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. @airlandseaman
    Do you see any operational implicatons to achieve that performance? I am thinking actions like cutting bleed air, cutting off IDG’s could be involved, but I am not knowledgable enough to say if the flight could continue without IDG’s engaged, and other implications. Further above I gave a draft list of possible elec configurations consistent with depowering SDU.

  2. TBill: I do see implications. Victor and I have discussed this question in some depth. Victor (and others) have pointed out that the theoretical service ceiling for 9M-MRO at 17:30, taking into account the weight, fuel, atmosphere, etc., was lower by a couple of thousand feet than what the PSR data and my analysis suggests. But I think the PSR data is solid and so is the analysis. The only way to reconcile the gap is to assume that the PF cut all the electrical loads possible to maximize the available thrust.

  3. @airlandseaman: “The only way to reconcile the gap is to assume that the PF cut all the electrical loads possible to maximize the available thrust.”

    I think to maximize available thrust by reducing electrical loads the EEC must be selected to alternate mode on the overhead panel. In normal EEC mode the maximum thrust is defined by thrust rating and I wouldn’t expect that to change with electrical load.

  4. @airlandseaman, It’s an interesting idea but I see a couple of problems with it. First, any increase in efficiency that you would see by shedding all that electrical load would most likely be eaten up by the relative inefficiency of flying by hand, without instruments. And anyway, how fully can you turn off all the electrical power in a fly-by-wire plane?

    Secondly, I don’t know what the motive would be to get a plane so high, given that the result is that you would wind up having to fly slower, since the speed of sound (and hence true airspeed for a given Mach number) decreases with altitude. If it’s about depressurizing to kill the passengers there wouldn’t be that much benefit, since time of useful consciousness is less than two minutes even at 30,000 feet.

  5. Primary Radar is prone to many errors and has poor accuracy, especially in altitude and speed calculations or if the target is at very long range.

    From Figure 1.1B of the Safety Information Report, the Primary Radar data shows altitudes, speeds, rate of climbs and descents that are well beyond the performance capabilities of a Boeing 777.

    If we just use position and time calculations, based on IGARI, then a left turn just after IGARI, MIMOS, PUKAR, ENDOR, MEKAT, KENDI, VAMPI, MEKAR, Arc1 (5 east of NILAM), we find that the True Airspeed is still 484 knots.
    The aircraft most likely remained at 35,000 feet at its programmed speed. This means that the predicted fuel flows to Arc 1 are much less than the ludicrous fuel flow rates in Appendix 1.6E of the Safety Information Report.
    This leads to excess fuel still being available in the tanks at 00:19 UTC (Arc7).
    So where did the 1100kg of excess fuel go?
    Maybe the Auxiliary Power Unit (APU) was turned on?
    That would burn 1100 kg in seven hours. This means MH370 would end beyond Arc 7 past the Bayesian Hotspot, because the autopilot would remain engaged until the APU stopped from fuel exhaustion.

  6. Gysbreght: Yes, there are several things that may have been done circa 17:21 to maximize available thrust to reach the maximum possible altitude and TAS at that altitude. Depressurization may have been included.

  7. JW: We have been through this in detail elsewhere. Performance can be increased about 3-5% by main bus electrical load/generator shedding. That may have been enough to explain the difference between Victor’s std service ceiling calculation and what the KB radar indicates. I don’t know why the PF did that, but it might have been to make sure he was above all the other traffic. The reason for the high speed was surely to get out of Dodge ASAP. I agree it was not for the purpose of inducing unconsciousness, although it would speed the process. Remaining at FL350 would have been sufficient for that purpose. So it is more likely it was done to avoid any possible traffic, without relying on TCAS/Transponder. The PF would have had plenty of electrical power for basic instruments.

    OXY: Re your comment: “Primary Radar is prone to many errors and has poor accuracy, especially in altitude and speed calculations or if the target is at very long range.” Well, that is mostly wrong. Did you bother reading the paper I posted?

    Primary radar is accurate in range and fairly good in azimuth at all ranges. It is only the altitude measurement, at a long range, that is poor, which is why the military radar altitudes were poor. In the case of the KB PSR data, MH370 passed less than 10 nm from the radar, so the range, az and el accuracy were all excellent. The 4 minute average speed calculations had low noise and insignificant error for the purposes of estimating the altitude at KB.

  8. @airlandseaman: Thanks for your reply.

    I would add that selecting EEC alternate mode would allow ‘overboosting’, i.e. selecting a thrust higher than rated thrust, up to the N1 or N2 limit. Since the engine is flat-rated to ISA+15°C and the ambient temperature at that altitude was below ISA, the engine would be able to produce substantially more than rated thrust with the EEC in alternate mode.

  9. @Gysbreght, @Airlandseaman, Again, real basic point: you’re flying higher, you’re flying slower. You want to go fast, you don’t turn off your electrics so you go past rated thrust, you just fly lower. You want to avoid traffic, stay off of airways. The sky is big.

  10. @Jeff Wise: The civil PSR radar data show that the airplane was flying high and fast (M.88).

    We don’t know why and we don’t know who did it.

  11. @Jeff Wise: It’s one of many reasons that I don’t think Captain Zaharie Ahmat Shah did it. He would have followed your logic and flown at FL300 off airways.

  12. As stated in para 1.1.3 of the Safety Information Report, “It was highlighted to the Team that the altitude and speed extracted from the (Primary Radar) data are subject to error.”

    FACT: The flight path shown in Figure 1.1B of the Safety Information Report is not achievable by a Boeing 777. The chart is riddled with Primary Radar errors.

    Plotting the progressive lat/long/time of the aircraft, commencing at IGARI (1720:31) with a turnback around 8 NM past IGARI, then MIMOS-PUKAR-ENDOR-MEKAT-KENDI-VAMPI-MEKAR-Arc1 (5 NM east of NILAM at 1825:27), we find that if the aircraft maintained its True Airspeed of 484 knots at 35,000 feet, then the total distance travelled is around 534 nautical miles in 64 minutes 56 seconds.
    Since the average tailwind for the route was approx 10 knots, the flightpath fits nicely.

    The speeds recorded (up to 589 knots) in Figure 1.1B of the Safety Information Report are bogus.
    Thus the fuel flows in Appendix 1.6E are too high.

  13. OXY: You continue to conflate the military radar, located far from KB, with the KB radar, located near the flight path of MH370.

    My advice is to stop dismissing the data and analysis just because you can’t fit it into some preconceived theory. MH370 was very high and fast at 17:37. No one knows exactly why.

  14. It would seem from what was in the radar data and what the b777 max speeds this data was a capture of another aircraft perhaps something from the military

  15. Boris,

    If all is not what it seems at Goldman Sachs, the other big banks are look-a-like mannequins.

    Indeed, I am familiar with most of the stories you linked to, though the ones you were forced to source from eight or more years ago I’m somewhat more fuzzy on. In fact, I’d say needing to gather stories from so long ago to make your point suggests the opposite about Goldman—it’s transgressions aren’t as common as you’d like them to be. Or as common as other firms’ transgressions are.

    And true enough, many of those other large firms often run afoul of regulators, too.

    For example, we might talk about the 3.7 BILLION euros French prosecutors this week suggested UBS be fined due to its money laundering. Or the billions in US dollar fines that Deutsche Bank would have had to pay for its role in laundering Russian money–until, that is, president Donald Trump, who himself owned Deutsch Bank hundreds of millions of dollars, curiously waived the fine. Russian money laundering—I wonder why Donald Trump would forgive that…

    Of course this is just one of many scandals that have cost Deutsche money in addition the LIBOR scandal and mortgage back securities scandal—far more than have implicated Goldman—and all more recently.

    But nonetheless, and, again, asserting the fact that I carry no water for Goldman, I fail to see how alleged impropriety around fee-taking for helping to raise the money in 1MDB (and then lying to your own internal compliance team with respect to it) translates into nefarious behavior years later regarding a missing aircraft. Likewise, I don’t see how Malaysia returning the money its own people stole implicates Goldman in anything. And finally, I’d argue that this “scandal” is only modestly responsible for Goldman’s decline—remember, Goldman is fully cooperating with authorities—and having a new CEO and depressed profits and an unease in the market that has effected nearly all financial sector businesses have all had all have their effect as well.

    In any case, none of that adds up to an American banking cabal being responsible for the disappearance of a passenger jet. This is all just misdirection.

  16. My advice is to stop your sensationalism, and to stop using the Primary Radar data because it is physically impossible for a Boeing 777 to achieve the flightpath as depicted in Figure 1.1B of the Safety Information Report.

    A Boeing 777 cannot cruise at 58,200 feet then descend to 4,800 feet in one minute – it is impossible!

    Using corrupt data will lead to a false conclusion.

  17. @Gysbreght. It is because a relight has not been trialed in those circumstances, or simulated by Boeing, that we do not know the outcome. Somehow in ALSM’s simulations the left engine received fuel after MEFE and relit briefly.

    I do not think a relit engine would reach idle but rudder compensation during initial run down and residual trim at loss of transfer bus AC might vary between an abnormal configuration and normal.

    I do not know the answer and neither I believe do you, as to what difference it would make as distinct from what you think it might.

    I agree that a pilot provides an answer, though not necessarilyliot

  18. OXY: “A Boeing 777 cannot cruise at 58,200 feet then descend to 4,800 feet in one minute – it is impossible!” Yes, that’s true, which is why I have always said the military altitudes are inaccurate. They should be ignored. But you keep trying to confuse people with the conflation of military radar altitudes estimated from >100 nm away and the close in Civil KB PSR data from <10nm. You obviously have not read the detailed analysis, don't understand the analysis, or are deliberately trying to mislead people. Which is it?

  19. @airlandseaman
    Re: Flying high, quite in contrast to evading radar, I would think makes a very visible radar target even for other countries. Seems to me possibly striving to provide international evidence of a flight diversion.

  20. Gysbreght: “As I recall it, there wasn’t much text accompanying the video. I tried to find it but Victor’s archive only goes back to 2017. Perhaps you could ask him.”

    I’m confused. To my knowledge the blog started in Feb 2017. What archive would you expect beyond 2017?

  21. @Peter Norton: The video is dated December 2016. I couldn’t find it on the VI blog, so it may have been posted on this (JW) blog.

  22. I think I may have found a better airport for landing than Yubileniy (which is too far IMO).

    It is the obscure airfield at Kant, about 12 miles east of Bishek (see below) and long enough to land a 777.,74.8467573,2974m/data=!3m1!1e3

    Kant, as it turns out, is the site of a Russian base, and was renewed in 2012 in exchange for forgiving Kyrgyzstan of up to $500 million in debt. As for the airbase, the only question is how they would have hid the airplane quickly. It would have arrived (presumably) at about 6:19 am local time. But if all the passengers were dead, they could have extracted them, covered the aircraft, and flown it out the next night to somewhere secure.

    From, sunrise in Kyrgyzstan in March 2014 would have been around 7:30 am. The plane would have arrived in astronomical twilight, basically the darkest stage of twilight.

    Here is the 2012 article in Russian (you can use an online translator to read it)

    There’s this quote (google translate) in one of the last paragraphs:

    In February, Atambayev expressed doubt that the republic should retain the current Russian base in Kant. “This Russian base, which is located in Kyrgyzstan in Kant, does not even pay rent, does not fulfill its obligations. Do we need such a base?” – he said then in an interview with Ekho Moskvy. However, other sources, including AKIpress, a Kyrgyz agency, cited Atambayev’s harsher quotation: “Some airbase is not clear for what.

    Just some food for thought. Mind you, I still favor the fire-on-board southern route theory, but I’ve got to admit it’s fun to come up with northern route theories.

  23. I find it very interesting that there are so many posts that drone on about radar radar yada waypoints yada radar yada altitudes climb yada.

    It seems suspicious to me since in reality, everyone who has followed this incident has to be aware that the supposed data that all these calculations and speculations are based on is highly unspecific. There is zero evidence that any of the supposed “radar data” etc has actually captured mh370. All this “data” could be anything, at best another plane, or radar artifacts, or even have been invented by radar operators wanting to save face (who had been led to believe at the time that there had been a plane they should have seen). Reality is, there was exactly one single piece of evidence that – if it is/was authentic – had placed mh370 indubitably in the Indian Ocean, namely the Inmarsat satellite data. The Inmarsat data was the only data that was identifiable,and indubitably specific for mh370. All the other data (mostly the radars, since there is precious little else) is absolutely non-specific (more so because it contains hard to explain discrepancies). I find it interesting, not to say suspicious, that there are so many people here and elsewhere who create lots and lots and lots of posts creating the overwhelming impression that there could be no doubt that the plane ‘definitely’ went – at the very least – west towards the Indian Ocean. In reality, except for the Inmarsat data, there is zero definite evidence placing the plane convincingly anywhere west of the last point of contact in the middle of the Gulf of Thailand, and the Inmarsat data is now strongly in doubt since it pointed to a fairly specific place in the SIO where the plane should have been. Frankly, to me the fact that there are so many posts here trying a still reinforce the public perception that the plane went west smacks of disinformation.

    By the way, noone has yet even attempted to give me a hypothesis why anyone who would have wanted to abduct the plane onto a “Kazakhstan” type route would have seen the need to fake satellite data pretending the plane went south into the SIO when such a perp could presumably much more simply have stopped all satellite data transmissions entirely (if they had been able to fake Sat data, surely they would have been able to just switch it all off).

  24. @Somebody Somewhere,

    “the masses had reached the point where they would, at the same time, believe everything and nothing, think that everything was possible and that nothing was true.”
    ― Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism

    Conspiracy theorists like yourself follow a familiar pattern: you declare all known evidence dubious, then erect some monstrosity amid the rubble. Your ostensible goal is the truth, but what you’re really after is a fog of infinite indiscernable crackpot hypotheses amid which the truth will be indiscernable.

  25. OK. Simple question: You argue that someone abducted the plane towards Kazakhstan undetected by the countries along the way.

    Explain why the perps would go to the trouble of faking satellite data pointing south when they presumably could have just not left any sat data behind at all.

  26. People who lead campaigns of disinformation deflect and put up ad hominem attacks when they are called out.

  27. @Somebody Somewhere, In “The Plane That Wasn’t There” I write:

    ” if a plane simply disappears in the middle of nowhere, with absolutely no clues, that’s suspicious. The authorities would assume foul play, sound all alarms, and search in all directions. But if pursuers had a trail to focus on—in this case, one that led off into the middle of the deep blue ocean—they’d never think to question it. The clue, once perceived, would be subtle, so arcane, that the investigators would congratulate themselves for their brilliance in finding it and discerning its meaning. It would be inconceivable to them that someone could have achieved an even greater feat in planting it for them to find. The magician Teller has pointed out a quirk of human psychology that is crucial to the art of stage deception: “When a magician lets you notice something on your own, his lie becomes impenetrable.”

    A larger point also applies: you can’t rule out a scenario just because it’s not something that you wouldn’t have done in that situation. Especially if you don’t know how the perpetrator understands the situation.

  28. @Somebody Somewhere, you wrote, “People who lead campaigns of disinformation deflect and put up ad hominem attacks when they are called out.”

    I would agree with that statement.

  29. @Jeff, Firstly: Thank you for still captaining this ship. – Regarding the above exchange, I was wondering what you make of Florence de Changy’s conclusions in her book on the subject. She is also of the never-went-west persuasion. And she did put in a lot of research to come to her verdict though she may be lacking in expertise. To your mind, does her theory go against essential data/knowledge in some way or are these plausible conjectures?

  30. @koebeen, Thanks for your nice words. I respect Florence de Changy a great deal as an investigative journalist but she does not understand the technical details of the case and so has completely missed the mark in coming up with an explanation, in my estimation.

  31. @Jeff: Thank you for your answer and I want to join koebeen in thanking you for running this indispensable platform.

    I have no further questions regarding your proffered rationale as to why someone would half-fake satellite data under a “Kazakhstan”-type scenario.

    Above you wrote that FdC lacks in technical understanding. Whilst I don’t want to be a judge on that, I certainly admit that I, (too), lack the technical understanding that some here have. Can I ask you one more question though?

    Can you point out a piece of technical evidence that proves beyond reasonable doubt a location (any, but ideally to the ‘west’) of mh370 after it went dark in the Gulf of Thailand? (Disregarding, for arguments’ sake, for now the ‘Inmarsat’ data, since the absence of the plane at the implied location as calculated by Inmarsat and other experts calls into doubt whether this data can be authentic).

  32. @Somebody Somewhere, Thanks. To clarify, I’m not suggesting that half the data was faked. I’m suggesting that a certain parameter was faked. The relevance of this parameter is that it would lead investigators to conclude that the plane went south. Other parameters were not altered either because they would not contribute to the deception or the hijackers didn’t know that Inmarsat was logging them.

    You ask for a piece of technical evidence that indicates that the plane went west after IGARI. Well, all of them do–primary radar, Inmarsat, and debris. You can’t just throw out any of this evidence. You can, of course, argue for an alternative explanation of what the evidence means, as I have done with the debris and the Inmarsat data. But I haven’t seen a single technically coherent explanation of this data that comports with the plane not flying west after IGARI.

  33. Jeff Wise: “technical evidence that indicates that the plane went west after IGARI: primary radar, Inmarsat, and debris.”

    Didn’t you say the debris was planted?

  34. @Perfect Storm, As I see it, there are two ways to account for the evidence we have in hand: the innocent, and the not-innocent. The innocent explanation is that the pilot took the plane, the BFO was generated in the manner that the authorities believe it was, and the debris drifted naturally to the western Indian Ocean. The not-innocent explanation is that the Russians took the plane, spoofed the BFO, and later planted the debris. I think I can make a pretty compelling case for the latter scenario, but at this point we can say with 100 percent certainty which is correct.

    In either case, though, the plane goes west after IGARI.

  35. Well he means “innocent explanation” in the sense that it isn’t effectively an intelligence/covert governmental operation which any “spoof” theory would be.

    Thanks for your definitorial explanations regarding the difference between data being “half fake” and “a certain parameter was faked”. I will bear that in mind. Also thank you for answering the question regarding technical evidence proving beyond reasonable doubt that the plane went west. I can’t stop myself from mentioning that I am slightly bemused by you pointing to the Inmarsat data and the debris in particular.

    To be honest it’s becoming a mystery to me in itself how come you (and a few others) seem so comfortable with a scenario like “Kazakhstan”, which in fairness would seem rrreally out there to most ‘lay’ people, however the idea that the plane could just have followed a course similar to the one it was supposed to follow anyway, which would mostly imply much less risky and complicated routes, is heretical to you.

  36. Jeff Wise: “@Somebody Somewhere, Conspiracy theorists like yourself follow a familiar pattern: you declare all known evidence dubious, then erect some monstrosity amid the rubble. Your ostensible goal is the truth, but what you’re really after is a fog of infinite indiscernable crackpot hypotheses amid which the truth will be indiscernable.”

    Somebody Somewhere: “I am slightly bemused. It’s becoming a mystery to me in itself how come you seem so comfortable with a scenario like “Kazakhstan”, which in fairness would seem rrreally out there to most ‘lay’ people ….”

    It’s indeed not lacking some amusing irony to see a debris planting conspiracy theorist labeling others conspiracy theorists.

  37. @Dravello, @Somebody Somewhere: One can’t speak of the ridiculousness of a scenario outside the context of the evidence at hand. This has been my headache for the last four and a half years. To an outside observer who has not followed the details of the case, an accidental depressurization scenario seems quite sober while a hi-tech hijacking to Kazakhstan sounds like bad Tom Clancy. But once you start digging into the details, the relatively plausibility flip-flops.

    The expression “conspiracy theory” has long caused me headaches, because in conflates the meaning of “absurd” with “theories involving conspiracy.” Unfortunately, conspiracies are not only real but have played a major role in the way events have unfolded recently.

  38. Jeff Wise: “The expression “conspiracy theory” has long caused me headaches, because in conflates the meaning of “absurd” with “theories involving conspiracy.” Unfortunately, conspiracies are not only real but have played a major role in the way events have unfolded recently.”

    I’m in full agreement with you here.

    “conspiracy theory” and all the more so “conspiracy theorist” are used in a pejorative sense.

    “Conspiracy theory” literally just means a theory about or involving a conspiracy.

    A “conspiracy theorist”, on the other hand, just doesn’t exist. It’s a propaganda term / fighting word / discursive weapon:

    It suggests just because someone dares to believe in something which happens every day thousands of times across our globe (namely a conspiracy), he or she would therefore somehow do nothing else the whole day long than creating conspiracy theories. That just doesn’t exist.

    If you see someone eating apples or oranges, would you call them apple-eater or oranges-eater ?

    That’s completely absurd.

    Therefore, and given that you have been accused yourself at times of being a “conspiracy theorist” and thus know how it feels being unjustly and – as I just laid out – absurdly labelled such a term, you, Jeff, are the last person, who I would have expected to label others “conspiracy theorists” in the pejorative sense, as you did to “Somebody Somewhere” in the quote above.

  39. I may have found another airport for the northern route.

    It is the Kazakh military base just north of Zhetygen, about 30 km north of the 7th arc, well within range even at fuel exhaustion.

    Of course, you have to assume Kazakh complicity if this were the case. The Zhetygen base is not marked on google maps (visible only thru satellite images) but it is nevertheless a fairly significant Kazakh base – home to the 600th Guards.

    I also found this list of Kazakh airfields, both civilian and military. Given the attention to the northern route theory, I’m somewhat surprised that after several years, no one appears to have come up with a list of all plausible landing spots near the 7th arc.

  40. @Ben S If you are set on northern routes, and thereby implicitly accept spoofing and debris planting, a Kazakhstan terminus is not the only option.

    1. Perhaps the Uyghurs took the plane and forced the pilots to fly somewhere in Xinjiang. The Uyghurs wanted the Chinese Nationals as hostages and possibly the plane as a weapon.

    2. When the Chinese discovered where the plane ‘came down’ (perhaps Kuqa Qiuci – pretty much on the 7th arc with plenty of runway) they staged a commando-style raid to free the passengers. The raid failed completely, and everyone died. The Chinese had to cover up.
    3. They worked with someone with knowledge and access to re-write the data files to reflect a southern flight. If someone had the means and intent to modify the data to indicate south, they could easily have modified the final BFO data to indicate a high ROD as might be anticipated at fuel starvation.

    4. Later the Chinese took pieces of the airplane and threw these into the sea during their ‘searches’ in the SIO. They were in the right spot, at the right time.

    The motivation is clear. The hatred of the Uyghurs for the Chinese is palpable. I had been to China many times on business before retirement and to Xinjiang several times during some of the uprisings there. It is difficult to imagine any hatred stronger than this. Also, in Xinjiang, at some of these remote airports, the isolation and control of the population facilitates secrecy.

    Frankly, I think this theory is incalculably unlikely, but it can check a lot of the boxes if you accept the very improbable acts of spoofing and debris planting. (BTW, Dr. Iannello did point out Kuga Quici as an airport within fuel reach in one of his very early works).

  41. “Theory Uyghur” has the following problems:

    How and why did the Inmarsat data get spoofed in this scenario? Since the Chinese government wouldn’t have known about the abduction before, spoofing the data “on the run” during the act itself in order to deflect from Xinjiang wouldn’t have been possible for them. I would go on a limb and argue that Uyghur terrorists wouldn’t have been technologically competent enough to do it themselves. That would mean (as you seem to imply) that the Chinese government would have hacked Inmarsat after the fact and “updated” the data on their servers (either because the hijackers had failed to switch the machine off and accidentally left a trail, or in order to spoof the data out of the blue to make very sure that nobody connects this to Uyghur terrorists.)

    Notwithstanding that I find both hard to believe in itself, again I want to use the “why spoof it at all for a northern route” argument. Basically, if the plane had already arrived at Xinjiang unnoticed by the outside world, why would it be necessary/ useful to fake that data? Even if the hijackers had left data behind, it would have been easier to just delete the data entirely from Inmarsat servers (if that is the scenario) and hope Inmarsat hadn’t drawn copies than to come up with faked data and plant that on the servers…? If the hijackers had left nothing behind, I would find it as unlikely as with any other west-north route that anyone would make the effort of spoofing this data. Let’s be honest, nobody would connect this to Uyghur terrorists, so spoofing this data to deflect from it is unnecessary.

  42. @Ben S, do you know how active this Kazakh base is? I ask for a couple of reasons. While the aircraft don’t look prepped for storage, the way many of the aircraft are parked does not indicate much readiness either. Second, activity in general—huge parking lots devoid of vehicles and no real movement on the run- or taxiways. And though I’m no expert, I don’t note any radar installations. I guess my point is that if this level of inaction is present at a major air force base, outposts in less capable or less sophisticated nations along a northern route would even be even less alert. Meaning your discovery, whether a destination or not, suggests to me the successful potential for such a flight.

  43. @Somebody Somewhere

    Most of your points are valid, IMO. My only point was: ‘if you can see your way clear to place the plane in Kazakhstan, you can also likely place it in Xinjiang with the same set of assumptions.’ The motivation for the Uyghurs is clear.

    One point – people have connected this to the Uyghurs – more than once – check some of the early media reports.

    In any case, I am done with this – my only point is as stated above. I don’t believe in spoofing or planting. I believe the plane went south and I believe it will be found.

  44. @Shadynuk

    Thanks for your reply and sorry if I sounded dismissive – that wasn’t the intention. I absolutely agree with you that if we want to think about “Northern Route” scenarios, a “Theory Uyghur” is absolutely one legitimate theory. Yes I am aware that there was even a purported email from an Uyghur group claiming responsibility. What I meant with saying that nobody would have connected it to Uyghurs I guess is more along the lines of “in the absence of hard(er) evidence, few people would have seriously considered such a theory even with a letter”. Frankly I don’t think spoofing satellite data would have been ‘necessary’ in this scenario if you see what I try to say.

    I tried to point out that “Northern Route” scenarios have general logical issues. “Theory Uyghur” probably a little more so than ” Theory Kazakhstan” because with “Theory Kazakhstan” we can at least assume that a suitably competent party would have known about the hijacking in advance, allowing theoretically for real time spoofing.

    I agree with you that the “null hypothesis” should remain “Inmarsat valid, plane in SIO” simply because everything else is so unlikely. However, the “long tail” scenarios do merit discussion in my view.

  45. @Scott

    No, I don’t know how active Zhetigen is. It is definitely a base and is listed as the first order of battle in this article from 2015.

    It is supposed to be a major base according to wikipedia, but the same wikipedia article claims without citation or source that pilots fly 100 hours a year. In short, verifiable information is hard to come by.


    I am well aware of Kuqa Qiuci since it was noted in a previous article. All I did was spend about 30 minutes looking for airstrips along the 7th arc near Kazakhstan and a little bit of China. In fact I found Kuqa Qiuci while doing this but soon realized it had been discovered already. I then proposed that someone do an exhaustive search of airstrips near the northern 7th arc.

    Also – yes, if you subscribe to a general northern route theory, there is no reason in principle why it couldn’t have landed somewhere in China. Jeff has argued for a Russian theory. If you want to come up with a China theory, go ahead. As I’ve said, I’m open to a northern route theory but would like to see a more detailed construction.
    Occam’s razor – the principle that the simplest explanation is usually correct – suggests, but does not prove, that the plane is in the SIO.

  46. @ Shadynuk, Somebody Somewhere,

    To me the biggest issue with imagining a Uyghur scenario is history. Uyghurs Have tried to take planes before. Those flights have all been domestic, and they have been unsophisticated, nontechnical brute force attacks. Much like their stabbing rampages. Additionally, the Chinese have publicized those attacks and used them for further crackdowns in Xinjiang. I’d also add the only connection anyone made between the Uyghurs and MH370 came in an email of suspicious origin from claiming to be of the Chinese Martyrs Brigade—a previously unheard of group—and one suspiciously named given that the Uyghurs do not consider themselves to be Chinese. It’s press coverage is/was minimal and of no greater significance than speculation about ISIL and other known terror groups. Finally the passenger manifest only shows a single Uyghur passenger aboard MH370, as I recall, an artist traveling from an exhibition.

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