Seven Takeaways from the Final Malaysian MH370 Report

The report released Monday by the Malaysian government about its search for MH370 runs over a thousand pages, so it’s going to be a while before anyone has a chance to go through every detail, but after a cursory skimming a couple of points stand out.

1) Primary Radar. Right up near the top, on page 3, we read that the plane vanished from primary radar after hanging a right at Penang “only to reappear at 1815:25 UTC [0215:25 MYT] until 1822:12 UTC [0222:12 MYT].” This statement is markedly at odds with the ATSB’s assertion that the plane only appeared after 18:02 as a solitary, instantaneous blip at 18:22. It’s difficult to understand how the authorities could be in disagreement over such a seemingly simple matter-of-fact issue. And it’s an important one, because the DSTG decided not to use the post-18:02 radar information in their Bayesian analysis on the grounds that it was an isolated and hence not-fully-reliabled data point. To ignore a seven-minute long track would amount to cherry picking. I strongly suspect that if this data point were included in the BTO data set, it would strongly increase the probabilistic density of routes to the northwest, that is, to Kazakhstan. Is this why all the primary radar visualizations we’ve seen thus far end before the 18:15 section of the track?

2) Among the report’s conclusions is that “The possibility of intervention by a third party cannot be excluded.” Yet the report offers no indication of who that third party might be, how they might have taken the plane, or why they might have done so. Another paragraph in the section emphasizes the lack of evidence linking either of the pilots to the disappearance. It’s easy to see that the Malaysian Government, which happens to own Malaysian Airlines, would have a vested interest in drawing blame away from the pilots. But it’s nonetheless significant that the official final report in this case undermines what has become the consensus view, namely that Zaharie took the plane. I hardly need point out that the only technically informed theory about MH370 than posits a third-party hijacking is my own.

3) At last we get to see the French oxygen isotope barnacle report, which Patrick De Deckker mentioned but which had never before been officially referenced. This document is in accord with De Deckker about the age of the barnacles (no more than a couple of months) and about the fact that the oldest barnacle started and finished growing in warm water, but it failed to find evidence of a cold-water dip in the middle. On the whole, this new oxygen isotope seems more extensive and better supported by calibration, so that’s where I’d put my money, not that it really tells us much. By the way, one of the enduring mysteries of this saga is why the initial report on the biology of the flaperon’s biofouling reported much larger barnacles, with the implication of an age closer to what you’d expect if the piece had floated since March of 2014. As with the primary radar, this matter is too simple to justify such a profound disagreement.

4) We also see, at last, a much more detailed report by the French about their investigation into the flaperon’s buoyancy. As Steve Barratt points out in the comments of my last post, “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.” Thus the mystery of how the retrieved parts came off the airplane deepens. Also: “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.” I’ve been thumping this tub for years now, and it continues to baffle me that the Australians have resolutely ignored this issue.

5) We now have a much more detailed understanding of how ATC responded to the plane’s disappearance. (Not well, but then nobody really comes off well in this incident; it doesn’t seem fair to me than an official had to resign over it.) What we still don’t know is why MAS OPS insisted that the plane was over Cambodia, and that there was therefore no reason to go into crisis mode. This seems to me a far more impactful error.

6) One page 276 we read for the first time about a very interesting set of simulator flights recreating the turn at IGARI. The upshot is that in order to match primary radar data tracks the plane must have been banked over by hand into a steep turn. This, together with the high speed at which the plane flew up the Malacca Strait, gives the impression that the hijacker/s were feeling a sense of urgency about getting somewhere.

7) Finally, on page 130 we read about the strange frequencies generated by the Inmarsat logons at 18:25 and 0:19. I’ve long argued that since it led to the generation of the rest of the Inmarsat data, the first of these logons is far and away the most critical piece of evidence in the whole affair, and that it has been under-scrutinized by authorities. The fact that one of its component frequencies cannot be explained should raise concerns about the interpretation of all subsquent data.

61 thoughts on “Seven Takeaways from the Final Malaysian MH370 Report”

  1. The only credibility the altitude depicting graph has is this amusing comment.

    Victor Iannello says:
    August 8, 2018 at 9:31am

    “After four months, we are still debating the facts surrounding the military radar data.
    Malaysia needs to release the damn data. Nothing in that data set can be more embarrassing than the measured altitudes they already released.”

  2. @Will, Sajid UK

    Thanks for elaborate details

    A crude conclusion:
    The mobile blockers were activated after that only mesage from boarded passengers

    and in respect of the NZ person with military background: why did this drift away in the public attention, when he himself subjectively felt something coming over him endangering his life?

  3. @Michael:
    “…this is the weirdest pilot suicide ever – that the pilot, a grandfather…”

    Yes, Shah has completely the wrong profile for a rabid, suicidal activist. However, his qualified co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid, would be a better candidate, although I think this scenario is very unlikely too.

    Using Occam’s Razor my thoughts are that the flight was either a false-flag secret service op, or it was a black-swan event caused by the flight control computers.

  4. Hypothetically, if MH370 had been captured on military radar viewed as a threat and fighter jets were scrambled to evaluate,

    What would the official procedure have been for an unresponsive commercial flight in the middle of the night?

    What position of observation would the jet pilots have of the cockpit?

    Would they have ability to get close enough for a cogent view of determining pilot(s) position and demeanor in the cockpit?

    If the plane was without comms, would communication be restricted to hand signals and how would this translate in darkness?

    What if the pilot(s) appeared conscious but showed no reaction and failed to acknowledge any commands from the fighter jets?

    Would they attempt the same contact with crew and passenger cabins?

    If the majority of window screens in the passenger and crew cabins were pulled down for the night, how would they determine the situation?

    Is the crew required to always have a visability of the interior available?

    If the passenger and crew cabins looked normal, people seemingly unaware of any abnormal cockpit behavior, would it alter the protocol for the fighter jet pilots?

    Would they attempt to inform the crew or passengers if they deemed pilot(s) action as life threatening?

    Is protocol the same for a civilian plane with hundreds of people?

    When would procesural steps dictate the drastic action of destroying the plane?

    Would the process potentially take minutes, hours?

  5. @ all: this may be old stuff, but I’m discovering this for the first time, so please indulge me
    Underwater sound anomaly detected by scientists at Curtin University: was it the crash of MH370 near Diego Garcia?
    Now that the French have called into doubt the validity of Inmarsat’s BTO data and potential crash locations of MH370 along the 7th BTO arc, it’s worth revisiting the socalled Curtin ‘boom’, an underwater sound anomaly emitted at the presumed time of the crash at UTC 00:25, and detected an hour later at 01:30 UTC on hydrophones monitored by researchers at Curtin University, Australia. The Curtin ‘boom’ was extensively debated by readers of Jeff Wise’s blog back in 2015, but it takes on much greater significance now that the BTO is in doubt.

    Long before any report of an underwater sound detected by Australian scientists, there was already discussion by some that the initial ‘indication’ of a plane crash in the Indian Ocean was actually an underwater sound detected by the US Navy, either from a submarine, or more likely from secret underwater hydrophones.

    U.S. officials said earlier that they have an “indication” the missing Malaysia Airlines jetliner may have crashed in the Indian Ocean and is moving the USS Kidd to the area to begin searching.
    It’s not clear what the indication was, but senior administration officials told ABC News the missing Malaysian flight continued to “ping” a satellite on an hourly basis after it lost contact with radar.

    This was reported by Martha Raddatz of ABC News. A former Navy Anti-submarine Warfare Operator writing on the blog ‘SOFREP’ had the following to say about this report:

    I believe this is one of the most credible pieces of information about the disappearance of this airliner to come from any source.
    First, it went to the Senior Foreign Affairs Correspondent from ABC News, not some stringer or foreign journalist. It’s probably a cultivated source of hers. Second, the source is carefully masked as a generic “US Official” which generally means a military source who doesn’t want to be identified for leaking information. Third, is the word “indication” without elaboration except to tie it directly to the plane crashing into the sea. I’ve seen information obtained from submarines disclosed in this kind of obscure way before in the media. I think a USN Sub on patrol off Malaysia, perhaps transiting to the Persian Gulf, may have heard the airplane hit the water.

    The writer then goes on to describe how the submarine would have detected the sound and identified the source.

    Which is more probable: the sound was detected by a US Navy submarine, or by secret hydrophones permanently installed by the US Navy on the seafloor?
    An interesting observation was made in the initial report of the Curtin ‘boom’ in the scientific journal Nature.

    The US Navy deployed vast arrays of hydrophones on the ocean floor during the cold war for anti-submarine warfare. Details of the Sound Surveillance System (SOSUS) remain secret, but most of the hydrophones are thought to have been deployed off the US Atlantic and Pacific coasts….
    The data are still being collected, but they are not routinely analysed unless there is an underwater threat. William Marks, a spokesman for the US Navy in Yokosuka, Japan, declined to comment on whether the United States had hydrophones in the region. “Discussions of the SOSUS system at that level are classified,” he says. “This is a very sensitive system.”

    INFERENCE: the ‘indication’ that ABC News reported was most probably a sound detected by the US Navy hydrophones on the seafloor in the Indian Ocean, probably off Diego Garcia.

    The timing of the Curtin ‘boom’ and the reported sighting of MH370 by British sailor Kate Tee: coincidence?

    If a search is done with the terms ‘Curtin University’ and ‘MH370’ under the ‘news’ option on Google, the search results reveal a surprising coincidence. Many of the reports of the Curtin ‘boom’ are actually appended to a story about British sailor Kate Tee’s reported sighting of MH370 flying towards the southern Indian Ocean. And all of them appear around the 4th of June, 2014.

    The source of Kate Tee’s sighting appears to be the JACC of Australia which was coordinating the search for MH370. JACC released the Kate Tee story at the same time as the news release by Curtin University’s scientists of their recording of the ‘boom’ heard by the hydrophones.

    By the 3rd of September however, the Curtin University researchers had apparently concluded that the sound was probably an underwater earthquake in the suboceanic ridge off Southern India.

    This explanation is unsatisfactory for several reasons:

    I. In a video lecture ( uploaded to YouTube by Curtin University on 3 Sep 2014, the lead scientist affirms the following:
    – they don’t know the origin of the sound;
    – the assessment that an earthquake was the source of the sound is based ONLY on the distance of the sound source being further away from the hydrophones than the distance to the 7th BTO arc search area.
    – the USGS website which monitors earthquakes has no record of one in that source region at that particular time

    2. In a news report (4 Jun) on the assessment of the sound recording, the following quote can be found in the statement issued by the JACC: “However, Curtin University has concluded, and the ATSB agrees, that the current results are not compatible with the international search team’s analysis of the most likely area where MH370 entered the water,” JACC said.

    There are two parties in this interaction: JACC and Curtin University.
    JACC (the govt.) can’t be seen as muzzling scientists, but there is clearly a power asymmetry between the JACC and Curtin University. The JACC search team’s analysis of the ‘most likely area where MH370 entered the water’ takes priority over the scientists’ assessment of the source and location of the sound recording.

    3. Kate Tee’s sighting of MH370 is problematic for several reason(s):
    – the sighting was reported months after the event
    – she questions her own mental state at the time
    – she claims to have seen 2 other planes at the same time as MH370
    Unverified eyewitness report that is months old is reported by the JACC at the same time as a verified sound recording of an underwater ‘event’ which dilutes the news impact of the latter. Compare Kate Tee’s sighting to Mike Mckay, the Kiwi who saw a fireball in the sky in S.China sea near the last known location of MH370.
    – reported it within a few days of the event
    – has a detailed record of the event on an email sent to superiors in the company
    – even reported it to NZ police
    Regardless of what one thinks of Mike Mckay’s story, he is a much more credible witness.

    The reports that the French are seeking to continue the investigation of MH370 is welcome news. They are properly skeptical of Inmarsat’s data and are openminded about all other evidence in the case. If the sound recorded by Curtin University is indeed from the crash of MH370 into the Indian Ocean, then the crash location is much closer to Diego Garcia than previously thought. This begs the question, why Diego Garcia? And did most of the debris get washed up there, or get collected by the US Navy?

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