Those who think that something relevant to the loss of flight MH370 occurred in the unsecured electronics and electrical bay of the Malaysia Airlines 777-200ER located behind and below its cockpit will find support for their suspicions in the latest independent review of publicly released data.
The independents are now drawing attention to data that implies that the jet, with 239 people on board, flew in a circular or complex path for 52 minutes off the northern tip of Sumatra before then flying an apparently straight course southwards for more than four hours before running out of fuel off the Indian Ocean coast of Western Australia.
That previously unrecognized period of 62 minutes of untraced flight begins with a ‘strange’ message from the ACARS computer on board MH370 to an Inmarsat satellite consistent with there having been a temporary interruption to normal electrical power on the jet.
The next, and apparently normal standby signal exchange between MH370 and the satellite 73 minutes later occurs at a point calculated by the official investigation to be only 195 miles further northwest and immediately prior to the jet turning south.
However at the speed assumed by the official inquiry, MH370 would have covered that distance in a straight line in 21 minutes leaving 52 minutes of flight time unaccounted for.
The diagram below makes this anomaly easier to grasp than a thousand words.
While the highly credentialed independents do not make any concessions to a lay readership in their reviews, a starting point for understanding the significance of their latest bulletin might be this article in Flightglobal.
The unsecured equipment bay on which some suspicion has been falling for several months is readily accessed from a floor panel immediately behind the secured cockpit doors to 777s.
Its existence had been considered off limits in most technical and industry aviation publications because of the ease with which it might be entered until suspicions concerning possible causes of the changes of course flown by MH370 fell on it as a weak point. It is now thought that it might, in some way, have been exploited in the course of diverting the jet from its intended course between Kuala Lumpur and Beijing on 8 March.
The strange electrical event that triggered the first standby communications attempt with the Inmarsat by the ACARS server on MH370 occurred about an hour after the flight suddenly lost its identifying ATC transponder over the Gulf of Thailand and was observed flying initially westwards across the Malaysia Peninsula on primary military radar.
These events would fit in with the hypothetical that control of the jet’s path was seized by persons and for purposes unknown at the point where it had signed off from Malaysia controlled airspace and was about to check in with Vietnam controlled airspace.
The data anomaly identified by the independents could, in this scenario, be the period in which there was a struggle for whatever reason to control the course of the jet, all of which suddenly ended when it turned south and flew off on autopilot to oblivion and a sea floor end point which the next phase of the marine search hopes to locate starting in the second half of August.
This is an ‘untidy’ hypothesis. But everything factually established about the disappearance of MH370 is untidy, defying easy or straightforward explanations.