French MH370 Investigators Eye “Spoof” Scenario

Interest in MH370 revived earlier this month after next-of-kin Ghislain Wattrelos held a press conference at which he revealed that he had been briefed by French judicial authorities about their investigation into the case. As the UK’s Daily Star reported,

Ghyslain Wattrelos lost his wife Laurence, and two teenage children Hadrien and Ambre when Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 vanished on March 8, 2014, with 239 people on board.

Mr Wattrelos today revealed he was told by the French Gendamarie Air Transport (GTA) team investigating the jet’s disappearance they had found “inconsistencies” in the Malaysian investigation’s official report.

He claimed experts are investigating if navigation data from the missing plane could have been hacked to disguise the route it took before crashing into the ocean.

He also said he had been told several “curious passengers” warranted further investigation – including a Malaysian aeronautics expert seated directly beneath the satcom.

This was of course enormously interesting to me, as I had publicly pointed out in early 2015 that if the plane wasn’t in the southern Indian Ocean, the only conceivable explanation was that hijackers outside the cockpit had managed to perpetrate an extremely sophisticated hack of the satcom in order to make the signals seem like they were coming from a plane heading south when it was actually heading north. This idea met with widespread ridicule at the time, as most experts believed that the plane would certainly be found in the southern Indian Ocean where the satcom signals indicated it had flown. Subsequently, of course, it wasn’t–nearly a quarter billion dollars was spent on a seabed search that covered an area the size of the UK but turned up nothing.

At last, it seemed, the authorities were willing to take my idea seriously.

The Daily Star contacted me for a follow-up article:

[Wise] told Daily Star Online: “This (hacking lead) is an interesting development, because it’s exactly what I’ve been talking about for the last five years or so.

“While I haven’t looked at this particular passenger, the core of the argument I’ve been trying to make is that the Satellite Data Unit, or SDU, has a vulnerability that could be exploited to make the plane look like it went south when it really went north.”

He added: “What I pointed out is, are there any way these signals could have been tampered with?

“Is there some way that someone with ill-intent could have changed them?

“The answer is yes, there actually is a way that it’s physically possible that a person could get into the electronics bay, or directly access the data unit from ceiling of the cabin.

“And they could alter either the inputs into the SDU itself in such a way it would look like the plane was going south when it was going north.

“Do we have any reason to believe that’s the case? I would say yes.

“I think the main and most obvious one is having searched the seabed, based on signals of where the plane went, the plane is not there.”

Inmarsat data has led investigators to believe the plane crashed into the Indian Ocean west of Australia after running out of fuel.

But he has urged a re-analysis of this information, claiming that it could in actual fact have flown north instead.

The radius of one of the “handshakes” runs through Kazakhstan.

And Wise holds Russia as a suspect because of the shooting down of MH17 by a Russian military missile, and how the Kremlin’s annexation of Crimea fell off the news radar following MH370’s disappearance.

He told us: “What’s the motive? I can tell you this was happening in the context of Russia getting a lot of heat for the annexation of Crimea.

“I was on CNN six times a day, and CNN didn’t talk about Crimea anymore, they only talked about MH370 and so it was possible a diversion, a show of dominance.

“Because if I’m right and Russia did take the plane, they completely fooled, ran circles, the western authorities and experts have been completely bamboozled, with their pants caught down.

“I would say, only one other 777 has ever been lost mid-flight, that was the sistership of MH370.

“It was shot down by an operation carried out by the GRU. If you’re a chicken farmer, and you’ve never lost a chicken in 15 years, then you find one of your chickens murdered, and a week later you see a fox jumping over the fence with a chicken in its mouth, what would you think?

“What would be your primary suspect here? The only known cause of 777s coming to grief.”

All of which I stand by. I think the headline was unfortunately sensationalistic and misleading, however: “Plane ‘HIDDEN in Russian base’ as investigators swoop on new ‘hacking’ lead.” I’ve never said that I thought 9M-MRO is hidden on a Russian, and certainly not in all caps–though I am intrigued by the possibility that the plane might have touched down on the remote airstrip at Yubileyniy within the Baikonur Cosmodrome.


243 thoughts on “French MH370 Investigators Eye “Spoof” Scenario”

  1. I have personally interviewed some locals in Kudahuvadhoo, Maldives and they were quite sure of what they heard and saw. The same time there was a fire suppression bottle of same type washed in Maldives. And there is no doubt that it was the flaperon of that flight. The barnacles shows it was from tropical waters. The conclusion is that the flight should be in the Indian Ocean near to Maldives below equator but not necessarily be near Australia.

  2. @Shareef, There’s absolutely no reason to think that the plane went anywhere near the Maldives. Whatever the locals do or don’t think they saw, they didn’t see MH370. There’s simply not a scrap of evidence for that being the case, and lots against it.

    @Ben S, Zhetigen is a fascinating idea. Back when Victor Iannello was working on the spoof idea, he spent a lot of time looking at Alma Ata, which is very close by. Though its to the east of the maximum probability area identified by the DSTG, it suffers less of the fuel-exhaustion problem than Baikonur does.

  3. US Judge dismisses lawsuit in the case of MH370
    On the eve of US Thanksgiving holiday, a judgement was rendered on the lawsuit before US courts related to MH370

    U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson in Washington ruled on Wednesday night that the wrongful death and product liability litigation, encompassing 40 lawsuits, did not belong in the United States.

    She said the case belonged in Malaysia, which has an “overwhelming interest” in and “substantial nexus” to the March 8, 2014 disappearance of Flight MH370, a Boeing 777 heading to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur with 239 people on board.

    “At its core, this case is about the unexplained disappearance of a passenger plane operated by Malaysia Airlines as part of its national air carrier fleet following its departure from a Malaysian airport,” Jackson wrote.

    The judgement can be found here

  4. @Scott O., Mike Chillit! This is how an ignorant and uncaring press undermines public discourse as effectively as those waging active disinformation: “nothing is true, everything is possible.”

  5. @Jeff Wise, I’ve said on other forums on other topics that one should not attribute to the press malevolence when ignorance or laziness is far more likely. And I feel like I can say that knowing the players and process, having once worked in journalism myself. But any more, I have begun to think I was, sadly, mistaken about that. Leaving bad actor off the table, it seems bad judgment–forced by the drive for audiences at scale clicking over or tuning in each night–has gotten so great that nothing being true and everything being possible is a state of affairs too many are comfortable with.

  6. Potentially interesting?

    (only the new information quoted here, full text at link)

    Relatives of people who went missing on Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 in 2014 have retrieved what they believe are new pieces of debris from the aircraft and will present them to the Malaysian government this week.

    The next of kin said in a brief statement on Wednesday they would meet Malaysia’s transport minister on Friday “to hand over newly recovered debris”.

    There are no pictures of the new debris.

    Calvin Shim, whose wife was a crew member on the plane, told Reuters that the group planned to hand over five pieces of debris found off Madagascar, where some debris has been found before.

    The most recent discovery was in August, he said.

  7. @Will, Thanks for this. Will be interesting to see what these new ones are like.

    @Scott O, I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. There’s a strong First Amendment tradition in this country, which is wonderful, and essential for a democracy. Everyone should be allowed to state their opinions and share their facts. But you can’t just say anything. You can’t, legally, shout “Fire!” in a crowded theater and you can’t say that your herbal medicine is medically effective if that hasn’t been demonstrated. I’m wondering if we need to start talking about restrictions on disinformation in other spheres. It’s as scientifically erroneous to say that global warming is a hoax as it is to say that herbal tea cures cancer, and in the big picture far more damaging to society. Ditto for anti-vaccine conspiracy theories, QAnon, etc. That kind of thing wasn’t a big deal when it was spread by one guy in a tin hat in the subway, but when you’ve got Fox, Sinclair, Breitbart etc pumping out malicious disinformation daily on a massive scale, it becomes an existential danger.

  8. @Jeff

    I second what you say about disinformation. It’s interesting how generations before us have reflected extensively on the implications of advancements in technology (which is the underlying issue I would argue, the internet and modern media having ushered in a period where anyone can promulgate whatever they please in ways that reach greater audiences than what would ever have been possible in earlier times – the modernist cacophony, the Babel of Facebook, Twitter and Fox News), whilst this discussion has pretty much ended with the dot Com bubble or the so called financial crisis at the latest. When you think about it, a generation ago people read 1984 and debated genetically modified organisms, nowadays, the news that a Chinese scientist has used Crispr on live human babies hardly gets noticed. I would interpret the increase of what you refer to as disinformation in an even more intellectually troubling way: when you think about it, in a way what we are witnessing is a sort of “democratization” of “information”, by which I mean that the modern consumer society seems to have reached a point where everyone can choose whichever reality they wish to choose, which in a way you can consider highly democratic, and thus in itself calling into question the merit of total democracy. (It is another interesting thought that in Germany, for example, the most direct form of democracy, popular single issue ballots, are forbidden since it was such ballots that helped Hitler to gain power.) It’s quite the conundrum that it might be necessary to restrict people’s liberty in choosing what they wish to believe in in order to uphold the integrity of society.

  9. @Jeff Wise,

    I couldn’t agree with your post more…assuming that in the first sentence the phrase “their facts,” was a mistype, and we both side with Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who said, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.”

    Certainly, Breitbart and Fox and Sinclair traffic in their own facts, but this new reality is not just the fault of the consolidation of news brands under conservative corporate umbrellas and their interest in dictating coverage.

    While the motivations might be quite different, more middle of the road media perpetuate the disbelief problem we now see, too. Take your example of global warming, which centrist and even left leaning outlets think deserves input from both sides of the issue (and I say issue and not debate or argument as there is no debate or argument) in pursuit of fairness.

    That strikes me as something of the journalistic version of the grammar school habit of everyone getting the trophy, so no one feels bad. Of course, the universal trophy leads to too many people believing what they say or have or do is of value. And this, of course, brings us to social media and how it amplifies the straphanger with the tin foil hat—and how even those without the hat can be misled (and even moved to action) by targeted misinformation. We certainly know how this works now, even if we don’t always know exactly when it’s happening.

    More troubling than just fake news, however, is some of the behavioral modification techniques that we are just learning about that can be deployed online—using, for example, low frequency sound or light modulation to prime one’s brain state to be more receptive to a message.

    This sounds like science fiction, but it is not. And thanks to some state level hacker I could be experiencing that right now while you are not. Think about that!

    What is the solution? A better civic, logic and philosophy education? That would certainly not hurt, and seemed to be the answer to the Yellow Journalism plague that infected a hundred and more years ago. More skepticism? That is a double-edge sword cutting between both propaganda and mistrust of legitimate information in favor of our confirmation biases. A more controlled digital experience? I can envision more control or even a breaking up of some of the larger social media platforms, but what is beyond that? Manipulating actual content distribution? Who will do that and who here would be comfortable, with, say, less debate on

    So we end where we began—in agreement but with no idea what to do about it. A friend just returned from a fellowship at the Santa Fe Institute, where they grapple with really big questions, like radical ecosystem changes, species survival and interplanetary arks. His take? Even if there were a way to simply convey solutions to the most important and most complicated issues it might not matter, because some of us are quite literally wired only to hear what we want to hear and not the truth.

    Perhaps it’s up to those who do hear to make sure they speak and continue to try to educate and espouse open mindedness and tolerance and when necessary be ready to fight for it. This seems to be how we’ve managed to get this far–and through some very frightening times. In that regard I urge people to read Erik Larson’s excellent book, In the Garden of Beasts, which is about the rise of intolerance and Nazism in Germany in the days before the Second World War. It’s parallels with today are frightening, actually, but we know how that ultimately turned out, with victory going to the right team.

  10. @Wazier, @Jeff Wise,

    This batting percentage, to me, is astonishing, if it’s true, as the report notes, only 27 pieces of aircraft debris have been discovered:

    “Gibson, a self-styled investigator who has been described as an “Indiana Jones crusader”, has been credited with discovering over two dozen pieces of the plane.”

  11. “fire in a crowded theater” … that’s lame. C’mon, can’t you find any better example ?
    This has been used 47 mio times in history as an example to justify free speech limitation and never happened once in real life.

    If you want to forbid discussion about vaccines, then discussion about MH370 being in Kazakhstan would have to be forbidden just as well as it’s on the same level.

  12. @Scott O., Enjoyed your long comment below.

    @Scott O. & @Wazir, It’s also interesting to me that all of Blaine’s pieces are suitcase-sized and lack fresh fouling, even when found on wet sand.

  13. And an interesting comment that caught from the same report:

    james, Lewes, 7 hours ago
    It certainly looks like parts of an aircraft cabin floor panel but the honeycomb material that these panels are made from is commercially available to anyone who wants to buy it. These pieces could easily have come from a wrecked boat or from one of the many ship breakers yards that operate in the area.

    As someone said whenever someone mentions locating 370 as recently some crank said he did in Cambodia, debris turns up right on cue somewhere else with the same actor in the picture. Weird.

  14. And not forgetting just when your plausible spoof theory gains traction, debris surfaces. Bizarre is not quite the word.

  15. From Victor’s site:
    “Amazingly, Don was able to find a similar placard affixed to the floorboard of wreckage from MH17.”

    @Jeff Wise:
    Could the floorboard discovered by Gibson on Madagascar be a MH17 floorboard (planted there or just thrown into the ocean reckoning it would be found eventually) ?

  16. @Wazir Roslan:
    Yes, but the floor panel has a part number on it. Same as MH17. Hence the question if it could be planted MH17 debris.

  17. @Dravello , I thought about that too especially when the same person keep picking up these debris with such clairvoyant precision. Then I figured maybe his Fat Controller dialled up his number for him to turn up on cue like clockwork orange.
    Interesting that one of the debris has shrapnel caused piercings, so they could well be leftovers from MH17 downed by the BUK. Just speculating.

  18. Jeff Wise: “I suppose it’s possible but other debris pieces have been found to come uniquely from 9M-MRO.”

    Sorry, I seem to have missed that. For which pieces do we have definitive proof that MH370 is the origin (and not MH17 for example) ?

  19. @Dravello, Most notably, the flaperon.

    Another interesting coincidence: the “best” piece, in that it had a full set of live biofouling and identification numbers, the flaperon was the first one.

    Also, it just so happened that the adjacent flap later turned up, allowing investigators to deduce that the flaps had not been deployed at the moment of impact.

  20. @Jeff Wise: I thought that the flaperon’s ID plate was missing? So what is the definitive proof that the flaperon is from MH370 (and not another B777) ?

  21. @Tex, I can’t speak to Blaine’s trustworthiness, but even a fully honest broker can be a dupe.

    That said, if you were an arson investigator and saw the same man at 24 of 27 fires, you might start to wonder. If you were a detective and had help from an eager citizen who found more evidence than you did, you might be concerned.

    I do think it’s important to keep in mind that whatever his intention or regardless of where the plane may one day be found, until there is concrete forensic proof of why it crashed and how it got to the crash location, suspicions are not just wise but necessary.

  22. @all – regardless of what your preferred theory is, don’t forget who Blaine Gibson is. He’s the son of a very powerful and well connected federal judge, who was very close to being on the US Supreme Court. Blaine himself is a lawyer, with very close ties to many Russian actors. I am not shy in saying I was never fully on board with Jeff’s Kazakhstan Theory, but when you look at all of the above in totality – the timing, the size of debris, the 24 of 27 pieces, etc. – you have to at least acknowledge that there is likely MUCH more to this story than just “Indiana Jones citizen sleuth finds debris.”

  23. Not sure if this is relevant but I found this little tidbit…

    As many know, after the loss of MH17 and MH370, Malaysia airlines retooled their fleet and eliminated their 15 remaining B777s from service.

    Of these, 5 were scrapped 9M-(MRB, MRG, MRH, MRI, MRK)

    6 were stored 9M-(MRA, MRE, MRL, MRM, MRN, MRQ)

    1 became the sole aircraft of Zimbabwe Airways (9M-MRP)

    The remaining 3 were obtained by Moscow-based Russian airline VIM airlines 9M-(MRC, MRF, MRJ).

    VIM airlines went defunct in 2017, with its director general and chief accountant accused of embezzlement by Russian authorities. At one point, about 28,500 passengers were stranded after VIM effectively ceased operations out of nowhere, while Putin rebuked transportation minister Maxim Sokolov for allowing the crisis to fester (

  24. @Ben
    That is actually very interesting I do not think we have previously heard the fate of the defunct MAS B777 aircraft. Assuming one of the stored aircraft is configured just like 9M-MRO, it could be instructive to see the layout (ELT etc.).

  25. According to, all of the Malaysia Airlines B777s had the same configuration.

    Here is the most recent storage information on the remaining stored aircraft (by airport code):

    9M-MRA: KUL 26 Jan 2016
    9M-MRC: MCI 30 Nov 2018
    9M-MRE: KUL 26 Jan 2016
    9M-MRF: VCV 16 Dec 2017
    9M-MRJ: TEV 14 Oct 2017
    9M-MRL: MCI 15 Nov 2018
    9M-MRM: SZB 5 Oct 2016
    9M-MRN: KUL 17 May 2015
    9M-MRQ: SZB 23 Dec 2016

    9M-MRN was delivered to Malaysia Airlines in April 2002, about 1 month before 9M-MRO, so you could call it a “sister” plane of sorts.

  26. @Sunken Deal,

    It’s true Phil Gibson, Blaine’s father, was Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court and was considered for a position on the U.S. Supreme Court. But that was by Harry Truman in 1946! Phil also retired from the bench in 1964, when Blaine, according to press reports, was entering grade school, so it’s hard to imagine much connecting father and son (via a second wife) in that respect.

    But there is Blaine’s own timeline, which, as reported, seems to have odd dates and leaps in qualifications. A story from a Seattle outlet says he had short stints working at a bank, in a state senator’s office and the state department, though no public information suggests what he did at any of these places or how he might be qualified for such diverse work or when in that time he squeezed in law school and studying the six languages he claims to speak. The outlet goes on to report:

    “…[I]n the late ’80s he could see that the Soviet Union was on the verge of collapse and decided to capitalize on it. For 10 years he lived off and on in the newly capitalist Russia, serving as a consultant to new business owners and fattening a bank account that would later fund his globe-trotting.”

    Of course, the newly capitalist Russia was the Soviet Union until 1991. But it’s that fattened bank account that we are supposed to believe provided him with enough honest money to not only avoid work but finance a life in which he has visited 177 countries, that is truly odd.

    He seems a foolish drifter unable to hold a career path. He is interested in the unexplained and claims to have searched for the Ark of the Covenant, the cause of the Tunguska explosion and the collapse of the Maya Civilization. He wasn’t admitted to the Washington state Bar until 1993, which would have been late for someone who is today 61—not to mention also at a time when he would have been in the “newly capitalist Russia.”

    And with all that we are supposed to imagine that he had such skill as a consultant (doing what, we don’t know) that he—in a decade that saw the collapse of the ruble, hyperinflation, wage depreciation and debt default, which is to say when no one honest made money—socked away enough to never work again, like some, oh, I don’t know, oligarch?

    All so strange…

  27. @Ben S, This is the worst kind of garbage–dressed up as a well-formatted scientific paper with lots of arcane-looking equations. It seems like every month or two there’s some new random person emerging out of the woodwork with a spurious claim to add to the fog of misunderstanding. Whether it’s malicious or not I don’t know but it certainly is discouraging to see the amount of uptake this stuff gets.

  28. I read this today.

    When I read it I thought…
    Christmas Island as an end route has been spoken about for years.
    From memory it was attached to the political outrage from captain Shah, something about seeking asylum??

    @JeffWise, sorry but I don’t understand your outrage at this news report, at this time?

  29. @Laura, Outrage is perhaps too strong a word but I do feel super frustrated when people promote total nonsense–to be clear, what this person is putting out is total nonsensical gibberish dressed up with mathematical formulas. It has exactly as much value as the person who took a Google Earth screenshot of a plane flying over Cambodia and said it was MH370. It’s pure noise that detracts from good-faith attempts to try to figure out what happened to the plane.

  30. @JeffWise
    Thanks for your response.
    Yes, agree with you completely, it does become tiresome when trying to sort the bs reports from the legit ones.

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