The south Indian Ocean, the keeper of MH 370 secrets

This revises yesterday’s post in the light of initial analysis by independent MH370 researchers.

Missing sections of satellite data which had inflamed some of the conspiracy theories about Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 have been released by the airline, and it shows that a stand-by link between the Boeing 777 and an Inmarsat parked over the west Indian Ocean exhibited several anomalies during the flight that it had completed from Beijing to Kuala Lumpur immediately before the jet vanished while flying back to Beijing on March 8, 2014.

Two researchers, Victor Iannello and Mike Exner, say that the data release, which includes all of the satellite communications from the jet while it was flying MH371 in the opposite direction to the ill-fated flight shows similar and as yet unexplained changes in signal strength received by the jet and other oddities.

MH371 took place completely to the north of the equator and far to east of the track MH370 ultimately flew before running out of fuel over the south Indian Ocean. Its data set also shows 22 instances of switching back and forth between an Inmarsat parked in geosynchronous orbit over the Pacific Ocean equator and one on station over the equator of the west Indian Ocean.

A line of inquiry may therefore be whether the residual stand-by link between flight MH370 and the Inmarsat system attempted to connect to the Pacific rather than Indian Ocean satellite.

As often reported earlier in this saga, Doppler shift analysis of the signals exchanged between MH370 and the Inmarsat system showed that the 777 with 239 people on board had ultimately flown south over the Indian Ocean to the west and south west of Western Australia.

Mr Iannello and Mr Exner have emphasised that they have only taken a first look at the full data sets for MH371 and MH370. They say the release of the full data for both of these flights may contain some important additional insights into what happened to MH370.

Their approach, and that of other independent and technically competent analysts has been one of avoiding what this reporter has criticised as the ‘screeching, indignant, raging bull blame the pilot’ level of commentary that has yellowed the pages of newspapers that should have known better, or maybe don’t really care about the truth any more.

As reported in this post yesterday until now, independent researchers only had access to an incomplete satellite data file that had been deliberately redacted or edited without explanation.

Victor Iannello, part of the Independent Group of MH370 researchers received what appears to be the complete data set from a China national and next of kin of one of the 239 people who were on MH370, which he had been sent by Malaysia Airlines.

It should be added that the actual release of these full data sets couldn’t be done by any party to the on-going Kuala Lumpur based investigation into the loss of MH370 other than the airline.

Yesterday’s headline, that ‘Missing MH370 satellite data released, doesn’t contain any surprises’, is wrong! It is possible that the new and complete data mightn’t prove as useful as hoped, but it does include new insights, and their significance needs to be determined and tested.

It also points to another unknown, as to the extent that the pilots of MH370 knew what the data link between their flight and the Inmarsat was A: supposed to do, and B: was actually doing.

The purpose of the link was to send real-time engine performance data to Rolls-Royce in the UK. Malaysia Airlines had unsubscribed to this full service, which would of course have told us exactly what each engine was doing in terms of power output and fuel consumption for the duration of MH370, which lasted more than seven hours 39 minutes before the link ended.

The system was simply generating ‘hello I’m here and ready to talk’ type messages. That is, until the last signals , which indicated that MH370 was in serious trouble, and that efforts to generate back-up electrical power had begun as it fell out of the sky.

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