The Flaperon’s Path to Réunion

drifter-screengrabAs As I wrote back in September, Patrick De Deckker is an Australian scientist to whom the French authorities entrusted a 2.5-cm-long Lepas anatifera shell.  De Deckker has analyzed the shell to determine the ratio of magnesium to calcium within it. Because this depends on the temperature of the water in which the barnacle is growing, and the shell is laid down sequentially like the rings of a tree as it gets bigger, the barnacle can essentially serve as a record of the water temperature of the ocean it floated through. This raises the question: can this analysis tell us something about the route the flaperon traveled?

In August, De Deckker told an Australian journalist: “The start of the growth was around 24 degrees (Celsius) and then for quite some time, it ranged between 20 and 18 degrees (Celsius). And then it went up again to around 25 degrees.”

To me this suggested an obvious route of inquiry: all we had to do was sift through the Global Drifter Program for drifters that wound up in the vicinity of Réunion during the months of July or August of any given year (the flaperon washed up at the end of July, 2015) and see which of them experienced that kind of temperature profile.

I asked for volunteers to help sift through NASA or NOAA databases available online, but no one came forward. Fortunately, my brother-in-law John Swart, a database whiz, came to my rescue. He gave me a copy of Filemaker and showed me how to import data from NOAA’s Global Drifter Program.

Every day, four times a day, these drifters transmit their position and temperature via satellite to the nerds at NOAA. Using this location information we can plot how each one arrived in the vicinity of Réunion. In the Google Earth screengrab above you can see the path that each of 16 drifters took from the start of the calendar year to July/August (the data spans from 2000 to 2015). The upshot: many of the drifters started out fairly close to Réunion, and sort of swirled around. Some came from fairly far away, however–some from the northeast, others from the east or southeast (the direction of the 7th arc).

You can view the drifters’ movement by dropping this .kmz file into Google Earth.

So how did all these paths relate to temperature? With Mr Swart’s help I tabulated all the temperature data for the 16 drifters I examined. Here are the results for 12, as much as will fit in a Filemaker chart (click to expand):


Not that, as time passes, the range of temperatures shrinks, as the drifters converge on the waters near Réunion. (If you have FileMaker you can look at the underlying data set here. CSV here. Excel here.)

I should point out that according to the world’s leading Lepas Anatifera expert, Cynthia Venn of Bloomsburg University, barnacles this size are probably only a couple months old, perhaps as much as four months if we want to be really conservative. So we should look for a U-shaped temperature pattern somewhere between day 90 and day 210.

The closest we see to this pattern would, I suppose, be drifter 71030 or 41337. But neither of these experienced water temperature lower than 21 degrees. (Of the four drifters that didn’t fit on the graph,  the coldest temperature experienced was 23 degrees.)

To my mind, this suggests that the flaperon may not have arrived at Réunion through a natural process of drift.

To be sure, there are other possible explanations for this apparent anomaly. We don’t really know, or instance, how accurate Dr De Deckker’s paleothermometry really is. And it may be that by statistical fluke the flaperon happened to wander off into cold water and back again.

But these findings emerge in the context of other hard-to-explain aspects of the recovered aircraft debris:

— As confirmed by French investigators, the flaperon somehow acquired a population of Lepas barnacles even though its natural tendency was to float high in the water

— The majority of the debris has been collected in a statistically unlikely way

— The majority of collected debris is uncharacteristically devoid of marine life

— On the pieces that do have marine life, it appears to be too small given the amount of time spent at sea.

Taken together, these incongruities raise significant doubts about the provenance of the MH370 debris recovered to date.

While the Australian authorities have bent over backwards to explain their analysis of the Inmarsat data and how it lead them to define the seabed search area, they have been completely silent on the topic of biofouling (except to say that it exists). I wonder if it is because, like the French investigators who were unable to reconcile how high the flaperon floated in the water, they are stumped by inconsistencies in their data.

Australian officials have stated that they will release a comprehensive report on their findings after the seabed search is finished. Given that the last ship, the Fugro Equator, has now started its final stretch at sea, and the last mission lasted about six weeks, the search will likely be wrapped up by the end of January. Hopefully we will have some answers soon after that.

133 thoughts on “The Flaperon’s Path to Réunion”

  1. Great article, Jeff. Raises important questions about how the debris got to Reunion and why the other pieces are mostly clean of bio-fouling.

  2. @TBill

    Yes, I did mean assuming the plane was depressurized immediately after the takeover. Most commentators (me included) have assumed the plane was deliberately depressurized in order to kill the other occupants, although there is no direct evidence this actually happened. However, evidence does suggest (to me, at any rate) that the pilot carefully planned this act in advance, and had worked out a flight path that would just fly him into sufficient daylight for a ditching, on the fuel uplifted for a flight to Beijing. A flight path running parallel to the advancing sunrise terminator best satisfies the requirements, because you can adjust the time of fuel exhaustion by dumping dome fuel, if you happen to be delayed for any reason (eg delayed takeoff). The pilot had planned to fly at M0.87 approx during the first hour, and then throttle back to a more economical setting (eg M0.87) for the remainder of the flight. This is what appears to have actually happened, IMO. He could dump fuel on the way down, while in darkness, so they flameout would be synchronized with required sun elevation. But there is evidence to suggest he didn’t survive the journey down. He appears IMO to have overshot the target, sun elevation-wise by at least 15 minutes. If flameout had occurred 24 minutes earlier, he would have been flying directly along the sunrise terminator at the time, would have been in daylight for less time, and less vulnerable to detection. This is conjecture, but it’s possible that the cockpit door was in danger of being forced open at some stage in the journey down, and he depressurized to plane in order to prevent it happening, a depressurization he didn’t survive. It needs to be noted, that a lengthy total depressurization when staying at cruising altitude would be extremely hazardous for a pilot on pressurized oxygen, let alone for the passengers.

  3. @ROB: “then throttle back to a more economical setting (eg M0.81)”

    How do you define ‘economical’?

    Optimum speed for range is M.825
    Optimum speed for time (endurance) is M.5 – M.6

  4. @ROB
    OK got it…the thing I like about it is I can try the route on FS2004. You probably know, but of course at altitude, the Sun is out about 20 minutes earlier depending on altitude. Maybe one day I will get up early to see what the jets look like when I am still dark and they are in the early light at altitude.

  5. @ROB – re: ” the pilot carefully planned this act in advance”

    There has not been anything come to light in this. If anything planning doesn’t seem to exist in his home computer or paperwork collected….

  6. @Jeff

    De Deckker acknowledges that his results differ from the French results, and that the French used a different technique. No mention has been made of what the French results actually are.

    Until these results are published and reconciled it is too early to speculate on the path the barnacle data suggests.

    cut-paste from above///

    In August, De Deckker told an Australian journalist: “The start of the growth was around 24 degrees (Celsius) and then for quite some time, it ranged between 20 and 18 degrees (Celsius). And then it went up again to around 25 degrees.”

    end cut-paste///

    I would also wonder what “for quite some time” actually means, and how it plays with the barnacle age estimated by Venn.

    IMO, no conclusions can be drawn from the ensemble of information in the public domain.

  7. @TBill, Gysbreght

    T.Bill, I’m glad you get it.

    Gysbreght, bearing in mind that for the sake of this exercise, I am assuming if the pilot wanted to synchronise flameout to occur a few minutes after local sunrise sunrise at sea level(which happens to occur at 23:55 on the flight path that runs parallel to the sunrise terminator), and knowing in advance the approximate fuel uplift for a flight to Beijing, he would estimate in advance the most efficient constant Mach setting for the journey south. For the IGOGU, ISBIX, S37.6, E89, path, this from measurement, appears to be M0.81.

    I know there are variable speed programs such as LRC or MRC that would be more fuel efficient, but a variable speed program was not best suited for this flight. A constant M0.81 best fitted the requirement of flaming out at a specific time, rather than covering a particular distance on the fuel available.

  8. In same spirit of raising questions about evidence items, its time again to re-examine the turn back and radar track path

    as RetiredF4 states
    “If my memory is correct, at the time of the Mh370 disappearance the joint exercise Cope Tiger took place in the vicinity of the FMT. It is fair to assume that there were electronic eyes available in this area.”

    Evidence is piling up against the SIO since the debris is questionable and it can’t pull together the flight track
    as various radars would have detected MH370. I was made aware that at the moment of disappearance MAS and My was put in a state of emergency and all discussion was suppressed. There has to be other reasons for the disappearance….

  9. Really, really enjoyed this article, @Jeff. Lepas Anatifera shells are one of the few pieces of physical evidence we really have in this mystery, and I have long found it intriguing the potential answers they can bring.

    And yet, it makes me take a step back and look at the big picture, to the extent we even have one. The shells have yielded perplexing answers with no easy explanation about the actual path of the flaperon. The answers they do provide do not appear to make any sense, despite careful analysis being done by the French, Australians, etc having all the resources and expertise typically needed to solve such complex mysteries. THAT in and of itself may be the most telling piece, and it reminds me of your stating early in your book that right from the beginning, so much of this case has never made sense – unlike most other crash or missing plane investigations.

    In essence, I believe more strongly all the time that there is a story that is much different here from anything most have speculated or spent time on. We are missing something, and whatever it is, I suspect it’s big. And it may be that the humble barnacle becomes the piece that eventually leads this whole mystery in a completely new direction.

    I hope you and others continue to dig further into this specific piece of the evidence.

  10. Thanks, @Andrew Portwood. I appreciate the support. Feel free to jump in with your two cents any time, it’s always good to have a fresh perspective.

  11. Does anyone have a copy of the original Telegraph article? It’s “premium” so I can’t access it.

    I’m curious about the Analytical technique(s) De Deckker used for his analysis; all I can see from the excerpt is that he used a laser, but this is an obvious oversimplification of the science (due of course to the technical level of the target audience). De Deckker appears to be a very well regarded scientist, but as a scientist myself I am always interested to the read/critique the methods. (If you know for a fact he used some form of LA-ICP-MS, then I would feel much more confident)

    Better yet, were any of these results published in a peer-reviewed journal? That would even more easily answer my questions.

  12. @ROB: “I am assuming if the pilot wanted to synchronise flameout to occur a few minutes after local sunrise sunrise at sea level(which happens to occur at 23:55 on the flight path that runs parallel to the sunrise terminator), and knowing in advance the approximate fuel uplift for a flight to Beijing, he would estimate in advance the most efficient constant Mach setting for the journey south. For the IGOGU, ISBIX, S37.6, E89, path, this from measurement, appears to be M0.81. ”

    The sunrise terminator moves westward across the earth with time (about 15 degrees longitude per hour). Why would he target fuel exhaustion at 23:55 and not somewhat later further south? Do you just pick M.81 because it fits a terminus of S37.6, E89?

  13. @Rob

    I can state with ‘high confidence’ that a depressurization occurred at/around IGARI. In order for Z to execute successfully, controlling the environment and neutralizing/mitigating all potential threats to his desired outcome were imperative.

    The entire act was predicated on absolute and complete CONTROL. It’s all about control.

  14. @MH
    I do not think I’ve heard anything in the press or elsewhere about a state of emergency in MY after the accident. What do you know? Obviously in hindsight the KL twin towers should have been considered by MY needing 24/7 airspace monitoring, so that presumably was an immediate action item. USA had stoppage of all air traffic after 9/11. Cannot recall how long it was stopped.

  15. @Gator
    You can often access these types of articles via Google. Search for some words in the title. You may have to delete cookies and try again.

  16. @Gysbreght

    Firstly, he flew this particular flight path because it ran parallel to the advancing sunrise terminator, to simplify synchronizing flameout with sunrise, by adjusting the time of flameout by dumping fuel if necessary.

    If he flew further south, or took too long to burn all his fuel, he would have arrived at burnout, well after sunrise. It’s all about the geometry, and timing.

  17. @ROB: “he would have arrived at burnout, well after sunrise.” To avoid that, he could have flown on a more westerly heading, where sunrise occurs later, so he would stay ahead of sunrise. He wasn’t tied to the BTO arcs in his decision making.

  18. @Jeff:
    Thanks for the article.

    When one reads about the ocean currents in the IO in open sources one gets somewhat inexact and sometimes contradictory information about the large currents. It is for instance said that the rotation of any of the large currents, which is clockwise during summer changes to counter-clockwise during winter (or the other way around, I don’t recall which), or “approximately” the month of March (sic). Resulting in cold water being carried, from closer to Antarctica, with the West Australian Current, towards north-west (I think). Despite my poor recollection there is also the aggravating factor that it is hard to remember whose summer and winter it is referred to as the Aussies celebrate Christmas (happy such) in summer, and the IOC / gyre transcends the equator of course. Maybe there is also a mix-up of surface and deeper ocean currents here.

    There is definiately some sources that don’t mention seasonal changes in direction. And have other divering information.

    What I wanted to ask is if you believe the scientist are on top of this messy reality (you catch my drift regarding cold water) already at this stage, or if it is for example only in the second or third attempt at investigational science (after conventional academic meetings or publications of well-formulated critique that has been peer-reviewed laterally and horizontally according to the rules of the trade, and applications for more funding) that some son of the soil wlll step forward to finally explain how things really work in the SIO? I get a definite sense of us being bullshited (and it is a Friday eve), and that someone is waiting for a bag of money before they might consider turning to the recto side of their PM Indian Ocean for dummies. I acknowledge that there very well could be little reasearch on drifting, but if someone actually tried, wouldn’t they get a grip on this? Before we start crying “wolf”?

  19. @ROB: “Firstly, he flew this particular flight path because it ran parallel to the advancing sunrise terminator,…”.

    I find it difficult to envisage a flight path “parallel to the advancing sunrise terminator”, because that terminator moves west at more than 700 kts, and his groundspeed is less than 500 kts.

  20. Update on the “Mirawai Beach Monster” of New Zealand:

    Currently, it is described as having a “putrid smell”. The worms are hard at work, stripping the log clean.×349.1g3crf.png/1481661941858.jpg

    In no time at all, this log will be clean of any “bio-fouling”, which will lead Jeff Wise to declare that it has been “planted”.

  21. @Gysbreght

    I don’t for one minute believe you are unable to grasp what I’m describing. You are just being Gysbreght, bless you.

    How’s this for a simpler, more understandable description: Draw a line on the map to represent the flight path in question. Then draw a series of lines on the map to represent the position of the sunrise terminator for different times during the final three hours of the flight. You will find that the flight path runs parallel to within 1 deg (during the final three hours of the flight) with the arbitrarily drawn terminator lines. The terminator is moving from east to west at 22km/minute, but remains parallel to the line of the flight path, as it does so. Pretty ingenious, eh but I wasn’t the first person by any means to notice this circumstance, as Ventus45 pointed out earlier.

  22. @Gator

    “Better yet, were any of these results published in a peer-reviewed journal? That would even more easily answer my questions.”

    No De Deckker’s results are in the domain of third party journalistic hearsay. Likewise Venn’s age estimate (presumably from looking at a photo). If De Deckker provided a written summary of his results to the ATSB, why have we not seen it?

    The Inmarsat data by contrast has been publicly available for some time, and Inmarsat published their analytics and conclusions in a peer reviewed journal, JON.

    How people can cast all sorts of negatives on the ISAT data and its interpretation, and lap up the De Deckker / Venn / Wise fairy tale is totally beyond my comprehension.

  23. @All, There was an interesting article in the Australian daily telegraph on August 30 on DeDecker’s barnacle analyses and the French, though the latter have not published any of their findings. I cannot seem to be able to post the link. If you google “what the flaperon barnacles reveal about mh370” you might be able to read it. @Jeff, what surprised me is that DeDecker says his findings line up CSIRO drift modelling and the current search area. It’s also odd the French have not published a report on their analysis.

  24. @DennisW

    I think the answer to your rhetorical musing is simple. The ISAT data has not led to finding the plane where the probabilities said it would be. So, then, we are looking for something else. I don’t dispute the ISAT data. But maybe the method is wrong. Or as this Mr. Portwood said above we are flat out missing something (perhaps something in the ISAT data).

  25. @TBill, I was in the US on 9/11, Chicago to be exact. The airports started to resume some flights on the 14th. I ended up driving to Toronto to catch a flight back to Amsterdam on the 18th. Even then flight schedules were still messed up and a lot of flights were cancelled.

  26. @Gator Here is the DeDeckker article. On one of the images, which are not seen below, it said that the transect was carried out using the laser ablation spectrometer.

    What flaperon barnacles revealed about MH370 mystery
    Robyn Ironside, National Aviation Writer, News Corp Australia Network
    August 30, 2016 10:30am
    Subscriber only

    ANALYSIS of barnacles found on a flaperon from MH370 has added to the mystery surrounding the plane’s final resting place — with scientists in France and Australia reaching different conclusions.

    Extensive testing by Australian National University (ANU) scientist Patrick De Deckker has revealed the onstart of growth of the barnacles occurred in warmer waters probably to the north of Perth.

    The most extensive period of growth then took place in cooler water temperatures such as those in the latitude of Perth, and the more recent growth happened in the tropical waters around La Reunion island.

    The French are yet to make public their findings on the barnacles but Professor Emeritus De Deckker confirmed they “differed somewhat” to his own.
    Painstaking analysis … Professor Patrick De Deckker examining barnacles from MH370 debris at ANU in Canberra. Picture: Kym Smith

    He stressed the process of testing barnacles could only reveal so much about where they grew, because very little was known about when barnacles started to form, and how fast the growth occurred.

    “We just don’t know if the barnacles have been growing since the flaperon’s been floating, or if they started growing in the last few months,” Professor De Deckker said.

    “But my findings are consistent with the current search area and the drift modelling done by the CSIRO.”
    Precision science … An image of the work carried out by Professor Patrick De Deckker in the hope of determining where MH370 crashed. Picture: ANU

    The same 2.5 centimetre barnacle was used by both French and Australian examiners — but different techniques applied.

    “For my analysis, I used a laser to create little holes of 20 microns, over the length of the barnacles. In all we did 1500 analyses,” said Professor De Deckker.

    “The French have done about 100 analyses on the same shell, but they used larger holes.”

    In addition, the French looked at the oxygen isotope content of the shell — which is made from calcium carbonate, whereas Professor De Deckker examined the calcium and magnesium to determine in what water temperature it grew.

    “In order to solve the difference between the French results and mine, we’d need to do more work,” he said.

    “That would be quite an extensive project and (mean) possibly growing barnacles in tanks and so on — and we just don’t have the money or time.”
    Looking for clues … The ANU’s Professor Patrick De Deckker examines a barnacle from MH370 debris. Picture: Kym Smith

    Professor De Deckker provided his time and expertise to the Australian Transport Safety Bureau free of charge.

    “It would cost up to $1500 a day (for additional analyses of the type carried out by the French team) and we’d have to book a machine well in advance,” he said.

    The search for MH370 is poised to move into the area of the Southern Indian Ocean that Professor De Deckker identified as the place where the barnacles grew for an extensive period of time.

    Weather permitting, the 120,000 square kilometre search zone will be fully scoured by the end of the year — and investigators remain hopeful the plane will be found in that time.

    MH370 disappeared on March 8, 2014 after taking off from Kuala Lumpur to fly to Beijing with 239 people on board.

  27. @All
    NOK complain new company to dodge payments.
    The Australian
    The airline behind doomed flights MH370 and MH17 has been accused of frustrating and delaying claims for compensation from families of victims by creating a new, almost identic­ally named business it says is not connected to the old company.

    Almost three years after the two disasters, dozens of Australian relatives of those who perished on Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, which crashed into the Indian Ocean, and MH17, which was shot down over Ukraine, have received only small lump-sum payments from the carrier.

    Documents filed in a US court on behalf of dozens of victims of MH370 against the airline and its insurer Allianz — obtained by The Weekend Australian — reveal Malaysia Airlines has been accused of attempting to “dodge” its obligations to those who died and their relatives.

    MH370 vanished on a scheduled flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8, 2014, with 239 people on board. Its radar transponder was turned off and radio contact was broken. Radar and tracking data indicate the Boeing 777 reversed course and flew towards the southern ­Indian Ocean.

    MH17 was en route from ­Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur on July 17, 2014, travelling over conflict-hit Ukraine, when it disappeared from radar. A total of 283 passengers, including 80 children, and 15 crew members were killed after the plane was hit by a Russian-made Buk missile.

    The company received nearly $2 billion in state aid and its workforce was slashed in late 2014 after a dedicated act of Malaysia’s parliament — known as “Act 765” — created Malaysia Airlines Berhad in the place of the former Malaysia Airline System Berhad.

    Lawyers acting for both companies insist the new entity is not a successor to the old, but US lawyers acting for victims of MH370 disagree.

    Mary Sciavo, who represents 98 victims and victims’ relatives, wrote in a submission to the District Court for the District of Columbia: “This sleight of hand by the Malaysian government after hundreds of people on two Malaysian flights are killed in as many months, was clearly a blatant and illegal dodge of its responsibility to the dead, missing, grieving and bereaved.

    “The facts of the airline’s disappearance soon after the disappearance of MH370 is, should be and must be the subject of discovery even at this preliminary stage concerning the issues.”

    The airline is understood to have been paid more than $200 million in hull insurance for the loss of the two aircraft, but has paid a roughly $50,000 advance to victims’ families so far.

    Malaysia is one of 122 parties to have signed the 1999 Montreal Convention, which was created to fast-track compensation claims after plane disasters. Under the convention, relatives of victims are entitled to a quick payment equivalent to 113,000 special drawing rights, worth approximately $200,000.

    Unless the company can prove that it was not negligent, or that there wasn’t a third party to blame for the tragedy, it can be sued for potentially unlimited damages. The amount families of victims can claim varies immensely between countries, as different legal systems handle compensation claims differently.

    Ron Bartsch, chairman of international aviation safety consultancy AvLaw, said: “The Montreal Convention has failed on what was the promise of a new regime that would cover airlines and passengers. It seems if Malaysia Airlines are successful in frustrating their obligations under the convention, then I feel that this is going to be extremely detrimental to the families of the deceased.”

    Steven Marks, a US aviation litigation lawyer who is representing victims in a separate claim in the same court, said he was confident the insurer for Malaysia Airlines would pay whatever courts decided.

    “We took a position they were attempting to play games regarding the restructuring and their obligation,” Mr Marks said. “The court entered an order that the insurance coverage is not affected by any restructuring. There is no risk the families are going to be left empty, because of this reorganisation.”

    In a career spanning several decades, Mr Marks said he had not seen such an “irresponsible” way of handling its obligations under the Montreal Convention.

    “It’s not only irresponsible, but it is outrageously insensitive to the families who have suffered one of the most unusual tragedies in history,” Mr Marks said. “No matter how long it takes, no matter how much money we need to spend, we will get a good outcome for these families.”

    David Hodgkinson, senior aviation lawyer at Hodgkinson Johnson, said that while rebranding was not uncommon, it might have consequences for actions under way.

    “Malaysia has handled it badly,” Mr Hodgkinson said. “Because of the circumstances, it’s hard not to conclude they’re related … it might have some effect in terms of action plaintiff lawyers might take. We won’t know until the end.”

    Danica Weeks, whose husband Paul disappeared on MH370, said that while she was confident insurers would pay what was required, she was suspicious. “I’ve believed they have tried this,” she said.

    A spokeswoman for Malaysia Airlines System (Administrator Appointed) said: “All claimants will be compensated in accordance with the applicable international convention and law.”

  28. @Havelock: Thanks for the posting the other day. Indeed, I did remember that case. Polo (versus Polonium) threw me off!

    That remains a fascinating story.

  29. @Rob
    You are a genius in adjusting your initial scenario to upcoming evidence amd arguments. You started out with a proved planned successful ditching at twilight and arrived now with a planned ditching, which failed and missed the sunrise chasing it with a randomly assumed Mach number by considerable time while dumping fuel and depressirizung the cabin. All these unproven arguments obviously just serve the only purpose to safe your original scenario by some minimalistic percentage.

    You should look at that from the perspective of an outside observer and you might note that you sound like a broken record, and I’m sorry to say that. But neither your repetitions nor my rant will help to find MH370.

  30. @Gysbreght

    So, to follow on from last night: The important take-away is that the flight path remained essentially parallel to the advancing sunrise terminator line. Imagine, now the situation when the terminator reaches the flight path groundtrack (time UTC 00:56). It is sunrise at all points along the groundtrack, due to it being parallel to the terminator line, which meant that all the pilot had to do synchronize flameout with sunrise (or some slightly later time, depending on the pilot’s required sun angle at flameout), is to adjust the time of flameout by dumping dome fuel.

    In the event, it appears he wasn’t able to do this, because it looks as if the aircraft overshot what might be considered the optimum time for flameout by 15 to 20 minutes, by which time the Sun was about 5deg above the horizon.

    Thank you for your patience, and a Merry Christmas to you.

  31. @RetiredF4

    Thank you for those kind words! I am inclined to agree with you, at least on being a genius, anyway.

    One important point though. I would disagree with you about the pilot’s choice of M0.81 being a randomly chosen one. On the contrary, this appears to have been carefully chosen to match the time of flameout with the required sun elevation. The timing had to be worked out in advance, based on the anticipated fuel uplift for a flight to Beijing, and bearing in mind that he would be flying at about M0.87 for the first hour after the takeover, until he was clear of the primary radar’s furthest reach.

    As soon as he got clear of what he had previously estimated to be the point beyond which he would be safe from Butterworth radar, 18:22 approx, as it turns out, he began to slow down from M0.87 to M0.81, slowing to M 0.81 by the time he was making his FMT at IGOGU (time 18:37). With M0.81 set on the MCP, he estimated the fuel would then last until 00:00, at least. If, on the way south he realized he would overshoot this optimum time of flameout, he could dump some fuel, to adjust.

    A Merry Christmas to you as well, RF4. It’s been a pleasure locking horns with you these past few months.

  32. @Jeff

    Let’s suppose that the De Deckker results and the Venn observation relative to age are both accurate. I have no issue with your temperature data, and will assume that you collected and represented it accurately.

    In order for both De Deckker and Venn to be correct the barnacle growth had to occur in the time interval from say 90 days prior to discovery to the date of discovery. The only way I can see this happening is for the flaperon to have started its journey far to the South of the Reunion latitude, and gradually working its way West and North, finally reaching temperatures conducive to colonization.

    Key statement below:

    “We just don’t know if the barnacles have been growing since the flaperon’s been floating, or if they started growing in the last few months,” Professor De Deckker said.

    Another key De Deckker statement:

    “But my findings are consistent with the current search area and the drift modelling done by the CSIRO.”

    The CSIRO statement above would seem to support the notion that the flaperon entered the water at the latitude preferred by the ATSB, which is well to the South of where barnacle growth could start.

    The statements relative to growth starting in warm water, then continuing in colder water, and then resuming in warm water are not direct De Deckker quotes. I attribute that spin on events to journalistic interpretation which can never be taken at face value if at all.

  33. De Deckker is obviously up against a load of unknown variables since they apparently can’t determine when growth started. But he is doing the analysis anyway. For free. And he — understandably — needs money to go on. My guess is someone else will take over in due time. Maybe they now about beginning growth at another laboratory.

    As for the legal troubles I can only say that it is hard to believe that MAS was reconstructed to avoid payments, at least in principle. Maybe to limit them in different ways. Maybe they wanted to avoid more “accidents” in the near future, in which case MAS/MY may effectively have been at war with someone or something. Or they feared that. Or it simply reflects the stepping down of a majority ownership (at which the war was directed?), which wanted out due to mounting badwill.

  34. @Johan

    No comment on the insurance issue.

    Relative to De Decker I think it is vitally important to focus on what he actually said, and discard the interpretation of what the journalist thought he said. It is popular these days for journalists to think their role has been expanded to interpretation when the reality is their role has been and always will be, to report accurately.

  35. @ROB: It is not difficult to grasp what you are describing. The problem is that it doesn’t make sense. Flying along a path that is parallel to the sunrise terminator at a particular time serves no useful purpose.

    If the perpetrator wanted to have sunrise at the time of fuel exhaustion, he had to:

    – choose a practical speed, say between M.5 and M.84, depending on whether he wanted range or endurance
    – determine distance flown and time to fuel exhaustion for that speed and fuel on board
    – plot the sunrise terminator at the time of fuel exhaustion
    – find the point on the terminator that corresponds with the distance flown to fuel exhaustion, and enter that as a waypoint in the FMS.

    Merry Christmas.

  36. @Gysbreght

    Yes. The notion that distance equals the product of speed and time is well tested. Toss in direction i.e. velocity, and you have all you need to know. Flying a path parallel to the sunrise terminator adds needless complexity for no apparent benefit.

  37. @RetiredF4:
    I think adjusting to new evidence and arguments is a good thing. Add consistency to that and you got a gold star right there. I am a bit skeptic to Z being of the same precision conviction as ROB (and some others) but there is an attraction to systematic order which Z could have shared, hypothetically. And if so, that order would give him away (in the same way as the general outline or signature of the whole event points, or almost points, him out). And that would be a huge breakthrough. So to me at least ROB’s attempts are worth a lot. And avoiding flameout in the dark is/could be a practical view; although I suspect a flameout to be a 1/4-second and 1– 1.5-metre phenomenon that no one would pay attention to, at least not if they weren’t expecting it at that exact spot on a cloud-free sky. (Which doesn’t mean Z didn’t consider the problem at some point).

    Personally I am afraid Z was a much more practical man on the one hand, and in charge of his wits on the other. It seems probable to me that this all was not executed by someone (alone) who would have to spend years planning it, or someone who didn’t plan and just got lucky. So it would have to be planned by someone who could largely rely on his inmense experience and fill in the holes quite effortlessly through a variety of sources (this remains to be proven apparently). His primary goal would be to hide obvious guilt, and as a part of that, delay discovery for as long as possible, but he would realise he would not be able to control everything, and would make decisions in line with that. A small state would have a hard time achieving the same result, it would need to be a big one. That’s my gut feeling.

  38. Another 2 cents..

    ‘..the onstart of growth of the barnacles occurred in warmer waters probably to the north of Perth.
    The most extensive period of growth then took place in cooler water temperatures such as those in the latitude of Perth, and the more recent growth happened in the tropical waters around La Reunion island’

    My interpretation of this statements would be; The onstart periode of growth in warm water was was much shorter than the extensive period of growth in the colder water as was the final growth period in tropical warm waters.

    In contrast of Jeff’s article suggesting the barnacle could not be older then 4 months he states;

    ‘He stressed the process of testing barnacles could only reveal so much about where they grew, because very little was known about when barnacles started to form, and how fast the growth occurred.’

    ‘“We just don’t know if the barnacles have been growing since the flaperon’s been floating, or if they started growing in the last few months,”

    This suggests to me growth-rates can be very slow or fast(er). Probably depending on temperature and supply of nutriciens.

    Perth is at latitude ~32S.
    As I suggested in a post some time ago (when it was on topic too) it perhaps could have been caused by the shift in seasonal (summer/winter) temperature around that latitude progressing in that time period early March. Around that time surface temperatures around 32S were still well above 21C (I posted some graphics showing this back then). Some months later temperatures there fell back to ~18C.

    It was the end of Australian summer nearing.
    Ocean water was progressively cooling moving North.
    The flaperon could have been overtaken by this cooling water for a significant period of time.
    Then while drifting North-West coming into warmer water again when ocean water was warming with the next summer arriving.

    The seasonal shifts in temperature in the SIO can clearly be seen in the graphics I posted back then.
    Hope Jeff saved those. I didn’t and cann’t find them anymore.

  39. @All, To clarify a few points:

    — Some of you missed the source of the crucial De Deckker statement, which inspired the present undertaking: “The start of the growth was around 24 degrees (Celsius) and then for quite some time, it ranged between 20 and 18 degrees (Celsius). And then it went up again to around 25 degrees.” If you click through the link in the first section you will find it in a post I put up on September 10 entitled “Fascinatingly Mysterious New Flaperon Barnacle Data.”

    — De Deckker is a specialist in paleothermometry, not Lepas biology. When he said “We just don’t know if the barnacles have been growing since the flaperon’s been floating, or if they started growing in the last few months,” he was speculating as a non-specialist. Cynthia Venn, by contrast, has worked with hundreds of thousands of Lepas specimens over the course of decades.

    — Regarding De Deckker’s assertion that his findings are consistent with CSIRO modeling, I can only assume what he meant is that the 7th arc passes through warm water and Réunion is in warm water, so that on first inspection there is no contradiction between his observed temperature pattern and the CSIRO model–so long as one leaves out the question of what happened in between. I strongly doubt that De Deckker had looked at the Global Drifter Program temperature data before he made his assertion. Indeed I don’t think anyone had, which is why I undertook this project.

    — The reason, I think, that no one has taken the time to look at this data is that they assumed that the data would merely confirm their prior understanding of the matter. Many investigators into this case, official and independent, “know” that the plane went down in the SIO on the 7th arc, and therefore are unshakable in their conviction that the debris recovered in the western Indian Ocean could only have arrived there naturally, and that therefore there is no purpose in looking at, say, the distribution of Lepas on the flaperon or the fit between historical drifter temperature data and the temperature history recorded by the Lepas shell chemistry. It turns out that when you look at these things, they don’t match well at all.

  40. @Johan @Rob

    The facts are, that Z and F piloted flight MH370, when it vanished on its flight to Bejing. The ISAT data interpretation point to a crash area in the SIO along a corridor, called the seventh arc. The exact geographical latitude location is in question, as nothing has been discovered in the multi million dollar search. The way MH370 vanished points to an unlawfull intervention. One or both pilots on board could be suspects. The Sim data point to Z being the possible culprit. There has been nothing found yet which confirms that Z had planned and performed that crime and how he had done it.

    The problem with Rob’s continuous descriptions of detailed scenarios is, that they are based mainly on speculation for whatever purpose. With a closer look of his past posts he is not adjusting his original scenario to the evidence, he is bending the evidence to fit his slightly altered scenario. Did Rob check the speeds, which he choose to fit his scenario of hitting the sunrise in his planned ditching area to the BFO data? I guess no. Did he check it in relation to fuel consumption and known fuel starvation? Actually he might have done it and his solution of possible too much fuel is a pilot using the fuel dump system to flame out at the time Rob sees as being appropriate. He also finds an explanation for the failed ditching. Somehow the very thoroughly planning pilot had a dumb minute and forgot, that he would be affected too by decompression sickness and died prior ditching, thus overshooting the sunrise terminator as a crash zone. There is no evidence yet that a decompression took place.

    That all is fiction and so bad, there would be no money earned when writing it into a novel. There is no prize to win here or elsewhere to be right or wrong about MH370, in reality Rob should have dumped his intentional ditching scenario with the appearance of the first inside cabin parts already and when the ATSB dicarded the possibility of a ditching once and for all.

    Let’s keep focused on facts.

    Merry christmas to you as well, and may the next year be a better one for the NOK .

  41. @Jeff Wise

    Thanks for this additional explanation.
    I assumed De Decker was also a Lepas-specialist making this detailed study on a Lepas specimen. He’s not you say.
    This then limits his research and results only to temperature messurements. Which is very limited ofcourse.
    I can hardly believe this but if you say so I take this from you.

    According to Cynthia Venn (and you) then the temperature shifts must have occured within max. 4 months?

  42. @Ge Rijn,
    I’ve written the past a fair bit about the growth rates of Lepas. I’d suggest the “Duration of immersion” section of my post “How the MH370 Flaperon Floated”:
    Also “Deriving the Dimensions of the Rodrigues Debris”:
    If we allow some wriggle room and assume that the barnacles are six months old, the temperature pattern still doesn’t fit.

    Also, you wrote: “I assumed De Decker was also a Lepas-specialist making this detailed study on a Lepas specimen. He’s not you say.
    This then limits his research and results only to temperature messurements. Which is very limited ofcourse.
    I can hardly believe this but if you say so I take this from you.”
    I’m not asking you to take my word for indeed. On the contrary I would encourage you to look up De Deckker and judge for yourself what his areas of expertise are.

    Indeed I would encourage anyone who’s interested in this topic to check my work and see if I’ve made errors, or offer alternative explanations.

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