Ocean Infinity Further Expands MH370 Search Area


Fig. 1: The seabed search as depicted in the most recent Malaysian report

When Malaysia announced on January 10 of this year that it had contracted with Ocean Infinity, a US-registered company, to relaunch the seabed search for missing Malaysian airliner MH370, Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai stated that there was an 85 percent chance that the plane’s wreckage would be found within a 25,000 square kilometer search zone previously demarcated by the Australia National Transport Board. As I’ve noted in earlier posts, Australia’s stated position at the time was that if the plane was not found in this area, which stretched from 36 degrees to 32.5 degrees south latitude, it could offer no rationale for looking anywhere else.

On January 30, the Government of Malaysia released its first weekly “MH370 Operational Search Update” showing the progress of Ocean Infinity’s search vessel, Seabed Constructor. In addition to the ATSB’s 25,000 square kilometer search area, the new report designated two “extension” areas, stretching up to 29 degrees south latitude. (See Figure 2, below.) “The advice to proceed north towards 30S latitude came from Independent Group members,” News.com.au noted, referring to a theory put forward by Victor Iannello that the plane’s captain, Zaharie Ahmad Shah, had hijacked his own plane and set its navigation system for Antarctica.

Fig. 2: The seabed search area as depicted in the first Malaysian update.

That bizarre hypothesis is about to be put to the test: at time of writing–April 18, 2018, 1200Z–Seabed Constructor is working an area around 30.5S. Working at its current rate, it will have soon have finished scouring both the extension areas and laid Iannello’s idea to rest.

What then? With the ATSB’s and the IG’s ideas all exhausted, one might argue that it would be time to pack up and go home. But this is not what will happen. Yesterday, in its 12th weekly update, the Malaysian government unveiled a new supplementary search area, to stretch all the way up to 26 degrees south latitude. (See Figure 1, top.) As far as I know, no one has yet hypothesized a scenario that matches the data and would result in the plane ending up this far north, but hope springs eternal. Perhaps Ocean Infinity, for whatever reason, just wants the process to drag on for as long as possible.

By the way, little attention has been paid to the fact that Seabed Constructor has blasted through the Broken Ridge area of steep, craggy terrain while scarcely breaking stride. This is a testament to the capability of its AUV technology. It also rules out an idea that has been promoted by certain MH370 theorists, to the effect that the captain abducted the plane and headed for Broken Ridge in the hope that the wreckage would never be found there. That idea can now be scratched off the fast-dwindling list of possibilities.

301 thoughts on “Ocean Infinity Further Expands MH370 Search Area”

  1. @Dennisw: “Extending the inbound COS to only range 15.7nm, azimuth 37.6, shows promise. “

    That is an excellent idea!

    Looking forward to the resulting closest approach distance.

  2. @ventus45,
    I agree with you. To add to that, any statistics based on data that contain sytematic errors as opposed to random errors yield results as good as random numbers and cannot be trusted. This applies to moving average speed calculations as well. The results can only make sense if the systematic errors are undone/removed. Calibration error, rounding, etc could be treated as systematic errors.

    Other issues on the radar data is that the most important information from radar data is position and time but the last known radar capture position is still vague and debated as per today. The time of the final capture has also historically changed without much explanation.

    What I also still find suspicious about the radar data integrity is that this extra radar dataset (unofficial source) should have been available and known in the aftermaths of the disapearance but for some reasons not shown in the FI (there could have been scepticism amongst the investigators). How factual was the FI is the data was not factual? Let us see if it ends up in the final report.

    On a side note, it is still not clear nor documented how other known traffic has been eliminated from association with this radar capture.

  3. @Ventus45 @Gysbreght
    I propose if an expert flies the known course from last ACARS point at 17:06: to KB to Penang in a flight simulator, then something happened at IGARI that we are not accounting for. Basically it was a big slow down at IGARI. That is consistent with an ascent, or one recent person says engine failure. Something happened there, or the flight path went closer to BITOD.

    To me the answer is probably ascent maybe around 4500-ft, but maybe it was something else that took place.

  4. @Gysbreght, Don’t you understand that you’re being run around in circles by a pretty distraction that has no meaning? The only point of this primary-radar business is to distract MHists from the elephant in the room, which is that Ocean Infinity has invalidated all their theories. And they’d rather talk about anything else.

    “MH370: $70m gamble backfires as search comes up empty”

  5. Either there were several aircraft in the region at same time could be giving these variable altitude, speed , and headings. Or that Singapore AWACS aircraft interfered with these recorded values. However it will be difficult to get official verification …. as that has been the theme for past 3 or 4?years.

  6. @MH: No civil transport aircraft (or Singapore AWACS aircraft) flying on autopilot/autothrottle “could be giving these variable altitude, speed , and headings.”

  7. Jeff, SC will soon scan the area around 28S, which was the Inmarsat’s hotspot back in June 2014. In general, that area matches quite good Griffin’s study (first paper) not considering the effect of wind.

    Do you still belive they were wrong?

    My relatively modest experience in science thought me that overworking and overinterpreting the results can be very deceiving, which happens after spending too much time dealing with one particular problem. With all respect to people and their work on finding the plane, I now believe that something like that happend in this case.

  8. @Marijan, Yes, I think they were wrong, and soon enough we’ll find out for sure. We’re way, way beyond the most tenuous fringes of the Bayesian analysis; the only way anyone can justify even bothering to look in the current area is by referencing long-outdated hotspots and ignoring many pieces of evidence, not least the fact that this area was searched from the air.

  9. @TBill: “one recent person says engine failure”

    I mentioned this on another site. My premise is the leaking oxygen tank set off a chain of events that involve fire, loss of electrical power, and left engine shut down. After that, it was just a matter of running out the clock (consume all the fuel). Endpoint: 21S, 104E

  10. @Jeff: This is precisely why I put it forth.

    The leaky oxygen tank is a known; Apollo 1 shows us what can happen in an oxygen-rich atmosphere. Toast a few cables and it’s over.

    A MH370 discovery will go a long way towards confirmation. My biggest concern is OI calling it quits for the seasons before getting to the Zenith Plateau.

  11. @Bruce Robertson, What I’m saying is that there is no flight path that matches the scenario you describe and fits with the radar and Inmarsat data. In fact, we’ve known for four years that MH370 disappearance was not the result of an accident.

    The only way you could present such a proposal is by ignoring almost everything that is known about the case.

  12. @Jeff: After MEKAR, I am indeed suggesting there is no *straight* flight path. Many find this concept a big stumbling block as they are caught up on heading, track, true, magnetic, and waypoints. MH370 could well have flown a curved path to the Zenith Plateau and still have hit every BTO ring on time. If OI is searching the northern 7th arc, this is exactly the scenario that fits.

    Think of the case of a car on the salt flats, no driver, and the throttle mashed down with a brick. No straight course will result.

  13. @Bruce Robertson
    You gave me the idea that perhaps a brief but intentional cutting of left engine could explain a slow speed curve around IGARI. However, possibly the curve at IGARI was not slow, maybe it was full speed…we do not know the true shape and length of the U-turn at IGARI. But we do know MH370 went pretty darn fast after IGARI until 1825.

  14. @TBill: At IGARI, I expect the pilots were quite motivated (fire!) to turn the plane around and get down to a landing in Malaysia. They made the turn the best they could given they are at cruise. Perhaps they slowed down, made the turn, and started a high-speed descent. I would have.

    Turn reasons the left engine could have shut down: pilot action, or generator fault. If the engine control lines are toasted, the pilot can’t cut power and therefore can’t descend. Cutting fuel via the fire extinguisher system would work. Alternatively, melted power cables could have shorted causing an undervoltage condition, thereby knocking the left engine off line.

    For me, I’m approaching the tragedy with a good-pilot/bad-airplane mindset, counter to the mindset most others prefer.

  15. @Bruce Robertson, Most others prefer theories that make at least a little bit of sense, which yours does not. You should at least have the humility to understand that you do not know what you are talking about, in a forum where a good many people have a solid foundation in the underlying principles.

    If you continue in this direction I will ban you.

  16. @Marian what you wrote is pure bs. How do you even come up with the questing of whether anyone “still” thinks that the official search parties are wrong, it is becoming ever more obvious that they are after the exhaustive searches that have not produced a find.

    @Bruce Robertson I have no idea where you are coming out of now, please spare us the oxygen bottle hypothesis. It has been discussed to death and quite to the contrary of what you state, the “leaky” oxygen tank hypothesis has zero real world basis. There was no leaky oxygen tank on MH370.

  17. @TBill
    Your comments reminded me of a bizarre flight many years ago, an example of intentional erractic flight as a defense.


  18. @ TBill @ALL
    On VI’s blog you mention that there may have been an ascent of 4500 ft.
    – Could a TCAS Resolution Advisory (RA) have been the reason for this sudden ascent?
    – can TCAS continue to receive signals from other aircraft on Stand-by mode?
    – can TCAS/ADS-B signals be spoofed?

  19. @CliffG @TBill

    The suggestion of an ascent of 4500ft at IGARI was also mentioned on Jeff Wise’s blog. Subsequently the plane travelled quite quickly inferring that there wasn’t an engine failure.

    This would put 9M-MRO at ~FL395. Possible for a 777 (I’m not a pilot) but this early in the flight with the fuel load? Then again the flight did not have a full load of passengers.

    Depressurisation would be particularly dangerous at this altitude.

  20. @CliffG
    They tell me “no” that TCAS (collision warning system) reportedly does not work when the transponder is off or standby. That was a question very early when there was the flight SIA68 shadow theory. Presumably the reason for any maneuvers would be pilot/hijacker strategy, whatever that may have been.

    Unfort apparently the military radar does not accurately tell us how close MH370 got to BITOD before turning back. So we cannot yet say what happened there.

    If the U-turn happened shortly after IGARI at about 1:21:15 (per FI) then there is an apparent slow down at IGARI , which gives enough time for an ascent or temporary slow down. If instead the turn happened a little later, closer to BITOD, then there is no time left for a major climb or slow down.

    Keep in mind there are 2 definitions of altitude: Flight Level and true geographic altitude – height over the surface. So on this night FL400 approx = 42,500-ft true altitude. So MH37O would only have to climb to say FL380 (from FL350 reported) to be at 40,000-ft actual.

  21. @Stebe Barrett
    P.S.- MH370 could get higher in altitude, but the question is how fast could it go?…to match the radar data, it had to go very fast. So its really a question for Rolls Royce, how much spare power (thrust) is in the engines?

    The 3 things you can do to increase thrust beyond design:
    (1) Turn off bleed air (Fresh air to cabin)
    (2) Turn off some elec generators
    (3) Adjust engine controls to remove normal turbine speed limits

    Terrible FEDEX story but illustrative of the fact that the human factor is important when listing possible causes.

  22. As far I’m concerned Hijack is the Number 1 choice for me. I honestly do not see the point in dragging out long winded fantasy theories. Whilst they are possible (mostly) we can’t prove whether any of them are true until the aircraft is found.

    That is where the focus needs to be IMHO. I also see no point in flogging a dead horse. Australia has all but abandoned any hope for finding Mh370 when the area’s that the ISAT Data highlighted have failed to produce any sign of the plane.

    OI has done something highly commendable & it has been very impressive but it’s clear they are quite literally bumbling around in the dark. We need a specialist team to look at the ISAT Data independently. (The IG are just corroborating what the official theory is) we need a team who can assess the data without prejudice.

  23. This reminds me of troubleshooting a circuit board: one of hundreds of components is bad, but which one? While one can try testing each component separately, it’s usually better to diagnose the board by considering what clues are presenting. Using the 7th arc is a good start but there must be more.

  24. @TBill

    Thank you. That 9M-MRO flew faster than normal back over the Malaysian peninsula et al is established fact. Turning off cabin fresh air is an interesting way to help achieve this. It fits with the depressurisation scenario at this point but is speculative and not evidence based.

  25. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-44036178

    Today, in a historic vote, the Malaysian prime minister who has been in government at the time of the disappearance of MH370 and the years since and who oversaw the search efforts from the Malaysian side, who has been accused of corruption for example through the infamous 1MDB affair where billions of dollars allegedly were stolen, was defeated by his one time mentor, a 92 year old former prime minister, ending more than 60 years of one party rule.

    It will be interesting whether Razak will try to ignore the popular vote, for example by calling a state of emergency. It is encouraging that at least so far a fair election has been possible without vote rigging. Should Razak actually go, it will be interesting whether a new, cleaner government will investigate 1MDB more thoroughly, and whether this will have implications for the MH370 investigation.

  26. @Havelock
    No mention of HH in the report. In fact he has not been in the news for quite a while.

  27. @SteveBarratt
    The layers of 1MBD were only beginning to peel away in March 2014, not an ideal time to receive sudden world attention.

    It is plausible Najib was cognizant of a threat relating to his role in 1MDB.

  28. @SteveBarratt
    Yes I was really just bringing in some discussion points from the VI blog, in case it is hard to follow the many posts over there. The bleed air reduction also plays in as an possible option to extend length of flight for fuel modelling.

    Nobody has a really good understanding how much extra thrust over design the MH370 pilot could get if he/she wanted to push the envelope. But some of the current altitude/speed projections over KB seem to require more extra thrust than feasible, but we do not know the upper limits.

  29. Michael John
    Posted May 9, 2018 at 5:54 PM

    As far I’m concerned Hijack is the Number 1 choice for me…

    Me too. However, I think it was done as a planned operation by unknown state actors and took place at the airport, rather than in the air.

    My second idea is that it was just a black swan event caused by problems with the flight control primary computers, like the Quanta disaster back in 2008. If you like horror stories, good article on the event here…

    “The untold story of QF72: What happens when ‘psycho’ automation leaves pilots powerless?”


    Strange that details of this catastrophe got such little media voice, especially as the accident investigation didn’t find the actual root cause.

  30. 60 Minutes (Australia) will air a special report on MH370 on 13th May at 8:30pm (Au time).

    Might be worth a look.

  31. @Boris Tabaksplatt

    Interesting idea though with QF72 only one navigation system failed and the plane landed ASAP at Learmouth (its been a while since I’ve read this incident).

    In contrast MH370 there were multiple system failures not replicated on any other B777 and the plane bypassed many suitable airports to land at. As if by some miracle just out of radar range the SDU rebooted. No computer could do this.

    Except HAL 9000….

  32. @SteveBarratt:
    “Interesting idea though with QF72 only one navigation system failed…”

    The curious failure of QF72 was given just to illustrate a black swan event. If a black swan event happened to MH370, then the consequences would be completely unknown. The pilots would have had to find a way to deal with the unpredictability of flying a completely out of control aircraft, just like the Qantas pilots had to. Who knows what systems they tried to shut-down of turn on as the chaos reigned?

  33. @Boris Tabaksplatt

    My comment was a little tongue in cheek.

    Presumably with QF72 one would need to take some sort of ‘manual control’ which is a little tricky near ‘coffin corner’ and with Airbus taking a strongly automated approach (vs. Boeing). So I guess the need to descend and land ASAP.

    The crew I understand made agreements not to criticise the A330 which has been and still is a great aircraft.

    Whilst your black swan comment is entirely valid it infers an out of the blue or unexpected event which may not satisfactorily explain the events around MH370.

  34. @Steve Barratt:
    “…Whilst your black swan comment is entirely valid it infers an out of the blue or unexpected event which may not satisfactorily explain the events around MH370.”

    I understand your problem. However, once one accepts that black swans exists, logic dictates that red swans are also a possibility. We have so little concrete evidence of what happened to MH370 that a multitude of possible theories for the disappearance exist. Occam’s razor then dictates a state sponsored PSYOP, followed closely by the black swan event of a meltdown of the primary flight computer.

  35. @ABN397: I find this line hilarious: “Mr Najib has been accused of diverting $700m (£517m) from a state investment fund in 2015, but has since been cleared by the authorities.” I think he’s going to come to really, really regret losing that election.

  36. @JW I was thinking along very similar lines today, in retrospect it is surprising that Najib and his wife, who is probably an even worse character than Najib himself, didn’t leave the country asap. My interpretation would be that they on the one hand absolutely didn’t expect to lose the election, and also, frankly they are stupid a.f. I mean, the whole saga shows how stupid they are. I mean, they could have tried to be minimally more clever about their corruption, but the way they did it (effectively just transferring money from state accounts to their own bank account), it’s so stupid it beggars belief.

  37. I have 2 articles worth of comments catching up to do so I will be brief.


    Re Malaysian elections:

    I wonder if Mahathir will be privy to a special briefing by the military as regards MH370 once he has settled (back) into his role as PM.

    MH370 is no doubt high on the Malaysian intelligence radar (no pun intended)

    In fact I’d say its probably one of the more interesting prospects he can await as newly-elected PM – recieving full disclosure of what happened that night (or at least details of EVERYTHING the Malaysian military know so far – including any confidential data)

    Oh for us to be a fly on the wall in such a meeting!


    What percentage would you assign to the possibility that any/all Indian Ocean scans carried out up till now (ie from 2014-up to this point) may have missed/overlooked the plane on the ocean floor for one reason or another?


  38. @Boris Tabaksplatt

    Thanks, your comments are noted and appreciated.


    Possibly the intended destination of Mr Najib’s ‘holiday’ on Saturday, Jakarta (ie. Indonesia) is significant.

    @Sajid UK

    My understanding reading at the time for a ghost flight scenario with rescanning of uncertain areas and increased width of the PSZ the specificity was ~99.9%. So the risk of a false negative is extremely low. These sort of figures are virtually unobtainable in medical research.

  39. @Sajid UK
    “…In fact I’d say its probably one of the more interesting prospects he can await as newly-elected PM – recieving full disclosure of what happened that night (or at least details of EVERYTHING the Malaysian military know so far – including any confidential data…”

    I’m sure he won’t be at all happy when he gets the briefing. I strongly suspect he will quickly realise that he has to do exactly what he is told to do, just like the departing Prime Minister. I think it likely that the Malaysians have been lead to believe that they are responsible for the loss of MH370 and the affair is hanging over them like the proverbial Sword of Damocles.

  40. The hard pressed Najib regime was devastated by exposure from 1MDB and MH370.

    Najib’s demise lends credibility to opinion MH370 was orchestrated to facilitate his destruction.

    The plane may have been used as a display of horrific consequence, a powerful message of blackmail or revenge by a casualty of 1MDB.

    His disingenuous actions in the aftermath of the plane’s disappearance may have been an indication of his apprehension.

    His backstory provided enough evidence of his reprehensible conduct so it always seemed ironic, that his responsibilty for the investigation was dictated by the same position which provided him authority over 1MDB.

  41. @Susie

    While I agree with you regarding the possible connection between the plane and 1MDB, to suggested the disappearance was orchestrated to facilitate Najib’s destruction doesn’t make great sense.

    First, that destruction was a long time in coming–four years plus. Most actors you could imagine as part of this scenario would be able to act more swiftly than that.

    Speaking of imagining, if you examine the trail of who and what governments invested in 1MDB, you’ll find at least one of them who finds it very useful to have in power people who are in their debt.

    So, in the scenario, I see MH370 as the equivalent of a mob leg-breaking. A bit of pain, a message sent, a show of force to expedite what it is they want, which to start was their money back.

    And as for Najib’s authority over the investigation and 1MDB, well that makes it a crime all the more perfect.

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