The MH370 Miracle (updated)

If after nearly five years the disappearance of MH370 is still regarded as an unsolved (and perhaps unsolvable) mystery, that’s because something that happened in the course of MH370’s vanishing is generally talked about as if it were unremarkable when in fact it is ridiculously unprecedented to the point of being virtually impossible. And if that fact could be more generally understood, the case would seem a lot less mysterious.

Call it the MH370 miracle.

OK, back up. Here’s the story of MH370 in a nutshell: a plane takes off and vanishes from air-traffic control radar. Weeks later, it turns out that the plane had reversed course, flown through an area of primary radar coverage, and then vanished from that. It’s gone. It’s dark. Off the grid. There is absolutely no way that anyone is ever going to know where this plane went.

Then a miracle happened. Something that has never happened before in the history of air travel and in all likelihood will never happen again. It’s this: three minutes after disappearing from primary radar, the plane began sending out a signal. A signal with unique and wonderful properties.

A Miracle Signal.

The general public has never heard about the remarkableness of this occurrence. It has been glossed over entirely. The ATSB and the mainstream press talk about the signal as something generated as a matter of course, like the cell phone data carelessly left behind by a fugitive criminal. But the Inmarsat data set is not like that at all. Not only was it not normal, it was unprecedented and produced in a way that cannot be explained.

Those of you have have been following the case know what event I’m talking about. At 18:25 UTC, MH370 starts sending signals to one of the satellites in the Inmarsat fleet: Inmarsat-3 F1, aka IOR, hovering in geostationary orbit over the equator at 64.5 degrees east.

The standard story goes like this: “Then scientists studying the signal realized that it contained clues about where the plane went.”

What gets omitted is how completely bonkers this is. In fact, there are two insane things going on here.

The first is that the signal exists at all. As far as I know, never in the history of commercial aviation has a plane been flying around with all of its communications equipment turned off, except for this one piece of gear. It. Just. Never. Happens.

Not ever.

Now at this point you might say, “But these were extraordinary circumstances, the plane had just been hijacked.” Okay, sure. But the point is that in order for this signal to exist, the hijacker/s must have done something extraordinary to the electrical system, something that pilots never normally do, that isn’t called for in any checklist, and for which there is no rational explanation that anyone has been able to come up with. And yet—voila! There it is, right at the exact moment it’s needed.

The second insane thing about the Miracle Signal is that it just so happens that this fortuitously appearing signal has embedded within it revelatory information—the BFO. Now, under any but miraculous circumstances, you would not expect this signal to tell you anything about the planes position or velocity. It’s a communications signal. It’s designed specifically to not have any navigational information. But lo and behold, it turns out that because of a quirky convergence of happenstance, the system is working in an unusual way that does indeed provide a hint—but only a hint!—of where the plane is going in a way that cannot be cross-checked with any other source.

This is the astonishing convergence:

1. The plane is equipped with a piece of equipment called an SDU that was manufactured by Thales. If this box had come from the other leading manufacturer, Rockwell Collins, there would have been no navigational information in the BFO data.

2. The plane is flying under the footprint of a satellite that is past its design lifespan and has run low on the fuel it requires for stationkeeping and so has started to wander in its orbit. If it had been functioning as designed then there would be no navigational information in the BFO data.

3. The subsequent path of the plane is along a north-south axis. It turns out that the information can’t be used to tell you where the plane traveled with any precision where the plane went, but it can tell you whether it went north or south.

4. The path lies entirely under that one satellite’s area of coverage. If the path had crossed over into another coverage zone, the connection would have been transferred over and the nav information would have been lost (but the direction of flight would have been unambiguously confirmed). For instance, if MH370 had flown east at IGARI instead of west, it would have flown into the coverage zone of POR, aka Inmarsat-3 F3, and re-logged on with that satellite.

5. The path lies entirely over water. If the plane had turned south earlier, or had headed east instead of west, it would have passed over land and either potentially been spotted or detected on radar.

6. MH370 used a satcom service called Classic Aero. If it used a newer, higher grade of service called SwiftBroadband, the transmissions between the plane and the satellite would have included position information.

So when we talk about MH370, and how the plane went into the southern Indian Ocean, what we’re talking about are six hours of data whose existence is nearly as miraculous as a little baby Jesus lying in a manger.

Imagine if the authorities had announced back in March, 2014: “We’ve just realized that after it disappeared from military radar, the plane waited three minutes and then started broadcasting a Miracle Signal. This Miracle Signal has never been seen before, and will never be seen again, and it happens by a crazy quirk of circumstance to provide us a super intriguing clue, but instead of questioning how it came to be, we’re going to just accept the data it’s giving us and treat it as unimpeachable fact.”

Oh, and that’s not the end.

The really gobsmacking thing about the miracle signal is that it took place in the context of a bunch of other equally unlikely things. Namely:

— If the data are accepted as face value, the only explanation for the plane’s behavior is that the captain hijacked his own plane. That means a man with no manifestations of stress or mental illness spontaneously decides to commit mass murder/suicide.

— On top of that, he decides to do it in a way that no suicidal pilot ever has: by waiting impassively hour after hour until his fuel tanks to run dry.

— Once his fuel tanks run dry, he dives the plane toward the ocean, thinks better of it and glides it in what just happens to be the right direction, and then dives it into the ocean once more. This sequence of events is psychologically implausible but is the only way to explain how the plane could have ended up outside a seabed search area the size of Great Britain.

— The debris then floats in a way that is not reconcilable with any known drift model. Despite being adrift for over a year, none of it picks up any biofouling organisms more than a few months old, and the flaperon picks up goose barnacles that somehow manage to grow in the open air.

I’ve always said that the 18:25 reboot is the crucial clue that lies at the heart of the MH370 mystery. What I’m saying now is that it should be understood in even stronger terms: the extreme improbability of the Miracle Signal means that it can’t be construed as an unintentional byproduct of a “normal” suicide flight. It just could not have occured that way by happenstance. It must have been engineered.

One of the most common things you hear from normal people (by that I mean non-obsessives like present company) about MH370 is, “I just can’t believe that in this day and age a modern airliner could just vanish.” Of course, they’re absolutely right. Things don’t just vanish, except in one context: magic. Magicians make rabbits disappear out of hats, then make coins disappear behind kids’ ears, they make themselves disappear behind clouds of smoke.

If you don’t like the idea that something inexplicably miraculous is the handiwork of a magician, then your other option is to suppose that events have been arranged by sheer luck. Indeed, every “innocent” explanation that anyone has proposed to explain the vanishing of MH370—like a pilot suicide scenario, or a lithium battery fire, or accidental depressurization—assumes that the fact that the plane was never found is due to an incredible chain of coincidences.

And sure, bad luck happens in life, but once the odds get astronomical—when you start having to start calculating the odds that a rabbit could spontaneously teleport out of a top hat—then it’s time to start thinking about possible sleights-of-hand.

Here’s a historical analogy. In May of 1942, a Japanese fleet invading New Guinea was attacked by US aircraft carriers in the Coral Sea, suffering heavy damage. How, just half a year after Pearl Harbor, had America’s thinly stretched naval forces managed to intercept the Japanese task force amid the vastness of the Pacific? There were two possibilities. Either the Americans had just gotten lucky, or they had managed to break Japan’s naval cipher, JN-25. The former was a stretch, but the admiralty was certain that the Americans couldn’t have broken their code. A mentality later branded as “Victory Disease” convinced them that they were vastly superior to their enemy. They themselves couldn’t imagine how to break their most sophisticated code, so there was no way the Americans could have done it. The Japanese Navy had nothing to fear.

Then, bad luck hits again. As the Japanese carriers are moving against Midway Island, lo and behold, the beleagured American fleet not only shows up but gets a jump on them, sinking all their aircraft carriers and turning the tide of the war. How lucky could those gaijin get? Apparently really lucky, because the Japanese leadership didn’t understand their codes had been broken until they’d signed their surrender on the deck of the U.S.S. Missouri.

The search officials tasked with finding MH370 were in the same camp as the wartime Japanese. As far as they were concerned, it was inconceivable that they were dealing with an adversary capable of outwitting them. When I asked Mark Dickinson, vice president of satellite operations, how Inmarsat could be certain that the MH370 data hadn’t been tampered with to mislead investigators, he dismissed the idea out hand, saying: “whoever did that would have to have six month’s worth of knowledge of what would happen, in essence have to know how the data would be used.”

To be fair, some among the Japanese leadership were suspicious of the Americans’ good luck all along. And in the case of MH370, some of us have long smelled a rat. Earlier this year David Gallo, the man who found AF447, wrote, “I never accepted the satellite data from day one,” adding: “I never thought I’d say this….I think there is a good chance that MH370 never came south at all. Let’s put it this way, I don’t accept the evidence that the plane came south.” And this fall we learned that investigators conducting the last extant investigation into the disappearance of MH370 are looking into the possibility that the Inmarsat data could have been hacked.

So far, these skeptics are still in the minority, but I think that their numbers will continue to grow. A more people become aware of the circumstances of the MH370 miracle, the penny will continue to drop.

UPDATE 12/23/18: It seems to me that mysteries can be divided into two categories. 

The first I’ll call mysteries of indeterminacy. When Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan departed Lae Island on July 2, 1937, they were flying a primitive aircraft, by modern standards, and relied on the most rudimentary form of navigation. It’s no wonder that they never made it to their intended destination. What we don’t know, and may never know, is where exactly in the western Pacific they crashed.

The second type I’ll call mysteries of inexplicability. When a magician puts a ball into a closed fist, then reopens it to reveal that nothing is there, you’re astonished at how he could have done it. 

In science, the question of whether an unknown planet X lurks at the edge of the solar system is a mystery of indeterminacy. The struggle to reconcile quantum mechanics and relativity is a mystery of inexplicability.

MH370 started out looking like a mystery of indeterminacy. The authorities had a good data set in hand, and developed an analytic method to generate a search area. They were extremely confident that, while they didn’t know exactly where the plane had landed, a few hundred million dollars worth of brute-force seabed scanning would give them an answer.

They turned out to be wrong. The plane wasn’t there. So now we understand that what we’re really grappling with is a mystery of inexplicability. There simply are no simple, widely-accepted explanations for how it could be that the plane wasn’t found. This kind of problem needs to be tackled in a fundamentally different way.

230 thoughts on “The MH370 Miracle (updated)

  1. And I am still near 38S, and will remain so.

    The reasoning, from a mission planned end point determination, is simple.

    But first, Z knew that in the case of AF447, they had a precise 3D-LKP, (lat lon alt course and speed) only 4 minutes from impact.
    So they had less than a 40Nm radius to search.
    Even so, it took 2 years to find AF447.
    Z knew that if his LKP was whatever the last radar plot was (assume the 18:22 10Nm from MEKAR), then he could fly for almost another 6 hours.
    Z knew that the search problem would be impossible. They could not find him without “other” information, but, he wanted them to know he had kept flying for those 6 hours, and indirectly, he also wanted them to know only “roughly” where he went, but with no “precision”. He knew that there would be no specific LKP “as such”, and thus, no “datum” from which to mount a search.

    As I have explained, many times, “his” end point planning was dtermined by that big orange clock in the sky, namely, the sun. He needed to fly south in darkness, and to remain in darkness, until the end, (to ditch) to avoid any possibility of visual detection by ships, aircraft or satellites.

    Now, Z may, or may not, have known that the BTO’s existed, or could be use to generate “lines of position” (in the navigation sense). Even if he did, he knew that you need an intersection of at least two (and preferably three) “good lines of position” to get any kind of “reasonable fix” to use as a datum point for any search.

    So what do we have ?

    At best, we have only two “good lines of position”, namely the 00:00 utc terminator, and the arc(s). We also have a “rubbery third line of position” namely the max endurance fuel range arc.

    When you look at the 00:00 utc terminator, and the 6th and 7th arcs, you have to be down around 38S, and 38S is also near the max fuel range.

    This area “fits” with all the planning “objectives”. The further north up the 7th arc you go, the more time he would have been visual in daylight. From a mission planning “objectives” perspective, that is utterly unacceptable. In fact, I would posit that there is no way Z would have allowed himself to be above 35S at dawn.

    To my mind, searching further north of 35S is pointless. In my view, the search has to be expanded around 38S.

  2. @Gysbreght:

    “That’s the simple part. But who did the piloting, and for what purpose did he do it?”

    We know who the pilot was. It was his voice that said “goodnight” minutes before the communication was turned off. It makes more sense that it would be him than anyone else on that plane.

    As for why? I guess that’s the only mystery here. Likewise, why did Stephen Paddock kill all those people in the Vegas strip? Who knows…

  3. @LadyPilot
    Why and how are the mysteries. The perpetrator seemingly took great pains to not identify themselves. Which is a behavior seen in other pilot suicide incidents (eg; SilkAir), but is not helpful for those needing solid proof of guilt.

  4. @Ventus45

    Sorry, I understand now that you and @Gysbreght believe that Zaharie flew the plane into the SIO as a mission (not suicide), but you do not believe that it is likely that the aircraft lies north of 25S. I understand.

    You reference “the max endurance fuel range arc.” The ping at 00:19 UTC is believed to be associated with fuel exhaustion. So this exactly defines the duration (endurance) of this flight from takeoff at 16:42 UTC until 00:19 UTC – 7 hours, 37 minutes. The fuel exhaustion event happened along arc 7 which defined by the BTO for that ping. But this arc tells us nothing about the maximum range or even the range. You need to know the complete flight path to define the range.

    If you assume only “straight” paths then the DTSG crossing of arc 7 is located near 38S and may be a maximum range for any straight path. Fuel would not allow flights further to the west. There would be excess fuel at arc 7 crossing for any straight flights to the east, but only for straight paths.

    If the flight path did not go straight and the pilot executed some number of maneuvers to intentionally decouple range and endurance then the aircraft could exhaust fuel higher on arc 7. So it is clearly feasible for some flight paths to meet all of the arc crossing constraints and run out of fuel on arc 7 when allowing for the many opportunity for an active pilot for circling, s-turns, and other ways to decouple range from endurance.

    Maybe Z wanted daylight for any final maneuvers that may have been needed. A death spiral in the dark may be OK, but maybe he had another concept for water entry.

    My point is that there are many feasible flight paths that could meet all of the BTO/BFO constraints and run out of fuel along arc 7 to the north of 25S. It is only the special case of longest, straight paths that end up near 38S.

  5. @Hank McGlynn:

    Just to be clear: I do not believe that Zaharie flew the plane into the SIO.

    Although I accept that as a possibility, because the evidence does not allow us to conclude that he did not do it, considering all evidence it is very low on my scale of probabilities.

  6. @Hank

    I have no argument with the fact that any point on the 7th arc above 38S is possible. The arc is simply a line of position at time “t”, (which equals 00:19 utc). The fuel endurance ended at time “t” (give or take).

    Where the aircraft was on (or near to) the arc, at that time “t”, is our problem.

    The issue I have with points above 38S is the daylight issue.

    Everything about the flight from going dark at Igari is “stealth”.

    I can see no reason for him to “uncloak” one second earlier than he had to, to be able to see, so as to be able to ditch.

    Hypothetically, if the aircraft were to be on the arc at (say) 20S, then it would have been in daylight for close to an hour. I just can not accept that as logical.

  7. @Ventus45
    The only air traffic to speak of is one flight EK425 that could have been avoided. Pretty much solid clouds below 22 South so he could hang out there no problem. At one point I thought he might want daylight for “flame out” but I do not really know what what flame-out looks like at night, and apparently nobody else does either.

  8. @Gysbreght I got confused following some of the earlier dialog and missed the difference between accepting a remote possibility and a view of a more probable possibility. I should not have spoke for you in my post – my bad – sorry.

    @Ventus45 Thank you for the explanation. We agree that fuel exhaustion likely triggered the ping for which the BTO defined arc 7 and the aircraft entered the SIO somewhere in the vicinity of the arc – the displacement being a function of gliding versus spiral dive or other terminal maneuver. I appreciate that you regard operating in darkness as a primary objective. Not all arc 7 points are feasible based on the separate endurance constraint – so 38S is at the eastern limit and rules out any intentional holding maneuvers. If he did intentional holding and wanted to stay in the dark that would have resulted in a different set of arcs and required a more southwest flight path. I believe more in intentional holding and daylight terminal maneuver than the need for darkness, but I understand and appreciate your perspective.

  9. @TBill
    EK425 generally departs YPPH around 06:00 local (22:00utc)
    It generally remains in Aus ATC (ADS-B) coverage for about 50 minutes (to 22:50 utc) to the vercinity of 28.6S 110.75E.
    It generally takes about another hour and ten minutes (to 00:00 utc) to reach the vercinity of the 7th arc near 21.7S 103.6E.
    (Current EK425 flight plan = DCT KEELS DCT BONGS DCT 25S107E 20S102E 14S097E 10S094E/N0494F340 DCT DOGAR M641 KAT R461 DEMON/M083F340 R461 MDI/N0490F340 M300 MESAN/N0484F360 M300 EMURU P570 ITURA M762 MIVEK P574).
    The timeing is interesting.
    If Z had planned the mission properly, since avoiding detection was essential, surely he would have checked out all flight schedules into and out of YPPH (Perth Aus) across the SIO for the relevant time period (say 20:00 to 00:00 utc) – and there aren’t many, and there is virtually none south of L894 (Runut – Polum – Ninob) that crosses the 7th Arc at 23.35S.
    With the exception of the South African flights, (most of which are so far south that they do not even intersect the 7th arc at all) this is about the most southern intersection of the 7th Arc for any scheduled flights, since all others going to or from Asia that do intersect the 7th arc do so much further north.
    Thus, if he allowed for a little “possible flex tracking by FANS AIRCRAFT” in the north (due to winds), he could be comfortable in assumning that there would never be anything near the 7th arc south of 25S.
    And in the far south, none of the south african flights these days cross the 7th arc anyway (they are south of it), and none are in the relevant time period. The nearest possible is 38S (for anything that might flying the Sunki – Sebro – Olpus – Kasda – Oktok -YPPH route) but nothing does, between 22:00 and 00:00 utc.
    So in summary, so far as the remote possibility of detection by other commercial flights is concerned, anywhere south of 25S meets requirements and will do. Anything north of 25S definitely does not.

  10. I would like to revisit Zaharie for a moment. The RMP investigation may not have uncovered anything untoward, but that still doesn’t answer the question of who he really was. Likewise, the RMP psychological evaluation posted here in 2017 generally relies on secondhand information contributed from associates.

    Was Zaharie the kind of person who craved attention, or felt like he didn’t get enough attention?
    If he was smart enough to pull off the hijacking of MH370, wasn’t he also smart enough to cover his tracks, including by eliminating traces or clues that would be found?
    How is mental health viewed in Malaysia? Is it normal/common for men to reveal mental health concerns?
    Do people in Malaysia, and in particular, men, share mental health concerns with their own friends or do they avoid doing so?
    What is the state of privacy in Malaysia? Do individual citizens benefit themselves by learning to conceal their opinions or problems?
    Likewise, what is the state of social media privacy in Malaysia? Do the police routinely monitor social media posts? Do individuals take extra care not to post revealing things?
    What was Zaharie’s browser history? Was this ever revealed?
    Did Zaharie have other computers apart from his simulator? If so, did he have an internet search history? Did he have access to a drive wiper? (widespread, freely available)
    Did Zaharie’s phone go down with him in MH370? (I presume it did)
    If Zaharie’s wife and children had any reason to suspect him, or any concerns about his mental health, would it benefit them to talk about it?
    Has Zaharie’s wife ever been subject to more intensive questioning? I remember when the incident first happened, the Malaysian police were very gentle in their approach to her because it is considered inappropriate to subject people in a state of bereavement to intense questioning, and this was criticized by the FBI.

  11. @Ventus
    I got the available data for EK425 8-March-14 a couple years back. It was about as you said could have been close to Arc7 at 00:00 I think it flew L894 path in those days, but I do not know waypoints for sure, just eyeballed other days flights.

  12. Jeff’s in the news again…! Well, it’s the Express, so Jeff’s in the comics again… 😉

    THE OFFICIAL location of missing flight MH370 was announced by the authorities to be the Indian Ocean based on undisclosed mathematical analysis of data, it can be revealed.

    This means the 239 people on board the Malaysia Airlines jet were essentially declared dead without any physical evidence. According to Jeff Wise, author of The Plane That Wasn’t There, this was shocking. He said: “This was unprecedented!”

    Mr Wise added: “Never before had hundreds of people essentially been declared dead without a shred of evidence apart from the outcome of an undisclosed numerical analysis of undisclosed data.”

    To make matters worse, the Malaysian government decided to inform some next of kin by text.

    When flight MH370 disappeared without a trace en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8 2014, an investigation was launched into where it could possibly have ended up.

    Based on satellite data, it was narrowed down to two possible paths – one for if it flew north and one for if it flew south.

    The northern pathway would mean the plane ended up somewhere in Kazakhstan and the southern pathway would mean it crashed into the Indian Ocean.

    The Malaysian government announced on March 25, just a few weeks after the disappearance, that data from British satellite telecommunications company Inmarsat and the UK’s Air Accidents Investigations Branch (AAIB) ruled out the north corridor.

    However, they did not explain how this was calculated.

    Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said: “Based on their new analysis Inmarsat and the AAIB have concluded that MH370 flew along the southern corridor and that its last position was somewhere in the middle of the Indian Ocean west of Perth.

    “This is a remote region far from any possible landing sites.

    “It is therefore with deep sadness and regret that I must inform you that according to this new data flight MH370 ended in the Indian Ocean.”

    The government then came under pressure to explain their conclusion, after grieving families protested outside the Malaysian embassy in Beijing.

    The next day, the acting transport minister held a press conference explaining the rough outline of the analysis along with charts and graphs to illustrate it.

    However, whilst it was revealed a technique called the Burst Frequency Offset was used, no one outside the investigation could make head or tail of the document featuring the charts and graphs.

  13. @Jeff
    The analogy of a magic trick is intriguing. A magician’s goal is to deceive the eye and he does this through distraction. In the case of MH370 the distraction is the Inmarsat data set. It suggests we should be looking in one area when in fact that is the last place we should be searching.

    This type of distraction would take the assistance of a state actor, who was probably responsible for the creation of the false data. If we assume the Inmarsat engineer who passed away could have become aware of the deception then that leaves us with countries with a capacity to kill and where a secret like that could be kept. It also means that MH370 was either shot down or hijacked to a remote location. I tend to think it was accidentally shot down and this is the cover story. I still think Kate Tee and the oil rig worker were credible witnesses.

    This all sounds rather paranoid until, as you mentioned, you think about breaking the Japanese and German codes during World War II.

  14. @Will, “It can be revealed”!! So bizarre. They’re literally pulling blocks of text out of my Kindle Single. It puts me in mind of those gibberish spam emails with nonsensical text plugged in to help beat the filters.

  15. @Wall “Does someone know the precise location of the debris of AF447 that was found within 5 days after the crash? I am looking for the coordinates, but I did not succeed.”

    Perhaps you could also look at BEA publication f-cp090601ae “Interim report No.1 on the accident on 1st June 2009 to the Airbus A330-203
    registered F-GZCP operated by Air France flight AF 447 Rio de Janeiro – Paris” (July 2009).

    Appendix 4 gives the coordinates of recovered bodies and debris (640 items) for each day between 6 June and 18 June 2009.

  16. @ Jeff, regarding your article “The MH370 Miracle (updated)”:

    I totally understand your point that the SDU reboot after the vanisihing from primary/military radar has the potential to be an intentionally spread of breadcrumbs to misslead a search for the wreckage. But I don’t get why, from that theory starting, you again grab the data and only conclude a nortboundy flight. Is it not at least as possible that the SDU data trace was fabricatet in total. This would make more sense to me, assuming a greater conspirancy spent effort in obscuring the search for a certain purpose (most likely to cover the prepertators of the hijack and their motif as long as possile or forever).

  17. @Benjamin, It’s simply that, if you try to explain how the BTO data could be spoofed, it turns out to be very hard to do. Whereas there’s a fairly straightforward way to alter the BFO value. In fact, the flight seems to have been selected for this purpose.

  18. @Jeff, please help me, as I still do not get your point: Asuming the whole SDU dataset after the reboot is fabricated, why should the BTO values be more complicated to generate then the BFO values? Independent on wich level of data recording this forgery happened (e. g. from a immitational satellite writing the data down to the ground station, or in ground station between the receiver and the network / storage, or even in the data recording unit itself only).

  19. @Trip

    “It suggests we should be looking in one area when in fact that is the last place we should be searching”. I can’t agree more with this statement.


    From your posting;

    “Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said: Based on their new analysis Inmarsat and the AAIB have concluded that MH370 flew along the southern corridor and that its last position was somewhere in the middle of the Indian Ocean west of Perth.

    This is a remote region far from any possible landing sites.

    It is therefore with deep sadness and regret that I must inform you that according to this new data flight MH370 ended in the Indian Ocean.”

    So almost by definition the last place you should be searching for 9M-MRO is in the SIO.

    Interesting article in the Australian about calls for Boeing to assist in search for 9M-MRO;

    Airbus noted they forked out 13 million dollars for the AF447 search but sensibly Boeing is keeping their distance. As @Gysbreght pointed out 640 pieces of AF447 wreckage were found in the southern Atlantic crash site but none have been found from 9M-MRO in the SIO to date. Some have turned up on Madagascar, Reunion and East African coastline. No AF447 wreckage is reported to have made landfall.

    On a different note an update on 1MDB fund (Australian – behind a paywall);

    Also an article originally in the WSJ published in the Australian behind a paywall;

    A very substantial Saudi “donation” into Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak bank account is mentioned. This was partially refunded. The reasons for all of this is not provided.

  20. @Benjamin, I’m not saying that the whole SDU dataset was fabricated. I’m saying that by altering a parameter in the SDU you can generate BFO values that make the plane look like it’s going south when it’s really going north. The BTO values would not be affected.

    I don’t know how you could fabricate the whole Inmarsat dataset. Anyone who claims this is a possibility should lay out a means by which it could be done. I’ve seen arm-waving on this topic but nothing more.

  21. @Jeff Wise: Your suggested spoofing method can explain the Inmarsat log data until 00:11 UTC. It cannot explain the BFO’s in the two last transmissions after another reboot at 00:19 UTC. Are you suggesting that those data in those final transmissions were entirely fabricated?

  22. @SteveBarratt
    My opinion Boeing not helping becuase they know what the cause is, pilot hijacking of a perfect operational aircraft. If there is anything Boeing does not want, it is for the public and Congress to clearly realize that, and start mandating new regulations ( for not allowing transponder turn off, etc).

  23. @TBill, It’s not incumbent on a manufacturer to build a plane such that it cannot be crashed by a deranged pilot. At any rate, the pilot’s ability to turn off the transponder had nothing to do with the destruction of the plane, only with the ability of the authorities to later locate it.
    We actually have at hand a very relevant example of the response to a pilot’s suicide hijacking: Germanwings. After it became clear that Lubitz had been successful because he was able to lock himself in the cockpit, various measures were enacted to make this more difficult in the future. None involved liability from Airbus.

  24. @JeffW
    I am not commenting on that, except to say there is always some choice of procedures vs. design change to mitigate risks. Obviously in the case of MH370, MAS was not strong as USA on the procedures/prevention side.

  25. @TBill, Why obviously? What did they fail to implement that would have made a difference? There is very little that can be done to prevent a pilot from destroying his own plane.

  26. @JeffW
    My understanding is USA has had 2 in cockpit rule (since 9/11?) just to mention one safety measure. Not to mention diligent air traffic monitoring to deter rogue pilots.

  27. PS-
    The other reason I say “obviously” is that we have not really had the pilot suicide problem in the USA, instead we have undercover air marshalls and who knows what other secret things we might do.

  28. Does anyone know if the Inmarsat data from takeoff through to the northwest Malacca Strait is consistent with radar findings during that same period of flight?

  29. @Tbill, is it not customary for flight crew to know of marshalls and vice versa? I have read stories of passsengers mistaken with a marshall being alerted to a pilot being armed for example. More, though, there certainly aren’t enough air marshalls in service to be on every domestic flight, of which I believe the FAA tracks 43,000 per day.

  30. @Tom: The SATCOM was made inoperative sometime between the last ACARS transmission at 17:07 UTC and a failed attempt to transmit a message from the ground to the aircraft at 17:33 UTC (IIRC). There are no Inmarsat data for the time that the aircraft was tracked by primary radar.

  31. @Scott O
    I would not know how the air marshall system works, and what if any special capabilities they might have. One could speculate.

    I would augment on @Gysbreght that the final reported radar point at about 1822 MEKAR/NILAM is in good agreement with the satellite data burst at the logon at 1825 to 1828, although there is a presumed 15-nm offset maneuver from N571 needed for perfect agreement.

    It is indeed fortunate to have the satellite logon near the last radar point. Because Malaysia is being secretive about their military radar, there is some lack of confidence that the radar data happened exactly the way Malaysia presents, but it is the best we have. Some people disregard the 1822 radar point due to lack of trust in Malaysia’s account of what happened.

  32. Jeff: I reviewed your post about Zarharie’s flight simulation and admit I’m not technologically savvy enough to discern how objective your analysis is. But I wondered this: has any of search area to date included the end point of the PIC’s SIO fuel-exhaustion sim-run? Would this not seem to be just as logical a search area as any northern route?

  33. @Truman, The route that Zaharie flew on the flight simulator doesn’t match the Inmarsat data, so he couldn’t have been planning to fly the route the plane actually took into the SIO, if it did in fact do that. Victor Iannello, however, developed the idea that based on the direction that the flight sim route seemed to be heading, Zaharie’s objective was to aim for the landing strip at McMurdo Station in Antarctica. He then plotted a route from the presumed “final turn south” toward McMurdo and determined where it would cross the 7th arc. This spot wound up later being searched by Ocean Infinity, and the plane wasn’t there.

  34. @Gysbreght, The BFO values at 00:19 are so anomalous that it is generally assumed that whatever navigational information they contain is swamped by uncompensated Doppler shift arising from a steep rate of descent. The anomaly could be do to some other factor instead, like a re-scrambling of the SDU’s internal parameters. I think here the right word isn’t “fabricated” but “garbled.”

  35. @Jeff Wise: Thanks for your reply. Another aspect of the 00:19 data is that they represent a logon request and acknowledge, suggesting that they resulted from a power interruption due to fuel exhaustion followed by APU autostart. Wouldn’t that be inconsistent with a scenario where the airplane was highjacked to a northern airport with spoofed BFO’s ?

  36. @Gysbreght, The fuel-exhaustion explanation for the 0:19 reboot is appealing because it’s the only “innocent” explanation at hand. That doesn’t mean that the explanation is correct, however. If we allow that the 18:25 reboot might best be explained by tampering, we need to at least contemplate that the 0:19 could be explained that way, too.

  37. @Jeff Wise: I accept your explanation. Yet we also need to contemplate that at 00:11 there were only a few minutes left until fuel exhaustion. However, the 00:11 data do not indicate that the airplane was slowing down or descending in preparation for landing.

  38. Just a Note :

    Last Radio Call : 17:19:30 UTC
    Last Satellite Signal (Login-Request SDU) : 00:19:29 UTC

    Duration : 06:59:59 h, just 1 Second short to 07:00:00 h between both events.

    Coincidence ? In my opinion : No.

  39. @LouVilla: The logon request was followed 8 seconds later by the logon acknowledge. The last SDU signal was at 00:19:37.

  40. I’m referencing to the Last Radio Call and the (2nd) Login Request of the SDU. The first event was the last verbal communication and the second event was the beginning of the last Satellite Contact with MH370.

    It’s interesting to see the duration between both events. It’s hard to believe that this should be only a coincidence.

  41. @LouVilla: Since the last radio radio call was triggered by an ATC radio call and the 00:19:29 logon was triggered by the engine powering the SDU running out of fuel, I find it hard to see it as anything other than a coincidence.

    I’ve lost count of the coincidences that have been noticed.

  42. @LouiVilla Last secondary radar contact 17:22 UTC, last primary radar contact 18:22 UTC.
    Coincidence ? In my opinion : Yes.

  43. @Jeff @Gysbreght

    I don’t like to contribute to the feasibility of the hijack north scenario.

    But while a fuel exhaustion could explain the ping resulting from a RAT engaging, a pilot could have just cut off fuel after 0:11 and restarted at 0:19 and then landed and it would have taken 60 minutes for the ground station to contact the aircraft. And 0:19 to 1:19 is plenty of time to land.

  44. @Hank McGlynn: “a pilot could have just cut off fuel after 0:11 and restarted at 0:19 and then landed”

    Can you think of any reason a pilot would do that?

  45. @Gysbreght
    You and Jeff were exchanging messages about what happened between 00:11 and 00:19 and there would be no fuel to land.

    While I am not a supporter of the elaborate hijacking to Kazakhstan theory, we only assume that fuel exhaustion happened between 00:11 and 00:19 because this is a reasonable concept if there is no active pilot. We only really know that the aircraft didn’t respond to a GES ping at 01:19. We really don’t know if the pilot shifted fuel around and flew much longer than 01:19.

    For the Kazakhstan theory, where the SDU and associated BTO are well understood, the pilot could have created arc 7 at 00:19 and then had until 01:19 to land somewhere. This makes the flight state at 00:11 and 00:19 not that relevant to the state at 00:50, for example.

  46. @Hank McGlynn:

    You didn’t answer my question. We know a bit more:
    – the SATCOM sent a logon request at 00:19:27, which means that power to the SDU had been interrupted between 00:11 and 00:19;
    – based on the fuel on board at departure, the airplane would have been low on fuel at 00:11 with or without pilot;
    – when the fuel tanks are empty there is no fuel to shift around.

  47. Over the last two months, there have been two different new / renewed claims of people, suggesting / knowing the MH 370 crash site.

    First there was Martin Kristensen, a Danish engineer, with a calculated ocean destination near to the Christmas Islands.
    Coordinates: -13.28, 106.96

    Second there was Rusli Kusmin, a Malaysian fishermen, who claims to have eyewitnessed, from a distance of 2 km, a plane crash into the Malaca Street (west of Penang), .
    Coordinates: 4.987253, 98.703917
    Time of crash: 7.30am
    Plane was approaching from: North

    What do you, the experts on the MH 370 topic, think about these both suggestions / claims?

  48. @Benjamin: The freemalaysiatoday article speaks of Indonesian fishermen. So would 7:30 am be Indonesian time UTC+7 ?

  49. @Gysbreght: I guess so. Either 00:30 UTC (when Indonesion) or 01:30 UTC (when Malaysian). Thus six to seven hours after the last Primary/Military Radar contact. And the fishermen said, the plane came from north. This brings me to the conclusion, that it would not have crashed troughout ist first (northbound) flight along the Malacca Street, that was radar detected. It must have been a later return then. Maybe MH 370 took a hop to the Andaman Islands (incl. landing there?) and returned later, flying low under the radar? Would this be a possible Scenario (ignoring any INMARSAT data)?

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