air crashes

Feb 24, 2015

Was MH370’s flight south ‘spoofed’ as it really flew north?

One of the most careful dissenting voices in the MH370 mystery is US science writer Jeff Wise, who has today published a study of tractor work on a patch of earth in Kazakhstan that

Ben Sandilands — Editor of Plane Talking

Ben Sandilands

Editor of Plane Talking

Baikonur Cosmodrome, is MH370 buried somewhere in its vastness?

One of the most careful dissenting voices in the MH370 mystery is US science writer Jeff Wise, who has today published a study of tractor work on a patch of earth in Kazakhstan that matches the dimensions of the missing Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200ER.

However Mr Wise doesn’t back the conclusion that this is where MH370 ended up after it vanished on 8 March last year early in a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people and some secret under floor cargo consignments on board.

Instead he deals very closely with what satellite imagery shows was happening at the Yubileyniy Aerodrome within the Baikonur Cosmodrome in the months before the flight vanished, and the days afterwards.

The imagery is intriguing, but also very expensive, so it isn’t going to be reproduced in anyway here without permission or fee.  However the Jeff Wise blog is free, and to understand fully what he is discussing, it is essential to read it here.

To give this context, Jeff Wise has also been developing a theory, that is, trying to come up with a convincing technically feasible scenario, under which the satellite ping data which has led searchers to believe that MH370 eventually turned south and flew to its doom in the south Indian Ocean, was intentionally faked to mislead any investigation.

There are some huge problems with ‘ping’ spoofing beyond those that Mr Wise acknowledges in this latest intriguing post. If the southwards turn of MH370 was spoofed, it begs the motive and resources of those responsible, and takes it into the realm of a major long term project to to ‘disappear’ a commercial flight months in advance, while anticipating that Inmarsat and the Royal Malaysia Air Force would independently or otherwise, come up with observations that in part or full supported the conclusion that this had happened.

It also implies that MH370 successfully evaded the civil and military defence radars of India or China or both, depending on the route flown, and then landed in what Mr Wise describes as the large and derelict wastes of the Baikonur Cosmodrome, which has been in action since it saw the launch of Sputnik 1 at the dawn of the space age on 4 October 1957.

Baikonur is vast, and Yubileyniy and its big runway was built for the USSR’s version of the Space Shuttle, the Buran, and idled on the demise of the project in 1989. However Baikonur isn’t itself idle, but highly active with numerous launches, and the arrival of a 777 could not have occurred unnoticed without the knowledge and active invovelement of modern Russia, which has leased the rocket range and its many facilities until 2050.

Thus the Yubileyniy scenario would have involved extraordinary planning, based on an intuitive prediction that Inmarsat would eventually mine the satellite ‘ping’ data from MH370 to determine its course, requiring the sending up a decoy plane transmitting false data to deceive the satellite, and organising the on board seizure of control of the flight, all many months in advance of a crew duty roster, passenger list or cargo manifest having been determined for a flight that could easily get cancelled or run late.

However none of these issues mean it couldn’t have happened, assuming Russia had a powerful motive, and that the spoofing tech that Mr Wise is working on had been devised, practised, perfected and deployed.

In the Yubileyniy scenario, the jet would have landed on the concrete runway built for the Buran spacecraft, and been towed a short distance away, and very quickly dismantled and buried.  Quickly because as Mr Wise notes, Baikonur is a flat treeless desert, and the last place you could hope to hide anything from a surveillance satellite, especially in winter when it is all snow or barren frozen earth picking up the shadows cast by a low sun.

Which raises the other alternative to spoofing, which is that the Inmarsat data being relied upon contains fatal inaccuracies that means the correct conclusion that the jet flew south may contain margins of error amounting to many tens of kilometres  away from the nominal seventh arc of initial impact possibilities.

If this terrible suspicion about inaccurate Inmarsat data is true, it might take a decade or more to search the south Indian Ocean floor with the required resolution to find MH370’s wreckage.  Or, the searchers might get lucky.

The ship tracking work being performed by Mike Chillit, who can be followed on Twitter @MikeChillit, has been capturing that terrible possibility in regular graphical updates.

Mr Chillit’s update this morning  (below) shows just how much more sea floor might need to be scanned in order to fully eliminate the current focal points for the Australian managed search effort.

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42 thoughts on “Was MH370’s flight south ‘spoofed’ as it really flew north?

  1. LongTimeObserver

    Ironically, Malaysian Airlines has experience with buried airframes, having in 2000 had a serious chemical spill from mislabeled containers in the belly cargo compartment render an A330-300 corrosion damaged and inoperable at KUL, after which the airframe was totaled for insurance purposes and buried. (See: )

  2. ghostwhowalksnz

    The search for HMAS Sydney, which too disappeared without trace in the same area, was based on some rigorous analysis to narrow down the search area which was then scanned by sonar. And there it was, as predicted by those who did their homework.
    Im not going to rely on the tracks from a Kazak tractor driver.

  3. Accountant

    With all due respect to Mr Wise, his whole ‘theory’ sounds more like excepts from the plot to a novel he’s writing and promoting to publishers.

  4. Geoff

    Crazy! The aircraft would have had to fly over Thailand or India, Tibet or Pakistan and one or two of the ‘stans before getting to Yubileyniy. Most if not all of these countries would have an active air defence network and surely they could not all be in on the action. As “accountant” says it will make a great novel!

  5. LucyJr

    Don’t underrate the imagination. We are clever cunning creatures who have pulled off amazing stunts before.

  6. Bill Parker

    If Wise is right and the 777 landed safely on such a derelict runway (and passed all the other countries Geoff mentions), what happened to the 239 passengers and crew?

  7. Glen

    Honestly Ben, are you kidding? Someone demolishes a derelict building 10,000 km away, carefully buries the demo rubbish and rehabilitates the site, and that’s supposed to be evidence of a massive international conspiracy to disappear a plane. Your worst MH370 post by far. Please don’t barrel scrape.

    (Anyone read Russian? The job looks like the work of a contractor. It’s possible it’s even boasted about on the website of some Russian contractor or other.)

  8. Ben Sandilands

    With respect to Glen, and all.

    I’m not kidding. It isn’t my idea. I’m reporting.

    If you study the words, not even Jeff Wise is convinced by the idea. The post of his I linked to explains, in detail, how he was almost sucked down a hole by his curiosity about the imagery, how he probably wasted a sum of money on it, and how the fascination with the photos arose from his doubts, and others, that the jet really flew south, and that the data relied upon for the Inmarsat analysis was by some means, spoofed.

    My own commentary, whether anyone thinks I was kidding or not, doesn’t support an interpretation that this is where MH370 is, anymore than Wise claims it be be. (He doesn’t. As made clear in his article.)

    At the end of the post I refer to the alternative, and somewhat simpler explanation for the lack of success in the search so far, in that the Inmarsat start point data may be wrong. There are serious doubts, if you have followed some previous posts, as to whether Inmarsat actually knew with total precision, where this satellite was to the last 100 metres at any given moment, in that although described as geostationary, it actually meanders around a bit like a slowly spinning top on a flat table, but stays within certain bounds.

    It is that quite intimidating prospect of imprecision that has seen Mike Chillit put up some very fine graphs of late, one of which finishes off this post, as to what such imprecision might mean for the best guesses as to the end point of the flight.

    What was I thinking when I posted this? Well, to be honest I looked at Jeff Wise’s graphics, the ones I declined to publish as he really had to pay serious money for the satellite imagery, and thought “Duh, that’s going to be tabloid fodder big time.”

    So for those of you good enough to contribute to the discussions we have (all of which is welcomed and valued) I thought I’d do a hard crime reporter look at it. Not a science reporter look, but a crime reporter look, because of my conviction that a criminal investigation is ultimately going to be the key to solving this mystery. Some reporters have street smarts, some have science smarts. I’m less dumb at the street side of things than I am at the science side, although I do follow science and technology with rapt attention in so far as there are only so many minutes in a day.

    I have the utmost respect for the efforts Jeff Wise, and Mike Chillit have made in contributing to the understanding of those who are still curious about MH370. At the moment, I wouldn’t like to get between them in a bar, but they are both making a great contribution to the global conversation about MH370.

  9. Rocket Rocket

    Ben – thnaks for this. I had just read Jeff Wise’s article, and yes as you say not even he is convinced about his own theory.

    The orbital wobble of the satellite and all the small error values (the bane of my existence when doing various science experiments at uni years ago!) are surely enough to expand the possible location to a wider area such as that proposed by Mike Chillit.

    But as you say, it seems unlikely that this was an “accident” in the true sense of the word, and that finding perpertrator(s) and motive may ultimately be the key.

  10. Zipper

    MH370 did land on time and where it was supposed too, but in an alternate universe.. somewhere on its route it hit a “soft spot” and crossed over into any one of the infinite universes that surround us, right now somewhere other than here, the world is baffled as to why two MH370s turned up at the same time, both with the same Pax on board each 777 but all slightly different, they now have total proof that multiverses excist and its changed there world forever.. The Truth Is Out There.

  11. discus

    Sounds more like Mr Wise is striving for more traffic generation and trying to maintain some relevance in MH370 saga to me.

    Seriously, why bother going to enormous expense and trouble to spoof the ping data when the damn thing was as good as invisible anyway.

    The more complex the plot, the more people involved, the more difficult it becomes with stuff ups and possible exposure.

    Without the data we have zero clues whatsoever about its whereabouts. We’d have no idea where to look and probably would have stopped searching 9 months ago.

  12. Simon Gunson

    Honestly this discussion is from the sublime to the ridiculous. Is Jeff Wise a science writer or a frustrated thriller writer?

    Since one has to address this drivel the thing to note from these images is that the rectangular patch has no snow over it which suggests the ground is uniformly hot. That may be for various reasons, but the burial of nuclear waste is far more likely than something from the plot of a spy novel.

    I have seen images of a WW2 Japanese airfield on Matua Island like this in the Kurils. There, the runway stayed free of snow and ice year round because the builders ducted geothermal water under the runway.

    The most rational explanation has nothing to do with suspense and Hijacking. Probably everything to do with buried nuclear waste. Now please can we get back to finding an aeroplane?

  13. Dan Dair

    That MH370 is (or was) in one piece somewhere in the ‘…..stans’ remains a tantalising idea.
    The passengers are still alive & working as forced-labour to some regional warlord/tribal-chief & might yet be rescued alive…..
    It’s all a bit Jack Ryan. (Tom Clancy)

    Meanwhile, a civilian Boeing 777 (a very large metal aircraft), with no stealth capability, no electronic countermeasures & no ability to fly either exceptionally fast or exceptionally high is supposed to have evaded the combined radars of something up to seven separate countries, including India & Pakistan (who’re virtually at war with eachother) and China (who’s wary of absolutely everyone).

    Additionally, the idea that such a large aircraft could land or crash anywhere in the world & no-one would notice or that the information about such an incident wouldn’t ‘seep-out’ into the attention sphere of the Western worlds’ intelligence services is beyond my grasp.

    (Do I sound a suitably unconvinced yet.???)

    It may (or may not) yet be helpful to find out if there was anyone on the flight ‘worth’ assassinating and for that matter what secrets there was in the cargo which has still not warranted the disclosure of the full manifest.?
    I remain very sceptical of the ‘nut-job pilot’ scenario because of the ‘mucking about’ with turn-backs & altitude changes.

    If the pilot had wanted to fly himself to death, taking control of the cockpit, depressurising the aircraft & just flying South is the ‘obvious’ way to go.
    However, just pointing the aircraft South & waiting for the engines to flame-out seems to me like an incredibly long & lonely way of committing suicide. (what if he changed his mind half an hour after the PONR.?)
    It would seem to make more sense to crash the plane immediately & get it over with.? (what do I know.?)

    Simon Gunson’s posting #45,
    puts a different light on my reservations.
    I’ve insufficient insight into whether all of his ‘technical’ points have real merit, but it seems to potentially support both the ‘nut-job’ pilot & massive electrical failure scenarios.

    (Perhaps some of our more technically capable contributors (such as Ghost or Sceptic, to name but two!) could cast their eyes over it & offer a critique of its points.?)

  14. Zipper

    Lets just accept that its gone forever, as baffling as it is, no matter what scenario you come up with you always hit a wall and it no longer makes any sense, considering the technology we have now, I’d say hands down THE biggest mystery in the history of aviation, it’s unbelievable when you think about it, you couldn’t make it up..

  15. comet

    MH370 is the greatest aviation mystery in history.

    Over 200 people missing, and nobody knows where on the planet they could be.

    Who knows what happened, but the theory (above) involves a Russian conspiracy, which neatly provides a link to the other Malaysia Airlines disaster of the same year, MH17.

  16. Dan Dair

    Don’t spoil it now,
    I was happy (for the first time) to read your post #10 & thought it as clever (& realistic) an alternative & some I’ve seen posited on this subject…..

    Then you post again saying you couldn’t make this stuff up……

    Incidentally, I agree that it’s the ‘biggest’ mystery,
    but it’ll be a good while before it outdoes the longest-lasting mystery;
    The loss of Avro Lancastrian, ‘Star Dust’.

  17. Confirmed Sceptic

    Dan, I haven’t the time to offer a detailed counter to any of Simon’s theories. At this point I have largely stopped caring anyway because the simple nut pilot scenario ticks all of the boxes, has ample precedent, and in fact is a masterstroke at keeping Malaysia’s incompetent government in the spotlight.

    All of the alternative theories that I recall from last year hang on one or many wildly improbable explanations and attempts to make the facts (as we “know” them) fit the flight path as we understand it. That Inmarsat data and calculations rest on overstated degrees of accuracy and precision wouldn’t surprise me in the least.

    I have always maintained that the circular error probability of the crash site is huge…too huge to be economically searched for what is likely to be inconclusive evidence in any event. Someone smart enough to lead the world on a wild goose chase would be smart enough to pull a couple of recorder circuit breakers.

    As Simon correctly wrote, the Kazak mud stirring exercise is irrelevant. Digging into that ground in March would be difficult to say the least, and his explanation for it being bereft of snow cover is as likely as not, given what we know of the post-Soviet nuclear waste hygiene habits.

    Who could imagine that a year ago a 777 could be launched on a trajectory that would have guys staying up late to argue on the internet over its fate? And that each time they did a robust scorn for the Malaysian government would be renewed? Maybe everything really is political.

  18. Accountant

    We are all attracted to a mystery, it’s part of human nature.Since my retirement from the breathless excitement of daily flying a desk and a double entry ledger, I’ve taken to writing short fiction, to keep the old neurons from degenerating. Consequently this particular saga has come to absorb an inordinate amount of my time. I actually like Mr Wise’s theory. I don’t believe it, but it has promise as a good yarn. In fact I created a Russian arms dealer in one of my recent stories, who’d fit into it pretty well. But seriously, and the deaths of 240 people is as serious as it gets, I also favour the mentally disturbed pilot scenario. Particularly as we know that he had some involvement with the recently imprisoned Malaysian opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim, on what may or may not be trumped up charges. It’s impossible to know what Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah’s mental state was on that fateful day. We never will and perhaps the time is approaching to put it behind us, and hope it never happens again.

  19. comet

    Some people suspect MH370 was carrying gold bullion in its cargo. It also was said to be carrying more volatile lithium than a Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

    As a hypothetical thought, gold bullion would most likely survive a crash, even into terrain.

  20. Confirmed Sceptic

    At around 39 million per tonne back then (and now) the math doesn’t work. Kill enough people and there wouldn’t be enough money in the world to keep you free.

    Regarding fires: I keep making the point that the satellite antenna aiming system requires many separate sophisticated components widely scattered throughout the aircraft, including the cockpit, underfloor electronics compartment, overhead the mid galley, the upper fuselage, at least one working generator, the CMU, the IRSs, etc etc. Working satellite handshakes are completely inconsistent with a major fire.

  21. Glen

    Yubileyniy building (no, not the one demolished; that is further away, out of shot to the left):

    And here’s a photo apparently taken from that building, looking the other way, across the strip towards the Buran launch pad in the distance:

    And nice amateur pics of Buran (love the kid…):

    The demo site is here; note not even a traficable taxiway to the strip:,63.221233&spn=0.002631,0.006196&t=h&z=18
    Bing has more recent imagery, showing the clean-up works in progress (still no viable “taxiway”):

    No Ben I did not read all of Wise’s article, and I never will. Simply boring. FWIW I thought it smacked of a particular kind of cold war racism … as do several comments above. Why wasn’t he busy reviewing sat pics of the back-blocks of Nevada, or Western Australia for that matter.

  22. Glen

    Buran of course flew just once in 1988, sans cosmonauts and entirely by remote control, long before drone technology made that routine. Despite the mission completing successfully, the Russians cancelled the program, wisely deciding that Soyuz was cheaper and safer. Subsequent events have multiply validated that decision. Soyuz is currently the only operational human launch system anywhere — in the Russian form and its Chinese derivative (Shenzhou). (Musk’s capsule could carry people at a pinch, but is not yet human-rated, while NASA’s new effort is still half a decade from human flight. And of course Branson’s thing is in pieces, and was never an orbital launch system anyway.)

    It’s interesting that Buran is usually referred to in the west as “the highly secret Russian shuttle”. Apparently it wasn’t so secret that workers couldn’t take amateur photographs of it. Buran was unfortunately destroyed in a snow load-induced roof collapse at the hanger housing it, in May 2002.

    BTW, one site I looked at said Yubileyniy is now used for limited “passenger and charter” flights, with Kazakh customs facilities. Maybe you can buy a ticket there…

  23. John


    You write: “If this terrible suspicion about inaccurate Inmarsat data is true…”

    One nagging problem with the data is the conflicting explanation of what the data meant. The ping ring BTO data has been described in a few places as “round trip” times, minus a nominal terminal which had to be figured out after the plane disappeared. In other places it was described as the time between the start of a signal block and the actual arrival time of the signal.

    These appear to be mutually exclusive definitions, and neither makes complete sense, and yet both were reported by the ATSB and/or Inmarsat at various times. There’s no good reason for this discrepancy in the definition, and one has to wonder whether the owners of the data have overlooked or compounded an error.

    Nowhere, it seems, has anyone reported or presented a believable explanation for the logged BTO values. It requires a simple timeline – to the effect of “this is when the signal was sent, this is when it was expected, and this is when it was received,” along with “this is the value that gets logged.”

    It seems everyone has moved past this discrepancy, whether they accept the data or not, and yet resolving this discrepancy would potentially lead to either viable alternative theories or a broader consensus around the existing theories.

  24. Iskandar

    Ho Hum. This is really scraping the bottom of the barrel. When all else fails, go back to the 1950’s and blame it on the Russians. Another tiresome smoke-screen effort to deflect from the most obvious, that the last known (or publicised) trajectory had MH370 flying WSW towards a certain military base in the Indian Ocean. This theory has been extensively canvassed and blanket denials have of course been imposed, so until some whistleblower pops up whose conscience is tormenting him, silly speculations like this are just stuff of spy fiction.

  25. Glen

    John, horses mouth on BTO is here:

    It’s the full round trip time: ground to sat to aircraft to sat to ground. There is no delay at the satellite turn-arounds (it’s a simple analogue transponder; no demodulate-remodulate). There is delay at the aircraft satcom turn around, which is presumed to be fixed. The recorded data also includes some ground station delay, also assumed to be fixed.

  26. Glen

    So the potential sources of error are:

    >> Ground station location. Originally that was not quite right; is now.
    >> Ground station delay and measurement accuracy. Presumably that is tightly constrained; there would be bucket loads of data.
    >> Satellite location. Despite Mr Chillit’s recent bleatings, this is Inmarsat’s core business. I bet they have it to a kilometre or so. A few years back keeping the sat in a tight box was mandatory, because otherwise high gain fixed antenna wouldn’t see it in adverse conditions (rain). Not so much now — they save fuel by letting it drift with the tidal tug of the moon and sun; antennas are lower gain, or else can actively point.
    >> Aircraft satcom response time. That is going to vary with the particular satcom, so requires calibration. Easy; there is known-location ground data. But did it vary in flight for some reason? The apparent source of Mr Gunson’s theorising.

    There’s nothing inherently inaccurate about satellite signal travel time ranging; most people rely on it every day. It’s called GPS, and with suitable error correction it routinely gives real-time sub-centimetre accuracy. You just need to properly constrain the variables.

  27. John

    Thanks Glen. I’ve read that link. There are a few problems with that account.

    First, round trip times would be, for example, 511,000 microseconds. The logged BTO values are on the order of 15,000. The description you link to states that a “nominal terminal,” or constant, is subtracted out so that the logged 15000 number is 511000 minus a constant of approximately 496000.

    Here’s my problem with that: in order to be subtracted out, the constant must be known in *advance* of writing the log file entries. But we know the constant wasn’t known, because Inmarsat and ATSB had to figure it out. How did the software subtract it and log it, if nobody knew it yet?

    That means that at the time the log was written, nobody knew exactly what the number being logged actually represented, OR that the numbers being called BTOs are not the raw values but have been manipulated.

    There are other problems: the signals are actually several seconds apart, not a round trip time apart. So calculating and logging round trip would have required excluding several gaps.

    Further, Inmarsat’s paper in the Journal of Navigation contradicts the round trip story:

    “The BTO is a measure of how long from the start of that time slot the transmission is received. ”

    Still other sources state that BTOs, like BFOs, are fully compensated, so that the signal is scheduled for an upcoming time slot and arrives at a particular time regardless of distance, ensuring that time slots are not wasted. Note that most of the log entries have time stamps of .405 or .905 after the second. Since the log is on the ground, this is presumably the arrival time, strongly suggesting compensation was occurring.

    Of course, I’m focused solely on the logging mechanism, because it’s a non-critical, low priority software function and therefore prone to error and misinterpretation. I agree that Inmarsat knows exactly where the satellite is.

    I also think there could be explanations for some of the contradictions, but to date, none have been complete and public. That leads me to wonder if the logging software is as well-understood as we’re led to believe.

  28. Glen

    I don’t know that there’s any actual contradiction John. It’s a synchronous, time-slice multiplexed system (more than one satcom per channel, but not a huge number). So the MH370 satcom tries to hit its slot, and BTO can be interpreted as how well it goes at that. But note it’s an old, low bit rate design; tolerances need not be tight. No need for compensation, and none is mentioned anywhere.

    But there is weirdness with the reboot handshake sequence. Do they get the interpretation right? The seventh ring is a reboot, thought to have been triggered by power outage after second engine flame-out. The RAT deploys and later the APU auto-starts (presumably some fuel somewhere) and then the satcom takes about two and a half minutes to boot up, before dying part way through its start-up handshake procedure (impact, loss of attitude control preventing antenna pointing, or just APU exhausts fuel).

    Inmarsat will have checked most of this against lots of real world data. Gross error is just about impossible, but the little things, the uncertainty … not so sure. Reason enough for some real-world proof-of-model testing I would have thought — especially of a simulated in-flight power outage and reboot, around the right spot, at the right time.

  29. Glen

    ^^Not right; it’s simpler. The ground station sends “Are you there?”; satcom, listening, notes that the message is addressed to it (others are on line), and responds promptly with “I am here”. BTO is the time offset between the two, measured on the ground — the time between sending the request and receiving the answer. The recorded value is not the raw timing; it’s the value after subtraction of a large fixed offset. There is no compensation because there is no opportunity — the satcom cannot know the request is coming, therefore cannot send its response early to compensate for longer travel time. (Routinely sending it late — so that it can send it earlier when further away — would just waste frequency occupation time.)

  30. HappyCake Oven

    Dan Dair
    Meanwhile, a civilian Boeing 777 (a very large metal aircraft), with no stealth capability, no electronic countermeasures & no ability to fly either exceptionally fast or exceptionally high is supposed to have evaded the combined radars of something up to seven separate countries, including India & Pakistan (who’re virtually at war with eachother) and China (who’s wary of absolutely everyone).

    Additionally, the idea that such a large aircraft could land or crash anywhere in the world & no-one would notice or that the information about such an incident wouldn’t ‘seep-out’ into the attention sphere of the Western worlds’ intelligence services is beyond my grasp.

    I thought the same. Note that the whole reason we’re even looking at this site in the first place is because it offers automated landing – which is essential for our untrained crew, who apparently don’t know much about flying the plane, beyond the kind of piloting skills they need to navigate the Himalayas off radar with no RWR at night or shadow another plane. Of course, it seems so obvious!

    It’s weird stuff – the kind facts bent for insertion into a conclusion shaped hole familiar from a million other conspiracy theories. I thought the stuff on Wise’s blog about the curious “777 shaped hole” they’ve apparently dug on site was the funniest. Really – a hole that matches the wingspan of a 777 just about almost if you squeeze it wingtip to wingtip? I don’t suppose that it would occur to these people to disassemble the plane as is done in construction or maintenance at any point – clearly going that far was beyond them, in a way that tracelessly excavating however many tonnes of earth for the hole was not.

  31. michael r james

    #10 Zipper at 7:05 pm

    No, no. That’s not the way the Multiverse works. MH370 could have two different histories but they would each be in their own universe. It doesn’t disappear from one and reappear in another. doh!
    But (#15 & others) I have wondered if there is not a relationship between MH17 & MH370. Can we be sure the debris field in Eastern Ukraine didn’t contain wreckage from two planes? And a few hundred stray bodies in that war zone …
    As for the secret cargo? Conspiracy theory #98: gold. While most of the world is selling off its gold reserves (since it hasn’t served any monetary function since 1972) but China is building theirs up. Why secret? Well, Malaysia might be doing some trading under the official radar in collusion with China and not reporting it to the World Gold Council. Or it might even be extra-governmental since this is Malaysia … and China…
    Oh, and of course in this theory, the pilot is bribed to do this diversionary thing while dumping the e-tagged gold in the South China Sea (the reason for the low altitude interlude) then diverting over the Andaman Sea where he sets up the new course over the Indian Ocean just before he bails … (there is no reason for it to be suicide).
    Oh, they all laughed but you guys should listen to me because I won the Nobel Prize (Physiol & Med; I was this close–holding up opposed thumb and forefinger–several times in my career) in a parallel universe.

  32. John

    Glen, that was my understanding as well – that the plane responded promptly and therefore a round trip could be measured.

    The logs don’t show it responding promptly, though. It’s usually 5-7 seconds later. So using only the signal times, the round trip could not be determined because of the long delay in between.

    The other thing – the fixed constant being subtracted – if that had been the case, Inmarsat would not have needed to derive it last March, because presumably they would know what the fixed constant their software was subtracting, no?

    Finally, according to Inmarsat themselves, the system uses a slotted aloha protocol. That protocol necessarily tells the airplane which slot to respond in, far enough in advance to allow for any distance. “Responding promptly” would lead to collisions. Responding in an upcoming slot would eliminate collisions at the expense of some latency.

    Of course, if responses are placed in slots, then they logically can’t be measured for round trip. That’s basically my point – the protocol, by the way it’s designed, prevents any round trip measurement from signal times. If I say, for example, call me right away, I can measure exactly when you got my message. But if I say call me at exactly 3:00 because I have somebody on the line at 2:00, I can’t tell when you got it because the time slotting destroys that information.

  33. James O'Neill

    Ben, you are too kind to Mr Wise. The article claims that Putin stole the plane and landed it in Kazakhstan at the “crumbling” Baikonur spaceport. Evidence for this fantastic theory? Well, Wise admits he doesn’t have any. Nor does he have any motive for this heist. He said in the article that Russia was a “paranoid fantasists dream” and when he heard that Russia was also suspected of responsibility for the downing of MH17 it “seemed so perfectly to tie the bow”.

    This hasn’t stopped the msm giving credence to this insane theory. The Daily Mail had a big headline saying “Putin ordered Russian special forces to steal MH370 and secretly land it in Kazakhstan.”

    As other comments have pointed out, even if you accepted this fantastical theory, you would have to argue that all the countries that MH370 would have had to fly over or near were also in on Putin’s conspiracy.

    It all fits too conveniently in the general Putin bashing going on in the msm. It is absolute BS and you should know better than to give it a nanosecond of thought.

  34. Glen

    But it’s multi-channel John; we’re talking stuff on the control channel (“R-channel”). Maybe some of what you mention refers to the data channel? Think you’ll find the relevant lines in the data dump (“R-channel”) refer to a completed handshake — a send and respond. You don’t relate one line to the next to get BTO; it’s measured and recorded separately for each relevant line. (It’s not feasible that the thing could be as wrong as you say. It simply wouldn’t work at all.)

    I think the biggest outstanding problem for the MH370 search may be the nature of the seventh ping ring. It’s clearly a satcom reboot, but what triggered that? The search design assumes a power outage after fuel exhaustion, but what if, say, someone briefly turned off the satcom power, turned it back on again, then turned it off as soon as it booted? Ridiculously contrived, sure, until you note that something not dissimilar appears to have happened earlier in the flight, way back over the Straits of Malacca. If the reboot was manually triggered before fuel exhaustion, chances are the thing will never be found. An arbitrary seventh ring plus some rough estimate of remaining endurance will likely give too large a target for a practical search.

    BTW Ben, I see Wise is now saying his article was a spoof. If so, an effective but very oddly executed one.

  35. ken svay

    Lots of comments here so we are all still fascinated by the mystery. I was in the library today leafing through thrillers and thinking of MH370 and what a great story it is. Personally I wouldn’t put too much faith in other countries military radar systems being on the ball in the middle of the night, didn’t it fly over Butterworth with no reaction”
    I would like to know what the secret cargo was, why is it still a secret on a commercial flight? But I always wondered why it took so long to find the Sydney, it was as if governments didn’t want it found. But as it turned out it was just another sunken ship.

  36. John

    Glen, the request for a logon/log off goes out on the P channel, and the response comes back on the R channel. P appears to be the control channel. No BTOs are logged on P, only R (and I believe only on the initial burst, not the additional packets sent as part of the same message).

    The 19:41 “ping” for example originated with a request on the P channel. A response was received 1.996 seconds later on R and a BTO of 11500.

    The 00:11 response was received in only 1.928 seconds, despite the plane being further away. The BTO was 18040. (The other pings are similar.)

    That’s the issue right there: neither 1.996 or 1.928 seconds can be the round time, and the earlier one took longer but the plane was closer. There must be an intermediate time stamp used to calculate the BTOs, because there’s no way to obtain it from the logged time stamps.

    As for the protocol, these exchanges fit. The satellite tells the plane to respond in a time slot that starts in approximately 2 seconds. That’s enough time for the plane to receive the request on the P channel, and time the response so that it is received in the proper R channel time slot. At least as the protocol is currently written, the delay in responding is determined by the plane’s location, which is exactly how the plane compensates frequency.

    Keep in mind that the plane uses data from the flight system to compensate frequency so that the satellite receives the response on the right frequency, thus preventing interference on the wrong frequency. Why wouldn’t the very same compensation be taking place on the timing, so that signals don’t land in the wrong time slot? If you have 8 time slots per second, and 8 frequencies, you have 64 effective slots. If responses come in randomly, those 8 slots get jumbled and collisions occur. Same with the 8 frequencies. The only way to keep the system running smoothly is to compensate both frequency and timing, letting the ground station dictate exactly which slot every response is expected in.

  37. Tango

    40% covered, 60 to go

    And the guys contention is based on hind sight.

    Like someone would figure out that you shut the rest of the tracking down and the ping would continue and you could get possible arch data from it.

    bunch of nonsense.

  38. Grizzly

    Glenn #22

    You are correct in saying that the Buran that flew into space was later destroyed in a hangar roof collapse. However, several other Burans built for space flight are still in existence. Also, a Buran built and used for atmospheric tests was later sold and put on public display, including in Sydney at about the time of the Sydney Olympics. It is now on permanent display at the Technik Museum Speyer in Germany, and I saw it, had a walk around inside it, and photographed it, there last year.

  39. pa31

    ATSB fronted the Australian Senate on 24th February and gave an update. The vision and Hansard report are here:

  40. Ben Sandilands


    It was also reported here the following day and read or viewed more than 30,000 times.

  41. Michael R

    If a plane full of Chinese passengers landed in Russian territory, elementary politics would tell you that China orchestrated the hijack, not Russia.

    Russia and China are allies. There is no chance in hell that Putin would hijack a plane of Chinese passengers. He would never risk enraging the Chinese. So, Russia must be working with China in this ruse.

    Why would China do this? To snoop around and map the Indian Ocean? To win more market share for its airline business? Who knows. But don’t forget these are the people who wrote The Art Of War.

    China is a leading global mischief maker (via cyberwar). If China is up to no good in the cyberwar realm, shouldn’t we also conclude they’re up to no good in other realms?

    ALSO, compare the pictures of grieving Chinese families with those of Malaysia and Australia. What do you notice? The Chinese families almost never show photos of their “dead” relatives, whereas the Malaysian and Australian families boldly show photos. Is this a weird Chinese cultural thing, or is this fake Chinese grieving?

    e.g. See these mostly obscured photos of family relatives. Very strange:

    And didn’t the grieving Chinese families in Malaysia seem a little over dramatic?

    Jeff Wise deserves applause for thinking outside the box. He admits he doesn’t know why Putin would hijack the plane. He obviously knows nothing about geopolitics. If Jeff’s data is correct then China orchestrated the whole thing, and Russia is playing a bit part.

  42. Justine

    Khazakhstan? & there was me the first week joking it fell down the Door To Hell.

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