Why MH370 Search Officials Can’t Agree Where to Look

source: ATSB, modified by JW
In dispute: whether the search should focus on the area spotlighted by data error optimisation or constrained autopilot dynamics


Disquieting news in the Wall Street Journal today; the paper reports today that the official inquiry into the disappearance of missing Malaysia Airlines flight 370 is riven with disagreement:

Ongoing differences of opinion between five teams of experts that include Boeing Co. and the Australian military have led to search vessels being deployed in two different priority search areas. These zones overlap in some places but in others are hundreds of miles apart, highlighting how efforts to solve one of modern aviation’s biggest mysteries remain little more than educated guesswork. Searchers may only be able to scour around 80% of the probable crash sites before government funding runs out.

For its part, the Australian Transport Safety Board (ATSB) issued a response that essentially confirmed the gist of the WSJ article:

[ATSB chief commissioner, Martin] Dolan said that earlier there had been consensus amongst the five groups, based on the data available at the time, but once the data had been refined, “the results from the methodologies did not coincide exactly. There is no disagreement, just the deliberate application of differing analysis models,” said Mr Dolan.

One would like to think that, nine months after the plane went missing, that the experts would have ironed out any loose threads in their understanding of the plane’s final trajectory. Especially given the fact that Inmarsat scientist Chris Ashton told the BBC program Horizon that the company had cracked the nut way back in March, saying: “The graphs matched, the data worked, the calculation was solved.”

But if we take a closer look at the history of the accident investigation, it’s not surprising disagreements exist. For all the confident press statements that the authorities have released, behind the scenes investigators have always struggled to make sense of the data in their possession. It’s not a matter, fundametally, of a difference in opinion between experts; it’s a matter of inconsistencies within the data sets themselves.

Allow me to explain. As we all well know by now, everything we know about the final six hours of MH370 comes from seven electronic handshakes, or “pings,” exchanged between the plane and a geostationary Inmarsat satellite. Each of these pings, in turn, provides two data points. The first, called the Burst Timing Offset, or BTO, is a measure of how far the plane was from the satellite at any given time; this data is well-understood, reliable and accurate, with an uncertainty of only about five miles. The second, called the Burst Frequency Offset, or BFO, measures the wavelength of the signals and both harder to understand and much more inaccurate, with an inherent uncertainty of hundreds of miles.

Taken alone, each of these data sets provides only a rough idea of where the plane was at each moment in time. But the hope has always been that, if combined properly, they would be indicate the plane’s trajectory and final resting place, in the same way that a line of latitude and a line of longitude can be combined to specify an exact spot on the Earth’s surface.

Unforunately, this turns out not to work in practice. No matter how much Inmarsat and the ATSB have tweaked their algorithms, they have been unable to find any routes that provide a satisfying match to both the BFO and the BTO data.

In its June report, the agency tried to make the numbers gybe by running them through three different types of analysis, none of which made sense on its own but which overlapped in a way that suggested they might somehow be right collectively. In a subsequent report released in October, the ATSB tried a new approach, this time creating one set of routes that fit the BFO data and another set of routes that make sense in terms of how a plane might actually be flown. These areas lay near each other hundreds of miles from the previous search area, but did not overlap much; the ATSB resolved the dilemma by calling them one big area and hoping to search as much of it as possible. This solution is illustrated in the picture at top; the “data error optimization” area attempts to minimize BFO (and BTO as well) while the “constrained autopilot dynamics” ignores BFO and tries to match BTO observations with aircraft performance and autopilot functioning.

Obviously, there must be some gap in our understanding of the Inmarsat data and how it relates to the aerodynamic constraints of a real aircraft. Someday we’ll figure out where we’ve gone wrong; the plane must have gone somewhere, and when we find it, the nature of the shortcomings should become clear. At the moment, my suspicion is aimed at the BFO values, because the algorithm used to explain them are so complicated, and the inherent uncertainty is so large.

We’d have to think carefully about throwing out the BFO data entirely, however, because after all, it’s the only reason we believe that MH370 wound up in the southern Indian Ocean.

120 thoughts on “Why MH370 Search Officials Can’t Agree Where to Look”

  1. Further to my last post on Jeff’s last article (“How Fast”):

    To illustrate, I have graphically superimposed Figs. 2 & 3 from the ATSB’s Oct. 8 report:


    One jpg, two images:

    TOP IMAGE: I pasted Fig.2 (18:28 turn) on top of Fig.3 (18:40 turn), made it semi-transparent, and rotated it until its FL350 flight paths aligned. 2 observations:

    A) The FL350 endurance is indeed significantly truncated in Fig.2, relative to Fig.3 (see red oval). As explained yesterday, this cannot be true.

    B) The paths in Fig.2 are more widely spaced than in Fig.3 (this confirms the ATSB assumed each path-specific speed took effect PRIOR to entry into the 19:41 arc; presumably, immediately post-primary radar coverage). Why? Because, in Fig.3=late turn, the assumed faster speeds are working AGAINST it, taking it further NW before turning, and giving it more ground to make up. In Fig.2=early turn, this effect is reduced, and so the higher-speed scenarios spray more widely out to the west.


    To get a sense of where the FL400 path SHOULD have been plotted in Fig.2, I needed to compensate for the difference in spacing, so I simply shifted the image over until the longitudinal spacings exhibited at “3-2-1” relationship. Observations:

    1) The resulting Fig.3 FL400 path (orange oval) specifies a MATERIALLY LARGER feasibility zone (purple oval)

    2) This in turn suggests the intersection of the 7th arc and the performance limit (since early September, a maximum likelihood concept of both the ATSB and the IG) should be closer to [s40, e86] (in this image, remember we must plot FL400 against the faded Fig.2 gridlines).

    That the ATSB did not plot these paths properly – choosing instead to continue to portray the SW limit as per the 18:40 turn ONLY – seems to me a deliberate attempt to leave a stone unturned.

    Is it that officials CAN’T agree where to look, or that they WON’T?

  2. Interesting insight, Brock. It seems the search is now widening the arc in the priority zone; it will be interesting to see whether, if that doesn’t pan out, the search will move further south, or further north, or they’ll just say “we’ve run out of money” and throw in the towel.

  3. I would tend to say at this moment that the problem is not an inherent inconsistency in the BTO/BFO data, but there are too many degrees of freedom to find a unique solution. I think it is related to the sensitivity of BFO to “meandering” and vertical velocity components. So one has to make assumptions to limit the number of solutions, which leads to different solutions for different assumptions.
    I am a bit worried that the most basic assumption: a near constant speed, level and straight flight after turn south seems to lead to a self-inconsistency: a much lower than average speed at 19:41. Maybe others can comment to that? If so, in my opinion the next reasonable assumption to check is a near straight flight with only slowly changing flight levels up to 00:11.

  4. Thanks, Jeff.

    The “debris to Indonesia” claim says north, Bruce (et al)’s March satellite imagery says south, and Dr. Ulich (bolstered by the above) says west. So, my money’s on east…

    My central point is not “the plane must be at [x,y,z,t]”. It is this: the REAL problem is neither conflicting opinions NOR conflicting data, but conflicting INTERESTS. Somebody at the top is clearly more interested in putting on an elaborate SHOW than in finding the plane. This doctored feasibility zone is, to me, Exhibit Q.

  5. “the REAL problem is neither conflicting opinions NOR conflicting data, but conflicting INTERESTS. Somebody at the top is clearly more interested in putting on an elaborate SHOW than in finding the plane. This doctored feasibility zone is, to me, Exhibit Q.”

    Brock – you said it, in nutshell.

    And when all’s said and done, THAT is the book someone needs to write. In Technicolor.

    To say that those on board MH370 and their families are victims doesn’t even begin to describe what’s occurred. And what’s occurring. It’s beyond criminal.

  6. In my opinion the BFO data are more reliable and more accurate than they are made out to be. Between 18:39:55 and 18:40:57 84 messages were received. The BFO of those messages varied between 86 – 90 Hz, 87.8 Hz on average, with a standard deviation of 1.26 Hz.

    IMHO the Satellite Working Group unjustly created an impression of unreliability and inaccuracy when it inserted a uniform error distribution of 147 – 152 Hz for the Fixed Frequency Bias, and on top of that a Gaussian distribution with a standard deviation of 5 Hz for random errors in the BFO values.

    If one would simply follow the BTO and BFO values without those assumed errors, the variability of possible paths is really quite small.

  7. @Gysbrecht “the variability of possible path is really quite small”
    Theoretically speaking I’m not sure: for example if there have been rapid altitude changes all the way.
    Practically: if you let the pattern / trend in BFO values speak, yes, there is a lot one can do with the BFO’s.
    Based on 00:11 data point: The S33 – S39 segment around 7th arc to me still seems reasonable.

    @Nihonmama, Brock: Personally I do feel there is a genuine effort to locate the plane. To find out & fully reveal what really happened on 7/8 March; that might be a different story.

  8. just a silly curiosity.
    if 2 satelites have an overlap of area, would they both have data? I notice that immarsat sats. #3 and #4

  9. It’s been clear for some time that the BTO and BFO random errors are smaller than the worse-case figures quoted in the original ATSB report. I had guesstimated the standard deviation of the BFO data to be 2.1Hz some months ago – the graph of the Amsterdam flight data in the Inmarsat paper suggests a slightly higher figure.

    However, there are only 5 or 6 useful BFO values on the post 18:40 course so even one being distorted from some systematic (non-random) cause can have a significant effect on the fits to the various models. I doubt the data is so convincing to rule out simple post-1840 courses from the final search area. The example eastern course in the Inmarsat paper is significantly more complex with speed and course changes, probably hard to justify statistically (on the limited data) to the point of excluding other models.

    It would have been nice for the data to be a clean fit to a simple model, but that isn’t the way it worked out.

  10. “Personally I do feel there is a genuine effort to locate the plane. To find out & fully reveal what really happened on 7/8 March; that might be a different story.”

    Right Niels.

    And here’s the other side: if the goal is NOT to fully reveal what happened on Mar. 3rd, the guarantee of that happening is that MH370 stays ‘lost’.

  11. FYI for those not on Twitter:

    A little bird has told me that Le Figaro (France) has something coming that pertains to MH370 — in a “week or so”. Keep your eyes peeled.

  12. Re: “One would like to think that, nine months after the plane went missing, that the experts would have ironed out any loose threads in their understanding of the plane’s final trajectory. Especially given the fact that Inmarsat scientist Chris Ashton told the BBC program Horizon that the company had cracked the nut way back in March, saying: ‘The graphs matched, the data worked, the calculation was solved.’”

    Chris Ashton was talking about the analysis that ruled out a northern hemisphere terminus. It’s at 34:40 of the Horizon documentary. He wasn’t talking about a predicted location. At that point in time, the 7th arc had not yet been identified or plotted and the 7th ping was “unexplained.”

    But more importantly, re: “No matter how much Inmarsat and the ATSB have tweaked their algorithms, they have been unable to find any routes that provide a satisfying match to both the BFO and the BTO data.”

    If this is true, it is likely because ATSB has not studied Bobby Ulich’s work. Of necessity, he’s made some unverifiable fact assumptions. But those assumptions seem to me to be substantially the same assumptions ATSB is making. I’ve seen nothing concrete to cast doubt on his calculations or methodology. I’d be thankful for any coherent explanation of how his route fails to “provide a satisfying match to both the BFO and the BTO data.”

  13. You can only get the BFO data to match IG-like routes if you accept arbitrarily large errors. Some models shared by IG members in recent days have maximum BFO error of 8 and 9 Hz. These correspond to position errors of hundreds of miles. (Ashton et al say error range inherent in the data is 7 Hz, and indeed when their algorithm was tested on known flights, the difference between the actual and the modeled route was in places several hundred miles off.)

  14. I misread my own graphic (link on 1st comment, above; study it hard enough, and you’ll see the optical illusion that made me gang agley). The feasible zone should shift 4 degrees west, yes – but this actually means shifting the key intersection point from e88 to e84 (I had wrongly quoted e90 to e86 earlier). Latitude was correct at s40.

    I think anyone who still has faith in the search leadership should promptly and pointedly direct the ATSB’s attention to a) its material misstatement (as directly inferred from its own Fig.3) of its published performance limit, and b) Dr. Ulich’s work, which predicts impact at this exact revised intersection point (s40, e84).

  15. Just another thought. If the person in control of the plane wanted it to disappear without a trace, he couldn’t afford to to leave the plane to itself until it ran out of fuel and crashed. He needed to remain in control to carry out a controlled ditching.

    The best we can do is to follow the bread crumbs that he unknowingly left behind.

  16. Gysbrecht – no sleight on you math ability which is better than mine but a controlled ditch, many say, does not fit the data? Others say maybe? I don’t think they can credibly just head up the arc “in search of” like Leonard Nimoy. This thing had to yield results in that area or the sums/data are wrong, so I’m not surprised they are expanding the priority area as they indicated they would a while ago. I’m a known sceptic, from the moment Chris McLaughlin said “that plane went south”, so could they have turned the SDU back on by accident, because even a petty criminal would know that being connected to a satellite is no way to disappear a plane?

  17. Forgot to mention, the diversity of opinion, much of it well esteemed and highly qualified gives me no confidence at all. I think if it winds up empty the doubters will come out of the woodwork. As Des Ross puts it – I can’t believe the money they are spending on those handshakes.

  18. Hi,

    I am new here but I am following the discussions to some extent.
    Suppose the communication system was tampered with as to send out a constant and realistic value, toward a southern path, after the log-on/log-off.

    Is this kind of tampering possible?
    And, if yes, is there a possibility to find out where the plane was actually going?

  19. Should the lack of any debris really be considered as reason to doubt the Inmarsat data/analysis, or is it rather more important to note that no debris (or an intact aircraft) has of yet been found elsewhere? If we assume the Inmarsat data/analysis is generally valid (while perhaps lacking in precision), then a lack of debris is plausible, given the relative remoteness of the SIO.

    Meanwhile, Matty’s general cynicism regarding the analysis provides me with a subtle shadow sense of dread, with the only sources of comfort being the reality of the size and associated ocean depths of the search zone, and the limits inherent to the deployed technology. We must also recognize that there are a number of parties who would clearly benefit from the aircraft never being found even as they feign interest in this regard and appear to support the location science.

    It would seem at this point that landing a probe on a distant comet is a more easily managed exercise than locating MH370, and then with a generally better prognosis. Spooky.

  20. Rand – I suppose we have never gone to such trouble to find debtis, and we have never really had to either. Remoteness is a pain, but if you can cover the area with ships, satellites, and planes with delicate surface scanning radar it shouldn’t matter? They were desperate for debris – then a surrender. I’ve stopped looking for news of the search, I think it’s going to dwindle down – but happy to be wrong.

  21. If I understand Ulich’s Addendum #2 correctly, his methodology determined a route irrespective of BFO, but then the BFO was confirmatory inasmuch as the BFO error was about 5Hz.

  22. Does Ulrich’s Addendum have mh370 flying over Indonesia or further out west ie: west of the radar ranges ?

  23. There are many reasons why there is a disparity in the path predictions, among them:
    1. Jitter in the BTO, which moves the ping arcs in and out by about 10 km.
    2. Noise in the BFO data of at least several Hz.
    3. Uncertainty in how to set the fixed bias offset of the BFO.
    4. Uncertainty in the autopilot mode, which will affect whether the plane is flying to a magnetic compass direction, a true compass direction, a track (direction unaffected by wind), a heading (direction affected by wind), or a great circle path between waypoints.
    5. Uncertainty in the autothrust (speed) mode, e.g., is Ma number held constant or is the Ma number varied to minimize fuel consumption as fuel is burned and the plane gets lighter.
    6. Uncertainty as to what altitude was selected, and whether the altitude increased as the plane burned fuel and got lighter.
    7. Lack of wind and temperature data with sufficient time and spatial resolution.

    However, I do believe that none of these items have prevented us from converging on a search area with a spread of more than about 1 deg of latitude. The real issue I see is we are guessing about how to connect the path between 18:28 and 19:41 as we have no BTO data between those times and only one BFO value at 18:40.

    We know pretty well what happened up until 18:28, and we can come up with acceptable paths by assuming a position at 19:41, but determining what the true position is at 19:41 requires knowledge about the path in the interval between 18:28 and 19:41. For instance, you would need to know the speed profile during that time, exactly when the turn south occurred, whether there was a single turn, multiple turns, a circling, an excursion, or even a landing at Banda Aceh. Each set of assumptions produces a different path with comparable matches to the data.

    And that is why I have said for many months that I don’t believe it is possible to make a prediction about the end point with a high level of confidence. At best, we can subjectively rank paths based on the probability of a set of assumptions being true. That is also why I have been demanding that Malaysia releases the raw radar data and Indonesia does the same (assuming it does have radar data).

    My guess this disagreement over that happened in the 18:28-19:41 interval is the primary source of the disagreement of the official team charged with predicting the location of the plane.

    I have made predictions assuming cruise speeds are maintained after 18:28 and the plane made a single major turn between 18:28 and 19:41. This family of paths end between 37S and 38S latitude, depending on specific assumptions.

    I have made other predictions assuming a loiter in that time interval followed by a track that proceeds to BEDAX then the South Pole (due south). This family of paths end around 34.25S latitude. The simplicity of this path after 19:41 is appealing to me as there are few variables that require adjustment to match the data. However, it does require a “complicated” path during the interval 18:28 to 19:41. I can conceptually accept this as a plausible scenario, but others may not.


  24. Myron, Ulich’s route passes over Weh Island at the northwest tip of Indonesia heading towards the Indian Ocean at 192 degrees.

  25. So if mh370 used Ulich’s path it should have been detectable by the Indonesia radar according to the radar coverage map?

  26. @Myron, Regardless of what happened to MH370, it should have been spotted by Indonesian radar; before it vanished from Malaysian/Thai primary radar at 18:22, it was within easy range of the radar unit at Lhokseumawe. See my recent blog post “MH370 and the Mystery of Indonesian Radar.”

  27. @ VictorI:

    Thank you for that comprehensive summary of uncertainties in the path reconstruction. If I may add, uncertainties 4, 5, 6, and 7 are only relevant under the dogma of a passive cockpit. If one puts that dogma aside, we are left with 1, 2, and 3. I tend to think that 1 and 2 have not much effect on the end point on the 7th arc. The errors due to noise are small, and since they are random, tend to cancel out over the length of the path. Therefore the main uncertainty is #3, the FFB (fixed frequency bias). The calculated path is indeed very sensitive to that bias, as shown here:


    However, the only value that produces a relatively straight path at reasonably constant speed is FFB=149 Hz. That path is almost identical to the path derived in the Inmarsat article in the Journal of Navigation. I’m pleased to note that it is also “appealing” to you.

  28. @Gysbreght: The point of my comment was to say that a major reason for the disparity between paths is the assumption about the position at 19:41 (and correspondingly, the path between 18:28 and 19:41. In your calculations you assumed the position at 19:41 is the equator (ON latitude). I am not sure why you believe this is the correct position. Other positions at 19:41 will produce different results.

  29. @ VictorI:

    “I am not sure why you believe this is the correct position.”

    I didn’t say it is the correct position. The purpose of the graph is to show the sensitivity to variations in FFB, for a fixed starting point. It is a reasonable position for a turn south on the extended radar track prior to 18:40 at a speed that is compatible with the speeds indicated by the BFO’s from 18:40 until 00:19, see the JoN article by Inmarsat.

  30. Gysbreght:

    Victorl: “…However, it does require a “complicated” path during the interval 18:28 to 19:41. I can conceptually accept this as a plausible scenario, but others may not.”

    This is where the rubber of perfectly viable subjectivity meets the road of objectivity. Nobody can be certain as to where the remains of the aircraft are located, as there clearly subjective (and by definition, non-discrete) elements that must be included in the location process.

    It is thus reasonable to assume that the flight terminated in the SIO without human input, as this is not a logical choice derived from “human consciousness” as a destination for the diversion at IGARI/BITOD. Furthermore, the “disrupted” path identified as occurring between 18:28 – 18:41 can likewise have a very human plausible explanation: the terminal loss of “diversion equilibrium” as perhaps indicated by the anomalous in-flight log-on by the SDU is in turn perhaps indicative of additional events aboard the aircraft that hallmarked the foiling of the diversion.

    The question then – and where answers are to be found – is if, as Des Ross has indicated, the Voice Box recordings of ATC – RMAF, ATC – MAS ops would reveal/indicate any ground-to- air communications with the aircraft on the part of Malaysia. One could also reasonably question as to whether the VHF transcripts/recordings actually ended at 17:19; perhaps it only rather appears and then rather “mysteriously,” that there were no further communications from the flight deck.

    The lack of Malaysia acknowledging the Voice Box recordings; the lack of a provision of Malaysian radar data; the inexplicable non-pursuit of Indonesian radar data; the playing to the mystery of it all by Hisammuddin; and the silence of the Americans whom maintain a robust, covert counter-terrorism operation in Malaysia are all the product of subjective, human actions that have succeeded in disappearing MH370.

    Somebody perhaps directed an intervention that went badly wrong, and somebody could perhaps likewise very well know the nature of this intervention that could have perhaps culminated between 18:28 and 18:41. The aircraft, then, could plausibly have been “disappeared” with intent by way of simply garbaging the communication records and the radar location data. And no large, complicated, multi-lateral conspiracy would be required: few people at the nodes of communication gagged by a secrecy order clamped down on the investigation with any and all recordings safely locked away, all now wrapped up in PM Najib’s sudden about-face of just today on the strengthening as opposed to the reforming of the 1948 Sedition Act.

    The validity testing of the above has little to do with the validity tests of science and more of those associated with philosophy, truth and justice.

    A side note: one can assume that the Americans were immediately all over the loss of MH370 and their Malaysia counter-terrorism mechanism activated within the first week; they would have been quite keen regarding the circumstances of a disappeared airliner, once it was clear (c. Mar 13 as per a White House and DoD press briefings) that the aircraft had continued to operate for an extended period. Rather suddenly, however, these voices went silent: it appears that it is no longer a matter of national security. And who provided them with the information that assuaged their fears? Perhaps it was the same people in Malaysia that had signed a high-level, secret, status agreement that proscribed the limits to the operations of US counter-terrorism personnel on Malaysian soil. A simple indication that the loss of MH370 was wholly intrinsic to Malaysia communicated, say, Mar 15 would perhaps do the trick, and the US would then butt out, not wanting to risk domestic ire over CIA operatives and SOCOM training personnel having been present – and quite busy – in Malaysia in large numbers for years.

  31. Gysbreght: hardly the stuff of a cloak-and-dagger novel, as my speculative frame does not include any requisite illicit sex.

    My point is that assumptions grounded in subjective evaluations of subjective human behavior do indeed inform the search. To discard such is to engage the folly of scientism.

    The rest of it is a speculative frame of the how that attempts to integrate all elements holisticly.

  32. @VictorI “BEDAX then SouthPole”

    A simple path that seems to avoid trouble with both IAF’s: turn South near IGOGU, then go straight south. Ending near 34S. Would that fit data without additional loitering?

  33. @Niels: No. You either need to loiter or choose a path more westerly than due south if you turn towards the south at IGOGU.

  34. @Rand: I agree that the US probably knows more than it is saying. After the US guided the search to the SIO, the US has been quiet. My guess is it wants to do nothing to create political instability in the region as Malaysia has been cooperative economically, militarily, and strategically.

  35. @Victor: @Niels’ proposal is essentially the example path from the Inmarsat paper so has some pedigree. That has a 15kt lower speed for the first two legs, which could be termed ‘loiter’. I know it doesn’t meet the IG doctrine of only one turn, only one speed after 18.22.

  36. Rand/Victor – Malaysia’s choice is increasingly clear to me: pull in close to the US which is being challenged over it’s influence in the region or get bullied left and right by China. In this part of the world I tell you everyone can feel the belligerence and provocation coming from there, and the Muslim world isn’t going to be any good to Malaysia. So diplomatically I see the US in a very strong place.

    Did the US guide the search to the SIO through some detection or by the lack of one along the northern arc? If they took the view that it went south and that it was essentially a Malaysian affair then they close the book. By now though could there be some head scratching? The Iraqi WMD’s were never fictional, they were declared by the regime itself and were according to the UN inspectors, “unaccounted” at the time of the 2003 war. They never showed up, and noone really went for the line that they had been disposed of pre-war, but they very likely were. Intel failure? If the US govt takes the view that MH370 is at the bottom down there somewhere, doesn’t mean it is. Intel is not infallible, or they wouldn’t call it intel, they would call it facts.

  37. For the relevant countries (US/UK/Aus), there is clearly no political up-side to publically humiliating Malaysia over alleged failures on March 7/8. It doesn’t need any nefarious scheme.

  38. Richard is quite correct, I would think, in summarizing the simplicity of the US not having any incentive to hound Malaysia on MH370. Terrorism is most likely not indicated as a causal element in the loss of the aircraft, while the quid pro quo involving the US counter-terrorism structure in Malaysia coupled with the US and it’s regional partners wanting to balance the PRC’s big push for influence in SEA provides reason enough.

    What may be considered ‘nefarious’, however, is Malaysia continuing to be less than transparent, as I and others have described. The lack of disclosure re various recorded material appears to transcend mere incompetence, in my book. I also believe that surfacing these comms and radar recordings and or perhaps simply the process by which they have been rendered unavailable would provide for the best opportunity to ferret out what the Malaysian leadership may additionally know re the flight.

  39. @Richard and @Niels: Yes, that’s right. A loitering is indistinguishable from slower speeds at the start of the trip south. For a better fit than IGOGU then due south, I would propose IGOGU to BEDAX then due south, but the paths are close.

  40. @VictorI @Richard
    Lower speed usually implies lower altitude. Interestingly, looks like the path IGOGU – BEDAX passes just astern of Kate, close before 19:00 UTC (was the gps on Jakarta time?)

  41. Nihonmama
    Posted November 17, 2014 at 7:41 PM
    [MH370 Evidence Points to Sophisticated Hijackers]

    “Is this possibly why the ATSB asked INDONESIA (NOT Australia) to be on the lookout for debris — when most all of the drift models out of the SIO showed that debris would have gone WEST? And does anyone know why that directive was taken down?”

    No one ventured an answer to that question.

    So now I’ll ask this:

    Is the ATSB (which is not supposed to comment on any matters beyond those pertaining to the search) using an ‘UNOFFICIAL’ ATSB-related twitter account to leak?


    The headline in the article tweeted by @ATSBNews says “Malaysia Airlines MH370: What really happened to missing plane, Sir Clark answer”

    First, note time-stamp of tweet. 5:55 am (PST) is just about 1:00 am the next day in (Canberra), AUS. Everyone’s asleep.

    Secondly, note the “source” — Examiner — which is not authoritative and does not do original reporting — it’s essentially a content farm/blog network where contributors aggregate (and/or lift) information directly from other original sources. The contributors also provide commentary.

    Thirdly, despite the headline, half of the piece has nothing to do with Tim Clark. But it does resemble an ATSB search update — and also mentions the “new” drift model (which begs its own questions, but that’s another conversation). Note the last graph before the transition:

    “More than a month ago, the ATSB reported that Australian citizens found potential MH370 debris that washed ashore on Australia’s coastline. How long does it take for Boeing to identify the pieces?”

    Then the piece moves on to Tim Clark. From the last graph:

    “Tim Clark’s assessment of what really happened to the missing Boeing 777 plane reflects the first report by the Malaysian prime minister that the airplane was hijacked.”

  42. Correction to my previous posting:
    Kate’s gps log shows fraction of degrees in minutes. This means it is the IGOGU – straight south path that possibly crosses close astern of Kate. Timing is important: is the log read-out in utc+7 or utc+8?

  43. @niels
    The kml file on her web page is clear that the boat gps location at 18.40UT was 94.45E, 6.59N. Any encounter with MH370 would have been at that time plus or minus a few minutes and the boat speed was very low.

    I had read Kate’s account when it first came out but didn’t give it much weight, even she wasn’t sure what she had seen. I hadn’t plotted the position in detail until you mentioned it. It is consistent with some members of the set of two-speed models (such as the Inmarsat paper example). Whether the details of her account can be squared with any possible altitude/flight mode of MH370 is less obvious, but we should remember that we know nothing about what was happening onboard.

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