Popular Mechanics: What If They Were Looking for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 in the Wrong Place All Along?

Early this morning, local time, the Seabed Constructor recovered the last of eight sea drones it had sent to scour a remote patch of the southern Indian Ocean. Then, with little fanfare, the ship set off on a course for Dampier, Australia. Thus came the end of the hunt for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, an epic feat of undersea exploration that lasted nearly four years, covered a total of some 85,000 square miles (an area larger than Great Britain), and cost on the order of a quarter-billion dollars.

The search found not a single trace of the plane. How could such an epic undertaking have come up empty?

Here’s one idea: the experts were wrong all along about which direction the airliner flew—it went north, not south toward the deep Indian Ocean. If that sounds like crazy second-guessing, then consider it’s the point of view of someone who helped solve one of the biggest missing plane cases of the 21st century.

Here’s a quick catch-up on how we got here: Based on a series of seven signals automatically transmitted from the plane to an Inmarsat communications satellite shortly after MH370 disappeared from radar, investigators came to believe that the plane flew on autopilot for six hours and then ran out of fuel shortly after midnight, universal time, on March 8, 2014. The airliner then sent a final burst of data as it plummeted earthward.

This data came in two ways. The first, the so-called “burst timing offset” (BTO) data, was a measure of how far the plane was from the satellite at the time of transmission. The set of all possible places from which the plane might have made it formed a ring, or arc, on the earth’s surface. The second type of data, the so-called “burst frequency offset” (BFO) data, could provide a rough sense of whether the plane was flying to the north or to the south. After spending weeks developing the mathematics necessary to interpret it, investigators decided that the BFO values meant the plane must have gone south.

The subsequent search for the plane’s wreckage was defined by two factors: where exactly on the final arc the plane was when it sent its last transmission, and how far it could have traveled afterward. After further mathematical analysis, investigators became convinced that the final BFO values meant that the plane was in a steep dive at the end. The condition of debris recovered in the western Indian Ocean in the years after the crash further convinced investigators that the plane hit hard and fast. Taken together, those factors would imply the plane’s final resting place lies close to the arc.

Applying a technique called Bayesian analysis to the BTO data, researchers at Australia’s Defense Science & Technology Group were able to identify a 500-mile-long segment of the arc along which is likely where the transmission occurred. According to their calculations, there was virtually a zero chance that the plane could have wound up south of 40 degrees south latitude or north of 33 degrees south latitude. It had to be between those lines.

Or so they thought.

With the completion of Seabed Constructor‘s work, investigators have now searched that entire length of that 500-mile stretch—and 650 miles beyond it—up to a distance of 25 miles in either direction. With zero to show for four years of effort, the authorities are stumped. They don’t believe the plane ended up somewhere else on the arc, nor are they willing to accept it could have glided more than 25 miles past the line. They’re also confident that the plane isn’t sitting in the already-searched area and they just missed it. It’s just gone.

The country ultimately responsible for finding the plane, Malaysia, seems resigned to an unsolved mystery. Anticipating that Seabed Constructor would not find any wreckage in its final days of work, the country’s minister of transport, Anthony Loke, issued a statement on May 30 announcing the search’s end, explaining: “Whilst combined scientific studies have continuously used (sic) to refine areas of probability, to date however, no new information has been encountered to determine the exact location of the aircraft.”

However, many observers outside the investigation are unsatisfied with this declaration of surrender. Plenty of online conspiracy theorists and armchair investigators have their own ideas about the fate of MH370, but one person you should actually listen to is David Gallo. He’s the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute researcher who co-led the search that found Air France 447.

Writing on Twitter on May 25, Gallo suggested that the search’s heavy reliance on Inmarsat signals might have been a mistake. “I never accepted the satellite data from day one,” he wrote, adding: “I never thought I’d say this….I think there is a good chance that MH370 never came south at all. Let’s put it this way, I don’t accept the evidence that the plane came south.”

When I reached him on the phone, Gallo told me he was flummoxed by the authorities’ insistence that the Inmarsat data and its interpretation had to be correct. “This is where I got so frustrated,” he said. “The plane’s not there, so what the hell? What’s going on?”

Gallo doesn’t claim to know how the satellite data could have been misinterpreted, but one possibility is that a sophisticated hijacker might have deliberately tampered with it in order to throw searchers off the trail. Search officials have never come up with an explanation for how the satcom system came to be turned back on an hour after all its other electronics went dark. Victor Iannello, a member of the influential Independent Group of amateur researchers, has pointed out that by changing a single parameter inside a satcom computer, a hijacker could have tweaked the BFO data to make it look like the plane was winging south when it was really heading north.

That’s a controversial idea to say the least, flying in the face of years of official near-certainty about a southern terminus. But given search officials’ quarter-billion-dollar failure, the truth must lie among one of the possibilities they haven’t yet deemed worthy of consideration.

Gallo argues that a fresh approach is in order. “My advice to the Malaysian govt is to STOP and think,” he wrote. “Turn over controls to a small independent group and let them work out the way forward.”

Note: This article originally ran in Popular Mechanics.

207 thoughts on “Popular Mechanics: What If They Were Looking for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 in the Wrong Place All Along?”

  1. @CliffG, from time to time you have produced some very interesting research on this blog, but I do not understand your current obsession with suggesting that the U.S. and U.K. are to blame for MH370 in a shoot down near Diego Garcia.

    I’ll start at the end, which, for me would close the line of inquiry immediately: in a post-9/11 world, one in which the shoot down of a rogue aircraft threatening a city or military installation in the United States is policy, as it is–as I believe you yourself have reported–in Russia, why would the United States or United Kingdom need to hide the fact?

    A regrettable but necessary self defense is how it’s been described when it’s come close to happening before. This would be no different, particularly given that there could be no doubt of an airliner accidentally drifting off course–ultimately by nearly 7000 kilometers!

    Beyond that, though, Russian attacks–continuing your theory that Russians hijacked the plan to crash at Diego Garcia–are never quite so direct, are they?

    Insignia free but uniformed men swarm Ukraine’s Crimea not as soldiers of a foreign state but as militia and in the process contribute to the destabilization of the Western alliance. Fake news, false social media personas, and hackings sow doubt to sway elections and divide a nation from within, not without. Poisonings of white hats and whistleblowers take place far from the motherland.

    There is never real doubt as to who is involved. But the provocations always seem to fall short of a direct attack on a far superior adversary.

    Asymmetry is the only way for a minor power with grand ambitions to play the game.

    Stealing and crashing an airline into a naval fleet of the world’s greatest military power is not that.

    Make no mistake: I believe Moscow was behind the disappearance of MH370. But not with methods or a motive so simplistic.

  2. @SCOTT O.

    “I believe Moscow was behind the disappearance of MH370”.

    Moscow….or was Ukrainian expertise critical? There is an important difference.

  3. @StevBarratt, are you referring to Chustrak and Deineka, the rather fit 44 year olds with the martial mien?

    To that, I guess I’d respond, that I believe Moscow directed the action and used Russian expertise as well as that of two Ukrainian men who were either ethnic-Russian or mercenaries or, perhaps, duped.

    That a lawsuit was filed by their NOK well as the NOK of Brodskii, the rather fit Russian technical diver, age 43, while so few others were, seems an especially Putin-esque touch of perversity.

    Interestingly, I’ve read that the average age to retire from American JSOC is 43, here:

    https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-average-age-of-retirement-of-a-Tier-1-JSOC-Operator

    And that the Russian Spetsnaz increasingly patterned its management after U.S. special forces, here:

    http://www.businessinsider.com/photos-russian-us-special-forces-2016-12

    Curious, huh? Anyway, in this case, I don’t think there is a significant distinction. Just more, as noted in my last post, of Putin creating a rather flimsy ring fence of deniability around his actions–almost as if to wink about it.

  4. @Scott O.

    Yes I was referring to the two names you mentioned.

    The point I guess I’m trying to make is that Ukraine/Russia/Putin/Moscow may initially seem one of the same. Buy actually they are probably not really as homogeneous as you think.

    Maybe Moscow had adverse intelligence on the names you mentioned and shot down 9M-MRD as a form of ‘self defence’ or warning that 9M-MRO was not to be used against Mother Russia in any shape or form. Only a hypothesis.

  5. @AB123. Infrasound. From your reference, “For flight MH370 to be picked up by IMS infrasound network at regional or global distances it could mean that it crashed, exploded or disintegrated.”

    Looking for detection of other crashes on land and at sea, including MH17 and EgyptAir 804, the only mention I have encountered is detection of the crash (presumably Fedex, on March 23rd) at Narita in 2009.

    http://www.india.com/loudspeaker/malaysian-airlines-flight-mh370-un-n-watchdog-says-no-explosion-or-crash-detected-24478/, detection distance unstated.

    There is mention of it elsewhere as a tool utilised in a search for the lost Argentine submarine San Juan.

    While the work of your reference was at a time when the current and intended search areas were around Malaysia, where propagation apparently was poor, I have found no mention of any relevant to the newer search areas or, for that matter, current speculation about a crash near Cocos. As to the ATSB led search, its final Operation Search Report of October 2017 looks into underwater acoustic detection (p38) and analysis (p114) but here is no mention of infrasound though I assume the ATSB/SSWG would have had this capability in mind.

  6. @SteveBarratt

    An interesting thought, but to be clear, I do not conflate Ukraine with Russia or Kiev with Moscow, except when the leadership in the former is close enough to the latter to flee there when disposed. Or when one’s ethic alliances are at odds with the geographic location. Or when they are gangsters.

    Someone who is more more of a Putinologist than I should weigh in here, but it seems to me that Moscow has two methods for dealing with its foes.

    When they are geopolitical, it engages in provocations that stop just short of triggering a hot or broader confrontation. The limited action in Georgia and its ongoing but erratic nibbling of territory yard by yard to this day; Crimea but with militia; the Donbass, again with militia and again yard by yard; Syria under the guise of peacekeeping; the United States, significantly but not materially via cyberwarfare; likely the Brexit as well.

    When it comes to individuals, the targeting is equally limited and specific. Polonium. Novichok, mysterious falls, heart attacks and stabbings, beatings and shootings. One foe, one act, one body.

    The Russian government may be diabolical but to sustain itself in power and to appear a more significant actor on the world stage, it applies a certain proportionality to its actions.

    And so however likely it may be that two men from the Ukraine–who, btw, don’t appear to be political threats, spies or journalists–merited elimination by Putin, it certainly seems that there are more efficient and less messy ways of getting rid of them than murdering an entire airplane full of people.

  7. @David

    Yes, they say they can detect the sound of a crash at a distance and didn’t. But that wasn’t the point.

    The point I was highlighting was that they say they can also hear aircraft flying past locally – up to around 100km – but didn’t hear anything at the time MH370 might have been passing by (ie while the fuel lasted).

    Therefore if MH370 did pass by Cocos, it must have been more than c. 100km away from Cocos.

    Anyone suggesting a flight path and/or end point near Cocos would need to take that into account.

    Another piece of the jigsaw, perhaps.

  8. @AB123
    Infrasound is interesting topic, but keep in mind, if you look at Flight Radar 24, there is normal air traffic each day that goes by Cocos. I must assume if infrasound could accurately monitor all air traffic near Cocos, that ATSB could use the data as you suggested to rule in or rule out the presence of MH370 on 8-March-2014. ATSB is not saying that, so I must assume it is not a valid expectation to be able to use infrasound in that manner.

    Of course, there is much undisclosed secret information about MH370. Excepting for Malysia and maybe Thailand, nobody is disclosing what their secret military radar monitoring says about the presence, or lack of presence, of MH370, or if their radar was simply off. So we as normal citizens without security clearances must assume there is no data to rule out a flight path near Cocos, for example.

    Many proposed MH370 flight paths do not get very close to Cocos, so the comment mainly impacts the Iannello/Godfrey “loiter” paths. That path was first proposed several years ago, and nobody has been able to refute their proposal based on known whereabouts of MH370 after MEKAR. Unfort we do not know how to rule anything out unless it does not fit the Arcs.

  9. @AB123. I gather that the investigation looked into whether normal flights from Cocos are detected by the array some 8 km away, the answer being no. Therefore, a lack of detection is not evidence there was no flight nearby. Besides, I cannot find from your reference that flights passing near Cocos were looked into.

    From your reference what was looked at was any detection emanating from the Malaysia area. The outcome was, “no matching event is reported within the first 15mn of the flight” there. In clarification, the data listed in your ref’s fig.3 apply to whether there was a detection at various listening stations of the Kuala Lumpur takeoff at the propagation times expected, ± 15 min.

    All that aside, while I did stray from your in-flight detection point as you say, the ability to detect crashes at regional distances by infrasound was what had caught my eye.

    Considering a possible crash near Cocos some hours later it is not immediately obvious that that has been looked into or would have been highlighted automatically, having exceeded some threshold for background noise.

    What intensity of crash could be detected by atmospheric infrasound is unclear. MH370 without fuel, had over 5 gigajoules of energy if at 500 knots.

    While lack of evidence of any regional detection of a crash does not mean there wasn’t one, could one near Cocos of a high energy have a reasonable chance of detection by infrasound?

    Beyond just Cocos though, might a crash like that have been detected further away, at the “regional” distances they mention?

    In my view, current lack of infrasound evidence of a Cocos-vicinity or regional crash, some hours later than the timescale apparently investigated, MAY be because that has not been looked into.

  10. @AB123. In the context of a crash detectable at Cocos I have raised, with the lead author of the reference above, what may be an anomaly in the records from there, early on 8th March, 2014.

    https://www.dropbox.com/s/zpui3ts2br60hx7/Possible%20anomaly%20in%20Cocos%20records%20early%20on%208th%20March%2C%202014.jpg?dl=0

    In my experience I am unlikely to get any comment. Should that be the case and it still looks worth pursuing I might ask the CTBTO (the source of your Summary).

  11. @TBill. Good question. The blip is too early for the crash: the point of highest amplitude is at about 00:20:00 on the 8th March, which allows next to no time for it to propagate from the 7th arc precinct to the array and the amplitude decays quickly after that. It might have emanated from a fly by at high speed but in the Lawrence Livermore work they were unable to identify anything distinguishable in the array’s record from other passing aircraft at known times, so could not ascertain what such a recording’s characteristics would be. Hence they could get no further with distant detectability of MH370, the endeavour at that time.

    There is a related but separate question though as to whether, had there been a crash, it would have been discernible and distinguishable in the later record. If so, no such record means no crash. Yet, to iterate, the CTBTO paper said, “For flight MH370 to be picked up by IMS infrasound network at regional or global distances, it could mean that it crashed, exploded or disintegrated.” That does to me suggest that there might well be a blip evident had there been a regional crash, irrespective of wave front or frequency, perhaps distinctive by its amplitude. Whether that interpretation extends to the sea and how they would be confident of that is as yet unexplored.

    I was pleased to get a response to my question from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the nature of which was about background to their earlier work and there has been some interest in the topic more generally. Discussions continue. Separately I have been in discussion with Victor Ianello given the work he and others are doing on the merits of a search further north.

    However nothing specific has emerged from the LL discussions as to a way forward with this or whether indeed there is one.

  12. @David said:

    “Besides, I cannot find from your reference that flights passing near Cocos were looked into.”

    It doesn’t say they were looked into specifically (and neither did I) – that any flights passing within c. 100km would have been detected is a logical deduction. The report I linked to states:

    ‘Commercial planes in normal flight conditions are usually detected by IMS infrasound stations only at close range (within about 100km from stations).’

    it continues:

    ‘… as the closest station to Kuala Lumpur is I06AU, Cocos Island,’

    So they say there is an infrasound detection station located on Cocos Island, ergo (it would seem) it should have detected any aircraft flying within c. 100km of the island.

    With reference to the ‘blip’ and short propagation time: how far away from Cocos (on the 7th arc) would that make the ‘crash’?

    Within 100km?

  13. @Jeff, FYI
    and Cliff G., given your theorizing, perhaps an avenue worth investigating.

    Two items of seemingly little significance, until you think about them with respect to MH370.

    ONE> Maria Butina, the recently arrested Russian national with extensive ties to the GOP and NRA, as described in a story in the Washington Post dated July 17:

    “After a brief career as the owner of a small chain of furniture stores, Butina moved to Moscow, where she began a career in public relations and founded a group called the Right to Bear Arms…”

    Surely it’s just a coincidence that she and the two Ukrainian men on MH370 were both in the furniture business—until you have it pointed out to you by a former intelligence community member that there are no coincidences when it comes to Russia—and you realize there is virtually no information about the actual furniture business the two Ukrainians worked in, that it’s quite remarkable that a 21-year-old woman would quickly come to own a chain of seven stores in Siberia and just as quickly give them up to go to Moscow to “start a career in public relations,” found a guns rights organization called Right to Bear Arms—interestingly enough with Alexander Torshin, a central banker for Vladimir Putin, who himself does not believe in guns rights—before she moves to the United States to go to university, attend various Republican events with senior party officials, and start yet another business, an LLC of unclear function in South Dakota, all within a very short 8 years.

    TWO> Brodskii, the technical diver aboard MH370, whose family was visited, shortly after the aircraft’s disappearance, by Chabad, an Hasidic organization, despite Brodskii not being Hasidic.

    Chabad is of now global and has as its biggest financial supporters, according to an April 17 story in Politico, Lev Leviev and Roman Abramovitch, Russian oligarchs, who were enlisted by Putin to form a supporting organization in Russia, with a man called “Putin’s rabbi,” the head of the Russian Chabad, Berel Lazar. That Politico story is titled “The Happy-Go-Lucky Jewish Group that Connects Trump and Putin,” and makes the point worth reinforcing that Chabad’s Jewishness is likely significant to its Russian benefactors—after all, there are officially more pagans in Russia than Jews—than its global reach, and what that might provide.

  14. @Scott O
    The Chabad Houses can be found all over the world, including countries like India where the Jewish population is less than 0.01%

  15. @ABN397, yes, absolutely, but I think the interesting thing about the Chabad isn’t its Jewishness per se or its global reach but why certain Russians would spend hundreds of millions of dollars supporting it when their own Jewish population is so small, and how support of an organization with outposts in hundreds of cities around the world might benefit them.

  16. @AB123. What the CTBTO looked into was MH370 flight north until the aircraft disappeared, “within the first hour of flight”, I believe. Their comment that, “Commercial planes in normal flight conditions are usually detected by IMS infrasound stations only at close range (within about 100km from stations)”, is I think in explanation as to why the aircraft was not detected at Cocos, “1700 km away”.

    Incidentally, your reference was discussed here:
    https://www.africsis.org/wp-content/uploads/bsk-pdf-manager/Article_on_Missing_Malaysian_Flight_14.pdf

    The later Lawrence Livermore work first aimed at picking up aircraft which fly to and from Cocos regularly and fly directly over the array, getting detection distance and waveform characteristics from that. Since they couldn’t detect such aircraft they gave it away.

    From their poster’s summary also they examined the data for “aircraft signatures”. Supposing they had access to CTBTO’s “normal flight conditions” detection signatures, evidently there was no sign of any of those. Thus the identification of the one aircraft arrival feature they find “different” at the poster’s bottom right is from a more general assessment than just that. Since it is not replicated in the other arrival or two departures that LL highlights there, that one may not be helpful with evidence of a fly past anyway. Besides, from my reading the vortices at take-off and landing would alter the signature from that of normal flight.

    Overall then the evidence is that there is little likelihood there was a fly past by MH370 of Cocos.

    As to the “blip” in H8’s record after midnight UTC of 7th March, the last aircraft transmission was at 00:19:37 on the 8th. I have expanded the blip:
    https://www.dropbox.com/s/8tp0j6k3g6l0kt6/H8%20max%20amplitude%20time%20after%200000%208th%20March%2C%202014.jpg?dl=0

    It seems likely that the time of maximum amplitude is very close to that of the last transmission. The vicinity of the 7th arc is a minimum of 500 NM miles away, depending on course. Sound can skip like HF radio so the route may not be direct, and its sea-level speed will be higher in the tropics, but at ISA’s 15˚C and via a direct route that would take around 45 mins. It is reasonable then to say that at 00:20:40 the timing of that maximum amplitude is well before a sound wave from a 7th arc crash could have reached Cocos.
    Also on looking into this more closely the symmetry and timing of the maximum amplitude in other graphs vary with H8’s.

    Besides, there is the duration of the H8 amplitude rise before the maximum, leaving aside that of H6 and H7 before midnight. A series of shock waves from MH370 in a dive conceivably might account for that but could not last that long.

    Finally, on detectability of high impact aircraft crashes there have been some land crashes detected by infrasound. Here is a record of Air Algérie MD-83 flight, 5017, on 24th July, 2014, which crashed on land. From a blurred original:
    https://www.dropbox.com/s/4wb2vfi4uh4zhec/Infrasound%20detection%20of%20Air%20Algerie%20MD-83%20Crash%2C%2024th%20July%2C%202014.jpg?dl=0

    A note in the URL’s poster about this is, “Normally airplane crashes produce signals which are not strong enough to be recorded by the IMS network. The example presented here is an exception.” That crash was detected seismically also as have been many aircraft crashes on land. Sea crashes/explosions detected seismically include Swissair Flight 111 (in the sea off Nova Scotia, 1998, 300 knots, 110˚bank, 20˚ nose down, 300 knots) and a Kursk explosion in the Barents Sea (2-3 tons of TNT equivalent). While not sea impacts, bolides, with hypersonic shock, require a minimum of 10 tons of energy for detection.

    I have found no account of a sea crash being detected by infrasound. The 5.4 GJ of MH370 at 500 knots equates to 1.3 tons.

    Hydro-acoustic detection is another matter.

  17. @Scott O, I haven’t seen anything about Chabad visiting Brodsky’s family, do you have a link? I recall seeing reports soon after the crash that Brodsky was active in the Jewish community, but my own reporting revealed that that was not the case.

    About furniture: I wonder if there’s something about that business that lends itself particularly well to being a front…

  18. @Jeff,

    Furniture, two thoughts: one, there is a literal connection between Butina and the Ukranians. Two, it is a familiar enough topic not to provoke too much curiosity, it is something we all understand on some level so wouldn’t lead to too many hard to answer questions, and it has the potential for international trade allowing one a cover for travel. No shortage of wood in Mother Russian, either.

    Brodskii/Brodsky: from the Times of Israel, which admittedly leaves open the interpretation of “reached out”:

    “Chabad emissaries in Irkutsk, southeastern Russia, reached out to the family of 43-year-old Russian-Jewish national Nikolai Brodskii Sunday after he was identified as one of 239 passengers and crew members aboard the Boeing 777 jetliner that disappeared off the coast of Malaysia early Saturday morning.”

    https://www.timesofisrael.com/chabad-reaches-out-to-family-of-missing-malaysia-passenger/

    And just a little bit of personal experience to add to the stew: my wife’s family, which is Jewish, has never been contacted by a Chabad in time of need or a family member’s death, for whatever that’s worth.

    By the way. According to Wikipedia the surname Brodskii or Brodsky derives from Brody, a town in Ukraine.

  19. @Scott O, Yes, Brodsky’s name is of Ukrainian origin, but it seems that he didn’t identify as either Ukrainian or Jewish. I think if Chabad did reach out it was a one-way dialogue. The part in the Times of Israel article about his being a cold-water diver is accurate, though.

  20. @AB123. I mentioned the Kursk above. The initiating explosion which led to that sinking and then the secondary explosion was from but, “a few tens of kilograms” (US National Academy of Sciences) of explosive and that also was detected by seismic correlation analysis regionally. It was at periscope depth, the larger explosion being at 100 metres. However that does not necessarily read across seismically to MH370, assuming that crashed at an ocean-deep site, where the energy proportion reaching the bottom would be less.

    To reach regional distances hydro-acoustically in the deep ocean the sound needs to be bent into the ‘wave guide’ of the SOFAR layer, normally about 1000 m deep but rising with latitude. At the lower latitudes a surface sound commonly needs a sloping bottom to reflect it. At high the SOFAR rises to the surface. The Australian Centre for Marine Science and Technology (CMST) at Annex H of the ATSB’s final Operational Search report describes how a sloping bottom led to the noise from seismic survey line airgun shots off the WA’s NW Cape to be detected at Diego Garcia, 4700km away.

    While there is no evidence of an underwater sound generated noise which can be related to MH370 regionally, the question is whether the CTBTO sensors or those which are deployed for other purposes, including whale and submarine detection, should have made a detection. (Had SOSUS or similar been operative in the Indian Ocean and littoral I would have thought any detection by that would have been ‘got out’ by some means.)

    The US National Academy of Sciences paper says that for hydro-acoustic detections, “…the yield threshold is down to just a few kilograms for most oceans in the Southern Hemisphere”, though the context is explosions, whose characteristics are known and so these might be easier to identify than a crash.

    The research response investigating MH370 in–flight and crash possibilities seems to have been willing enough but fragmented. You have such as the Los Alamos National Laboratory studying CTBTO hydro-acoustic sensor records (the above ATSB final Operational Search report, Appendix J), the CMST doing the same but including relevant data from some Australian Integrated Marine Observing System sensor records (Appendices H as before and I), the CTBTO taking a very early look at whether the early flight around Malaysia disclosed any mid-air explosions or crashes there, apparently concentrating on infrasound. The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory investigated Cocos Island infrasound records later. The Los Angeles and CMST work included Diego Garcia hydro-acoustic record analysis but not whether infrasound might be relevant, though there is a 2-way detector there. Seismic records from Indian Ocean proximate sensors apparently were not examined. And absent were infrasound, hydro-acoustic and seismic templates as to what a crash signature would look like. (Moreover, to add complication, some CTBTO hydro-acoustic detectors depend on conversion of acoustic energy to seismic via the characteristics of the local shore).

    There was no holistic approach to overcome the compartmentation nor is there apparent any co-ordination by Malaysia or the ATSB.

    In particular, I would have thought it important to establish the probability of a high energy crash in the Indian Ocean being detected, both down to around 40˚S and up to Cocos, at 12˚S. A ‘high’ in either would have warranted a review of applicable records. A nil-detection confirmation in a high probability area would indicate any ‘crash’ there most likely would be of low energy.

    With the final report imminent a review now is unlikely. However it may be that with more sensor experience as to what can be expected in incidental encounters, retrospective analysis might be considered.

  21. One other clarification.
    Please replace the last sentence of second last paragraph with, “A nil-detection confirmation in a high probability area would indicate any ‘crash’ there most likely would be of low energy”.

  22. @Jeff. Thanks. Mistakes continue to escape my scrutiny until posted. Maybe age.

    I add a footnote to my 24th 5:25 AM post. That displays an expanded blip from a Lawrence Livermore poster of a Cocos Island infrasound record. I discussed that in the context of a crash beyond Cocos on the 7th arc.

    What I should note also is that the rise to the peak amplitude of that could be infrasound from the aircraft approaching Cocos, the blip’s peak amplitude being as infrasound reaches its peak, then followed by decay as the aircraft departs on its way.

    The timing of peak amplitude may not be at its closest point, since it could well be that infrasound radiation increases aft of abeam.

    I should mention that though this blog is where this discussion originated there may be some on the VI blog who would be interested so I will raise the issue there too.

  23. @All

    ‘Final’ 1,500 page report released;

    https://www.news.com.au/travel/travel-updates/incidents/after-years-of-investigations-the-mh370-mystery-will-be-laid-to-rest-with-a-final-report/news-story/d8868d3120e6d2f2b76a9adf506cc648

    This is a news report and not a link to the pdf. I have not read the report.

    Basically;

    At the turn back 9M-MRO was under manual control and subsequently flown manually.
    There is no evidence of 777 malfunction.
    Communication failure may have been due to deliberately switching off transponder etc.
    Captain Zaharie was not specifically blamed.
    This is not the final report.

  24. The appendices to the report include the French flaperon analysis.

    The analysis concludes that the flaperon did not come off in-flight, but separated on impact, presumably in a ditch-scenario,but without proper landing configuration (due to power loss). This means the wreckage is probably further south than so far assumed.

  25. I think they are all wrong and I think it was an accident. I think the Malaysian government have been blindsiding this investigation from day one.

    I am not a big fan of ‘esoteric’ evidence such as this satellite ‘ping’ I go on hard evidence such as the radar and also witnesses on the ground.

    – The aircraft made a sharp turn west. If it continued on that track it
    would have eventually passed over the Maldives

    – Witnesses at an atoll in the Maldives saw an aircraft exactly like MH370
    pass overhead very low. Even bits of wreckage have been washed up
    there but suspiciously discounted.

    – Most of the wreckage was found west and southwest of Maldives near
    Mauritius. Not one bit found, not one item in the current search area
    near Australia. The guy who made it his mission to hunt down wreckage
    In the Mauritius area was harrassed at times.

    My armchair analysis is this: Catastrophic event in Avionics bay just beneath cockpit caused by intense fire or bomb. This would disable transponder and radios and possibly cause incapacitation of crew, especially if a bomb.

    Kept on flying and slowly losing altitude and crashed between Maldives and Mauritius.

    Any floating debris would have eventual dispersed or sunk without any relevance because nobody EXPECTED it to be in that area. The ocean is full of stuff falling off container ships. Nobody would have linked the two occurences.

    If you examine the sea current maps of the area between Maldives and Africa you will see that THE NORTH EQUATORIAL COUNTER and the SOUTH EQUATORIAL would put any floating debris under the influence of the southerly flowing AGULHAS current that goes towards South Africa (wreckage washed up) and also the MOZAMBIQUE current which passes Mauritius and La Reunion and past Madagascar (wreckage found)

    The aircraft lies probably a couple hundred miles (at the most) WSW of the Maldives.

    This theory is no wilder than the one spending millions of dollars looking in the wrong place.

    The only mystery is why nobody wants to look in the right place.

  26. @Nederland
    The ditching conclusion is very important if it stands. But I am not sure why you say further South. I feel the aircraft could have heading northeast after the 23:14 telcon. Are you trying to say further outside Arc7? Which could be true but long glide could be inside Arc7.

    I believe we have not considered the worst case scenario, that there could have been a deliberate attempt by an active pilot to get the aircraft as far away as possible from the last ping on re-logon, which could involve a long glide *with* a little residual fuel left (longer than 100-nm glide).

  27. @TBill

    I trust that the conclusion of the French analysis is, perhaps the only, valuable contribution in the new report.

    To say further outside the arc is more correct than to say further south. But at the end of the day, MH370 was flying in a generally southerly/south-westerly direction. I find it unlikely the pilot flying was entirely changing this direction without leaving any evidence in the sat data.

    I still think the BFO analysis is correct as is the ATSB conclusion that the flaps were not extended to ditching position proper. The conclusion is the aircraft was at some point after the final BFO recovered and glided. That would reduce the possible maximum distance quite a bit.

    I think in the very olden days someone posted a paper on this on the Duncan Steel blog, but this has now been taken offline. As far as I remember the maximum gliding distance, even excluding the very last BFO as erroneous, was not very far off the ATSB 40 nm distance from the arc.

  28. @All

    Malaysia’s civil aviation chief quits over MH370 lapses.

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-07-31/malaysias-civil-aviation-chief-quits-over-flight-370-lapses/10058234

    The flaperon report is heavy going but seems to exclude in-flight separation due to flutter.

    It mentions (as discussed in this blog) the lateral displacement and failure of the attachment hinges.

    The clean separation of the rear honeycomb structure was mainly in traction but some compression (scanning electron microscope).

    Unusually the leading edge had four vertical impacts or dents that suggested interaction an adjacent part. However Boeing confirmed that there was no adjacent part that would cause these four impacts with the spacing observed.

    The report concluded this section by stating it was likely that some ‘objects’ struck the the flaperon forcibly. The quotes around ‘objects’ was provided by the French.

    The immersion testing written in French seems to confirm what was written in this and other blogs.

    I haven’t read/found the detailed reports into the crustaceans (lepas) but this has already been published.

    Significantly and corroborating comments made by @JeffWise there was a mismatch between the lepas distribution and the quite high buoyancy of the flaperon. I quote from the report;

    “The tests performed showed that in that, the buoyancy was quite high. The position with the
    upper surface immersed seemed more stable, which is consistent with a significant presence of crustaceans on the upper surface. However, the waterline noted did not correspond to that suggested by the zones where the crustaceans were located, that’s to say on the water, while the trailing edge
    was significantly out of the water”

    The French hypothesis is that the flaperon was partially lowered during a controlled ditching. But this doesn’t fully explain the lack of damage from the engine failing, rotating up and hitting the flaperon and the lateral damage to the hinges.

    Interesting reading.

  29. @SteveBarratt
    Re: The resignation, I recall some felt that the most competent actor in this whole fiasco was the KL ACC, who were trying as hard as possible to cut through the confusion and delays eminating from MAS and Vietnam ACC.

    Ultimately however the report makes the point that KL ACC by internatonal rules should have taken more pro-active charge as soon as Vietnam failed to find MH370.

  30. “Malaysia’s civil aviation chief says he has resigned after an independent investigative report highlighted shortcomings in the air traffic control centre during MH370’s disappearance four years ago.”

    This is a perfect illustration of the MH370 fiasco. The blatant entity of “highlighted shortcomings in the air traffic control centre” has been on record for years.

    The investigative committee’s prompt “visit…to the office of the Vietnamese Civil Aviation Authority (CAAV) in Ho Chi Minh City on 10 September 2014”
    was over 6 months after MH370 disappeared.

  31. First post. I’ve been following comments on this website for some time. Before this latest Malaysian report, was it known that Freescale had 6kgs of ‘vehicle chips’ in the MH370 cargo ? It’s the first I’ve heard of it. But I may be late to the discussion.

  32. @mark coles

    That one jumped out at me also as I not recall prior mention of this cargo either.

    @Jeff Wise
    Page 300, #4 on cargo manifest

    Freescale Semiconductor
    Petaling Jaya Selangor

    6k Vehicle electronic chips

    Agent-Panalpina Transport (M)
    MAS Cargo, KLIA

  33. The ATSB observed in one simulation conducted in 2016 high rates of descent and downward vertical acceleration in an ‘unstable’ phugoid. The cyclic nature of phugoid motion implies that half a period later in that phugoid the aircraft would be climbing and the acceleration would be upwards.

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