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Oct 3, 2017

ATSB ‘last’ report on MH370 highlights data on pilot’s flight simulator

Some very raw questions remain unanswered as ATSB drops its closing MH370 search report

Ben Sandilands — Editor of Plane Talking

Ben Sandilands

Editor of Plane Talking

The cover of the final ATSB report

What could have caused the captain of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, Zaharie Ahmad Shah, to have entered data points over the southern Indian Ocean into his home flight simulator for a Boeing 777 well before he and 238 other people vanished in the same area on March 8, 2014?

It is a question that forms a prominent part of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) final report into the search for the jet, which was on its way from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing and over the Gulf of Thailand when it suddenly veered off course and ‘went dark’ to civil air traffic control systems.

The report is described by the ATSB as closing the chapter on its involvement in the search for the sunk wreckage of the Malaysia Airlines flight. Malaysia continues to conduct its own investigation into the causes of the accident.

Speculation about the causes of the world’s highest profile aviation mystery has ranged from quite compelling hypotheticals of a technical crisis on board that overwhelmed the pilots, to more popular theories that for various reasons, the captain planned the jet’s disappearance, with some of those scenarios including an attempted ditching of the aircraft after it had flown to parts of the ocean SW of Perth, Western Australia.

And while the ATSB summary of its final report is thorough, and almost without controversy, it is the full report and its supporting documentation, that is guaranteed to fuel continued fierce speculation and debate as to what happened on board.

This is part of the section on the data points found on the Captain’s home flight simulator:

Why would such data, involving a jet that had run out of fuel, be created for such a remote part of the southern Indian Ocean, far from anywhere on the Malaysia Airline’s route map? What lay behind the choice of altitude, and so forth?

The nagging questions that arose over the captain’s flight simulator also became inextricably, for some, tied up with the theory that the jet was glided to a splash down.

However as the detailed report makes clear, the recovered fragments of wreckage include some that make it apparent the 777 was almost certainly configured for cruising at altitude, not landing, when it struck the sea.

This part of the right outboard wing was found inconsistent with a ditching configuration

The final ATSB report identifies an also ‘final’ unsearched area of 25,000 square kilometres of sea floor which is now believed to contain the highest probability of being MH370’s last resting place.

That large sweep of sea is at least proximate with suspicions that the jet came down near the intersection of the so called 7th arc of possible locations of MH370 and latitude 35 degrees South.  Those suspicions arose for the first time when potential debris was imaged by a French satellite on March 23, 2014, in an area that was never examined close up by searching aircraft.

After the ‘suspension’ of the sea floor search was announced in January this year it was also revealed that reanalysis of the satellite images showed that some of the apparently solid objects shown were probably manmade and were also consistent with the latest CSIRO drift analysis as to where floating wreckage may have gone in the weeks after an impact in this same general zone.

The reluctance of the Australian government, and its Malaysia and China search partners to resume a search of that area since last December has also added to unease and anger among next of kin, and even at times, among experts involved in the search and analysis of available MH370 data.

The ATSB has closed its chapter on an incredibly detailed and professionally competent search for the heavy sunk wreckage of the missing jet. It assuredly hasn’t ended the controversies about MH370, nor eliminated the possibility that the search has been ended at a time and place where it was close to success.

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4 comments

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4 thoughts on “ATSB ‘last’ report on MH370 highlights data on pilot’s flight simulator

  1. Tango

    I think what is relevant is the broad sweep of the FS data, not the specific details.

    And yes, the assessment is based on a pilot having done this which continues to be the 99.999% likely cause (at least in my mind, take that for what its worth)

    As Mick has pointed out, there is anomalous data up in the Straights of Malacca.

    That could be attributed to a number of factors and in my case I suspect it was the pilot in dithering or meltdown mode which would make some sense for someone so mentally disturbed as to have committed mass murder (or intending to) though all may have been dead.

    There is no template an insane person has to follow. Sometimes during mass killings they kill themselves, sometimes they just surrender.

    The same goes with the end result and not knowing if the pilot had then killed himself or just changed how it was going to end.

    We certainly have a lot more data than most mass killings. Often they leave no trail of crumbs.

    While more may come out, the current one in the US on the surface is bizzare in that no abnormalities have surfaced (they may still, its very early)

    But why would you bring 13 guns to a room and then just shoot yourself?

    The reason is logic is no longer in play and trying to pin logic to a deranged person is like trying to make Trump look an intelligent mastermind. Its just not possible.

  2. Rob M

    Well, I suppose that’s the end of that. The Indian Ocean keeps her secrets.

    I am not convinced of the pilot’s involvement, partially because I don’t know which ‘facts’ can be trusted. The Inmarsat data, probably. That’s about it.

    Whatever the cause of the crash, I think it is very unlikely that there are any lessons to be learned. No other aircraft (let alone any other 777s) have repeated 9M-MRO’s disappearing act. Mandatory GPS tracking that cannot be interfered with would see to it that no aircraft ever does.

    RIP those aboard.

    1. Dan Dair

      Rob M,
      “Mandatory GPS tracking that cannot be interfered with”

      Whilst I agree that some kind of uninterruptable tracking system would have helped keep tabs on & locate 9M-MRO,
      the issue has always been that this particular aircraft DID have tracking which was turned off by some means;
      But the problem is that all systems have to be able to be switched off, in case there is an issue with the electrics of that particular system.
      Consequently, all systems have to be on breakers which are accessible to the cockpit crew for safety reasons.
      I would be tragically ironic if the system designed to prevent a similar incident to MH370,
      was to have brought-down an aircraft, due to a systems-failure which the crew couldn’t electrically isolate.?

  3. Dan Dair

    Obviously Tango glosses-over the lack of consistent details because that fits in with his deeply held belief that the pilot did it.?

    Since I’m unconvinced that the pilot did it (though I am prepared to accept that he might have done, if anyone can show me any actual evidence that he did), I find the lack of details surrounding various waypoints & datapoints to be anything but conclusive.?

    IMO the inconsistencies point to an idea rather than a plan.
    An idea which could be for almost anything,
    including an in-flight refuelling tanker or a landing on the worlds largest aircraft carrier, either of which he could have been planning to arrange to be in the vicinity in his simulator.?

    There seems to be nothing in this excerpt from the report, which actually & factually incriminates Captain Shah.

    The excerpt seems to imply some validation of ‘the captain did it’ theory, whilst actually saying there is no evidence to actually prove that the captain did it.?
    Confused…..? You will be.? (as I have been for years.!!!)