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air crashes

Mar 7, 2016

Possible new MH370 fragments point to likely high speed impact

Subject to positive identification, physicist and independent MH370 investigator Duncan Steel says the possible new fragments of the missing 777 found in Mozambique and on La Reunio


The Dropbox album of Blaine Gibson's Mozambique find
The Dropbox album of Blaine Gibson’s Mozambique find

Subject to positive identification, physicist and independent MH370 investigator Duncan Steel says the possible new fragments of the missing 777 found in Mozambique and on La Reunion are consistent with a high speed impact with the ocean.

In several posts on his website, Dr Steel also publishes, via Dropbox, a rang of images of floating debris that may have come from the crashed jet as photographed by an RNZAF Orion aircraft early in the aerial search phase after the Malaysia Airlines flight vanished on 8 March 2014 with 239 people on board en route from Kuala Lumpur and Beijing.

He underlines the point that none of the new photos released under a New Zealand Freedom of Information request necessarily show objects that are from MH370, yet suggests that not everything seen by multi-national search for floating wreckage may have been properly checked out.

These latest posts, one featuring the aerial search photos, and the other  providing information and analysis of the new fragments, also include a more extensive photo album of the possible fragment of the horizontal stabiliser found by US researcher Blaine Gibson, on a sandbar in the Mozambique Channel last week.

They also link to an Australian website set up to track floating plastics in the world’s oceans but which has now found a new role in predicting how debris from MH370 may have been dispersed in the Indian Ocean over time starting from points in the priority sea floor search zone SW of Western Australia.

In the second post on the new suspected fragments, Steel writes:

Three pieces of aircraft debris that may be associated with MH370 have now been found: the flaperon discovered in La Réunion last July, and in the past week or so two items that appear likely to be smaller fragments of the rear stabilisers, one found in Mozambique and the other again in La Réunion. For a brief discussion of these two new discoveries, please see my preceding post.

The condition of the latter two items appears to be consistent with the aircraft having disintegrated in a high-speed impact into the ocean. The flaperon photographs have been interpreted as being consistent with failure of its attachment fittings to the wing due to violent fluttering after hydraulic power being lost following electrical power failure after fuel exhaustion.

A more rigorous understanding of what may have occurred in each of these three cases awaits: (a) Confirmation that the recently-found two pieces are indeed from MH370; and (b) Analysis by suitable experts of the physical condition of all three. In connection with that, I mention that we await a public release by the French authorities of the results of their inspection of the flaperon; the delay in this regard seems unconscionable.

What we do know is that the discovery locations of the latest two items almost two years after the disappearance of MH370 is consistent with oceanic drift from a crash location around latitude 37S on the 7th Arc. It is also conceivable that the crash may have occurred some distance from that location (say between 30S and 35S on that arc), but the discovery of those debris items at this time is not contrary to the hypothesis that the aircraft came down around 37S.

Steel’s post about the early aerial search raise some doubts about the thoroughness with which potential debris seen SW of Australia was examined.

Many people have argued in different venues that the lack of any obvious floating debris field in the ocean around the priority search region (between 35S and 40S adjacent to the 7th Arc) implies one or other of the following two things: either (i) The aircraft made a controlled landing in that region and so remained largely intact; or (ii) It crashed somewhere else entirely.

It would seem that the discovery of the latest (yet to be confirmed) items from MH370 – and, presumably, there will be more to follow – comprise evidence that such a floating debris field must have existed at some stage following the crash, with later (and ongoing) dispersal. The question then arises: why was such a debris field not detected from the patrol aircraft sent out over the Indian Ocean for just this reason?

Many of the aircraft in question were RAAF (Royal Australian Air Force) P3 Orions; there were also P-8A Poseidon aircraft from the US Navy’s VP-16 ‘War Eagles’ squadron on detachment in Okinawa, and other military and civilian aircraft. For overall information about the MH370 air search, see here.

Another Orion was provided by the RNZAF (Royal New Zealand Air Force). Information of the role played by the RNZAF team was made available through various media, such as here and here. That RNZAF flew many sorties as part of the overall search effort.

On at least one of those sorties a journalist was on board, and he filed reports for several news media sites. These reports included some of the photographs of the ocean surface collected by the military personnel. A few of those photographs have already been made public (for example here, and here), but most have not.

It was stated in late March 2014 by the Commander of Joint Forces of the NZDF (New Zealand Defence Force) that various floating items were seen in the whole collection of photographs, and that these might be debris from MH370. On the same day (March 30th) it was widely understood that “All ships in the search area were being tasked to locate and identify the objects sighted by aircraft over the past two days.”

Despite the above, no announcement was made that any of the floating debris that could be associated with MH370; on the other hand, it is not clear whether the items observed from the RNZAF Orion (and, presumably, also from RAAF, and other, aircraft) were all followed up either from the air, or by surface vessels.

In fact the few technical media or aviation reporters covering the early search, including myself, did raise concerns in print, and in electronic media interviews, with the haste with which places where potential MH370 debris was sighted were quickly, perhaps prematurely dropped for more north-easterly search areas.

That period in the search was characterised by optimism that the missing jet would soon be found, and came right at the end of period in which items such as bodies, emergency floats or slides, and items of clothing and cabin furnishings, were most likely going to become unrecoverable or very widely dispersed.

Public discussion of the loss of MH370 has succumbed to the strange amnesia apparent in social media, in which many of the loudest voices are the ones ignorant of the early sequence of events, and baffled by the technicalities that do not fit easily into video grabs or preconceptions.

The IG or Independent Group of scientists, which includes Duncan Steel, has regularly raised concerns about the assumptions or at times, lack of detail, provided by the official search and its strategic advisors, as well as trying to address some of misplaced criticism of those efforts from other quarters.

The validation, or repudiation, of the latest fragments attributed to the crashed airliner is of far reaching importance. And on remote shores, the search for more potential clues to solving the riddles of the world’s greatest aviation mystery continues.


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12 thoughts on “Possible new MH370 fragments point to likely high speed impact

  1. comet

    It’s a terrible feeling to realise that people in high places know vital information about what went on, but are refusing to say.

    The French may have held back their report if it was going to implicate Malaysian politicians, as France still requires Malaysian cooperation. But yes, it is unconscionable.

  2. Ben Sandilands

    I think we need to understand how the public prosecutor’s office works in France. Its mandate is focused on the deaths of French citizens with a view to possible criminal charges.

    The speed with which it released information about the deaths of said citizens on board the Germanwings flight was unusual but within its powers. Often it moves at glacial speed, or not at all. It isn’t bound by ICAO protocols. It is entirely possible if the defence lab investigation into the flaperon that it ordered didn’t reveal anything directly relevant to the loss of life of French nationals onboard and it therefore isn’t going to say anything. This is of course highly unsatisfactory from the point of view of those of us trying to understand MH370.

  3. Glen

    Steel’s stuff has troubled me from time to time, but this appears quality work. It’s worth looking at the RNZAF FOI pic selection if only to note how clean most look: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/2zfktjiq374lhbe/AABECzruTPlBumNd3x9CH6Q4a?dl=0

    I suspect fouling on the dark underside of a boat in harbour and fouling on small pieces of floating debris in the open ocean may be very different things.

  4. Dan Dair

    If your suggestion
    ‘It is entirely possible if the defence lab investigation into the flaperon that it ordered didn’t reveal anything directly relevant to the loss of life of French nationals onboard and it therefore isn’t going to say anything’ is accurate,
    would it not be in the interests of the ATSB/JACC investigation to formally ask the French authorities for copies of their findings.?

    In the light of how sensible & obvious this suggestion is,
    Do you think that there’s actually any liklihood of the ATSB/JACC formally asking for this information.?

  5. comet

    Two years ago, as I write this, MH370 was on its way.

  6. Fred

    The Malaysian Ministry of Transport has released its 2nd Interim Report regarding the progress of the investigation into the disappearance of MH370. It doesn’t contain anything new.

    It can be found here:

  7. Nicky Mark

    If the third debris is confirmed from mh370, then the current search site near australia must be a mistake, because it’s not possible for two tiny debris to travel from about 2000 miles away, and land together exactly at a same tiny remote island. This scenario is only possible if the crash site is extremely near to the reunion island.

  8. Simon Gunson

    Ben said:

    >Public discussion of the loss of MH370 has succumbed to the strange amnesia apparent in social media, in which many of the loudest voices are the ones ignorant of the early sequence of events, and baffled by the technicalities that do not fit easily into video grabs or preconceptions.

    Unfortunately Ben the penny still has not dropped with you that hypoxic flight south and the Malacca Straits detour are mutually exclusive. If one is right then the other is wrong. Since so many people cherry pick which facts they remember allow me to acquaint you with your amnesia:

    The Puzzle of MH370 is like a jigsaw puzzle that got scooped off the floor and mixed up with pieces from another puzzle. There are too many pieces to this puzzle which is why they don’t all fit.

    11 March 2014 RMAF General Rodzali Daud revealed to New Straits Times that MH370 was tracked by “Butterworth Radar” flying IGARI-VAMPI-GIVAL-IGREX. He said it passed close by Pelau Perak at 18:15 UTC and disappeared at IGREX at 18:40 UTC

    You seem to be practicing selective amnesia if you can’t recall that early statement. Then came a press Statement denying that Rodzali Daud gave the interview and the article was mysteriously withdraw by NST. The the Malaysian Government appointed Ketchum PR agency to handle the press.

    Next Hishamuddin Hussein at a press conference talked about MH370 diving to 5,000ft and being thrown around like a fighter plane to avoid Radar detection (despited the fact TAS would have reduced to 350knots at 5,000ft). According to Hishamuddin Hussein after it disappeared at IGARI, MH370 was not seen again until 18:02 UTC crossing over Pelau Perak.

    On 21 March 2014 came the leaking of images from the Lido Hotel in Beijing which airline and embassy officials told Chinese relatives were Radar images of MH370.

    From March 2014 until March 2015 when the “FI” Report was released Putra Jaya never disclosed any claims that MH370 was seen on Radar between Kota Bharu & Penang. People apply selective amnesia when they forget Malaysia originally said MH370 was not seen again until 18:02.

    Then at a press conference on 4th April 2014 reporters quizzed Hishamuddin & other ministers about images leaked from the Lido Hotel. Director General of Civil Aviation Azharrudin Abdul Rahman made the shattering announcement that the images were “untrue” and were merely created for Chinese relatives by Ketchum PR. He said they were never intended for public consumption.

    People practice selective amnesia forgetting that the Malaysian Government declared the Lido images were untrue.

    Radar claims which Malaysia promised Victor Iannello they would corroborate on the second anniversary have never been backed up by the release of original tapes. Those Radar claims have changed continuously. Evidence for a detour through the Straits are fake and has this has thrown the whole investigation.

    The Satellite data needs to have a validated start point, otherwise we don’t know where MH370 was at 18:25 UTC. The Malaysian Government conveniently provided us with a fake start point courtesy of an image faked by a PR firm.

  9. Ben Sandilands


    Almost everything you have said about what HH said appears to be fictional. I cannot find any original evidence of the acting minister for transport having actually said those things in as many words in any direct quotes.

    I can find Reddit running a discussion about a claimed New York Times report that doesn’t actually exist, and a lot of references to supposed references that don’t exist either.

    In your own commentary you have often contradicted other statements you have made.

    The main reason I avoid making comments on radar data is that there is a massive of amount of fabricated or flawed recollections as to what was said in the first, second and third instance, all of which is superbly assisted by the Malaysia authorities failing, as many have pointed out, to actually release an official, annotated and timed record of what it really is that they claim was and was not seen on radar and when. And so forth.

    The underlying reason the Malaysian authorities seldom respond in any meaningful way to inquiries, even the politest and most innocuous of inquiries, is that the default setting of public administration in Malaysia (and one has to say, a large part of the Australian public service) is to be totally unaccountable to anyone, and treat the public and media with condescending contempt.

    They have never spoken to ‘us’ in the past, and they have absolutely no intention of speaking to ‘us’ in the present.

    The role of the media, and the grateful and compliant public, is to accept without question, the official narrative. In its most recent form. Not the official narrative the previous day, or sometimes the previous hour. Just what the god like figures that toss us the occasional line said the last time an utterance fell from their lips. It is not the role of the media, or the grateful compliant public, to actually have a memory, or even understand the concept of memory.

    In my opinion the Malaysian authorities, that is civil, military and regulatory, never thought about actually getting on the same page at the same moment to offer a robust and coherent and uniform account of anything. I doubt that they could be relied upon to agree on the sunrise and sunset times over Penang never mind anything as intricate as a military radar installation.

    Rather than respond to reasonable requests to get their sh*t together, they just pretend there are no inconsistencies, and that everyone will get bored and go away, and that things like hours and minutes are just distractions anyway.

    But, we do know how long MH370 flew, we have a fuel load that matches its initial climb performance, we know that certain electrical and electronic events occurred in a sequence that may be significant, such as the disabling of ACARS some time before the flight diverted (for whatever reason) and we know that no matter how crappy the data sent through the Inmarsat satellite might have been, it had to travel at the speed of light between the jet and the satellite, as did the sat phone ring outs, and that this puts constraints on where the jet was, and in which direction general direction it was travelling, on a rather small number of occasions.

    One thing I am reasonably sure of is that when the fuller story of MH370 is unambiguously revealed, a great deal of theorising based on layers of assumptions and second hand falsehoods will come unstuck.

  10. Simon Gunson

    Well we agree on your last statement entirely Ben.

    Chris Goodfellow and I started a Facebook group called #VeritasMH370. It is admittedly shambolic at present with growing pains, but we have the specific aim of mounting a Private search at 45.30S,85.30E. This is where Chinese scientists used reverse drift analysis of floating objects seen in March 2014 to identify a likely point of impact.

    If we find MH370 there, then that will invalidate the radar evidence and then the world will know who has lied.

  11. Fred

    …and if you don’t??

  12. Dan Dair

    …..then quite clearly, it won’t.

    However, there is a large element in the ‘factors’ which were used to calculate the final search area, which involves knowing exactly where MH370 was prior to turning South & how much flying-time was taken-up not heading South.

    If the information provided by the Malaysian authorities is factually incorrect, then by definition, the final calculations about where MH370 crashed will be in error, possibly by a considerable margin.

    As far as I’m aware, & obviously I could easily be wrong, each Inmarsat ‘ping’ gives a point in time snapshot, which needs to have at least one position, verified in both time & place, to calculate the subsequent & final positions from. (based on other approximations of height & speed)
    If they have used the Malaysian information as factual, their calculation will be flawed.


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