Translation: “Simulations Call MH370 Search Strategy Into Question” (Der Spiegel)

[Note: the following is a translation from an article published by Spiegel Online on Friday. Thanks to @littlefoot (Sabine Lechtenfeld) for her assistance.]

by Christoph Seidler

What happened to the missing Boeing 777 of flight MH370? The aircraft with 239 people on board has been missing since March 8, 2014. As the end of July, a piece of wreckage washed up on the French island of La vunion, giving investigators that the wing flap might help solve the riddle–among other things, because it could show how the piece of debris made its way across the Indian Ocean.  And that, in turn, should provide a clue to at least the general area that the plane went down.

Now computer calculations by German oceanographer suggest that perhaps the search for the Malaysia Airlines aircraft has been carried out in the wrong area. Until now, says Andreas Villwock of the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research in Kiel, it’s been assumed that MH370 had crashed far south of the equator at 35 degrees latitude. Computer models by his colleagues show, however, that the debris  “probably comes from the eastern equatorial Indian Ocean,” far from the nothern end of the current search area.

Over the course of several weeks, the Kiel researchers Arne Biastoch and Jonathan Durgadoo used a computer model to reverse the track of the debris across the Indian Ocean. Their model used daily current data that had been obtained in past months by French colleagues. The key question: Which path did the piece of debris take across the Indian Ocean, which scientist liken to the inside a pinball machine because of its chaotic eddies and turbulence?

Researchers understood from the start that a computer simulation can’t calculate a precise location of the crash site, but at best only point to a broad area. This coming Tuesday, they will present their results in detail at a press conference in Kiel. However, this much is already clear: The reseachers’ results are contrary to the Australian search strategy.

The current seabed search is focused on an area of ocean west of the Australian coast, and not in the equatorial region, which the simulations now seem to point to.

A total of 120,000 square kilometers will be scanned, an area as big as Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg and Hessen put together. Two ships of the geotechnical company Fugro are carrying out the task on behalf of the governments of Australia, Malaysia and China. So far, they have examined around 55,000 square kilometers with sonar, without tangible result. The simulation seems to suggest that large parts of the southern region were scoured in vain.

Meanwhile, the wing flap that washed ashore has been examined in a laboratory in Toulouse, France. According to Malaysian reports, the wreckage definitely belongs to MH370. French investigators speak of a “very strong suggestion.” details the wreckage belongs definitely MH370. French investigators spoke of a “very strong presumption”. Tha’s why Australia expresses confidence that the wreck will be found.

Two German scientists believe that so-called goose barnacles could provide clues to the crash location. These colonized the piece of debris as it drifted across the Indian Ocean. Geologist Hans-Georg Herbig and the biologist Philip Schiffer, both from Cologne, have identified the small crustaceans in photos.

Both are experts in the small animals, which are part of the barnacle family. Herbig and Schiffer have compiled the first genetic fingerprints for five barnacle species from different parts of the world’s oceans. They have also found that each subspecies dwells in specific climatic zones dependent on the latitude.

But because the French authorities have provided them no sample material of organisms from the wreckage, they can’t apply their insights to help narrow the search for the crash site. “I’m pretty frustrated because despite making requests through various channels, no one has replied,” Hans-Georg Herbig told SPIEGEL ONLINE. “We have tried many things, but got no response.”

In summary: Researchers from GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research in Kiel will officially present their findings next Tuesday–however they have already give a first clue: Computer analysis suggests that a a piece of debris from flight MH370 that washed up on La Réunion orginated from the “eastern equatorial Indian Ocean.” This is far from the area where two ships are currently searching for the wreckage of the Malaysia Airlines aircraft.

187 thoughts on “Translation: “Simulations Call MH370 Search Strategy Into Question” (Der Spiegel)”

  1. MuOne,

    You mentioned “could such a failure have happened earlier on in the flight?” If so, I wonder if that would indirectly answer my age-old standing question, “was the original turning off of the AES “engine related” circa 17:21?” But then what accounts for the reboot an hour later?

  2. @falken
    I cannot embrace anything other than Zahrie being a good guy and can no longer conceive of him willingly murdering a plane full of people.

  3. @ everyone
    All the data suggests the SIO ditching by a conscious perpetrator as the most plausible theory.
    Here are some points for you to consider….
    1. Why did the US send a Nuclear Submarine commander to be in charge of the pinger locator in the early days of the search?
    2. Why did the Malaysian defense minister, when asked by BBC about the cost of the search, reply with the cryptic “How much did Ukraine cost everybody?..”
    3. Why did the British send a submarine to search in the SIO?

  4. It’s worth considering that someone made a very bad decision with deadly consequences during the middle of the night in the middle of nowhere on March 8, 2014.

    The vast importance of concealing this act may have been embraced by more than one country.

    This path of compliance regarding illogical explanations is getting old, it is blatantly obvious this unprecedented conglomerate has sufficient power to orchestrate all the lies about what was seen on March 8, 2014

  5. airlandseaman Posted September 2, 2015 at 7:43 PM: “My B777 pilot friends say the UAL fleet has a tendency to require a slight right rudder trim (for ideal cruise) more often than not, so that is what we used in the sim’s, but it is slightly different for every airplane, and any given airplane might require left or right trim. ”

    Thank you for explaining why your sim behaved so badly. Apparently the sim was not ‘bent’, as it behaved more reasonably without the (mis)trim.

  6. airlandseaman posted September 2, 2015 at 5:13 PM: ” the TAC immediately corrects for the first engine out. It takes about 3-4 degrees of rudder to keep the plane on course. ”

    Then 1/2 deg right rudder trim corresponds to a thrust asymmetry of about 15% of cruise thrust.

  7. @CliffG

    “All the data suggests the SIO ditching by a conscious perpetrator as the most plausible theory.”

    only as a huge mistake, conscious people don’t do that with intention

  8. @CliffG

    “All the data suggests the SIO ditching by a conscious perpetrator as the most plausible theory.”

    I wonder about your reading of the expression plausibility. Sounds scientific, but in science there are some criteria for use of that word, contrary to the use as demagogic disguise of having not even the least glance of any reasonability , least plausibility.

    The very odd narrative of a pilot sitting at the controls of a super-jumbo flying 6 hours in the most fuel efficient way to nowhere for finally committing suicide by ditching is so truly farcical, that there may be asked, what the agenda of the one is, who brings that upon us?

    Its so obviously freaky, that you need a whole new science of psychology and criminology to suport such a theory. Isnt it a bit complicated? Look here are some senior scientists who work very hard, to find the most plausible chain of events by using the most SIMPLE assumptions. Your proposal is a typical freak show in the sense, that it freaks out against all we know about very very old philosophical sciences including the philosophy of science.

    The expression PLAUSIBILITY is used for scientific insight, understanding, rationale in contrary to beliefs. Its main use is the estimate of magnitudes in a scientific analysis. So if you make your calculations you can control yourself if you hit “plausible” magnitudes. When you use it in the sense of assessing the logic in a narrative we are talking about the use of the expression as deriving new conclusions from known premises.

    So what is your “known premise” here, where you decorate your language with a scientific sounding expression? We see what you derive: that one of the very very very rare freak events happened that goes against all known science, but we might conclude that you just want to make propaganda for a distinct agenda.

    Well, after 18 months nothing was found in the SIO. The situation looks bleak for the SIO crowd and i truly share their pain. It must be horrible after all that excellent labour, skill and brilliancy to end up with nothing at hand. I am grateful to all these people who invested some lifetime into this project and i appreciate every single share of it and every single contributor.

    But its now time to pull things apart, to save something of the effort. One of the tasks now is, to eliminate some of the many outright idiotic assumptions, that dominated the scientific (!) discussion. The most idiotic assumptions here, as i noticed, came always along with the expression “plausible”. Now tell me please, what is plausible in your narrative?

  9. ”The very odd narrative of a pilot sitting at the controls of a super-jumbo flying 6 hours in the most fuel efficient way to nowhere for finally committing suicide by ditching is so truly farcical, that there may be asked, what the agenda of the one is, who brings that upon us?”

    Apparently you were freaked out over the sudden IGARI turn and the complete lack of communications. I dont understand why that is not more freaky than the -6 hours sitting then ditching- scenario

  10. hijack is freaky by itself, but every hijack has a reasonable goal for the hijacker, going to the SIO for ditching can’t be the goal

  11. @IR1907, what are you trying to say with your latest comment? Not meant in a snarky way, I just don’ understand. Obviously both points you mention are more than strange. The complete lack of communication after the plane went dark at a strategically very intriguing location, followed by apparently voluntary navigation which ultimately ended with a controlled suicidal ditch in the Roaring Forties if we are to believe the officially more or less endorsed narrative is simply bizarre as a package. We should remember that when we label other people’s theories as crazy and unrealistic: the official version is no less crazy.

  12. StevanG,

    Have you read what Gysbreght suggested a long while ago re failed hijacking? So far I have not heard any objections to his idea. Going to the SIO was not the goal indeed.

  13. @ALSM

    about logic

    Basically you say, that the Inmarsat pings after 18:22 allow a amazingly perfect match of a given assumption about flight mode, AP, speed, wind condition, altitude with a list of BFO and BTO. Let alone the fact, that the evidence in a criminal case was produced very late into the investigation, very incomplete and and not accessible for public discussion or qualified scientists for review, and let alone that a perfect match is omething, that might happen in a theory or under laboratory conditions but never happens in real life, i am prepared to give your excellent deductions the benefit of the doubt.

    So if the pings are ok, you deduct logically and i do follow you on that track, that the only plausible explanation for the existence of that data is the flight to a terminus in the SIO. I truly believe you, that a near perfect match to the BFO and BTO was found for that flight. And i follow with your conclusion, that all other flight scenarios can be eliminated, because they do nowhere come near the perfection of the SIO Terminus solution. Thats all very logical and nothing strange about it.

    What me surprised, was, that it was possible to find such a perfect match in the first place. You just dont have that in natural sciences and that is perplexing me. Anyway i will give it the benefit of the doubt. So now , with all that brilliant logic, you maneuvred yourself in a delicate position, because if your logic is true, but the plane is proven to have terminated somewhere else, its a forced logical deduction that the Inmarsat data must be false for some unknown reason.

    As i said one year ago: the data looked for me at first glance, as if someone had dawn a line on a map and told a subordinate: “Give me the figures for that!”

    Maybe the people who analyzed the data did find out what the subordinate assumed about speed, altitude, AP mode and fuel consumption to fit this line …?

    Dont get me wrong. I would be very happy, if you find the plane at the terminus you prefer. You would have my undivided empathy. But, i am not very confident, that it will happen.

    The critical thing about data is, so many brilliant people on this planet are working to corrupt them, or to create the opportunities to do so. The best of them are employed by government agencies, and they can rely on the coperation of the IT industry, to make excellent spyware, that can never be found. Satcom without doubt is a strategic asset for any country and the activity of agencies will be right focused on these assets. So with the known shortcomings and unreliabilites of the British secret services, will you really take anything granted that comes from them? Remember, the MI6 was created after the MI5 was compromised by moles in a way that you could never trust it again.

    Inmarsat and GHCQ is like the same in many aspects. And i think its full of moles. Just a belief.

    Also there is one strange thing about the Inmarsat data: i feel better for some reason, when i forget, taht they are there …

  14. @Oleksandr

    No? Or I can’t remember if it was his, I know about the idea of hijackers wanting to go to australian mainland without realising the fuel limits but I don’t know if that’s one you are talking about. Tough chance highly skilled perps would oversee that.


    Oleksandr has pointed out some inconsistencies on the comments page before this one. There is a huge BFO error at the couple of pings so not exactly perfect match.

  15. @StevanG

    Thank you for mentioning that. I ve read it before, but for the sake of scientific discussion i would give mr. exner the benefit of doubt, to break down the controversial considerations on the most posible simple terms, which is:

    Did the mathematicians and scientists of the independent investigation here and on other blogs unwittingly not analyze the terminus of 9M MRO, but only the preconditions and assumptions of someone , who made up the data for a path there?

  16. littlefoot,

    I agree, a suicidal pilot sitting in the cockpit for more than 6 hours before ditching is extremely freaky but not less freakish than the sudden turn from IGARI at the most perfect time and complete lack of comms.

  17. StevanG,

    No. It was about accidently locked cockpit door sometime between 18:27 and 18:40. Hijackers simply were unable to return back to the cockpit, while nobody else onboard was alive by 18:25.

  18. Does anyone else see a series of U- or V-shaped marks on the flaperon where the serial ID plate should be? What sort of tool would be used to remove the ID plate, and what sort of markings might it leave behind?

  19. CosmicAcademy,

    Really independent mathematicians and scientists did analyze the “AP-terminus”. And not only. If you need a proof, you may scroll back Jeff’s and Duncan’s websites. Though it will take you quite a while to read N thousands comments.

    AP math is fairly simple. But assumptions and interpretation of data are not. IG has to defend their earlier statements. Let them do this. But sometimes they cross the line and I cannot refrain from correcting their statements.

  20. @Oleksandr

    Yes, the math is not at all difficult. I still believe a large number of people harbor the belief that it is deterministic in the sense that if the Inmarsat data is valid, then the plane must be near where the IG says it is. I nearly got banned for characterizing that as rubbish.

    Now that the French have also confirmed that the flaperon is from MH370, that puts an end to the notion that the current search area is a likely terminus.

  21. The Paris prosecutor’s office said in a statement Thursday that investigators used maintenance records to match a serial number found on the wing part with the missing Boeing.

    “Today it is possible to state with certitude that the flaperon discovered on Reunion July 29, 2015 corresponds with that of Flight MH370,” the prosecutor’s statement said.

  22. Google translation from French original (corrected where appropriate):

    The wing fragment found in July in Reunion comes “with certainty” of Boeing 777 Malaysia Airlines disappeared in March 2014 with 239 people on a flight between Kuala Lumpur and Beijing, announces the Paris prosecutor.

    Appraisals allow “to say with certainty that the flaperon discovered in Reunion July 29, 2015 corresponds to the flight MH370,” according to a statement from the prosecutor.

    The appraisals made since the laboratory of the Directorate General for Armaments of the Ministry of Defence (DGA TA), near Toulouse, helped raise “three numbers inside the flaperon” that led to a sub-company contractor Boeing, the company Airbus Defence and Space (ADS-SAU) in Seville (southern Spain), notes the prosecutor.

    The investigating judge and the aeronautical expert handling the case went Thursday to the headquarters of ADS-SAU.

    Technical data and “the hearing of a company technician” allow “to formally join one of the three numbers raised within the flaperon to the serial number of the flaperon of MH370” concludes the ‘parquet’.

    The disappearance of the Boeing 777 had caused colossal search operations and nourished all kinds of assumptions in what is one of the greatest mysteries in the history of civil aviation.
    Published by Le Nouvel Obs on 03/09/15 at 17:43

  23. @Cosmic Academy, I lit my candles a long time ago. The flap having been connected for sure with mh370 doesn’t change one thing for me, especially since the more important question how and from where the flap got to that beach is still unanswered. The barnacle question and how it might have drifted is still unanswered. When and how it separated from the plane is still unanswered.
    So, the French confirmation simply removes one of the most bizarre scenarios out of the way: that someone planted a false or fake flap.

  24. @Oleksandr

    ah yeah I remember it and it does tick the motivation box, however that scenario would produce lot of debris and what is an explanation for SE turn then? Or autopilot would automatically choose slow circular heading to home airport(somebody on Duncan blog has posted a half circular flight path that fits BTO&BFO very nicely)?

  25. Dennis,

    Yes, agree. The crowd tends to mix ‘facts’ and assumptions.

    I don’t think the confirmation really puts the end note for the current area. Henrik’s study based on Adrift model shows that the flaperon could come from that area. And the adrift model description says that it is based on buoys data. That means it could come from there under certain conditions. I am not talking about probability; I am talking about possibility.

  26. StevanG and Dennis,

    Here is the brief description of a speculated hijacking scenario resulting in AP to the middle of nowhere. Motive: to ship the aircraft to some extremist group, for example in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somali, Iraq, etc.

    ~16:40. Take-off.

    ~17:22-17:25. Approximately 40-45 minutes after the takeoff hijacker(s) entered the cockpit using “coffee break” of one of the pilots, when the cockpit door was open. To incapacitate all the passengers and crew as well as to prevent any sms/e-mail messages from the cabin they immediately disabled left AC bus.

    ~17:25 – 18:00. They flew towards Penang along FIR knowing that the Butterworth radar is not functioning, while Thai RTADS-III Khok Muang was working. They opted for a bit longer but a safer path. The purpose was to manually fly over the zig-zag border between Malaysia and Thailand to cause confusion.

    ~18:00 – 18:25. They changed course towards their destination. Make sure that nobody was alive onboard. They also took care of ACARS to prevent subsequent tracking of the aircraft. 18:25 they switched back left AC bus.

    18:25-18:27. ‘Mission’ is almost completed. While SDU was rebooting (hijacker(s) indeed needed SATCOM for the communication), they switched to AP mode, selected nearly S heading to “sneak” into the Indian Ocean between Sumatra and Car Nikobar Islands (i.e. between radars), and after that went to washroom or just went to grab some drinks. They intended to return back to the cockpit in 5 minutes or so.

    18:xx (27<=xx<=40). The cockpit door is accidentally locked. Perfectly executed crime and a pure accident. They didn't know the access code to return back. And there was nobody who could tell it. The only possibility was to send SOS by the means of sms or e-mail from the cabin, but for what? Malaysia is a Muslim country and it imposes mandatory death penalty for a murder. So, no exit for the hijackers.

    18:xx – 00:19. The aircraft flew as a ghost in the AP constant heading mode with only desperate hijacker(s) alive, but locked behind the cockpit door.

    Does this sad story make sense?

  27. @Oleksandr

    Your scenario seems feasible except for the lack of debris being found in an area that was heavily searched. It is virtually impossible for an aircraft to enter the water in that region withou leaving a substantial debris field. Could it have been missed? Sure.

    Also, yes the current area is still possible.

  28. @Cosmic Academy

    I actually understood your 8:19AM post. Is is a perspective of utmost importance for those who chose to move forward with an altered view

  29. @Oleksandr

    “Motive: to ship the aircraft to some extremist group, for example in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somali, Iraq, etc.”

    hah, even Somalia has active radars so I’m not sure how and where they would sneak it and they would lack fuel for low under the radar approach

    also even if they succeeded everybody would be on alert for missing aircraft so I’m not quite sure what goal would they achieve

    not to mention that leaving noone in the cockpit is something that wouldn’t so easily happen for such a perfectly organized crime

  30. StevanG,

    Somalia is approximately 5,500 km away from the last radar contact. It would take the aircraft about 6 hours to get there. This is the time it was in the air since 18:22.

    Re “Somalia has active radars”.
    Malaysia, Thailand, India, Indonesia and Australia also do have. Then what? All these countries were supposed to track the aircraft, but the evidence suggests only Thai did.

    Re “I’m not quite sure what goal would they achieve”.
    They would be in possession of a large aircraft in a perfect working condition. Perhaps they could use it to ship potatoes… I guess I don’t need to explain other potential uses.

    Re “not to mention that leaving noone in the cockpit is something that wouldn’t so easily happen”.
    Since what time pirates would follow MAS instructions? Or perhaps a person, who was assigned to the cockpit, simply could not wait any longer?

  31. @Susie Crowe

    Thanks for your attention. Yes we still have to wait for the details, but it seems to me that this was an extraordinary week in the search.

    Personally you deserve a treat to the Munich Oktoberfest which starts in 2 weeks. Its 50 meter from my home. you find all personal info on my website. click on my nick.

  32. @Oleksandr

    Malaysia Thailand (and likely Indonesia) saw it but didn’t react for various reasons, India probably doesn’t have active radar on Nicobar and Australia doesn’t have primary radar on Cocos and Christmas Island, it was too far&low for JORN to see it.

    if Somalians wanted to steal an aircraft it’s probably far too easier to do with somalian aircraft as security there is weaker

    “Or perhaps a person, who was assigned to the cockpit, simply could not wait any longer?”

    could not wait for what? hard to believe so highly technically skilled perps would employ a total dumbass in the cockpit

  33. There is an interesting video and analysis of the NOAA Drifter Buoy Program recently posted on Slate:

    I believe the NOAA buoy data interpreted in the Slate post is also the claimed basis for the various drift models we have been discussing here.

    My takeaway as it relates to MH370 is that all debris no matter where released in the Indian Ocean tends to congregate in the Indian Ocean garbage patch, the location of which surrounds Reunion Island.

    The interactive model at, which allows you to drop your rubber ducky wherever you like and see where it goes, appears to me to yield much the same result for most drop-in points in the Indian Ocean.

    This suggests to me that if these models are reasonably accurate (1) MH370 crashed into the Indian Ocean but that (2) any attempt to derive a precise or approximate location based on them is entirely speculative.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.