Bioforensic Analysis of Suspected MH370 Debris UPDATED x2

Blaine Alan Gibson with 'No Step'
Blaine Alan Gibson with ‘No Step.’ Photo courtesy Blaine Alan Gibson


Recently two pieces of debris that may have come from missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 were found on the coast of Mozambique.

The first piece was discovered on February 27 by American lawyer Blaine Alan Gibson on a sand bar near the town of Vilankulo (top left). Composed of fiberglass skin around an aluminum honeycomb core, and bearing the words “no step,” the piece is widely presumed to be a part of a 777 horizontal stabilizer. A fastener found attached to the part carried an identifying number that is consistent with, though not exclusive to, a 777. Soon after the find was made public Malaysia’s transport minister Liow Tiong Lai tweeted that there was a “high possibility debris found in Mozambique belongs to a B777.”

Closeup of 'No Step' exterior
Closeup of “No Step” exterior. Photo courtesy Blaine Alan Gibson.


The second object was reported on March 11 by South African teenager Liam Lötter, who found it on a beach near the resort town of Xai Xai in southern Mozambique in December. Approximately a meter long, it carries the stencilled code “676EB,” which is written on the right-hand outboard flap farings of Boeing 777s. Its material, a hybrid of fiberglass and carbon fiber, is also consistent with a 777 flap fairing.

Lötter holding flap fairing
Liam Lötter with the object he found in Mozambique, presumed to be part of a 777 flap fairing.


The fact that MH370 was the only Boeing 777 lost over the ocean lends weight to the supposition that both parts come from that aircraft.

The pieces’ appearance, however, is quite different from that of the first (and so far, only confirmed) piece of MH370, the plane’s right-hand flaperon, which was found on Réunion on July 29, 2015. Every edge of the flaperon, and much of its broad surface area, was encrusted with goose barnacles of the genus Lepas. The flaperon also had been settled across much of its surface by a brownish algae. Both of the recently discovered pieces are relatively free of marine growth.

This article will explore what the presence or absence of marine growth indicates about how the three pieces traveled through the ocean.

Marine Fouling

When man-made material is immersed in an oceanic ecosystem, a number of plant, animal, and microbial species will begin to settle and grow upon its surface, a process known as “marine biofouling” because historically the process has attracted the most attention as a nuisance to mariners.

Marine biologists study the process using devices called “settling plates” or “fouling panels,” rectangles of material which are put in the water and then observed as time goes by. “The first thing that settles is microalgae, which looks like a slimy brown scummy scuzz,” says Cathryn Clarke Murray, a marine biologist who studies floating debris at the North Pacific Marine Science Organization. Out in the open ocean, microalgae is followed by bryozoans, moss-like filter feeders, and goose barnacles of the genus Lepas. “I’ve found paper bags that have blown into the Pacific and have barnacle larvae on them,” says Bloomsburg University professor Cynthia Venn, who has been studying marine organisms for decades.

vancouver_port monitoring 2010 067 copy
Example of a fouling panel colonized by golden star tunicates (aka sea squirts) during a three-month immersion near Vancouver, Canada. Photo courtesy Cathryn Clarke Murray


Given the great size of the Earth’s oceans, and the relatively slow speed at which objects drift (on the order of dozens of miles per day), objects encountered on the open sea have plenty of time to become colonized. During a survey of debris in the Pacific, marine biologist Miriam Goldstein collected 242 objects and found that all had organisms growing on them except for two that were one square inch in size. University of Florida biologist Mike Gil conducted a similar survey voyage in the eastern Pacific and says that “we didn’t find any clean debris, bottle cap size and larger.”

The mix of species present on an object can yield clues about how it has drifted, a process that renowned invertebrate biologist James Carlton, director of the Williams-Mystic Maritime Studies Program, has labeled “bioforensics.” In his study of marine debris washed out to sea during the Japanese tsunami of 2011, Carlton says, he found “we can track debris across the ocean using two species of bryozoans. One’s cold water, one’s warm water. When I get a boat that lands in Washington or Oregon and has the warm-water bryozoan, it tells me that it went well south before turning north.” Similarly, Carlton has been able to identify debris that traveled south along the coast of Japan before crossing the Pacific by the presence of sea life endemic to that area.

Unfortunately, the flaperon discovered on Réunion Island has been closely held by French investigators since its discovery, so is not known if such a bioforensic analysis has been conducted.

While the presence of certain species can indicate the route its home drifted, the size of individuals can indicate how long an object has been at sea—with some important caveats. Water temperature and the presence of nutrients both affect how quickly an organism will grow. Those on tsunami debris that was carried along through the nutrient-rich waters of the Aleutian chain and wound up in the Pacific Northwest grew faster, and in greater profusion, than those which grew on debris that followed a more tropical route and came ashore in Hawaii.

In order to gauge the time that an object has been in the water, then, it’s important to have a baseline against which to measure. For instance, here’s a boat that spent eight months drifting from Australia to the island of Mayotte in the western Indian ocean.

Mayotte boat


By comparing the size of the barnacles with the known dimensions of the boat, it is possible to ascertain that they have a maximum capitulum length of 3.5 cm.

And here are Lepas barnacles that grew on the Réunion flaperon.


Given the similarity in latitudes between Réunion and Mayotte, and the fact that the flaperon is believed also to have begun its journey off the west coast of Australia, the temperatures and nutrient levels experienced by both objects should be roughly the same. Applying the same photographic analysis yields a capitulum length of 2.3 cm. Adjusting known Lepas growth rates for the age and size of the Mayotte Lepas specifimens, the size of the Lepas barnacles on the Réunion flaperon suggests it was in water between four and six months.

This technique cannot be applied to the objects found in Mozambique because there are no identifiable forms of marine life visible on them. This absence of visible growth, however, allows us to put an upper bound on the amount of time they were in the water.

“If I put a piece of fiberglass into the ocean, I would expect to see that kind of scummy scuzz about a month after,” says Murray. However, in photographs the pieces of Mozambique debris “look pretty clean to me,” she says.

Flap fairing closeup
A closeup of the presumed flap fairing.


Shown an image of the new debris and asked how long the pieces look like they’ve been in the water, Jim Carlton says, “My gut instinct would be [that these pieces have been] not long at sea. Not long at sea, because we presume that if you are at sea, you’re going to get Lepas and bryozoans and other oceanic species on you. If you drift in the coastal zone, you’ll pick up coastal barnacles.” Given all that, he cites a possible immersion time of “a couple of days.”

No Step Closeup 2

No Step closeup copy
A closeup of ‘No Step’ honeycomb


Sam Chan, who studies invasive species at Oregon State University and regularly conducts settling plate experiments on the Pacific coast, says that he finds the clean condition of the honeycombs to be telling. “Not to see marine growth in the honeycomb structure was surprising to me,” he says. “The settling plates we put in the water actually look very much like the honeycomb structure, because it’s a good environment for them to settle.” He says the amount of time the objects have been in the water “could be a couple of weeks. It’s certainly not indicative of something that has been in the water for multiple years, let alone even half a year.” He adds, “If there’s no fouling, was it even in the water?”

Local Mozambique officials who were able to examine the Gibson piece firsthand were similarly skeptical. Joao de Abreu, the director of Mozambique’s National Civil Aviation Institute, was quoted by his government’s official news agency as saying that the object was too clean to have been in the ocean for two years.

Henry Carson, a marine biologist at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, points out that fish sometimes congregate around floating debris in the ocean and can reduce the populations of organisms growing on it. “A colleague of mine encountered a piece of a boat in the middle of the Pacific–I believe also made of fiberglass–that had very few barnacles–and a lot of fish,” he says. “Presumably the grazing fish had kept the barnacles from becoming established. Your pieces could also have sheltered a substantial fish community. Not sure the fish would keep it 100% clean, though, especially of all algae and bryozoans.”

In the Pacific Northwest, it’s not uncommon for beachcombers to find pieces of tsunami debris that have no significant accumulation of marine life on them, but these tend to be highly buoyant objects like pieces of polystyrene foam or smooth, round buoys and floats. “I can only think this stuff rolls on the sea surface,” says Carlton. “Between the UV and getting baked and dried out, dessication’s going to do a job, these things come in whistle clean.”

AK tsunami debris
An example of tsunami found washed up on US coast with almost no biofouling.


Obviously that neither of the Mozambique pieces would fit that description, but Carlton points out that it might be possible to imagine a scenario in which they floated across an ocean and then became beached, whereupon it dried out, was foraged upon by terrestrial animals and scoured by wind and sand, then washed out to sea again for a few days before becoming beached again. “One can imagine these scenarios,” he says. “Their probability is another matter.”

Other biologists disagree that weathering and predation could plausibly erase all trace of prior colonization. “We usually see some evidence left, even if it’s been dried out on the beach for a while,” says Murray. “You would see barnacle shells, or the byssal threads from the mussels, even if the mussel’s gone. Usually you see something. I can’t see anything in these pictures.”

“Even if beached and tumbled and baked for some time, I would expect to see a lattice of bryozoan skeletons, barnacle attachment scars, and some staining from where algae had grown. A lot of those things are pretty resilient,” says Carson. “I don’t see any of that in the close-up pictures.”

Says Chan, “There could be some time of feeding or predation, but within that honeycomb structure you would probably still see some remnants, and I just don’t see any.”

Carlton agrees that the condition of the Mozambique debris is puzzling. “Without any bioforensic evidence,” he says, “it’s just a headscratcher.”


The absence of biofouling on a piece of suspected aircraft debris recovered in Mozambique in December, 2015 suggests that it entered the water no earlier than October of that year. The absence of biofouling on a piece of suspected aircraft debris recovered in Mozambique in February, 2016 suggests that it entered the water no earlier than January, 2016. It is entirely possible that one or both of the Mozambique objects were never in the ocean at all.

All of these results counterindicate a scenario in which these pieces of debris were generated by a crash on March 8, 2014 near the area currently being searched by the ATSB. It is incumbent on all the relevant authorities to make public the details of a close examination of the parts, in order to determine how these objects could have arrived in the western Indian Ocean.

Update 3-17-16

I’m adding a couple of videos that Blaine very graciously shared with me, to show how his piece floated in the water. It should be fairly clear that this is not a spherical-float kind of situation. One end of the piece is denser than seawater and is going to be submerged whether or not the piece is occasionally flipped by waves.



Update 3-18-16

David Griffin, an oceanographer with Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), has expended considerable effort working with drift models to understand how ocean currents may have dispersed debris from a crash site in the southern Indian Ocean. In response to Blaine Alan Gibson’s Mozambique find, he writes on the CSIRO web site: “this item is not heavily encrusted with sea life” and therefore “time at sea is therefore possibly much less than the 716 days that have elapsed since 14 March 2014.”

A number of readers have speculated about various factors that may have kept marine organisms from taking up residence on these objects. The fact is that unless a piece is made entirely of smooth unbroken plastic (and usually even then), it is going to acquire a coating of marine life after a certain amount of time at sea. To see a lot of examples of how objects of different size, shape, and material accumulate debris, here is a gallery of Japanese tsunami debris found washed up in Hawaii. And here is a gallery of stuff that washed up in the Pacific Northwest of the USA.

362 thoughts on “Bioforensic Analysis of Suspected MH370 Debris UPDATED x2”

  1. Warren – don’t forget that their are people out there who would get a kick out of the whole thing. Plenty of photo’s of Nessie over the years. Bigfoot etc etc….

    I can’t see the corrosion you talk about? If the actual analysis can’t find any they will be scratching their heads about it – maybe right now? The appearance of the pieces is highly anomalous and you are not fazed by that, and I really don’t see why that would be, but we see differently. Some people just want to bank the debris because they will feel better, some want to know categorically what shape it’s in and why.

  2. @DrBobbyUlich,

    I just picked a weight that resulted in a service ceiling of about FL410 for the A330-200 at ISA + 10°C. In the meantime I have edited the chart to show the complete profile and the conditions.

    If you have a comparable one for the B777-200ER I would be most interested. You can ask Jeff for my E-mail address.

  3. @Susie Crowe

    Apologies If I caused offence, this was not my intention. I can see now that it was a step too far, and therefore not something that should be aired on this blog. If I had appreciated that before I wrote it, I assure you I wouldn’t have.

    Thank you for the feedback.

  4. @sinux, Thanks! My French is poor, but based on my own previous discussions with Florence, I think what she means is that she tried to contact the two marine biologists whom the French prosecutors consulted with about the organisms found on the flaperon, and neither of them got back to her. The ones I talked to are pretty easy to get in touch with.

    @Matty — and anybody else from Australia — I’d be curious to hear your speculations about why the ATSB singled out Geoscience Australia and the Australian National University in their recent announcement about the examination of the Mozambique debris. (
    Geoscience Australia’s most relevent expertise to the case would seem to be in the area of undersea mapping (bathymetry); the Australian National University doesn’t seem to have a marine biology program, at least one that I could find during a quick search–perhaps their contribution would be to assess the damage to the piece to understand the forces that caused it, or to characterize corrosion caused by the marine environment?

  5. Warren Platts. The Chinese, Malaysian and Australian governments have agreed that there will be no search extension without good reason, ie good prospects that it will result in a find. To do that they will need to be convinced by their advisers (and possibly under public or even ICAO pressure) that they have weighed up the evidence, agreed priorities and agree that prospects are good.

    I imagine the lead there would be the ATSB, being responsible for the search. This would all have to be done in time for there to be no break if there are not to be the added costs and public opprobrium of a break. I do not think that settling priorities and establishing a new search area, with cost and potential outcomes depending on size, will be easy or quick.

    A quick opinion to go to the south west say would not be convincing enough without a rationale together with an analysis which demonstrates the proposal to be a detached assessment of the various options.

    The hard part right now is to get that started. It seems there is not the will for it. So it might need to await public pressure, which might well arrive late. In which case there will be a break, at least, bearing in mind the time needed for this assessment and contracting.

    While the ATSB says that it remains confident the current search will be successful there is little immediate incentive to get such a plan B review started. Nevertheless it is now up to the three governments to order up a plan B for the event the current search does fail while hoping that it proves unnecessary. This would seem to depend on public pressure in China and Malaysia principally, they having the bulk of the passengers.

    Right now the priority is getting an assessment process started.

  6. @Jeff , specifically – (@all generally).
    Sorry to drop this in, but I believe it clears up a minor point.
    Jeff, at (your article) webpage;
    which drew me to this site, and is probably a stopping point
    for most interested people, this picture of the unidentified
    object stated to have been found in the Maldives;
    I believe it is probably part of a ‘Sea Anchor’ (aka ‘Sea Drogue’/’Drift Anchor’). Here is a picture of one deployed;
    In the above picture, if you envision (in laymens terms)
    the ‘parachute lines’ connecting to the smaller projections
    on the orb, and from the central projection a stronger line
    going to the centre of the ‘parachute’ and/or through the
    centre of the ‘parachute’ to a float on the sea surface…
    the assumption being that this sea anchor has had all its
    lines ripped away & the orb drifted away or was discarded.
    (Alternatively, orb could fulfil a similar function as
    part of a ‘parachute’ type fishnet, or as part of a train
    of several ‘parachute’ type fishnets).
    More likely explanation than it supposedly being a plane
    fire bottle 😉 Cheers, and now sorry for the interuption
    & please return to your ongoing discussion…

  7. “I would like to assure the loved ones of those on board the aircraft, and the wider travelling community, that the examination will be thorough and undertaken by an experienced international investigation team.”

    A declaration that the results of the examination will be announced without delay is ostensibly missing.

  8. @David

    I agree wholeheartedly with what you say.

    A good starting point would be to get them to search downrange of the DSTG Bayesian hotspot, confining it to between longitude E87.5 and E89.5, and continuing south until they find it, because that’s where it has to be, I’m not trying here to be disruptive or controversial, just practical.
    I have been lobbying the ATSB for longer than I care to remember to go downrange of the autopilot region, copying in the Malaysians, the NTSB, AAIB, the ICAO, and anybody else I think could influence decisions.
    It’s the only way we are going to stand a chance inmho.

  9. @Jeffwise said,
    “I’d be curious to hear your speculations about why the ATSB singled out
    Geoscience Australia and the Australian National University”…
    Actually, it was a Minister (politican, probably upon briefing
    by ATSB officials) – ATSB is within that Ministers ‘portfolio
    of responsibility’.
    Per the ATSB website, “The ATSB’s staff”…”Most are based in
    Canberra. Field offices are located in Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth.”
    So its natural Geoscience Australia and ANU, being also in
    Canberra (closest), might be first to initially be asked to
    examine items (rather than flying items to other facilities
    in the {large} country). ANU has a good reputation in ‘hard
    materials’ Science.
    Really, it’s just a politican issuing a press release on a matter
    of general interest to the world (and perhaps getting his name &
    picture mentioned in the national media…)

  10. @David

    It’s the significant new evidence hurdle that has to be got over.

    The parts recovered so far point to a controlled ditching, that’s clear to me, If not to everybody else, but will it influence the people who make the decisions? That is the question. So much time has been wasted already. Another thing,will the wishes of the NOK ever get a fair hearing? The way the Chinese have treated angry and distressed relatives makes one wonder.

  11. @Jeff
    Thanks for the clarification! That’s most likely what she meant in the interview too.
    I didn’t know that the French had appointed marine biologists to analyse the flaperon.
    Are their names in the public domain?

  12. @Jeff
    Despite being inland, the Australian National University (ANU) does have some marine biology courses including a major in Marine Science. Also courses in the usual range of physical sciences etc. that a major university offers. Geoscience Australia lists Biological Sampling amongst many things they do
    Both ANU and Geoscience Australia are in Canberra and no doubt both employ experts in many fields appropriate to the analysis of the items found in Mozambique.

  13. Well, Yeees…AM2, although I took the ANU’s involvement to be more useful
    for say, estimation of Impact Forces on a material, estimation of Length of
    time that a corrosion process may have taken, things like that (although
    I am not suggesting they are actually doing that, but ANU would be useful
    to get an ‘informed opinion’ on those types of things, if you wanted an
    initial impression). ANU, from the web, also have a well equipped Microscopy

  14. And the above in regards to GA and ANU would be my wrap up too. Whilst they may not be the best in the field for aircraft debris analysis (GA + ANU), they have the skill set to answer any questions that may crop up in the course of the investigation of those pieces, namely material science and the wealth of services GA provides. I wouldn’t mind betting they have a hand in drift analysis too. They are a multi faceted organisation, bathy survey would only be the tip of the iceberg for them.

    @ Rob, Its a few pages back now, but seeing I’m posting……I don’t think you will find many that question the validity that the flaperon belongs to 9m-mro, even without official reports being available. How it got there and how it detached is another matter. Good luck if you ever have to eat my hat, but watch those corks, they are hard to swallow 🙂

  15. Jeff – mining is a big part of the Australian economy and Uni’s are pumping out graduates to suit. Metallurgy, geophysics etc. These courses would be as good as any in the world. The mining industry here is full of people from all over the world. The existence of Geoscience Australia sort of underlines how big it is for us. Once you know the properties of the Aluminium used you should know how it will appear after two years in the sea? I assume the honeycomb is going to get a good going over? As far as Marine life goes – what’s to study?

  16. @Aussies, Thanks for your input. I guess what I was wondering was if there were specific individuals who might bring to bear some specialized knowledge of marine fouling–it being a relatively specialized and arcane field in which a handful of people, including some Australians, could bring an unsual degree of insight to these pieces if brought in. I imagine there are also researchers with specialized knowledge of how different substances degrade in seawater.

    Even though there doesn’t seem to be much marine fouling on the Mozambique pieces, there may be, for instance, rings of “glue” left behind by detached barnacles and whatnot that could tell us something.

  17. @Sharkcarver

    Thank you for warning me about the corks, but I don’t think I have anything to worry about on that score either. ☺

  18. @Matty: You are projecting again. Take another gander at the photos at the top of this page of the NO STEP object: there are 3 basic zones: (1) where the honeycomb is more or less intact; (2) a shredded zone; (3) a zone where the honeycomb is missing altogether. Note that the honeycomb walls in the intact section (1) are apparently thicker than the walls in the shredded zone; note also how the shredded zone gets progressively more degraded until its gone altogether. How is this incompatible with a long period at sea? If seawater corrosion is such a powerful force, then we shouldn’t be surprised that part of it is gone altogether. If there was sea life, it would have been first attached to the missing part. Now that its substrate is gone, the sea life is gone as well. If you think it was sand abrasion that took out the honeycomb, then why are you surprised that the sea life is gone as well?

    What it looks like to me is that the skin has progressively become peeled back over time. It looks to me that it has been extensively worked over by the marine environment.

    Also, if I want to understand the effects of sand abrasion on artificial objects, I’ll take the advice of an oceanographer over a marine biologist any day. It is not a problem of biology.

  19. ALSM,

    Your plot/data shows vertical velocity component of ~20,000 fpm (= ~100 m/s or 200 kts). The total speed is 500 knots. Before flameout of the second engine the horizontal speed was around 200 knots (between the 7th and 8th minutes). Why does the total speed on the impact exceed sqrt(200^2+200^2)=280 knots? The value of 280 knots is actually consistent with the third last point in your plot. The second last point is also “not far”.

    Do you have more frequent samplings to undestand the reason for 500 knots?

    Btw, my simplified estimation of the nose-down terminal velocity is roughly 100 m/s, which is consistent with yours 20,000 fpm.

  20. @SK999

    Good catch on Hirohito’s marine biology background. Likewise with the Bowditch and CI connection you made earlier. I do appreciate comments from someone with a “classical” education. It is a refreshing departure from the posts of other IG’ers who are mostly in the “propeller head” category.

  21. I went through the link with the album of photos of tsunami debris that washed up in Hawaii. I scored the high-res photos as to the presence or absence of macroscopic marine life (things like barnacles, mussels, bryozoans, and sponges). I further broke down the objects by presence or absence of “kanji” characters. There were some items that might have had Japanese company names written in English–these I added to the non-kanji category, unless there was a boat whose owner in Japan was independently confirmed. I scored 56 objects altogether. There were many more low-res: some of them were obvious that either had marine life or not, others less so. Consequently, I did not bother to score many of the low-res photos. But it doesn’t matter because there is a clear pattern–or rather lack of a clear-cut pattern.

    Here is the breakdown:

    Marine life yes; kanji yes: 13 objects
    Marine life yes; kanji no: 14 objects
    Marine life no; kanji yes: 13 objects
    Marine life no; kanji no: 16 objects

    I didn’t do a fancy ANOVA or t-test on these, but it’s clear nonetheless that there is not an obvious pattern where flotsam and jetsam that have been at sea for a long time must necessarily be encrusted with obvious, macroscopic sea creatures. This does not entail that such objects never had encrustations of marine life; merely that for whatever reason either the marine life never got started, or was subsequently removed due to various biological and oceanographic processes.

    Therefore, it is not at all surprising that the a couple of the MH370 objects appear to be “surprisingly” clean, especially considering that they were found in a beach environment after an unknown period of time where they were getting pounded by surf and abraded by sand–not to mention the fact that the objects were washed off by their finders.

    Bottom line: worries about the supposed cleanliness of the Mozambique objects are unwarranted IMHO.


  22. And hopefully, if there are any other interested South Afrikaans
    reading this, in South Africa or nearby coastal countries, before
    the last best days of summer weather ease off, how about taking a
    trip to the beach, and if you find anything near or in the sea that
    is big, white, and doesn’t try to eat you, look CLOSER – it might
    be a piece of MH370. Cheers

  23. @Warren P

    Interesting. Another factor is where the marine life (on the objects that had marine life) originated. The biggest concern regarding the tsunami debris (as I understand it) are the bio-vector implications – that is the transport of creatures not indigenous to the area where the debris is carried. There is no concern relative to pelagic colonization , but rather coastal organisms that were already on the objects when they left the tsunami zone.

    Sorry to take a long time to say that even pieces with marine life in your survey could have been colonized before they left Japanese coastal water. Only pelagic bio-fouling should be considered.

  24. @middleton

    “the crew O2 bottles (15 bottles, for 12 crew, capable of 100%,) perhaps might each last an hour (?) at 100% and gentle activity.”

    The oxygen bottles had the same capacity as the ones on Helios 522. According to the final report, they had a duration of 2 hours 35 minutes each on a 2-liter setting. If the bottles on MH370 were switched to 1-liter, twice as long.

    The ATSB has also refuted claims MH370 climbed to >FL300. In fact, radar data suggest it descended to c. FL300 after IGARI.

  25. @ Dennis W: Right. I forgot to mention that I did exclude from the survey all wooden timbers, as these probably were parts of old docks. There were several boats, however. These seemed to usually have visible biofouling, but as you note, there’s no telling if the stuff was on there even before the tsunami. So if anything, my survey probably overestimates the rate of biofouling for found objects on the beach.

    I mentioned once before that I spent a summer on Ushagat Island in Alaska, which was instructive in that it is normally uninhabited and special permission is supposedly required to set foot on the place. Since it was uninhabited, the beaches were loaded with all kinds of stuff, a lot with the oriental markings. But since the objects had lain on the beach for quite a while, there was not a lot of marine life encrustations to be found on the flotsam and jetsam.

  26. If this plane went South, I’ll kiss a baboons red ass. There’s no way the capt. took this plane on a suicide mission. He doesnt fit the profile for that. He liked to show the world how smart he was. If he lost money on stocks, what better way to recoup that money than to steal a plane, head North, sell that sucker to the highest bidder, and prove to the world just how slick you really are. I never bought the suicide scenario. Not for one second. And I sure as hell dont buy into the bits and pieces showing up after 2yrs at sea.

  27. @ROB – Could you explain how the damage to the flaperon points to a controlled ditching? In a ditching, the engine would hit the water first, correct? Where does it go? It doesn’t look like it hit the flaperon. Did the engine pass under it or did the engine fly up and over the wing? What happened next? In a ditching I suspect the trailing portion would be bent upwards and then the entire flaperon is torn from the plane.
    The bottom of the trailing portion looks like it came off in pretty much a straight line. I would expect this to be caused by the trailing edge being bent up and down repeatedly and breaking like a wire coat hanger.
    As I have said before a whole new set of people joined this group, the impact of the plane at high speed is extremely violent. Based on pictures of the damage to SilkAir 185 I would not expect to see many pieces any larger than the “NO STEP” piece. The engines and landing gear would not have remained intact. Perhaps ALSM nailed it, even these parts were too small to be found by the sonar? Life jackets were likely shredded as to be unrecognizable. I doubt that anyone finding a 5cm x 5cm piece of orange nylon material on the beach would say, “Oh look, a piece of MH370.”
    In SilkAir 185 no human bodies were found intact. Large pieces such as the flaperon likely detached prior to impact just like the damage to China Airlines 006 and the large pieces of SilkAir 185.

  28. @Anyone

    Feel free to check my figures, and demolish them if you feel the need, but please don’t ask me how I arrived at the average values of windspeeds and temps given below. My crystal balls and coconuts are closely guarded intellectual property. I won’t mind if you shoot me down in flames.

    I think he would have wanted to fly a constant Mach intervention speed on the FMC to best control the time of arrival and ensure the right lighting conditions, so what would be the point of flying ECON or LRC mode?

    When you look at the IGOGU/ISBIX/7th Arc geodesic candidate path, you find the
    average airspeed over the distance is almost exactly Mach 0.81 if you take the time at mid FMT as 18:37 UTC, time averaged headwind as 2Kts, and Mach 1 as 590.13Kts average over the distance. Initial azimuth outbound from IGOGU 185.977, final azimuth at 7th arc 187.479, crossing 7th arc at S37.62, E89.08.

    So my point here is what other autopilot path be it geodesic or constant track, has a constant airspeed like this one does after taking winds into account? And what are the odds of this being just a coincidence?

    When you work out the average airspeed for each leg, you find little variation from the M0.81 average, The Mach numbers give the impression of being very precise, but the fact is their accuracy depends to a large extent on the accuracy of the windspeed and ambient air temperature values used in the Mach calculations (taken from global map of windspeeds and temperatures, as found on Duncan Steel’s MH370 site)

    The airspeed calculations use the estimated average ambient air temperature applicable to each leg. Even taking this into account, the Mach numbers still appear remarkably uniform. In fact, you only have to adjust the estimated windspeed for each leg very slightly to make each Mach number a precise 0.81, suggesting that the pilot flew a constant Mach 0.81 for the entire journey south.

    IGOGU to 2nd arc: 511Nm, 479Kts ave. groundspeed, 3Kts ave. tailwind: Mach 0.804. (Mach 1=592Kts) 2nd arc crossing point S1.00, E93.53.

    2nd arc to 3rd arc: 478.7Nm, 478.7Kts ave. groundspeed, 4Kts ave. tailwind: Mach 0.802. (Mach 1=592Kts)

    3rd arc to 4th arc: 488.6Nm, 485.6Kts ave. groundspeed, 3Kts ave. tailwind: Mach 0.815. (Mach 1=592Kts)

    4th arc to 5th arc: 480Nm, 479.6Kts ave. groundspeed, 1.5Kts ave. headwind: Mach 0.813. (Mach 1=592Kts)

    5th arc to 6th arc: 692.2Nm, 461.5Kts ave. groundspeed, 10Kts ave. headwind: Mach 0.804. (Mach 1=586.5Kts ave.)

    6th arc to 7th arc: 61.5Nm, 434Kts ave. groundspeed, 33Kts ave. headwind: Mach 0.804. (Mach1=581Kts)

  29. @ROB:

    “please don’t ask me how I arrived at the average values of windspeeds and temps given below”

    In ancient times people believed that the gods controlled the weather. You seem to have placed yourself in that role.

  30. ROB,

    Life is short as you said. Just courious: why do you need to waste energy and time to repeat these calcs if they have been done already and checked, and refined many times? Just read Duncan’s and Jeff’s blogs, as well as ATSB. Mach and air speed modes were discussed thousands times. I would only be interested to know if you used hindcast (e.g. GDAS, ECMWF) or real measurements such as sat NOAA data, but as you mentioned it is your intellectual property, so I will not ask.

    Sorry, but I think you would better suggest something new with regard to the mysterious SDU reboot or IFE silence after 18:25, or similar unexplained puzzles.

  31. Rob’s candidate flight path sounds like it follows an established air route south from the FMT at IGOGU for a few waypoints…

    and is consistent with the speculated constant Mach AP thrust setting hypothesized in the “how fast was MH370 moving” thread…

    and, also, if then you choose to extend Rob’s track past the 7th ping ring, by about 750km to the vague vicinity of 86E 45S, then it lands in the middle of the vast, if alleged, debris field sighted by Chinese, French, & Thai satellites, in mid-late March of 2014 near 90E44S, adjusted in turn about 500km westwards, on account of SIO ‘gyre’ circulation currents.

    Of course, those debris fields are problematically far from the 7th ping ring… is there anyway that a “struggling survivors” scenario could account for that… say, survivors band together, and somehow manage to “MacGyver” the a/c, jury-rigging things to stay aloft, while somebody tries to get some means of com back online ?? Copilot cellphone call at Penang is proof of some surviving life, trying to stay alive ???

  32. what if survivors started trying to put pieces back together, and circuit breakers back in… could survivors inexpertly attempting to restore the E/E bay have inadvertently triggered a reboot of the SDU ?

  33. @Gysbreght

    I don’t exactly follow. My remarks were in no way intended to suggest omnipotence. Just do your own calcs, and see if you get the same results as me. If you do, then wr can both apply for beatification. If not, then its back to the drawing board.

  34. @all

    It does not make one damned bit of sense to go to all the trouble of shutting off all those systems, just to commit hari kari. Systems on or off, you’re still going to put it in the drink and there’s nothing anyone can do about it. On the other hand, shutting off all those systems makes a whole hell of a lotta sense if you’re trying to head North and evade/confuse ATC radar. Nice work on all the fancy math folks, but I think you may be trying to pick gnats out of fly shit at this point.

  35. @Lauren

    I cannot tell you where the right hand engine went, it could have stayed on the wing. All I can be sure of is that it didn’t hit the flaperon. If it had, the flaperon would have been too damaged to float across to Reunion. The angle of attack would probably have been 5 and 10 deg, the tail might have first, closely followed by the engines.
    The flaperon has composite upper an lower skin panels, unlike aluminium, composite does not bend, it shatters under extreme load, just as seen in the photos. It is not a straight line either, but the line curves inwards slightly, the mid point being more vulnerable than the inboard,outboard edges.

    The damage is consistent with a controlled ditching. The lower lower edges of both inboard and outboard sides are mire damaged than their upper edges, suggesting the force acted from below, just as you would expect in a ditching.

  36. @Tex

    Your’e missing the point. He wasn’t just trying to commit Hari Kari. If that was the case, he would have nosed it in minutes after takeoff. Watch my lips HE WANTED TO MAKE THE PLANE DISAPPEAR!

    The plane went SOUTH, yes that’s what I said, SOUTH. The Inmarsat boys have proved that to everybody’s satisfaction.

    He made a very good job of it too. They’re still searching after 2 years

  37. @Lauren

    Apologies for the typos in my last piece to you, but I think you get the gist.

    If the plane hat hit at high speed, we would have a lot more than just a flaperon, flap fairing and stabilizer piece to examine.

    Sorry, the high speed, uncontrolled impact theory is a non-runner.

  38. @ROB, I feel that you are missing the point in a couple of ways. First, typing in all caps does not make your argument more persuasive (nor, for that matter, does quoting George HW Bush.) Second, “The Inmarsat boys have proven that to everybody’s satisfaction” — you’ve got the wrong crowd. Finally, you’ve been spending quite a lot of time in your recent comments trying to analyze what the damage to the debris tells us about how the airplane hit the ocean, but the big (if perhaps not underscored) point of the lack of marine growth is that it suggests that the plane did not impact the ocean at all. If you disagree with that conclusion, that’s fine, you’re not alone; hopefully we’ll be getting some kind of ruling from the Australian experts soon. But it is silly to squabble over such arguments now, and here.

  39. The Inmarsat boys are just covering their asses. Their livelihood depends on this bogus data they’re serving up cold, and they know it. But certainly they wouldn’t lie.

  40. @Oleksandr

    Oleksandr: Words fail me. You havn’t been paying attention have you. I have already given my views on the 18:25 re-boot, the 00:19 reboot, and just about everything in between.

    Erik: thank you for you comments, but please be careful about bringing up the subject of passengers survivability. It’s a taboo subject, as I found to my cost.

  41. @Jeff

    Thank you. I will take a deep breath, a step backwards, and take a break. A very emotive subject. It was George Bush Senior wasn’t it.
    It’s a good line.

  42. @rob

    ”Words fail me. You havn’t been paying attention have you. I have already given my views on the 18:25 re-boot, the 00:19 reboot, and just about everything in between.”

    I missed that. Can you provide a link ?

  43. @ROB&Tex&others

    remember we don’t know if he/they succeeded in whatever they planned, you always have to take that into account

    hijackings actually have around 1/2 failing rate, I can’t understand why people are so firm on “successful mission to hide the plane” when we don’t even know if it was the plan

  44. @Jeffwise

    ” but the big (if perhaps not underscored) point of the lack of marine growth is that it suggests that the plane did not impact the ocean at all”

    Oh come on, you know very well that the plane ended somewhere south of the equator OVER THE OCEAN. All the recovered debris so far confirms a Southern crash 100%.

  45. Jeff – I think they will deal with the biology issue. There has been enough noise by now to almost make sure of it. I suspect there is a widening circle who come here.

    Warren – I doubt that “sand-blasting” has ever been seriously put forward before this, there was no need? Did you find anything out there? Items need a certain amount of stability to have barnacles. All these questions are going to get dealt with I’d say. To me, if the M-B’s are shaking their heads the debris doesn’t go in the bank just yet.

    sk999 – Hirohito an M-B?? Pity he didn’t stick to sushi…..

    My Uncle Les(Royal Australian Navy) was close by the Missouri when he walked on to sign off on WW2. He says he got a decent view of it.

  46. @ Matty – “……and thus concludes these proceedings…” was he close enough to hear that….wow…God bless the man…my dad was pilot in the other ocean..( south Atlantic..B 25 )…G

  47. Ir1907

    Slight exaggeration perhaps. It’s buried somewhere in Jeff’s previous blog “Debris Field” and I can’t for the life of me find it now. It’ very late.

    I’ll do you a resume tomorrow, my take on the 18:25 and 00:19 log-on’s.

  48. @Matty – My step-father was on the Missouri and witnessed the signing. He died in 1975 so I can’t ask any questions.

    @ROB – If the engine stayed on the wing, the water would have been diverted away from and around the flaperon. If the engine came of before hitting the water, then I could imagine the flaperon damage happening during a ditching. But if the engine was intact during a spiral dive, the blades would have separated from the disc.

    @Oleksandr – The SilkAir 185 crash report suspects the a/c went supersonic moments before impact.

  49. I haven,t read all the posts yet, but I’m working on it. Really great discussion. I’ll just throw in one thought that has probably been stated: the “clean” parts could have been part of a larger assembly. The heavy end below water, but part of it sticking above water, and remaining clean of biofouling. When the assembly reached shallower water, the top part broke off (hitting rock?) and the heavier part sank. Then the clean parts quickly reached the shore.

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