Guest Post: “60 Minutes: How to create your own facts before the real ones are at hand”

by Mark D Young

[Reprinted with permission from Mr Young’s website, Flightlevel42]

This past weekend saw the Australian public shown a television programme from the well known 60 minutes team. The programme has been getting a lot of attention, as most episodes do. Similar to the Carte Blanche segment on South African pay-tv station M-Net, 60 minutes has had some stellar moments of true investigative journalism during its run. However, like Carte Blanche, the manner in which many programmes are put together is formulaic.

A script is devised and then a pre-determined set of outcomes is established prior to interviews being conducted. The selection of participants and the editing of footage is carefully undertaken to steer the selected narrative in the direction chosen by the production executives. I have seen enough of both programmes to spot where and how they are edited, how shot selection is strategic and selective staging is used to ensure the script worked out by the production team achieves its goal.

A valid retort to anyone taking issue with the broadcasts of either programme is that “Well, we’ve merely presented some facts and opinions. We have got people talking. If anything changes, we will do a follow up.”

From a purely legal point of view, they are–of course–correct. As they would need to be. One cannot keep your programme running if it upsets too many courts. However, the odd bit of legal controversy–actual or threatened–never hurts the ratings. That’s show business.

This past Sunday’s programme–from “The Situation Room”–supposedly investigating and revealing new information on the fate of Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, is a great case study, in my view, of how to go about doing what the team at 60 minutes does so well.

Get folk who apparently have complete expertise in the field being discussed into an impressively titled studio set to give their opinions. If you choose the music and selectively edit well enough, you can create a wrapper of atmosphere and supposed investigation effective enough to permit a public lynching to take place in such a subtle way that a non-thinking viewer, devoid of all the salient facts involved (in what is a very complex matter), can comfortably accept that the 60 minutes team had got to the heart of the matter and presented an irrefutable hypothesis. Viewers can then go away into the world apparently ‘fully informed’ when they are nowhere near such a state.

Articles about the programme are trumpeting the fact that “aviation experts” have changed their views on what happened to MH370 and the “mystery” about what happened has now been resolved.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Great expense was involved in giving one guest the lion’s share of the programme running time to ostensibly present two options (in a Boeing 777 simulator) of the end of flight situation. Both, however, were based on the same core premise for why the airliner was where it was at that stage of its flight. This was not investigation – it was a bludgeoning of a reputation using a personal opinion presented as fact.

Two other guests involved in the show put forward a similar view. Combined, they were given the majority of the airtime.

Counterbalancing these three was only one person who was actually at the sharp end of the official investigation. The edits made have effectively sidelined his attempts at presenting his views or asking for the factual basis of some of the claims made. His approach was, in fact, the only one grounded in the science of flight safety and not wild, headline grabbing speculation.

The second person not pushing the pre-determined premise was an oceanographer who has, in the flow of things, made an entirely incorrect prediction of where the airliner lays. He was edited down to – roughly – a total of 90 seconds of speaking time during the entire exercise.



What of the lynching? Well, that was of the Captain of flight MH370. He was, of course, not present to defend himself. Nor were any of his colleagues questioned on their views of the pre-determined theory. No input was presented from the Malaysian authorities who had actually performed background checks on the pilot and his life-story.

Instead, the script used the few–extremely rare–incidents of malpractice by flight deck crews (and one of those is still highly disputed due to the possibility of misunderstanding of the culture of the pilot by foreign investigators) to try and corral the MH370 loss into the same pen.

A countervailing view can just as easily be that the very fact that they had to scrape the barrel to find – in the event – only one irrefutably proven case of pilot suicide/mass murder in the jet-liner era demonstrates just how rare that prospect is.

It hardly forms–from an aviation safety perspective – the basis of an explanation for this loss. It does not provide, in the remotest manner, a means of conclusively ruling out a sequence of events that provide an alternative explanation to the loss of the aircraft.

And looking at “coincidences” and “what the numbers tell us” is equally flawed as an investigative technique upon which to base conclusions that could affect all future journeys.

Assuming that the statistical safety of a design precludes a cause other than wilful action (or inaction) by the captain as postulated by “experts” prior to the full investigation’s findings, has already proven to be a flawed foundation for the explanation of another Boeing 777 crash.

I, therefore, do not believe that the “statistical safety” of the Boeing 777 airliner can form the foundation upon which to dismiss any possibility of a rare, as yet unknown, combination of mechanical and other factors, which could explain the loss and prevent a recurrence of it with another aircraft.

BA flight 038 is the case in point. A Boeing 777 airliner – statistically the safest aircraft ever built and without an accident prior to the event – generated a set of circumstances which had, and have never, taken place before or since in the history of jet airline transportation. This set of one in 100 million (or more?) factors caused, however, the airliner to drop out of the sky on short final approach.

In that case the wreckage was readily at hand.

No one was killed.

Yet, when the investigators could find no fault in the mechanical systems, “experts”–many within the technical division of the airline rightfully proud of their maintenance–postulated the only explanation for the crash, given the “statistics of the aircraft type” and the lack of other evidence of mechanical causes, was that the captain had “frozen at the controls”.

In that case, even without fatalities having taken place, the investigators eschewed the “experts” views and set about a two year long search for the cause.

In the end, it was found that a particular set of circumstances, unique to that flight, airframe and route used on the day, had caused some freezing, not of the captain’s responses, but of the fuel supply.

Had it not been for the instincts of the captain to survive and to save his passengers, there would have been fatalities. The Captain there proved that airline commanders are humans. They want, in my experience, to survive and do their best to ensure the safety of the passengers in their care.

I cannot but wonder how the same panel of experts on last week’s 60 minutes programme would have set about blaming that captain were they to have been asked to do the same type of programme in regard to flight BA038 prior to the official findings of the painstaking investigation having been released?

And so I place on record my disappointment with the programme and its premise. I am also less than impressed with the manner in which the only true expert on this particular tragedy, Mr Dolan of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, was so obviously hung out to dry and sidelined when he asked valid questions of those postulating their theory.

In effect the panel was 4-2 against with the presenter asking only those questions that steered the discussion further along the pre-determined lines.

Mr. Dolan tried to take the sober view I would expect of a professional investigator. The only facts on hand are that the airliner was, at various intervals, at “some point” along arcs of distance from a satellite. Some wreckage has washed up indicating the airliner is most likely–based on drift analysis of oceanic data gathering bouys–somewhere in the southern Indian ocean. Other than that, there is no undisputed data on the flight as even the radar plots used as a given, undisputed piece of evidence in the “situation room” are of a questionable veracity and are only, officially, “presumed to be” of the missing airliner.

Notwithstanding all the noise around the matter, and his current lack of official involvement, Mr Dolan would still like the wreckage found and he is not prepared, like every official investigator I have encountered in my 30 year involvement in reporting on flight safety, to make any findings in regard to the causes of the loss until it is located and examined.

And I concur with his approach–for it is only once it is found and the available data on the recorders is analysed, or the wreckage examined, that any proper investigation can be undertaken and probable causes established. He also made the point that there has already been learning from the loss–steps have been taken to ensure airliners will soon be tracked every inch of their journey and that a sole crew member cannot take control of an airliner.

While those steps–of themselves—do not support the predetermined, hurtful and highly speculative premise of the programme that “the pilot did it,” it actually highlights how the industry learns from everything and takes steps to mitigate against similar losses in future.

As things stand, and this was mysteriously left out of the programme, the various search areas that were originally determined by various experts, as well as the revised areas and the one determined by the oceanographer who appeared on the programme, have been exhausted without a trace of the aircraft. So, at present, only the places where drift analysis indicates the airliner crashed remain unsearched. Through a long, costly process of elimination, it is now–more than ever– known that the aircraft is not lying on the ocean floor below 28 degrees south on the last communication arc.

What is needed is that the search for the aircraft must be continued in the remaining, most logical areas–based on the physical evidence in the matter–until it is found. There cannot be a number placed on the safety of passengers on other flights.

As pertinent, in my view however, is that–as was said by a relative of one of the passengers in the 60 minutes programme– there cannot be a number put on the peace of mind of the relatives either. “They must look until they find it.” she said. And that, I feel, must be the focus of all efforts in regard to MH370.

I, for one, am not comfortable to fly long haul flights knowing that there is an, as yet, unexplained set of circumstances that led to the loss of an airliner full of people. And “the pilot did it deliberately” is not a comforting or reasoned answer. It is a lazy, ill-advised and insulting cop-out without–as yet–any concrete evidence to support it. Until the recorders are found, any programmes or news articles claiming to have “the real” answers will be nothing more than speculation. Speculation did not get air transport safety to where it is today. We should not let it start to play a role in the future of aviation safety now.

And, rather than spending money on speculative sessions in costly flight simulators, perhaps TV stations should rather band together and fund the final search needed to provide material for a real ratings hit and help to bring closure to the relatives?

199 thoughts on “Guest Post: “60 Minutes: How to create your own facts before the real ones are at hand””

  1. The senate should have asked one of my five whys.

    There is a big difference between doing the right thing and doing the thing right

    The ATSB effort, I agree should be acknowledged. It has been extensive, transparent and all verifiable. The only problem is that, as Jeff pointed out in earlier post, the ATSB scenario has been invalidated. No question by the Senate about that fact. So they have probably done the thing right as ATSB explained which is only proven wrong when it does not pass the validation test. Not their fault as they have been fooled by those controlling the evidence that was the basis of their assumptions.
    Without public enquiry, Australia accepts the risk of reoccurence. I am glad I am not a tax payer there. I have heard it is quite high already.

  2. @Susie Crowe:

    Thanks Susie for posting the links. Looks like someone wanted rid of Najib even at an early stage. The following statement from your first link is new to me…

    “Originally Kuala Lumpur International Financial District (KLIFD), it was renamed Tun Razak Exchange after Malaysia’s second Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak in 2012.

    That 70 acres were conceptualised as a financial centre the likes of London’s Square Mile . To differentiate itself from the financial centres of Singapore and Hong Kong, TRX will promote Islamic banking and finance. Hence, the courtship of Middle Eastern funds.

    According to a March 12, 2013 press release, a proposed 50:50 joint-venture Abu Dhabi Malaysia Investment Company Ltd (ADMIC) between 1MDB and Aabar Investments PJS will be the “first major multinational anchor investor” in TRX with an initial funding of US$6bil. Aabar is a 95.47% subsidiary of state investment fund, International Petroleum Investment Corp (IPIC).”

    Could the fact that Najib wanted to sponsor Muslim ethical banking, which would be usury-free, put a blight on his career and possibly stop the project going ahead?

  3. Great synopsis from Camp Iannello
    #David May 22, 2018 3:22AM

    Having watched the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs Committee concluded an hour and a half ago,some points. Please excuse some randomness:
    • The conclusion was warm with the Committee chairman thanking Peter Foley and Greg Hood for the work done. There were no sour notes,implied criticisms or allegations.
    • The Chairman concluded by addressing the speculation that there would be an inquiry into the ATSB work by indicating that was not in mind but that some committee members might appreciate a more detailed briefing by Foley. The ATSB agreed willingly to do that, presumably informally, as sought.
    • Foley described the final descents as emanating from a small amount of rudder trim left on after TAC removal on left engine fuel exhaustion. He added that Boeing had indicated the final descents were in a less stable phugoid. A descent like that he said is not what a pilot would choose.
    • He described an additional 45 nm search to the east in response to Simon Hardy’s input, to 70nm. About Byron Bailey’s claim that pilots had not been consulted and believed there would have been a controlled ditching, he said that pilots were deeply involved via Boeing’s advice and that the AAIB and NTSB participation included pilots. He said the Bailey claim of a “pilot controlled ditch” was unsubstantiated. He had read the Larry Vance book which V had forwarded to him last week and about the Swiss flight 111 investigation. I do not remember a substantive comment on what V had said.
    • He repeated the ATSB thesis that the flap (and implicitly flaperon) were not deployed when it separated from the aircraft which eliminated the potential the aircraft was controlled or likely to be in a ditching (personally I think that it would be more precise to say that the flap and flaperon collided when not deployed).
    • The descent rates indicated it was uncontrolled and it was not a descent a pilot would choose.
    • Question: should the investigation have been conducted differently? Answer: a lot was disclosed during it, altering it as it went along. F. made clear that such as whether the fuel taken on was appropriate was up to the investigators. The ATSB worked with the quantity that was there.
    • ATSB analyst who went to France for the flaperon investigation was unable to do anything active, being constrained by their judicial system. The counsel assisting the French inquiry was particularly slow. However BEA was particularly helpful re AF 447.
    • He noted that flaperon trailing edge missing could have been from causes such as engine separation.
    • The ATSB had not speculated on the speed of impact. Boeing modelling continued to impact but the initial altitude was unknown, though Boeing did model “a couple” that the ATSB sought. He added later that the recovered parts indicated a “significant impact” and if there was a controlled ending it had not been very successful.
    • He made clear that the lack of simulation of engine restarts placed “lots of caveats” on the Boeing descent simulations.
    • Having a pilot involved at the beginning and not the end was a problem for many he said. At one point my memory is that Geoff Hood intervened to mention that “control inputs were made”, presumably to include the possibility that there might be other than pilots involved.
    • At the end F. offered his/their plausible explanation-with-conjecture, that what might have happened was pilot hypoxia or decompression after flying depressurised including at 40,000 ft, depressurisation continuing for an hour or so. He referred to the March 1998 DC8 incident discussed on this blog in which the aircraft was unable to pressurise, the captain persisting in climbing and passing out, the co-pilot taking over, the aircraft reaching FL330. The captain in that and in MH370 were of similar age he said and both overweight.
    • There was a question about whether the co-pilot leaving his ‘phone on was common. Hood indicate it happened and was discouraged because of the distraction.
    • The Chairman described Foley as an impressive witness after what must have been an arduous 4 years. He continues as JACC technical officer.

    David says:
    May 22, 2018 at 3:21 am
    After, ” ..Regional Affairs” first line please add, “and Transport Committee hearing into the ATSB’s underwater search for MH370, concluded…”

  4. @Susie, Thanks for this. One comes away with the impression that the Australians are quite pleased with the job they’ve done, and are not at all troubled by the fact that the plane isn’t where it was supposed to be.

  5. @Boris Tabaksplatt

    “Muslim ethical banking” and 1MDB are uncomfortable bedfellows.

  6. @SteveBarratt:
    ” ‘Muslim ethical banking’ and 1MDB are uncomfortable bedfellows. ”

    Yes indeed, as Nagib and his cronies found out. Messing with the big boys is never a good idea, as evidenced by events in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria. Geopolitics in action.

  7. @Jeff Wise
    Its difficult knowing what to think after the recent helter-skelter of opinion and conjecture.

    There are however a few tidbits sprinkled in the amalgamation of repetition and self-serving bias.

    The timing is all out of synch, this revitalized interest of MH370 as the search is about to end.

    Still going at it, chipping away one step forward maybe five back, but the fact it remains in the public eye after more than four years, is a major accomplishment.

  8. @Susie
    “Still going at it, chipping away, one step forward, maybe five back, but the fact it remains in the public eye after more than four years, is a major accomplishment.”

    Not only “a major accomplishment” (up to the present) but it is vital that we (the collective we) keep it there, “in the public eye”.

    It was abundantly clear from mid 2016, that the involved governments wanted to give up, and close down the search.

    They did stop the search early 2017.

    If were not for the OI initiative, and forums like this, the case would have been closed, a final report saying very little of substance produced, all the ICAO boxes ticked, and the matter would then have been consigned to history.

    That is quite clearly still the intent of the governments.

    We can not let that happen.

    It is instructive to remember what happened with the search for HMAS Sydney 2 in world war two.

    It was wartime, and the initial search was conducted under wartime conditions, and was soon abandoned.

    It turned out, that nearly 60 years later, one of the vital documents that eventually assisted David Mearns and his team to actually find HMAS Sydney 2, had been held in British Navy (Royal Navy) Archives since the war, and no one in Australia (apparently) even knew it existed, until David got his hands on it.

  9. @Susie, « major accomplishment » yet half way down the line. It should be clear at this point they worked on the wrong basis and assumptions.

    ATSB admitted they did not have access to all evidence (eg flaperon) but how many more? They can repeat there entire analysis and search after access to the evidence.
    How is that an acceptable outcome?

    Senate session Video link if not broken:

  10. @Ventus45
    “We can not let that happen.”

    Exactly. The second chance search was unexpected and it is fairly easy to become lulled by the constant renewed attention it has generated.

    We need to remain committed, continue to provoke thought and support those contributions whether we agree or not.

  11. @HB
    thanks for the video link.
    The following video had this exchange between Sen. Anthony Chisholm & Peter Foley at 7.45:

    Video title: Senate Estimates 22/05/18: ATSB MH370 Part II

    Sen. Anthony Chisholm: With the benefit of hindsight would you conduct the investigation in a different way if you were to be looking at something similar?

    Peter Foley: you have to understand that we didn’t have certain key pieces of evidence available to us, it wasn’t available to us right up front. we did the best analysis we could…
    (Patrick Hornby, Legal Counsel ATSB starts scribbling something on the notepad, then underlines it and passes it over to Foley who glances at it mid-sentence, then continues)
    …and we were also working in parallel with the investigation process, you know the actual cause of this is being investigated primarily by the Annexe 13 team in Malaysia and also the Royal Malaysian Police. So our role was very very clearly to find that aircraft and to access and analyze the data in doing so, and we did.

    What is Foley referring to?
    probably a) the flaperon that the French refused to provide access to (see Part IV after 2.00), and b) the French satellite photos that were sitting on the desk of some bureaucrat in the French Embassy in KL for 2 yrs.

    what did Hornby write on the notepad?
    probably, Annexe 13 and RMP

    Why? Peter Foley started out complaining about evidence being withheld, then quickly changed the story when legal counsel advised him against it.

    From the ATSB website:

    The ATSB is established by the Transport Safety Investigation Act 2003 (TSI Act) and conducts its investigations in accordance with the provisions of the Act. Under the TSI Act, it is not a function of the ATSB to apportion blame or provide a means for determining liability. The ATSB does not investigate for the purpose of taking administrative, regulatory or criminal action.

    Often referred to as the ‘no-blame’ approach, this does not equate with ‘no responsibility’. It simply means that disciplinary action and criminal or liability assessment are not part of an ATSB safety investigation and should, if necessary, be progressed through separate parallel processes.

  12. Looks like Peter Foley of the ATSB has debunked the much beloved ‘decompression theory’ of some ‘Shah Did It’ proponents.

    “…The Australian Associated Press reports Foley said Zaharie would have had to battle the effects of decompression sickness for as long as an hour, and that doing so just wasn’t likely…”

    Here is the link to NTSB report on the 1994 American International Airways DC-8-61 depressurisation incident that Foley cited…

  13. @Susie Crowe:
    “Albeit over 3 decades ago, it serves as example, an unwilling action of flight by a pilot…”

    Good find Susie, I’d forgotten all about the Dawson Fields skyjackings. At the time, the incident read like the storyline from a bad Hollywood ‘B’ movie, with so many holes in the story it couldn’t hold water. A re-read of Captain Uri Bar Lev’s account does nothing to alter my original view that this was a hoax event to legitimise Jordan’s attack on the PFLP at the behest of Israel, Briton and the USA. What goes around comes around and the same imperative to remove Palestinians from Israel is still in force today.

    If you really want to find out how much damage happens when a passenger plane does a Zero-G dive have a look at this…

    Another ‘plausible’ MH370 crash theory?

  14. Continuing with the skyjacking theme; just came across a link to a Telegraph newspaper article, published 15 Mar 2014, which I’ve not seen before. This article puts the blame on a Muslim terrorist cell, seems to have slightly more evidence than most theories…

    Malaysia Airline MH370: 9/11-Style Terror Allegations Resurface in Case of Lost Plane

    “…An al-Qaeda supergrass told a court last week that four to five Malaysian men had been planning to take control of a plane, using a bomb hidden in a shoe to blow open the cockpit door…”

    Link to full article…

  15. @Boris Tabaksplatt
    “Looks like Peter Foley of the ATSB has debunked the much beloved ‘decompression theory…”

    Well it sounds to me like ATSB is giving their rationale for a ghost flight, which may or my not be correct logic.

    Interesting though that the 60 Minutes episode may be forcing ATSB to disclose some of their logic, we have not previously heard.

  16. It all looks nicely orchestrated at least.

    60 Minutes prepared public opinion with a final conclusion in which finding the plane is not quite necessary. ‘Mystery Solved’…

    Shortly after the Senate questions the ATSB and doesn’t make it hard for them while the ATSB keeps defending their ‘most likely’ uncontrolled end-of-flight scenario.
    No-one asks the most important questions: ‘Then why isn’t the plane found according your ‘most likely’ scenario?’.
    ‘Isn’t it obvious your ‘most likely’ assumptions were wrong?’

    Then parallel to this proces IG-members kept- and keep fiercly promoting the ATSB-script against all odds (even some of their own) and by all means (intimidation etc.).

    Finaly the Malaysians Governement declares the search will end after 28-5-2018.

    Mission accomplished (ATSB, IG, Malaysia).
    Cover up to cover up. Very fishy.
    All those closely involved obviously attributing to this outcome for so long should be investigated. ATSB-members but surely also IG-members and Malaysian officials.

    The organised NoK have picked up on this I gladly read. Don’t give due to impressive, complicated statements of ‘specialists’ which you in essence know nothing about.
    Look at their actions and results and look at their attitude towards conflicting opinions.
    Those people fool you.

    Keep fighting for the truth.

  17. Three big problems with the hypoxia theory:

    1) Transponder – turned off two minutes after last ATC call;

    2) Flight profile – no emergency descent attempted;

    3) Multiple changes in heading for one hour after last ATC call before flying in straight line.

    Is there any example of a hypoxia event where the transponder was turned off?

  18. The only senator who asked some real relevant questions in part IV and V which made Foley a bit nervous till at the end when this senator was effectively silencend by the chairman.
    Who ended with praising Foley’s accomplishments and efforts..
    Sad and telling IMO.

  19. @Laura
    OI has completed more searching than we could have hoped just a few months ago. It is not clear there would have been more searching, as the anything north of 26.5 South seems lack support of officialdom.

    Northerly, we have Mike Chillit predicting Batavia Seamount, we have Ed Baker and a few others predicting near path L894, and we have the Xmas Island theory (Jean Luc and others). But those areas thus far seem to lack academic/analytical/political support from the powers-that-be. There is a small army that supports more looking back at 38-39 South much wider than previously searched.
    In short we lack focus.

  20. @TBill
    At VI’s you said,

    “In short we lack focus.”

    The focus is constantly impeded by a surreal mix of MH370 relations.

    Case in point, the end of the search Tuesday should not be surprising to anyone, but the imprudent presentation makes it appear otherwise.

  21. @Susie
    “At VI’s (TBill) said, “In short we lack focus.”

    No I said that here on JW just above, but OK…

  22. When the flaperon washed up in French territory, I said to a work colleague that it was the worst possible place due to the French legal system.

    What will happen to the flaperon ? Will they keep it hidden away for a few more years and the quietly lose it in a scrap yard ?

  23. @buyerninety
    I would like someone to summarize all the people who still favor 38S or beyond. But I think we have Ventus45, Rob and associates, OXY here (aka Pete Noetic?), SimonG, perhaps PaulS, and more, GlobusMax is in there. A wide variety of thoughts how it got there.

  24. @buyerninety
    I should add Broken Ridge hypothesis which is Ge Rijn and to a lesser extent, TBill, Joe Nemo.

  25. @TBill

    I think you preferred the Broken Ridge trenches/area west of the arc right? Assuming a right hand turn from the 7th arc?
    I initially proposed to search the area width between 95E/97E and 32S/33S to also cover your possibility to be sure it would not be missed.

    I preferre the not searched area till ~97.3E between ~32.2 and ~33S also based on the ‘Blue Panel’-debris field spotted by the RNZAF on 28-3-2014 and drift-studies.
    This lat/longs (including your area) comply with all known relevant data and studies but also with a pilot controlled end-of-flight with the intention to hide the plane as best as possible.
    It’s in fact the only area that complies with all known relevant data and studies.
    And a recovery/glide/ditch-like impact scenario is the only scenario left based on this data and the fact OI (and ATSB) did not find the plane close to the 7th arc.

    The other option is the Inmarsat data are basically wrong in a way or are not what they appear to be.

  26. @Jeff Wise
    The transcript of the Senate Estimates Hearing in which Peter Foley featured is now available.
    It begins half way down page 54 with:
    “Senator CHISHOLM:
    I’m interested in MH370 and wonder if you’ve had any involvement in the investigation in recent months ?”;fileType%3Dapplication%2Fpdf

  27. @TBill. Yes, you can put me down as one of those favouring “beyond 38S” ie a little further beyond DSTGs hotspot. I think that a left turn in preparation for a landing at Banda Aceh via Ansax 2C STAR (on heading 190 for initial fix ANSAX) is what produced the FMT. A constant true heading from there produces a BTO fit that is very good. Not perfect, but very good. The speed required (IAS 272 or 273 at FL340 = econ descent speed) is also good, as is the predicted time of fuel exhaustion (within 1%). Termination beyond 7th arc doesn’t fit loss of AP or the BFOs though, and I don’t have a good counterargument for those aspects.

  28. @Paul Smithson

    With respect to your point of view I have to mention again that every impact area south of ~36S does not comply with any serious drift-study done after the flaperon find (GEOMAR, NOAA, Griffin/CSIRO, Janssen, Chattiapatchi, Godfrey, @MPatt, et al).
    This, IMO, is the real big problem with all those far south scenarios.
    They have to come up with a solution to this problem first to gain some credibility again.

  29. @Ge Rijn. I agree that drift models tend to favour areas further north. But I think it is not correct to say that 38S is ruled out, only that it is somewhat less likely on the basis of drift models alone. Ignore, please, multi-season, multi-year average models based on 1000s of drifters and look at the ocean surface current patterns at the time of the crash. You will see that there was a major eddy/tongue of current travelling N/NW at 38S, as there was at 35S. So I’m afraid to say I think you are wrong. Drift models do not rule out 38S.

  30. However it was noted the arrival of the flaperon/aileron was over 6 month late. And seemed only discovered suspiciously once people started to question the SIO theory.

  31. @Paul Smithson

    It’s not only about possible specific drift-patterns at certain latitudes. Drift-studies also have to cover the most probable latitudes in which all timeframes and beach-areas of all the confirmed, highly likely and likely debris-finds will fit.
    This is only between ~30S and ~35S with a mean value at 32.5S from the 7 most relevant drift-studies.

    But I guess this differences in point of view will go on forever as long as the plane is not found.

  32. @MH


    – Lepas size and distribution on flaperon not matching bouyancy and water temperature.
    – Probable separation of flaperon via lateral forces which is unusual (discussed on this blog)
    – Continued secrecy of French Judiciary which infers but does not prove something is amiss.

  33. @MH @Steve Barratt

    It’s not only about the flaperon which timeframe fits well if it started on the 7th arc around 32.5S c.q. between ~30S and ~35S.
    This also counts for the SA Mosselbay Roy-piece (RR engine cowling) and the Tanzania Pemba-piece (outboard flap section) and all ~26 other pieces found in between.

    If you go north 30S or south 35S the mismatch between possible timeframes and the possibility all found debris could have come from a same latitude/area there increases dramatically.

    – Lepas size and distribution on flaperon not matching bouyancy and water temperature:

    IMO this is best explained in Richard Godfrey’s 2017 drift-study. I agree the bouyancy attitude and lepas growth all around is still a not well explained problem.

    – Probable separation of flaperon via lateral forces which is unusual (discussed on this blog):

    If it was only the flaperon found with trailing edge damage and an almost intact leading edge, flutter damage and in-air seperation could have been likely.
    But we also have an outboard flap section with the same damage pattern, two flaperon closing panels with intact trailing edges and many other trailing edge, control surface wing related pieces.
    IMO it’s impossible those specific pieces seperated by aerodynamic forces ‘in-air’ or got damaged the way they did in a high speed nose-down impact.
    Only a ditch-like impact can explain this pattern of seperation and damage.

    – Continued secrecy of French Judiciary which infers but does not prove something is amiss:

    The French could possibly clear-up all above definitely. Why they still refuse to release a detailed report or hand over the flaperon for another independent investigation is sad and still a mystery.

  34. For those who saw Ocean Infinity’s search only as a compassionate square deal, please note the upside to the risk/reward profile of prowling about seabeds.

    I don’t suggest there are US $17 billion wrecks scattered about like shells on the beach. But perhaps this helps people see that for healthy hedge funds the amount of money OI’s laid out is only a fraction of a percent relative to the payoff. Even with lesser amounts at stake, one could view its SIO search as smart practice, efficacy testing, etc., no discovery/recovery needed.

  35. A question just crossed my mind. Do the fuel exhaustion calculations take into account the disabling of the onboard electronics and other equipment ? I know it wouldn’t account for much of a fuel saving but over a flight of several hours it would add up.

  36. @PSother, the amount of fuel consumed would be so minuscule compared to the tons needed to keep the plane in the air that the effect would be swamped by other unknown factors such as altitude, temperature, wind, etc.

  37. @ALL

    What an abortion! Paul, you are right, the plane crossed the 7th arc at S38 approx. The most important piece of evidence is actually the synchronisation with sunrise. I think it was sk999 on the other site who worked out that the plane was carrying an extra 20 minutes of fuel. Assuming this is correct, then Shah had worked out in advance that with the nominal fuel uplift for MH370, he would run out of fuel when the Sun was on the horizon (as seen from sea level). On the night in question he actually managed to wangle an additional 20 minutes of fuel (M0.82 at FL400) which meant the Sun was about 5° above the horizon when the fuel ran out. This indicates that his overriding aim was to achieve maximum range, which suggested that he would be planning to glide as far as possible in the same direction once the fuel was exhausted, which is why the ATSB never found him in their search zone. He could have easily glided as far as S39.20 E88.35 if he had accomplished a nominal 16:1 glide from 38,000ft. It is no mean feat to synchronise fuel exhaustion with sunrise. For MH370 there were only two windows when conditions were optimal: the first two weeks in March and the first two weeks in October. As soon as Shah realised he had a suitable roster coming up, he practiced the diversion in his simulator, making sure not to use S41 E88. Instead, he used McMurdo or S45 E104.

    For understandable political reasons, the the Malaysians wanted to quash the pilot in control scenario at all costs. The ATSB had to go along with this, hence Peter Foley’s ridiculous scenario pitched to the Australian Senate.

    Below is a copy of my final email to OI. It sums up the situation.

    Sent from Outlook
    From: Robin Stevens
    Sent: 16 May 2018 12:59
    Subject: MH370

    Hi Mark

    I understand about you being agnostic, but I think it’s a pity you couldn’t have searched in the vicinity of S39.20 E88. 35, rather than rely solely on the “expert advice” of the ATSB.

    The pilot simply set the plane on a course toward S41 E88, and then continued to glide it as far southwards as he could after the fuel ran out. He hit the water with flaps up. Larry Vance is wrong about the flaperon being extended downwards.

    The Independent Group have been shown for what they really are, a group of meddling knowalls, more interested in impressing each other with their satellite and aeronautical knowledge than in impartially assessing the evidence, and exonerate Shah from any blame. The road to hell is paved with good intentions, as they say. Malaysia have been handed their, “get out of jail free” card.

    Sorry if I sound bitter and twisted, but it could have turned out so differently if you had been allowed to take some independent advice from the aviation industry, rather than be duped by the Malaysian government and the ATSB.

    Regards and best wishes


  38. @PSOther
    Re: Fuel models: the main thing under consideration is bleed air, which if off, could save a few % fuel and add to range. DrB’s latest report, for example, attempts to rule out flight paths with too much or too little fuel, but I believe with or without bleed air are allowable paths in DrB’s logic.

    The electronics comes into play for increasing thrust. If we say MH370 went over aircraft design limits of speed and altitude, then we need to know how that could be done. Options are reduce bleed air, reduce generators, and maybe over-riding N1 (turbine blade speed limits) in the controls.

  39. @Jeff Wise
    Over on Mike Chillit twitter DGallo says he does not accept southerly flight path at this point. Not saying I agree.

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