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air crashes

Dec 21, 2016

Why the ATSB hasn't been searching in the wrong place for MH370

The cheap shots being fired at the MH370 searchers are particularly nasty and ignorant

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Is the south Indian Ocean less cruel than social media trolls
Is the south Indian Ocean less cruel than social media trolls?

Much is being made about the ATSB admitting that it is searching in the wrong place for the sunk wreckage of MH370.

It’s an easy but cheap shot to make.

Let’s try and find a metaphor for what has been going on.

Your child has gone missing on a character building school sponsored solo sailors event in the vast expanse of the south Indian Ocean. To save money, it is later discovered that the yacht outfitter didn’t store emergency beacons on board the vessels. A bit like Malaysia Airlines failing to subscribe to the full suite of ACARS based flight performance updates on MH370.

A very thin trace of signals exchanged between your child’s sat phone and the relevant satellite says he or she headed off into a particular large expanse of what is an even larger wilderness area.

And then the signals stopped.

The question some critics of the ATSB led search are seriously posing in metaphorical terms is whether a search should be immediately mounted, or whether it is better to wait a few days, maybe even weeks, until there is more certainty as to precisely which part of the wilderness your kid disappeared into.

Needless to say, the decision is to search as thoroughly as possible immediately in the wider area that the signal exchange points to. A last arc of possible locations is traced on the featureless map of the ocean.

You want to find your child, hope against hope, in that howling ocean, before any trace of the boat is smashed, dispersed, or sunk. As your loss sets in, you want your child’s body found before it is eaten and becomes part of the marine food chain.

You want something, anything, to help ease the agony of the death of a child, something tangible, to bury or memorialize.

And you want a whole painful load of answers to terrible questions.

This in human terms is what the search for MH370 has been about. It takes place in Australia’s defined search and rescue zone of responsibility.

The moment this metaphorical search for a missing child, mine or yours, was begun it was by the standards of the unthinking, cheap shot popular media pack, happening in the wrong place.

It’s not a wrong place until it has been thoroughly examined. In the actual First Principles review, which some media clearly didn’t read, the search partners conclude that there remains a five percent chance the current almost exhausted search zone is the right place.

The only wrong search decision would be not to look anywhere until there was certainty, and thus no need for a search.

Because no survivor, no body, no piece of wreckage, was found doesn’t mean deliberately wasted effort. The searching that has been done has been the right searching, for reasons of hope and urgency and decency for those who lost their loved ones.

So it has been with MH370. The 239 people who were on board the flight between Kuala Lumpur and Beijing on March 8, 2014, have long been deceased in the minds of those who have been through the savage agony of knowing that all hope of survival is gone.

The searchers have visited and revisited the clues, the shreds of evidence, and the various scenarios that present themselves, in efforts to refine their search effort.

There remain huge variables that could have caused MH370 to concentrate heavy wreckage as little as a few metres to one side or other of the paths scanned by the sonar equipped towfish.

But the ‘failed’ search is just like failed searches to find children lost in the bush, or at sea. It may eventually succeed, and that is why the searchers persist, even if their Ministers, Secretaries or department heads, may hesitate.

Have they been looking in the wrong place? Only if seen through the eyes of often loud mouthed rent seekers who latch onto MH370 as an opportunity to mock or to posture.

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7 comments

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7 thoughts on “Why the ATSB hasn’t been searching in the wrong place for MH370

  1. Dan Dair

    It’s now almost a fact that they’re searching the wrong place, which is a great shame, but not a scandal.

    Anyone who believes that the search was deliberately in the wrong place must be barking mad / genuinely believe space-aliens abducted the aircraft & all on board*.? (* delete as appropriate)

    I have said for a long time that I though the search was too far North.
    Shows what I know, as the consensus now is that the search is too far South.!!!!!!

    I remain concerned that there will only be one more shot at this & I so want the joint investigative team, the independent investigative group & any other qualified or amateur contributors to go right back to first principals, discounting any information at all which is not totally substantiated as fact.
    (I include Mick Gilbert & Simon Gunsons’ theories in that category, as though they have merit (especially Mick’s), they remain unproven & untested)

    I am content to include theory in the search, but please let’s not have any one calculation based upon a theory, an assumption or presumption.
    If there’s any doubt about the authenticity of information, let’s have the calculations for ALL of the possible variations.!

    I hope they can latch-onto some kind of debris trail, either in the final days of the current search or during the 2017 search.?
    Time will tell & we can all continue to hope for the best.

  2. cud chewer

    This is all good, but..

    What I want to know is, what will it take to convince this government to continue the sea bed search in the new area to the north?

    1. Dan Dair

      The Chinese & or Malaysians putting-up some serious money or equipment to make it happen.

      It’s their people & their plane, when all’s said & done.!
      It only falls in Australias’ lap because of where they believe the wreckage lies.

  3. Tango

    I think the better questions would be:
    Why was it interpreted as being Australian responsibility to do a sea bottom search?
    The Responsibility is for Survivors, its not to find a sunk item (how many vessels and possibly aircraft have gone down in that area?)

    Once its determined there are now survivors, the search ends and per France and Airbus with AF447 it can be continued by other parties (China could keep searching) – they do not need Austrian permission, its international waters.

    Do we go into Allepo and identify all the dead to satisfy the families?
    At what cost?

    The reality is there are innumerable tragedies that go on day in day out that there is no resolutions for. Those are in the 10s of thousand each year, this is 239 people out of all those.

    Much of the rhetoric is heart strings and violins, but logically?

    Arguably the only reasons to search for it (as per AF447) was to confirm what happened though the ACARS clues nailed it, that was not 100%. It was worth it in that it absolutely demonstrated how bad pilots could be and how easily they can screw up an aircraft to the point of destruction.

    In the case of MH 370 I don’t believe there is any technical issue that affects air safety.

    The may well be a human one, those are know, currently can’t be sorted out and a remedy of extra safety is the only current answer.

    1. Tango

      If you narrow it down to should they be searching where they are, yep, the data all points to that area.

      Is it the right area, obviously not, but nothing to do with lack of more than best efforts.

      Should they have waited, yes, nothing time critical as all on board were obviously dead and the maximum information should have been gathered before the search was conducted.

      That includes paying attention to the drift theory and when objects should have started to wash up ashore.

    2. Dan Dair

      Tango,
      I know that you still believe that one of the pilots did it.
      You might be right,
      but you might not, too.?

      Without any evidence of any kind to even give the slightest indication of why the aircraft crashed, (incriminating pilot background, trail of parts going back to initial problem point, other aircraft with contaminated fuel, etc, etc) how are we to know what happened.?
      The B737 rudder-actuator issue was refuted by the manufacturer & the B777 fuel filter issue was apparently virtually unknown, but both problems turned-out to be real & warranted the manufacturer actually issuing a repair order.

      It is possible that the pilot did it, though there’s no evidence in the public domain that actually supports that theory,
      so if he didn’t,
      we need to find out what did happen
      and what if anything, can be done to ensure it doesn’t happen again.!

  4. TomTom

    Good job, Ben. “The only wrong search decision would be not to look anywhere until there was certainty, and thus no need for a search.” Amen.

    No place is the wrong place to search until it’s been entirely searched and ruled out. And even then, it’s not the wrong place to search because ruling it out will inform further efforts (if any). Really easy to criticize – especially if one doesn’t have a persuasive argument why it is not the right place to search.

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