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Mar 1, 2016

Full MH370 search will likely end early July

The chief commissioner of the ATSB, Martin Dolan, has just extended the likely end of the full search of the south Indian Ocean priority zone for MH370 to early July.

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A possible debris trail which will be rescanned
A possible debris trail which will be rescanned

The chief commissioner of the ATSB, Martin Dolan, has just extended the likely end of the full search of the south Indian Ocean priority zone for MH370 to early July.

This compares to late May to early June in previous guidance from the search managers.

Appearing on ABC News 24, Mr Dolan said he was confident that the search would however end sooner with the finding of the wreckage of the Malaysia Airlines 777-200ER which disappeared on 8 March 2014 with at least 239 people on board on its way from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

The flight was at 35,000 feet over the Gulf of Thailand when its identifying air traffic control transponder ceased operating.

Less than 35,000 square kilometres of the 120,000 square kilometres believed to be the most likely area in which the jet came down remain to be searched in detail by sonar scanning devices.

However the final stages of the search effort include repeat scanning of sea floor terrain that may have been too deep or too complex to be satisfactorily examined by the initial equipment used in the priority area SW of Perth.

These final examinations of areas of doubt are being assisted by the use of a very high definition synthetic aperture towed sonar scanner on board a large Chinese rescue vessel that joined the ATSB managed search late last month.

Mr Dolan said that should no sunk wreckage be found the search will cease because it would have to be concluded that there was no possibility (or probability) of finding MH370.

He reaffirmed the assumption being made by the search advisers and managers that there was no-one at the controls of MH370 at the end of the flight.

However he said “there is a possibility that there was someone at the controls” until the very final stages of the flight.  He didn’t rule out the possibility that control was exercised to some extent right to the very end.

This is a nuanced shift away from the previous position of the ATSB that MH370 flew without pilot input for most if not all of its flight after it turned south from a westerly or northwesterly course off the coast of southern Thailand when last seen as a non transponder identified radar return on Malaysian military radar.

Why might this be important? The analysis the ATSB is relying upon from ‘pings’ generated by a server on board MH370 and picked up by an Inmarsat communications satellite supports a total loss of control during the very final moments of the flight, when they implied that the jet spiralled downwards to impact with the ocean after all fuel on board had been exhausted.

However that analysis doesn’t preclude pilot control of MH370 prior to the fuel running out, even though the declared assumption until this morning’s TV interview was that for most of the flight southwards this was a ‘ghost’ flight with no-one exercising any flight control inputs.

That earlier assumption did not come with a firm, provable, starting point for the southward journey, nor did it declare a point along the southward flight where any pilot input ended.

This isn’t grounds for criticising that lack of precision. Without being sighted or tracked after it was last seen off Thailand, and with apparently unbroken radio silence from its cockpit, there was nothing that would have allowed the search assumptions for MH370 to be that precise.

This lack of knowledge as to what exactly MH370 did between being last seen by military radar and beginning its southerly trajectory means the definition of the priority search area in the south Indian Ocean is beset by major critical uncertainties.

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18 comments

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18 thoughts on “Full MH370 search will likely end early July

  1. Fred

    Ben,

    Regarding the image of a possible debris trail shown above, the JACC’s Operational Search Update dated 1 October 2015 states that this particular contact was resurveyed some time during the week preceding the update. The result was “contact is likely a result of a slight change in seabed relief or a patch of denser seabed”. Do you know if they are planning to resurvey this contact again with the high definition scanner?

  2. Ben Sandilands

    Fred,

    Not known. But in the run up to the end of the search my view is that ‘unlikely’ would be unsatisfactory as a term for any search site. ‘Unlikely’ would be read as ‘might be’ and quite rightly so as far as reasonable people might be concerned.

    Any suspect scans that weren’t checked at a resolution that would actually pick up small pieces of torn metal or flight data recorders would be a cause for unease. Such checks were made on the first shipwreck to be discovered on 7 March 2015 or thereabouts, and they went down to a resolution where individual starfish were imaged. It’s that quality of work that could reasonably be expected, and we have no reason to doubt the intention of the search to adhere to that high standard of work.

  3. GeorgeD

    It could have ended a year ago.

    There is nothing useful to be learned. Someone took control of the plane and flew it into the Indian Ocean. Tens of millions of dollars have been spent on this obvious fact.

    What has come out of this is the need for better tracking and location management, and better cockpit protocols and psychological support/management of pilots.

  4. Mayan

    If there is a debris field at the bottom of the ocean, that would suggest that the plane broke up, which one would think should have resulted in a large amount of floating debris.

    One of the things that confounds predictions about whether the plane was controlled or not when it made contact with the water, is that we don’t know the shape of sea surface – exactly what waves it landed on/crashed into – which could easily affect whether it would have remained mostly intact, or whether it would have been shredded.

  5. Tango

    There would have been debris.

    Sadly the Malaysian lied and Inmarsat did not go public with the ping information.

    This has gotten so convoluted I don’t have details exact, but it was something like 2 weeks before a search was made and I believe it was not done in the current target area.

    The best I ever read about why aircraft disappeared with no trace off the US Florida coast was time they went down. The so called Bermuda Triangle .

    If it they went down early and reported, search tended to find some debris.

    If it was late afternoon and search not able to start until the next day, none. gulf steam scattered it.

    They lost 5 (maybe 6) TBF off Florida in WWII and not a trace not to mention rescue Flying Boat (which was seen burning off the coast). Nothing found.

    So translate that into 2 whole weeks of high winds and seas and a lot of coast the stuff could get to and not be found (rolled up, hidden etc.).

    What you can go on is that they did find one piece that was within a couple of weeks of predicted where they predicted it would show up.

    There is also some evidence that a new US satellite system (for detecting rocket launches) may have had traces of that flight into the South Indian ocean.

    Not what it was intended to track but due to no traffic down there it might have shown up (unknown if traces, a trail or what, its all been kept under the hat)

    However, once the engines quit, that would have disappeared.

    With the gliding distance of 100 miles possible that is an incredibly large area.

  6. Simon Gunson

    Because Martin Dolan can’t complete a crossword puzzle does not mean there is no possibility of said crossword puzzle being solved.

    It just means Martin Dolan lacks the intellectual capacity to complete it.

    The limitation lays with the individual, not with the puzzle.

  7. Simon Gunson

    George D

    Nothing of the sort is known. MH370 suffered a massive electrical failure between 18:03 and 18:25. There was no power to the navigation system, ergo no pilot suicidal or otherwise could have flown the alleged route in the Straits of Malacca.

    If we listened to your genius advice mankind would still be living in caves

  8. Fred

    Simon,

    If, the aircraft did suffer such a massive electrical failure, how was power subsequently restored to enable the SDU to initiate a log-on at 18:25:27, and respond to subsequent pings from the GES? Also, how do you account for the log-on request initiated by the SDU at 00:19:29?

  9. Dan Dair

    Ben,
    “This lack of knowledge as to what exactly MH370 did between being last seen by military radar and beginning its southerly trajectory…”

    I fully appreciate that you are the messenger, not the originator of the message,
    however, in your summing-up you make the statement quoted above.

    I cannot definitively say you & the Malaysians are incorrect,
    but the balance of probabilities says that those Malaysian radar tracks were faked.

    It is almost inconceivable that Malaysian radar would be the only ones to have any ‘sighting’ of the flight-path which MH370 is supposed to have flown (at night & electronically ‘dark’, should have at least raised suspicions about the aircraft to adjacent nations defence systems.?)
    and
    impossible for it to have been at the waypoints identified by the radar tracking at the times stamped on the tracking without exceeding the capabilities of that type of aircraft when fully laden.?

    If those radar tracks are not an accurate reflection of the flight-path of MH370,
    it then becomes very plausible for the aircraft to have turned South immediately after ‘going dark’
    and consequently could be much further South than the current search area.

    The possibility then looms, that the spot where the original floating debris-field was spotted by satellite soon after the aircraft’s loss, could be the correct crash-site.
    .
    .
    Perhaps there is a contributor who could define whether the inherent inexactitude of the Inmarsat tracking would be able to rule out any possibility of the original debris-field actually being the crash site.?

  10. Ted Smith

    MH 370 WILL NEVER BE FOUND BECAUSE IT WAS JACKED TO THE 25TH DIMENSION BY BEINGS FROM THERE WHO COLLECT PEOPLE & STUFF FROM ALL OVER THE UNIVERSE & ALL TIME!!! NOW SSSHHHAAADDDUUUPPP, SSSHHHAAADDDUUUPPP, SSSHHHAAADDDUUUPP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    – TED SMITH, UPSTATE NEW YORK, USA

  11. Fred

    Dan Dair:

    I’m not sure I can answer your question definitively, but perhaps there’s a clue in the BTO range rings that came out the satellite data. Have a look at Figure 18: BTO ring solutions for 9M-MRO on page 20 of the ATSB’s report “MH370 – Definition of Underwater Search Areas” (http://www.atsb.gov.au/media/5668327/ae2014054_mh370__search_areas_30jul2015.pdf).

    The first ring in the sequence occurs at 1825 and is associated with the first handshake when the aircraft’s Satellite Data Unit logged on to the satellite. The second ring occurs at 1941 and is associated with a ‘ping’ from the ground station. The 1941 ring is closer to the satellite than the 1825 ring. For that to occur, the aircraft’s track during the time interval from 1825 to 1941 must have been somewhere between approximately north-west and approximately south-west, otherwise the track would not intercept both range rings.

    You will also note that both of those range rings are quite a long way west of the Malaysian peninsular. That would seem to rule out the southerly track proposed by Simon Gunson. It would take a huge error in the BTO data to move those range rings far enough east to make Simon’s theory a possibility.

  12. Fred

    Erratum to #11: Even a huge error in the BTO data would not make Simon’s theory possible. A southerly track simply would not intersect the 1825 and 1941 range rings.

  13. Steve Barrett

    Whether his theory is correct or not I still accept Simon’s reasoning that MH370 is not pilot suicide. Malaysian authorities inference that it was suicide sort of implies that it wasn’t. Their deception about flight path, freight manifest and radar data has a premeditated quality which is inconsistent with suicide. I accept these comments aren’t evidence based but there is not a lot of evidence with MH370.

    Malaysian authorities did get one thing right – the flaperon. A call which they made early…very early – and correctly. Speaking of which nothing from the French authorities here. I understand a report has been forwarded to Malaysia. Perhaps it may be released on the second anniversary of the crash?

  14. Fred

    Steve:

    I’m not keen on the ‘pilot suicide’ label either; I prefer ‘unlawful interference’. It is impossible to say with any certainty if that unlawful interference was committed by one of the pilots or by another party.

    I agree there is not a lot of evidence and none of the theories provide all the answers. At this stage there are far more questions than answers and that will always remain so, unless the aircraft is found and useful data recovered from the recorders.

    The satellite data shows that the aircraft’s track had a westerly component early in the flight as the aircraft moved closer to the satellite. That subsequently changed to an easterly component as the aircraft moved away from the satellite later in the flight. I struggle to understand how that change could have occurred without some kind of human interference at some point.

  15. Ben Sandilands

    Steve,

    With all due caution as to its accuracy, the much criticised official narrative from the Malaysian authorities has consistently been that the flight was deliberately diverted. It has never been part of that narrative that the captain committed suicide, although that conclusion is not unreasonable, yet definitely not a certainty.

    The official narrative seldom agreed on anything in a timely or convincing manner, but it never excluded intervention by another party even though it claimed that criminal checks provided no leads in relation to any of the passengers or crew.

    Where I sit, I’m with the early suspicion among certain major carriers that whatever the reason for the intervention, something then happened to change a course toward central Asia into a flight to oblivion in the southern Indian Ocean.

    I think, make that hope, that a public disclosure of previously unreleased intelligence will one day help us understand such a diversion and its purported failure.

  16. Tango

    Actually Simon, you have not a clue about what you are talking about.

    You are as ignorant and lacking any knowledge about aircraft ops as you are in courtesy.

    There is zero, and I repeat zero chance of what you claim occurred to have happened.

    Nothing more than another Von Donikan, and crash goes Simon.

    “Nothing of the sort is known. MH370 suffered a massive electrical failure between 18:03 and 18:25. There was no power to the navigation system, ergo no pilot suicidal or otherwise could have flown the alleged route in the Straits of Malacca. “

  17. Dan Dair

    Tango,
    “Actually Simon, you have not a clue about what you are talking about”
    Whilst I dispute that statement,
    I do agree with you about something in Simon’s quote you use at the end of your posting;

    It is a fact that “Nothing of the sort is known” in relation to George D’s posting,
    unfortunately, Simon then goes on to express his own theory as ‘known fact’ when it clearly isn’t.

    As you know, I believe that Simon’s overall theory holds more water than most of those reported or postulated here, but until some tangible evidence is found, it’s all just guesswork.
    .
    .
    Incidentally,
    Can you make the time to visit your purported countryman Ted Smith.?

    Since he’s still not grown-out of his one & only posting, perhaps you could forcibly take his computer off him, to prevent him from re-posting it.????

  18. Fred

    Dan Dair:

    The problem I have with Simon’s approach is that he quotes a lot of technical information that is pure nonsense and abuses anyone who dares to disagree. He also makes a lot of assumptions and claims them to be facts. At one time he was banging on about a fire originating in the aircraft’s Communications Management Unit (CMU), claiming that it was an irrefutable fact. He even posted pictures on the Internet, supposedly depicting a B777 CMU. There’s one big problem he failed to identify; the B777 doesn’t have a CMU. When that was pointed out to him by someone else, he rounded on that individual, accusing them of arrogance and lacking intellect.

    A massive technical failure is certainly a possibility, but the failure described by Simon doesn’t fit all the known facts, something he refuses to acknowledge.

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