The Mysterious Reboot, Part 2

The discussion prompted by last week’s blog post raised some interesting issues that I think are worth discussing in further detail.

First, I wrote last week that “At 18:22, MH370 vanished from primary radar coverage over the Malacca Strait. Three minutes later—about the amount of time it takes the Satellite Data Unit (SDU) to reboot—the satcom system connected with Inmarsat satellite 3F-1 over the Indian Ocean and inititated a logon at 18:25:27.”

Commenter LouVilla earlier today laid out the issue with more clarity, writing:

MH370 flew out of radar range @18:22.12 UTC. All of a sudden @18:25.27 UTC, the AES sent an Login-Request to the satellite. This are 03:15 Minutes between this two events. When the AES is without power supply for a while and reboots after power is available again the AES needs approximately 02:40 Minutes to sent an Login Request (ATSB Report Page 33). 03:15 minus ~ 02:40 = ~ 35 seconds. So, the perpetrator must activated the left bus again at around 18:22.47 UTC, 35 seconds after MH370 flew out of radar range.

The close sequence of these events does, in my mind, raise the possiblity that they are connected. How would a perpetrator know that he has left radar coverage? Among the possibilites would be a) some kind of radar-energy detector (like that used by automobile speed-trap radar detectors) brought on board by the perpetrators, or b)  prior scouting by allied agents. This latter idea would be far fetched for a suicidal pilot but quite feasible for, say, Russia, which spends quite a lot of time probing the radar coverage of its NATO neighbors.

Of course the timing might just be a coincidence.

A second point I’d like to address is the idea that Zaharie or Fariq might have de-powered the satcom by isolating the left AC bus. One problem with this scenario, as I’ve previously mentioned, is that it would be difficult for a pilot to know just what else they would be taking off line in isolating the left AC bus. I later realized that I had underestimated the problem.

In a fascinating blog post on an airline pilot who goes by the handle “Ken” describes going through a simulated left AC bus failure in the course of a training session. He notes that among the systems lost were Window Heat (Left) and a Primary Hydraulic Pump (Left). “No biggie,” he writes, but adds that in addition:

…there are a whole host of ancillary services lost. Many of these are reflected by the amber lights on the overhead panel. Having looked at the roof – you later discover even then that it’s not the whole story. In this particular scenario we decided to return to KLAX. Part of the return process was fuel jettison down to maximum landing weight. Guess what? Without the Left Bus – the main tank jettison pumps are failed. You’ll be advised of this… when you start the fuel jettison. I didn’t give this a second thought… but the discussion we had afterwards that included a talk about this little quirk of the Boeing EICAS/ECL was interesting. There are no EICAS/STATUS messages to advise you of everything you’ve lost, and in many cases, until you attempt to use something that’s failed – you won’t know about it. Older aircraft used to publish a Bus Distribution List (Electrical and Hydraulic) so that you’d know exactly what you’d lost with a particular electrical bus failure – but not on the 777. My fellow pilots were vaguely disturbed by the lack of information.

It’s not impossible to imagine that one of the pilots cooked up a plan that involved switching off the satcom by isolating the left AC bus, but to do so they would have had to do intensive research into the issue. And even then, they would have to have grappled with the fact that in doing so they might disable other systems that they weren’t aware of. All told, this would be a complicated and risky strategy. And to what end? If the satcom was deselected for ACARS and the IFE was switched off (both of which are easily accomplished from the cockpit) then there would be no reason for a pilot to fear that the satellite would give away his position.

Another suggestion that has been made is the idea that the co-pilot, having been locked out of the cockpit, went down into the E/E bay and started pulling circuit breakers at random, hoping that in so doing he would succeed in de-powering the flight deck door lock, and instead power cycled the satcom by mistake. I don’t think this makes much sense, since a) this would require to know that such a circuit breaker exists in the E/E bay, but not know where it is, and b) I just can’t imagine a trained airplane pilot pulling circuit breakers at random.

In general I think we should resist any explanations that require complicated series of actions to take place as a result of a random series of happenstances. Boeing 777s are not Rube Goldberg contraptions; they are multiply redundant and extremely robust. Neither a fast-moving fire nor a panicked copilot are likely to remove the exact components at exactly the right time (and then replace them at exactly the right time!) by chance alone.

Finally, I think it’s time to raise a very important issue regarding the search of the southern Indian Ocean. Last week, I wrote that the search had failed. Some people took umbrage at this suggestion, pointing out that the original 60,000 sq km area has not yet been searched. To that, I say fair enough. Perhaps I jumped the gun. I’m willing to go along with those who say that we need to wait until the entire 120,000 sq km are searched. But then what?

For many, the matter will have been laid to rest: if the plane is not there, then it did not go there. It will be time to scratch the “ghost plane” hypothesis off the list and move on to see what other options are on the table. Well and good–this is how scientific investigation moves forward.

However, I am concerned that some people might refuse to come along. Already some commenters have pointed out that there may be crevasses into which the debris could have sunk, or underwater hills in whose sonar shadow the wreckage may be lurking. Or maybe there was a gap between the search swathes. These are all valid points, but they are also points that the Fugro searchers are certainly well aware of. They know exactly what part of the seabed each sonar image covers. They can tell where the gaps are, and they can send UAVs to probe the shadows and the gullies. Their entire mission hangs on them covering every square inch of the designated area, precisely so that that when they’re finished no one can say, “well, you only covered 99.99 percent, therefore we don’t know it isn’t down there.”

We all have to be open-minded about the data, no matter how fervently we may believe that our personal hypothesis is correct. It’s unsportsmanlike to call on the ATSB to search a particular ocean, at great expense and effort, and then when they’ve spent the money and time say, “Well, I don’t believe in your result, you probably screwed it up.”

We can be skeptical about the authorities’ handling of the investigation–I’m sure none of us would be here if we weren’t–but at the end of the day we have to have some basic faith in the honor and competence of the investigators. Otherwise, we just have to throw our hands in the air and declare that nobody knows anything.


291 thoughts on “The Mysterious Reboot, Part 2”

  1. @Benaiahu:

    You can not set up a B777 descent rate of 14,972 ft/min (BTW…That’s 148kts downward velocity) and then pull up to convert the kenetic enery back into potential energy (height), and then glide a 100 miles. The wings would come off first.

  2. @airlandseaman, thanks for the reality check. Add “super 777” to my sputter/dive/glide wish list 🙂

  3. @DennisW – My mistake. Thanks for the correction. I guess I hadn’t visualized the plane hitting the 7th arc and then turning back towards CI.

  4. Was already explained why 1st unanswered phone call forced GES to 60 minute timeout (repeated for next 5 pings, max +20s drift), while after 2nd call there was only 55 minutes?? One possibility is 5 minute resolution/threshold – or it is something weird?

    from FactualInformation.PDF page 55-56:

    “14. 1840:56 – The GES logs show that the unanswered Ground to Air telephony call was
    cleared by the calling party.

    15. 1941:00 – Log-On Interrogation by the Perth GES, with a response from the SATCOM
    a. This is the second ‘handshake’, whereby the GES inactivity timer has expired and the
    GES has sent a message to interrogate the status of the SATCOM. ”

    (there is almost exact 1hr timeout: 60:04)

    “20. 2315:02 – The GES logs show that the unanswered Ground to Air telephony call was
    cleared by the calling party.

    21. 0010:58 – Log-On Interrogation by the Perth GES, with a response from the SATCOM
    a. This is the sixth ‘handshake’. ”

    (there is exactly 54:56 minutes delay)

  5. @orion: I don’t think Phuket was the source of the radar tracks. As I said before, I believe the radar head was pointed at India as Indonesia is not a threat to Thailand.

    I believe the radar blips in the Malacca Strait were from the radar head at Western Hill on Penang Island. The drop out at 18:22 corresponds to a distance of 243 nm, which is below the horizon for the radar head at a plane altitude of 31,200 ft. If you look at my first post in this thread, you can find the equation I derived for the horizon range based on the particular height of the radar head. For a range of 243 nm, the predicted altitude is reasonable 31,200 ft, so there is nothing strange about the radar blips dropping out at 18:22.

    The radar head on Penang Island also might be pointed only towards the northwest, which is why there is a dead zone around Penang. In the Lido image, the dropout “circle” in the Malacca Strait is harder to explain except if you invoke altitude changes.

  6. @jeff
    yes, FactualInformation also notes “abnormal” logon/ack BFO+BTO not only after 1st (OCXO cold?) restart, but also at 7th arc:

    “23. 0019:37 – SATCOM Log-On, successfully completed
    c. The GES recorded an abnormal frequency offset for the SATCOM Log-On Request
    and Acknowledge transmissions. “

  7. falken:

    can you provide a page reference for this statement?

    “FactualInformation also notes “abnormal” logon/ack BFO+BTO not only after 1st (OCXO cold?) restart, but also at 7th arc:”

  8. @airlandseaman,

    Correcting the record. You said “You can not set up a B777 descent rate of 14,972 ft/min (BTW…That’s 148kts downward velocity) and then pull up to convert the kenetic enery back into potential energy (height), and then glide a 100 miles. The wings would come off first.

    That is YOUR calculated descent rate on based on less than stellar BFO.

    !00 miles is just a max glide ratio you appear to be using via completely baseless assumptions (such as alt for starters).

    Maybe he only cared to glide for 72 miles? Maybe he was looking for a calm patch in which to set down?

  9. It is very unfortunate ATSB characterized the final data records as a “partial ping”. Sounds unreliable, right? That characterization seems to have created an unconscious bias toward questioning the validity of those records. But it is essential to understand the difference between a “partial packet” and a “partial set of packets” making up a complete logon event. There was nothing partial about the two packets that were recorded. Both passed a CRC check. They are 100% reliable, though subject to some minor BFO Bias startup error…maybe 10-20 Hz at most…not 200 Hz. We just never received the rest of the expected packets associated with a complete logon. That is what they meant by “partial”. The two complete, valid packets we did get explain why we didn’t get the rest of them!

    As soon as one get past the spurious argument that because MH370 has not been found yet, it MUST have been flown further manually, etc., then you come back to the data and it clearly indicates a very rapid descent, and every reason to keep looking close to the 7th ARC, perhaps as far south as Bobby has suggested, or as far north as Inmarsat suggested. But don’t toss out good data just because the plane has not been found yet. There are many possible reasons for that, other than glider scenarios that are 100% inconsistent with the data.

  10. The problem is that an even more spurious argument is that someone was not in control of the a/c post FMT.

    The ghost flight scenario makes no sense unless IMO you believe Z took himself out at a moment coinciding/just after the FMT…and this seems HIGHLY unlikely.

  11. spencer:

    You are conflating two independent questions. The fact there was a rapid descent indicated by the data in no way indicates that there was or was not a live pilot at the end. Indeed, if the APU did not flame out before impact, then the data is most consistent with a rapid descent AND manual control of the descent.

  12. @Victor

    I agree with BW max range- it also coincides with Don’s radar info provided on the table on DS.

    The quibble with BW as the source, though minor, was with the FI’s use of the word ‘abruptly’ to describe the loss of a signal at point where, based on max range, it would have been expected to have been lost.

    Regarding Phuket, Don might be able to give more insight into the operations of the Thai RTADS-III integrated C2 network. Specifically, if there was indeed an early detection at ~17:28 from Ko Samui, what would be the likely operational status at the time in Phuket? Might they have been put ‘on alert’?

    I realize it’s all speculation until when, if ever, the complete radar data is released. Also your observation regarding the potential for altitude changes causing the ‘blind’ circle between the Lido segments is very interesting, to say the least.

  13. @Spencer,

    I believe ASLM is passively indicating that in your piloted-to-the-end scenario, a very fast rate of descent can actually provide the method of suicide. The concepts aren’t mutually exclusive.

  14. @airlandseaman
    it is page 56, item 23c quoted – at least as I understand the wording, they are not saying BFO+BTO here but its clear; also 23d states that such “successfully completed” logon/ack was not followed by some “Data-3 X.25 connections” (1st logon/Ack was followed after cca 90 secs with 2 short streams of data ??)

  15. LouVilla/Dennis W.,

    Hi Lou and Dennis. I agree I cannot fathom anyone contemplating their demise for over 5 hours either, knowing it is imminent. But I think Dennis’s CI theory has some value, a non-murderous Captain Zaharie wanting to land to make a statement seems more plausible than plunging into the SIO willy nilly keeping the entire world guessing what exactly the motive was. But then how is someone so meticulous as him misjudging the fuel load to get to CI? And if he had successfully landed on CI most assuredly that would have been his last experience flying and incarceration would follow. One would have to ask did his concern for country and democracy outweigh his passion and love for flying? Would he give it up just like that? Hard one to answer. True he has to be suspect but I still put his culpability lower on my list.

    I watched the “Window Seal” Youtube video. Although strange the headlines are all lined up vertically like that (just part of his meticulous nature perhaps whereby nothing can be out place even while working with a messy substance, I am like that so I get it), how can you translate the last 4 headlines, they are in their language I think?



  16. @Orion

    I understand this, The lack of debris IMO works against a both a piloted dive per the data. This end scenario would leave an immense debris field, yet none has turned up anywhere.

    So I favor piloted and ditched. Also, if one assumes piloted until terminus, contrary to what is continually repeated here, we do not the sea state AND the t7 is tank.

    Losing the engines would be acceptable to Z IMO. And why not a final proving ground?

  17. @falken:

    Thanks for the reference. Here is the full context with comments in [brackets].

    22. 0019:29 – SATCOM Log-On, initiated from the aircraft terminal. This is the seventh ‘handshake’.

    23. 0019:37 – SATCOM Log-On, successfully completed [Thus, this was a complete logon, not partial]
    a. The SATCOM link becomes available (for voice and data – Class 3) once more and normal. SATCOM operation resumes. [Note this was a normal process up to the time of the last transmission. There is no indication that the BFO or BTO data is invalid.]
    b. No Flight ID was sent to the GES during the Log-On. [This is also expected given that the previous flight plan was deleted or lost.]
    c. The GES recorded an abnormal frequency offset for the SATCOM Log-On Request and Acknowledge transmissions. [Yes, absolutely “abnormal”. But not in error or otherwise invalid. It was abnormal only in the sense that people never expected to see a 15,000 ft/min descent rate. It was the descent rate that was abnormal.]
    d. The IFE did not subsequently establish the two Data-3 X.25 connections over the SATCOM. [This is evidence the normally operating AES hit the water before the next packet was received (or the APU ran out of fuel first). It is consistent with the rapid descent.]
    e. Note that this is the last transmission received from the aircraft terminal.

  18. @Lou Villa

    That video is quite incredible. He neatly lays out for the viewer all the ills that plague him. The very same themes (nepotism, corruption etc) seen here are the same ones he rails against in his social media rants.

    What also caught my attention was the “bond visits Afghanistan”.

    That is a reference to JAMES BOND AKA 007. Holy mole.

    I need to translate the insurance and drowning articles. They are difficult to see.

  19. @airlandseaman
    thanks for commnets, it really sounds as possible end, sadly

    kindly please, one more thing – I am still puzzled by the unanswered sat-phone calls and just searched for “Q10 AOC priority level” – can you imagine why ATC didnt used higher than regular (Q10) priority = Q12 (safety) or Q15 (emergency) and, they probably must know already during 1st call, that it is ringing – and it was probably also during 2nd one; so why somebody didnt alarmed military, even NORAD or so, to track the plane 5 hours before last ping – they can find ICBMs during 15 minutes of their lifetime, so I am really mad about the calls. Why not emergency priority at least. Duh.

    some details:
    (I found also other official manuals as SVGM 07/2012 and some updates proposal 12/2014 if somebody interested too)

  20. @falken:

    It was MAS that called, not ATC. I assume that is why a Q10 call was made. Q10 denotes an AOC (Airline Operational Control) call. Not an issue. If someone on board was alive and wanted to take the call, they would have.

  21. All, I’m an avid reader of this blog but haven’t had the opportunity to contribute thus far..

    However, on the radar coverage issue, I have had a conversation with a very well informed expert that the radars, both civil and military across Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia are not necessarily well maintained. Calibration testing on some of the radars in question may not in some cases occurred for years (when it should occur at least yearly as I understand). Optimal radar performance requires routine calibration and maintenance. My contact opined that some of the radars were so far out of calibration they’d be lucky to have seen MH370.

    So precisely predicting radar coverage on the basis of officially published data or algorithms is highly questionable. Operational military radar sites from most countries will not reveal detections that indicate the limits of their radar’s performance. Even detection of incursion by foreign military aircraft will not necessarily be released to protect knowledge of the radar’s performance envelope.

    Environmental factors can alter an individual radar’s performance – particularly at the limit of its range.

    So I think it is fair to say:

    1. that deep insider knowledge would be required to know the precise operational performance of individual civil or military radars.
    2. Incursion testing by foreign countries will not necessarily elicit precise radar performance information.
    3. Changing environmental factors may result in slight variations in individual radar performance.

    Revealing the performance of a range of military and civilian radar performance data to a perpetrator would require a reasonably high level source with access to that range of protected information.

    Based on this, I believe that it is almost impossible for a perpetrator to unaided deliberately time the AES logon request to precisely coincide with the radar flying out of radar range @ 18:22.12 UTC. Even if they had all the requisite technical knowledge and experience to do so.

    To deliberately achieve such a precisely timed power up of the AES @18:25.27 UTC would in my view require the use of:

    4. of some sort of radar detector to confirm you are out of range,
    5. Some form of cloaking/jamming, or
    6. Rapid decent out of line of sight.

    I understand radar detectors are directional and would therefore require power and pointing aft. Technically feasible, but not necessarily easily achieved. Further, the perpetrator would have had to prior test the radar detector against the relevant radars because the detectors in the radar might be more sensitive than those in the radar detector.

    There is also a possibility that a military style radar warning receive could be used to perform that function, but the complexities associated with doing so would, in my view, make it so remote as to deem it not worthy of consideration.

    6. Wins my vote.

  22. LouVilla / Spencer,

    In the “Window Seal” video he does say he is at his son’s house repairing the windows so I am assuming those newspapers were just there and just a random assortment of their current events. It also mentions banking issues and the end of whatever Twilight is a show or something and a soccer player is on the bottom row nothing to do with MH370. Some are issues that plague him and apparently issues that are front and center over there. But whether or not we can say he is making yet another statement is a stretch I think.

    What strikes me more is his apparent accent and how it is obliterated in the last part of the MH370 audio recording, that is what gets me more than the hanging headlines.

  23. @airlandseaman
    “If someone on board was alive and wanted to take the call, they would have.”

    or he simply continued to stay hidden and silent, while releasing radio flares
    (if SDU link remained lost as between 1707-1825, then nobody will have absolutely nothing to discuss)

  24. @Spencer

    There is also highly potential for speculations in the other videos the Cpt had made.

    “How to tune aircon to save electricity Part 1” shows an fish swimming right below his flight simulator.I identified this fish as an “Blue unicorn tang”, who lives near the coasts of Australia.

    And in the video “how to tune aircon to save electricity Part 2” we can see a thermometer what shows an temperature of 23.7 degrees of celsius.

    In the FI on Page 3 the DCA reported…..

    “At 1736 UTC [0136 MYT to 1736:40 UTC [0136:40 MYT] heading was 237M (!!!!!!!!!!!!), ground
    speed fluctuation between 494 and 525 kt. and height fluctuation between 31,100 and
    33,000 ft.”

    Oh yes, the Cpt battled in 2013 with temperature fluctuations at his home, the DCA battles today with fluctuations regarding altitudes and flight directions of MH370 and the IG battles with possible temperature fluctuations regarding the AES to explain the Login-Request @18:25 UTC as @Airlandseaman theorized.

    Coincidence ?

  25. Victor/Orion,

    All the RADAR heads rotate a full 360° scan sweep. I’ve speculated that they might discard returns over some of the azimuth range but there’s no confirmation for that idea.

    The RTADS-III network is the export version of that used jointly by the USAF & FAA around the USA’s perimeter. It’s a single supplier integrated system.

    Falken: the SATPHONE connection priority isn’t ‘user selectable’. An ANSP originated call should be higher priority than airline ops. Why didn’t KL Lumpur ACC try to call via satphone? Probably not in their protocol/operating procedures.

    Falken: the GES datalink inactivity timer that drives the Log On Interrogation exchange wasn’t exactly 60 minutes. I expect that the timer’s resolution is 256 seconds, ie 4m16s.


  26. my apologies for OT still, but studying for a while doc below, its really weird why MAS operations was not trying to SATVOICE call their own aircraft in trouble many times (they dont need ATC for this at all, as satvoice can reach plane regardless of ATC/FIR globally) and also Q10 regular info priority is really LOW (crew should act on some directive info over satvoice using priority Q12 or Q15 only too).

    Interesting is also that during KLATC to MAS operations phone call (1833:50 – 1837:00 – FI.pdf page 26+) MAS operations was quite calm and relaxed, replying “Okay” and passing last obtained position [lat 14.9000 long 109.1500] at 1833.56, also about some (text) “message going through”, while the LOG contains satvoice call data between 1839:52 – 1840:56.

    Everybody understands that ATC operators are calm even under stress, although even there later KL and HCM was not able to decide who is responsible for SAR immediatelly – but for MAS operators having plane lost this way their “quite relaxed” communication was very weird, IMHO and 2nd satvoice call at 23:13 is not commented in some events timelines of FactualInformation at all.

  27. @GuardedDon
    in fact distress/emergency priority Q15 is allowed from AOC too; noted even in 10/2014 update proposal

  28. Falken,

    Regardless of how important any one us regards the satphone call, the priority value assigned in signalling the Satphone call isn’t directly caller selectable.

    Further, It’s a moot point, the objective of the priority level is to pre-empt cleardown of any channels already in use that are blocking a high priority call the. None of the AES’ 5 C channels were in use so the call attempts were not impeded.

    Welcome to the ‘What Did MAS Operational Control Centre Do?’ discussion. Answers welcomed.


  29. airlandseaman Posted July 14, 2015 at 6:52 PM: “You can not set up a B777 descent rate of 14,972 ft/min (BTW…That’s 148kts downward velocity) and then pull up to convert the kenetic enery back into potential energy (height), and then glide a 100 miles. The wings would come off first. ”

    Why would the wings come off? From 15,000 ft/min to level flight takes 1300 ft of altitude at 2.5 g.

  30. Hi Jeff,
    Some ramblings for thought below:
    What is known is that the aircraft performed a scheduled satellite communication at 0011. At 0019 the aircraft completed a partial logon.

    It can be deduced from the ATSB report that at around 3 minutes and 40 seconds prior to this login (possibly a little longer to allow for engine internal speed spool down sufficiently to initiate APU autostart).

    This places the aircraft at just past the midpoint between the much described 6th and 7th arcs when the final engine flameout and autopilot disconnect occurred.

    The assumptions that follow are based various preconceptions:

    1/ The Autopilot dropped out with no one at the helm and the aircraft spiralled into the SIO – the premise for the ATSB search location (and also for the IG; albeit a different final destination).

    2/ The entire search area is based on the end of flight scenarios of no pilot input……50NM wide; had there been someone at the controls the search width could be up to 250NM wide.

    3/ The aircraft could not have been successfully ditched in the SIO due to the swells. What is successfully ditched in this instance? Is it to save life or mask an atrocity?

    Some other thoughts to throw in the mix:

    1/ The ACARS and ATC were disabled; from there the perp thought they were home and hosed. The SATCOM was not even a consideration.

    2/ The SATCOM missed it’s scheduled 1807 communication having dropped off some time prior and logged on at 1825; various possibilities might exist…………let’s consider dumb luck or a hiccup or act of god.

    3/ Zaharie loved his B777 and his experience of flight as evidenced by his personal sim and willingness to share his experience…. maybe he is the perp or maybe not……… a gun at your head might make anyone extremely compliant!

    4/ Assuming Zaharie is the perp; had a brain snap and decided to end it all; how would he do it given his love of flight?
    a) A kamikaze dive into the SIO.
    b) Fly the aircraft to fuel exhaustion (never done that before!!!…nor practically anyone else)…. Gimli glider scenario comes to mind.
    c) Attempt a ditching of the aircraft in the SIO (to somewhere it will never be found)……Sullenberger did it in the Hudson………..but no one in recent history has done it a sea!
    d) Both B and C are correct!

    5/ The search is extended along the 7th arc rather than out because there is something that really shouldn’t be found?


  31. @OZ, #2 is what I’m urging we not do — gloss over the cause of the SDU reboot. Given the paucity of data relating to the end of MH370’s final flight we have to look carefully at the specific conditions that can cause this system to do what it did. “Dumb luck” — as I’ve written earlier, we shouldn’t rely on explanations that involve a string of one-in-a-billion coincidences, as these are effectively impossible (it’s physically possible for a monkey hitting typewriter keys to produce Hamlet, but in practice this will take greater than the age of the universe). “Hiccup” — you can’t reboot an SDU by knocking a switch with your elbow. “Act of God” — no. The more we look at the satcom reboot (I would argue) the clearer it becomes that the event could not have been accidental, and while perhaps unintentional (i.e. caused by someone isolating and then reconnecting the left AC bus for other reasons) is better explained as being the result of someone deliberately power-cycling or otherwise interfering with the satcom. This intentional interference, in turn, makes it impossible to fully trust the provenance of the BFO and BTO values.

    @LouVilla, Thanks to a WordPress setting you can’t post a link with more than one URL. Or more precisely, you can, but I have to approve it by hand, and that can take a while.

  32. Hi Jeff,

    Regarding #2

    My preference is the hiccup (as in the system), as I’ve posted before an orientation drop out is my preference as the culprit; I’ve add the other 2 as more unlikely but who knows. A solar flare or struck by lightning would be in the act of god category. And dumb luck; you can’t rule out the lottery…… in a billion (flights).



  33. @OZ, I value your expertise and appreciate your good intentions, but I feel that I must disagree with you here. In fact this is an extremely important point: there has been a tendency over the past year for people to wave their hands over the issue of the SDU reboot and say, “Well, it’s weird, I guess it could have been anything.” But it couldn’t have been anything. The AES is comprised of specific components of known configuration; we can characterize what can and cannot happen under specific circumstances. So let’s dig in and analyse the different potential “hiccups.” Solar flare? Possible, but a solar flare would affect the entire earth and certainly would have been detected. Lightning? There was no lightning near MH370 at 18:25. Dumb luck? Perhaps, but let’s not stop there; what would this dumb luck consist of? The Indpendent Group spent some time investigating the possibility of a bad connection within the AES leading to an electrical fire, and concluded that it was vanishingly unlikely; even if it were the root cause of the SDU’s de-powering, it wouldn’t explain the fortuitious reboot. And so on. My point is simply that if we want to make progress understanding what happened to MH370, we must resist the temptation to wave our hands over data that we have a hard time explaining. And not just when it comes to the SDU. The search of the seabed has provided strong evidence against scenarios that were once quite popular; but already some are succumbing to the temptation to say, “Well, we can’t trust the findings, maybe something went wrong.” If we can’t look at the data with clear eyes, and follow it where it takes us, we’ll never get anywhere.

  34. @gysbreght, 650 ft height loss sound implausible, from a descent rate of 15,000 ft/min, in an airliner weighing 180 T, travelling at something approaching 500 knots.

  35. @RWR,

    Thank you for your contribution! Your assertions are logical, articulate, and seem well-informed. As an avid reader of the blog you are probably well aware that #6 gets my vote too.

  36. Hi Jeff,

    Don’t get me wrong; I totally agree with your remarks however the arguments (not yours! As you have been questioning them,… if you get my drift) are sometimes somewhat biased in my opinion.



  37. @RWR,
    Orion is right: thanks for your contribution to the radar question. Keep posting. Every fresh insight is valuable.

  38. @Lou Villa, where did you get this picture of Zaharie from? The one with the “Lost” allusion. Did he post it himself or is it apocryphal? If he posted it it’s uncanny indeed.

  39. @orion & all

    Lido RADAR source: Don Thompson provided this useful opined graphic ( in his post on the ‘guest-post-why-did-mh370-log-back-on-with-inmarsat’ blog, back on 1Feb2015 4:26PM. It accounts for the circular ‘drop-out’ just before VAMPI; he concludes [item a)] that atmospherics would have limited the range from both Phuket and Khok Muang.

  40. @Lauren

    “I guess I hadn’t visualized the plane hitting the 7th arc and then turning back towards CI.”

    7th arc passes south of CI, if he was coming from the south he didn’t have to do any turn back


    “Maybe he only cared to glide for 72 miles? Maybe he was looking for a calm patch in which to set down?”

    any pilot wanting to ditch the aircraft down wouldn’t wait for fuel exhaustion as it makes things much harder than doing it with engine power

    “But then how is someone so meticulous as him misjudging the fuel load to get to CI? And if he had successfully landed on CI most assuredly that would have been his last experience flying and incarceration would follow. One would have to ask did his concern for country and democracy outweigh his passion and love for flying? Would he give it up just like that? Hard one to answer. True he has to be suspect but I still put his culpability lower on my list.”

    It was only him capable of pulling this. He wouldn’t misjudge fuel load if it was an ordinary flight but it wasn’t, and he possibly wasn’t alone in the cockpit…

    he was mad at the government and he wouldn’t mind being incarcerated in Australia (which wouldn’t send him to Malaysia because he would face death penalty there)


    “So I favor piloted and ditched.”

    but first of all experienced pilot wouldn’t go for it…let alone it would be almost impossible to ditch it in a wavy ocean

    have you ever looked at the latest videos of Fugro Explorer in a search? Waves there regularly get higher than 10m, it’s impossible to land a seaplane intact in those conditions let alone an airliner.

  41. @GuardedDon: Thank you for the information regarding the rotational angle of the head of RTADS-III. If the recorded data does not have directional preference, I have no explanation for why an operational radar system at Phuket did not see MH370 after 18:22.

  42. is it possible that after 18:22 he went along indonesian airspace (which is 12mi from their coast) so it was at the limit of Phuket radar?

    or maybe Thailand has seen it but doesn’t want to disclose it as it corresponds with malaysian radar track and sat pings anyway so it would be of no help

  43. @BT-77

    Please see Don’s recent post
    Posted July 15, 2015 at 1:40 AM

    “All the RADAR heads rotate a full 360° scan sweep. I’ve speculated that they might discard returns over some of the azimuth range but there’s no confirmation for that idea.”

    I *think* that graphic illustrates his speculation that the returns might be discarded if not in the azimuth ranges shown in the diagram.

    Don, please correct me if I’ve micharacterized either the comment or graphic. Thanks

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