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. SteveN, you say, “Yes, and they also have radar dedicated to detecting other aircraft to prevent collision (a warning will sound in the cockpit if another plane comes within close proximity.”

    You would appear to be referring to TACAS. That is a broadcast system, not a radar system.

  2. @Gysbreght
    The flightorg webpage article on TAC states;
    #If the TAC is switched off – any trim applied by the TAC remains in
    #If the TAC fails – any trim applied is removed (Trim centred).

    Also, states;
    TAC fails for at least the following reasons:
    …R/L1/V ACE’s failed/direct mode or the PFC not in Normal mode.

    I agree that your statement, “Contrary to widespread beliefs, I think that the
    trim applied by the TAC would remain when the PFCS reverts to secondary mode
    and the TAC function is lost”, does seems to be in disagreement with the flightorg
    article information.

    I will leave it to OXY to explain why/where the aircraft flew to, in his theory.


    You stated back in 2016;
    “If the Left HGA is also disabled, satellite communications would only
    be possible when the Right HGA is exposed to the satellite, eg start of
    turn at Nilam to Sanob.”

    (Leaving aside problems with that statement, relating to how the BSUs
    are powered,) we can see that in;
    that the type of HGA antennae setup (L or R, not L and R) on MH370
    transmits “up to 210 degrees in elevation“.
    (It is not clear if that reference is to 210 degrees measured starting
    from the 180 position vertically, -or- measured 210 degrees divided
    in half
    equally both sides of a line taken as being 90 degrees outwards
    from a single antenna panel as it sits on the aircraft hull.)

    Do you still hold the view expressed in your quoted statement above,
    as it seems likely to me that even allowing for your assertion that
    the ‘Left HGA is..disabled’ – that even then the Right HGA would still
    have sufficient exposure to ‘see’ the IOR satellite without turning,
    (when the SDU repowered) circa track MEKAR to IGOGU.
    I ask because several posters pop up here occaisionally, expressing
    a similar scenario of Right HGA exposure, as you have theorised.

  3. Note;
    My comment in relation to antenna “L or R, not L and R”, is meant to refer to the
    transmission of (satellite) signals from MH370, not reception of signals.

  4. I’m not suggesting a conspiracy but does anyone know why the NOAA would pull information for a Drifter Buoy from it’s database?

    That 1 from the NIO that I’m interested in as seemingly disappeared from the database & the link now gives an error message. I’m contacting NOAA to see what happened to it but I’m not expecting a quick response. So Do any commentators on this blog know why this would happen?

  5. @buyerninety: Thanks for pointing that out. The flightorg article is not consistent.
    First it says:

    TAC fails for at least the following reasons:
    —TAC Switch OFF or Failed

    Then under “TAC Fun Facts”:
    — If the TAC is switched off – any trim applied by the TAC remains in

    Anyway, if the flightorg article is correct, then perhaps the Boeing Engineering Simulator got it wrong.

  6. Yes, I agree that wording doesn’t appear consistent. His articles are immensely informative,
    unfortunately, the author rarely repsonds to comments (as seen at end of webpage) on his
    articles. (To be fair, such comments would probably only be answerable by Boeing or Honeywell, anyway.)

    Incidently, if the autopilot disengages, does that mean Direct Mode drops off?
    Also, a different matter;
    Jeff said;
    “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“.
    Was that the pdf that included the diagram of level flight speed Versus bank angle? (Were you using level flight characteristics to try and fit a scenario
    of a descending, probably spiraling, flight path??)

  7. @buyerninety:

    I think Jeff referred to the work I did on the simulations done by Boeing in 2016. Figure 6 of the ATSB Update report shows the tracks for the 10 scenarios that the ATSB had selected for Boeing to simmulate. In all cases the the turn radius that can be observed at the 7th arc crossing was greater than 8 NM, corresponding to bank angles less than 25 degrees, which cannot explain the final BFO’s.

    The PDF you refer to showed trajectories 8 and 9, which were both in an electrical configuration that resulted in loss of the autopilot at the first engine failure. The chart of turn radius vs bank angle in that PDF may be considered to apply approximatively for moderate angles of descent, but not for steeply descending spiral dives. But those spiral dives develop only after the bank angle has increased beyond, say, 60 – 70 degrees.

  8. @buyerninety
    When MH370 was tracking northwest through the Malacca Strait, with an inoperative left HGA, the right side HGA mounted on the right side of the fuselage cannot see the Indian Ocean Satellite, it is blocked by the fuselage. The aircraft would need to roll approx 15 degrees left. The 1825 logon occurs around 4 nautical miles east of Nilam. Guess what an aircraft is doing east of Nilam if it is turning left towards Sanob!

    My previous response appears to be technically above this forum.
    Jump in the simulator, turn on the APU first, then watch what happens at fuel exhaustion during cruise.

  9. OXY said;
    “When MH370 was tracking northwest through the Malacca Strait, with an inoperative
    left HGA, the right side HGA mounted on the right side of the fuselage cannot see
    the Indian Ocean Satellite, it is blocked by the fuselage.”

    Have you had reference from Ball Aerospace as to how that “210 degrees in elevation”
    is measured by reference to one, or both panels, of the HGA?
    Provisionally, in the absence of that information, if the elevation of 210 degrees
    is measured in reference to one antenna panel, from the 180 point under the
    aircraft up and over 30 degrees past the vertical (0 degrees, aircraft top)
    I can understand how you come to your theory – as the elevation rings for Inmarsat
    3-F1 give an elevation from MH370 at 18:25 UTC of about 50 or a bit less degrees;

    Why is the Left HGA ‘inoperative’? I assume you mean it is unpowered, in which case,
    the next question is, do you have any reference that shows that the Left BSU & Right
    (for the Left High Gain Antenna and Right High Gain Antenna, respectively) are
    powered from a power source different to the SDU
    (which the FI stipulates is powered
    from the Left AC Main Bus {Left AC Sector 2 specifically}).
    I say ‘BSU'(=Beam Steering Unit), because each High Gain Antenna panel is unpowered, see;
    therefore I assume you meant the BSU, which does require to be powered.

    Prior to hearing your answer, I should say that I consider it very likely that all
    LRUs in the E11 Rack (where the SDU is located) are powered by the same Power Bus –
    very likely all powered from the Left AC Main, thereby. The 2 X Ball Aerospace BSUs,
    however, may not be located in the E11 Rack, but may be located behind, or nearer to,
    each of their respective High Gain Antenna panels.

    It is not my intention to put you on the spot – but I am enquiring if you can give
    me an opinion in answer to my question;
    “if the autopilot disengages, does that mean Direct Mode drops off?”

  10. @buyerninety: “if the autopilot disengages, does that mean Direct Mode drops off?”

    Sorry, I don’t understand your question and how you get to Direct Mode.

    When all AC power is lost, the pitot tubes are unheated and airspeed may therefore be unreliable. The PFCS normal mode depends on reliable airspeed and therefore reverts to secondary mode that functions without airspeed input. The autopilot requires the PFCS to be in normal mode and therefore it disconnects (presumably the autothrottle in speed hold mode also disconnects).

    When the APU is started to restore AC power for pitot heating, the PFCS normal mode can be restored by cycling the PFCS switch on the overhead panel from AUTO to DISC and back to AUTO. Once the PFCS is back in normal mode the Autopilot can be engaged, but not before.

  11. @Michael John

    “I’m thinking of an Ethiopia 961 style hijack. ”

    another ethiopian hijack happened just two weeks before MH370 and it was all over the news, Captain very likely heard about it and if he went to wikipedia to check for details the article leads directly to Ethiopia 961…

    now connect the dots, Ethiopia 961 has Somalis that took the plane with final goal being CI (because there is an asylum center there), and the aforementioned hijack took the plane to Switzerland instead of Italy meanwhile embarassing swiss airforce that didn’t work after 5 PM

    CI theory : final goal is CI, landing in different country, bonus points embarrassing malaysian airforce/government along the way, similarities are just striking

  12. @ALL

    On the basis of the ISAT Data been declared null & void people may ask what other options we have. Here’s mine.

    I have satellite imagery of what I believe to be aircraft wreckage off Northern Sumatra. However I know that on it’s own it is worthless. So what I have done is backed it up with FACTS. Scientific facts at that.

    Lucky for me someone dropped an NOAA Drifter Buoy more or less in my location of interest in July 2014. I have managed to source the tracking data for that buoy. I can confirm it is a positive match for the debris found from Mh370. What is vital here is that the end point for that buoy is just South of Pemba Island where the wing flap was found. Passes over the top of Reunion where the Flaperon was found. By using ocean current map for the months in question I am able to demonstrate how the lighter pieces were washed out of the mainstream East to West current. Thus why Roy ended up so far South on the coast of Africa. It also is the same explanation for how the other lighter bits came ashore. I have combined all 3 into a image map Which you can view here:

    I look forward to someone giving me a similar explanation on drift from the current search area.

  13. @Jeff Wise said:

    “The worst theories are those that hinge on the existence of undisclosed data, and the falsification of existing data.”

    Wouldn’t that ‘falsification’ also include any spoofing theory, including your own?

  14. OXY said:

    “We both know, Indonesia is never going to release its Primary Radar data. But IF it was released, the Final Major Turn would have been known, and the aircraft would have been found by now, period!”

    Good point. So why wasn’t it released? Could that non-release be because there wasn’t an FMT in their airspace? Perhaps not even an aircraft matching MH370 in their airspace at all? Indonesia kind-of said that: ‘… not seen in our airspace’ didn’t they?

    “Do you really think that the Malaysian Government would want it found if they were at fault?”

    If it was a mechanical problem due to poor maintenance? Yes, why not? Their insurance would cover all costs and this is the first (I think?) major incident for MAS since the last hijacking (flight 653) in 1977, if so, a pretty good track record.

    That would have been a lot easier than trying to weave the current story with the (still-existing) risk of being found out. In any event where a government classifies and hides data about it, the event will not be a ‘normal’ one.

    “And would that explain why they restructured the company from MAS to MAB, so that they are not liable for MH370?”

    No doubt. But it’s also reported they have a 2.5B insurance policy for MH370, so are well covered financially. Also remember there are other players involved who could be judged liable, depending on the circumstances.

    “And do you think that they would want the Indonesian Primary radar data and the First Officer’s phone connection log with Banda Aceh to be released? ”

    What if the Indonesian radar showed nothing, and the phone call didn’t happen? The ‘log’ is the only thing that adds ‘evidence’ to the aircraft being over Penang and in the Straits, but like the radar data, ATC transcript and CCTV recordings, it hasn’t been released. There is no ‘proof’ just a ‘Trust us’ from a government who have shown themselves corrupt and not to be trusted at all.

    “And is it possible that they applied some political pressure or financial incentive on Indonesia to withhold all their radar data?”

    No doubt, possibly same thing with Vietnam and Thailand. But because it involved a civil aircraft with passengers, they perhaps would have needed a darn good reason to convince the Thais and Vietnamese to keep it hidden.

    With Indonesia it may have been easier, if there was only a lack of recorded data to cover up.

  15. StevanG said:

    “So? He’s had enough and wanted to shed some light on malaysian political situation.

    Taking the plane off course and having all the world media cover it would be the perfect opportunity.”

    So why choose a flight in the wrong direction in the middle of the night (and at a weekend) when everyone locally is asleep and then not have colleagues on the ground sending press releases to all the main press agencies worldwide?

    No press agency reported receiving any.

  16. “So why choose a flight in the wrong direction in the middle of the night (and at a weekend)”

    cause it happened the same day after the court sentenced Anwar, he did it on a whim obviously not planned really well

    ” then not have colleagues on the ground ”

    if he said anything to his colleagues there is a high chance they’d tell it to authorities, he wanted to land on CI as a surprise while the media focus was on SCS…imagine the impact if he pulled it off

  17. @buyerninety
    Read up on the Left AIMS Cabinet and what it supplies in relation to SDU, ACARS, Mode S Air data to Transponder, and Flight ID to SDU. ie All the systems that failed.

    Note the proximity of the topped up oxygen bottle to the Left AIMS Cabinet.

    The angular coverage of the right HGA past the fuselage varies with azimuth direction, refer to coverage chart.

  18. StevenG said:

    “if he said anything to his colleagues there is a high chance they’d tell it to authorities”

    [ Replace my ‘colleagues’ with ‘collaborators’ if you wish]

    Telling the world’s media would have the same effect. No media outlet reported any press release.

    “…he wanted to land on CI as a surprise while the media focus was on SCS…imagine the impact if he pulled it off”

    Well that wouldn’t have worked would it – they didn’t start searching the SCS until after the aircraft’s fuel would have been exhausted.

  19. @OXY, @StevanG, I’m not really interested in people using this space to flog meritless theories, especially done tendentiously and frankly, I suspect, in bad faith. I’m going to put you both on manual moderation.

  20. That oxygen bottle theory really is next level bonkers, no offense.

    Your post sort of seems contradictory to me, you talk about Malaysia having great insurance and then you theorise that they convinced indo, Thailand aaand vietnam, no less, to cover for them. Frankly your post illustrates to me the implausibility of all the “cover up” theories – effectively you always need really not one but a bunch of governments to lie in concert. Considering the general incompetence of the places we’re talking about it find it hard to believe that that could realistically work, not to mention that I find it hard to see several of those banana republic governments (apologies, it’s really late and I had drinks) being actually willing to work with each other. I would much rather expect them to gleefully their hated neighbor get in a situation of massive embarrassment.

    I had wanted to post regarding the recent idea concerning weather etc radar. It sounds great in theory, but in reality, these weather radars are really low resolution, basically they can say, “oh there’s lots of stuff hanging in the air in that direction, and given how dense it is it’s probably rain not snow” but the weather radar from Phnom Penh reliably seeing mh370, I doubt that very much. Ship radars are directed horizontally for obvious reasons, and make maybe 40 nm if it’s a really large tanker. I would be surprised if they recorded the radar. So I don’t think those radar sources will be of help.

  21. @Jeff Wise
    I’ve been a long time follower of the MH370 mystery and your site. I think you have done an excellent job in your research and providing a great place for discussion on the current search status and theories as they develop.
    What I would really be curious to hear about is:
    Have there been any leads from early in the investigation that you have come back to and felt compelled to follow up on?
    When the current search ends and no wreckage is found, will/ how will that change/ strengthen your opinion on possible scenarios?
    Thanks again and keep up the great work!

  22. @Dave W., Thank you! In short, yes, the most important lead from early in the investigation that wasn’t adequately followed up on was the reboot of the SDU. This was the event which generated the data that everything else has hinged on. No one knows how it happened. Once the seabed search officially draws a blank, I hope that this will get the attention it deserves.

  23. @Havelock

    Yes, a large ship at sea might only have a radar range of 40 km (line of sight to the horizon) to detect other ships. But what happens to the radar beam after that? It continues in a straight line beyond the horizon, and because of the curvature of the Earth it gets higher above the Earth the further it travels away from its source.

    As quoted before in reference to weather radar, at a distance of 500km from its source (at sea level) it detects objects at an altitude of 7 km (22,965 feet), and the detection altitude gets higher with increasing distance from the radar source.

    I can see no reason why a ship’s radar beam would behave differently.

    So, we don’t need to look at the raw radar data from the ships at sea that were close to MH370’s flight path. What we want is the data from the many ships that were sweeping the skies with their radar from hundreds of kilometres away. And there are many such ships such is the volume of sea traffic in these waters.

    The starting point for an analysis of this radar data resource would be to start with what we know of MH370’s position, altitude and direction from departure from KL up to its last known position (before it ‘went dark’). Then, analyse the weather radar from regional cities and ships’ radar to identify the radar echoes that correlate to these known positions of MH370 before it disappeared. Having found the matching echoes it should be possible to then track these same echoes and follow MH370’s flight path forward through space and time.

    As regards “poor resolution” of such radar echoes, I don’t think it would be a detrimental factor. We are not trying to discriminate between many different objects in the Malaysian night sky. Any radar echo returned from 20 to 40 thousand feet is likely to be pretty lonely. Any persistent echo is more than likely an aircraft. What else is up there at that altitude apart from aircraft? Certainly not birds.

    Governments have been reluctant to make their military radar data available, and they might apply the same constraints on access to their weather radar. Radar data from private shipping companies might be more easily obtained (perhaps particularly so from shipping companies from countries not politically aligned with Malaysia and its allies).

  24. @Gysbreght

    You said, “The airplane had run out of fuel before it reached the Bayesian Hotspot.”

    That statement is incorrect.
    Based on the last ACARS report, there is enough fuel to reach the Bayesian hotspot via Nilam and Sanob.

    The estimated fuel remaining at Igari of 41,500 kg (1720:31) in the Factual Information report is too low.
    The actual fuel on board from last ACARS report is 43,800 kg at 1706:43 with the aircraft stable in cruise.
    This would mean that they had calculated the cruise fuel burn rate to Igari to be a massive 10,000 kg/hr!
    At that rate, it won’t make Beijing.

    I hope they amend this in the fuel report, which is yet to be released after 4 years.

  25. @steveN, while the idea of ship-borne radar providing information seems right, I think in practice it would likely not provide the information you seek.

    Most (non military ships) are fitted only with surface radar, which, not surprisingly given its name, scans the surface. I’m admitting to very thin knowledge here, but my understanding is that they are basically calibrated to have a beam width of about 10 degrees and are powered to something less than 20 miles as that is the distance at which on all but the tallest mast-mounted radars (very large tankers, etc) the horizon would be–at 100 feet above sea level, I recall from a long ago “rules of the road” course, the horizon is 12 miles distant.

    Please feel free to help with the math, which is not my strong suit, and I certainly defer to any mariner or radar expert on the blog, but let’s assume 20 miles distance and a 10 degree beam angle. I think that math would put the altitude of that radar picture at less than the 9000 feet we are told MH370 to be flying at as in navigated up the straight.

    I’m sure there are nuances I’m missing but we’d also have to deal with return signal attenuation at such a distance and errors and anomalies and even, perhaps, whether the receiver was configured to capture such signals. There’s also the idea that any ship or boat that painted MH370 also had a voyage data recorder. And as many as might be so equipped, how many would store its records from a voyage 4 years ago?

    So it seems it would very quickly become as difficult to find a ship’s radar image of MH370 now as it was–to invoke another conspiracy theory–to find a photo of the Babushka Lady’s face at the Kennedy assassination. Something that you’d expect to have given all the cameras and yet something that does not exist.

  26. @ Scott O.

    I don’t think you fully understand the central idea underpinning what I am proposing. Please read my OP (at bottom of p.11 of this blog). The fact that ship’s radar is “surface radar” designed to detect surface objects is irrelevant.

    What I am proposing is that weather radar and ship’s radar also detect airborne objects at a distance beyond the horizon because 1) radar beams travel in straight lines, and 2) the curvature of the Earth.

    If you don’t grasp this I can’t help you. I’ve explained it twice already.

  27. @SteveN, I think that Scott O does understand your idea, and what’s more I agree with him that your idea doesn’t hold water.

    I have never heard of a merchant ship using its radar to track aircraft. If I was manufacturing such equipment I would not want aircraft criss-crossing my display screen.

  28. @ Jeff Wise

    No, Jeff,he doesn’t,and from your glib response I guess you don’t either. Or don’t want to. Pity, I thought you were better than that. I was wrong.

  29. @OXY
    Certainly, I’m aware of what you’re refering to – in your 777 AMM, its the
    “CMCS – ARINC 429 INTERFACES” shown routed via relays through the Left AIMS.
    (There might even be nuances to that that you have not considered – refer to
    my post back on page 5 of this current topic we’re presently posting in.)

    In regard to the Right High Gain Antenna that we were discussing, I assume
    you are refering to the ‘coverage’ (elevation radiation pattern) as seen in
    ‘Figure 7 Airlink Pattern Scanned 45°’ of 9M-MRO-AES-Antenna-TechSpecs.pdf,
    or ADA277202.pdf .

    (One small point I’d make mention of there – you’re assuming that the panels
    are installed in the suggested position on an aircraft, at 45 degrees on
    the hull. I don’t have Ge Rijns eyes to be sure, but pictures of the panels
    on MAS 777’s look to me to be installed at a position on the hull of about
    50 or higher degrees. Maybe you can find a picture or reference where the
    actual position is clarified?)

    Your contention about the exposure of Right High Gain Antenna due to the
    limit of elevation angle is not disproved and is possible if the Right Panel
    transmission elevation did not intersect with the elevation of Inmarsat
    3-F1, which at approximately NILAM is about 50 degrees

    You didn’t address how the Left High Gain Antenna becomes ‘inoperative’ – I
    noted to you that the high Gain Antenna panels are unpowered, so I assume you
    mean the Left Beam Steering Unit was inoperative by being unpowered.
    The majority of the posters on MH370 forums have taken it for granted that the
    whole of the equipments comprising the SATCOM are powered by the Left AC Main
    Bus, based on e.g., 777 AMMs which describe installations with SATCOM antenna
    other than a Ball Aerospace antenna installation.
    OXY, if you ever dig up any reference which shows the BSUs being powered from
    a Power Bus different to that powering the items in the E11 rack (Left AC Main
    Bus), please note it here to us.
    At present, you can understand that that part of your theory, of the Left High
    Gain Antenna being inoperative, will only be regarded by other posters here as
    speculative until there’s some reference to support it.

  30. @SteveN
    I think what Scott O. was trying to explain was that the beam power of the radar of
    merchant ships isn’t designed to be much more powerful than that required to give a
    good return out to some multiple of tens of nautical miles.
    (Also, a radar receiver can be designed so it ‘gates’ the signals that it receives
    back from its transmissions. What I mean is that if it transmits a pulse outwards,
    the radar allows a certain amount of time for returns to be reflected back – then
    it electronically ‘shuts the gate’ of its receiver so reflected signals from beyond
    the radars maximum designed usable range, are simply not allowed to be processed by
    the receiver. Not all radars have such a feature as I am describing.)

    Getting back to about the beam power, its like at night if you shine a flashlight
    at the house across the road – you’ll probably see a large diffuse spot with maybe
    a concentrated spot of light in the centre. Shine that flashlight at way down along
    the road to some wall a city block away, and you might barely detect a slight diffuse
    increase in the level of returned light, or maybe see no discernable difference in
    the level of returned light.

    For a merchant radar designed to transmit a beam horizontally, from say 50m above the
    sea surface – sure, theoretically, that beam could travel 357km to strike an aircraft
    at 10000m(+50m) altitude. In practice, the beam spreads and the return is so faint
    that the return signal would most likely be non-detectable because it is below what
    is termed, the ‘nose floor’ of the receiver.

    Despite that, your idea of the weather radar isn’t unreasonable – too bad Gloria no
    longer posts here, she might know if the Malaysians have a weather radar, as you
    saw in TV broadcasts in Melbourne, Victoria (or Melbourne, Florida?).

  31. EDIT: to my last post to OXY;
    “did not intersect with the elevation of Inmarsat 3-F1, (which at approximately
    NILAM is about 50 degrees), during the time that Left BSU is inoperative, in
    your theory

  32. EDIT: my last post to SteveN;
    substitute ‘noise floor’, instead of “nose floor”. Ha, ha.

  33. I’m sorry that it was probably my comment (meant to be friendly) that gave new fuel to the weather-and-tanker-radar ideas. To be very blunt, it’s complete bonkers. Please read up on the physics of radar (resolution). Radar is something that is, perhaps surprisingly for today’s popular expectations regarding technological advances, extremely bound by laws of physics.

    To illustrate: Radar has a certain resolution which depends on certain factors, but is essentially limited. Effectively, it boils down to this: If you, SteveN, were standing on a runway right in front of a plane with open eyes, you would see it. If you were standing on the same runway looking in the general direction of the plane from 1000 miles away, you would not see it any more, because with further distance, even if theoretically light from the aircraft reaches your eye, the image of the aircraft projected onto your photoreceptors is so small that it is much smaller than the distance between those photoreceptors, ergo “you don’t see it”. Radar works obviously somewhat differently, but the end result is the same: Max resolution limited by laws of physics, plane too far away, ergo no see. Gotcha? (The near-horizontal beam angle is a bonus which ensures that the tanker radar won’t even see the planes right above them at minimum distance.)

  34. @SteveN, I understand entirely.

    And the fact remains that surface radars are built–and powered–with the curvature of the earth and the horizon distance in mind.

    The energy in a standard marine radar is not run with unlimited power because its signal need NOT extend much beyond the horizon, as it cannot see OVER the horizon (though microwave reflection allows some additional distance, known separately as the radar horizon).

    This of course limits its capacity to see at altitude at any distance.

    On most ships the horizon will be not more than 20 miles distant.

    At 20 miles distant with a beam angle of 10 degrees, you are only seeing (if you take a cross section of the 360 degree view on a radar screen) a pie shaped wedge with the pointy end extending out from the radar unit itself (the center of the screen). The legs of this wedge are 20 miles long. That means the arc connecting the two legs is about 1.7 miles–less than 9000 feet altitude (but perhaps a little bit more counting refraction).

    Of course the farther the signal has to travel the more its beam attenuates. Attenuation means less ability to return a coherent signal, which in turn means the greater the altitude we go in that wedge, the more the signal would be degraded even within its usual operating range.

    Please see the link here for a simple example and illustration of why it’s highly unlikely marine radar would encounter an aircraft. In the gray box to the right you’ll also see that the information assumes an effective radar distance of even less than we do here (which translates to even lower altitude).

    for a more thorough set of equations you can go here, but please keep in mind this introduction to basic radar systems is part of a military weapons discussion:

    Finally, for argument’s sake, let’s suppose an aircraft was captured in the extreme upper corner of that pie wedge.
    Consider the aircraft traveling at 500mph. Now think about how quickly it would cross the small piece of sky, when it could traverse the whole length of the wedge in about 2 minutes. It would be a blip there and gone so quickly that, depending on the radar’s pulse rate, might be filtered out by the receiver, only seen as “sea clutter,” could be missed entirely as the beam pivoted up and down in heavier seas, etc. As you’ll note from the first link, reading radar returns is an art with a great deal of interpretation required.

    @Jeff, thank you for the defense.

  35. @BuyerNinety, thank you for explaining my argument better–and far more succinctly–than I am able to.

    @Havelock, there is a good explanation of radar resolution in the first link in my response above that proves your analogy quite nicely.

  36. @SteveN
    Over on Reddit @pigdead recently posted a very interesting link to the shipping lanes where you can see the ships moving on your screen like little ants. Anyways in the Malacca St the ships seem to “hug” Indonesia and then hang a left over to India, a bit south of the jet lanes, going well south of Great Nicobar Island.

    The most interesting thing would probably be if they could have captured MH370 cutting south over the shipping lanes, but I am not sure the angles of sight would capture it.

    Probably the most important aspect is that Singapore has airborne radar (eg; AWACS style) to monitor the many ships, which could have captured important info on where MH370 was (or just as important, where it wasn’t). However, don’t hold your breath as that data will never see the light of day (to the public).

    So the idea of getting ship radar data presumes somebody actually needs or wants that data. There are many avenues of MH370 investigation that MY is either keeping secret, but more likely not pursuing at all.

    I do not know if you are from the USA, but if so we need to understand that smaller countries have no interest in full-out crash investigations like NTSB/FBI in the USA, especially if the cause reflects poorly on the country.

  37. @TBill, and @Jeff, setting aside whether marine radar would capture a plane, some of these maps, which i’ve not studied at closely enough before, are astonishing.

    If this link is showing vessels in real time, it’s about 12:45 am in Kuala Lumpur as I look at it.

    Not so far off–what, maybe 90 minutes?–from when MH370 is said to have made its run up the straight for the FMT.

    Yet I count dozens, if not a hundred or more ships along that path, vessels large enough to have had someone(s) on watch. And yet all we have–discounting the Maldives–is three or four claimed sightings, at least two of which are impossible (no debris found at the locations the fisherman and the woman returning from Mecca claim), and a third which doesn’t suit data everyone puts merit in (the turn back scratching the oil rig sighting in the SCS). It leaves the sailboat sighting, but given the number of seamen on watch on those ships it seems astonishing that no one else would have seen it, particularly if it was low flying, as claimed by Sailoress, and in distress.

    Heck, there is even a ring of vessels around Christmas Island (at least today), just to confound former contributor Dennis’s theory.

    All of which is to say that when you think of the number of vessels you’d need to overfly on a turn left, and none recognized, particularly in retrospect, an airliner doing so, it makes me wonder how likely the left turn in fact is.

    And if you scroll down to the density map, surely you can see that a flight south from around Banda Aceh isn’t as solo as at least I’ve imagined. Certainly it’s more congested than a flight path to the right or north.

  38. @steven

    From my rudimentary knowledge of radar and from studying the effects of anomalous propagation I suspect that radar units filter out echoes that exceed a certain time delay so as to avoid confusion the display.

  39. @Scott O.
    Yes it made me go over to the weather maps to see if MH370 could have used cloud cover to block the ships view. Seemed relatively cloud free in the Andamans however, was my first impression.

  40. @SteveN
    Posted March 9, 2018 at 8:37 AM

    “(First post, follower for last year or so, ……….)”

    You may have noticed it is not personal if your idea is challenged as a viable concept.

  41. BBC: Putin ordered plane to be downed in 2014

    Russia’s President Putin ordered the shooting down of a passenger plane that was reportedly carrying a bomb and targeting the opening of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.
    Mr Putin says he was told a plane from Ukraine to Turkey had been hijacked as the Games were about to start.

    It was found to be a false alarm, he says. The plane was not shot down.

    Mr Putin says security officials told him that the emergency procedure in such a situation was to down the plane.

    “I told them: act according to the plan,” Mr Putin says.

    Feeling totally vindicated with my original hypothesis. As far as I know, nobody proposed the theory of Inflight Security Officers diverting a rogue aircraft.
    Now we have proof that there was a standing order to shoot down rogue aircraft heading towards the Sochi Olypics. If the security officials at the Olympics considered that course of action for a rogue aircraft, it’s immensely more plausible that IFSO’s were also deployed for other airlines with instructions to “destroy” them.

  42. This is interesting if you doubt the theory of Z’s suicide.

    Victor Iannello said:

    “For French speakers, here is an excellent round table discussion on MH370 theories, including that proposed by Jean-Luc Marchand and his colleagues. Although there is no new information presented, it is interesting the hear the views (and passion) of the guests. All guests believed the disappearance was a voluntary act.”

    Nederland said:
    March 11, 2018 at 2:57 pm

    “Speakers at the Figaro roundtable, including Feldzer and Troadec, are clear that this was not a fire or other technical issue, but that the aircraft was hijacked. However, they all believe that pilot suicide is unlikely. The reasons for why the aircraft was hijacked are unclear but there are many possibilities. This could have an impact on reconstructing the flight trajectory. Full automated flight is just a simple possibility, a full piloted flight another. The recommendation is to search in the current area. Should this be unsuccessful, the further recommendation would be to continue searching until Christmas Island.”

  43. Havelock said:

    “Your post sort of seems contradictory to me, you talk about Malaysia having great insurance and then you theorise that they convinced indo, Thailand aaand vietnam, no less, to cover for them.”

    Then you need to read the post again more carefully.

    I agreed it was possible that the MYG asked the surrounding countries to keep their radar data secret. I didn’t ‘theorise’ that was what happened.

    There is no contradiction. Asking other countries to keep their radar data quiet (if it happened) would likely not be to avoid financial liability.

    “Frankly your post illustrates to me the implausibility of all the “cover up” theories – effectively you always need really not one but a bunch of governments to lie in concert.”

    And your post illustrates your naivety in this area if you think that cannot happen.

    If there was a common good to be had by all of them (or even just a financial one by their political leaders and senior officials) – or an embarrassment to avoid, or a common ‘enemy’ to defend against or influence, or a partnership/alliance to cultivate – and they could control access to the truth, do you think they wouldn’t?

    I’ve already referenced the Air Itavia flight 870 fiasco/cover-up in an earlier post (do some reading).

    As another example, are you aware of the Australian bank note scandal involving Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam? The leaders and senior officials of all three countries kept quiet about the multimillion dollar bribery of politicians and senior government members to obtain lucrative bank note printing contracts (That alone is a common link between the leaders of those three countries and a reason for the senior leaders to obfuscate for mutual benefit. There may be other mutual corruption schemes/alliances in place).

    “The scandal blew open in 2012 after running behind the scenes for as long as a decade, with bribes allegedly paid in countries as far away as Nigeria, the United Kingdom, Spain and Latin America as well as the three Southeast Asian nations.”

    Australia’s government was so embarrassed by the scandal (or wanted to cover it up so badly, choose your viewpoint) that they issued a gagging order to all Australian media outlets banning any reporting of the current and past leaders (presidents) of any of the countries, or their relatives and other senior officials in respect of the bribery case. There were reportedly 17 south-east asian leaders involved, and seven senior executives of the Reserve Bank of Australia. Australia seemingly wants to keep on good terms with the asian countries to the north of it.

    The gagging order also prevented the Australian media from reporting that the gagging order had been made and was in place – effectively complete censorship of the press by the Australian Government on the issue.

    And you don’t think it could happen?

  44. @PS9
    Don Thompson, on Victors forum, and a few others there, have access to
    that and from memory, I believe Don may have access to a wiring manual.

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