How the MH370 Flaperon Floated — UPDATED

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Fig. 1: A population of Lepas goose barnacles growing on a skiff carried out to sea by the 2011 Tohoku tsunami.

Goose barnacles of the genus Lepas live exclusively on debris floating in the open ocean. Like other barnacles, their larvae spend the early part of their life swimming freely and then, in a final larval phase called the cyprid stage, search out a floating object on which to settle. Once they find a suitable object, says marine biologist Hank Carson, “cyprids in general do do a fair bit of exploration for that cementation spot” upon it, and with good reason: they’ll spend the rest of their life there. Among the criteria they assess is how crowded a spot is, what the underlying substrate consists of, and how deep it is. Once satisfied, they glue their heads in place.

In general Lepas barnacles like to spread out, and prefer a spot in the shade; they grow best away from the top of the water column. The reason is that close to the waterline, the rising and falling of waves periodically exposes the animals to the air, which interferes with their feeding. It’s unhealthy for them in other ways, too. “The uppermost centimeters of water are normally a quite harsh environment with strongly changing ecological parameters, like water temperature, salinity (heavy rains or intense evaporation in tropical areas). Moreover they are subjected to intensive UV radiation,” says Hans-Georg Herbig of the Institut für Geologie und Mineralogie in Cologne, Germany. “From several organism groups it is known that they avoid the uppermost centimeters of the water column.”

Given a healthful environment, Lepas barnacles are notoriously fast-growing. The animals evolved to live on floating organic debris which after a time will break apart and sink, so time is of the essence. Whereas a species of goose barnacle that lives attached to a rock might take five years to reach sexual maturity,1 Lepas can do it in mere weeks. Japanese researcher Yoichi Yusa and his colleagues raised L. anserifera barnacles on tethered debris in a bay in Japan and found that “individuals on the average grew from 3 mm to more than 12 mm in capitulum length within 15 days and some were brooding.” Thus, in less than a month after settling onto a piece of debris, Lepas can begin producing new generations to further their colonization.2

As a result Lepas-settled flotsam can become extremely crowded in short order, with individuals crammed onto every available surface right up to the uppermost limit of what they can survive. Pictured above in Figure 1 is a Japanese skiff that was swept to sea after the Tohoku tsunami in March, 2011, and made landfall on a beach in Washington state in June of the following year, meaning that it floated capsized for about 15 months. If you think it’s remarkable that the barnacles could have grown so huge in so little time, think again. “They grow really fast,” says Cynthia Venn, a professor of oceanography and geology at Bloomsburg University in Pennsylvania. “That boat could get covered like that in six months, even.”

Venn has studied the genus Lepas intensively for more than twenty years. For ten of them, she collected specimens from NOAA’s Tropical Ocean and Atmosphere array of research buoys dotted across the central Pacific Ocean, carefully preserving material that the maintenance crews considered pesky marine fouling. “It was basically a 3-D time series of barnacle settlement,” she says. “I couldn’t find anyone to take the project so I just did it myself. I was able to go two cruises, for the rest I sent my studentsand they then shipped the barnacles back to me so I could work on them. I’ve got hundreds of thousands of barnacles in my garage.”

Looking at the skiff more closely, we see that the upper part of the hull is ringed with a very well-defined boundary below which the Lepas are cheek-by-jowl (orange line in Fig. 2, below). Above that lies an intermediary zone, extending to the waterline (green line), where algae predominate. While some barnacles are visible, they are small and few in number. “They get a better shot at what they’re going to eat if they’re a little bit below that,” says Venn. “I don’t know if it’s too much UV or just they don’t like the temperature changes, or what.”

waterline and Lepas line
Fig. 2: A close-up view of the skiff in Figure 1, showing the waterline (green) and “Lepas line” (orange)


A Lepas line is also easily seen in the picture below (Figure 3), which shows meteorological research buoys before (“a”) and after (“b”) a 26-month deployment in the North Pacific. “The waterline is at the center (max diameter) of the buoy, where there is a seam in the hull,” says Jim Thomson, a scientist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography who studies the buoys.3 “The barnacles appear to start about 10 cm below that line.”

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Figure 3: A deep-ocean buoy before and after 26 months in the North Pacific.


Here’s another piece of tsunami debris, this one a refrigerator that made landfall in Hawaii in October, 2012, meaning that it was in the water for just over a year and a half. Both the Lepas line and the algae zone are clearly visible. The waterline, Venn says, would lie about where the green algae shades into black:

Fig. 4: A Japanese refrigerator that washed up in Hawaii after the tsunami.


You may have noticed that while the hard part, called the capitulum, is of similar sizes in all these pictures, the fleshy, goose-neck part (called the peduncle) is dramatically smaller on the Hawaii debris. Like other fleshy appendages, peduncles can change in size fairly dramatically, especially when they’ve been pulled from the sea. “How long they are kind of depends on how long they’ve had to dry out,” says Venn. So when scientists talk about the growth rate of barnacles, they usually talk about the length of the capitulum.

How Composite Objects Float

According to reader Gavin Grimmer, The upper and lower surfaces of 777 flaperon are “made of  honeycombed composite – presumably carbon fiber” while “the leading edge is mainly made from high tensile aluminum (2024-T3) apart from the fibreglass doubler.”4 As a general rule, things made of composite material exhibit excellent buoyancy. The honeycomb materials which makes up most of the volume of the composite skin weighs only about 5 percent as much as water.5 Composite aircraft parts, therefore, tend to float fairly high in the water, like this:

Fig. 5: The vertical stabilizer of Air France 447.


Mike Exner, one of the leading members of the Independent Group, conducted his own study of how the flaperon must have floated, building a model out of plastic poster board. After the interior compartment was flooded it settled into the water like this:

Mike Exner flotation test
Fig. 6: Mike Exner’s model of the Reunion flaperon.


Another example of a composite floating object is this motor boat, which  capsized in a storm off the northwestern coast of Australia and then was carried for eight months by waves and currents across the Indian Ocean to the island of Mayotte, near Madagascar — a very similar route that the MH370 presumably took on its journey from the 7th arc. Though the resolution is too low to discern the Lepas line from the algae zone, you can clearly see which part was above the water and which part was below:

Fig. 7: An Australian motorboat that journeyed upside-down across the Indian Ocean.


Now let’s turn our attention to the 777 flaperon that washed up on a rocky beach on Reunion Island. More than two months later, the French authorities still haven’t released a report detailing what they’ve learned about the piece, which now resides at a facility near Toulouse. Fortunately journalists took photographs of the flaperon from every angle shortly after it was discovered so that just by gathering publicly available images from the web we can assess the whole surface.

As a general observation, we should note that the general shape of the flaperon is plank-like: rectangular when seen from above, with an airfoil cross section. In referring to the part, I will use the nomenclature shown in Fig. 8, below.

Figure 8. The parts of the flaperon.

Note that the geometry of the piece is essentially planar, by which I mean that the faces do not bulge outwards. As a result, if one point on the edge of an end-cap is underwater, and the corresponding point on the edge of the far end-cap is under water, then the surface between them will be immersed, too. (You can get a sense of this “flatness” in Figures 10 and 14, below.)

To begin with, let’s look at the outboard end cap. Barnacles, either individual or in clumps, are circled in green. I have not necessarily circled all of them, but at least those necessary to show the range of distribution. (To see the full-resolution version of this and all subsequent images, click on the link in the caption.)

Outboard end cap
Fig. 9. The outboard end cap. For full resolution image, click here.


Given that the end-cap is rimmed in barnacles, it must have all floated below the waterline. One could argue that a small portion of the strip marked with the red line could emerge from the water, but to my eye it lies between the outer edges of the barnacle clusters marked “A” and “B,” which would not grow up out of the water.

Moving on to the leading edge, we see in Figure 10 (below) that there is a substantial accumulation of barnacles on the outboard end of it, as well as some growth on the inboard side. Though there is little or no growth between these areas, that portion must have been submerged by virtue of lying between those two submerged areas:

Outboard leading edge marked up copy
Fig. 10. The outboard end of the leading edge. For full resolution image, click here.


This view offers more detail of the inboard end of the leading edge. Growth is quite heavy, though only the tips of barnacle clusters extend outward beyond the plane of the leading edge:

Leading edge inboard marked up copy
Fig. 11. The inboard end of the leading edge. For full resolution image, click here.


It’s fairly self-evident that the top surface was immersed:

APTOPIX Missing Malaysia Plane
Fig. 12. The top surface. For full resolution image, click here.


As well as the trailing edge, where the flaperon was evidently severed along the line of a transverse spar. Here we see the top edge, along with some of the bottom:

Malaysia Confirms Debris Is From Malaysia Flight MH370
Fig. 13. The trailing edge. For full resolution image, click here.


Here’s the rest of the bottom part of the trailing edge:

Aft bottom edge copy
Fig. 14. Another view of the trailing edge. For full resolution image, click here.


Now let’s look at the inboard end cap.

French gendarmes and police inspect a large piece of plane debris which was found on the beach in Saint-Andre, on the French Indian Ocean island of La Reunion
Fig. 15. The inboard end cap. For full resolution image, click here.


Onward to the object’s final face, the bottom surface. It does not exhibit the same degree of encrustation as we see on the top side. In Figure 16, below, we see the underside of the flaperon with the trailing edge at top. We’ve already noted the presence of barnacles on the bottom of the trailing edge and the bottom of the inboard end cap. We haven’t seen as much yet of the bottom of the outboard end cap, so I’ll focus on that area in this image:

MH370 search: Debris found on Reunion being sent to France
Fig. 16. Bottom surface, outboard end. For full resolution image, click here.


Barnacle growth is much less profuse on the bottom than it is on the trailing edge, but there are enough individuals present on this portion to suggest that the entire bottom edge of the outboard end cap must have been submerged. So, therefore, must have the entire underside. Note that the numbers “1,” “2,” and “3” correspond to the clusters of barnacles marked likewise in Figure 9.

How did the Reunion flaperon float?

The contrast between the Reunion flaperon and other floating debris we’ve looked at is quiet stark. The piece that came off MH370 does not have a Lepas line. There is no significant area that could have protruded above the waterline. The entire surface resembles the deeply submerged areas seen on the other flotsam.

This fact evidently did not escape the French investigators who took custody of the piece. On August 21, the French news outlet La Depeche reported in August that “According to a Toulouse aeronautics expert who requested anonymity, the element of the wing would not have floated for several months at the water’s surface but would have drifted underwater a few meters deep.” Similarly, an article that ran in Le Monde on September 3, 2015, stated that “Les études de flottabilité du flaperon ont quant à elles confirmé que le débris flottait légèrement en dessous de la surface de la mer.”: “Studies of the flaperon’s flotation have… confirmed that the debris floated slightly below the surface of the ocean.”

This seems a reasonable assessment to Venn, based on the distribution of barnacles visible in photographs of the flaperon. “I think it was probably floating just barely subsurface,” she says.

This presents something of a paradox. “It is very hard to build something that will float slightly below the surface,” wrote David Griffin, an oceanographer with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), in an email. “The probability that an aircraft part does this is miniscule. The only way it can do this is if some of the object breaks the surface. If it does not break the surface AT ALL it must sink.”

One could just about imagine that, by sheer good luck, the flaperon might have wound up taking just enough water to give it an overall density almost exactly that of seawater, so that it floated with perhaps a minuscule portion above the water. But such a situation would not be stable. Objects floating with only very slightly positive buoyancy can be pushed below the surface by the action of large waves, says Sean Kery, a hydronamicist at CSC Defense Group who has extensive experience modeling the impact of waves on floating objects. If storm waves push down an object being held afloat by open air pockets, the increase in depth would cause those pockets to shrink, reducing their buoyancy and causing the object to sink further, a phenomenon well-known by recreational scuba divers, who must learn to keep inflating their BCDs as they descend. Of course, without an active compensation system like a BCD a flaperon that was neutrally buoyant at the surface would become negatively buoyant below it.

What’s more, even if an object did manage to float just barely touching the surface, it would eventually sink lower as marine life accumulated. “Things never stay statically neutral,” says oceanographer Curtis Ebbesmeyer. “It’s a dynamic situation. It has to do with infiltration of water, it has to do with the weight of barnacles growing on it.”

Thus, the distribution of barnacles on the Reunion flaperon is difficult to understand. Because they are found all over its surface, the flaperon must have settled into the ocean with a buoyancy exactly identical to that of seawater. And somehow it remained there, floating in a stable manner. Yet this is close to physically impossible.

How could the flaperon have remained underwater?

Given the seeming impossibility of the flaperon floating free across the ocean while submerged, is there another way it might have arrived in its current barnacle-encrusted condition? Since the piece must have been completely underwater, it might have become colonized on the sea bottom. That explanation, however, is problematic. The 7th arc passes through an area of the southern Indian Ocean that is thousands of feet deep. In order to have become colonized by Lepas on the seabed, it would have had to have floated thousands of miles to shallower water, sunk, then refloated to the surface and almost immediately been washed ashore. Also, while Venn says that while she has collected specimens from as deep as 100 meters, “that was not on the bottom or anywhere close to the bottom. It was simply 100 meters below the surface where the ocean was probably more than 5000 meters deep. I have never heard of Lepas colonizing anything on the sea bottom.”

Another possibility is that the flaperon was positively bouyant but remained beneath the ocean surface because it was tethered to the seabed. As it happens, in the past researchers have successfully managed to raise Lepas on substrates anchored offshore. In Yoichi Yusa’s experiment noted above, he collected Lepas specimens growing on pieces of driftwood and floating plastic and attached them to tethers in a bay in Japan. There he monitored their progress as they grew over the next month and a half.

The view of the flaperon seen in Figure 17, below, might provide evidence of how the tethering was accomplished. On the inboard edge of the upper face one can observe a peculiar strip where the surface appears considerably less weathered than the surrounding area:

APTOPIX Missing Malaysia Plane
Fig. 17: A mysteriously clean rectangle


When this was first pointed out to me I  figured it had to do with the missing piece of rubber gasket along the inboard edge of the top surface, which might have been knocked off by contact with a reef. But now that I look closer I see that it isn’t actually that. I’ve marked the “white area” on a photo of a new flaperon below (image reversed to make a left flaperon look like a right one):

new flaperon mystery patch location small
Fig. 18: The location of the mysteriously clean rectangle depicted on an intact flaperon.


It seems that something was clamped to the “lighter patch” that isn’t normally attached to a flaperon, and which was detached after the part spent some time in the ocean. Since it’s hard to imagine this happening without human agency, perhaps it was part of a tethering/untethering operation. Perhaps an anchor line was attached there.

Duration of immersion

Up until now, it has been assumed that the flaperon was deposited somewhere along the 7th arc soon when MH370 impacted the southern Indian Ocean on March 8, 2014. If it was actively tethered to the seabed, obviously, this timeline is no longer relevant. Instead, we can turn to the barnacles to provide some indication of the likely duration of the flaperon’s immersion.

“Assuming they have enough food, and the temperature is good, barnacles will follow a steady growth progression,” Venn says.

The clock starts running the moment the flaperon hits the water: So long as the water is warm enough, Lepas will begin to colonize an object almost immediately. (Yachtsman who make long oceanic passages report that after spending a few weeks heeled over on a single tack a section of hull that is normally high and dry can pick up a colony of Lepas; Venn says she has seen cyprids attach to material as ephemeral as floating paper bags.) While the precise growth rate depends on water temperature and food availability, a rough notion of these parameters is enough to yield a ball-park figure for how long immersion has continued. Earlier this year, Venn co-authored a paper in which she and her colleagues ascertained that a human body found floating off the cost of Italy must have been in the water at least 65 to 90 days, based on the size of the Lepas barnacles growing on its clothes.6

We can do something similar for the barnacles on the flaperon, using the Mayotte boat as a reference. Since both traveled through a similar stretch of the southern Indian Ocean, their growth rates should be in the same ball park.

By comparing features on the flaperon to reference objects of a known size (e.g., the rear door of a Gendarmerie Land Rover Defender in Figure 16) we can estimate the capitulum lengths of the largest barnicles on the flaperon. They turn out to be approximately 2.3 cm.

Applying the same technique to the Mayotte barnacles yields capitulum lengths of about 3.5 cm.

Yusa’s paper on Lepas growth rates states that “Individuals <5 mm long (mean ± SE = 3.09 ± 0.19 mm) grew rapidly, reaching 12.45 ± 0.54 mm on day 15 (Fig. 2). After that, their growth slowed and finally reached 16.26 ± 0.49 mm on day 42.”

The Lepas anserifera that Yusa studied are somewhat smaller than the Lepas anatifera that predominate on the flaperon, but if we use Yusa’s growth rate as a conservative lower bound, and suppose that the largest flaperon barnacles were 16.3 mm at day 42 and grew at 0.1 mm/day thereafter, that means it would take them another 67 days to reach 2.3 cm, for a total growth time of 109 days, or about four months.

If they proceeded to grow at 0.1 mm for the following four months, that would take them to 3.5 cm, which is what the Mayotte barnacles achieved.

Interestingly, when I asked Yusa via email how long it seemed to him that the colony had been growing on the Reunion Island flaperon, based on photographs I sent, Yusa answered: “I would guess that they had been there for a short time (between 2 weeks and a few months).”

Venn’s seat-of-the-pants estimate was “less than six months.”


Photographs of barnacles living on the MH370 flaperon discovered on Reunion Island, combined with expert insight into the lifecycle and habit preferences of the genus Lepas, suggest that the object did not float there from the plane’s presumed impact point, but spent approximately four months tethered below the surface.

UPDATE 10/10/15: Could the distribution of barnacles be explained by continual flipping?

Since I posted this piece yesterday evening, a number of people have suggested that perhaps the flaperon flipped over every few hours, allowing barnacles to survive on both sides. Such a scenario might also explain why the density of Lepas is rather low compared to that seen on other objects. It faces two difficulties, however.

First, the flaperon is broad and flat, and once its inner cavities were filled with water it would weigh thousands of pounds. With only a few inches of freeboard in even the most optimistic scenarios, it would be very resistant to being flipped — much more so than, say, the fridge, which nonetheless clearly floated in a stable manner. Even if it were fairly easy to invert, high waves and wind would be required to do so, which would mean that flaperon would have had to have spent a year or more in constant storm conditions. Yet tranquil conditions are actually more normal. “Calm seas are actually pretty common in the stable high pressure cells that more-or-less permanently inhabit the center of ocean basins,” says Hank Carson, who has traveled across the Pacific gathering floating debris. It’s hard to envisage anyhing flipping over a day like this.

Second, the reason that the Lepas line exists is that these animals don’t like to be exposed, even for a few seconds. They can survive close to the waterline, where they are risk being exposed and immersed with every wave cycle, but only a few small outliers attempt it. They are simply not adapted to frequent long-duration exposure, like their relatives who live attached to rocks in the intertidal zone. “I do not think they can survive more than one day above the water,” Yoichi Yusa told me, while Venn says she has seen them live as long as three days. Apart from the physiological stress of being exposed to what to them is a toxic environment, the animals would spend half their time unable to feed. So even if we imagine the essentially impossible scenario in which the flaperon keeps flipping back and forth every few hours, we would not expect to see dense aggregations of mature individuals.

The implications of low settlement density

While we can learn a lot about how long an object has been afloat by the length of Lepas capitula, it’s harder to draw conclusions based on the density with which they settle. Barnacles do not land randomly, like plant seeds, but actively sniff out an object’s surface in the cyprid stage before settling down in the spot they like best. While they prefer living in the shade, they even more prefer cracks and crevices, and dislike a smooth surface. You can see several places on the top of the flaperon where they’ve preferentially settled down into dings and divots. Most of the broad expanse of the upper and lower surfaces they have avoided, most likely because it’s just too smooth and exposed. They especially seem to like the exposed broken honeycomb on the trailing edge, which presumably offers a nice rough surface for holding fast to. Here they are living in quite high density, with some actually growing on top of one another:

(150806) -- THE REUNION ISLAND, Aug. 6, 2015 (Xinhua) -- Photo taken on Jul.29, 2015, shows shells growing on a piece of debris on Reunion Island. Verification had confirmed that the debris discovered on Reunion Island belongs to missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak announced early Thursday. (Xinhua/Romain Latournerie) (jmmn)

By way of comparison, here’s a shot of the barnacles on the Mayotte motorboat. Their distribution is much more uniform on every surface — here Lepas seem to like everything equally well:


Therefore, I wouldn’t necessarily say that Lepas density on the flaperon is low, but rather that the suitability of the substrate is very heterogeneous.

328 thoughts on “How the MH370 Flaperon Floated — UPDATED”

  1. Are we to dismiss, then, the clear implications of Jeff’s suggestion that the flaperon was ~100% wet for several months? CSIRO themselves essentially admit its model can’t get debris to Réunion from the current search area without freeboard approaching the 50% enjoyed by the untethered drifters to which it is calibrated.

    Jeff’s barnacle research suggests ~1% for the flaperon. If so, it should have been the SLOWEST of the thousands of pieces of identifiable debris on this long journey. Yet this made-for-TV chunk of 777 was the first (and only) piece ever found…?

    If we accept Jeff’s work, the INvalidity of the BTO data is the most logical conclusion. Common sense compels me to reject out of hand both the absurd notion that a 777 flew clear across Asia without anyone noticing (sorry, Jeff, et al) AND the arbitrary addition of ad hoc path circuity and/or vertical velocity fudge factors required to wrangle BFOs back into compliance (sorry, fans of the Wide Area’s northern end).

    Even if Jeff’s barnacle-based evidence DOESN’T stand the test of time, the dearth of SIO-corroborating physical evidence (air, ship, satellite, deep-sea, Curtin impact-detection and Australian shoreline searches all coming up empty)

    …combined with the plethora of FAKE SIO-corroborating evidence (acoustic pings, LANL seismic event, co-pilot cell phone connect, pilot simulator SIO path)

    …should, I feel, have at least threatened to persuade any genuinely scientific observer.

    If the BTO data is invalidated, attention immediately turns to the US government – both as author of the majority of these fake corroborations, and as Inmarsat’s flagship client.

    And if Occam’s razor still matters: it is vastly simpler to suppose…

    – a FULL spoof – after the fact – by the authors of the curious pdf file that eventually arrived on our doorstep, than

    – a PARTIAL spoof – in real time – ingenious enough to fool the pooled intelligence resources of all nations deploying bajillions in search resources, but not, you know, us (what with the BTO bread crumbs leading right to the perp’s door, and all).

    @Curveball: US government complicity does not imply guilt – it is certainly possible the US is covering up for a) a friend, b) a defensive action, or c) embarrassing ignorance.

    Long-time readers will know that I am NOT a conspiracy theorist – but neither will I be railroaded away from the direction in which the evidence clearly points.

    Even so, I don’t present this evidence to convince entrenched readers to swing over to my theory’s camp. We’ve heard each other’s soliloquys many times, now. I’m just pointing out that the list of plausible directions MH370 flew – and why – is longer than Curveball’s analysis suggested.

    My over-arching concern at this point is that time is running out, on both the FDR’s expected life, liability deadlines, and the public’s attention span. Please, let’s band together and find effective channels through which to collectively and very publicly petition search officials for the disclosure they promised, but have not delivered.

    I submit that Victor’s radar-based list and the boxed concerns listed in my own January report could serve as a reasonable start. To this, I’d suggest adding detailed disclosure of

    – flaperon buoyancy testing (France)
    – all officially commissioned MH370 performance limit and surface debris drift modeling (Australia)
    – verifiable evidence that flight DQA149 actually flew the path Ibrahim Faisal claims (Maldives)

    We should also be calling for a rigourous inquiry into Stuart Fairbairn’s untimely death on the day the search pivoted to the SIO on the strength of his company’s satellite log data, if only to rule foul play out.

    In my opinion, we, the unpaid army of volunteers who’ve invested countless hours trying to unravel this mystery – galvanized by the understanding that it could have been OUR family on board – need to do this, and do this NOW. We can piddle around convicting our pet villains some other day.

    Thank you for listening.

  2. @Brock

    The evidence is overwhelming. All you have to do is look at it, and not be a blockhead (like certain posters I will not name). My work is done. I don’t need any more info from anyone.

    BTW, as I have said many many many times, you do not need to fudge (in any way) the ISAT to arrive at a CI solution. This is a persistent misconception that has been impossible to clear.

  3. @StevanG

    A plane flying across the open waters of the Bay of Bengal from Sumatra’s tip to somewhere (India?, Sri Lanka?) would stick out like a sore thumb. Certainly the Indian coastal radars and Diego Garcia would take note. Can this statement be refuted?

    I think the best way to avoid detection would be to take the most common highways…not both stand apart and where it can be easily spotted/tracked.

    Similarly, if the plane passed CI, it would be flying a rather unique path…unless it made a straight line towards Melbourne or Sydney (i.e. direct towards the upper NW corner of Australia).

    Certainly Australia watches all flight activity which nears its coast.

    An interesting possibility DOES exist after passing CI — maybe Indonesia’s facilities are weak or non-existent and the plane could fly back over Indonesia somewhere after Bali and into the pirate-infested seas around Sulawesi.

  4. @Brock McEwen,
    The journey began as an unprecedented tragedy with cultural differences, the additions of bizarre coincidence, fantasy facts and corrupt government has been relentless.

    The cyclical lunacy makes perspective a scarce commodity as it becomes more difficult to re-create all the madness of truth and fiction.

    I agree wholeheartedly Brock, timing is critical, those cloaked in bureaucracy have bet the farm that the information starved will soon lose their appetite.

    What has been done to these families is inhuman, what they want are answers, if they can’t have answers, they want communication. They want reassurance that someone cares about how the ones they loved dearly, died.

    I have taken the liberty of including a few email addresses which I constantly send email. Never an acknowledgement from the French it’s been said they won’t even respond to the families. The ATSB always responds, they are quite supportive and communicative.

    (that is all 1 email address)

  5. @AM2
    It was also widely reported last week, Australian PM spoke of China’s unwillingness to contribute financially to the search. Understandably most of these are linkers rather than reporters (they copy, paste and are good to go, be it true, verified or not) but nowhere did anyone spell out China’s reasons for refusing monetary support. It would be nice, just once, to hear it from the “horse’s mouth”.

  6. @Susie Crowe
    Yes, the question of who pays for the search is interesting and perhaps revealing; as MH370 is thought to have gone down in Australia’s Search and Rescue area I assume its our responsibility for the cost of the initial search. Then Malaysia have offered to go halves but where does insurance come into it? As you say China is being asked to contribute and there are reported comments by Deputy PM Warren Truss on this.
    Also of interest recently was President Xi Jinping of the People’s Republic of China’s visit to Inmarsat while in the UK.

    Off topic: Talking of horses, today is Melbourne Cup Day (the biggest race day here).

  7. @StevanG
    There is radar coverage at Christmas island from Jorn since years. And as Jorn is an over horizon radar altitude of the target is no factor for its range. Its main task for the CI region is even to detect boats approaching CI and it proved that it can detect even small wooden boats.

    But it can fail, or the data could be misinterpreted like in the refernece below. I added it anyway because Jorns capabilities are communicated in relation to boat traffic to CI.

    If JORN didn’t see MH 370, then it was either shut down, had a gross malfunction or MH370 was not there at all.

  8. @CosmicAcademy

    Found the link :

    Don’t you find it odd that the switch would be left in ALT RPTG OFF for at least 28sec?

    Is it not possible rather that the altitude data source for ADS-B failed?

    For example a failure of two air data modules channels (or one failure in-flight plus one pre-existing failure never fixed) :

    ADIRU fails -> NAV ADIRU INERTIAL msg -> first action on check-list is : Transponder Altitude Source Selector = ALTN (“Selects SAARU as air data source for transponder altitude reporting in case the NAV ADIRU INERTIAL message was due to a complete failure of the ADIRU”).

    As the air data modules are not agreeing, SAARU will also fail. Single channel operation occurs. “The left PFD shows the ADIRU air data from the left pitot static system (left channel). The right PFD shows the SAARU air data from the right pitot static system (right channel). The EICAS shows the message NAV AIR DATA SYS.”

    “The standby flight instrument displays receive data from the center pitot and static ports through standby air data modules.”

    The crew must now figure out which data source is the right one… if any…

    “Inoperative items:
    · Envelope protection functions
    · Autopilot
    · Flight directors
    · Autothrottles
    · PFD flap maneuvering speeds”

    The crew also has to “Crosscheck heading periodically for drift with the magnetic compass and update SAARU heading as necessary. If magnetic compass information is unreliable or unavailable, track information may be used.”

    (If SAARU is failed too it will be impossible to do)

    (If we are talking about a hijacking scenario : Magnetic compass can be “spoofed” with an electro-magnet…)

    Further “If GPS is unavailable, the following additional items are inoperative […] Navigation radio autotuning.”

    SIDE NOTE from B777 manual – DITCHING check list :
    “The aircraft may remain afloat indefinitely if fuel load is minimal and no serious damage was sustained during landing.”

  9. @CurveBall

    “A plane flying across the open waters of the Bay of Bengal from Sumatra’s tip to somewhere (India?, Sri Lanka?) would stick out like a sore thumb. Certainly the Indian coastal radars and Diego Garcia would take note. Can this statement be refuted?”

    India would certainly see the plane if it went that route, DG not so sure.

    Bear in mind they have reviewed all radar data after MH370 disappearance and found nothing.

    “Similarly, if the plane passed CI, it would be flying a rather unique path…unless it made a straight line towards Melbourne or Sydney (i.e. direct towards the upper NW corner of Australia).”

    unique? It(possibly)went towards CI along the best route for evading malaysian or indonesian interception.

    It passed CI as a result of mistake/malfunction, not intentionally.


    “There is radar coverage at Christmas island from Jorn since years. And as Jorn is an over horizon radar altitude of the target is no factor for its range. Its main task for the CI region is even to detect boats approaching CI and it proved that it can detect even small wooden boats.

    But it can fail, or the data could be misinterpreted like in the refernece below. I added it anyway because Jorns capabilities are communicated in relation to boat traffic to CI.”

    there is coverage but only barely though according to this picture

    also look at the blue color, if it was active and covered CI then it would see the plane if it went to southern SIO too

  10. StevanG,

    Re: “do you have link for Yap’s calculator? Can’t find it.”

    I copied for you two versions (V2 and V15 of his calculators; V2 is a simpler one; you can find links to a number of others at DS web):

    Add https(colon)(slash)(slash)www(dot) in front.


    Re: “DennisW had several paths that fit with only minor change in altitude.”

    I haven’t seen those. What I saw required significant RoC/RoD. Can you provide a link to the most recent analysis?


    Re: “I don’t have any special explanation for change of altitude but if it was hand-flown and there was a conflict going on I can see very erratic flight.”

    Conflict going on for 6 hours? Manually flown for 6 hours? And you are still insisting that CI is more plausible than suicide?


    Re: “yes I know but all those mentioned are far less plausible than going to CI for whatever reason”
    I think going to CI for whatever reason is the least plausible compared to any other possible motive. Going for political statement to CI would be the next after long suicide.


    Re: “it’s not, only 2 weeks before MH370 you had ethiopian copilot who hijacked the plane and went to Switzerland instead of Italy, meanwhile exposing weakness of swiss airforce”

    How does it relate to MH370? You are confusing Ethiopia and Malaysia. In a number of aspects Malaysia is superior to Australia, not talking about Ethiopia.

    Re: “add to that Zaharie had quite strong reason to do some harm to malaysian government”

    This is the only supporting reason to justify your CI scenario. This is in contrast to other motives, which have at least several supporting reasons.


    Re: “they don’t even have primary radar on CI let alone air defense, nothing of value on the island to justify its operation”

    Nonsense: Australia needs to defend its borders, which implies monitoring. CI is strategic location for monitoring traffic. We actually already discussed this. In response to your argument, in my post September 21, 2015 at 4:44 PM I cited:
    You did not comment why this information is wrong and what sources of your information are.
    Also note Jindalee over-horizon system covers CI. You can google on it to see its coverage.

  11. Duncan Steel has repeatedly stated that JORN would have had difficulty detecting MH370. He wrote, “My personal knowledge of the JORN system (which I cannot reveal in detail) indicates to me that it is unlikely that it would have been detected and identified by that system, and that viewpoint has been backed up by others (offline here) including an experienced operator.”

    Based on this, I don’t see how we can invoke JORN to prove or disprove anything.

  12. StevanG,

    Let me summarize your CI scenario:

    – No plausible motive. Suggested motive is possible, but it is next to absurd. It is way less plausible than a number of other motives.

    – In order to explain BTO/BFO you need to add fighting onboard lasting for 6 hours (I guess you do not consider they drank coffee in the breaks when BTO/BFO data was not available). This affected manually piloted aircraft over the 6-hour interval.

    – To explain SDU shut down you need co-pilot “playing” with SDU when he was pushed out of the cockpit.

    – In order to explain SDU restart, you again need the co-pilot or some other person with specific knowledge. This knowledgeable person, however, was not smart enough to use SATCOM to send emergency sms/e-mail.

    – In order to explain NW turn at Penang you need either to present Indonesians as monsters, whose behavior was expected to be different from Malaysians, Thai, Indians and Australians, or by ongoing negotiations with the Malaysian government.

    – Absence of communications is inconsistent with your motive.

    – Inability of passengers to send sms/e-mail is not explained.

    – To explain unsuccessful landing, you need either a technical glitch, or human factor. The same is needed to explain the “overshot”.

    – To explain eventual fuel depletion, you need a technical glitch.

    – To explain the lack of radar data, you need at least two different systems to be off.

    – The lack of debris is explained by not conducting search in that area according to your version.

    My verdict: Dejavu.

  13. @ Oleksandr

    I appreciate that English is probably not your first language but Dejavu is not an appropriate word to describe your position. Check it out.

    I could respond to your rant in a point by point way, but I choose not to do so. There is nothing to be gained by it for you or anyone else.

    This situation is not a contest to see who is right. We are a collective trying to solve a problem. Let’s keep it that way in a spirit of mutual respect.

  14. @Oleksandr

    “I haven’t seen those. What I saw required significant RoC/RoD. Can you provide a link to the most recent analysis?”

    what do you consider significant? Also there didn’t have to be change of altitude at every ping only at few

    btw do you agree with radar range calculations showing MH370 at roughly 26K feet at 18:22(or 18:28 forgot now) when it left radar coverage? It would show that plane was descending and supposing the trend continued, it would cripple all BFO calculations.

    “Conflict going on for 6 hours? Manually flown for 6 hours? And you are still insisting that CI is more plausible than suicide?”

    not all 6 hours, maybe it started only hour or two before CI or maybe even less

    “I think going to CI for whatever reason is the least plausible compared to any other possible motive. Going for political statement to CI would be the next after long suicide.”

    well what other motives are there after turning SE around Indonesia except CI and long suicide? Oh yes and going to australian mainland which was barely reachable as a third(which I don’t reject only find it a bit less plausible).

    “How does it relate to MH370? You are confusing Ethiopia and Malaysia. In a number of aspects Malaysia is superior to Australia, not talking about Ethiopia.”

    ugh Malaysia is a dictatorship, Australia is first-world democracy

    Captain Shah was proven democracy warshipper, I think it’s the only aspect we should consider

    “This is in contrast to other motives, which have at least several supporting reasons.”


    “Nonsense: Australia needs to defend its borders, which implies monitoring. CI is strategic location for monitoring traffic. We actually already discussed this. In response to your argument, in my post September 21, 2015 at 4:44 PM I cited:
    You did not comment why this information is wrong and what sources of your information are.
    Also note Jindalee over-horizon system covers CI. You can google on it to see its coverage.”

    huh, you have shown a maritime radar… they won’t detect aircraft unless it’s very close

    I have shown you a JORN graph from wikipedia that shows it would also cover southern SIO path if it covered CI at the time (see the blue color of coverage for yourself).


    “This situation is not a contest to see who is right. We are a collective trying to solve a problem. Let’s keep it that way in a spirit of mutual respect.”


    Oleksandr I’m afraid you are taking this just a bit too personal.

  15. @all

    Well, things have been dead here for awhile, and it is not surprising.

    A quick Google of “flaperon news” brings up a Sept. 4 first reference. I knew this would happen with French involvement. I have a long history of interacting with the French. Basically, they suck.

  16. Any news on MH370 yet I hope plane be found soon nearly two years this March 2016. Praying and hoping there be news soon. From this day still a mystery what happened to 239 on board…

  17. @ all (with apologies to anyone already aware of this ‘news’):

    Not sure if Simon Hardy’s theory has been discussed or scrutinized on this forum before, but according to his calculations we may be close to finding MH370 in the next four weeks.

    To summarize, Captain Hardy, a senior British pilot with 17 years experience, believes the plane’s behaviour points to pilot suicide. He spent six months earlier this year analysing flight data of stricken aircraft, concluding his study in February. A detailed mathematical and geometric calculation he developed pinpointed the final crash site to S39 22′ 46″ E087 6′ 20” which is east south east of Ile Amsterdam in the SIO.

    One thing he found peculiar was the fly-past of Penang. “Someone was taking a long, emotional look at Penang. The captain [Zaharie Shah] was from the island of Penang.”

    However, it is only now, with Fugro moving towards Captain Hardy’s ‘pinpointed’ area that we’ll know for sure. “By December 3, Fugro Discovery expects to have completed the search of the area containing, according to Hardy’s calculations, the wreck of MH370.”

    The next few weeks should be interesting.

    (Brief question for anyone able to answer – is the fly-past of Penang considered 100% fact or have some questioned it in the past? Just wondering, sorry for my ignorance!)

  18. @Sajid

    Hardy’s analytics have been around for awhile. They are based solely on fitting a path to the BTO data. He ignores BFO completely.

    begin cut-paste//

    Hardy explains: “For the purposes of this purely mathematical/geometrical investigation I am making one assumption: that in most scenarios (hypoxia, fire, a hidden hand), the track and speed of the aircraft from 2141Z [UTC/GMT at the 4th handshake arc] to 0011Z [time at the 6th arc] would be constant.”

    end cut-paste//

    From the above it is clear that a constant speed and heading from a relatively arbitrary point on the 4th arc forms the basis for his terminus.

    While Hardy’s analytics are plausible, there is little to distinguish them from other SIO scenarios out there. In particular, Hardy’s terminus suffers from:

    1> Lack of surface debris associated with MH370 ever being found in the far SIO.

    2> His motive/causality for his suggested flight path is weak. “hidden hand” ??

    3> It is unlikely the flaperon could have found its way to Reunion from that terminal location in the time frame in which the flaperon was found.

    I don’t see anything in Hardy’s analytics that would distinguish them from the far more serious work done by the IG and SSWG.

    Hardy never states why he chose a Southern path. If BFO is ignored a Northern flight path could be made to work equally well.

  19. I can’t believe that a pilot would accuse his colleague of suicidal murder without any real proof/reason pointing at that.

    It’s mind-boggling to me.

  20. @StevanG

    Yep no proof for any scenario and thats what is frustrating. Anyway, in the aviation industry it is generaly accepted that MH370’s dissapearance was intentional.

    Just think it this way : How can a malfunction cause the entire plane with everyone onboard to dissapear ? << yep, mindboggling isnt it ? The plane dissapeared because some human onboard wanted it this way.

    Extremely simple.

  21. @DennisW @StevanG

    Some great counter-arguments to Hardy there in your post DennisW and good points from you too, StevanG.


    Has anyone pondered over this seemingly odd and unnecessary turn inwards to fly past Penang? What difference would it have made if the plane simply kept close to the Thai-Malaysian border, eventually flying out from Perlis?

    Apologies if this has been asked already, its just fascinating to me and I’m sure others who might not have given it much thought before.

  22. @IR1907

    Yes, it really is that simple. The malfunction, fire (battery or otherwise),… scenarios simply do not withstand detailed scrutiny. Not impossible, but the chain of events needed to support these hypotheses is difficult to internalize.

    While hijacking is also possible, the fact that a commercial airliner has never been hijacked to obtain cargo, PAX, or the plane itself argues against it.

    The scenario of the plane and PAX serving as some sort of bargaining chip for a negotiation followed by an unplanned accident remains viable.

    A flight path along the Southern Coast of Sumatra and Java would offer the greatest number of alternative landing areas with a minimal likelihood of detection in the air. A terminus (controlled ditch) in that region would also support minimal debris and the flaperon finding on Reunion.

  23. @IR1907

    “Yep no proof for any scenario and thats what is frustrating. Anyway, in the aviation industry it is generaly accepted that MH370’s dissapearance was intentional.”

    disappearance over malaysian mainland was certainly intentional but did he really plan to disappear forever or to “respawn” somewhere? Majority assumes the first completely disregarding it wasn’t your ordinary flight where everything would go as planned.

  24. Question: flight track recorded by radar, is it consisten only with auto pilot, or does it require somebody manually steering the airplane?

    I ask this, to see if we can exclude those possibility:
    – somebody manuvered the airplane from the e/e bay
    – somebody manuvered the airplane from the cockpit, but without real ability to manual pilot the airplane(that means, only trained to insert route in the computer system)

  25. Hi Jeff,

    I have posted something for you about Inmarsat sub coordinate point transposed of origin. U can’t find which forum. I made reference to the wrong equation for you to try. The right equation is:


    The reason that it does not look similar to the Inmarsat equation as I can see is that the published BTOs are in fact the processed BTOs. They are not taken from primary measurements. Center of coordinate for AES loci is still at GES, in Perth, WA. Bias is about 343km.

    We also can prove that the “10th handshake”, 23000 micro seconds is actually the Range between GES and Lat 0 Lon64.5 degree, Inmarsat sub coordinate point.

    Let us try it out:


    From Google Maps the range as per my measurement is 6625km. Meaning to say they are about equal. Thanks.

    Thank you.

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