MH370: The Single, Simple Mistake Behind the Search’s Failure

Seabed Constructor sails into Fremantle, Australia. Source: Mike Exner

Experts from all over the world have converged in Perth, Australia, to meet Seabed Constructor, the exploration vessel tasked with finding the wreckage of MH370, after its first stint in the search area. Technical experts and government officials are having meetings and dinners, touring the ship, and doing photo ops. Everything glitters and spirits are high.

Lost in this excited hubub is the fact that the latest search effort has already invalidated the expert analysis that got it launched in the first place.

In a 2016 document entitled “MH370–First Principles Review,” the ATSB explained that, given the absence of wreckage in the orginal 120,000 sq km search, MH370 most likely wound up somewhere near the 7th arc between 33 degrees and 36 degrees south. A subsequent document by the CSIRO entitled “The search for MH370 and ocean surface drift–Part III” narrowed the target area considerably. “We think it is possible to identify a most-likely location of the aircraft, with unprecedented precision and certainty,” it stated. “This location is 35.6°S, 92.8°E. Other nearby (within about 50km essentially parallel to the 7th arc) locations east of the 7th arc are also certainly possible, as are (with lower likelihood) a range of locations on the western side of the 7th arc, near 34.7°S 92.6°E and 35.3°S 91.8°E.”

The wording is important, because as the original search area was winding down, Australia, China and Malaysia said that it would only be extended if “credible new information” came to light. The CSIRO’s language sounded like an attempt to make the case that this condition had been met. And indeed, the three specified points were all included the “Primary Search Area” that Seabed Constructor recently focused its efforts on.

However, that area has now been searched. And once again, the plane was not where it was supposed to be. The CSIRO’s “unprecedented precision and certainty” was a mirage.

How is that, time and time again, officials heading up the search for MH370 exude great confidence and then come up empty handed? How can we account for four years of relentless failure?

The answer, it seems to me, is quite simple. Investigators have resolutely failed to grapple with the single most salient clue: The fact that the Satellite Data Unit (SDU) was rebooted. This electronic component is the part of the 777’s sat com system that generated the Inmarsat data that has been the basis of the entire search. There is no known way that it could accidentally turn off and back on again.

If one has no idea how the SDU turned on, then one can have no confidence in the integrity of the data that it generated.

The ATSB has never publicly expressed a theory about what could have caused the reboot, except to say that most likely the power had been turned off and back on again. There was always the possibility that, behind the scenes, they had figured out a way that this could plausibly happen other than being deliberately tampered with.

Just today, however, I received confirmation that the ATSB is in fact befuddled. Mike Exner is a stalwart of the Independent Group who is currently visiting Perth, where he has had dinner with employees of Ocean Infinity and Fugro, as well as members of the ATSB and the DSTG. In response to my assertion that investigators “had never stopped to ask how on earth the SDU… came to be turned back on,” Exner tweeted that “Everyone is well aware of the question. We have all asked ourselves and others how it happened.” However, Mike writes, “no one has the answer.”

One might forgive the expenditure of vast wealth and manpower based on data of dubious provenance if there was other evidence that independently supported it. But the contrary is the case: debris collected in the western Indian Ocean shows no signs of having drifted from the search zone, as I wrote in my previous post. It is increasingly clear that the plane did not go where the Inmarsat data suggests it did. The fishiness of the Inmarsat data, and the fishiness of the SDU reboot that created it, are all of a piece.

Soon, Seabed Constructor will return to the search area; some weeks or months after that, it will leave again, empty handed. When it does, people all over the world will ask: How could they have failed yet again?

The answer will be simple. It is this: Investigators never established the provenance of the  evidence that they based their search on.

615 thoughts on “MH370: The Single, Simple Mistake Behind the Search’s Failure”

  1. @Jeff Wise: youn wrote:“It is increasingly clear that the plane did not go where the Inmarsat data suggests it did.”

    It is not. The Inmarsat data do not suggest where the plane ended up. It could have ended up along the 7th arc north of the searched area. If someone was at the controls at the 7th arc, the plane could have flown 100 NM beyond the 7th arc, where no search has taken place.

    The marine fouling is no more definitive than the Inmarsat data.

  2. @Jeff

    The answer will be simple. It is this: Investigators never established the provenance of the evidence that they based their search on.

    The answer is even simpler than you suggest. This effort has lacked a world class leader from the get-go. The IG has good people, the DSTG likewise, but world class? No. There are no Richard Feynman’s in that group. The underwater search should never have been started. It is based on people expousing Occam’s Razor (IG). People expousing the flying of waypoints (you and others). To an experienced outsider (me), the effort resembles a Chinese fire drill. This undertaking will go down as one the worst examples of analytics in the history of the world. The DSTG using Bayes and arbitrarily applying Guassian statistics to a process that is neither stationary nor ergodic. The absolute refusal to incorporate motive or causality into the quest for a terminus. I could go on and on, and I have over the years.

  3. @DennisW: “The absolute refusal to incorporate motive or causality into the quest for a terminus.”

    Please remind me where you considered “motive or causality”.

  4. @Gysbreght – my estimation is, if you will allow me, the plane could have flown maybe, about, approximately, possibly another 500 miles under power…..not even considering the glide distance ( from altitude ) of another 124 miles…..over some 624 miles from the last ping….didn’t mean to throw a monkey in the wrench….but you kinda get another perspective of finding a needle in a haystack….i mean a haystack in a needle factory….G. ( good to hear your educated thoughts again @Dennis…as always )

  5. I thought the 6th arc was during powered flight, and the 7th arc was triggered early due to loss of power from flameout and restore of power from air driven propeller power.

  6. @Gysbreght

    I have been advocating pilot diversion (Shah) as part of a negotiation scenario over and over again for some three years now. Good f’ing grief.

  7. @Mike A Schwab, Yes, but the 7th arc power-up was presumably due not to the RAT (the external propeller) but to the APU temporarily powering up using residual fuel in its fuel line.

  8. @DennisW: Yes, but you abandoned that idea when you learned about the accuracy of the Fuel Quantity Indication System.

    The point is that imagining motive and causality doesn’t solve the mystery or narrow down the search area.

    The past and current search activities rest on the assumption of pilotless flight. When all of the 7th arc vicinity will have been searched and nothing is found, that assumption will have been proven to be false.

  9. @JW “There is no known way that it could accidentally turn off and back on again.”

    There is if someone fiddled with E/E bay in attempt to (persuade pilot to) open the cockpit door.

    @Gysbreght

    “The point is that imagining motive and causality doesn’t solve the mystery or narrow down the search area.”

    It does, if they established the motive was to reach australian airport (being it CI, Learmouth or Perth) it would narrow the search area quite a bit.

    The problem is establishing motive would expose shenanigans going on in Malaysia and shake malaysian government which regularly bribes australian officials so it’s obvious why they don’t want to rock that boat, oh and political correctness comes into play as well, it could be insulting to captain’s family etc.

  10. @Gysbreght

    but you abandoned that idea when you learned about the accuracy of the Fuel Quantity Indication System.

    What I abandoned was the flight path terminating near Christmas Island. I still cling to the notion that the diversion was part of a negotiation between Shah’s colleagues in KL, and the Malaysian government. The Malay response to the incident is difficult to explain relative to any other scenario.

  11. @Gysbreght

    The point is that imagining motive and causality doesn’t solve the mystery or narrow down the search area.

    I think the technical people, who have been the largest group contributing to “solutions”, would agree with you. Certainly, I have heard the same logic over and over again.

    That logic is offset somewhat by the fact that while managing a large group (>150) of advanced degree people over a period of two decades that I was never visited by law enforcement from any jurisdiction asking to borrow a couple of my engineers to help them solve a crime. The reality is we (techies) are good at certain things, and not so good at others. A blend of motive, opportunity, and forensics has proven to be a sound approach. We only have knowledge forensics.

    There is still a not insignificant number of long term contributors that cling to the notion that some sort of aircraft failure was the cause of the diversion. We are all swimming in that same gene pool.

  12. @Gysbreght

    Just to be clear, I have absolutely no heartburn with the majority of the analysts who have looked at this problem. Many of them are people I would be proud to work with and would recommend hiring in a heartbeat. My issue is with the search leadership. People making the big decisions (funding decisions) were simply not equipped to properly weight what the analysts were telling them, and posed the wrong question i.e. where should we search not if we should search.

    At this moment we have far more and better information than we did when the underwater search was started, and we still lack anything resembling a consensus on where the aircraft rests.

  13. @DennisW: Thank you for explaining your position.

    I must admit to being more interested in the technical issues than the funding decisions.

  14. @JeffWise

    All you have to do to make sure this story keeps running forever is to rule out the piloted extended glide. That’s what the ATSB did, with a little help from their IG friends. That’s why they are still looking for the plane nearly 4 years after the event.

    The pilot merely set out to fly as far as humanly possible into the SIO, and make his plane disappear from the face of the earth (not forgetting that the face of the earth is two thirds water)

    He achieved his goal, save for a few pieces of his plane that broke away when he belly-flopped her into the water in the general vicinity of S39.20 E88.36.

    If you had flown MH370 at a steady M0.82 at 40,000ft,after turning south at 1835.50, then glided her another 97nm in the same direction, then you would have ended up in the same place as he did.

    I hope OI are not just treating this as a PR stunt, but are actually hoping to find the plane. If not, then they are merely playing into the hands of the Malaysian government who have nothing to gain in it’s finding. Certainly, the aircraft is destined to remain hidden forever if they persist in searching any further north along the 7th arc. That would be a very cruel outcome for the NOK. Where any of the NOK invited on board SC to share in the festivities?

    Bottom line is the pilot did it, and almost got away with it, if it weren’t for the pesky pings.

    Clue re the SDU: pilot switches off SDU by isolating LH AC bus, when he diverts plane, to make it look as if plane had gone down in South China Sea, to keep people thinking it was a catastrophic accident, until he was clear of primary radar cover. He reconnected the LH AC bus as soon as he thought he was safely out of primary radar range. Being tracked after the event was not going to spoil his plans, but being tracked in real time could have. That’s it pure and simple. Funny how people prefer conspiracy theories to the unvarnished truth

  15. Personally I find it difficult to stomach that a bunch of toffs are quaffing champagne & posing for publicity shots whilst the NOK are waiting for answers. Sounds all a bit insensitive to me. I’m not saying that it shouldn’t be done, afterall that is the way of the world but you would expect some decorum. Whilst Mh370 is a lump of metal it contains human beings. OI are not on some fancy jaunt hunting an ancient ship wreck where the deceased NOK are watching closely. I’m aggravated by people pointing the finger at Shah because we still do not know what role (if any) he played & let’s remember he has NOK too. It’s probably a good thing I am not an “Expert” because if I had anything to do with the way the search for Mh370 I would be turning over every stone out there to find the answers regardless of what political toes I may stand on. That is most likely the true reason why we are still looking for Mh370 4 years later. We have the French apparently sitting on the Flaperon & the results from that investigation. We have God Knows how many countries being candid with it’s radar returns. Malaysia is well known for it’s corruption so how much can we trust anything they say? Let’s flip the tables. If Mh370 came down in the GOT (Highly unlikely) or anywhere else & that was proven would the SIO concept not be a Tin Hatted conspiracy theory? Of course it would. I simply can not understand why any feasible theory in regards to Mh370 that doesn’t support the 77th ARC should automatically be labelled as a “Conspiracy”! Can someone explain that to me. Exactly what CONCRETE evidence places Mh370 in the SIO? The ISAT Data is largely akin to flogging a dead horse. Practically all the tests to date have proven inconclusive. It’s time to look at other options. By all means finish the search but I’m sure I’m not the only 1 that won’t be surprised if they don’t find anything.

  16. @Gysbreght
    “The point is that imagining motive and causality doesn’t solve the mystery or narrow down the search area.”

    I basically agree with Dennis. For various reasons, the intentional flight scenarios got lower priority from the academics, even though my feeling is the “public” (at least in USA) tends to feel the accident was intentional.

    Possible reasons for under-representation of intentional flight possibility:
    (1) harder to model intentional flight
    (2) Strong political opposition to blaming pilots, and much analyst energy going into trying to absolve pilot from blame (to no avail, I would say technically, but may be a public relations success diverting public attention from intentional aspects of the evidence)
    (3) Unintentional, passive flight had an advantageous “pinpoint” solution (orig 38S search zone) whereas intentional flight could be anywhere on Arc7, although the current 29-35S is probably the highest priority area.

    So there is an obvious, huge conflict from those who feel the flight was intentional, versus the IG/ATSB/MY official search which has not had as much focus on intentional flight path solutions.

    But the new search area helps a lot by finally getting off of the 38S fixation.

  17. @TBill: You don’t have to convince me that the diversion at IGARI and almost all actions thereafter were intentional. The questions are by whom, what was the overall motive and specific intent of each action, at which point there were no further actions and why did actions cease? Answering those questions is conjecture, nothing more.

    Every one is entitled to his/her opinion, but some opinions make more sense than others.

  18. @Rob, your insistence that Shah embarked on a suicidal flight is backed up by nothing in your comment, nor, really, is it supported by the larger body of knowledge we have regarding pilot suicide, political motivation, or criminal behavior.

    For example, he is the wrong age, education and status to be a politically motivated murder/suicide actor. These people are usually young, poor and uneducated men separated from their families.

    There has been no claim of responsibility by a dissident group (with the exception, IIRC, of some Uyghurs in Western China–a group with no obvious connection to Shah and likely one that made an opportunistic claim).

    Lack of any follow-up attacks of any kind by a dissident group. Would a one-shot then go home political movement really have the teeth to pull off such a plot as the disappearance of MH370 to begin with?

    In the history of commercial aviation, there has been a total of five “confirmed/believed to be” pilot suicides involving passenger-carrying commercial airliners, when one excludes hijack takeovers. Per researchers, “Investigators do not qualify aircraft incidents as suicide unless there is compelling evidence that the pilot was doing so. This evidence would include suicide notes, previous attempts, threats of suicide, or a history of mental illness.” As far as we know, Shah left no note, made no previous attempt or threat and had so insignificant of a mental illness history that can’t, even in retrospect, be supported by evidence. And, of course, none of those five suicides match the M.O. Shah is accused of.

    Researchers, academics and law enforcement officials believe there are six generally accepted theories or reasons people commit crimes. I’m not sure that Shah fits into any of these. The most likely would be social learning, but we aren’t aware, at least publicly, of any groups Shah was closely enough connected to in a way that would actually sway behavior. Strain, the last in the list below, I imagine wouldn’t happen without antecedent frustrations. At any rate, FYI those theories are:

    Social learning: You develop the motivation to commit crimes because of who your family, friends and coworkers are.

    Social control: We’re all criminals and it’s only society’s mores and institutions that keep us from chaos.

    Labeling: The establishment labels certain groups criminal, which leads to diminished opportunity, which leads to behavior that actually is criminal.

    Genetics: Not racial, per se, but the idea that we are rewarded for engaging in criminal conduct because of evolutionary benefit.

    Rational choice: weighing risks against the rewards and committing a crime purely out of immediate self-interest.
    Social disorganization: Basically, your neighborhood has decayed and loses the social institutions that keep you on the straight-and-narrow, so residents start committing crimes.

    Strain: When you can’t achieve what you want by usual means or feel blocked from pursuing the usual means you try to achieve by any means necessary, including crime.

    All of that taken together, suggests to me that anyone who insists with authority that Shah committed a suicide/mass murder, really needs to bring some, any, one single shred of evidence that comports with what we know of suicidal actors in other events. I am willing to believe that Shad did this, but all claims thus far have been tenuous at best.

  19. @Scott

    The most likely would be social learning, but we aren’t aware, at least publicly, of any groups Shah was closely enough connected to in a way that would actually sway behavior.

    The Malays have never published the details of Shah’s political involvement. Certainly he was a supporter of the opposition party. His relationship with Tim Pardi has raised a number of warning bells for me, as do his social media posts, and “messaging” prior to take-off. I would not discard a politically motivated event as easily as you do.

  20. @DennisW

    As each day passes with this mystery unsolved the likelihood of one person being able to pull it off diminishes. Though I accept your opinion it’s still possible.

    Richard Feynman is truly brilliant but would the minds of Patton, Zhukov, Montgomery et al be better equipped to unravelling the 9M-MRO disappearance?

  21. @SteveB

    All the people you mention would bring something to the party. I was actually most at ease with Angus Houston as a dispassionate evaluator of the information he had to work with. Anyway, no point in crushing sour grapes. We are where we are. The best books on this episode have yet to be written.

  22. @Rob

    “The pilot merely set out to fly as far as humanly possible into the SIO,”

    but he turned the plane towards Australia when he went around Sumatra, if he had more fuel he would land/crash on australian mainland(provided the straight path and crash to happen above 35S)

    if he wanted to crash as far as possible from mainland he’d turn S or SW not SE

  23. @StevanG

    I can hear Rob’s response now. The SE path was carefully chosen to coincide with sunrise at fuel exhaustion.

  24. @DennisW

    I agree with Rob.
    Z went deep south, and I mean deep south.
    He had a specific reason, and a specific intent, to vanish.
    He has succeeded.
    He has outfoxed the number chrunchers.
    They have not found him.
    They can not find him, and they will not find him up north, because he is NOT THERE.

    I am confidently predicting that the search north of 35 will fail, even if they eventually search all the way to the beaches of Java.

    Rob and I slightly disagree on methodology and actual route flown, but we basically agree on Z’s intent and the general game plan.

    In a few years time, after all the northen drift based predicitons are proven to be wrong, we can start again, down south.

  25. @Ventus

    I have more faith in the debris modeling than you do. Other models I have favor a late FMT and a 19:41 position of 5N-6N. Of course, models don’t have a lot of historical credibility. 🙂

  26. @Dennis, I won’t discard, but I will assign, at least for myself, a relative weight. (And along the way I certainly won’t discount the theory you’ve championed over the years, though I might wonder if it was Shah or rather someone else controlling the plane at the time.)

    I’ve looked at Shah’s social media, his YouTube videos and so on. For me, his posts are weak sauce when compared to those of martyrs or revolutionaries (or insert the word of your choice here) or even of the thousands of Americans who are outraged by the current presidential administration and like to yell about it on their networks.

    I recall Victor Iannello on this blog pointing to a Shah social post that said something to the effect of there being a revolutionary in everyone and that we should let that revolutionary out. If that were a litmus test of guilt, my Twitter feed would lead one to believe that airlines would be raining from of the sky from coast to coast–at least until the mid-term elections.

    In the absence of hard facts, which we have so few of, we are left to our imagination, and it has always been so. Leonardo might as well have been thinking of our speculation on whatever the digital narrative version of pareidolia is when he wrote:

    “If you look at any walls spotted with various stains or with a mixture of different kinds of stones, if you are about to invent some scene you will be able to see in it a resemblance to various different landscapes adorned with mountains, rivers, rocks, trees, plains, wide valleys, and various groups of hills. You will also be able to see divers combats and figures in quick movement, and strange expressions of faces, and outlandish costumes, and an infinite number of things which you can then reduce into separate and well conceived forms.”

    His second sentence strikes me as particularly apt for this discussion.

  27. @ventus45

    if he had a specific intent to vanish he would choose a flight westwards towards S. Arabia/Europe and just turn south without any suspicion after turning off transponder.

    There is no way he could be sure RMAF wouldn’t notice him and scramble interceptors or alert other airforces in region.

    “vanish forever” theory peddled by MSM has so many holes but it’s stuck in heads of so many people, try clearing your mind of any junk you have read and start thinking from scratch

  28. @StevanG

    I don’t mind you disagreeing with me, nor even objecting to the central tennants of my theory, but to accuse me of being stuck in the MSM mire is an insult too far.

    For your information, I have done my own thinking from day one.
    My scenario and methodology is well known, but ignored, I think mostly because I am considered a heretic, because I am not welded to the Lido slide, and 18:22 in paprticular, like everyone else is.
    I have no problem with that.
    I am patient.
    Time will eventually prove the northern FMT off the 18:22 position to be wrong.

  29. Lido slide is just a projection, don’t take it too literal.

    Preplanned suicide scenario simply doesn’t fit whatever methodology you apply.

  30. @Scott O
    Not to belabor the point, but my understanding is middle-age men is indeed a risk category…so ZS might not be the wrong age

  31. @TBill,

    I am totally not qualified in the psych domain, but I simply cannot reconcile Shah being suicidal. There is absolutely no hint of it (again in my unqualified view) in any of his pre-flight history. There were reports of marital issues and issues with Tim Pardi, but I put those in the unreliable category.

    I regard it as far more likely that the diversion South was plan B relative to a failed plan A. Whatever plan A was.

  32. @TBill, not belaboring. I think this is an absolutely crucial issue in the mystery of MH370. And you are right–for suicide, middle aged men, particularly white unemployed middle-aged men in the West are a risk category. But not necessarily for suicide driven by religious or political ideology, the latter of which I think is what is being alleged by most who see Shah as the perpetrator.

    While this is a bit apples and oranges, a report by Haaretz tells us that suicide bombers encountered in the Middle East are single, average age of 21 and are looking for the recognition of national or religious sacrifice, and not of revenge. This applied to all but one of the nearly 30 cases the paper reviewed.

    The oldest 9/11 hijacker was 33 with the majority likewise being in their early 20s.

    And though we have to reach further back in time, political actors, assassins more than suicides, seem to be quite young as well: John Wilkes Booth 26, Lee Harvey Oswald 24, Sirhan SIrhan, 24, John Hinkley Jr, 27.

    Testosterone and disillusionment seems to be a helluva combination…

    But here is, I think, a very useful story from New Scientist which described the (sometimes years of) mental illness and anguish that afflicts those who perpetrate most murder/suicide acts. I found it fascinating.

    https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21929240-200-martyr-myth-inside-the-minds-of-suicide-bombers/

    There are always outliers, of course, and I’d be curious to understand how much more impulsive rather than meticulously planned the behavior of an outliers is. But with this information, at least, I struggle to see how Shah fits the mold.

  33. Right – so, back we are at “Psychological Analysis of the Pilot”. This has been discussed at great length before, and at the time I tried to give my semi-professional opinion. To sum it up, 1) nobody can give a serious analysis of anyone they haven’t even met in person, less of someone from a different cultural background. 2) Given this caveat, there is no positive evidence in the public domain that could, even with hindsight which is always biased, be interpreted as credibly pointing at psychological problems.
    Basically, yes he could have committed murder-suicide for all we know, but the probability seems no higher than the population average, which is extremely low. (Think about it – how many people from at-peace countries who have reached a good job with a good income commit murder-suicide out of the blue? Right, not many.) Someone above said that “airlines would be raining from of the sky”, that’s exactly it. Let’s face it, prima facie murder suicide is ultra improbable. Also, all those hijacking-political demands-Plan B-hypotheses, frankly, the guy was an airline pilot. He wasn’t a moron. There is no way any such schemes could have worked, and he would 100% have been intelligent enough to know that. This is why I want to repeat what someone else I think said above: The pilot has every right not to be presumed guilty. There is zero actual evidence implying his guilt.

    Regarding JW’s blog post, I wouldn’t say that what he singles out is the single or a simple mistake, but it’s just one of a bunch of glaring inconsistencies in this case. For argument’s sake however, I believe that focussing on the most glaring of many glaring issues is probably a smart move.

  34. @Havelock

    There is zero actual evidence implying his guilt.

    Really?? How do you suppose the SIO coordinates got on his flight simulator drive?

  35. @DennisW, You wrote, “How do you suppose the SIO coordinates got on his flight simulator drive?” The SIO coordinates, of course, did not get into Zaharie’s flight simulator–the final two points were some 800 nautical miles from the 7th arc. The flight sim data was mischaracterized by someone who, to make matters worse, was sitting on the secret RMP report so that no one could check his work. Once the report surfaced through other channels it became clear that his premise was false: there was no continuous flight up the Malacca Strait navigating waypoint to waypoint and then turning south on autopilot.

    Gysbreght’s work has shown that if we accept the BFO data is valid, the only way to account for the 0:19 values is that someone in the cockpit was actively pushing the plane into a dive. The flight sim data, contrariwise, shows someone holding the plane in a glide as per the emergency checklist.

    Similarities between Zaharie’s flight sim and what may have happened in the SIO, then, are superficial.

    @Havelock, Many thanks for your insightful comment.

  36. @Jeff

    I don’t care about whether the flight sim data represents a continuous flight or whether the terminal points indicate a glide. What I care about are SIO points themselves logged a short time before the aircraft was diverted to the SIO. Theories relative to a Northern path, debris planting, aircraft failure, and Shah’s innocence have been seriously compromised by the simulator data.

  37. @JW: You’re welcome, thank you for hosting this forum.

    @DennisW

    As JW pointed out, there are at most superficial similarities between the sim and the presumed flight path. The sim has also been discussed here before at length, I remember somebody pointing out that millions of people around the world steer virtual airplanes around any number of flight paths, often even crashing them randomly into things. The actual phrase used was something like “if we took everyone seriously who crashes his simulated airplane into an ocean we would have a hell of a lot of terrorists”. I think the poster at the time pointed out the s/he had even crashed a plane in a sim themselves. (I think I have, too). His sim doesn’t mean anything, really. Actually, I find it more revealing that this (or Shah’s youtube videos) is the sort of narrative used to justify the “Shah-murder-suicide-SIO” hypothesis. In my view it’s a contrarian indicator: If such a flimsy story has been checked out using hundreds of millions of dollars (unsuccessfully), and they keep throwing good money after bad money, those people really seem to be completely and utterly at a loss as to what really went on.

    The real question is, why are ‘they’ currently spending another couple dozen million bucks in ‘good money’? It’s a waste!!

  38. @Havelock

    I agree that people play all sorts of games with flight simulators. I would likely do the same sorts of things. However, I don’t see how you can simply ignore the location points in the SIO recorded only weeks before the MH370 diversion by the pilot in charge of the aircraft. To me that is a huge “bury the contrary”.

  39. @DennisW, Obviously there’s little hope that a rehashed discussion of this subject will dislodge anyone from the conclusion they reached after the last go-around, but I would just point out that according to this interpretation of the flight sim data, Zaharie spent about an hour running previewing his suicidal run into the SIO, then never went back to it in the following weeks, instead passing the time playing around with a DC-3 and a 737.

    This does not seem like the monomania of a guy who presumably deduced the 777’s left AC bus wiring diagram in order to pull off the most fiendishly unsolvable mass murder suicide in history…

  40. @Havelock

    “The pilot has every right not to be presumed guilty. There is zero actual evidence implying his guilt.”

    He was the only person on board capable of doing this. And I’d rather accuse him of failed divert than intentional mass murder suicide. I’m also not expert in psychology but he really didn’t look like an “evil” person to me judging by his online posts interests etc.

  41. Victor Iannello apparently refers to me when he writes on his blog:

    “Others have latched on to the incorrect assumption that TAC input remains fixed (rather than removed) after the A/P is disengaged and the flight mode degrades from NORMAL to SECONDARY. In my mind, this scenario remains a possibility for a high rate, banked descent in the 2-minute window from the flameout of the first (right) engine.”

    I wonder how he would explain that in the Boeing simulatioins with loss of the autopilot on the first flameout, in the 2-minute window from the flameout of the first engine, the airplane continues esentially straight, turning only a couple of degrees right, then a couple of degrees left, then after 2 minutes, settles on a steady low bank angle left turn for 3 to 4 minutes.

  42. Crimea’s independance movement in 1990’s & Russia’s weakness and internal struggle with Chechnya
    In the early 1990’s Crimea was already a source of tension between Ukraine and Russia. But what is interesting is that Crimea wanted to become independant of Ukraine, not necessarily become part of Russia.
    It’s worth reminding that the 1990’s was a period of transition from the Cold War when Yugoslavia was breaking up, and there were separatist movements in Chechnya & Tatarstan in Russia.

    It’s also remarkable how much weaker Russia was at that time, compared to the Putin era now.

    This article from the Kennedy School of Govt. at Harvard written in 1995 outlines Crimea crisis upto that time.

    Protecting Russian military-strategic interests in Southwestern and Western Europe without Ukraine would require Russian creation of a completely new military infrastructure, which is extremely costly and may not be adequate for Russia’s aspirations in the region. That is why Russia is very sensitive to the loss of Ukraine as a military-strategic area, and makes attempts to maintain its strategic presence in the Black Sea and control the port of Sevastopol as a key naval base for the Russian Black Sea Fleet.

    On May 5, 1992 the Crimean parliament declared its independence, and on May 6, 1992, it voted for a Constitution establishing the independence and providing dual citizenship with Russia for the Crimean population. Also, the Crimean parliament passed a resolution calling for a referendum on independence from Ukraine. The Verhovna Rada of Ukraine responded by declaring the independence declaration invalid. It instructed the Crimean parliament to reverse its decision and review some provisions of the Constitution, or face direct presidential rule from Kiev. At the same time, the Republican Movement of Crimea, a Russian-inspired organization, was very active in gathering the requisite number of signatures needed to hold a Crimean referendum on independence from Ukraine.

    The dispute between Kiev and Simferopol was an encouraging signal for Russian officials, who were irritated by Ukraine’s independence and its consequences, particularly Ukraine’s stance on the division of the Black Sea Fleet. In January 1992, Vladimir Lukin, then chairman of the Russian parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs, suggested that in order to pressure Ukraine to give up its claim to the Black Sea Fleet, Russia should question Ukrainian control over Crimea. This statement was followed by a resolution of the Russian Parliament to investigate the circumstances of Crimea’s transfer from Russia to Ukraine in 1954. Finally, the Russian Parliament passed a resolution in May 1992 declaring the 1954 transfer of Crimea to Ukraine illegal.

    It is likely that the Russian Foreign Ministry has decided, at least for a while, not to sacrifice establishing good relations with Ukraine for a bankrupted Crimean leadership which has been losing credibility in the peninsula. Also, taking into account the fact that the constitutional crisis in Crimea coincided with military conflict in Chechnya, Russian officials preferred to refrain from support of the Crimeans in order to discourage a separatist movement in Chechnya.

    https://www.belfercenter.org/publication/crimea-and-black-sea-fleet-russian-ukrainian-relations

  43. Age of the suspects
    Age of the perps is highly relevant to the discussion.
    The 2 Ukrainian passport holders were both 45 in 2014, meaning they were both born in 1969 in the USSR.
    1969 – born in USSR
    1989 – age 20 – Berlin Wall falls
    1991 – age 22 – Soviet Union collapses
    1997 – age 26 – Ukraine & Russia reach deal on Black Sea Fleet, Sevastopol
    2000 – age 31 – Putin comes to power in Russia
    2009 – age 40 – Russian FSB told to leave Crimea
    2010 – age 41 – Yanukovich come to Power in Ukraine, FSB comes back, Russia gains control of SBU

    1994 – Ukraine population – 52 million (peak)
    2016 – Ukraine population – 45 million
    Outside the capital Kiev, the central, southern and eastern regions experienced a severe decline in population mainly due to the exodus of Russians, and declining birth rate due to the shock of the collapse of Soviet Union.

    In southern Ukraine, Odessa region lost 173,600 people, or 6.6% of its 1989 population.
    Ukraine inherited about 780,000 armed forces personnel from the collapsed Soviet Union. In 2014, it was down to aproximately 230,000.

    Source: Wikipedia

    Conclusion
    When considering suspects, a profile can be built based on well known facts. According Reuters, both Ukrainian passport holders were on the FBI list of suspects in the immediate aftermath of the disappearance MH370.
    – It is well known that ex-military men are typically chosen for tough special assignments, not only because of their past military experience, but also because with age comes maturity, and a mature person is less prone to panicking when situations change
    – journalist Florence de Changy describes both Ukrainian passport holders as fitting the profile of hijackers in terms of age, physical condition, appearance, attitude.
    – their age also places them in a specific demographic of ex-Soviet military types who may or may not have remained in Ukraine post-independance
    – they may also have felt resentment towards Ukraine felt by Russians in the early 1990’s when Russia was weak, and who felt a strong desire to regain a part of Russia’s military prestige by annexing Crimea from Ukraine

  44. Ex-Soviet and Warsaw Pact countries purging Russia ties and getting payback:
    the Smolensk Crash for Poland, and Crimea annexation for Ukraine with MH370 as distraction

    In 2010 a Polish government plane carrying Polish dignitaries on their way to Russia, crashed in Smolensk. The cause of the crash was declared to be pilot error. However, a reexamination of the evidence suggests that there were exlosions on board prior to the crash. From Feb 2018:

    A British air accident investigator has told Sky News he believes there were explosions on board a plane before it crashed eight years ago, killing Polish President Lech Kaczynski.
    …Frank Taylor’s findings challenge the original reports of the Russian and Polish authorities which blamed pilot error for the crash.
    …Mr Taylor was involved in the Lockerbie and Manchester air crash investigations.

    https://news.sky.com/story/smolensk-crash-explosions-on-board-before-plane-hit-ground-investigator-says-11233792

    Polish President Lech Kaczynski was among those killed in the crash. Since his election in 2005, he had been attempting to purge his country’s govt. of ex-Communist and Russia sympathisers, especially in the security services.
    From Stratfor 2007:

    “Polish President Lech Kaczynski on Feb. 17 released a 374-page report on the workings of the recently liquidated Military Intelligence Service (WSI). The report betrays the country’s intelligence apparatus of the past 15 years, outing its practices, people, connections and expertise.
    …the move fits into their proclaimed agenda of rooting out all old (communist) institutions, protecting Poland against Russia, solidifying Poland on the international stage and becoming the key European ally for the United States.
    …What the Polish fear most is a resurgence of Russia as a great power — an assertion that has recently become more apparent. Russia has been consolidating power at home, expanding its influence
    …If the Polish are going to consolidate their power, effectively purge Soviet influence and become weighty enough to be the front line against Russia, then this is the time to do it — not after Russia fully awakens.

    https://worldview.stratfor.com/article/geopolitical-diary-trying-redefine-poland

    In Ukraine too 2010 was a significant year. A pro-Russian president Victor Yanukovich was elected, and he promptly reestablished connections with Russia’s secret services, and actually put them in charge of the SBU.
    When the SBU was unable to control the Maidan revolution in 2014, President Yanukovich and the leaders of the SBU relocated to Crimea and helped with the annexation of Crimea.

    Conclusion
    President Obama’s election in 2008, and Medvedev’s election in Russia hopefully ushered in a ‘reset’ in relations between the West and Russia, and a ‘pivot’ to Asia by USA. But the Russians saw a different picture emerging.
    ex-Soviet and Warsaw pact countries were trying hard to get rid of their old Communist and pro-Russian past, and seek closer relations with NATO and EU. And they were trying to do it ‘before Russia fully awakens.’
    Russia fought back by leveraging the pro-Russian sympathizers in both Poland and Ukraine.

  45. @CliffG & @JW

    if you want to dig deeper you could try to contact their families/friends in Ukraine and interview them

    I doubt they had anything to do with this but if you are that curious you should try to get some first hand info instead of accusing them without any proof.

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