Life after the “Ghost Ship”

Well, we’ve been saying it here for a long time, but at last the ATSB has ackowledged the inevitable truth: the failure to locate any wreckage on the seabed in the southern Indian Ocean will mean that MH370 must have been piloted until the very end.

To quote today’s story in the Independent:

“the possibility that someone was at the controls of that aircraft on the flight and gliding it becomes a more significant possibility, if we eliminate all of the current search area.” [Martin Dolan, chief commissioner of the ATSB, told The Times.] “In a few months time, if we haven’t found it, then we’ll have to be contemplating that one of the much less likely scenarios ends up being more prominent. Which is that there were control inputs into that aircraft at the end of its flight.”

To be clear, Dolan wasn’t saying that they’ve ruled out the ghost ship yet, but seems to be preparing the public for this eventuality when the search runs out of money and time this June. But the fact that he said it all suggests that he views it as quite a likely outcome.

The only “much less likely” scenario that Dolan pointed to was the idea that a suicidal pilot might have flown to seventh arc within the current search area, then held the plane in a glide after it ran out of fuel so that it wound up some distance beyond. If such was indeed the case, then the area to be searched would be too large to be economically viable. This led to some catastrophic headlines, such as Bloomberg‘s “Missing Malaysia Jet MH370 Weeks Away From Keeping Secrets Forever.” But this is a tad presumptious, in my opinion.

Though Dolan didn’t ennumerate them, there now three scenarios that could match the data we have in hand.

1) The one Dolan described, which we might call “straight and fast.”

2) Another controlled-flight-into-the-southern-ocean scenario, which I’ll call “slow and curvy.” This would result in the plane ending up further to the northeast, and would necessitate an even larger search area.

3) A “spoof” scenario, in which sophisticated hijackers tampered with the satellite communications system and hijacked the plane to the north.

While some at the ATSB (and maybe within the IG, too) might be wearing long faces over Dolan’s admission, in my estimation it marks the most hopeful turn in the case in a very long time. As David Gallo recently pointed out on Twitter, the ATSB search hasn’t failed to locate the plane; it’s succeeded in proving where the plane isn’t. The most likely scenario — the scenario that we’ve been told is the only reasonable one — the scenario that we’ve been told will imminently be proven correct — has been falsified. And that brings us one very big step closer to finding the truth.

The illusory “sure thing” is over. (The wonderful film The Big Short, which I saw over the weekend and which I think any MH370 obsessive will find very entertaining, at one point quotes Mark Twain: ‘It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.’) It may make some people uncomfortable, but we now know that whatever happened to MH370, it was weird and unprecedented.

Now we can get down to work. I hope that now that the broad community of MH370 researchers, and especially the hardworking and intelligent folks at the ATSB, can embrace a new spirit of enthusiastic skepticism and turn their attention to fully evaluating all of the possibilities.

There is some important information coming down the pike that will be very illuminating, and I am very excited about pressing this story forward in the weeks and months ahead.

224 thoughts on “Life after the “Ghost Ship””

  1. @Oleksandr

    Flight path updated. The 23:15 BFO also fits well with a 105 heading and 700 km/hr ground speed. (Updated previous link).

    Of course, a perceptive person such as yourself will ask (and now I know the reason for your previous question), how do you reconcile a speed of 700 km/hr with a flight path between 22:40 and 00:10 that is compatible with a 540 km/hr speed.

    My answer, and I am sticking with it, is that Shah “loitered” around CI waiting for things to unfold in KL just as he “loitered” NW of Penang for the same reason while hoping to land at Banda Aceh.

  2. @Oleksandr

    BTW, please do not try to be polite. It only creates ambiguity, which is never a good thing. You cannot hurt my feelings.

    On more than one occasion when my CEO boss would ask “any questions on what we just discussed?”, I would reply “yes, what did we just discuss?” I hate ambiguity.

  3. Dennis: Ambiguity is inevitable – ask any linguist. Polite people recognize this and do not assume that they have fully understood a statement until they have asked for clarification. This is called “being polite.”
    There is a word for people who do not try to be polite. There is also a word for people who think that it is morally superior to avoid being polite.
    Note how polite I am being by leaving those two words ambiguous.

    I find the MH370 discussion more interesting than this digression on politeness.

  4. Dennis,

    Re “Shah “loitered” around CI waiting for things to unfold in KL”.

    Ok, I will not be polite as you asked: that is close to absurd.

    If he was waiting for things to unfold in KL, why did not he pick up the call 23:15? He would be waiting for it, right? (StevanG, you have problem with connecting pieces of this puzzle, so please do not suggest the captain and co-pilot were fighting at 23:15: Shah was not fighting, but he was waiting according to Dennis’ explanation; he could not wait and fight simultaneously). In addition, if he was just waiting and contemplating about the sense of life, anxiously playing with speed, he would have sufficient time to realise that fuel was running out.

    Generally, what does make more sense: playing with speed for no apparent reason according to your scenario, or performing a series of 3 pointless 180 deg turns according to Bobby’s scenario? Try to convince me that your explanation has more sense than Bobby’s, and I will buy it if you succeed.

  5. StevanG,

    “There are inconsistencies (still less than with other theories though) but this is not the one.”

    You (and sometimes Dennis) have problems with the terms “coincidence”, “consistency”, “probability” and “possibility”.

    Did I write that the lack of JORN data is “inconsistency”? No. It is a factor, playing against CI. You admitted that CI has a number of inconsistencies. Good. But you also wrote that “still less than with other theories”. Can you name any inconsistency in (a) technical failure; (b) failed hijacking scenario?

  6. @Oleksandr

    The means of communication from KL to MH370 was defined to be something other than the call is a simple reason why Shah did not answer the phone. Why would you assume the method of communication was a SAT call? Could have been, but could also have been something else.

    I never suggested fighting. I will leave that to you and Stevan to sort out.

    The fuel exhaustion is a mystery to me, and a major hole in my scenario. It is difficult to make it fit with anything besides suicide or ghost flight unless the fuel remaining instrumentation was somehow corrupted. Running out of fuel, in my opinion, is the strongest reason to believe in the ghost flight / suicide scenario. If Shah truly did not intend to harm anyone, which I believe was the case, he would not have let that happen. If I cannot come up with a good answer for fuel exhaustion, I will have to abandon the CI scenario.

    Playing with speed and generally loitering around is consistent with a waiting game, so that part does not bother me at all. I have already commented enough on Bobby’s theory.

    Thank you for being direct. It saves both of us a lot of time.

  7. @Oleksandr

    you said:

    “Can you name any inconsistency in (a) technical failure; (b) failed hijacking scenario?”

    A> Technical failure

    Not inconsistent, just highly improbable. Given that only 20% of hull losses are attributable to a technical failure (you can Google that). Also since the aircraft continued to fly to fuel exhaustion, the 20% is lowered substantially. Could it have happened. Sure. The odds of being struck by lightning in your lifetime are 1/12,000. Do you worry about that?

    B> Failed hijacking

    Also not inconsistent,but it needs more meat. For example, what could possibly be the purpose of hijacking the aircraft. I cannot think of a single thing. Please fill in the blanks on that one.

  8. Oleksandr,

    you are nitpicking(as always).

    “Did I write that the lack of JORN data is “inconsistency”? No. It is a factor, playing against CI. ”

    if it plays against CI it also plays against current search area and basically all of the southern reachable 7th arc

    so it’s not the factor at all unless you are into spoofing, aliens or dinosaurs

    I only mentioned in-flight brawl as a possiblity, I don’t claim there was one although i’m quite sure there was a conflict of sorts and I don’t have the crystal ball to tell you exactly what happened.

  9. Dennis,

    “Why would you assume the method of communication was a SAT call?”

    What else? You said only CI was within the reach of HVF. HF is not reliable. An individual SAT phone may not be reliable due to Doppler effect.

    Btw, if Shah was able to communicate by some means during waiting as per your theory, and did not have intention to kill the passengers, why wouldn’t he send a distress message at the very end by the same communication channel? SOS + coordinates?

    Re: “Playing with speed and generally loitering around is consistent with a waiting game”.

    That would be a very weird game. As you could have a chance to see on the example of EY440, there is a special procedure for the waiting, which requires a pilot to enter just a few parameters, such as: fix point, airspeed, and duration of legs (default is 1.5 minutes, subject to altitude). Very simple. Manual loitering around CI just for waiting makes no sense.

  10. Dennis and StevanG,

    Frankly I start suspecting that you are the same person with two logins, as Dennis typically answers questions addressed to StevanG and vice versa.

    The question “Can you name any inconsistency in (a) technical failure; (b) failed hijacking scenario?” was addressed to StevanG, as he said CI has fewer inconsistencies that any other scenario. Dennis commented that “Not inconsistent, just highly improbable”. In light of this answer, I hope StevanG’s will still give his answer. That is because just before I wrote that both of you mix the terms “consistency”, “coincidence”, “probability” and “possibility”. I don’t want to re-iterate “probabilities” and “inconsistencies” again.

    The consequences of this is very obvious. For example, earlier StevanG suggested fight in the cockpit to explain uneven velocity (and hence deviation of BFO), though the question was addressed to Dennis. Dennis did not comment, so I assumed he silently agreed with the explanation given by StevanG. Now Dennis says “I never suggested fighting. I will leave that to you and Stevan to sort out.”

    In summary, there is a batch of inconsistencies with CI theory, and both of you have to work out how to make up a solid merged story. Or you have to split your versions apart.

  11. @Oleksandr

    I assure you we are not the same person (I am much better looking). Since we are not collaborating I see no need to get together to sort anything out or merge anything. Stevan has his own ideas about what happened. The merging is taking place in your head. My theory is carefully explained in the link I already posted, and you have.

    I have no idea what you are talking about relative to fighting. I either missed the post or did not regard it is as a question addressed to me. I am usually very good about direct replies, and would never assume silence is the same as agreement.

    As I alluded as short time ago above, I am struggling with fuel exhaustion. I had long believed I could sort it out with instrumentation anomalies and accuracy. Recent information from Guarded Don has cast doubt on that. Frankly, I am thinking about abandoning the scenario of a flight path toward CI. At this moment I cannot fit all the required pieces together.

  12. hahaha Oleksandr you are so bad with deduction(and you prove it again) 🙂

    our theories differ a bit, DennisW thinks he planned some negotiations while flying along southern coast of Sumatra while I think he had fixed goal to land at Cocos or CI, although I don’t know if he set that goal before or during the flight (Banda Aceh loiter is what confuses me)

    anyway I suppose that things went rather good until 18:25 but some conflict emerged later which resulted in a very strange set of consequences

    remember I try to understand this case from a psychological point of view, he was not just a pilot but an aviation enthusiast too, he likely informed himself about that ethiopian copilot hijacking that happened only 2 weeks before, he likely saw that people on Internet were mocking swiss airforce for not intercepting him since they work only 9AM-5PM sundays off(I think french or italian plane had to intervene), another ethiopian hijacking is linked on that article on wikipedia (which google will usually give you first), and it includes CI as an attempted destination

    thus the idea was born…

  13. @StevanG

    Your version works about the same as mine. I am befuddled by why he ran out of fuel. As I said above, I thought I could reconcile that, but now I don’t have any decent ideas – stress, tension,… are pretty lame. Not as lame as getting locked in the bathroom or out of the cockpit, but lame nonetheless. Clearly the instrumentation, if working at the 1% referenced accuracy, should have been more than adequate for him to realize the impending problem. Not acting on it pretty much deflates my scenario which has him attempting a landing without harm to the PAX.

    That about does it for me relative to anything plausible. I am not at all a fan of spoofing, hijacking, or suicide. There really is nothing left. I suppose the next installment of the Malay smoke screen is worth a read, but I doubt we will experience any epiphanies relative to that.

  14. @Victor – Has China made any positive contributions to the search? Or has their only involvement been to obfuscate? Are any other nations supporting China or are they acting alone? How often was the plane in China? Did Chinese techs perform any maintenance on the plane?

  15. DennisW, I have to say I am a bit stunned, I think this is the first time in the history of MH370 commenting that anyone has disavowed a pet theory. You are truly the real deal. I salute you.

  16. Having the Dong Hai Jiu join the search in the SIO after so many months certainly raised my eyebrows. Perhaps the undersea search results have been shared with them and they’ve identified some targets of interest? The Chinese would gain tremendous value (both domestically and internationally) if they could now claim the credit for discovering the remains of the plane.

    Or, sending the vessel could just be a simple gesture to mute pressure for more Chinese support of the SIO search (as Victor’s dossier seems to suggest). Everything MH370 is murky as usual.

  17. @DennisW

    it’s mysterious to me too, however we should take into account it wasn’t just a usual regular flight and he might have had folks around him making a pressure, it’s also questionable if the aircraft was fully in order after fiddling with CBs in E/E bay

    for me it’s still less mysterious than any other scenario

  18. @StevanG

    While I don’t disagree that the CI theory might have fewer flaws than competing theories, you run the risk of falling prey to the so-called “anchoring effect”.

    Retailers use this to great advantage by putting items “on sale”. Restaurants deliberately seed menus with high priced items so we feel good about selecting an alternative that is less costly, but still over-priced. Simply put, you must avoid comparing your theory to other theories and using that as a “goodness” metric. I have seen this movie dozens of times in my career, and it has never had a happy ending.

    Putting band-aides on something is a slippery slope.

  19. Me thinks this mh370 is making everyone a little bit nuts and I mean that in the nicest way lol. Meaning it is getting to everyone who has been involved in this since the beginning. So many experts have tried and tried again to pinpoint a location, but have failed. I think many people are on their last nerve with this whole thing, but hopefully people never give up and continue to find the answers the world is waiting for, they found it!!

    I’m no expert at anything except being a frequent flyer, I always pick pretty much the same seat on any flight just because I’m a little OCD that way. But since 370 disappeared and the watchings of many MayDay shows on the discovery channel, I’m rethinking my situating on a plane etc.

    I’ve read so many articles in the last while on this story, and its hard to believe all that has or hasn’t happened in this case. You just can’t make this shit up if you tried kind of thing.

    I don’t have any theory really, except that Malaysia has lied from the start and that tells me we are dealing with more than just a missing plane here. Hopefully it will be found and all the answers to the billion $$ question will be answered.

    Recently in another group I joined, it has come to our attention that video that has been with malaysia police and now obtained by a french journalist, from at the airport that night shows a couple other people that were not registered to be on that plane seen in the boarding area but did not go through security, huh?? Who were these people and why were they there? Hopefully this journo will figure out whether they did get on the plane or not. If they did, then its a whole different ball game.

    Its all in the French hands me thinks, lets hope they release a report on the flaperon also.

  20. @DennisW

    I understand you however I still look at it from a “value bet” point, what holds most probability for the money invested should be considered first.

  21. @StevanG

    Yep. Not at all a reprehensible position. Who knows? Maybe Shah just said the heck with it after his plans did not work out. I don’t have him calibrated as that kind of person, however.

    My thinking is that if he knew his fuel situation accurately, which seems to be very likely, that he would have attempted to land on CI before flying some 80 nautical miles past it.

  22. yupp he would, we don’t however know if the navigation system was fully working after fiddling with CBs or if someone else took control of the aircraft at that point, anyway location north of 20S seems to be very weird one for suicide&murder

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