air crashes

Mar 11, 2016

Analysis: Many fragments of MH370 could still be afloat

A stenciled part number on a fourth recovered potential fragment of MH370 has major implications for the search for the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200ER now missing for just over two

Ben Sandilands — Editor of Plane Talking

Ben Sandilands

Editor of Plane Talking

A stenciled part number on a fourth recovered potential fragment of MH370 has major implications for the search for the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200ER now missing for just over two years.

The part was found last December by a South African family holidaying in Mozambique but came to light this morning.

The part number corresponds with an access panel near the tip of the right hand side of wing of the jet, and is of similar part honeycomb structure to another fragment found on Mozambique last week by Blaine Gibson.

According to Duncan Steel, a member of the Independent Group studying the available evidence concerning the loss of MH370 the significance of the find (if confirmed) is as follows:

Small debris fragments are evidence of a high-speed impact into the ocean, and that would mean an uncontrolled spiral dive following fuel exhaustion. Such a dive would end up close to the 7th ping arc, and that is vital. Recent pronouncements out of Canberra have indicated that they think that the aircraft may have undergone a (controlled) glide following fuel exhaustion, and that is why it has not been found (because then it could have ended up (a) Intact, then sinking; and (b) Some distance from the 7th arc). The discovery of fragments such as those now in hand indicate that this did not occur, and it really did fall out of the sky close to the 7th arc.

In an analysis of drift patterns by another IG member, Richard Godfrey, published on Dr Steel’s website today, it is assumed that if 1000 pieces of debris were generated on impact by MH370, some 58 of them would be in the wider oceanic areas of La Réunion island and proximate shores including that of Mozambique.

When AF447 struck the mid Atlantic in 2009 it generated about 1000 items of recovered floating debris and considerably more that dispersed or sank before recovery, and it should be added, mostly within a time frame shorter than that prior to the start of the aerial search phase for MH370 two years ago.

The AF447 recovery effort also had the benefit of a starting point, while to this day no one knows exactly where MH370 hit the south Indian Ocean.

This is part of the report, which needs to read carefully and in full to understand the assumptions and the calculations.

The most likely location for debris to have washed ashore already (i.e. 24 months post-crash) is Madagascar, followed by the Comoros Islands and Mayotte, Mozambique, Réunion, and Tanzania.

The total probability that floating debris will be positioned in the area investigated is 5.8%; that is, out of one thousand floating debris items starting out at 37S near the 7th Arc, 58 may be anticipated to be within the area investigated (and 942 will be elsewhere).

Of the above 5.8% estimated to be in the area investigated, about 89% is expected, based on these calculations, to still be floating on the ocean, and only 11% already to have come ashore. That is, of the above putative 58 items there would be about six already come ashore, and 52 still on the ocean within that area investigated.

 The map below shows the calculated spread of debris over the area investigated.

RG drift analysis diagram

The report says the finds in Mozambique (if they indeed turnout to be from MH370) are also against the odds, and that Blaine Gibson and Liam Lotter were certainly in the right place at the right time.

“There are about four more items of debris perhaps waiting to be found on the north, east and west coasts of Madagascar; or, four multiplied by the number of thousands of initial floating items from the crash (assuming that none of the initially-floating items subsequently sunk).”

The analysis done by Steel and Godfrey will no doubt lead to calls for an intense oceanic search if the details of their work doesn’t sink in, to use a poor metaphor. The odds against success are daunting, although determination, and luck, have produced what appear to be two grounded fragments.

Perhaps more good luck will produce more parts. The elusive sunk sections of the wreckage, including the cockpit noise and flight data recorders and perhaps personal recording device chips are potentially of the utmost importance, alongside the faint possibility that regime change or an outbreak of honest accountability in Malaysia will tell us much more about what happened before and during the night MH370 took off on 8 March 2014 from Kuala Lumpur for Beijing with 239 people on board.

Why was the search such a pathetic, craven affair on the part of the authorities and the airline? Why did the government lie to its early search partners about what it knew? These are vital questions. Former Malaysia PM Mahathir Mohamad has publicly described this week’s second interim report in the loss of MH370 as ‘unacceptable’. When will honesty and candor prevail in KL concerning this terrible tragedy, or crime?

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55 thoughts on “Analysis: Many fragments of MH370 could still be afloat

  1. JH 1969


    It appears the debris now being found indicates a high speed impact and it therefore stands to reason that there was an extensive debris field at the time of impact.

    Duncan Steel’s website published an article on RNZAF photographs a few days ago and this article suggests the RAAF would be have many more similar photographs.

    If these photographs (and hopefully GPS locations) were to be obtained via FOI it may be a fruitful exercise to examine and map any photographs of interest against the current search area and predicted crash location/s.

    My memory of the initial air search was there were many debris sightings from the air which were not able to be located when ships were sent to investigate.

  2. Dan Dair

    JH 1969,
    Simon Gunson has suggested on these pages that the only physical ‘search’ of the waters where floating debris had previously been photographed,
    was carried-out by two passing commercial vessels who were diverted to the scene.
    According to Simon, in both cases, the vessels passed through their primary target area at night & nothing was seen.??? (no surprise there then.!!!)

    He has also said that an Australian search-vessel was on it’s way towards the area when the search was abruptly changed to the current primary search area & when that happened, the Australian vessel diverted to the new area.

    So much of this search and investigation has so many holes in it, it does start to look like a concerted effort not to find the missing plane.!
    (As always when quoting Simon Gunson, he can speak for himself & if I am in error, I’ve no doubt he’ll be quick to let you know about it.??)

  3. Simon Gunson

    Hi Dan,

    The Bulk carrier Greenery Sea and vehicle carrier Hoegh St Petersberg were asked to divert south to locate the 24m long object sighted 16 March. Greenery Sea passed slightly south of that object and in retrospect, sailed through the path of the debris trail on 17 March.

    Hoegh St Petersbergh sailed slightly north passing the location in darkness. At daylight, Hoegh St Petersbergh turned south then East again, then turned back NEE describing a big triangle before abandoning the search.

    Unfortunately further satellite sightings of the 24m object on 23 and 25 March indicate that wind and sea currents changed some time around 17-18 March and had driven the debris south until 24 March when they again resumed drifing east.

    HMAS Success left Fremantle and steamed an almost direct path towards this area until aircraft sighted some small objects, one a square panel and another which looked like Kevlar cloth about 300km east. HMAS Success was diverted to try and find these. Then the Thai satellite Thaichote detected a vast debris field of 300+ items on 24 March, so HMAS Success was ordered further south to intercept this.

    Overnight Malaysia objected to Australia about a flight into the search area by a Chinese IL-76 and by next morning (25 March) the entire aerial search was grounded.

    By 28 March HMAS Success reached where 300+ objects were sighted 4 days later. Upon reaching the area HMAS Success was ordered to steam north. The 300+ objects by then would have drifted east.

    The observation made that there was a concerted effort not to find MH370 is correct, but not on the part of actual search crews. On the part of officials misdirecting the search.

  4. Simon Gunson


    All the RNZAF images released thus far are from 29 March 2014, thus from 1,850km west of Perth above Broken Ridge. None relate to the search area further south for objects seen by satellite 16-25 March 2014.

    Debris found thus far relate to mid-air break-up, not impact with the sea. Blaine Gibson’s “NO STEP” fragment peeled backwards from slipstream. Eight attachment screw holes were at the trailing edge. All were burred by vibration before separation. One Hi-lock screw survived in situ. 29 screw holes along that length are entirely missing because the panel fractured along that line. The panel ripped off backwards from the apex, thus ripped off from slipstream in a dive.

  5. Fred

    “Overnight Malaysia objected to Australia about a flight into the search area by a Chinese IL-76 and by next morning (25 March) the entire aerial search was grounded.”

    Well that all sounds very sinister Simon, but wasn’t the search halted on 25 March due to bad weather in the search area? AMSA reported the following in its Update 16, dated 25 March:

    “The Australian Maritime Safety Authority’s search for any signs of the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 has been suspended for today due to poor weather conditions in the search area.

    Due to rough seas, HMAS Success departed the search area early this morning and is now in transit south of the search area until seas abate. A sea state ranging between 7 to 8 is forecast today with waves up to two metres and an associated swell of up to four metres.
    The area is also forecast to experience strong gale force winds of up to 80km/h, periods of heavy rain, and low cloud with a ceiling between 200 and 500 feet.

    AMSA has undertaken a risk assessment and determined that the current weather conditions would make any air and sea search activities hazardous and pose a risk to crew. Therefore, AMSA has suspended all sea and air search operations for today due to these weather conditions.”

    According to the AMSA, the search resumed in the same area on 26 March, after the weather conditions improved.

  6. blackbandit

    Can the “high speed impact” please be quantified.-That “implies” a spiral dive just how fast? Can another manoeuvre achieve the same thing? Does it have to be a spiral dive? What about a controlled glide for a while, followed by a controlled nose dive? If you get what I am hinting at by controlled.

  7. Fred


    It’s impossible to ‘quantify’ the speed at which the aircraft impacted the water because so little is known about the aircraft’s final moments. However, in a typical spiral dive the aircraft accelerates around a spiral path as it descends. The spiral path usually tightens as the speed, bank angle and load factor increase during the descent.

    In the case of a large aircraft such as a B777, the speed would probably increase to something just below the speed of sound, assuming the end-of-flight scenario described by the ATSB. At sea level, that’s around 661 knots or 1225 km/h.

    A controlled dive could achieve the same thing, IF someone was at the controls to provide the appropriate control inputs. However, the ATSB’s scenario assumes both pilots were unconscious (or dead) by that stage and that the aircraft impacted the water a short distance from the point where both engines flamed-out due to fuel starvation.

  8. blackbandit

    Thank you. At least it seems agreed that a high impact speed DOES NOT imply a spiral dive as being the only possibility.

  9. JH 1969


    Assuming that your conclusion that the pieces recently found are from the result of separation as a result of a high speed dive is valid (regardless of pilot input or otherwise) – the logical conclusion is a significant amount of debris was created as a result of impact with the ocean surface. Perhaps some of this debris may very well have been photographed as part of the RAAF sorties (given that they were searching in the right area/s).

    Do you know the location and time of the RAAF sorties?

  10. Frequent Traveller

    Two years have passed since the presumedly tragic end of flight MH370 … and in pursuit of certain conspiratory scenarii, the time may have been found opportune (by the Authorities of the incumbent criminal ‘services’) to implement measures the aim of which is to let the appearances change from [scenario 1 : controlled ditching. rdv with U-boot, transfer of valuables – what do we know today about MH370’s cargo manifest ?? – followed by sinking the intact aircraft] to a much less conspicuous [scenario 2 : uncontrolled high speed dive impact of aircraft into the Indian Ocean and scattering of thousands of debris] by retrieving the phantom aircraft at the bottom of the ocean (easy for said incumbents : THEY know where to locate the wreck !) and let it explode into pieces eighteen months later … how can investigators tell the difference when examining those debris ? I’d advocate for the Australian experts to look for traces of explosives on the debris that have been found so far ?

  11. Frequent Traveller

    I mean : why no barnacles ?

  12. Simon Gunson


    So easy to disprove you with weather images from 25 March 2014. Crews were told they were grounded because of a storm in the search area.

    That storm was centred 726nm from Perth on 235 degrees. The search area was 600nm to the west.

  13. Simon Gunson

    Frequent Traveller

    Barnacle growth requires the adhesion of a bacterial film to a surface before Barnacle larvae can attach.

    Whilst there are examples of wooden piles etc in tidal zones which are high and dry twice each day, these barnacles have grown there because the wood of the surface was able to absorb the bacterial film.

    It is implicit from the Flaperon that it was tethered beneath the surface by something heavier before it broke free, in order for barnacle larvae to become established. The Flaperon had a net positive buoyancy of about 770lb so was unlikely to be underwater unless tethered.

    The panels found off Mozambique by contrast were much lighter, less massive, more awash, less able to foster the bacterial film required by larvae.

  14. Simon Gunson

    Blackbandit & Fred

    Who is talking about impact with the sea?

    All the pieces found of Mozambique lack crush damage, retain their camber and have no buckling. They have torn free from 9M-MRO in flight.

    The Flaperon is similar, no buckling deformation.

    There is no evidence these pieces were attached to the airframe when it reached the sea.

    The screw holes on NO STEP were burred by vibration before separation. Only Mach buffet would cause such vibration and sufficient slipstream to rip panels from an aircraft in flight.

    It is particularly nonsensical to suggest a suicidal pilot would wait 6.8 hours until fuel exhaustion to suddenly dive the aircraft. That is typical of the Micky mouse logic applied to support the rogue pilot theory.

  15. Fred


    Blackbandit asked if any other manoeuvres could result in a high speed impact. The obvious answer is that a controlled dive could also result in a high speed impact, if someone was at the controls to make the necessary control inputs. However, for your benefit, I do not believe the end-of-flight scenario was a controlled dive.

    The image you provided at #12 is very pretty, but what exactly is it, where did it come from and what does it ‘prove’?

    In #14 you said “there is no evidence these pieces were attached to the airframe when it reached the sea” and yet in #13 you said the flaperon was ‘tethered’ to something beneath the sea. I presume you’re implying that the flaperon remained attached to the wing and then miraculously broke free some months later. Would that be correct?

  16. Dave M

    “It is particularly nonsensical to suggest a suicidal pilot would wait 6.8 hours until fuel exhaustion to suddenly dive the aircraft”

    Only if it is nonsensical to suggest that a rogue pilot might want to ditch the aircraft in the most remote location possible. Don’t at all know this to be the case, but it seems far from outrageous or nonsensical as an idea.

  17. Frequent Traveller

    Nobody answers the question : “what do we know today about MH370’s Cargo Manifest ?” … why are people displaying embarrassment whenever this (tabou ?) question is being raised ?

  18. Fred

    Frequent Traveller,

    The question has been asked and answered several times previously. What makes you think it is a taboo subject?

    The cargo manifest and associated documents were published some time ago in the MH370 Factual Information report. The report is available on the Malaysian Ministry of Transport website.

  19. Tango

    Thanks Fred, it does get tiring debunking the erroneous stuff.

    Simon spins a wonderful stories, but that is all it is its a story. It takes a metallurgists with equipment to assess what the damage means and how it was accomplished. Simon is much like Von Donkikin.

    I spent a good chunk of my life on the ocean and I never saw anything up on a beach that looked so pure and clean.

    Will see who gets the parts and then what the report is. I have yet to see a confirmation that Australia has them, some say they went to Malaysia which means you cannot trust any info from them. If Australia gets it we know it will be honest.

    Stay tuned, get facts, then assess.

  20. Dan Dair

    “The cargo manifest and associated documents were published some time ago in the MH370 Factual Information report. The report is available on the Malaysian Ministry of Transport website”

    Sadly, the fact that it is available on their web-site is likely to be the only verifiable fact contained in that publication.
    The Malaysian authorities have shown themselves to be at very least untrustworthy in this entire matter, possibly considerably worse.?

  21. Dan Dair

    Dave M,
    “Only if it is nonsensical to suggest that a rogue pilot might want to ditch the aircraft in the most remote location possible. Don’t at all know this to be the case, but it seems far from outrageous or nonsensical as an idea”

    It have never personally been there, but in my limited knowledge of this subject, someone who makes a suicide attempt of any ‘meaningful’ description is either;
    Looking to get attention for themselves because they don’t know how to ask for help,
    Looking to end their life because the perceive that there is no positive (& bearable) future for them,
    Looking to ‘display’ their emotional turmoil. (whether that be towards those who they feel have not given them the help & support they needed, or an outburst of ‘righteous injustice’ against some kind of authority group or figure.?)
    (Professionals in this field feel free to offer us/me a more enlightened opinion, if appropriate.?)

    When someone spontaneously, or after careful planning, throws themselves in front of a train & is killed, it is probable that their most likely plan has been fulfilled.
    That being a quick & hopefully painless death.

    The idea that one of the flight crew would willingly & intentionally prolong their own inevitable death for nearly seven hours (until fuel exhaustion) is completely beyond anything which makes any sense to me.?

    Why would someone who just wanted to kill themselves not simply crash the plane from a great height at their first (or second) opportunity.?
    If the flight crew-member really had an axe-to-grind with anyone in authority within Malaysia, then why not crash the aircraft in some kind of dramatic & spectacular fashion, to emphasise whatever point they wanted to make.?

    The ‘fact’ that MH370 flew on until fuel exhaustion is proof-enough for me that whatever happened on the aircraft that night, the only thing which kept that aircraft in the sky was the autopilot.

    There are many things I’m prepared to accept as viable theories,
    but I find the idea of pilot suicide very difficult on this one
    & any suggestion of the pilot remaining in control right to the end simply a wild-eyed fantasy.?

  22. Dan Dair

    Frequent Traveller, posting #10,
    That’s quite an array of ‘conspiracy theories’ you manage to get into one short posting.

    I wouldn’t personally point an accusing finger at any of those theories,
    but I would say that given enough of the wreckage to analyse, aircrash investigators would almost certainly be able to determine whether an aircraft blew-up in the air, broke-up in the air or broke-up on impact with the water.
    They would probably also be able to distinguish between an internal bomb blast in mid-air & one which occurred deep underwater.?

    I think the key part of my comment is “given enough of the wreckage to analyse”.

    Hopefully, the search will actually find the main wreckage, but failing that, we might be lucky enough to find enough solid evidence amongst the wreckage which washes ashore over the coming year or two for investigators to make some reasonably solid determinations.?

    Incidentally, stuff is still turning up around the Pacific-rim from the Japanese earthquake-generated tsunami of early 2011, so it’s not unreasonable to expect more & more MH370 debris to start to come ashore, very probably in the areas which the drift-patterns had predicted.?

  23. Dave M

    Hi Dan –

    In response to: “If the flight crew-member really had an axe-to-grind with anyone in authority within Malaysia, then why not crash the aircraft in some kind of dramatic & spectacular fashion, to emphasise whatever point they wanted to make.?”

    First let me say I have no dog in this fight or any delusion of special insight. It’s a heck of a mystery. But for what it’s worth, it is not that difficult for me to imagine a person who is willing to die (for whatever reason) and also interested in creating an unprecedented mystery as his “statement”. This plane seems to have gone to just about the most remote location imaginable within its flight range – the location that would yield the smallest chance of discovery and recovery. I guess it is that fact that makes me especially willing to consider that the path was somehow deliberate. But I am just guessing of course.

  24. Raven Usher

    @ Dave M and @Dan

    It is all speculation of course, but the reverse can also be true.

    If the crew were flying a severely incapacitated craft, and had run out of options, then the best thing to do would be to get it away from populated areas and busy flight paths.

  25. Ben Sandilands

    I’m going to repeat a comment I made in response to some observations by Simon Gunson in an older MH370 thread.


    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.

  26. JH 1969


    Can I repeat my initial question again?

    Do you think it might be a fruitful exercise to try to obtain RAAF photography – as per Duncan Steel’s suggestion?

  27. Ben Sandilands


    No. I understand the photos were reviewed in detail by AMSA and I doubt that repeating that exercise will produce a different result. The ones that would have been of most interest were taken under extremely poor conditions and like many I do think that area where there were sightings of what may have been wooden pallets similar to those that were attached to the shipment of mangosteens should have been searched again, allowing for drift, when the conditions relented a few days later. But by then the aerial search and some shipping support, had moved NE.

    Keep in mind, there should be two or three orders of magnitude more floating debris in the Indian Ocean from general shipping and marine pollution notably with plastics than would have been generated by the total fragmentation of a jet the size of a 777.

    However a standout feature of the surface searches has been that contrary to expectations, very little maritime debris from other sources was found.

    This goes to my personal doubts about the validity of some oceanic drift modelling in the Indian Ocean areas of interest. What was predicted for the level of general debris was a fraction of what we had been led to expect.

  28. JH 1969


    Do you have any more information on the sightings of what may have been wooden pallets? How closely did this location relate to the current search area?

  29. Frequent Traveller

    This lately quoted source ventures that 9M-MRO was actually equipped with four life-rafts with capacity to carry 290 pax … if correct, what new light could this input possibly shed on the end-of-flight circumstances ?

  30. Ben Sandilands

    It only sheds light on the ignorance of the publication. The jet was fully equipped as required by the regulations.

    Witless statements of the obvious are a feature of some MH370 reporting. My favourite was CNN breathlessly turning the fact that a 777 couldn’t maintain cruising altitude once its tanks were empty into a bulletin leading expose.

    Then again it managed to come up with maps that put Hobart in Canberra and Canberra in Perth.

  31. Fred

    Frequent Traveller,

    The B777-200 is equipped with eight slide-rafts, one at each door. They are used as slides during an emergency evacuation on land, but in a ditching situation they are used as rafts. Each slide-raft has a capacity of about 50-60 people when used as a raft. The slide-rafts include limited survival equipment, but they certainly don’t have “sufficient stocks of food that would enable those on board the aircraft to survive for a week”.

    As Ben said, the fact the aircraft was equipped with slide-rafts isn’t news and means absolutely nothing.

  32. Frequent Traveller

    @ Fred, Ben and others : points taken, nothing new under the sky … I had this unsettling vision-in-thought, where the occupants closest to the Emergency Exit don’t know how to undo the tethering of the slide-rafts to the fuselage, as the ditched aircraft starts sinking ?

  33. Fred

    Releasing a slide-raft from the aircraft is a simple process and the instructions are written on the side of the raft next to the door. The slide-raft then remains connected to the aircraft by a mooring line. The mooring line is designed to break if the aircraft sinks, or can be cut with a knife that is attached to the mooring line.

  34. nightflyer

    As Fred says, the primary objective of survivors in a raft is to be discovered and rescued. To that end the raft contains basic signalling equipment, sea marker dye, a few flares and a heliograph. There is also a sea anchor to stabilise drift. Absolutely no chance of doing a Captain Bligh and sailing the thing to Batavia.

  35. nightflyer

    One of the very early aerial photos – not sure if it was aircraft or satellite – looked very much like a half inflated, perhaps upside down raft, but the scale was wrong, 25 meters long according to the image takers and as I remember

  36. Fred

    That sounds very much like a cue for Simon Gunson…

  37. Fred

    Night flyer,

    Simon Gunson believes these images depict debris from MH370. Another image taken by a Chinese satellite around the same time shows a similar sized object about 100km away. Another satellite also observed a large field of smaller objects lying between the two large objects. Simon is convinced the two large objects are the wings of MH370. None of these objects were found during the visual search.

    Simon claims that a Chinese reverse drift analysis of these objects shows the location of the MH370 crash site. He and his coterie of supporters are trying to crowdfund a search of the area, which lies some distance to the south of the ATSB search area.

  38. Dan Dair

    Dave M, posting #23.
    I’m certainly not telling you I ‘know’ anything about what went on within MH370, but I just can’t believe that a suicidal individual would never have turned the aircraft around at least once in 5+ hours of Southerly flying, when they had a moment of indecision.?

    I could easily imagine that a suicidal pilot might kill themselves with a gun or drugs after setting the aircraft on a Southerly track. In such a case I’d hope the passengers were already dead.?

  39. Dan Dair

    Raven Usher, posting #24.
    “If the crew were flying a severely incapacitated craft, and had run out of options, then the best thing to do would be to get it away from populated areas and busy flight paths”

    As a concept it’s plausible, but thinking it through, it only holds water if the pilot knows that there’s something like ‘nuclear-waste’ on board the aircraft which a responsible-person would want to end up as far away from a population centre as possible.?
    (NOTE: I’m not actually suggesting there was any nuclear material of any description on 9M-MRO)

    If the aircraft was somehow incapacitated, an experienced pilot would know where his local centres of population were & where his main airlanes were.
    I would have thought it most likely that an experienced pilot would have sought to ditch his aircraft as close as reasonably possible to an area which would offer the prospect of being found quickly & lives potentially saved.

    (In that context I’m thinking of that B767 which crashed into the bay in the Comoros islands. (Wikipedia: Ethiopian Airlines Flight 961. ET-AIZ)
    The fact that it was so close to land meant that there were survivors from a really nasty ditching)

  40. Nicky Mark

    Just a thought. If the account of the maldivians’ Mh370 sightings are true, one of the civilian said the plane turned right after flying low past kudahuvadhoo. That’s southwest direction of the indian ocean. Could we then assume the plane could have gone down within the triangular area between maldives, seychelles and mauritius/reunion? If it did, then the main area to search for debris should be the coasts of somalia, kenya, tanzania, mozambique and madagascar. Off course the islands of maldives, seychelles, comoros/mayote and mauritius/reunion too.

  41. Raven Usher

    @Dan Dair,

    My point was that a sinister explanation might not be the only one for setting a course to oblivion.

    For example, I had in mind one of the scenarios that had been proposed, which was smoke had overwhelmed almost everyone on board, and the crew’s time was very limited.

    They only had a few minutes remaining to make a decision, perhaps?

  42. Dan Dair

    Raven Usher,
    The kind of example you suggest is exactly why pilots get a much more substantial emergency oxygen supply than that provided to passengers.

    I’m not denying the strong possibility of a sinister explanation, but I don’t believe the kind of thing you’ve suggested is going to be it.?

  43. Steve Barrett

    Raven Usher,

    The problem with the fire scenario, whilst not impossible, is that one would expect the ensuing electrical problems with 9M-MRO to be “permanent” rather than “intermittent”. Yes, depressurisation, low temperature and low PiO2 will extinguish a fire. A hypoxic flight explains a lot of the sparse data set.

    However in a very technical and passionate discussion in Crikey about 777 ACARS/SDU/generator sets etc. which has gone right over my head (I’m not a pilot) it appears “intermittent” rather than “failure” is a better descriptor of what went on. From a previous post from Crikey/ATSB report;

    “An interruption to the SDU may be caused by:
    • loss of AC power requiring an APU auto-start or
    • the cycling of the left generator and backup generator switches with the bus tie isolated (all switches are located on the overhead panel in the cockpit), or
    • the circuit breakers in the electronic and equipment bay being pulled and then later reset or
    • intermittent technical failures.”

    On a brighter note charges by Malaysian Authorities against Four Corners crew Linton Besser and Louie Eroglu have been dropped. This was simply because Linton Besser asked Prime Minister Najib Razak outside a Mosque in a media sanctioned event about the nature of the US$681 million ‘donation’ to his bank account. It seems extraordinary a journalist is not allowed to ask these very legitimate questions. I guess if you can’t you end up with a very supine media, as discussed by Ben Sandilands.

    Anyway Four Corners has touched a raw nerve here. The big question is if 9M-MRO and the US$681 million are part of the same story. It would certainly help explain Malaysian Authorities behaviour subsequent to 1:19 MYT 8th March 2014.

  44. Fred


    Therein lies one of the conundrums of MH370. The satellite data indicates the aircraft’s Satellite Data Unit (SDU) logged on to the satellite twice while the aircraft was airborne. The second logon is assumed to have occurred when the APU auto-started and ran for a short time after the engines ran out of fuel. The first log-on is assumed to have occurred because of an interruption of power to the SDU relatively early during the flight. The question is why? If there was a loss of all AC power, then the APU would have auto-started to restore power. If that happened early in the flight, then what caused the second log-on? The most likely explanation for the first power interruption is some kind of intermittent failure, but as you said, a fire is likely to have caused ‘permanent’ damage rather than something intermittent.

  45. Sandy G

    I am probably missing something, but doesn’t the “coincidence” of the turned off transponder and ACARS exactly during the hand-off still suggest something sinister?

  46. Sandy G

    Especially given the turn-around which, if I recall, occurred shortly after that. (Was it before?)

  47. Fred

    Quite possibly Sandy, but we don’t actually know that the equipment was ‘turned off’. We only know that it stopped working for some reason. That could have happened due to some kind of massive electrical failure, which could have caused the crew to turn back towards Malaysia. The problem is coming up with a scenario that fits all the known facts. The main problem is that a technical failure doesn’t adequately explain the aircraft’s diversion up the Malacca Strait and subsequent turn to the south. Some of the conspiracy theorists (one in particular) have suggested the diversion up the Malacca Strait didn’t happen.

  48. Sandy G

    Thanks, Fred. Probably should have put it differently. But if there was a massive failure wouldn’t ACARS have picked it up before it and the transponder turned off (whether deliberately or due to some failure)? And if there were signs of failure prior to catastrophic failure that led to them shutting down, wouldn’t that have shown up? (Sorry if I am showing my ignorance.)

  49. Fred


    Not at all. You are quite right, normally the aircraft’s central maintenance computer detects problems that occur and the information is sent back to the airline’s engineers via ACARS. That’s what happened with AF447, which gave the investigators some clues about what happened long before the flight recorders were recovered. It has been suggested that Malaysian didn’t have that particular system in place, but I don’t know if that’s true or not.

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