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air safety

Mar 25, 2014

MH370: Last incomplete ping from jet 'not understood'

The Inmarsat satellite which provided data crucial to reconstructing the flight path of MH370 to a crash site calculated as being somewhere in a search and recovery zone around 2500

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An Inmarsat satellite: supplied graphic

The Inmarsat satellite which provided data crucial to reconstructing the flight path of MH370 to a crash site calculated as being somewhere in a search and recovery zone around 2500 kms SW of Perth recorded a last incomplete and ‘not fully understood’ standby signal from the Boeing 777-200ER’s otherwise disabled ACARS automated reporting system.

This new revelation at this evening’s media briefing in Kuala Lumpur by Malaysia’s  acting transport minister and minister of defence Hishammuddin Hussein is described in a detailed explanation added to the Ministry of Transport Facebook page.

This is the relevant part of that document in terms of the incomplete standby ping or ‘handshake.’

The analysis showed poor correlation with the Northern corridor, but good correlation with the Southern corridor, and depending on the ground speed of the aircraft it was then possible to estimate positions at 0011 UTC, at which the last complete handshake took place. I must emphasise that this is not the final position of the aircraft.

There is evidence of a partial handshake between the aircraft and ground station at 0019 UTC. At this time this transmission is not understood and is subject to further ongoing work.

No response was received from the aircraft at 0115 UTC, when the ground earth station sent the next log on / log off message. This indicates that the aircraft was no longer logged on to the network.

Therefore, some time between 0011 UTC and 0115 UTC the aircraft was no longer able to communicate with the ground station. This is consistent with the maximum endurance of the aircraft.

The minister said he would not answer technical questions about this or other aspects of the analysis that Inmarsat and the UK Air Accident Investigation Board provided to the Malaysia Government the previous evening (Monday) which caused the Prime Minister Najib Razak to make a late night announcement that the flight had ended in the middle of the southern Indian Ocean and that all onboard were presumed lost.

When Hishammuddin Hussein spoke to this revelation his words were almost inaudible for those listening to  videocasts.

However the interesting point he was making was that some eight minutes after the last ‘normal’ standby ping was registered by the satellite at 8.11 am local time  on 8 March on the morning the Malaysia Airlines 777-200ER with  239 people on board departed for Beijing an incomplete ‘not fully understood’ signal was picked up.

At the time of the last normal standby ping at 8.11 the jet had been in the air for seven hours 31 minutes.  It has in earlier briefings been said to have been loaded with sufficient fuel for a total flight time of about eight hours.

The Kuala Lumpur-Beijing scheduled flight time was five hours 50 minutes and the fuel load has been described officially as normal when the usual statutory fuel reserves and provision for possible delays or a diversion to an alternative airport were taken into account.

The rest of the briefing and the Q and A session seemed to produce little that was new, or audibly new. Hishammuddin Hussein confirmed that the search efforts along the northern hemisphere search zones had ended and that all resources that could be diverted were being sent to Perth to assist in the only search and recovery zone left, which nevertheless covered 469,407 square nautical miles of the southern Indian Ocean , and which is being coordinated by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, AMSA.

That effort to locate and retrieve debris that may be from MH370 will resume tomorrow after being suspended because of very bad and unsafe weather conditions today Tuesday.

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