Flydubai 981: What Really Happened?

FZ981 Final Alt w desc sm

After a Boeing 737 operating as Flydubai Flight 981 crashed in the Russian city of Rostov-on-Don Saturday, preliminary accounts suggested that the plane had clipped a wing or struck the ground with its tail while attempting to land in stormy weather. Indeed, in a story published later that day, quoted Rostov region governor Vasily Golubev as saying, “The plane was descending and then suddenly dived down. Experts say this was an air pocket that dragged the plane to the left of the runway center. And the plane debris were scattered to the left as well.” Obviously, there is no such thing as an “air pocket.” But it makes intuitive sense that a plane attempting to land in high, gusty winds might succumb to shear at low altitude and low airspeed as it nears touchdown. But this, it appears, is not what happened at all. Frequent contributor Victor Iannello has created a graphic based on ADS-B data transmitted by the plane during its final moments. What it shows is that the plane had descended to land, then aborted the landing and climbed, accelerating as it went. It had already gained 3000 feet altitude and reached a speed of 200 knots when it suddenly plummeted from the sky. Here’s the data in graph form:

FZ981 Final Alt sm This security-camera footage offers a visual sense of what happened:

What happened? Authorities on the scene have found the black boxes and hopefully will have answers soon. For the time being, some have speculated that the plane encountered severe windshear or a microburst, causing it to stall and plummet. But the plane’s descent was nose-down at high speed, so the pilot should have been able to at least attempt to pull up. Personally, I’m reminded of AA587, which crashed in 2001 on takeoff from Long Island after the pilot flying applied to much rudder after encountering wake turbulence from the plane ahead of him on climbout, causing the vertical stabilizer to rip off; the plane dived nearly vertically into the ground. If something similar happened here, parts of the tail should be found at some distance from the main wreckage. Another case that may offer parallels was Kenya Airways Flight 507, which crashed in 2007 while on climbout in bad weather. The pilot lost situational awareness while the autopilot was only partially engaged, the plane entered into an increasingly steep bank, and plunged into the ground. What’s different in the present case is that the plane impacted right on the runway it had been trying to climb away from, implying that it stayed on the same heading the whole time. (That is to say, it hadn’t gone into a roll.) Another unusual aspect of the case was the fact that the pilots had been holding for two hours before making a second landing attempt. I asked Phil Derner, an aircraft dispatcher and aviation expert, for his take. He replied:

For me, as a dispatcher, 1 hour is my max to let an aircraft of mine hold. It’s just a waste of gas; might as well divert and wait for conditions to improve. Shit, even fitting an additional 2 hours of holding fuel to a flight is tough as it is, and then to burn it away in a hold? Also, I only let my flights sit in a holding pattern if I think they WILL get it. If conditions don’t look to be improving right away, I won’t even have them hold…I divert and would rather have them wait it out on the ground. It saves gas, and is safer on the ground. But then again, I don’t know all of the conditions they were facing, what conditions were at their alternate airports, etc. There are so many variables and we just don’t have a lot of info, so it’s tough to determine or judge. But 2 hours….damn.

Meanwhile, on an unrelated topic, I might as well put up a picture of the latest piece of aircraft debris, this one found on a beach in South Africa. Not many details forthcoming yet, but it’s worth noting that MH370 was equipped with two Rolls-Royce Trent 800 engines. South Africa debris

South Africa debris 2

A quick glance at there not-very-high-res images suggests that the piece is roughly similar in appearance to the two pieces recently found in Mozambique, though perhaps somewhat more discolored/weathered. Apparently the piece is on its way to Malaysia.

UPDATE: Here’s another picture that @Susie provided a link to in the comments section:

South Africa debris 3

717 thoughts on “Flydubai 981: What Really Happened?”

  1. As per: Hishammudin said in an interview that what happened was so terryfing that it must never be revealed to the public.

    Possibly that was in reference to any possible payment requests by hijackers on Rabjik’s funds.

  2. @MH

    That is an interest motive (Najib’s money) to contemplate. I had not considered that angle at all.

  3. @DL

    “Maybe crew and passengers revolted and the Final Major Turn was the result of a struggle. No pilot, official or highjacker pilot, survived the struggle and the plane flew south.”

    A scenario I could imagine is passengers or crew trying to break down the wall to the cockpit (rather than the security door), thereby damaging the fuselage, resulting in pressure loss. Perhaps the left AC bus was switched on to restore power to the cockpit surveillance cam. Not sure if the turn south was unintentional in that case though. The aircraft may have continued to fly to ISBIX and then on on autopilot mode (rather than to some landing site).

    “Or the plane was shot down and it’s a cover up.”

    Could the alleged sighting by Kate Tee have some relevance to this scenario?

    I could imagine a warning shot gone wrong, perhaps damage to a cockpit window.

    “I remember that Hishammudin said in an interview that what happened was so terryfing that it must never be revealed to the public.”

    Could it be this article?

  4. @M Pat,
    Jeff already dissected your requirements and hurdles for planters extensively. Just a few additional thoughts. Let’s suppose for a moment that we’re looking at plants: why so late and why nothing in Australia? That could have several fairly simple reasons. Maybe the perps thought they wouldn’t even need to plant debris and this missing-plane business would blow over after a few months of fruitless search. Everybody would go home and forget about it. The constant complaint “No debris” which gathered considerable steam last year might well have conjured those four (!) measly pieces. But when it was decided to give us a few pieces it was too late to plant them in Australia. Also, more elapsed time between crash time and debris discovery means that drift modelling becomes less exact and randomness becomes more of a factor than early on. Which can only be advantageous for our hypothetical planters since it’s almost impossible to deduce by those four pieces where in the IO the plane supposedly crashed. It’s still as vague as always. Now to the biofouling and logistics: Jeff pointed out already that three of the four pieces had carrying-bag size. Transportation and planting wouldn’t have been a big problem. The perps could’ve almost sent the pieces by mail, lol! Only the flaperon was different. It’s preparation should have taken some time and wasn’t quite trivial. But there’s nothing which couldn’t have been done on a fishing boat which often cruises for any length of time on the open ocean and could’ve also brought the flaperon to La Reunion. But it’s true indeed that this would’ve been a more elaborate operation. And maybe that’s the very simple explanation why the new debris doesn’t sport any barnacles and only very little biofouling. Maybe the preparation was too lengthy and elaborate and distribution wasn’t as straightforward as with the smaller pieces. The perps figured that one barnacled piece which was confirmed to be from 9M-MRO would be quite enough for the majority of the audience who would only be too willing to accept thereafter any debris from a B777 as authentic flotsam from the plane’s crash site somewhere in the IO – no matter how obscure the circumstances surrounding the discovery were and how implausible the lack of visible biofouling was. Planting is for most people unthinkable and a no-go area. Our perps might’ve been right.
    You raise many valid points in connection with planting. But it was probably not nearly as difficult as you make it out.
    The only thing which puzzles me a bit is why our hypothetical planters felt that we even needed more debris. Come July the search will get wrapped up and everybody involved will try to exit as gracefully as possible. Why even bother with new debris and not wait ’til July? I have no good answers to that question. Brock speculated that the new debris could’ve been only a prelude and more substantial wreckage may be found in the near future. I don’t know. I guess, time will tell.
    And I was talking only about hypothetical planters anyway 😉

  5. @MH, where and when did Hishamuddin say mh370’s fate was so terrifying that it must never be publicly revealed? I’ve never heard that. If true it would imply that he knew what happened to the plane. Not that I would categorically exclude this possibility…
    @Dennis, however Najib’s stolen riches might figure in to this mystery, the Malaysian government was certainly in a ripe shape for being blackmailed into some kind of complicitship if that was desired by the perps.

  6. @DL

    “I remember that Hishammudin said in an interview that what happened was so terryfing that it must never be revealed to the public”


  7. @DennisW – I’ve read (but have no proof) that 1MDB is $12 billion (USD) in debt. Prime Minister Najib is 1MDB’s advisory board chairman. Accusations that about the equivalent of $700 million (USD) have been funneled from 1MDB into Najib’s personal bank account. Rumors are that MH370 has a $2.25 billion (USD) insurance coverage over and above the hull loss policy.

    Could a motive be somewhere in this? I think it’s more probable than making a political statement.

  8. @DL

    “Maybe crew and passengers revolted and the Final Major Turn was the result of a struggle. No pilot, official or highjacker pilot, survived the struggle and the plane flew south.”

    A scenario I could imagine is passengers or crew trying to break down the wall to the cockpit (rather than the security door), thereby damaging the fuselage, resulting in pressure loss. Perhaps the left AC bus was switched on to restore power to the cockpit surveillance cam. Not sure if the turn south was unintentional in that case though. The aircraft may have continued to fly to ISBIX and then on on autopilot mode (rather than to some landing site).

    “I remember that Hishammudin said in an interview that what happened was so terryfing that it must never be revealed to the public.”

    Could it be this article? (although he is not actually saying this)

  9. @Nederland
    Posted April 1, 2016 at 11:01 AM

    May I bring to your attention an article by Reuters:

    Thank you very much for this nice link. It basically supports my POV, here is the short timeline from this link:

    *ATC lost radar contact at 1:21 (all times local)
    *MH370 passes Penang at 01:52
    *ATC informs military at 2:00
    *Military checks radar (tapes and life)
    *Military looses contact at 02:22 after Mekar

    ATC saw no reason to inform the military for 39 minutes after the transponder and communication ceased. When the military was informed, they most probably replayed the last 30 minutes and detected an aircraft that had headed inbound Penang. Together with ATC they came to the conclusion, that the aircraft was in distress and would land soon. At that moment they still could not know, where the actual position of MH370 was. It is unclear, wether the last radar contact at Mekar was a life observation or also replay. I would guess the later.

    I bet, if Hishammuddin Hussein, Malaysia’s defence minister would not also have been the actingacting transport minister and thus responsible for the military, for ATC and for Malaysia airlines, we would have seen some fight and blackmailing between those groups. But in that case it was better to say nothing.

    INteresting also this bit of information:

    “Malaysia’s opposition coalition has demanded a parliamentary inquiry into what happened on the ground in those first few hours. Government officials have said any formal inquiry should not begin until the flight’s black box recorders are found”.

    So we will have to wait….. how long?

  10. @Oleksandr

    Oleksandr, if you’re there, I’m really sorry if I hurt your feelings. I was a git for over-reacting like that

  11. @Lauren @MH

    I simply overlooked Najib’s access to cash. Yes, I think several hundred million would be a strong motive.

  12. @littlefoot @Nederland @Trond

    Like I said, I can’t find the article with the interview anymore, but I remember he was quoted saying something along these lines.

  13. @RetiredF4

    You’re welcome.

    I’m not sure about the chain of command within the ATC. The FI, however, makes it clear that the ATC supervisor was working on the assumption that MAS was able to track MH370 and that it was apparently en route, although in Cambodian airspace. I would guess that the ATC supervisor was somehow involved in communicating the loss of contact, though. In that case there was apparently a great deal of confusion. Was it tracked by the military overflying Penang or by MAS in Cambodian airspace?

    The photograph taken in the Lido hotel showing radar blips and time stamps west of Penang has this radar hole midway. Perhaps this was because the radar controllers switched from short to long range in order to track the aircraft? In this case, one could assume MH370 may have been tracked flying beyond Penang in real time, something that would normally be inconsistent with an attempted emergency landing. 4 Corners at least implied the military did track MH370 in real time, based on the Reuters article and their interview with Hishammuddin.

    I think you are right that it would perhaps not be necessary to recover the black boxes before the ATC response is investigated, if they are indeed recovered by this summer. But the FI is silent on the conversation between ATC and military. Anwar Ibrahim, however, said to 4 Corner that, while the scrambling of jets is standard operating procedure, “this was never done” and that “both the Minister of Defence and Minister for Transport have just completely ignored this.” There were also calls for resignation with regard to military commanders.

    Anyway, I’m still baffled by the fact that MH370 returned to the Malaysian Peninsula in case that this was a hijacking. Richard Quest, for example, recently argued against the suicide theory because he finds it unlikely that a suicidal pilot or hijacker would have anticipated the lack of military response on this route. He would probably not have anticipated that it took 5 hours and 13 minutes after loss of contact for the distress phase to be disseminated via the AFTN network either. (FI, 100) As far as I’m aware, there was no previous communication of any alert phase before that time either.

    One would surely think, that answers to these questions should be provided to the general public in a timely manner.

  14. @RetiredF4, those early Reuters articles are very interesting, especially those by Siva Ghovindasamy, with whom Jeff was in contact at some point. The problem is that they are only of limited usefulness because a lot of those early statements have been retracted or contradicted later and aren’t compatible anymore with the FI document.
    That said: I find it very interesting and a good exercise to re-read the early reporting and statements before everything was trimmed down, coordinated and streamlined. There may well be a lot of truth in the early reportings. But it can’t be used as an official argument.

  15. Jeff,

    Re: “I’d be curious to know how people feel about the very small amount of marine life founding growing on the Mozambique debris. Could this suggest that the debris didn’t drift across the Indian Ocean? That, ergo, the plane didn’t fly into the SIO?”

    I am with M Pat, Dennis and Lauren. The fragments were found where they were naturally supposed to be found. In fact, I would probably suspect something if all the fragments were covered with barnacles.

    So, strong “no” to planting: it was unnecessary, too risky, and required too much efforts.

  16. @Nederland

    Great points… unless they *knew* there would be no military response and that the DETRESFA would be delayed.

  17. Now this is interesting:

    CNN, March 9, 2016

    Malaysia says ISIS plot to kidnap Prime Minister was foiled

    “Malaysian authorities foiled an ISIS plot to kidnap Prime Minister Najib Razak, along with two other ranking officials, the country’s deputy prime minister told Parliament on Tuesday. The operation also uncovered plans to initiate multiple attacks in various parts of the country, including the capital, Kuala Lumpur, just over a year ago.”

  18. @Oleksandr, Why on earth would the expected quantity of marine fouling cause you to be *more* suspicious? Surely that doesn’t make any sense.

  19. @Phil

    I personally don’t find it impossible that MH370 intended to land on Cocos Island. Also, any map of the ping rings gives a good idea of how long it would take to get there. Just a thought.

  20. @Nederland, With regards to the initial response to MH370’s disappearance, I found this recent interview with an MAS OPS guy pretty amusing. Apparently they were totally on top of things! No mention of anyone sleeping at all…

    As for waiting for the black boxes to be found before investigating the ATC response, well, that’s just Malaysian for “never.”

  21. @DennisW
    I also never told that Najib wasnt lying. Only that he cant lie well… Or that he seemed to me as if he knows something, intentionally wants to disclose some hope feeling but doesnt want to tell everything, because, this is it, the search & rescue itself is the primary objective. Sure, foolsday today;
    (BTW Russians are probably somewhat upset, as they are missing at nuclear summit; too much, IMHO)

  22. Jeff, Yes I am aware of that interview too.

    Lots of contradictions in the various statements: the head of the post accident office says he was unable to track MH370 in their system, but the MAS controllers were able to do so, according to the FI. Elsewhere, the former CEO of MAS said that all executives that night thought MH370 was diverted, not crashed, and flew on for hours, but the FI says they were assuming it had never left KL airspace.

    The new transport minister said there will be an investigation if the ATC supervisor was indeed asleep. Surely, he must have been awake until the time when he was aware that the MAS tracking system was not reliable. It was only the second air traffic controller (who came in after 3 am), who figured their supervisor was asleep because they were not responding.

    So much confusion that night.

  23. @DL:

    “Like I said, I can’t find the article with the interview anymore, but I remember he was quoted saying something along these lines.”

    I also remember that. IIRC he said it on video in response to a question by journalists at one of the (then) regular press conferences. I mentioned it in my post back in January:

    My memory of his words:

    ‘Sometimes people do terrible things that the public must never be told about’.

    Very strange thing to say, and quite soon after the disappearance.

    What could possibly be so ‘terrible’ that the public must never be told?

    It would seem he’s also referring to some other (external) party – unlikely he’s referring to the Captain/Co-pilot since that possibility had already been aired widely at that time.

  24. @Middleton, if that are the exact words of Hishamuddin I’d hasard a guess and say he had something very simple in mind: he was implying that Shah had abducted the plane in order to kill himself and all the passengers along with him. That’s the terrible thing people do sometimes, and the tabu against suicide doesn’t allow to talk openly about something like this. The only remaining question: did Hishamuddin really know or at least believe this or was he trying to build up a convenient scapegoat?

  25. @LaurenH @DennisW

    There is strong temptation to make MH370 (accidentally) disappear given its resell value likely less than “Rumors are that MH370 has a $2.25 billion (USD) insurance coverage over and above the hull loss policy.”

    Especially it was stated MAS was downsizing their B777 Fleet.

  26. @littlefoot, I’d wonder if H2O was setting up the scapegoat on Shah if his wordings were meant to address the local cultural sensitivities….

  27. A new result:

    If 3,000 debris pieces (Richard Godfrey’s baseline estimate) were generated from a high-energy impact near the 7th Arc on March 8, 2014 between 34 and 37 degrees south latitude, the most pro-establishment theory-supporting of the 9 models I studied (IPRC’s) predicts some 5 to 10% – or 150 to 300 – pieces of debris hitting Australian shores.

    When IPRC cumulative probabilities are weighted by a distribution of buoyancies taken from the Breivik leeway study’s array of test objects, the best estimate number of debris pieces now on Australian shores is 217. The vast majority of which have been sitting there for well over a year, now.

    If their macro conclusions and graphical summaries are any indication, any of the other models which were equipped to quantify shoreline hits would have predicted more.

    I had a spiffy, 50-slide presentation in the works. It showed probabilities by specific shoreline segment, and will use both expert and crowdsourced estimates to translate this into exactly how improbable it is that Oz shores yielded, per expert consensus, ZERO confirmed MH370-related debris.

    But then I read somewhere that detail and momentum were inversely correlated, so I think I’ll stop at the 217 pieces expected on Oz shores, and just let that sink in.

  28. enjoy my quick&dirty lyrics transcript of piece above;
    take it easy as a break, I am shutting down myself, be sure

    ploting, scheming, ploting, scheming
    usual and unusual
    ploting, scheming, scheming, ploting
    perhaps scheming will be working
    we will plot
    as we the kings

    ploting, scheming, ploting, scheming
    correct ploting is mind-blowing
    ploting, scheming, scheming, ploting
    speculating, intricating
    isn’t nothing better
    than scheming neater

    searching convict, yeah, we know it
    and we will soon quickly stop it

    that’s incorrect, I must resist
    we silently will support it

    catching her in nets and webs
    ploting still our scheming here

  29. @Brock

    Yes, you are well tuned in to the detail vs momentum balance. A lot of people who teach “communications and story telling” like to use the example of the film “The Usual Suspects” where the master criminal Keyser Soze (the cripple) walks away at the end, and completely changes our perceptions of the events we had been viewing for the previous 90 minutes. It is often cited as the greatest plot twist in cinematic history.

    Having said all that, it would be cool if your last slide could turn things on their heads – a nice flow, a good balance of momentum and detail, and then boom – the climax.

    In any case, I am really looking forward to your presentation. I knew you had something in the works. I just did not want to bug you about it. Carry on.

  30. @Anybody

    Re the Lido radar plot: Any ideas why the radar hole looks as if it’s centered on VAMPI?

    It just seems strange to me, makes me think it was deliberately done, just so that it wouldn’t be so obvious he was using waypoints.

  31. DL – Interesting indeed. People forget that any Muslim govt outside of the IS model is a target and especially corrupt ones. Then it comes back to Hamid. Right age, profession, and appetite for young ladies.

    It also comes back to the reboot. To take data seriously you need to view that as incidental, while the loss of ACARS/Transponder are viewed as deliberate. And that due to some unknown sequence it became a ghost flight? No wonder the public stepped off ages ago. Just a thought to those investigating the decoy flight angle: A dedicated sigint plane would know exactly where radar coverage ended, and I keep going back to that Russian plane entering Syria as Swissair. Is the reboot incidental? In the context of the rest of it? This is where it gets way too hard for the MSM.

    Debris – all removable accessible items, all have identifiable writing on them somehow, all conveniently portable, some with no marine life at all(apparently). Some of these guys are MH370 geeks, some are related. Bit like the reboot, but as the saying goes, Apple carts need to stay steady.

    Brock – If the WA debris is in the hundreds then I’m even more comfortable than I was before – we never got any.

  32. @DL

    “Or the plane was shot down and it’s a cover up.”

    I could perhaps imagine a warning shot gone wrong while a rogue aircraft trespassed foreign airspace, perhaps a destroyed cockpit window and pressure loss scenario. A warning shot may be fired to the left side of the cockpit if communication (including visual) could not have been established satisactorily.

    Could there be any relevance attached to the alleged sighting of a number of aircrafts, perhaps some of them military, as reported by Kate Tee?

  33. @sk999 (, Richard)

    That’s a great animation, I think useful for more than just entertainment!
    Pity though the calculation stops at S30. Would be nice to see the whole range from say S15 to S40…

  34. @Littlefoot:

    “if that are the exact words of Hishamuddin I’d hasard a guess and say he had something very simple in mind: he was implying that Shah had abducted the plane in order to kill himself and all the passengers along with him.”

    Perhaps, but that scenario (one of the pilots did it) was already being hypothesised widely by the media at that time as one of the possibilities along with hijack, based on the radar plots seemingly showing an intentional diversion (without any attempt at comms or landing) and no wreckage having been found in the SCS or Straits of Malacca.

    Since the public was already aware of the possibility of that scenario, and that the pilots were to be investigated along with the cabin crew and passengers (ie that possibility wasn’t being hidden from the public), I would perhaps see his words more in the light of what the public (so far) does not know, and mustn’t be told. That would fit in more with the general obfuscation, witholding of data and other information, and the ‘sealing’ of ATC transcripts, CCTV recordings and radar data that might provide people with insight into what actually happened.

  35. Wow Mike! Awesome find!

    @ROB: How do you square this with controlled flight inputs theory?

  36. A side note on the Rodrigues debris…Blaine was there last August looking for MH370 debris. He searched the entire eastern shore, stopping just short of the place (on the south side) where the debris was found this week.

  37. I am not seeing any indication of being in the ocean for a time period of when MH370 went missing for this debris piece from Rodrigues…

  38. No sooner did we start talking about absence of internal debris, it shows up.

    North Koreans…From the Australian:

    North Korea forced aircraft and ships to return to port by jamming their navigation systems, hours after Barack Obama and world leaders resolved to increase pressure on the country.

    More than 150 flights and ships were affected by the blocking of GPS signals in the latest display of hi-tech warfare by the regime of Kim Jong Un.

    There were no reports of accidents caused by the incident, which came as North Korea fired a missile into the Sea of Japan, the latest in a series of test launches amid rising tensions.

    The incident followed a meeting between President Obama and the Chinese and South Korean presidents, Xi Jinping and Park Geun Hye, and the prime minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, in Washington. The leaders agreed to bring into full force new sanctions against North Korea agreed by the UN Security Council after the country’s nuclear and ballistic rocket tests earlier this year.

    South Korea warned of retaliation if future jamming caused physical damage. “North Korea is expected to continue to send GPS-jamming signals against South Korea for a while … if the North’s GPS jamming results in real damage to aircraft or ships, we will exact from the North the appropriate price,” said Moon Sang Gyun, of the South Korean defence ministry.

    North Korean hackers have already carried out several successful internet attacks on the South, one of the most internet-dependent societies in the world. According to defectors, the North’s plan for the conquest of the South begins with a series of cyberattacks intended to paralyse its enemy in advance of an air and ground assault. One attack would be directed at electricity infrastructure, another at South Korean and US weapons systems.

    In 2012 GPS navigation was jammed over Incheon airport in Seoul.

    “We are united in our efforts to deter and defend against North Korean provocations,” Mr Obama said. “We have to work together to meet this challenge.”

  39. @all: Re: Rodrigues object, I looked at the patterns in detail, and they are for sure an exact match, as you see in this colorized photo I made (the little arrows point to an easily recognizable kanji-like figure that repeats):

  40. Yes the patterns look alike but need to confirm if this pattern is only on MAS fleet or could it be on any airline fleet???

  41. @littlefoot

    there is no reason to believe he would sit there for hours, 7?, and waiting to die, and then decide to glide some to prolong his wish.

    the example warren came up with was someone who flew to an isolated place so he wouldnt kill anyone else before crashing the aeroplane.

    when it comes to peoples psyche there is no logic only propabilities according to what makes sense. the mh370 pilots showed no sign of mental issues, and it makes no sense to make a spectacular suicide. suicidal people wants to get their life over with.

  42. @Trond: Well, the interior bulkhead, and its relatively small size could possibly suggest a higher energy impact (could be controlled or uncontrolled). On the other hand, the find doesn’t change the fact that people haven’t found hundreds of debris objects, which is what drift models say should have been recovered, given a starting debris field of 3,000 objects. A controlled ditching that was botched a la ET961 resulting in the fuselage separating into two or more sections could possibly explain both the interior panel as well as overall dearth of debris.

    Here’s a gif file I made with the two photos overlaid that flickers back and forth that really shows the same pattern:

  43. Jeff,

    “Why on earth would the expected quantity of marine fouling cause you to be *more* suspicious?”

    Very simple. All fragments are of different size and buoyancy, and thus their paths are different. Hence they are subjected to different ambient conditions, including concentration of nutrients, temperatures, solar irradiation, etc. (btw, I guess availability of nutrients was one of the major factors in your tsunami study). In addition, all fragments include materials of different chemical composition. The whole process of biofouling is exponential, but somewhat random. Thus it is reasonable to expect different amounts of marine growth on different pieces. If it was similar, one could at least expect similar ambient conditions the fragments were subjected to. This would give a reason to speculate that all the pieces were “prepared” in a lab.

  44. @Trond, while I’m no advocate of the suicidal-pilot theory, as a psychologist I take issue with your sentence:”suicidal people want to get their life over with”. This is a gross simplification. Every suicide is different and the modus operandi depends largely on the personality and motivation of the individual. There are many examples of stretched out suicides.
    The problem with the SIO-crash-as-suicide/murder scenario is not so much the prolongued process. The problem is that it doesn’t make any sense whatsoever. I could buy it if it had been somehow effective as a political protest or statement against a kleptocratic and corrupt regime. But it isn’t. It’s just puzzling and completely senseless. I think that Shah was an intelligent guy. If he wanted to stage a political protest – maybe even die for his persuasions – I think he’d found a more effective way for staging his action than hiding the plane in the SIO without telling the world why he did it.

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