Guest Post: Northern Routes for MH370 Ending at Airports

by Victor Iannello

[Notice: The views expressed here are solely mine and do not represent the views of the Independent Group, Jeff Wise, or any other group or individual.]

Summary

Paths were reconstructed for MH370 using the available radar and satellite data. Paths to the north of Malaysia were studied by relaxing the constraint of matching the Burst Frequency Offset (BFO), which is appropriate if the BFO data was either corrupted or misinterpreted. The choice of paths was constrained by matching the Burst Timing Offset (BTO) data. Three airports were identified that are located near the 7th arc, as defined by the last BTO data point at 00:19 UTC: Kyzlorda, Almaty, and Kuqa Qiuci. The viability of each airport was determined based on fuel requirements. A fuel flow model was developed by reverse engineering performance data at Long Range Cruise (LRC) and Holding speeds, and then extrapolating the data to other speeds and temperatures.

The fuel flow model coupled with the path reconstruction model predicts that a flight ending at Kyzylorda is unlikely due to the high speeds and unfavorable headwinds. A flight ending at Almaty was deemed viable even when considering the uncertainty in the fuel consumption model. Alternatively, Boraldai Airport, which is close to Almaty Airport, is also viable. Finally, a flight ending at Kuqa Qiuci is considered possible, although the fuel margin is small. The paths to the airports are shown in Figure 1.

The possibility that the plane reached a runway at Yubileyniy was also considered. As Yubileyniy is 237 km (128 nm) beyond Kyzylorda, a landing there is predicted to be very unlikely.

Introduction

A number of analysts have studied the Burst Timing Offset (BTO) and Burst Frequency Offset (BFO) data from flight MH370, as relayed by Inmarsat I3F1 satellite and received by the Ground Earth Station (GES) in Perth, Australia. The aircraft was a Boeing B777-200ER registered as 9M-MRO. The satellite data suggests that the aircraft flew to the South Indian Ocean (SIO) and exhausted its fuel. The constraint of matching the BFO data within any reasonable limit on error eliminates the possibility of a northern path. Performance constraints such as fuel consumption and unattended (autopilot) navigation also limit the range of possible end points for southern paths. Indeed, in the past, I have proposed two endpoints ending in the SIO. In one scenario, I assumed the flight path was uninterrupted and straight after 18:34 UTC and the aircraft was flying at air speeds close to the Long Range Cruise (LRC) condition. As one of the contributors to the Independent Group (IG) study, I predicted an end point of 37.24S, 89.56E, which is close to the prediction of other researchers such as the IG’s Richard Godfrey. In another scenario proposed in July 2014, I studied the possibility that the plane “loitered” when it was in the vicinity of the Aceh province of Sumatra, and I showed that the data allows a possible landing and takeoff at Banda Aceh Airport. For this scenario, the predicted end point in the SIO is 34.24S, 93.78E.

Since the time of these predictions, the ATSB has led an extensive underwater search using advanced deep sea techniques to first conduct a bathymetric survey of a priority zone of 200,000 km2, which was then followed by a multi-beam sonar search of this same area. To date, there has been no physical evidence of MH370 discovered even though the vicinity of the end points suggested by me and others has been searched. Additionally, no evidence has been recovered on the sea surface or washed up on shore.

There remains the possibility that MH370 did indeed fly to the SIO and due to the enormity of the range of possible end points, the wreckage of the plane has not yet been found. I do not discount this possibility, and I still have hope that the search in the SIO will be successful. However, with the lack of success to date, I believe it is important to study other possible scenarios, especially since an investigation of some of these scenarios could be conducted for a fraction of the time and cost of the underwater search in the SIO.

 

Fig1
Figure 1. Flight paths to northern airports. (Click on image for improved resolution)

 

If we allow for the possibility that the BFO data is wrong, either because it has been corrupted or because we are improperly interpreting it, then it is possible to reconstruct paths to the north that match the BTO data. In general, if we assume a particular flight speed, then for each assumed flight speed, there are a pair of paths that can be reconstructed that match the BTO data. One of these paths is towards to the north and the other is towards the south. Here I am considering only the northern paths. As no wreckage from the plane has been found in countries situated to the north of Malaysia, I am particularly interested in assessing the possibility that MH370 followed a northern path and successfully landed at an airport.

In related work, I have studied how the BFO data that would be produced if MH370 had followed a northern path may imitate the BFO signature of a southern path. I have already hinted how this may have occurred. A more detailed explanation will be presented soon.

Figure 2. Airports close to the 7th arc.
Figure 2. Airports close to the 7th arc.
 Path Reconstruction Techniques

The methodology to reconstruct northern paths is similar to what has been presented by others, including the published work of Inmarsat’s Chris Ashton and the IG’s Richard Godfrey. I assume first that the primary radar data as presented in the Australian Transportation and Safety Bureau (ATSB) report is correct, and from that, the final radar position is pegged at 6.5485N, 96.3472E at a time of 18:22:17 UTC. After that time, I assume the plane continues on airway N571 on a track of 296T deg and at a ground speed of about 495 kn until it changes course at 18:34 UTC.

There are measured values of BTO at the time of each handshake between the satellite and aircraft, and these values are used to determine the range between the satellite and the aircraft. The locus of points corresponding to a particular value of BTO form an arc on the surface of the earth, and paths can be reconstructed that cross these arcs at the appropriate time by matching the satellite-aircraft range. (The exact position of the arc depends on the altitude of the aircraft. At higher altitudes, the arc is located further from the subsatellite position.) The satellite position is modeled using the PAR5  parameterization of Henrik Rydberg, which agrees well with the position and velocity vectors presented by Ashton. The earth is modeled as an oblate spheroid using WGS84.

I included meteorological data in the analysis in order to properly model the effect of temperature and wind on ground speed and fuel consumption. As some of the paths studied have considerable headwinds at the cruise altitude, wind is an important effect. The meteorological data for March 8, 2014 at 00:00 UTC was extracted from the GDAS database by Barry Martin. Data is available for atmospheric levels of 250 hPa and 350 hPa, corresponding to pressure altitudes of about 34,000 ft and 26,700 ft, respectively. The data has a spatial resolution of 1 deg in latitude and longitude.

I assume that MH370 changed its trajectory at 18:34 UTC by introducing a step change in Mach number and altitude, and I assume the plane continues at this Mach number until 00:11 UTC. Between 00:11 and 00:19, the Mach number is reduced in order to reach the last arc at 00:19 at the appropriate time. Turns are allowed only at the time of a handshake, i.e., as the plane crosses an arc, and great circle (geodesic) paths are followed between handshakes. Although it would be unlikely that MH370 turned exactly at the times of handshakes, this simplification was used in light of the limited data set that is available. With this simplification, for a given Mach number, there is a unique northern path that exactly matches the BTO data.

The paths were reconstructed by forward integrating using Euler’s method with a time step of 1 minute. During each time step, the ground speed and track angle were held constant. A finer time step of 1 second was used for the time period between 18:22 and 18:28 to find a path that matches the BTO, BFO, and radar data in this interval. The path involves a “lateral offset” maneuver to the right of airway N571 that would require active intervention of the pilot. I won’t discuss more about this here as the details don’t change the general observations regarding northern paths.

End Points Near Airports

The first step was to determine which airports are close to the 7th arc and therefore would merit closer examination as a potential landing site for MH370. A series of paths were reconstructed for constant Mach numbers between 0.6 and 0.89, corresponding to a realistic range of air speeds at an altitude of 35,000 ft. The end points for these paths were then plotted using SkyVector and airports within 10 km (5.4 nm) where identified.

The results are shown in Figure 2. There are three airports that met these criteria: Kyzylorda (M=0.863) and Almaty (M=0.734) in Kazakhstan, and Kuqa Qiuci (M=0.664) in Xinjiang, China, and all have runway lengths greater than 8,000 ft. The next step was to determine the feasibility of MH370 landing at one of these airports by analyzing the fuel requirements.

Figure 3. Predicted and tabular values of fuel flow at selected conditions.
Figure 3. Predicted and tabular values of fuel flow at selected conditions.
Fuel Flow Model

The calculation of the fuel consumed between 18:24 and 00:19 requires detailed knowledge of the performance of 9M-MRO, which is a B777-200ER equipped with two Trent 892 engines. In general, for level flight, the fuel rate is a function of the aircraft weight, Mach number, altitude, and outside air temperature (OAT). As the Mach number is defined relative to the wind, the calculation of the ground speed also needs to include the effect of winds, i.e., tailwinds increase the ground speed and headwinds and crosswinds reduce it. (The reduction in ground speed due to a headwind is much more significant than a crosswind of the same speed, although both effects were included.)  As high altitude winds are very strong for the northern paths studied, this is an important effect.

To model the fuel consumed along the northern paths, I needed to model the fuel flow as a function of the weight, altitude, Mach number, and air temperature. The detailed performance specifications of a Boeing aircraft are contained in the Performance Engineer’s Manual (PEM), but this was not available. If the PEM had been available for 9M-MRO, I could have calculated the fuel consumption from “first principles”. Instead, a fuel consumption model was developed based on two tables from a portion of the Quick Reference Handbook (QRH) that was supplied to me on a confidential basis. For this work, the two important tables from the QRH are:

  • Long Range Cruise (LRC). An aircraft following an LRC speed profile will be flying at a speed 2%-4% higher than Maximum Range Cruise (MRC) with a penalty of 1% on range, i.e., fuel efficiency. In the LRC table, fuel flow and air speed (Mach number) are provided as a function of weight and altitude.
  • Holding (flaps up). An aircraft flying at Holding speed will be maximizing its endurance by minimizing the fuel flow. As is the case for the LRC table, the fuel flow and air speed are provided as a function of weight and altitude. The Holding speed is in general significantly less than the LRC speed, and the fuel flow is at its minimum for a given weight and altitude.

In general, an aircraft will not be flying in accordance with either of these criteria, so instead I used the data in these tables to develop a generalized fuel model that could be extrapolated to other conditions.

There was one other important assumption regarding the performance of the engine that was required: the ratio of fuel flow to thrust is approximately constant when corrected for air temperature. The relationship can be expressed as:

Eq1

where FF is the fuel flow in units of (lbm/hr), TSFC* is the corrected thrust specific fuel consumption (assumed to be constant) in units of (lbm/hr-lbf), D is the drag in units of (lbf), which is assumed to be equal to the engine thrust, Ts is the static temperature in units of (K), Tref = 288 K, and M is the Mach number.

In order to calculate the fuel flow, it is necessary to calculate the drag for a given set of conditions. Typically, the relationship between the lift coefficient Cl and drag coefficient Cd is presented as a “drag-polar plot” in the PEM. Lacking the PEM, I reverse-engineered this relationship using Eq 1 with the assumption that to first-order, Cd is only a function of Cl and M (neglecting the effect of Reynolds number), i.e.,

Eq2

I then found an empirical relationship for Cd that produced an adequate match between the predicted fuel flow and the fuel flow values in the tables from the QRH.

Figure 3 shows the relationship between the predicted fuel flows and the values listed in the table for LRC and Holding conditions at FL350 and FL250. The RMS error is 3.2%. Another factor is the Performance Degradation Allowance (PDA) of the engine, which might increase fuel consumption by another 2%. Including uncertainty due to PDA, the model predictions are assumed to have error bounds of -3.8% / +3.2%

Fuel Consumption for Paths to Airports

Armed with a model for fuel consumption, I studied whether the model would predict whether there was adequate fuel to reach the three airports previously identified as possible landing sites for MH370. For Kyzylorda and Almaty, I assumed the flight between 18:34 and 00:19 was at 35,000 ft. For Kuqa Qiuci, I assumed the flight was at 25,000 ft as the Mach number at 35,000 ft (0.664) was below the speed for Holding and the resulting fuel consumption was high. The results are listed in the following table.

Table 1. Fuel Consumption Results

Table1sm

For the path to Kyzylorda at 35,000 ft, the required speed is M=0.864 and the average headwind was 23 kn at FL350 with a peak headwind of 43 kn. The fuel flow model predicts that an additional 7,503 kg of fuel would be required, or about 15.3% of the initial fuel load of 49,100 kg. This is well beyond the expected error margin of the fuel model prediction. It is therefore considered unlikely that there was sufficient fuel to reach Kyzylorda Airport.

Jeff Wise has proposed a scenario in which MH370 passed Kyzylorda and landed on a runway at Yubileyniy, which is 237 km (128 nm) beyond Kyzylorda Airport. I don’t see a way that this could have occurred unless the fuel load at takeoff was significantly different than contained in the ACARS data stream.

For the path to Almaty Airport at 35,000 ft, the required speed is M=0.735 and the average headwind is 10 kn, with a peak of 23 kn. The predicted fuel remaining at Almaty would be about 3,837 kg, or about 7.8% of the initial fuel load. Even with the uncertainties (-3.8%/+3.2%) of the fuel flow model, I predict there was sufficient fuel to reach Almaty.

For the path to Kuqa Qiuci Airport at 25,000 ft, the required speed is M=0.636 and the average headwind is 4 kn with a peak of 16 kn. The predicted fuel remaining at Kuqa Qiuci is 2,004 kg, or about 4.1% of the initial fuel load. Considering the uncertainties of the fuel flow model (-3.8%/+3.2%), it is possible that MH370 was able to reach this airport, although the fuel margin is significantly less than for Almaty.

Some Additional Comments

The three flights studied all cross into the Xinjiang province of China. The path to Kyzylorda skirts the border of China, but the paths to Almaty and Kuqa Qiuci represent significant incursions into Chinese airspace. Any theory developed around these flight paths would need to explain why China did not act to stop this incursion.

In addition to the civil runway at Almaty Airport, there is Boraldai Airport (UAAR), formerly Burundai Airport, located about 11 km (6 nm) to the west from Almaty, as shown in Figure 4. It is privately-owned by Altair Air and is the base of operations for Burundaiavia, which supplies helicopter services for civilian, transport, and military uses. The airport is primarily used for light fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters and has a runway with a length of 4,790 ft. Although this is relatively short for a B777, it is would be sufficient length to land a B777 that had little remaining fuel. A landing at this airport might raise less suspicion than at Almaty.

Fig4
Figure 4. Boraldai Airport is close to Almaty Airport.
Conclusion

In this work, I studied potential flight paths of MH370 that terminate to the north of Malaysia. The studied was performed to assess the possibility of a successful landing in the event that the BFO data from MH370 is either corrupted or has been misinterpreted. I used the BTO data to identify the paths to the north that end at airports along the 7th arc at 00:19 UTC with the requirement that the BTO data is matched at all other handshake times. Three airports were identified that are located within the error bounds of the 7th arc. Of the three, there appears have been insufficient fuel to reach Kyzylorda Airport. On the other hand, there appears have been sufficient fuel to reach Almaty and Kuqa Qiuci Airports, although there would have been significantly less fuel margin to reach Kuqa Qiuci. Near to Almaty is a smaller airport named Boraldai that is also viable for landing. It is very unlikely that MH370 reached the runway at Yubileyniy.

Click here to download this paper as a pdf (which includes all of the links I’ve left out of this version).

130 thoughts on “Guest Post: Northern Routes for MH370 Ending at Airports”

  1. @alex

    As Don said, but from the specs.

    ICAO SARPS Annex 10 Part III – Inmarsat and MTSAT

    Sec 4.4.1.1 Aircraft system-timing reference point. The reference timing point for signals generated and received by the AES shall be at the antenna.

    Sec 4.4.3.2 Burst timing. The beginning of each R channel burst shall occur within ±300 μs of the beginning of an R channel slot defined by the received P channel superframe.

    (section numbers may be different for later versions).

    Any timing compensation as you describe would violate those two requirements.
    Last post from me on this.

  2. @Don – a picture would indeed be worth a thousand words. From the various textual descriptions and comments, it doesn’t seem like all of them are logically consistent.

    Obviously that would require some effort to prepare, but if there was one available it would be very helpful.

  3. Richard,

    The section from AMSS you quoted Sec 4.4.3.2 actually confirms that there is timing calculation involved.

    1. The equivalent section for the T channel is Sec 4.4.4.2 which reads: “Timing relative to P channel. The beginning of each T channel burst shall occur within +/-300us of the beginning of the assigned T channel slot defined by the received P channel superframe…”.

    2. The time slots are defined by the P channel. See the above section from AMSS and the section you referred to.

    3. That is also reflected in the definition of the BTO given in the ATSB Report as well as in the Inmarsat article in the Journal of Navigation (“…aircraft R channel transmissions are in time slots referenced to the P channel as received by the aircraft…”).

    4. Further to the abovereferred AMSS sections, the signal from the AES has to reach the time slot defined by the P channel within +/-300us of the beginning of the time slot.

    5. The farther the AES is from the satellite/GES, the earlier the AES would have to transmit so as to reach the time slot at the predefined time.

    6. The AES calculates this propagation delay/timing advance from knowing the position of the aircraft vis a vis the satellite/GES. Thus the sections from ARINC 741 referred to, describing how the hardware “is to be informed of when to transmit” for purposes of “commencing the burst at the right time”.

    7. According to the definition of the BTO in the ATSB Report and in the Inmarsat article in the Journal of Navigation, “[T]he BTO is a measure of how long from the start of that time slot the transmission is received”.

    8. Further to sections 4.4.3.2 and 4.4.4.2 referred to earlier, the BTO cannot exceed +/-300us (microseconds), just like under section 4.4.2 the BFO cannot exceed “+/-383 Hz due to all causes”.

    9. For P channel at 10500 bps with corresponding R channel at 1200 bps, the 8 second P superframe is divided into 16 time slots of 0.5 seconds or 500 milliseconds each. Thus if everything is working according to plan, both the P channel signals and the corresponding R channel signals would show time gaps of multiples of 0.5 seconds, as can be seen from the times recorded for the various entries in the Inmarsat datalog of May 27, 2014.

    Sincerely, Alex Siew

  4. Alex,

    The language says the burst from the AES has to occur within 300 us of the RECEIVED P-channel superframe. Therefore, the AES does NOT compensate for the delay between the transmission and receipt of the P-channel signal.

    You disagree. You have made your point. There is no need to continue to persuade people. Please stop.

  5. I’m traveling so Alex was able to post repeatedly before I could get back on the internet and delete his nonsense. Would love to know what his deal is–seems to be some kind of high-level trolling. He’s so persistent, and so credible-sounding (at least at first) that I wonder if he’s being paid to deliberately disrupt independent analysis of MH370.
    While we’re on the subject, I’m suspicious of Kyrill as well. Two pieces of scientific-sounding but ultimately baseless “evidence” pointing southward, offered up in quick succession, of a very different nature but from the same source, seems unlikely, especially given that the SIO search was just about to turn up empty.
    And while I’m venting, can we please stop talking about Katie Tee? Eyewitness sightings of aircraft have little probative value even in the best of circumstances.
    Okay, I now promise to stop being grumpy.

  6. Don,

    Thanks for your explanation. My interest is whether it is possible to deduce anything useful from the BTO values of 51700 and 49660 microseconds, perhaps in conjunction with the timing of the logs and similarity of the sequences.

    So, you believe that December update is also trimmed, and thus it does not show the same sequence as 18:25 and 00:19 events, right?

  7. Jeff – I hinted earlier that the contrail images, however they were procured could ultimately be the work of an artist. Had they have walked away from the search then this whole story would begin to evolve in other directions, for now the narrative is suspended and that will be good news in some quarters. If MH370 did meet with a very sophisticated sort of sinister, and is not down there at all then sustaining the SIO focus with a tweak becomes ideal. I’d hesitate to slap that on the table but the emergence of that “data” did give me thought as well. China doesn’t give a crap about it’s citizens but the govt is neurotic about it’s image domestically and couldn’t walk away yet. I’m still pretty sure personally that Australia/Malaysia were intending to. I suppose there is only one scenario where the world powers could be truly oblivious to the fate of this plane and that would be if it was the work of one mind and noone saw it coming. As it is China are the only power showing any real interest and it isn’t genuine. How could they(other powers) not care about what happened? That ostensibly is what we have.

  8. Jeff,

    I have to agree that something isn’t right about Kirill. At very least, I would like to see someone independently replicate his processed satellite image showing the hook turn, starting from the raw 18:25 Suomo NPP images.

    Also, as I posted previously, the findings need to pass the peer review test before we can put much weight on them. Till now, the only peer review appears to have been from Simon Proud, who is dismissive of the work. Not a promising start.

    Hope I’m wrong in my assessment!

  9. Sheesh- give the guy a break! He apparently has a background in geophysics and originally came to the table with the novel idea of gathering together acoustical data from surrounding underwater listening stations, then cross-referencing the data to try and determine if a common event could be sourced. Talk about out-of-the-box thinking!

    Like many, he is donating his time (away from kids and family) and using the toolset available from his field of expertise to help bring a wide range of ideas to the table.

    As MuOne so eloquently said:

    “Defending a thesis is part of the scientific method. It’s part of the peer review. Peers challenge the thesis with arguments to the contrary and the thesis’ authors defend their thesis with counter arguments to those. That process is done in search of answers.”

    Do you truly believe he has another agenda? To me, it looks like he and Dr. Ulich have put considerable effort into both the acoustic and the contrail studies with limited data on hand.

    Even though I believe MH370 is likely further up the arc- I personally give weight to the acoustics and feel it’s even more evidence for Dr. Ulich’s area to be searched. As others have pointed out, the acoustical method could even be tested by using a depth charge at a known location. IMO, the contrails leave more to be deciphered, and I appreciate the open forum where experts in the particular fields such as Simon Proud, can weigh in.

    Stifling such dialogue, by sniping the ‘tinkerers’, results in discussions growing stale- running the grave risk of a collective loss of interest and lessening the chances it will ever be found.

    Aren’t our Twitter streams already overcrowded with cut&paste flightpaths and tomnod images?

  10. @Orion:

    Couldn’t agree with you more.

    To NOW suggest or imply that Kirill is somehow suspect… Wow. ‘Wolf Hall’ just ended, but we pick up elsewhere.

    “scientific-sounding but ultimately baseless ‘evidence’ pointing southward”

    The irony in that is beyond Shakespearean.

    There are a legion of very smart, well-intentioned, long-time observers who, if you put THAT sentence in front of them, might say it could also describe how we got to MH370-is-in-the-SIO in the first place.

    I case we missed it, the radar story smells to high heaven and Inmarsat’s ping data (contrary to conventional wisdom) is NOT HARD, INCONTROVERTIBLE EVIDENCE pointing to MH370’s location — but a theory. Has the plane been found yet?

    *sips tea*

    In the meantime (and in defense of Kirill), here’s a convo today that may interest:
    https://twitter.com/kprostyakov/status/599107022483759105

    @StevenG:

    “if her statement is found to be true that the plane was flying lower than cruising altitude that would mean the probability of it being in SIO would be much much lower and they would have to move the search to a northern area of the southern arc”

    And that would be a great reason to dismiss KT’s sighting (read: she who shall not be named) as not credible or relevant, wouldn’t it?

    @BT – 77: Been swamped, but I owe you something. Please stand by.

  11. Oh for goodness sake. Kirill is just an energetic curious guy, thinking outside the box, and his open approach is refreshing. I find his theories far less out there than some, and I hope he’ll carry on experimenting….be great if he could be provided with the acoustic data from the other stations that he is missing.
    Are there some who are being aggressive or condescending, to discourage or muddy the waters of certain discussions? Yeah, I could name a few. But Kirill’s not on that list.

  12. Contrails – By the end, whenever that is everyone here will have been guilty of some wayward theorizing/thinking at some point but that is separate to wayward data. I was wondering early on just how those images came to be? From Russia with love?

  13. @nobody in particular…

    The thing is, there are probably plants in every forum. I used to do presentations advocating for or against certain government projects. There were always plants. At one point, we started bringing a camera crew, ostensibly to film the presentation but it was actually to film the audience so that we could watch and recognize the plants. That often led us to the money trail. A corollary is looking in the crowd for the assassin at the press conference.

    So it is not always a benefit to suppress the plants, even if they are opposed to you. It’s further helpful to hear the opposition’s argument to improve your own.

    So let’s assume that Alex is a plant. I don’t believe he is, but let’s assume he is. Who is he a plant for? What would somebody gain if he was planting doubts? Who is opposite him? I would suggest that he is most opposite Mike or Don, but how would anyone benefit from either of them being wrong? Just hypotheticals, honestly, but the more we hear from anyone, the more we’ll learn their motives.

    That said, disrupting a forum is another matter. I apologize for stoking the flame slightly here but I do think the disagreement that Victor mentions is significant if it ever turned out we had the wrong AES model or something, because clearly there is a minority that thinks that at least some satellite equipment does timing compensation as well as freq compensation. If I’m not mistaken, hand-held sat phones do just that – there is no Doppler to speak of but many require a lat-long entry, and it clearly improves the efficiency of the protocol.

  14. @JS

    The discussion here has centred around the protocols used by the legacy Classic-Aero system in the AES on MH370, as described in the various specifications. There are more modern protocols, particularly those supporting the Broadband Global Area Network service (BGAN) used on I-4 which are much higher data rate – the Inmarsat handheld phones use this system. These protocols do require the phone position – for example if the GPS in the phone does not lock up, the phone will not communicate with the satellite as the satellite has to know which regional beam to use. The low level data protocol will also be more complex (to allow a higher data rate) and may very well adjust for the AES to GES distance. However, these protocols are not relevant to MH370.

  15. @Orion, Nihonmama, Lucy B

    Yes, pretty much agree with all of you re KP. Refreshing on the whole. Julie – no problem, as and when!

    FWIW though, having spent a lot of time chewing through the post-IGARI radar info in the FI.pdf, I’m inclined to think that, although it’s probably neither deliberately misleading nor hinting at something clandestine, it is however pretty ‘dirty’ data that needs to be viewed and used with sparing care. The end timings of each segment are particularly suspect, I guess this arises from the (simple?) limitations in radar equipment. I don’t think we have to read anything suspicious into this. The overall time and speed to Penang/Pulau Perak works out OK. I notice Kirill is tweeting a lot re this section, and Orion’s herculean efforts, whilst FASCINATING, I think are unfortunately a little over-interpretive, on reflection. In short, the data just ain’t that tight.

  16. Wired states that according to an FBI warrant request to search Chris Roberts’ computers, he was interviewed by the FBI on Feb 15 and March 5 to discuss vulnerabilities of the IFE on planes. In those interviews, he disclosed that on previous flights, he had exploited vulnerabilities via the IFE, including changing settings of the Thrust Management Computer.

    http://www.wired.com/2015/05/feds-say-banned-researcher-commandeered-plane/

    Included in the article is a link to the search warrant application. The Investigation section starting on page 11 (p 12 of the PDF) is particularly interesting. Some statements are also puzzling, such as an authorized command to one engine to “climb” resulted in a “lateral or sideways movement of the plane”. (Perhaps due to asymmetric thrust?)

    While I do not believe that MH370 was hacked via the IFE, I think that those who believe that it was impossible that the SATCOM was hacked are living in a fantasy world. I continue to investigate this possibility.

    I am working to finish the companion work to “Northern Routes for MH370 Ending at Airports”. The new piece will propose a way the BFO might have been hacked so that a northern path would have the BFO signature of a southern path.

    Victor

  17. Jeff, (and all you other folks),

    While in the waiting room of my doctor’s office – herniated disc in my neck, such fun! – I came across an article about MH370, one year later, written by Sean Flynn, in the March edition of GQ. It didn’t shed any new light on what happened to the plane, or where it went, but it did introduce a couple of tidbits that I found interesting, and that I had never heard until I read the article.

    The first, according to “a well-placed source”, was that Malaysian authorities knew, as early as the morning of March 9, that MH370 had continued flying for several hours after it vanished. So what reason could there be for continuing to search the waters beneath IGARI when authorities knew it wouldn’t be there, anyway? And even before starting a search mission, shouldn’t they have trying to locate a plane in the air?

    The second thing was that the Malaysian military had actually tracked the plane on its radar after it went dark, presumably watching in real time, and yet, they did nothing. Why wasn’t the air force alerted and jets scrambled? Wouldn’t this have been crucial in finding out what happened and where the plane went?

    Anyway, if you haven’t seen the article, it’s a good read. Here’s a link to it:

    http://www.gq.com/news-politics/big-issues/201503/malaysia-airlines-flight-370

  18. I have completed the follow up piece entitled “Northern Routes and BFO for MH370”. The following is from the summary:

    • The Honeywell Thales MCS-6000 SATCOM used by MH370 has a frequency correction algorithm with the capability to correct for the Doppler shift caused by inclination of the satellite. This is known to the official investigation team but has is not generally known by independent researchers.

    • The value of inclination for the Inmarsat I3F1 satellite that was broadcast by the Ground Earth Station (GES) at Perth, Australia, to be used by SATCOMs logged into the satellite, was zero. The true inclination of the satellite was around 1.65⁰. The two parameters that describe the satellite inclination, the inclination angle and the time of the ascending node, are stored in the System Table of the SATCOM in non-volatile memory, and are used by the frequency compensation algorithm.

    • If an individual obtained unauthorized access to the non-volatile memory of the SATCOM, the value of the inclination used by the frequency correction algorithm could be changed from 0 to 3.3⁰, or about twice the true inclination of the satellite. With this change, the BFO signature of a northern path that satisfied the BTO data would resemble the BFO signature of a southern path that satisfied the BTO data.

    • The apparent turn to the south between 18:28 and 18:40 UTC that is suggested by the measured BFO data might have been caused by a change to the inclination parameters stored in the SATCOM’s System Table during that time interval.

    • The calculated values of BFO for northern paths with the inclination parameter changed to 3.3⁰ match the measured BFO values with an RMS error less than 3.8 Hz. This is true for Mach numbers between 0.65 and 0.85 at FL350, with little variation in error seen in this speed range.

    • At each log-on, the inclination parameters would be reset to zero. Therefore, the BFO data associated with the log-ons at 18:25 and 00:19 UTC should be evaluated with inclination parameters set to zero. The BFO data at times between these log-ons should be evaluated with the possibility that a change was made.

    • The BFO value at 00:19 matches an aircraft along the northern part of the 7th arc on the ground and stationary once the BFO is adjusted for the log-on offset seen at 16:00 UTC. This suggests that if MH370 flew north, it might have successfully landed.

    • Researchers have identified security vulnerabilities in other SATCOMs, including backdoors and access to memory, although the MCS-6000 has not been specifically studied. The possibility of “spoofing” the BFO to disguise location has been considered before.

    The full paper can be found here:

    https://www.dropbox.com/s/q0ub57j3rk89bto/2015-05-12%20Northern%20Routes%20and%20BFO%20for%20MH370.pdf?dl=0

  19. Victor – your’e a bloody legend.

    “While I do not believe that MH370 was hacked via the IFE, I think that those who believe that it was impossible that the SATCOM was hacked are living in a fantasy world.”

    Everyone gets the drift there but going a bit further, it wasn’t a fantasy. It was a white knuckle defense against something that threatened their work masquerading as investigation.

  20. @Victor – was it always transmitted as zero from the GES? Could it simply have been a missed signal on one restart but not the other?

    Could the ascension start value also be subject to a change between one session and the next?

    Common sense all along has suggested that the two sessions could have different properties. This is just one more reason not to assume that baseline values from the early session are valid on the later session.

  21. @JS: As per a knowledgeable individual, the inclination was always broadcast as zero. The value of the “time of ascension node” parameter would not matter if the inclination parameter was zero. If different values were used by the AES correction algorithm, it was most likely due a deliberate change to stored values in the SATCOM.

  22. I mentioned on Duncan Steel (5.11.14 – “The Circumlocution Office is Alive and Well”) and on this board that there was a pprune post (#8789) that described a specific (and chilling) spoofing scenario. It was deleted within hours by the site’s administrators.

    Here is another post that I was able to capture before it too was quickly deleted by pprune:

    “If the Nav data box in the E & E compartment was messed around with a scrolling function or electronic hijacking attempted through the AIRINC 629 bus junction-couplings, the route could have changed sequentially…”

    https://twitter.com/nihonmama/status/454360203891179520

  23. @Nihonmama

    V nice work Ms Julie. Extremely interesting. I look forward to hearing from qualified/informed others as to corroborative technical feasibility.

    Is this (broadly) the same narrative as #8789?

    You can’t beat ‘Print Screen’ eh? (Almost) the most important key on the board….

  24. @BT-77:

    Thanks much.

    #8789 was different from the above post. What I can recall is that someone asked a question and the response incorporated a spoofing scenario. Can’t recall the specifics, but almost sure the person who answered mentioned something about manuals and a satellite course(s) they’d taken. One response to the tweet incorporating the deleted pprune link:

    “was the question too much towards the truth maybe?”

  25. We need to start focusing on motive if we think the plane landed safely. There really is only one place the plane could have gone.

    Until last May, I lived full time in Shanghai for the past 8 years. I have also worked in Hong Kong, Bangkok, Manila, Kuala Lumpur and India. I think we need look into how a plane could have been hidden on the ground.

    I would like to comment on the possibility that the plane landed along the northern arc. In your hypothesis, you mention the possibility of 2 cities as end points on the northern arc, Almaty and Kuqa Quici.

    According to Wikipedia, “Almaty remains the major commercial and cultural centre of Kazakhstan, as well as its biggest population center.” Almaty is a commercial hub and a population of over a million. Almaty would have been a difficult place to hide a plane. Kuqa Quici airport serves 450,000 people in a rural setting. A plane landing in Kuda Quici could have disappeared easily.

    I would assume that the plane arrived there relatively unexpectedly. Captain Shah hoped the landing would draw attention to the plight of the Uyghurs. Instead he found that the passengers and crew were quickly silenced. Their fate remains unknown.

    Xinjiang is one of the most remote and tightly controlled regions on the planet. China is extremely sensitive about the Uyghur situation. No matter what motive the pilot might have had in flying the plane to Kuqa Quici, the Chinese quickly silenced anyone involved.

    Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah piloted the MH370 to Xinjiang to draw attention to the fact Malaysia has been deporting Uyghurs, his fellow Muslims, back to Xinjiang, China, to face certain torture and death.

    Malaysia would have been happy to help China hide a potentially devastating foreign policy embarrassment.

    http://weblog.uhrp.org/malaysia-and-the-deportation-of-ethnic-uyghur-asylum-seekers/
    Malaysia is not a nation that is immediately associated with Uyghur asylum seekers. However, the Southeast Asian nation has been the center of not one but two major Uyghur asylum-seeking scandals in the past two years. In both cases, Uyghur asylum seekers were secretly deported back to the People’s Republic of China despite the fact that the deported Uyghurs faced torture, imprisonment and possible execution.

    In 2011, the government of Malaysia secretly deported 11 Uyghurs. More recently on December 31, 2012 Kuala Lumpur secretly deported another 6 Uyghur asylum seekers, which HRW called a “grave violation of international law” given China’s dubious charges against them. In a recent statement, Malaysia said only that China requested they be deported because of an offence. Despite Islam being the state religion of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur’s foreign policy and stance towards the Uyghurs of East Turkestan centers around Malaysian-Chinese relations rather than Islamic ties, and is inconsistent with the country’s foreign policy stance towards other ethnic conflicts, particularly in Kosovo and the Bangsamaro region of the Philippines.

    Malaysian relations with China have gained importance in recent years. Malaysia has elevated links with Northeast Asia, especially since China’s historic role in the recovery of the Southeast Asian region after the 1997 financial crisis. Malaysia also has a large ethnic Han population, making up 23.7% of its population. Economic ties to China have grown in recent years and have even started to outpace those of Malaysia’s other Chinese-speaking trade partner, Taiwan.

  26. @bart

    There are a few airports nearby Almaty that mh370 could have landed. Some might be. Military.

  27. According to Wikipedia, the Kuga Quici airport “was first built in 1939, but ceased operation in 1998… In 2009 it was moved and rebuilt at its current location”. So, there is still another older & abandoned, but relatively modern airport several dozen km away ?

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