Guest Editorial: Why This Plague of False Information?

By Victor Iannello

Don’t be fooled by claims of the red tape causing the delay in the determination of the provenance of the flaperon.

Boeing and the NTSB were parties to the investigation when the flaperon was first brought to Toulouse. It is very unlikely that the Spanish subcontractor ADS-SAU did not immediately turn over all documentation when requested by Boeing. The investigators had to know soon after the start of the investigation what the provenance of the part is, whether or not that determination was made public.

I have said before and continue to believe that there was an attempt to delay the release of the results of the investigation in parallel with planting a seed of doubt regarding the provenance of the part. Just look at the series of events this week. First the claim that Spanish vacation schedules have delayed the identification of the part. Then the claim that the identification was not possible. This was followed by the claim that the flaperon was certainly from MH370.

The pattern of leaking contradictory or false information to the media from off-the-record sources continued in full force this week. I believe this is a story in its own right that should be getting a lot of attention. Perhaps when enough journalists are made to look foolish by reporting contradicting statements, their “reputation instincts” will kick in and compel them to dig deeper.

We who are following this incident should demand that more facts be fully disclosed. Technical reports should be released so that we are not parsing statements from a judge-prosecutor to understand the true meaning of what was written. And journalists should not blindly report statements without attribution.

872 thoughts on “Guest Editorial: Why This Plague of False Information?”

  1. @Victor – Agreed 100%.
    Further to my previous post ( regarding serial numbers, I wonder if part number and serial number are improperly interchanged in the transalation? I do not know the QA practices regarding part and serial numbers used by the flaperon manufacturer or Boeing or the end user but I can tell you that one FAA AD banned certain PART numbers from being used after a certain date.
    This AD included an upgrade to certain flaperon PCU parts and the upgraded parts were assigned a new part number. That way, you only have to look at the part number to determine if it is the upgraded part or not.

  2. I agree, Victor. It has been a misguided media circus to say the least. And the latest reports, based on the official French announcement yesterday, suggesting only 2 possible end scenarios for the flaperon, ignore the most likely scenario: in-flight separation circa 00:19. And the suggestion by some reporters that the +18C water temp needed for barnacles infers a northern crash site is totally wrong and irresponsible. We need the raw data and the truth to come out.

  3. Amen, Victor. Thank you for speaking out. I hope you agree the strategy you eloquently describe has been in place for far longer than the past month.

    I’ll add the flaperon and drift fiascos to my list of Concerns, and attempt to collaborate with the IG on striking a tone we agree will maximize the chances of achieving full disclosure.

    In pursuit of which: this version won’t engage in accusation or suspicious speculation directed at ANY nation, group, or individual. Focus will be on gaps in the official story, and the disclosure required to close them. As I have been saying for over a year: THIS is what will lead us to the truth, not this ridiculous henhouse babble over every breadcrumb in the trail officials are meticulously laying out.

  4. @Lauren H, In case you missed this update to my post “What Are the Discrepancies in the Reunion Flaperon?”

    UPDATE #2: On 9/3/2015, Nicola Clark of the International New York Times (@_NicolaClark) tweeted to me the following explanation of the discrepancies that the paper reported: “Sources told us wing part showed evidence of expected modifications (reinforcement plate) to the flaperon but the number and placement of screw holes did not precisely match what would have normally been expected.” Given that the identity of the flaperon has since been confirmed, this would seem to imply non-standard maintenance practices or record-keeping by Malaysian Airlines.

  5. Some new work published by CSIRO based on un-drogued drifters. Endorsement by Eric Van Sebille on Twitter:

    @ErikvanSebille: Very thorough analysis by @CSIROnews of #MH370 flaperon drift. The current search area is the right one

  6. @Jeffwise – Sorry, you are correct. I did miss that update. As I said before, I don’t really know the proper way to follow blogs and threads. I guess I didn’t expect an update to one thread to occur after a new thread has been posted.

    Yesterday, I started following your tweets and I did see Nicola Clark’s tweet 1/2 but didn’t know how to find 2/2.

  7. @Lauren H, don’t apologize, this comment thread system wasn’t designed for this and really isn’t optimal. I replied to your comment because I figured it was unlikely you would have seen it.

  8. In the previous thread, AM2 said:
    Although its been a long and frustrating wait, surely there is still a lot more to be properly investigated by the French including the barnacles, the damage to the flaperon, the reports that it had washed up on Reunion in May, the feasibility of it drifting from 7th arc location(s) etc.. All we have so far is that it was part of the plane and no more information on how it got there. I’m inclined to give the French the benefit of the doubt and assume they are still working hard on the many angles in this tragic and totally messy situation. I certainly agree that technical reports should be issued asap and translated into the languages of all who were involved so there is complete clarity.

    You are inclined to give the French the benefit of the doubt while the investigation proceeds. I think giving officials the benefit of the doubt and allowing off-the-record, incomplete, and cryptic statements that have been repeated by the media is partly responsible for creating the confusion that now exists.

    I’ll give you another example. At the time the judge-prosecutor released his official statement, there was a story in Le Monde written by Florence de Changy. In that story, it is stated that the manner in which the flaperon was twisted suggested a landing at sea, the species of barnacles and their affinity for warm water indicated the flaperon came from temperate waters, and the part drifted just below the surface.

    So incomplete technical details are now being leaked out of the investigation, but without the accompanying technical details, thereby making it difficult to make sense of what was written. When the actual technical report is released (if it ever is), don’t be surprised if these recently leaked statements are either not true or are misleading. That has been the pattern.

    Here is the link to the Le Monde story. The link is not now working, implying the article was moved, removed, or the Le Monde serve is having a temporary problem.

  9. My translation (with my thanks to google) of the relevant part:

    On Wednesday, the families of the four French had been received by the antiterrorist judge in the French investigation, Alain Gaudino, and aerospace technical expert commissioned Francois Grangier. The families have asked her if the rumor traces of explosives on the aileron (sic) was founded. In fact, the samples made to date do not permit to answer this question, reportedly said the expert. He however felt that the way the piece was “twisted” made him think of a water landing rather than a crash, which would indicate that the aircraft was under control until the end. Learn more about

  10. Lauren H:

    The article says that the fabrication date of the flaperon coresponded to that of the airplane, which was delivered to MAS in 2002.

  11. @Lauren H & @Gysbreght: So Florence is clearly implying the French authorities are linking the condition of the flaperon to a soft landing and dismissing the possibility of either damage to the flaperon due to a hard crash or a separation of the flaperon from the aircraft before the crash. Why have they dismissed the latter possibility?

    If true, this is very big news. This is so important that we need to hear more about the technical details so we can confirm (or refute) the implications in the article.

  12. Victor: You can add to the list all those rediculous stories quoting Zaaim, claiming that the flaperon sunk to the bottom, broke free months later, and floated to the top! First, there is no way the flaperon could have floated to the top if it ever made it to the bottom. If it reached the bottom, all the honeycomb cells would have been crushed, and all flotation would have been lost. Furthermore, if by some mirical it floated back to the surface, it certainly would not look like it does in the photos…with the honeycomb skins still bouyant.

  13. @Gysbreght, @Lauren H, I interpret the phrasing to mean that the year of construction of the Reunion flaperon was the same as that of the flaperon installed on MH370, which implies that at least one of the “numeros,” and most likely the critical one, provides some indication of the date of manufacture. Which actually strikes me as a bit odd, since the official has already declared the pieces to be one and the same.
    Here is where Victor’s call for direct, open explanation by experts rings loud and clear. The official statement says that they were able “d’associer formellement l’un des trois numéros relevés à l’intérieur du flaperon au numéro de série du flaperon du Boeing 777 du vol MH370,” (“to formally associate one of the three numbers detected in the interior of the flaperon to the serial number of the MH370 flaperon”). As I read it, this sentence leaves a great deal of ambiguity hanging over the nature of the number seen inside the flaperon. It is not described as a serial number, but maybe it is? Is it unique in some other way?
    I’m not calling the prosecutor’s finding into question, I’m just saying that I would very much like to have a better understanding of what has transpired.

  14. @airlandseaman: Yes, the Bernama article was Malaysian government spin. The proposed scenario could not have occurred as described for the reasons you mentioned.

  15. VictorI:

    I think you are misrepresenting Florence C’s article when you generalize M. Francois Grangier’s personal opinion to “The French Authorities” and add your opinion that other possibilities are thereby “dismissed”.

    That is typical of the present discussions here.

  16. CSIRO drift study update:

    CSIRO today published more details to help us sensitivity-test their wind impact assumption:

    I thank Dr. David Griffin and CSIRO profusely for adding this additional context, to help us further understand discrepancies among drift analyses. I hope I wasn’t TOO much of a thorn in their side.

    Glossary (per my best efforts to understand the morphing terminology):

    direct wind impact = “effects of wind” (CSIRO Aug) = “leeway” (CSIRO Sept)

    indirect wind impact = “effects of waves” (CSIRO Aug) = “Stokes drift” (CSIRO Sept)

    (un)tethered = (un)drogued = (not) attached to a special anchor which automatically keeps a drifter at a specified depth below the ocean surface

    Initial observations:

    Any conclusion that the Réunion flaperon is consistent with the current search area rests on the assumption that both direct and indirect impacts of wind on the flaperon were closer to that of an untethered than to a tethered drifter.

    No evidence has been offered to demonstrate this. (Personally, I would start by finding the density of the damaged flaperon: if it is closer to that of the drifter, this assumption may be valid; if it is closer to that of water, maybe not. But I’m no expert.)

    If direct wind impacts alone are set to 0 (indirect impacts appear to remain in all their published results), even CSIRO’s modeling shows Réunion and the 34-38S search area to be mutually incompatible.

    I had suspected that this arbitrary assumption had been responsible for CSIRO’s success in connecting the two locations relative to other studies. This disclosure confirms it. CSIRO seems to agree: they point to wind effects as the key differentiator between themselves and Geomar.

    Much will be made of Dr. Erik van Sebille’s Twitter endorsement of CSIRO’s new work. I would respectfully submit that I would expect Erik to agree that such endorsement would be subject to confirmation that the appropriateness of their “untethered drifter”-like flaperon drift profile assumption is confirmed.

    Meanwhile: according to a highly respected journalist covering events in Toulouse, the anonymous “aeronautical expert” (per the piece to which Jeff alerted us two weeks ago) not only has a name, but is the French investigative team’s “commissioned aviation expert” (“aeronautical” was my mistranslation). I can’t disclose further details, out of respect for my source’s wishes.

    If this source is reliable, the credibility of the “drifted below the ocean surface” claim appears – APPEARS – to be gaining steam.

  17. @jeffwise – The french have always had their own way of saying something and therefore a Google translation does not always work well.
    d’associer formellement=confirm
    @Brock – Did you read the same CSIRO report I did? The one I read was pretty clear that Dr. Griffin says he expects this flaperon to react more like a drifter without a sea anchor than a drifter with a sea anchor. That means it would have been driven more by the waves and wind than by the ocean currents.
    He also said he expected that the initial location of the flaperon was between 32S and 39S and if it had impacted further north it would have drifted to the north of La Reunion and if it had impacted further south it would have passed to the south of La Reunion.

  18. @Lauren: thanks for the chance to clarify – all I am pointing out is that

    a) David’s results HINGE on this belief, and
    b) the French team’s commissioned aviation expert seems to dispute it.

    I have no expertise to say who is right, and I hasten to admit that b) is, in your hands, fourth-hand information (further underscoring Victor’s point). As your friendly neighbourhood MH370 auditor, I am merely pointing out anomalies and gaps.

  19. @Gysbreght: You are proving my point. I don’t like the ambiguity. I don’t think you do, either. I’d like full disclosure so we are not arguing amongst ourselves about the meaning of the article and what the French authorities believe.

  20. Brock,

    CSIRO came to a very strange conclusion:

    “The flaperon finding does, however, support the flight-path analysis conclusion that the 39°S-32°S segment of the 7th arc is indeed the highest-priority search region for MH370”.

    If you look through their set of “Global Drifter Program” images, you can’t really exclude any segment of the 7th arc from 17S to 40S. My feeling is that CSIRO is under pressure to be consistent with ATSB.

    In my opinion NOC uses a bit more moderate (and professional) language:

  21. @Gysbreght: By the way…do you think it is possible that the French authorities would arrange a meeting between the NOK, the French anti-terrorist judge, and a commissioned aeronautical expert, and then have the expert express a personal opinion that is not in concert with the results of the official investigation? Wouldn’t that be cruel and confusing to the NOK?

  22. @Lauren H, Or rather, “to confirm the link between,” given the context of the rest of the sentence. My point stands: it is not clear what the nature of the association or the link is; we all assume that the “numero” in the flap uniquely corresponds to the serial number of the installed flaperon, but that is not stated.

  23. VictorI posted September 4, 2015 at 3:12 PM: ” I don’t like the ambiguity. I don’t think you do, either. I’d like full disclosure so we are not arguing amongst ourselves about the meaning of the article and what the French authorities believe. ”

    Then you must have the patience to wait for a formal report on the investigation that is far from finished, rather than distort an informal comment that can be no more than a first impression.

    VictorI posted September 4, 2015 at 3:21 PM: “…do you think it is possible that the French authorities would arrange a meeting between the NOK, the French anti-terrorist judge, and a commissioned aeronautical expert, and then have the expert express a personal opinion that is not in concert with the results of the official investigation? Wouldn’t that be cruel and confusing to the NOK?”

    No, I don’t think so at all. The antiterrorist judge is one of three “juges d’instruction” assigned to the investigation. You are muddying the waters with your references to “The French Authorities”. It is the judges prerogative to receive the NoK and to reply to their question to the extent that the information available to him permits. It is also his prerogative to be accompanied by the aviation expert commisioned to the case. I have no doubt that both will have made it clear to the NoK that the investigation is ongoing and all information they give is to the best of their knowledge, must be considered as preliminary, and does not exclude or dismiss other possibilities.

  24. There are too many politics in this investigation.
    From the first day of the dusappearance of MH370 the search, investigation and the public statements had been diminated by politicians. I thought that would change with the French getting involved due to the find of the flaperon, a single piece of a B777 and nothing else. Many of us expected a fast result, a yes or a no. The Malaysian politicians instantaneously voted for a clear yes, Boeing and the NTSB could not follow suit and said maybe, and the French judge stalled everything for nearly a month.
    After such a time one would expect the result of some difficult detailed multipoint investigation, but we are fed with a simple numbers match from a single point source, a technician in Spain.

    Was the month time needed for the hassle behind closed doors between the French jurisdiction and political national or international influence to steer the outcome of the investigation to the present result?

    I have my doubts to the honesty of this statement until the report explains

    – the different colour, it should be grey
    – the missing sign of a serial number plate
    – the breaking pattern of all hinges
    – the damage to the top of the flaperon
    – the same damage to the outboard alloy side spar
    – the type, amount and age of barnacles
    – the miracolous effectivity of the paint against marine growth
    – the bouancy over this length of time

    and shows
    – the numbers found inside
    – the number asociated with the serial number
    – test results for the breaking pattern at the trailing edge
    – evidence of the accomplished MAS maintenance
    – the MAS seal asociated with the MAS maintenance
    – the explanation for the detected discrepancy of the above.

    Until then the present statement is again a time buyer. A bit of information, fed to the public.

  25. RetiredF4:

    And you want all this yesterday, from the judge as he got off the plane from Sevilla, Spain?

  26. @Gysbreght

    I have my doubts to the honesty of this statement until the report explains………

    …should have answered your question already.
    Although I would accept it in bits and pieces over time.

  27. @Oleksandr: if you examine the wording carefully, you will see that the “7th arc is indeed the highest-priority search region for MH370” is ascribed to the signal data analysis, not the drift analysis.

    But I strongly suspect your interpretation (sans your astute skepticism re: gap between signal & drift analyses) is what the lawyer or politician who wrote that convoluted sentence is hoping gets REPORTED.

  28. @Retired F4, what’s wrong with the color of the flap? It’s white – as it should be, judging from the pictures I’ve seen from the plane with flap.
    The belly of the plane was grey, but the underneath of the flaperons is not grey. I can’t see any discrepancies there.

  29. @littlefoot
    Check for yourself, they are all from 9-MRO

    The underside of all MAS 777 is in the same grey shade like the engine nadelles and the fuselage.
    The topside center part of the wing is a darker grey, the leading and trailing edge devices are of a lighter grey, but not white.

    If you want to check the colors in better quality you die might go to the pictures of MH17 of Jeroen Akkermanns at flickr.

  30. Brock,

    CSIRO wrote what they wrote: they support 39°S-32°S segment of the 7th arc, not the 7th arc. But the signal analysis does not tell that 39°S-32°S is the highest probability area. It is the AP hypothesis in conjunction with the signal data analysis, which together tell this. But if assumptions are wrong, then 39°S-32°S may not be the highest probability area. Remember Duncan’s “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence”?
    I suspect ATSB simply needs CSIRO support to justify funds already spent and funds to be spent in the foreseen future.

    I don’t really think there is a gap between the signal and drift analyses. On contrary, they appear to be consistent with each other. Yes, I am skeptical that drift analyses alone can help to refine the search area. Too many unknowns. But perhaps coupling with barnacle growth models could be helpful to certain extent.

  31. @Victor

    Your title containing the words “false information” gave me pause. There are actually two generic types of “false information”. The term “false information” really requires disambiguation.

    There is disinformation which is defined as inaccurate information that is spread deliberately, and there is misinformation which is defined as inaccurate information spread unintentionally.

    It is not completely clear which is occurring or perhaps a combination of both.

    A conspiracy theorist would insist that we are dealing with disinformation. I tend to lean toward misinformation at the moment.

    Just to be clear, since you did not chose to use either of the terms disinformation or misinformation, what are your thoughts in this regard?

  32. @StevanG

    I saw the same “news”. I tend not to react to or cite anything from journalists. Until a formal statement is made by credentialed experts, I absolutely refuse to embrace it. I might pass it along for interest, but I would not rely on it to support my thoughts on the terminus.

  33. @oleksandr
    Are you suggesting that the found flaperon is of grey color but looks white in the pictures or that the underside of 9-MRO looks grey, but is in reality white?

    You should know better. I just summarized relevant questions concerning the flaperon. Asking answers for those obviousquestions has nothing to do with desinformation.

  34. The flaperon might have been screaming about a ditch from the moment they got it – that would be dynamite in their hands?

  35. RetiredF4,

    I am suggesting that in the reality they could be of the same color. Different ambient light conditions, different cameras, Photoshop, etc.

  36. Matty,

    The flaperon is not screaming. Not crying about its fate, not talking bizarre stories, and not mumbling nonsense. It can only whisper how it was detached from the wing, how it fell into the water, what it saw in the vast Indian Ocean, and, perhaps, what it discussed during starry nights with these barnacles, who kindly agreed to accompany it on its lonely way to Reunion.

  37. @RetiredF4

    Why do you care about your list of questions unless you believe the flaperon is faked?

    The nature of your questions clearly implies where your head is at. I am not an idiot. Don’t try to talk out of both sides of your mouth.

    The fpaleron came from 9M-MRO. There is no doubt about that. Get on with it, and deal with what that implies instead of wasting time with your list.

  38. @Oleksandr

    I funded a lot of studies in “my time”. The funded parties always knew what result I was looking for. They (the funded parties), more often than not, found it (the result I was looking for). Not saying that is the case with CSIRO, but it does stink to high heaven.

  39. @Victor
    “I think giving officials the benefit of the doubt and allowing off-the-record, incomplete, and cryptic statements that have been repeated by the media is partly responsible for creating the confusion that now exists.”
    I think we are really on the same page with our anger at the way rumours, half-truths, even lies are being disseminated through the media to an audience eager for any morsel of information. I’m trying not to get too excited or upset about any news until we get official reports. BTW, please suggest mechanisms we can use to try and force France and Malaysia to deliver factual information in a professional and more timely way (email me if you like).
    So many options (many unpleasant) are still on the table IMO; the finding of the flaperon probably can’t help us find the plane. For example, it is still possible that the plane was brought down deliberately and that flaperon was then either planted at or drifted to Reunion; in which case either the radar or the sat data or both are wrong. That all (or the majority of) the barnacles can only live in temperatures 18+ (if true) may well rule out the current SIO area. However, unless we get any definite information to rule out the current search area I still “vote” (along with a few $ from my Aussie taxes) to continue with the current search.

  40. @Oleksandr: we agree on everything you cover in your last post: my omission of 32-39 was a typo, and by “signal data analysis”, I meant what CSIRO meant: the data AND assumptions which led the ATSB to 32-39 – and which are fighting a losing battle against the physical evidence.

  41. @DennisW: It is a combination of information, disinformation, and misinformation. I struggle to classify the false information as misinformation or disinformation, although I think the stories about the difficulties in determining the provenance of the flaperon were disinformation.

    It is interesting that you are reluctant to classify errant news stories as disinformation, yet you believe some of the posters here are part of disinformation campaigns. Why is that?

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