason that whoever was in control of the plane seemed to respond very quickly to certain events. In the first case, the plane turned west very soon after “Good night, Malaysia 370,” and in the second, the SDU was rebooted very soon after the plane left radar coverage area.

  10. One “motive” for hijackers I heard early on was MH370 was the trial run of a future plan that would involve many planes like 9/11. No group has taken responsibility because the plan is ongoing. The 18:25 system reboot was to re-pressurize the cabin & flight deck before the hijackers’ oxygen bottles ran out. They headed to the SIO to conceal the plan but didn’t know about the hourly handshakes. Think about a where a search would have been without having the BTOs & BFOs.

  11. Jeff,

    With the greatest respect, the e/E bay issue has been hammered on my blog Plane Talking for months, which is read by between half and million and in excess of one million readers a month.

    Including at the following links, one of which also links to a report in Flightglobal.

    It has also been reported, very strongly by Runway Girl, back when the information was indeed new.

    I think that collectively the more serious avation media has been demanding answers or responses from the various safety authorities, and Boeing for some time, and they have run away, perhaps in shame.

    However Matt also has reason to be disappointed in the aviation media, in that when he first raised this issue with me I refused to publish it on the same basis I refuse to publish some very damning information about security loopholes at Australian airports.

    As you eleoquently document, Matt was unable to get the attention of the relevant parties either.

    I’m travelling at the moment, and when I can I will again link to your excellent blog as I have in the past in the hope that this evasion of responsibility might at last be properly acted upon.

    But this story, tragically, is not as ‘new’ as your think.

    While I’m here I should also mention that the ATSB is not investigating anything. It is managing the sea bed search in conjunction with the JACC in Canberra, and when it comes to analysis, it takes the advice of the Search strategy committee which reports to Malaysia as the lead in the accident investigation.

    Elsewhere in the archive of Plane Talking report you find documentary evidence that Malaysia mislead the world early in the investigation and continues to suppress vital information, something that has in my opinion influenced some of the commentary in intelligence in DC, in the UAE and in China, who all have something to agree upon in this instance.

  12. Earlier it was noted in the flight path analysis of a missing amount of time (about 54mins) the aircraft should have been in the air. It was near Maimum Soleh airport. maybe the hijackers landed there, got out, and had the airplane take off to the SIO or elsewhere.

  13. We know that the SATCOM responded to two attempts at making phone calls (18:40 and 23:14), even though the calls never went through. We also know that the SATCOM did NOT respond to the ground-to-air ACARS event at 18:04. The event consisted of a series of packets that were sent over a period of around 48 seconds. At this time the flight was traveling in a straight line from Penang to VAMPI. One would have to think that if the SATCOM were powered up, it would give a response, even if ACARS were disabled. Thus, one would imagine that the SATCOM was powered off at the same time as ACARS and ADS-B were disabled.

  14. Excellent point. Really, speaks, I think to the level of the operation that they were aware that a deselected Satcom would still communicate hourly with the satellite — and felt the need to manipulate that. Remember, they knew that they were on primary radar, and most likely knew that Inmarsat wouldn’t get around to looking at the logs until well after their adventure was over.

  15. @Lauren H: …with the highly-trained perps committing suicide, then, for the sake of a secret feasibility study? “Martyrs” tend to be poorly educated, and motivated by the VISIBILITY of their acts.

    And would folks sophisticated enough to take control of a plane from its E/E bay not know about handshakes?

    But “bigger plans ahead” does explain the silence – I think you raise a good point, there. Of course, “theft of plane contents” would also explain silence. If the Inmarsat data is not authentic, that plane could be, as you say, almost anywhere.

    (The second I start to sound like McInerney, someone please just shoot me. Thanks in advance.)

  16. @jeffwise

    In your introduction to this thread you write:

    “At the simulator facility, Exner reports, he was able to confirm that there is no way to turn off the primary power to the satcom from the cockpit.”

    I wonder if that statement is in conflict with the ATSB’s report of june which states on page 33 under Aircraft electrical system:

    “The SDU was powered by 115 V AC from the left AC bus which was normally supplied by the left IDG. If power from the left IDG was lost, then a bus tie breaker would close and power would be automatically transferred from the right AC bus. Similarly, if power was lost from the right AC bus, power would be automatically transferred from the left AC bus. This power switching is brief and the SDU was designed to ‘hold-up’ during such power interruptions. To experience a power interruption sufficiently long to generate a log on request, it was considered that a loss of both AC buses or, a disabling of the automatic switching, would be required.”

    And in a footnote to SDU power-up, following the second engine flame-out and the loss of AC power on both buses:

    “The earlier SDU log on request at 18:25 UTC was also considered likely to have been due to a power interruption. As this power interruption was not due to engine-flame outs, it is possible that it was due to manual switching of the electrical system.”

    If there is a conflict, who is correct?

  17. @Nihonmama

    (over from the other thread)

    Thanks for interesting links! I was not aware of the “Peros Banhos” report.

    Note that the “DG hypothesis” is especially popular in Russian and Iranian circles, including detailed reports in mainstream media from not very mainstream sources.

    PS I have compiled a summary of some of my findings including screen shots of Mega Maldives flight. If you are interested I could send you. Haven’t learned anything new about the background of this flight though.

  18. When Did MH370 Turn South?

    The first BFO at 18:25 showed the plane heading NW. 18:25 is also when the plane crossed waypoint NILAM. The C channel BFO of the first failed phone call at 18:40 showed the plane heading S. The only other waypoint in this interval was IGOGU (assuming the plane maintained the NW heading), reached at about 18:37. If the plane were flying along waypoints, can we determine which one it was? I think we can.

    The BFOs during the 18:25-18:28 logon sequence were sent in 3 batches – roughly 18:25:30, 18:27, and 18:28. We are told that only the original BFO in the first should be considered reliable. However, the last two R-channel values (144 hz and 143 hz), both in the third batch, match the first “reliable” value (142 hz) rather well. Further, the T channel data sent during the third batch also have a BFO that is close. In fact, we can do even better. The AES transmitter bounces among different frequencies and channels during the ground and early flight phases, and some have offsets between one another that seem repeatable and thus can be calibrated. The T channel frequency in batch 3 has an offset of about 4 hz relative to the R channel frequency. When we apply a correction, here are the values:

    R 142 (1st value in 1st batch)

    R 144 (1st value in 3rd batch)
    T 143
    T 143
    T 142
    T 142
    T 142
    T 142
    R 143

    Thus, even though the BFO’s during this 3 minute stretch were once thought to indicate a turn, instead they seem to show that the plane maintained a steady course.

    If the plane turned at a waypoint, my pick is IGOGU.

  19. Thanks, Ben, I know your site well and appreciate all the work you’ve done. What’s most significant about Mike’s report isn’t so much that the E/E bay was vulnerable, but that we now know that the hijackers were actually in there, fiddling with the electronics.

  20. @Gysbreght, I don’t know if there’s a conflict — the implication to me is that this manual switching would have to be done in the E/E bay.

  21. Jeff, to me your post highlights the need for more authoritative input (e.g., from Boeing/Honeywell) as to the precise sequence of events that reasonably could have caused the power cycles MH370 communications apparently experienced.

    For example, I am not entirely satisfied with the assertion that “there is no way to turn off the primary power to the satcom from the cockpit.” At this point I believe no more than that Mike and the pilots were unable to discern a way to do it in the simulator or find a reference to how to do it in the flight manuals. I would not expect any of the three of them to have any particularly expert knowledge of how to do it, because, notwithstanding their general technical expertise, as far as I can tell, none of their jobs or training necessarily entails knowing how to do it.

    To illustrate my point, I am typing on a keyboard I have used every day for a year or two. Compared to someone who knows nothing about keyboards, I am an expert. But I will guess that I know of and how to use perhaps half of its functions. And my keyboard is perhaps 1/10 as complex as a 777 cockpit, I’d again guess. (Please, no comments that its obvious that I have no idea how to use a keyboard.)

    For example #2, “The only way to do is to find an obscure circuit breaker in the equipment bay”. Did the simulator include an equipment bay? It’s not a rhetorical question, but when I have seen simulators, I have only noticed physical cockpits. If not, what is the basis for this statement? Even if it did have a equipment bay, and it could only be done in the equipment bay via a particular circuit breaker, would that mean it could not be done any other way in any other part of the aircraft?

    Without discounting the seriousness of the equipment bay security issue (especially now that everyone knows about it), hijacking has always seemed like a very long shot. I must say the odds against it seem even higher to me if the hypothetical hijacker now must be more technically proficient than the pilots and sufficiently schooled to know of both the vulnerability and the obscure circuit breaker.

  22. @Niels:

    My pleasure. If you’re not on Twitter, please get my email from Jeff Wise. I look forward to seeing your download.

    As I said to some others today:

    We’ve got multiple eyewitness accounts that don’t “match” BFO and/or BTO data. So do we throw all of those accounts out? Or do we entertain the possibility that the ‘data’ isn’t telling the whole story?

    IF/WHEN a crime has been committed, it’s not solved by relying solely on crime lab (scientific) evidence. Rather, it’s by analyzing the HUMAN factors (which includes means, motive and opportunity) and then connecting that information to the scientific results, that a true picture of possible perpetrators is formed.

  23. @Gysbrecht: It is possible to remove power to either the left or right bus (while also opening the tie breaker) from an overhead panel in the cockpit of the B777 and therefore power down the SATCOM as the SATCOM is not redundant. See

    However, as the HF and VHF are redundant across the two busses, it would not be possible to remove power to a single bus and also disable the HF and VHF communication capability. I believe that the only way to disable the HF, VHF, and SATCOM capabilities would be via their individual breakers in the E/E bay. As such, I believe that Jeff’s analysis is accurate.


  24. Michael Exner (on Twitter) last night:

    “Key findings reported to the IG and ATSB on Monday. A report for general consumption is also in the works.”

    I replied: “Thanks Mike. But why two versions of the report?”

    I never got a response.

    When will the “for general consumption” simulator report be made available?

  25. Jeff, with great respect, citing comments from Tim Clark likely just weakens your case for a hijacking. It is good that Mr. Clark is brave enough to be publicly calling for more transparency with the official investigation, but several of his earlier comments indicate he has scant grasp on how modern jetliners and their pilots function.

    To extend others’ points, it is prudent to keep in mind that whatever functions/controls can be executed from the cockpit or the E/E bay in a standard B777 may not be entirely relevant for MH370 if custom alterations were put in place prior to that flight’s departure from KL.

  26. @Ben Sandilands: The vulnerability posed by the E/E bay relative to MH370 was discussed within days of the disappearance. For instance, see

    There were posts on PPRUNE.NET with even earlier datelines.

    As time has passed, the vulnerability has been revisited by a handful of independent-thinking journalists, including you, Runway Girl and now Jeff. With each new report, I see corrections and new thoughts. Collectively, the case is becoming stronger that this particular vulnerability was exploited. (In my speculative scenario involving a Banda Aceh landing, which you have covered in your column, the access to the E/E bay by hijackers is an important element of the sequence of events.)

    The disinformation provided by the Malaysians in the early days of the search, combined with their continued refusal to release the unredacted radar data, voice recordings, and satellite data, suggests that the official investigation the Malaysians are leading will not produce anything of value.

    Your column has been one of the few media outlets that has exposed the less-than-honest behavior of the Malaysians, although I believe other intelligence groups (those of the US, UK, and Australia) know much more than is publicly available. Please keep up the good work.


  27. Your point about finding another authoritative input to verify the claim is well taken. For what it’s worth, Miles O’Brien just told me that 777 pilot Mark Weiss told him the same thing.
    As for the unlikelihood of sophisticated hijackers taking over the plane — well, one thing we know for sure is that this is a very strange case.

  28. Gysbreght

    As usual, context is important. It was my intention to explain to Jeff that we (Al, Paul and I) do not believe it is possible to turn off the 115V power to the AES from the cockpit. Perhaps better to say, one can’t turn it off without turning off the power to nearly everything on the aircraft. There are, of course, ways to isolate an entire buss that powers the AES. But we were not addressing such global power outage scenarios. We were simply addressing the question, is there a hardware or software switch in the cockpit that can be used to selectively turn off the satcom power. Al and Paul were sure that there is not such a switch in the cockpit. Don, Victor, and others have identified what we believe to be three specific CBs in the E bay that control power to the SDU, HPA and antenna system.

    Once again, I remind readers that the 1825 Inmarsat data, and lack thereof between 1707 and 1825 can be explained by several scenarios, acknowledged by ATSB, other than a loss of 115V power to the AES. IMHO, we won’t get to the bottom of this until we have the boxes.

  29. I guess the fact remains that someone in the plane was switching things off. Attributing a power outage to the SDU as incidental in some way would be possible as Mike says, but is it worth betting on?

    In pursuing the signal data to that spot in the SIO plenty of bets have been made?

  30. @ Bruce @Gyesbright

    Thanks for sanity!

    Jeff, this hinges on one ERRONEOUS assumption. Sigh. It is just an out and out falsehood to suggest that the EE bay HAD to be entered. This is flatly wrong.

    With respect, to suggest such hijinks is doing a great disservice to the families. I hope you at least amend the above and the implications that have ensued.

    Apparently, we have really lost our way.

  31. Matty – Perth

    I did not say anything about an incidental power outage. But temporary loss of required IRS data via 429 connection, temporary antenna pointing problems, etc. are possible reasons for the AES to appear to be powered down.

  32. Mike – I think we are getting at the same thing. An antenna glitch would be incidental? I wasn’t digging a ditch over outage or potential outage. A power interruption is regarded as the most likely reason for the reboot but it’s good science to accommodate other possibilities and use caution. My point was that if we applied the same principles the BTO/BFO data analysis would be laced with caveats.

  33. “Okay. It’s now 18:25 UTC, and our massive investment in months of training and planning has FINALLY paid off. At tremendous personal risk – and with military timing and precision – we’ve managed to access the E/E bay, take over the plane, shut down coms, subdue all resistance, skirt between airspaces, and – just a couple of minutes ago – escape radar range. We’re in the clear. Up with the SDU, and off with the oxygen masks. Phew!!

    “Now: what’s the most pointless, profitless place within fuel range? Let’s make a bee-line for it, run out of fuel, and crash!”

    I’m going to go out on a limb and deem this a less-than-satisfying explanation.

    To be clear: I am not disputing Jeff’s analysis or conclusions. I’m just pointing out (as alluded to in the article) its logical incongruity with the rest of the flight path.

    If we accept the “sophisticated hijacker” premise at 17:21, I think we now need “something else” to have entered the picture – either at 18:25, at 18:40, or after the fact (by doctoring the signal data itself).

    Jeff is on such a roll, I wouldn’t be surprised to see this domino fall next.

  34. Spencer – If it could have been done from inside the cockpit could you at least enlighten us? I bet it was never intended for pilots to be severing from the satellite at all?

  35. Maybe the profit in it all was to get whatever valuable cargo from the aircraft after maybe landing in a remote location/etc

  36. @Matty

    Please read airlandseaman’s post. AES CAN be shut down from the cockpit, end of story. People are now saying emphatically and wrongly that SAT can ONLY be powered down via the EE bay.

    No ‘global power outage’ is required. Just a nipped left a/c bus. The aircraft can still fly with integrity.

    Jeff, you really need to correct this. It’s bordering on dishonesty.

  37. I’ve re-read Mike’s post and I’m not sure you two are right on the same sheet of music but it’s a lovely afternoon here in Perth and I’m in beer/veranda mode so I’ll leave it to Mike to clarify as it seems you have dragged him into it. Good day to all, especially Mike who has gone above and beyond when it shouldn’t have been required.

    Jeff – hold the line. If there was hanky panky on the plane, and we have some pretty unusual reboots, you would be brave to quarantine that from the unusual goings on? Introducing doubt is fine with me but if that had been done from the start with the BTO/BFO data analysis, that plane would never have left the ground.

  38. Brock: Well, now with Luigi gone, I am in need in another partner in theoretical collusion re a two-event, two-stage flight path model. If I may be so bold – welcome!

    Indeed, where a hijacking is indicated, it is less than probable that the intended destination was the SIO. From here, If we accept that the aircraft flew to the point of fuel exhaustion and the flight terminated in the SIO, then some event or series of events, circa 18:40, redirected the aircraft from the intended destination to the SIO.

    Meanwhile, the Malaysian authorities have redacted the Inmarsat data set issued and issued an anemic preliminary report, while otherwise generally obfuscating what transpired while the aircraft was in and around Malaysian airspace. Whatever the nature of the catalyst that sent the aircraft on a dead run to the SIO, it developed or occurred in our around Malaysian airspace. It’s not a polynomial equation. 1+1 = an event or events leading up to c. 18:40 likely catalyzed the turn to the SIO. Furthermore, the Malaysians authorities could at present perhaps be privy to information concerning these events.

    We must reconcile an intended destination for the deviation from the official flight path with the supposed ‘fact’ that the flight terminated in the SIO. The only big out precluding our having to do any work here would be if the aircraft were presently not in the SIO.

  39. @VictorI – RE YR post of Nov 7, 6:27 PM
    Thanks for confirming what I thought I knew about power switching. RE HF and VHF – is there evidence that these were disabled? We only know that no communications were made, at least not over monitored frequencies.

    @airlandseaman – RE YR post of Nov 7, 7:37 PM
    AFAIK no essential systems are dependent on the left AC bus. They are powered by 28V DC buses, and have sufficient power supply redundancy to be not dependent on the left AC bus.

  40. “The failure to imagine often proves to be more expensive than the FIX that the failure of imagination deems to be unnecessary.”

  41. @Gysbrecht: Let me first start by saying that with the data at hand, I don’t think we can “prove” any scenario. We can only subjectively assign probabilities that rank one scenario against another based on the available technical data, human factors, and geopolitics. I have yet to see a scenario proposed that did not have weaknesses in that unprovable assumptions were made to fill in the blanks.

    The hypothesis that the SATCOM circuit breaker in the EE bay was switched off rests on a set of assumptions, including:

    1. The signaling sequence of the SDU at 18:25 was due to a power up rather than a recovery of the RF link due to another occurrence. The ATSB ranks this assumption as “likely”.
    2. After 17:21, there were intentions and actions to render the plane invisible by eliminating the possibility of all transmissions. This requires disabling the transponder and the HF, VHF, and SATCOM communication systems. Since we know the SATCOM and transponders were disabled and there were no VHF or HF transmissions that we know about, I think this assumption is likely true. Others may disagree as there is no evidence that the VHF and HF radios were actually disabled nor can we prove there was intent to make the plane disappear.
    3. The disabling of the communication systems was not the result of a failure or other emergency condition. Considering the evidence suggesting the plane flew on for hours without landing at a suitable airport at a cruise altitude and speed and with high fuel efficiency makes this assumption likely to me.

    Suppose we put a probability of 80% on each assumption and the assumptions are considered to be independent. Then the overall probability that the SATCOM was switched off from the EE bay becomes 51%. Therefore, the scenario becomes possible, but certainly far from a certainty. But if my subjective probabilities are “correct”(and I would have a hard time quantitatively defending them), it also ranks a scenario involving an emergency at a much lower probability.

    Even though Jeff has not put forward a complete scenario that includes the “who and why”, what scenario is more likely? (I ask this rhetorically because many here have a pet theory that they rank high and discount the others.)

  42. Spenser:

    You are twisting my words. I did NOT say anything meant to suggest that the AES was turned off from the cockpit. That’s your claim, not mine. I’ll let my statements stand, but please don’t associate me with any suggestion that someone disabled the power to the AES from the cockpit.

  43. Rand: “If we accept that the aircraft flew to the point of fuel exhaustion and the flight terminated in the SIO, then some event or series of events, circa 18:40, redirected the aircraft from the intended destination to the SIO.”

    I agree: if A, then very likely B.

    But I’ve been skeptical of A from the beginning, due to the untruths emanating from the JIT and its minions – “debris drifted west, so check your shores, Indonesia” being only the latest in a long series.

    Also: IF they’re searching in the right place (signal data is not only authentic, but has been correctly interpreted), the range of possibilities for B is quite restricted: no time to land, circle, or even drop altitude. We’re left with either a second agency onboard achieving a bittersweet victory (romantic, but unlikely), or remote control (which taller foreheads than mine had, I thought, ruled out).

  44. @Brock: If they are searching in the right place, there is still possible there was a circling, excursion, or landing. The availability of the extra time for this to occur reduces from the northern part to the southern part of the search area. If the plane is found at 38S, for instance, there is little chance that it loitered. If found at 30S, there is a much higher probability.

  45. @airlandseaman

    >Based on what the line pilots and the 777 sim trainer tell me, I agree that the AES power could only be “turned off” from the E-bay CB panel, but I still do not see any solid evidence that the lack of satcom communications between 1707 and 1825 was due to the power being off, much less *turned off* by a human. The ATSB June 26th report states on page 22:

    These are your words, and they directly contradict these words, also from you:

    >As usual, context is important. It was my intention to explain to Jeff that we (Al, Paul and I) do not believe it is possible to turn off the 115V power to the AES from the cockpit. Perhaps better to say, one can’t turn it off without turning off the power to nearly everything on the aircraft. There are, of course, ways to isolate an entire buss that powers the AES. But we were not addressing such global power outage scenarios. We were simply addressing the question, is there a hardware or software switch in the cockpit that can be used to selectively turn off the satcom power. Al and Paul were sure that there is not such a switch in the cockpit. Don, Victor, and others have identified what we believe to be three specific CBs in the E bay that control power to the SDU, HPA and antenna system.

    I was pointing out to readers that the AES CAN be disabled from the cockpit, as you also acknowledge in your later post. I was NOT twisting your words (you have already twisted them well enough), nor suggesting that it was YOUR belief that AES was turned off from the cockpit.


  46. The following is copied from SmartCockpit B777 – Electrical:

    The main busses power individual equipment items such as:
    – cooling vent van
    – recirculation fans
    – lavatory/galley fans
    – electric hydraulic pumps
    – IFE

    Each main bus also powers its associated busses (typical loads are shown in parentheses):
    – transfer bus (DC system transformer-rectifiers, AC standby bus)
    – utility bus (forward galley heater, chiller boost fan, gasper fan, captain’s and first officer’s foot and shoulder heaters, door area heaters, lavatory water heaters and shavers)
    – galley busses

  47. If the Inmarsat and currently-available radar data are not cooked AND considering the witness sightings from Kuda Huvadhoo Island (Maldives) and north of Peros Banhos atoll (Chagos Archipelago):

    1. It’s possible that two planes are involved (read: a spoof).

    2.It’s possible that MH370 landed. Is that Banda Aceh? Or did it merely loiter around the tip of Sumatra and land somewhere else (read: the final destination)? Or, did it land twice?

    “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.”

    3. It’s possible that MH370 is not in the SIO. And if it’s in the ocean (but somewhere else), why would THAT fact need to be hidden?

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