air crashes

Jan 18, 2015

MH370: Is it time to investigate the investigators?

A Canadian mathematician, Brock McEwen, says it’s high time to investigate the MH370 inve

Ben Sandilands — Editor of Plane Talking

Ben Sandilands

Editor of Plane Talking

Choose your heist? Gold bullion inside plane, or riches on the plain?

A Canadian mathematician, Brock McEwen, says it’s high time to investigate the MH370 investigators themselves because there are reasons to believe the search is being set up to fail for reasons unknown.

It’s a compelling analysis at a number of levels, but manages to self destruct at a critical point by buying into an unscientific conspiracy theory that the sea floor search has been materially diverted into one seeking ocean floor mineral riches.

Trying to put that really silly part of the paper aside, the balance of McEwen’s thesis raises some very serious matters, including some that have long been flagged here on Plane Talking not on a mathematical basis, but on common sense grounds including unexplained inconsistencies in the narratives of the Australian and Malaysian authorities.

For those who have been following the MH370 saga closely McEwen isn’t part of the Independent Group that includes Duncan Steel (who is well known and respected in this country) but acknowledges their support and advice and cites much of their work in coming to his conclusions.

For those who haven’t followed developments closely, there are some key events so far that have been brushed off or frozen out of frame by the Australian led and managed search that McEwen raises, as well as one that he inexplicably ignores.

Australia assumed the management of the search for MH370 on 18 March 2014, ten days after it disappeared as a transponder identified airliner on ATC screens while en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people listed as having been on board.

Between 20-26 March last year a range of satellite images of objects floating on the surface of the southern Indian Ocean west to southwest of Perth were published.  McEwen ignores the possible significance of these images, which may well have included objects from MH370 as well as the more abundant  presence of flotsam off commercial shipping.

However McEwen doesn’t ignore that rather abrupt shifting of the then largely aerial search priority far to the north west, pointing out that this move and a subsequent further shift meant looking in places that MH370 could never have crashed if the communications data, available fuel and likely flight performance data and main southwards turning point assumptions were being taken seriously.

In short, McEwen is leading us to ask if the search priorities were swiftly moved away from any risk that floating debris would actually be found.

It’s a very good question. It has become abundantly clear that Australia was dealing with a dishonest and incompetent Malaysian government when it came to disclosures about MH370 not to mention alleged dishonest dealings that we are forbidden to mention in another matter widely publicized throughout SE Asia because the Abbott government is muzzling the Australian media over a serious additional matter that makes its Je suis Charlie posturing about freedom of the press look shallow and shabby.

These doubts about the integrity of the ‘story’ coming from the Malaysian and Australian authorities have been championed in no uncertain manner by the president and CEO of Emirates, Tim Clark, as also widely reported in Plane Talking  and foreign media, rather than the cowed Australian general media.

McEwen also catches the feeble excuses that the chief commissioner of the ATSB Martin Dolan made for the decision to rush away from what looked like the best leads we have had so far when it came to the fate of MH370.

However like the Independent Group, McEwen seems to misunderstand Dolan and the ATSB in their constant criticism of him for not answering their questions in full or in satisfactory detail.

Dolan wouldn’t (on the basis of his various embarrassing press conferences) even understand their questions. He is a discredited civil servant whose integrity was called into doubt in no uncertain manner by the all party Australian Senate inquiry into the ATSB’s disgraceful crash investigation of the Pel-Air ditching near Norfolk Island in 2009.

The last time the Prime Minister of Australia or his deputy, and the transport minister, Warren Truss, were even referring to Mr Dolan by name was back when a television reporter asked the chief commissioner to explain the difference between a great circle route and a straight line, resulting in one of the most cringe worthy and embarrassing performances even given by an aviation administrator on live national television.

The ATSB has itself been found seriously wanting by a peer review of their procedures in producing that report by the Transport Safety Board of Canada, and the responsible Minister, when he can bring himself to focus on this humiliation, continues to amaze the aviation sector by his inability to resolve the compromised position the ATSB, and the regulator CASA, have been put in by the Pel-Air matters.

If the Independent Group was street smart, as well as scientifically incredibly smart,  it would be pursuing the parties advising the ATSB on the management of the search,  that is, grilling the chefs, not the waiters.

McEwen asks some very pertinent questions about the early April ‘we have pings’ embarrassment for Australia, and in particular, its supposedly expert Naval underwater acoustics laboratory, which lead to the Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, humiliating the country by very publicly declaring to the people and government of China in particular, that Australia was on the verge of locating MH370, in a place where with dispassionate analysis of the then known facts, it couldn’t have possibly been anyhow.

It also led to this reporter publishing the most cringe worthy post ever on Plane Talking  saying that the voices of the missing on MH370 were being heard from the deep.

While the writer can’t talk for the PM, we share the mortification.

McEwen’s analysis develops the need to examine the investigators, the real ones reporting directly to Kuala Lumpur, in a persuasive manner, yet there is a second very disappointing blemish in relation to the claimed call to a co-pilot’s cell phone after the 777 diverted from its filed flight path.  McEwen even relies on a CNN report in relation to this, which is more than appalling given that CNN couldn’t even find Canberra on a map of Australia and briefly managed to locate Perth in Tasmania.

The phone calls that were referred to in a media conference in Australia were to a company satphone, not a cell phone, so his analysis as to how a cell phone call couldn’t have been connected via a ground tower  to a 777 flying above a certain altitude is beside the point. McEwen seems to have put undue reliance on unconfirmed media ‘myths’ about MH370, which is unnecessary given the self-incriminating flaws in the information directly released by the authorities themselves.

With blemishes like these, this report destroys much of its credibility.  If it was redone dealing only with the mathematical problems, and the credibility or otherwise of the satellite images, and the unanswered satphone issues, it might be a much more convincing document.

It might even lead to pressure to search more realistic locations on or near the seventh arc than might presently be the case.

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