About That MH370 Inmarsat Data…

Earlier this month France announced that it will reopen its investigation into the disappearance of MH370:

French newspaper Le Parisien reports that investigators are keen to verify data from Inmarsat — the British operator of a global satellite network — which tracked the aircraft’s pings to the southern Indian Ocean off Western Australia, where it is believed to have crashed.

I was happy to hear that, because for the last four years I’ve been making the case that there is one known way by which the Inmarsat data could have been falsified as it was being transmitted from the plane. This falsification would make the plane look like it was heading south when it was really heading north, and would explain why an exhaustive quarter-billion-dollar search of the southern seabed found no trace of the plane.

Of course, there are other reasons to suspect that the plane went north. One of the less probative but more elegant is the simple fact that when it was last spotted, that’s where the plane was turning. The above image comes from page 4 of Appendix 1.6E of the latest Malaysian report, entitled “Aircraft Performance Analysis,” prepared by Boeing. I think this appendix is one of the most important sections of the whole report, as the authority of the source is unimpeachable and its assertions are laid out with such clarity. In this image we see a summary view of what is known about the first two hours of the plane’s flight, based on a combination of secondary and primary radar as well as the first ping from the Inmarsat data. It shows, as I and others have pointed out, that after an aggressive turnback at IGARI, and a high-speed flight over peninsular Malaysia and up the Malacca Strait, the plane disappeared from primary radar and then turned to the north.

Some have proposed that this is best explained by the assumption that whoever was in charge of the plane wanted to avoid conflicting traffic on the airway, but that is absurd–there was no conflicting traffic, and anyway it would be very simple to avoid any such hypothetical traffic by flying at a nonstandard altitude. A simpler explanation is that they turned to the north because they were heading north.

The report has another similiarly compelling illustration that combines fuel-burn data with ping-ring distances to illustrate the various routes the plane might have flown, assuming a constant altitude and turns only at ping arcs:

This picture neatly illustrates a point that the DSTG arrived at more conclusively through the heavily application of mathematics: namely, the only straight-ish flight paths that wind up at the 7th arc at the correct time and distance for fuel exhaustion are ones that fly around 450 to 475 knots, and at relatively high altitude. This is where the Australians originally looked for the plane, and really it was always the only rational place to look.

The absence of the plane in this area could have told the authorities two years ago that something was up–and that would have been the right time to start being suspicious about the Inmarsat data.

 

479 thoughts on “About That MH370 Inmarsat Data…”

  1. MH: “What incidents was 9M-MRO involved in that would require its flaperon to be taken out of service and a temporary service spare be put in its place?”

    MH: “It would be good to have a report of every detail of how the wing was damaged including all flex damage throughout the wings length. ”

    Are you alledging that the 2012 incident caused the “flaperon to be taken out of service and a temporary service spare be put in its place” as a matter of fact? Or are you saying that you don’t know that?

  2. Gysbreght: “isolating the left main AC bus”

    language question please: Does this mean
    – removing power from the left bus or
    – removing power from *everything else* except the left bus (so that the left bus remains “isolated” as the only component with power)
    ?

    thank you

  3. @Jeff Wise:
    you will love this:

    « figure un voyageur malaisien au profil troublant : il se trouvait être assis sous le boîtier Satcom et s’avère être un expert en aéronautique, selon Ghyslain Wattrelos et son avocate. [20minutes.fr]

    translation (from VI’s blog):

    “a Malaysian traveler with a troubling profile: he was seated under the Satcom module, and proved to be an expert in aeronautics, according to Ghyslain Wattrelos and his lawyer”

  4. Means, Opportunity, Motive

    There is no denying Captain Zaharie had the “means” and “opportunity” to destroy MH370, ending all life within it
    on March 8, 2014.

    Unfortunately, the main component of “motive” is missing. Depending on the crime, “means” and “opportunity” can include almost anyone.

    Everyone driving on a freeway has the “means” and “opportunity” to create carnage by intentionally crashing their vehicle into others at high speed. The only separation between all the drivers on the freeway and the one who actually implements the act, is motive.

    In the case of MH370, “means” denotes the ability to fly a widebody jet. If control of the plane was forcibly taken, it would not necessarily include having the proper credentials, which only broadens the field of “means”.

    Suffice it to say Captain Zaharie had the most significant “opportunity” of anyone, he was the scheduled pilot of the flight, commanding the plane as it left the runway.

    However, when it boils down to “opportunity” as the deciding factor of his guilt, it applies only if you believe it was impossible for another individual, under any circumstance, to enter the cockpit. This should be noted as a belief or opinion, without fact.

    It should also be noted. There is no viable reason for a suicidal pilot oblivious of any method to track the plane after it is out of the range of radar, to prolong the devastation by flying several hours to further oblivion.

  5. @Susie Crowe
    You said.
    “It should also be noted. There is no viable reason for a suicidal pilot oblivious of any method to track the plane after it is out of the range of radar, to prolong the devastation by flying several hours to further oblivion.”

    I fail to see the substance in your assertion.

    If it crashed one minute after last radar position, the area to search is a circle less than 20 nm radius. The search would be fairly simple, quick, and successful.

    It it crashed 60 minutes (one hour) after last radar position, the area to search is a circle some 500 nm in radius. It would be difficult, time consuming, expensive, and may not be successful.

    Add 500 nm to the radius every hour after that. The magnitude of the search problem explodes.

    By 6 hours you have a circle 3,000 nm in radius to search. It has become beyond feasible.

    If the intent was not to be found, to make it near impossible to find, there is every reason for prolonging the flight as long as available fuel allows.

    That was Z’s intent.

    Ask yourself the question:
    If there was no Inmarsat data, when would you have stopped the search ?

  6. Gysbreght:
    At 17:05:44; 17:06:44 and 17:08:46 the roc is -128 fpm (roc=0 at 17:07:38).
    MH370 reported maintaining FL350 at 1701:17 UTC [0101:17 MYT]
    and reported maintaining FL350 again at 1707:56 UTC [0107:56 MYT].

    I wonder if perhaps near the time of the second “maintaining FL350” one of the pilots left his seat and inadvertently moved the control column, which would have disconnected the autopilot.

    Do you see any other non-nefarious explanation ?
    How precise is the ADS-B altitude data ?

    Gysbreght: “worth noticing is that the report received at
    17:06:44 was the last report that contained alt, lat, lon, course, sog, and roc. After that there was one report at
    17:07:38 without roc,
    and thereafter reports either contained alt, lat, lon or course, sog, roc, but never both.”

    What do you make of that, Gysbreght ?

  7. @Ventus45

    If there was no Inmarsat data, when would you have stopped the search ?”

    If there was no Inmarsat data where would you have started the search?

    “I fail to see the substance in your assertion.”

    “If the intent was not to be found, to make it near impossible to find, there is every reason for prolonging the flight as long as available fuel allows.”

    My assertion is, “the intent was not to be found” is nonsensical
    and the innuendo does not make it any more logical.

    Do you sincerely believe there is “substance” in an opinion this man suddenly went off the deep end, choosing to murder 238 co-workers and passengers before killing himself several hours later, only because he wanted to hide what happened?

    And you fail to see the substance of my assertion?

    Im sure we could volley comments of this type but this reminded of a old comment posted here.

    JurisLV
    Posted July 13, 2015 at 9:14 AM

    “StevanG
    as a professional psychologist I absolutely agree with you, my master thesis included analysis of thousand suicides and never have I met a single case of suicide done after an accomplishment, especially one big like this”

  8. Susie,

    On day one, the Malaysians commenced the search in the SCS, since it was reasonable (in the light of most previous air disasters) to assume that this disaster had occurred at or near Igari.

    The Malaysians searched the SCS for a week.

    But, during that week, radar indications of a possible turn back were pursued, resulting in land searches over the peninsula, and then, when the radar indications were refined, it was decided that they indicated that the aircraft had flown up the Malacca Strait, so, they searched the Straits and the Andaman Sea.

    At that point, it was all routine as far as search area definition was concerned.

    If there had been no further information of any kind (no inmarsat) after the last radar hit at 18:22utc (02:22 KL time), the search would have ended with the Andaman Sea search.

    There would have been nowhere else (logically) to search.

    So in answer to your question:
    “If there was no Inmarsat data where would you have started the search ?”
    I would have done exactly as was done in the first week or so, SCS, peninsula land areas, the Strait and the Andaman Sea, in that order.

    I would have stopped there. There is no 5th area indicated on the information available.

    Now, can you answer your own question ?
    Enlighten us.

    Where would YOU have started the search ?

    After that, where / when would you have ended it, and why ?

    And after that, if, at some later time, after further due consideration (still no Inmarsat data) of the known radar data, would you consider restarting a search, and if so, where, and why, on what basis, would you choose that place/area ?

    You also stated:
    “My assertion is, “the intent was not to be found” is nonsensical, and the innuendo does not make it any more logical.”
    And then secondly:
    “Do you sincerely believe there is “substance” in an opinion this man suddenly went off the deep end, choosing to murder 238 co-workers and passengers before killing himself several hours later, only because he wanted to hide what happened ?”

    Taking the “secondly” first:
    I disagree, entirely, and absolutely, with your emotive “suddenly went off the deep end” assertion.
    He didn’t “suddenly” do anything.
    This was a very cold, very well planned event.

    It was planned in meticulous detail, weeks, if not longer, in advance.
    Jumping up and down and declaring that no one would or could ever do something as cold blooded as actually “plan” this, is just silly denial, head in the sand stuff. That is why you apparently take emotional comfort in rejecting it, and throw up “suddenly” as your emotional Charlie Brown Blanket to protect you from facing the grim reality of it. Do you seriously believe these sorts of things are not planned by some people, either alone or in small groups ? Political and/or Religious convictions have precipitated some of the most heinous crimes in history. They are rarely “impulsive”. They have gestation periods, time for planning.

    Do you watch the news ?
    I suppose you must have missed the murder of the Saudi journalist in Istanbul – did you ? From what the Turkish prime minister said, it appears that there were at least three teams, totalling 16 operatives, two private jets etc, etc.

    Going back to your: “the intent was not to be found” is nonsensical, and the innuendo does not make it any more logical.”
    Again, I disagree entirely. This was not a simple suicide, it was not one man having a brain fart and deciding to end it all. This was a man with a goal, an outcome he wanted to precipitate. He wanted political change in Malaysia above all else. He knew that was impossible to achieve by normal means. He decided that a black swan event was the only way it could be brought on. The only way to do that was to demonstrate – to the whole world – both the corruption and incompetence of the government.

    You do not seem to understand the bottom line here.

    The only way to prove the “incompetence” of the government, was to “vanish”.
    If he had been found, the government would not be hurt, and it would actually be strengthened, since they would then have the evidence, to prove it was him.

    Vanishing, not being found, even with Australia’s assistance, left the government exposed. Subsequent events, 1MD etc included, finally precipitated what Z wanted.

    Now fast forward to present day. No government wants the aircraft found, not China, Australia or Malaysia. Even Dr Mahathir Bin Mohamad publicly stated that Malaysia would not entertain any further search.

    Now get your head out of the sand, and think again.

  9. Ventus45, if you study the Black Swan Theory of Events, you may see that you fall prey to misapprehending its third part, which is the idea that it is a mistake to believe, as hindsight would lead us to believe, that such events are easy to understand, explain and rationalize. They are not.

    That said, and fearful of stepping into the same quicksand: as I have sourced and written here extensively before, Shah simply fits no known model of a political terrorist or cause-driven murder/suicide actor.

    And I only feel comfortable with this hindsight statement myself for one reason, which is to say that a plane that disappears without reason and without a trace—despite a multinational, not just Malaysian effort—is far, far less likely to have any impact on a government’s sustainability than, say, planting it directly atop the presidential palace.

  10. Scott,

    Surely the fact, that, as you said:- “Shah simply fits no known model of a political terrorist or cause-driven murder/suicide actor” is the point, is it not ? That is what makes him a black swan to begin with.

    You then have to look at the search itself. If governments now know, or have reasonably determined “why” he did it, it would be in the interests of all governments to downplay and deny it, which would, in hindsight, make it more than possible that governments would now be more than happy that the initial search failed, though they would never admit it.

    If that were so, they certainly do not want anyone to go out and actually find it now. All governments would want to “let sleeping dogs lie”.

  11. @Peter Norton:

    Three events during cruise occurring at the same time, is that just a coincidence or is there perhaps a connection, nefarious or not?

  12. @Peter Norton

    The Malaysian traveler with a deep understanding of aeronautics and satellite communications is not new news. This was known in March 2014. What is new to me was that he was sitting under the Satcom module. From the VI site and quoting Richard Godfrey ;

    “Mr. Mohammed Kahairul Amri Selamat, a Malaysian, was seated in seat 29A on MH370. This is right under the SDU, which is housed in the E11 rack accessed through a ceiling panel on the left side of the door 3 cross aisle area.”

    The Iranian on a stolen Austrian passport was siting diagonally behind him (the row behind).

    A further comment by Richard Godfrey I don’t think is possible;

    “Mr. Selamat has been suspected of taking the aircraft over remotely via the SDU by Ghyslain Wattrelos”

    You can control the plane via the cockpit or E/E bay but not by the SDU.

    @Ventus45

    You correctly state;

    “On day one, the Malaysians commenced the search in the SCS, since it was reasonable (in the light of most previous air disasters) to assume that this disaster had occurred at or near Igari.

    The Malaysians searched the SCS for a week.”

    Why did they do this when the Malaysian Cabinet knew on the night of March 8th 2014 9M-MRO had recrossed the Malaysian Peninsula?

  13. @Ventus45

    Sorry my facts were not quite accurate;

    “Following further discussion up the chain of command, the military informed the Acting Transport and Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein at approximately 10:30 of the possible turn-back of the aircraft. The Minister then informed the Prime Minister.”

    https://blogs.crikey.com.au/planetalking/2014/05/01/mh370-interim-report-is-a-seriously-needlessly-deficient/

    That is 1030am on the 9th March 2014 yet they continued to search the SCS.

  14. @Gysbreght
    @Peter
    Although I personally feel the idea (by Gysbreght) of bumping the control column near IGARI makes sense, Ed Baker did not seem to feel that was realistic explanation.

  15. @Ventus45
    I would add that in the era of blockade-style cockpit door, there is much less liklihood of hijacking vs. pijacking.

    As far as mission purpose, I personally feel probably suicide, but some persistent rumors in Malaysia are that it might have been a diversion to Cocos or Xmas gone wrong.

    As far as psycological analysis if a pilot like ZS would do a suicide mission, I personally start with Ewan Wilson’s and Geof Taylor’s book “Goodnight Malaysian 370” where they enlist support of a professional psycologist to form a conclusion that pilot suicide could well be possible (sadly). Their 2014 analysis has stood the test of time based on later articles in NYTimes, etc., reporting studies done (post-Germanwings) on pilot depression etc.

    Long ago I adopted that book as my own hypothesis, and nothing has really come forward since Sept_2014 to seriously challenge their work.

  16. @TBill: There were non-zero RoC reports, indicating that the A/P was apparently disconnected a few minutes. Although not reported as such, there probably were altitude variations which caused the pilot to repeat “maintaining FL350”. Does that make sense?

    @Peter Norton: In the FR24 data altitude is reported in multiples of 25 ft, RoC in multiples of 128 ft/min.

  17. Susie Crowe: “this man suddenly went off the deep end”

    Often even supposedly close “friends” don’t know about what’s going on inside someone. Let alone folks like us, millions of miles away, who have never even talked to him.

    Remember, the entire family of the Germanwings pilot says it’s absolutely impossible he would be in any way capable of doing what is ascribed to him.

    I’m just saying we have absolutely no way of knowing their psychological state.

  18. StevanG: “as a professional psychologist I absolutely agree with you, my master thesis included analysis of thousand suicides and never have I met a single case of suicide done after an accomplishment, especially one big like this”

    If the big accomplishment referred to, is the accomplishment of having killed hundreds of people and run off into the SIO, at the point that person didn’t really have another choice. I mean, what could he have done at that point? At some point, he wouldn’t even have had enough fuel to reach land. And in Malaysia the death penalty apparently is mandatory for murder:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capital_punishment_in_Malaysia

    So at that point, the perpetrator wouldn’t have survived anyway, no matter what.

  19. @Peter Norton, I delved pretty deeply into the Germanwings case for my Kindle Single on the subject, and regardless of what his family might have liked to believe, Andreas Lubitz had a long history of mental illness, was under great stress, and left obvious clues as to his intentions. The more you look at Lubitz, the less similar he looks to Zaharie.

  20. @Jeff: I’m saying nobody predicted the Germanwings pilot would do what he is said to have done. That just proves my point that often times not even the closest friends and relatives know what’s going on inside a person. Let alone people like us, who have never seen him. That’s point 1.

    Point 2 is that even if once in a while there are signs, that doesn’t mean there always have to be.

    Point 3: I don’t give anything about peoples’ portrayal in the media, let alone tabloids. Have you ever personally witnessed an event or privately known a person talked about in the news? You will see that in almost every instance your own knowledge of reality will differ substantially from the one told in the media. I’m sure if you had gotten to know Zaharie personally, you would have had a very different picture of him than the one portrayed in the news. And what does that media portrait look like anyway? Some newspapers report grave marital problems. Others report there were none … Some newspapers based these marital problems on the fact that his wife went to relatives, while he was not there during a long week-end, whereas other sources portray this as expected behaviour in Islamic culture. So really, it’s also what you pick and choose … about someone none of us knows. We can speculate, alright, but none of us will ever know, from 3000 miles away, what kind of person he truly was. Which goes back to point 1.

  21. Gybreght: “3 events during cruise occurring at the same time, is that just a coincidence or is there perhaps a connection, nefarious or not?”

    3 events … do you mean the 3 instances with negative RoC ?
    Or the 2 FL reports along with the negative RoC ?
    Or IGARI + lost com + negative Roc ?

    I wasn’t at all saying that your explanation “pilots left his seat and inadvertently moved the control column” – or a struggle in the cockpit for that matter! – isn’t possible.

    I was just wondering whether there could be any natural explanation. I always prefer to start there.

    The 2 natural explanations coming spontaneously to my mind are:

    (1) measurement error
    How precise is the data? Is it possible that the plane maintained its altitude relatively within normal variations, but the collected data isn’t precise enough?

    (2) normal atmospheric fluctuation
    Could the measured vertical movements be merely related to up/downdrafts, turbulence … ?

  22. SteveBarratt: “The Malaysian traveler with a deep understanding of aeronautics and satellite communications […] was sitting under the Satcom module.”

    That’s an important fact.

    SteveBarratt: “Mr. Mohammed Kahairul Amri Selamat, a Malaysian, was seated in seat 29A on MH370. This is right under the SDU, which is housed in the E11 rack accessed through a ceiling panel on the left side of the door 3 cross aisle area.”
    The Iranian on a stolen Austrian passport was siting diagonally behind him (the row behind).

    Just calculate the mathematical probability of a SatCom expert sitting right beneath the SatCom of all places and an Iranian with a stolen passport right behind him …

  23. SteveBarratt: “Following further discussion up the chain of command, the military informed the Acting Transport and Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein at approximately 10:30 of the possible turn-back of the aircraft. The Minister then informed the Prime Minister.”

    Your quote continues as follows:

    The Minister then informed the Prime Minister, who immediately ordered that search and rescue operations be initiated in the Straits of Malacca, along with the South China Sea operations which started earlier in the day.

    Maybe they weren’t 100% sure they got MH370. (Or their own military radar didn’t capture the turnback at all and they don’t want to admit to this embarrassing fact.) In both cases it would have been a good idea not to abandon the SCS SAR ops.

  24. “the idea (by Gysbreght) of bumping the control column near IGARI makes sense”

    Another possibility is that the person flying the plane deliberately deactivated the A/P. The conclusion was that the way back across Malaysia was flown manually, so this wouldn’t come as a surprise.

  25. Gysbreght: “There were non-zero RoC reports, indicating that the A/P was apparently disconnected a few minutes.”

    The way back was apparently flown manually, so maybe this was the point at which the pilot turned off the A/P ?

    Gysbreght: “Although not reported as such, there probably were altitude variations which caused the pilot to repeat “maintaining FL350”. Does that make sense?

    Sorry, where are you getting at ?

  26. @Peter Norton, @TBill, in addition to Jeff Wise’s reporting and comments on Germanwings, I’d add that the motivations of each pilot is so different as to make them impossible to compare. Andres Lubitz was afflicted with mental illness and driven by the desire for self annihilation with a grandiosity that sadly lead to many collateral deaths. Zaharie Shah is supposed by some to act for political purposes.The rationales and desired outcomes could not be more different. There simply is no comparison between them, or between Shah and any other pilot suicide.

    As for the psychologist quoted in Goodnight Malaysian 370, note that she admits to being unqualified to discuss Shah as she had not assessed him, and then speaks in the abstract but quoted in such a way as to affirm the writers’ preconceived point of view. In fact the book is full of such constructions and even outright contradictions. In one paragraph, Shah is =always= away at work and when at home =relentlessly= indulging in his simulator to the extent that he has no time for his family but in the very next paragraph he has too much time on his hands so becomes involved in politics. Hardly an iron clad argument.

  27. @Ventus45, you write “Surely the fact, that, as you said:- “Shah simply fits no known model of a political terrorist or cause-driven murder/suicide actor” is the point, is it not ? That is what makes him a black swan to begin with.”

    Indeed, it is at least close to the point. Which is why I note I am fearful of the same quicksand. But the fundamental of a black swan event is that upon its occurrence its inevitability seems obvious to people, given the information at hand. I am saying that there is no such evidence to be had in this case, and so the explanation of a drawn-out pilot suicide being advanced is not only not obvious but not credible. Two or three political statements—all less inflammatory than, ahem, I have made about my own government—does not a murdering martyr make.

  28. @Ventus45
    Where is the justification for presenting your opinion as reality?

    My comment about a suicidal pilot flying hours to further oblivion was secondary to the never ever found philosophy, rather than naive of its justification.

    The “motive” of flying to a endpoint deemed highly unsearchable has been accepted by the Z blamers for quite a long time.

    My point was how it implausible this would be a
    pièce de résistance of a suicidal pilot.

    Suddenly
    “all at once, without warning or notice”

    My use of suddenly should have been obvious. It referred to the drastically uncharacteristic action of mass murder from a man who had a historically accurate life without inklings of insanity.

    Your mention of Khashoggi was ironic, I was planning to illustrate it days ago as an example of Saudi Arabia retaliation and also as an example of a horrendous crime that could have been much more elusive if not for the astute actions of his fiancée.

    Absent of awareness, nefarious acts go unnoticed.

    My contact with sand is limited to walking the beach at night while the surf cascades the shore.

  29. @Peter Norton

    Yes you are correct I cut that quote short PM Najib Razak authorised a Malacca Straits search early along with SCS. I was never sure about the point of that given that any search in Indonesia’s land, sea and air space was verboten from Day 1. Also 9M-MRO was never seen on Indonesian radar (or it wasn’t on – take your pick). Still significant resources were wasted on the SCS search early on. Fog.

    @TBill

    Regarding Ewan Wilson’s and Geoff Taylor’s book “Goodnight Malaysian 370” published in 2014 has it stood the test of time? Whilst pilot suicide was hot early on (even I believed it) as time elapses and the plane is not discovered surely the probability of suicide paradoxically declines.

    Seriously smart people have spent a lot of brain space on this puzzle (look at VI’s blog) but yet the plane still hasn’t been found. Would one perpetrator dead on 8/3/2014 (3/8/2014 – USA convention) with the associated thought disorder of depression really be able to outfox this combined intellect after four years? To maintain the fog and uncertainty suggests the perps (or some at least) are still alive.

  30. @Susie Crowe

    “….I was planning to illustrate it days ago as an example of Saudi Arabia retaliation”

    Forgive me but you could have been talking about 9M-MRO. A bit too political.

  31. @Peter Norton: “3 events … do you mean the 3 instances with negative RoC ?”

    – non-zero ROC
    – “maintaining FL350”
    – incomplete ADS-B reports received after 17:06:44

    I’ve no idea what caused the 3rd anomaly, but something apparently changed in the way those reports were assembled in the transponder, or how they were recorded by FR24. It’s just curious.

    Since the RoC remained zero after those 4 minutes, the A/P was apparently re-engaged before reaching IGARI.

  32. I am really impressed by your theory of the northern route. Certainly I wouldn’t rule it out until more information obtained. I think it’s possible that Malaysia has also stifled aspects of the investigation, and that there are several individuals whose backgrounds need further illumination.

    However, having read through a large (but not exhaustive) number of posts, I think some people might be missing a far more simple explanation for why the plane could have gone into the southern Indian Ocean.

    Let’s imagine (similar to the Wired article a few years ago) that there really was a fire on board, and while dealing with it, the pilots either took actions that caused, or failed to notice the depressurization of the cabin.

    Let’s further assume that this depressurization lasts for a solid 20 minutes, give or take a few, so that all the passengers pass out and die due to a lack of oxygen.

    Now consider the pilots new perspective. They extinguish the fire and reboot some of the electronics after 40 minutes of fighting it. Then, one of them goes back to the cabin to check on the passengers and flight attendants, only to discover….they’re all dead.

    As one might imagine, especially in a Southeast Asian country, the shame of this would be unbearable. There would be no way the pilots could allow themselves to live after this catastrophe, much like a old ship captain (a.k.a. Edward Smith) who founders his ship without enough lifeboats for all the passengers.

    Thus, they deliberately steer the plane as best they can, to the place where no one will ever find it, committing suicide in the process as penance for their terrible mistake.

    This theory pretty neatly explains a lot. Zaharie did not have the profile of a terrorist, but he did seem in many ways like a genuine person – and a Malaysian. The Penang “flyover” where the plane tilted towards his hometown could have been after finding the passengers dead. The hurried rush over the peninsula could have been initially trying to land the plane because of fire.

    The turn up the Malacca Strait and turn off South would have been by design. The pilot would have known where radar ended. He would have been determined to die to end his shame.

    As for not finding the plane despite covering a substantial amount of seabed, it could simply be due to poor choosing of the area. The Australians intially assumed it may have been headed to Perth or the Cocos. I’ve always felt it was further South. Also, we don’t know for sure if the last ping was truly fuel exhaustion, although the plane must surely have crashed less than an hour after it.

    Finally, you propose that the debris is either not from MH370, or possibly planted. Since no one can really say with 100% certainty that the debris is or isn’t from MH370, I’d go with the simplest explanation, which is that it is. I believe someone recently did a study of some of the currents and debris, suggesting that searchers are not looking in the right location. In any case, if the pilot, in his last throes, was trying to bury forever both himself and his accidental suffocation of the passengers, it would make sense that he would be able to fly it to its doom in such a way to make discovery as tricky as possible.

  33. @SteveBarratt
    No I would say the passage of time has supported the hypothesis of a suicide flight to SIO, or less possibly a diversion gone wrong.

    I would also say the passage of time is weakening the popular passive flight assumption, which unfortunately implies a glide away from Arc7 at the end of the flight.

    As far as motive, I do not need equivalence to the Lubitz case. The naysaysers are saying that ZS was not the same personality profile as Lubitz, therefore we cannot paint ZS the same as Lubitz.

    The only thing I say is, the cockpit is wide open for tampering by any insiders who want to tamper, including the recent Seattle joyride and the recent Chinese pilot grabbing a smoke and depressuring the aircraft by accident. This is the overall central issue, not ZS non-equivalence to Lubitz personality.

  34. @TBill, you are using faulty logic in saying that “naysayers” claim Shah was not the same personality as Lubitz and so therefore innocent. It is not nonequivalence in and of itself that is the issue. In fact, I imagine all five or six of the known commercial pilot suicides were not of equivalent pesonalities. It is the WAYS that Shat was nonequivalent that make him highly unlikely to have been a suicide of the kind that Lubitz was or in the way most others suggest–which is to say a politically motivated suicide. His behavior, as far as is known from all the publicly available information, simply does not put him into the camp of any cause driven actor. From age to education to relative wealth to social network to family to employment to lack of significant religiosity ALL do not fit the very well known and very well researched and significant, sadly, empirical data that would profile him as such.

  35. Scott O:“the desire for self annihilation”

    I would argue that no one desires that.

    Scott O:“with a grandiosity”

    That is merely speculation about a dead person.
    I agree with the rest of your posting though.

    Scott O:“the explanation of a drawn-out pilot suicide is […] not credible. 2 or 3 political statements—all less inflammatory than, ahem, I have made about my own government—does not a murdering martyr make.”

    I agree that not hiding one’s opinions and healthy/legitimate criticism of government has no logical connection to mass murder.

    As far as a possible drawn-out suicide is concerned, however, this argument has often been advanced that the long duration would make this act very implausible. I disagree. If I had to choose a way to end my life and had an empty plane at my disposal, I would do exactly that: set the A/P into the deep nowhere of an ocean (I can relate to the wish of a suicidal person not to be found and to simply disappear – completely independently from the case at hand) and take a heavy dose of sleeping pills, so that I’ll die quickly (in a split second) and peacefully in my sleep.

    This is not even a close call compared to
    – all the pain and suffering
    – the uncertain outcome
    – the risk of lifetime disability if you survive
    that comes with most other methods commonly used.

  36. Gysbreght: “Since the RoC remained zero after those 4 minutes, the A/P was apparently re-engaged before reaching IGARI.”

    Or the pilot was flying relatively stable then ?
    You said RoC is measured in multiples of 128 ft/min only.

  37. @SusieCrowe, I agree with your very sound reasoning on your post regarding Means and Opportunity of the pilot. What is indeed missing, as you have adroitly pointed out, is a motive.

    None of the motives of the pilot conjectured thus far, measure up. I thus very agree — why would a suicidal pilot continue flying into oblivion. If the pilot indeed had planned such a high-flying suicide mission (literally and figuratively speaking), why go to that tremendous effort simply to end the matter on a whimper? It would be a high-impact suicide — or it is not.

    I.e., it is not a suicide. Amidst the technical arguments here, we must always remember the human actors. That said, the key technical argument that stands out and makes sense the most, is the matter of the satellite data.

    This is the #1 thing around which the mystery revolves as, from what I gather, is the primary thesis of @JeffWise.

    From there, I believe it is indeed, a matter of discerning the larger motives at play, that is on the larger playing field at large. This is not conspiracy theory but simply how infrastructure works: the larger playing field connected by means aircraft, aircraft in turn, guided by communications infrastructure in satellite and data.

  38. @BenS, this is interesting for you to note the cultural factor of shame in Asian societies.

    However, as an Asian myself (and I obviously do not know your background), I still find this a faulty argument given that the greater shame would be to deny all the families the ability to know what happened to their loved ones.

    The root of Asian shame is not shame itself per se, but the individual’s responsibility to others, especially to one’s family, and not bring disgrace to one’s family.

    The pilot would thus not wish to shame his own family by leaving his family open to harsh judgment as to how they could raise a son who would allow a plane to fly into oblivion, everyone’s fates unknown.

    Instead, if the fire scenario and suffocating deaths had indeed occurred as you speculate, he would have taken blame for the matter, to enable his family to live in the honor that he took responsibility for a technical malfunction — and the moral responsibility, of taking the blame.

    Finally, if the pilot were indeed of a person of such morally-deficiency as to try to conceal his errors in the manner of a hit-and-run-driver try to driving off into oblivion as to not be caught — at that point, we are not just talking about a morally-deficient person,, but also, a panicked one. A panicked person not only unable to calculate the ripple effect of moral irresponsibility done onto the bereaved families — but failing to calculate the navigational field at large, and the furthest point on the horizon, in action, flight and moral consequence.

    Such a person — the one unable to quickly calculate that quickly-converging point on the horizon — is not the same person able to fly a plane undetected and unfound by the scores and legions of aviation experts and private tracking organizations that have tried to find the plane, for over 4 years.

  39. @Peter Norton, its my hope that you live a mentally healthy life. If you do, I think it’s very hard for you—for anyone like that—to understand the bleak desperation and single solution to the pain that most suicidal people tend to feel. Imagine how dark the tunnel, how dim the light at its end that you would choose a noose or a razor or a gun or stepping in front of a truck or train as the only obvious solution, even when you have known brighter moments or have a family or loved ones. All of which is to say that in depressive suicides (often, by the way, with symptoms obvious to others and even a family history), self-annihilation (which is often used as a synonym for suicide, though there is also a religious meaning) seems the only escape.

    But there are other kinds of suicides. And in some cases they are more passive than active. This is actually the only scenario I can imagine for MH370, given what we know of Shah, being plausible. Passive suicides can be long in the unfolding. They can be the result of a moment in which cultural shame might come into play rather more than personal desire or direct agency.

    In this case I can imagine something similar to what you discuss. Shah taking sleeping pills, locking himself out of the cockpit, an intermediate step that he could can take that isn’t the act itself but leads to the act itself. I still cannot wrap my head around the stimulus for such an action, however—and it doesn’t make for the smooth glide to water and easy, debris-free sinking many of the pilot suicide propoents suggest.

    If you’re so inclined you can read more about the specifics of such behavior, here. Though academic and long, It is illuminating and shows us how much more complex a suicide is than we normally see it as:

    https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/suicide/

  40. The autocratic leadership of Najib Razak was unable to withstand the powerful dynamics of 1MDB and MH370, both exposing his blatant disregard of following proper procedures dicated by his position as Prime Minister.

    When you take a closer look at the staggering balances of these soverign wealth funds constantly shuffling billions of dollars, you begin to understand the lure of misappropriation and the ease in which substantial amounts of money can go missing.

    Najib’s unsactioned depletion of 1MDB funds for personal gain had become chronic and sloppy. Regardless of how well he comprehended all complexities of the money shuffle, he was afflicted by his beneficial abuse of power and false sense of continued entitlement.

    The disappearance of MH370 on March 8, 2014 was enveloped by historical leaks of confidential data. The massive data leaks imploded an inviolable world of sequestered offshore money and exposed multi billion dollar theft from Malaysia’s Sovereign Wealth Fund.

    If you compare the ethical backgrounds of Najib Razak and Captain Zaharie and consider how easily massive debt creates enemies, the direction for blame seems obvious.

    Theoretically Najib as Prime Minister, if he was involved in the demise of MH370,
    possessed a factor of control as did Captain Zaharie.

  41. Clarification
    If Najib was involved in the demise of MH370, it could have been consequential of 1MDB.

  42. @Scott O:

    About every other person contemplates suicide at one point in life. It’s difficult to put a number on it. Some studies find “only” 10%, but the estimated number of unreported cases tends to be higher, given that people often don’t want to talk about it. Whatever the exact number, statistically there are probably some people on this blog who have some first-hand or second-hand knowledge about this subject.

    And even personally unaffected persons can understand the thoughts of suicidal persons.

    It’s not that difficult. Even if you don’t share their pain, you can put yourself in their shoes and ponder the options. Suicidal persons are not necessarily irrational. One has nothing to do with the other. It can be linked, but doesn’t have to be.

    And if you think about it rationally, you need to find a solution guaranteeing
    – a quick+painless death (which is rarely the case in practice)
    – success (>90% of suicides go wrong, often leading to lifetime disabilities)

    Most methods (including all you mentioned, Scott) fail on either one or both counts.

    And most people are afraid of dying. I know suicidal people who say they don’t have the “courage to do it”. And I can completely understand that. This is by design. It’s a big step. Nature has built-in a high inhibition level as a kind of safety mechanism to ensure that suicidal persons are hindered from committing suicide.

    Now consider that sleeping pills + plane crash gives you:
    – 100% success
    – peaceful death (in your sleep)
    – instant death (in a split-second)
    – without pain/suffering

    I am not sure there is any other method with this attributes.
    (Maybe some special life-ending drugs, but they are almost impossible to get and even then it’s not sure it’s as peaceful as the above.)
    Therefore suicide by plane is, in principle, very tempting for a suicidal pilot, because it is so “close” and within reach every day – only one touch of a button away. It’s like having a loaded weapon in your hand every day.

    I don’t think any of the pilots who allegedly committed suicide (Germanwings, etc.) wanted to harm innocent passengers. I think they fought this idea for a long time, but at some point they didn’t have the power anymore to resist this unbearable weight on their shoulders (the depression) and they just gave in. Similar to a mountaineer who must resist falling asleep so as not to die from hypothermia but at some point his body becomes too weak and gives in to the exhaustion.

    One would hope most suicidal pilots stop flying once the thought of using a passenger-laden plane crosses their mind and therefore pilot suicides are an extremely rare phenomenon. There are only a handful of possible cases in the entire commercial aviation history (and none of them seems 100% proven) … out of thousands and thousands of flights every single day. And in those few exceptions, the pilot might not have been aware of or underestimated the real danger until it was too late. (Similar too drug addicts who live in a state of complete denial.) Or – and this is another problem – the pilot didn’t want to disclose the problem to the company, because this almost certainly will make you lose your job (the Germanwings pilot hid his diagnosis from his employer), and if you suffer from a lack of purpose in life, the last thing you want to lose in this situation is the only thing left that gives you some sense of purpose: your job. Flying might be the one thing keeping a pilot alive, as much as an artist, a surfer, or someone with any passion needs to cling to it, as it might be the only source of energy in desperate times. Luckily things seem to start to change. (I believe after the Germanwings crash, some changes designed to counteract pilots’ fear of losing their job when revealing psychological problems have been discussed or actually made – i.e. assurances not to lose their job if they follow certain procedures).

    A completely different case, of course, is a deliberate murder-suicide (e.g. suicide bombers), but as is pointed out here regularly, in all those years no signs have been found pointing in this direction for MH370.

  43. @Susie Crowe, I certainly think Najib Razak, though utterly lacking in the ethical background you ascribe to Shah, was a conscious actor in the disappearance of MH370 itself—though that is not to say that he did not cause it by his greed.
    You write of the “money shuffle.” I think if one investigates who invested in the 1MDB investors and then look at who and how negotiated the beginning of the repayment of the stolen money, Jeff’s theory—or at least significant parts of it—make a great deal of sense.

  44. @Peter Norton, your response is eloquent, and I have no argument with it, though I believe there to be significant difference between a passing thought of taking one’s life, suicidal ideation, and the actual steps of putting that ideation into action.

    I can understand your position as it applies to Germanwings as well, which happened in moments and in such a fashion that you might consider the passengers, crudely, collateral deaths. I don’t see that being the case with MH370, however.
    But if Shah chose sleeping pills, surely they could have provided just as much a chance of success had they been swallowed on the ground—at home, say, while his family was away—as in the air.

    Such a scenario also requires Shah to either committed mass murder first or left all the passengers and crew alive on the other side of the cockpit door for the whole flight. Both are hard to imagine for different reasons, one, a callousness that Shah seems to have lacked and, two, it being hard to imagine that at some point in those hours someone couldn’t find a way to get through the bulkhead.

    In the end, I think we agreement on much, though perhaps not ultimately so.

  45. @TBill

    Agreed the ghost flight suicide scenario is effectively “off the table” with the failure of primary search zone along the 7th arc.

    @BenS

    Apart from the problems related to fire and electrical equipment (as @JeffWise said like individual clock parts magically arranging themselves to a functioning unit) your scenario infers the ISAT data was generated honestly. Which means 9M-MRO should be in the primary search zone and it isn’t. So something is wrong with the data or its interpretation. I highly doubt the latter as a lot of smart people have looked at it.

    Also the cockpit is not immune from depressurisation. Apart from difficulty breathing its intensely cold. The crew should notice that and descend and they didn’t.

    Though I do like to read through different ideas. Thank you.

  46. @Scott O.
    I refuse to create a scenario for motive, either the facts provide one or they don’t.

    It is more logical MH370 was an unprecedented threat, retaliation of 1MDB.

    It should not be discounted, it was not only 1MDB on the verge of exposure in the Spring of 2014,
    It also included the
    Offshore Leaks (Falciani Files)
    Swiss Leaks and Panama Papers, all reaching the boiling point.

    It is work in progress establishing “means, opportunity, motive” uncreated from imagination.

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