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air crashes

Sep 5, 2017

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Blaine Gibson and a seat seat back video frame similar to those on MH370

It didn’t rate as a story in most of the mainstream Australian media but Malaysia’s honorary consul to Madagascar Houssenaly Zahid Raza was recently assassinated after he had been told of the discovery of more apparent fragments of missing flight MH370 on the country’s shores.

The possibility that there was a connection between these two events has however been raised, mostly in a responsible if quizzical manner, in some news and social media sites.

In response to this Blaine Gibson, the Seattle lawyer who has personally searched for and found verified as well as suspected pieces of the missing Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200ER, has urged caution over such speculation and says that it may impede the examination of some items that may have come from the jet when it crashed at an as yet undetermined location in the south Indian Ocean on March 8, 2014.

It’s a reasonable call for Mr Gibson to make. It’s one that even the most junior and inexperienced reporters would have heeded on their own initiative given the paucity of information available, or, alternatively, would have taken to their news organisation as a suggested assignment involving travel to Malagasy, if advice on the personal risks to such a reporter was considered acceptable.

At a time when news rooms have fewer staff, reduced back-up, and an aversion to having their people expelled from foreign places because of unforeseen developments, it is unlikely such an assignment would be approved unless there was persuasive advice that the premise of the proposed story was known, in another place that the media organisation would have consulted, to be considered to be substantially correct.

A mysterious link between the assassination of Zahid Raza and MH370 cannot be ruled out. But it seems unlikely there is one.

air crashes

Aug 17, 2017

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The complexity and residual uncertainty of drift analyses: ATSB

Pressure is being applied on two fronts to the Turnbull Government to re-open the search for missing flight MH370 just as it seems all but paralysed by the political and constitutional crisis caused by Australian parliamentarians holding dual nationalities.

Whether these campaigns to resume looking for the Malaysia Airlines 777-200 ER that disappeared while on its way from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8, 2014 with 239 people onboard are successful may well be determined by their perceived value as ‘circuit breakers’ from the risks to the survival of this Coalition government posed by this unrelated but over arching crisis.

The Australian Transport Safety Board (ATSB) provides the time poor with this succinct notification of the progress made by Geoscience Australia in interpreting images of debris in the south Indian Ocean taken by a French military satellite on March 23, 2014, and a separate report by the CSIRO refining drift analysis it has carried out on debris from the jet recovered from westerly locations in that ocean.

In this latest notification ATSB Chief Commissioner Greg Hood tactfully hoses down the blunter claims made in some media reports that the CSIRO has identified a precise location for the wreckage, yet one which his Minister for Infrastructure, Darren Chester has declined to endorse because it doesn’t guarantee that it identifies the location of the sunk wreckage of the jet with sufficient precision.

In fact the CSIRO analysis that first identified a new search prospect was published with implicit and unambiguous ATSB encouragement just before Christmas last year.

It was also rapidly rejected as a new search imperative by Minister Chester the same day, and this led to extensive discussion on Plane Talking in the following months and those detailed reports and discussions can be accessed using the MH370 search button on this site.

Coming over the top of these latest refinements, and the long sought release of more information from the French military satellite, is the offer by an American oceanographic exploration firm, Ocean Infinity, to launch a radically faster seabed search for an undisclosed fee paid only if it succeeds in finding the wreckage.

There has been no coherent nor official Yes/No response to this offer a ‘free’ resumption of searching from either the Australian or Malaysian authorities.

Ocean Infinity has put both countries on the spot, something which may not elicit the co-operation of the administrative branches which advise governments in both countries, and it is the Malaysians who actually make the calls when it comes to what the ATSB managed (suspended) search for MH370 actually does.

Public service culture is strongly media pressure resistant, and as the principal sources of information and advice to governments, they tend to double down on errors of judgment, in the interests of face saving, and sometimes with very undesirable policy outcomes.

While it is true that none of the French identified potential objects were identified or examined by the original AMSA search, or the later aerial and sea surface activities of the ATSB managed searches, it has long been argued that the ATSB was with hindsight too hasty in shifting its efforts to the north-east of the zone near where the satellite images were made.

That has been a controversial talking point since late March 2014, and reported as such on some news sites, including this one.

air crashes

Aug 3, 2017

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An Ocean Infinity website graphic

An American oceanographic exploration firm, Ocean Infinity, has offered to launch a radically faster seabed search for the sunk wreckage of missing flight MH370 for an undisclosed fee paid only if it succeeds in finding the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 that vanished with 239 people on board on March 8, 2014.

The offer, publicised by independent MH370 researcher Victor Iannello puts authorities in Malaysia, Australia and China on the spot in terms of support, given the controversial suspension of the official tripartite search in January contrary to a recommendation by Australian scientists to make a final examination of a comparatively small section of the southern Indian Ocean seabed to the southwest of Perth, Western Australia.

The Australian transport safety investigator, the ATSB, managed the now suspended oceanic search on behalf of its Malaysia and China partners in the quest to find the wreckage, and locate and recover, if possible, the flight data and cockpit voice recorders.

There is nothing to prevent any entity from searching for the main wreckage from MH370, although there are long standing internationally agreed rules that seek to avoid disturbing any aircraft wreckage pending a examination by an accident inquiry that conforms to the protocols of the International Civil Aviation Organisation which was founded in 1947.

MH370 was over the Gulf of Thailand early on March 8, 2014, on its way from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, when it abruptly ceased to be visible to air  traffic control systems as a transponder identified flight.

Automatically generated signals from MH370 picked up by an Inmarsat communications satellite indicated that the jet eventually flew into southern Indian Ocean airspace before running out of fuel.

atrocities

Jul 15, 2017

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One of the dispersed MH17 crash sites

Where is the MH17 atrocity three years on from the destruction of the Malaysian Airlines 777-200ER with 298 people on board by a Russian made BUK missile while it flew over disputed territory above eastern Ukraine on its way from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur?

As reported in the Crikey Insider yesterday, it has for the general public largely been a cynical political exercise aimed at leveraging the terrible loss of life into an anti-Russia narrative with little reference to the facts as determined in 2015 by a Dutch Safety board investigation.

Not that Russian involvement in the act that launched the BUK missile that destroyed MH17, on July 17, 2014, four months after the unrelated disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, is in any serious doubt.

The Dutch set up two inquiries into the loss of MH17. They were the technical crash inquiry that was conducted under ICAO or International Civil Aviation Organisation rules and reported its findings in 2015, and the criminal investigation, which continues and seeks to identify and prosecute the perpetrators.

As reported in Crikey earlier, this criminal probe is unlikely to get anywhere, apart from generating much huffing and puffing and posturing by politicians and ideologues. The ICAO compliant crash probe has however left a number of very important insights into his tragedy that ought to have been front of mind had the media not fallen for a misleading presentation of its findings and, like governments that would have been well aware of those findings, not chosen to sing along to the Russians- are-evil song sheet sans the issues of potential airline culpability in putting all on board MH17 in harm’s way.

Those findings were dealt with in this post in 2015 in Plane Talking.

The strangest finding was that of the Russian NOTAM or notice to airmen that was issued the day before the shoot down closing its airspace immediately adjacent to the Ukraine airspace in question for traffic below 53,000 feet. (NOTAMS are posted in imperial measure.)

Some BUK anti-aircraft missiles are capable of sprinting to their targets at more than three times speed of sound and making kills at more than 70,000 feet. That’s an altitude where targets could include high capability spy-planes. If this Russian altitude edict reflected an intent to kill something at a great height, the question has to be about ‘what’ and ‘whose’. It’s also a speculative question that didn’t get any hour of fame in the immediate post MH17 media coverage, unless we draw a very long bow to include US reports that America had surveillance over the disputed area, and would therefore hold critical data (but which it has never publicly released) covering the interception of what turned out to be a civilian airliner.

Malaysian authorities refused to co-operate with the DSB inquiry as to what they knew about that NOTAM.

However Ukraine, which clearly did not have control over the skies across which it was selling overflight rights to airlines including Malaysia Airlines had also issued a NOTAM which was acknowledged by the carrier and prohibited use of the air corridor in Ukraine in question below 32,000 feet.

This meant that carriers like Malaysia Airlines were cleared to fly over a war zone in which 16 aircraft had been destroyed by missiles or other hostilities in the month preceding MH17 being shot down at more than 32,000 feet, but when or if their flight continued out of east Ukraine into Russian controlled airspace, they might not in places be cleared to fly at less than 53,000 feet.

This was an altitude that no airliner in scheduled service could in any event, sustain while cruising, even if it was briefly technically attainable when near to empty. (Some corporate jets can cruise for a while at more than 50,000 feet.)

It should also be kept in mind that on the day Ukraine shifted MH17 and other traffic deeper into hostile skies to avoid thunderstorms. But they were skies that Ukraine clearly hadn’t been able to control for months.

We also know that responsible airlines with a strong and proactive safety culture do flight plans that take into account the reduced altitude capabilities of twin engined airlines that lose power in one engine, an event which although infrequent would have seen a Boeing 7777-200ER descend through 32,000 feet and establish itself at a new lower cruising altitude.

In the event of a cabin depressurization any jet airliner would be taken under standard operating procedures to an altitude of less than 15,000 feet and preferably around 7000 feet to prevent death or serious injury from a lack of oxygen. Neither scenario appears to have been considered as unacceptably risky by the airlines that continued to fly over disputed parts of Ukraine.

There are a number of unresolved issues arising from this and other parts of the DSB report into the physical cause of the shoot down. A reasonable interpretation of the air traffic advisory situation would be that Russia was telling airlines not to even think about flying into its adjacent airspace if crossing that part of eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014.

That interpretation could be built on by further assuming that it was a team of operatives that were specifically tasked with using a high performance BUK anti-aircraft missile that locked onto a civilian jet by accident and destroyed it.

Like the unrelated disappearance of MH370 earlier in 2014, building scenarios based on layers of assumptions, is fraught with peril. We don’t know what happened to MH370, despite some very interesting clues, and we don’t know with any certainty why a missile was launched against MH17, even though we know the terrible consequences.

If we feel compelled to compare the two disasters what they have in common is that they brought no obvious benefit to any party. No one benefited from the disappearance of MH370. The destruction of MH17 didn’t serve any political cause for Russia, Ukraine or specifically, the pro-Russia separatists in Ukraine. It did destroy a large part of the hundreds of millions of dollars Ukraine gets from selling overflight permissions and their management by its air traffic control system to airlines yet that seems trivial in terms of the bigger Ukraine-Russia situation. MH17 didn’t change the situation in east Ukraine.

Even three years on, nothing we know about the brutal and terrible shooting down of MH17 makes any sense. All we can say of MH17 is that evil was done, to no apparent purpose at all.

air safety

Jul 5, 2017

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The key graphic from the latest independent MH370 analysis

Independent MH370 investigations says that previously ‘secret’ communications satellite data supports Australian claims that the Malaysian Airlines jet, missing for more than three years, crashed at high speed into the south Indian Ocean.

In his forensic review of that data, Victor

That data was released last month to one of the next of kin of the 239 people who died when MH370, a Boeing 777-200ER, vanished on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8, 2014.

A critical feature of the missing data was that it also contained all of the information transmitted via an Inmarsat satellite link on the previous flight by the jet, from Beijing to Kuala Lumpur, picking up features within it that were common to both flights and not anomalies unique to MH370.

As a result of revised drift analysis, the CSIRO and the ATSB now say there is more certainty as to the likely resting place of sunk wreckage from the flight on the floor of the ocean, but the search for that debris was called off in the New Year by the search partners, Australia, Malaysia and China.

airliner designs

Jun 28, 2017

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An airliner so big the wing doesn’t fit into the photo

The fate of Malaysia Airlines’ six Airbus A380s has been the focus of much criticism of the giant airliner, but what does it really think about the type’s future?

Runway Girl Network has scored an interview on that topic from the Malaysia carrier’s new CEO Peter Bellew while he was at large at the recent Paris Air Show which might surprise the pro and anti A380 camps, and stir up parallel debates as to how renewable fuel developments will affect airline operations in general.

To go to fuel first, because it is part of a set of issues that make the fate of any particular airliner seem trivial, Bellew thinks renewables will prove so successful that they will have the surprising consequence of keeping conventional aviation fuel very cheap for a long time and give airlines a long holiday from the ruinous prices that threatened their operations early this century.

Bellew says “My own personal opinion is that renewable energy is really at a huge inflection point right soon, round about 2019-2020. You’ll see the proliferation of renewable energy, autonomous cars, electric-powered cars. I think demand will level off for oil, and I think that maybe the next decade will be the golden decade for airlines. I think you could see the oil price levelling off at 30, 35 dollars per barrel for ten years, because the renewables are going to be an unstoppable force.”

His comments about the A380 design in its own right do of course reflect Malaysia Airlines’ interest in seeing their being put into a charter and lease arm of the carrier succeed. Which apparently has been the case even before they are withdrawn from its scheduled network next year.

He says “I don’t think anybody has used the aircraft properly. I think this nonsense of showers and apartments and snooker tables and bars is not what they were meant for. I think they were meant for moving 650-700 people 8-11 hours, and I think we’ve proved the case for that with this charter arm, and I think other people then will probably copy it in years to come, or scheduled airlines will get faith in it again.”

Which, come to think of it, seems to be borne out by Emirates enthusiasm on at least some routes for a reconfiguration of its A380s to a 615 passenger business and economy class format, but which does keep the bar set up for premium fare payers, and doesn’t use any reduced space seat sizes for the main cabins.

Let’s hope this example makes some users of high density economy in smaller jets like the 787 family reconsider their strategies, and put a bit of comfort back into ‘cheap.’

air crashes

Jun 14, 2017

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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.

air crashes

Jun 13, 2017

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This Boeing 777, 9M-MRO was operating flight MH370 when it vanished

A key element in some conspiracy theories about the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 can be dismissed following the release of all of the data generated between the Boeing 777 and an Inmarsat communications satellite during the fateful flight that left Kuala Lumpur for Beijing in March 2014.

Until now, independent researchers only had access to an incomplete satellite data file that had been deliberately redacted or edited without explanation.

However Victor Iannello, part of the Independent Group of MH370 researchers has 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 received from Malaysia Airlines.

In a post on his MH370 website Mr Iannello publishes the supporting correspondence between Malaysia Airlines and the next of kin, including the conditions the airline placed on its release.

There is nothing in the complete data that would immediately cast a new light on the possible causes of the loss of the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200ER nor support social media assertions that the previously redacted data had been chosen for removal to hide ‘the truth’ whatever that might be.

There is something plaintive about the airline’s email, admitting that it doesn’t actually understand the data sets it has forwarded.

Please find attached the Inmarsat data, for your info. Please note that these are raw data as you have requested. The authorities agree to release the data, on condition that:

  1. We will not translate the data into any meaningful information as the data is proprietary to Inmarsat. The Malaysian Investigation team does not have any experts to translate these data into any meaningful information.
  2. We will not translate the data into any other language, including Mandarin.
  3. These data are complete and obtained from Inmarsat. Please do not manipulate the data.

I know, by having these data, you will have more questions, but I have to say that we are providing these data to satisfy your request, but we cannot answer any questions on the data because we too, cannot understand it. Only the experts from Inmarsat can.

 Hope you understand.

 Thank you

The data sets include all of the transmissions between the aircraft and the satellite on the previous flight, from Beijing to Kuala Lumpur.  Plane Talking has been told that other investigators who have reviewed those sets have found that various technical anomalies including some involving reduced signal strength are common to the data from the Beijing-Kuala Lumpur flight and the following flight that vanished while flying back to Beijing at a point where it was over the Gulf of Thailand.

(I don’t have permission at this stage to identify those emails, and am currently involved in medical treatment which limits my on-line time.)

A question not addressed by this development is why the authorities in Malaysia should have so persistently ignored or refused media and individual researcher requests for the full data sets.

The most likely answer this reporter can suggest is that it isn’t in the DNA of Malaysia’s authorities, nor for that matter much of public administration in Australia or the ‘West’ to respond to such questions.

That reluctance was made abundantly obvious during the 2014 media briefings circuses held by authorities in Kuala Lumpur in the early stages of this mystery. Public authorities, whether in Whitehall in London, or in Canberra, or in Kuala Lumpur, do not answer to media or public individuals unless they are in total control of the process and the outcomes, and in many cases, only after going through an often protracted process of getting Executive branch approval.

In the case of Inmarsat, its data may be truly incomprehensible to 99.9 percent of the interested laity, but it has been very obvious for some time that potential or real competitors to Inmarsat might see in a full data critical clues to unlocking proprietary secrets.

This part of the saga concerning the satellite data is almost certainly not over. But for those that are interested in the difficult to comprehend technical side of the MH370 mystery, the satellite data may not contain anything that will help locate the jet with precision, even if all of the ‘secrets’ within it are laid bare.

air crashes

Jun 5, 2017

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The moment of impact for MH370 in a flight simulation

A previously overlooked line in a Boeing 777 training manual suggest that the Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 could have experienced an additional roll to the left as it plunged at very high speed to its impact in the south Indian Ocean after the jet ran out of fuel before crashing on March 8,  2014.

In his latest paper, MH 370 investigator Victor Iannello analyses an end-of flight scenario with banked descent and no pilot input.

He draws attention to this note found by fellow independent MH370 investigator Don Thompson  in the Aircraft Maintenance Manual (AMM) for the B777, in the section on the Ram Air Turbine System:

Training Information Point

When the RAT is extended and hydraulics off, the airplane rolls left. Two to three units of right control wheel rotation are necessary to hold the wings level.

As explained in the analysis, the Ram Air Turbine or RAT is a very small tethered windmill type electrical generator hard wired to pop out into the slipstream of an airliner and provide some critical instrumentation and systems functioning in a jet that is no longer drawing  power from engine driven generators.

Victor Iannello’s paper reads as an important refinement of the general scenario and conclusions drawn by Boeing’s end-of-flight simulations for MH370 with the assumption that there was no pilot input. Those simulation results were released in November 2016 by the ATSB as part of a report entitled MH370 – Search and Debris Examination Update.

This isn’t about suddenly identifying the final resting place of large, or maybe, not so large, chunks of the heavy wreckage of MH370, a Boeing 777-200ER, which was carrying 239 people on a red eye flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing when it vanished on March 8, 2014.

It’s about collecting and analysising data and working through the possible implications that arise in such studies. As such its the antithesis of the rush-to-judgment, mind-made-up coverage that has dogged the MH370 story since shortly after the jet disappeared.

The analysis includes a video showing the view from the cockpit during the simulated descent. The aircraft rolls past 180° and impacts the water at a pitch angle that is almost vertical. During the descent, the speed reaches about Mach 1.1, breaking the sound barrier,  and the descent rate approaches 60,000 feet per minute.

(Although not discussed in this paper, the recovered debris from MH370 supports the high likelihood of airframe disintegration during a descent that would have exceeded some design limitations and a high energy impact with the sea surface by the denser and stronger parts of the jet.)

The sea floor search for MH370 was called off by Australia and Malaysia with the apparent agreement of China in January. The Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, has in the last week dropped hints that a physical search might resume.

non bomb scares

Jun 1, 2017

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Widely circulated social media image of Malaysia Airlines flight back on ground at Tullamarine

It beggars belief, and it doesn’t seem to amount to a failure of security screening at Melbourne Airport, but a mentally unstable passenger forced the return of a Malaysia Airlines flight to Kuala Lumpur last.

More details concerning this incident are continuing to come in, with good coverage on morning TV shows, and this is one of the less overhyped stories to be found online.

The watermelon sized cylindrical device claimed by a deranged passenger to be a bomb shortly after the flight took off from Melbourne was not, apparently, prohibited as a carry on.

The questions du jour at this stage is whether or not passengers needed to be screened for mental instability (which would be likely to either too difficult to enforce or alternatively reduce passenger loads to sub commercial levels if successful) or more reasonably, reconsideration of the size and nature of non-explosive carry on luggage.

Melbourne Airport is now back to ‘normal’ operations, just like it was when the Malaysia Airlines flight was checked, screened and released last night.

air crashes

May 3, 2017

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Damaged seat back panel shown in the cabin of another Malaysia Airlines 777

Malaysia’s MH370 investigation team has published an illustrated set of analyses of proven or suspected fragments of the missing 777-200ER jet which finds likely tension failure rather than evidence of crushing among material that came from both sides of the wing, parts of the tail assembly and cabin fittings or seats.

Don Thompson, who has taken part in various Independent Group studies of the mystery of the loss of the Malaysia Airlines in 2014, says some of these findings support a mid-air failure of parts of the jet rather than an impact with the surface of the south Indian Ocean.

This could be bad news for those who hope that the sunk wreckage of MH370 might one day be found in a comparatively localised and readily recognizable part of the sea bed as proved the case for Air France flight AF447 after it crashed in the mid Atlantic in 2009.

However some of the fragments of likely internal fittings may bear mute witness to the destructive force of water pounding through the cabin, such as the frame of a seat back IFE screen, shown at the top of this post.

The Malaysia ICAO Annex 13 team report draws attention to a small patch of fabric found in the coat hanger associated with this part of the seat back assembly which is consistent in colour to the scheme used in MH370.

Although it doesn’t elaborate on what that material tells us about the forces that stripped the part almost completely bare, they must have been considerable.

Until now forensic insights into the crash of MH370 have largely come from the Australian safety investigator, the ATSB, which managed the sea floor search and commissioned drift analysis from the CSIRO and other modelling as to the possible routes the jet might have flown before running out of fuel.

Malaysia is responsible for the investigation into the causes of the accident, and the safety lessons that might arise from those inquiries.

This debris focused report has been a long time coming, but might to some degree counter the looney tunes nature of much of the on-going general and social media reporting on the search for the truth about the loss of the flight between Kuala Lumpur and Beijing on March 8, 2014, taking the lives of all 239 people on board.

air crashes

Apr 26, 2017

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Drift analysis for the MH370 flaperon in one simple diagram

Attempts by the ATSB to encourage a resumption of the search for the wreckage of missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 have instead drawn attention to claimed weak points in a revised CSIRO drift analysis that favors searching a comparatively smaller section of south Indian Ocean seafloor off Western Australia.

As a consequence, the abandonment of the search by Australia and Malaysia, with little commentary from China, in January, seems even less likely than before to be reversed, even though some observers had hoped for a provision for this in the Australian federal budget next month.

Things went off the rails for the ATSB after the Australian researcher Mick Gilbert, pointed out some of the untidy aspects of the revised CSIRO study (which can be downloaded at source here) in a comment to this post on Plane Talking.

This was followed by a very detailed post by Independent Group member Victor Iannello that built on more work by his peer in MH370 analysis Richard Godfrey.

What might we make of these developments? The ATSB seems to have taken the politically more realistic view that it should make efforts to resume the search for MH370 (which vanished on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8, 2014) as small a target for naysayers as possible, while doubling down on its support for  earlier conclusions as to the likely resting place of the sunk wreckage.

Independent analysts like Victor Iannello, Richard Godfrey and Mick Gilbert have however no alternative to taking a far broader view of the variables and factuals that complicate any attempt to confine the wreckage to high probability zones, even if the latest is in fact one quarter the size of the previous and now terminated search zone.

Politicians value ‘confidence’ over mathematically defined ‘probability’. However the ATSB’s ‘confidence’ comes with criticisms that undermine its credibility. This isn’t good for the case for resuming the search, even though its discontinuation was undoubtedly premature, and the focus should always have been not on a new confined area, but addressing all of the concerns about MH370’s final path that have come to light since the jet went missing.

Finding MH370 may well involve as much cost and effort as has already gone into the search up until it was discontinued. That appears to be politically impossible at this time.

air crashes

Apr 21, 2017

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The MH370 flaperon, soon after being found by a coastal clean-up team on La Réunion island

The CSIRO has revised earlier drift analysis of a wing flaperon from missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 that washed up on La Réunion island in 2015 and says it increases confidence that the wreckage of the Boeing 777 lies within a proposed new search area in the southern Indian Ocean that the Australian and Malaysian governments controversially decided not to search in January this year.

The publication of the CSIRO report by the ATSB is a reminder that the Australian air safety investigator which was managing the sea floor search for the jet, which vanished with 239 people onboard on its way from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8, 2014 (local time), doesn’t agree with that decision.

The optics of Australia’s abrupt abandonment of the search was arguably as bad as the sanctimonious words spoken by the Minister responsible for aviation, Darren Chester, when he overrode the documented expectation of the ATSB that this very last proposed search area, identified and recommended in the MH370 First Principles Review, would be examined by deep water sonar scanning devices.

That review, and other supporting or related documentation can be found at this same link on the ATSB website. It makes a nonsense of the ATSB ‘conspiracy of silence’ reports that are regularly appearing in The Australian and other News titles.

The executive summary of the new CSIRO report prepared for the ATSB says:

This report explores the possibility that an improved ability to simulate the path taken by the flaperon across the Indian Ocean might yield an improved estimate of the location of the remains of the aircraft on the sea floor.

Our earlier field testing of replicas of the flaperon was unable to confirm numerical predictions by the Direction Generale de L’Armement (DGA) that the flaperon drifted left of the wind. Field testing of a genuine Boeing 777 flaperon cut down to match photographs of 9M-MRO’s flaperon has now largely confirmed the DGA predictions, at least with respect to drift angle. The impact of this information on simulated trajectories across the Indian Ocean is that the July 2015 arrival time at La Reunion is now very easy to explain.

This new information does not change our earlier estimate of the most probable location of the aircraft. It does, however, increase our confidence in that estimate, so we are now even more confident that the aircraft is within the new search area identified and recommended in the MH370 First Principles Review (ATSB 2016).

The proposed new search area has been determined by combining many lines of evidence, the strongest being that the descent began close to the SatCom 7th arc. The following evidence from drift modelling helps indicate where along the 7th arc the aircraft impacted the sea surface:

  • The July 2015 arrival date of the flaperon at La Reunion island is consistent with impact occurring between latitudes 40°S and 30.5°S.
  • Arrival off Africa of other debris exclusively after December 2015 favours impact latitudes south of 32°S, as does the failure of the 40-day aerial search off Western Australia to find any floating debris.
  • Absence of debris findings on Australian shores is only consistent with a few impact latitudes – the region near 35°S is the only one that is also consistent with other factors.

The new search area, near 35°S, comprises thin strips either side of the previously-searched strip close to the 7th arc. If the aircraft is not found there, then the rest of the search area is still likely to contain the plane. The available evidence suggests that all other regions are unlikely.

The reference to ‘the rest of the search area’ still being likely to contain the wreckage if it isn’t found in this last proposed search zone is significant.

There are reasonable if debatable concerns that the sunk wreckage of MH370 may be been so shattered and dispersed in a high speed mid-air breakup as it plunged toward the ocean, or on impact, that it had not been detected in the previously searched but often very deep and complex 120,000 square kilometres priority zone.

There is abundant evidence in other pieces of identified or probable fragments of MH370 that have been recovered on African and Indian Ocean island shores that the Malaysia Airlines flight experienced destructive forces on or before impact.

air crashes

Mar 7, 2017

5 comments

Was this a failed attempt by MH370 to make an emergency landing at Penang?

One of the many unanswered questions during the three year long saga of the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 is ‘when did it go so wrong that the situation became unrecoverable.’

Which is really two questions, since the starting point that has defied a proven explanation is ‘what went wrong’, followed by the event that prevented the pilots from saving the plane.

Australian MH370 researcher Mick Gilbert, who has rejected the ‘pilot did it’ explanation and proposed that there was a severe and sudden control crisis in the cockpit, says there appear to be very significant clues in the Lido Hotel graphic that was shown by Malaysian authorities to the next of kin on March 21, 2014, 13 days after it vanished over the Gulf of Thailand en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people onboard.

Which is exactly three years ago tomorrow morning.

In this paper he says that when that data is run back to Penang it lines up with the end of the Standard Terminal Arrivals (STARS) approach to Penang called BIDMO 1A .

This is the route that MH370 would have taken if the crew used the Flight Management System’s Alternate Airport function to manage a diversion from near IGARI which is the choice they would have been most likely to have made in a crisis.

Mr Gilbert says there is evidence that they were flying parallel to and about 5 nm off the route – which that is called a strategic lateral offset and its what you do when flying a diversion when you can’t contact ATC.

It’s an interesting analysis the stitches up a number of questions arising from the controversial Lido Hotel slide, and from both ends, the approach to Penang and departure up the Strait.   As MH370 flew across the northern approaches to the Straits of Malacca there is a hint in the data that something was causing the airplane to drift to port. Mr Gilbert says it might have been a small hull burn through on the Captain’s side of the flight deck but also says he can’t prove that.

Critically in terms of recovering from the crisis that caused MH370 to diverge from its intended flight path to Beijing this analysis infers that the pilots became completely incapacitated or unable to take control of the airplane as it passed through waypoint KENDI and went past Penang, which may have their intended emergency landing field at the outset.

A review of the first three years of the MH370 mystery

In the Crikey Insider today the sad and embarrassing state of media coverage of MH370 is reviewed, several popular myths about its disappearance are punctured, and the unsound decision of Australian and Malaysia to abandon the search just when it might have been close to success is highlighted.

air crashes

Mar 4, 2017

5 comments

An overview of the AFBs that a hijacked MH370 would have avoided

If you want a break from social media hyperventilating over this coming week’s third anniversary of the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 one of the mystery’s sane researchers, Mick Gilbert has a paper looking at the main reason why one or both of its pilots are unlikely to have ‘dunnit.’

He says, in short, that if you were looking to ‘vanish’ a flight and whisk it away to the South Indian Ocean;

  1.  You wouldn’t have picked that flight;  it’s tracked by radar the whole way to Beijing and it left KL with about half tanks of fuel. KL to Amsterdam is the flight you’d pick – it flies through a radar blind spot at the top of the Malacca Strait and it’s loaded to the gunwales with fuel (and Westerners if jihad is your thing).
  1.  If you had to go with MH370, you would have waited 5 minutes before diverting – a few minutes past IGARI and you’re out of Thai radar coverage – and you would have said hello to Vietnamese ATC.  By checking in with Ho Chi Minh ATCC you would have bought yourself an extra 30 minutes before the phone calls started (well, an extra 11 minutes in real life, it took HCM ATCC a life-threateningly incompetent 19 minutes to realise that the flight they were meant to have heard from hadn’t called up!)
  1.  You most assuredly wouldn’t have flown your now stolen airplane straight past two RMAF fighter bases and 4 different civilian and military radar stations – that’s a bit like scheming to rob the Ferrari dealership and planning your getaway to go straight past police headquarters, a highway patrol station and four sets of fixed speed cameras.
  1.   Having turned the SATCOM off, you would not have turned it back on.
  1.  You would not have tooled around the Malacca Strait for the best part of an hour.  The corollary to “go north” shift in the likely search area is that MH370  mustn’t have left the Strait till much later (or it flew much slower, or both).  Late and/or slow is not the stuff of detailed and elaborate heists.

This reporter can nominate a sixth reason too.

  1. The KL authorities have encouraged the view the pilot or pilots did it, without ever unequivocally saying that either or both did.

Given the apparent inability of those authorities to make themselves accountable for their position on various matters, including the criminally negligent behavior of the national flag carrier in not doing its diligence on Ukraine air traffic corridors over disputed territory prior to the shooting down of MH17, we might conclude that anything KL wants us to believe is the opposite to the truth.

Mr Gilbert has also updated his paper on an alternative explanation for the disappearance of MH370, involving a very serious and sudden control crisis in the cockpit.

There is also a shorter presentation version of that paper.

If the notion of actual doing some serious reading about the loss of MH370 is too daunting you can always have your wish for facile 30 second solutions satisfied by any general media search for stories about its disappearance.

air safety

Mar 4, 2017

5 comments

Key graphic from Victor Iannello’s latest paper

MH370 researcher Victor Iannello says it is possible to interpret the Lido Hotel graphic that authorities showed to the next of kin of those onboard as showing a fighter jet chasing the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 7770200ER out into the northern approaches to the Straits of Malacca.

It’s an important paper for a number of reasons, including the serious doubts that exist about the completeness as well as overall integrity of the information released by Malaysian authorities about the disappearance of the flight, with 239 people onboard almost three years ago on March 8, 2014.

Whether the possible inferences Victor Iannello raises in his latest paper is beside the point. The authorities have been persistently and stubbornly unwilling to explain in detail the province of the graphic they showed to those most damaged by the loss of family and relatives.

At the end of the paper he says:

If this hypothesis considered here is true, it would answer some important questions about the radar data. But it would also raise even more questions about how Malaysia responded to MH370 after it disappeared from civilian radar screens and flew back across the Malay peninsula and above the Malacca Strait. If the theory is correct, it also would raise important questions about why Malaysia chose to keep this high-speed chase a secret.

It’s notable that Malaysia’s authorities have resisted any further explanation of these matters for so long. But the questions will continue to dog them until they come clean.

air crashes

Feb 22, 2017

5 comments

From Victor Iannello’s most recent post

MH370 independent researcher has posted a new look at the vexed question as to precisely what path missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 took across the northern approach to the Straits of Malacca almost three years ago.

This is, of course, not a paper for those who have made their mind up or believe in conspiracy theories peddled by lazy or ignorant fantasists. It is for many of us, certainly for myself, hard work.

The only conclusion I could dare to reach reading this is that it adds to the view of those who believe the sunk wreckage of the jet lies somewhat to the north of the ‘final’ 120,000 square km section of the southern Indian Ocean searched by the ATSB and partners and then abandoned as ‘probably’ not containing the Boeing 777’s heavier parts earlier this year.

But it also does something else. It underlines the very deep concerns MH370 followers have in general about the so called Lido Hotel graphic shown to the next of kin of the 239 people who were onboard the flight between Kuala Lumpur and Beijing when it vanished on March 8, 2014.

That graphic might yet prove to be valid. But it is part of the body of evidence that the Malaysian authorities have refused to variously defend or release, as outlined by a number of MH370  researchers and Mr Iannello in the past.

The ATSB has, no doubt tactfully, remained officially silent about any dissatisfaction it might have with the detail or integrity of material Kuala Lumpur has inexplicably either refused to release or in the case of the Lido Hotel graphic, discuss.

In this paper Victor Iannello says:

We have some additional clues from the report on MH370 released in December 2015 by Australia’s Defense Science and Technology Group (DSTG). As part of the investigation of MH370’s disappearance, Malaysia supplied the ATSB with the raw radar data up until the last capture at 18:22:22 with a  10-second spacing. However, no radar data was supplied between 18:01:49 and 18:22:22, and no explanation was provided for the 20-minute gap. If we are to believe there were no radar captures in this period, we should also question the validity of the data shown in the Lido Hotel radar image. This in turn calls into question whether MH370 was following airway N571 at the time of and subsequent to the final radar capture.

He also ties his latest analysis in with the argument made by Ian Holland, of Australia’s Defence Science and Technology Group, that what might have also been interpreted as MH370 making a turn may have been a function of the Inmarsat communications satellite re-powering itself and warming up.

Which might also suggest to readers that the decision of the search partners not to go to a new promising 25,000 square kilometer search zone, to the north of the ‘final’ 120,000 square km zone, was wrong.  Heaven forbid a successful search? Or is that just being too suspicious?

The possibility remains, after reading the Holland and Iannello papers, that the Lido Hotel data might be fabricated or massaged in part or full, although neither author says any such thing.

The apparent evasiveness or reticence of the Malaysia authorities in relation to certain missing information may actually be a clue as to the secrets they could be hiding.  Or it could just be that stuff was made up to fob off inquiring minds.  If the latter possibility is true, then they have failed.

air crashes

Feb 5, 2017

5 comments

The slide that KL authorities apparently regretted showing

Despite the awful optics of Australia’s aviation Minister, Darren Chester, seeming to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in the search for missing flight MH370, two prominent researchers continue to refine their work on trying to assist in the solution of the mysteries of its disappearance almost three years ago.

Victor Iannello, has set up a new web site, which puts a spotlight on many discrepancies concerning the official Malaysian narratives including some which Plane Talking readers may recognise as having been repeatedly highlighted by this reporter and others.

Denied, Omitted, or Ignored Data

  1. Radar captures of MH370 in the Malacca Strait were shown to the victims’ families in Beijing on March 21, 2014, but radar captures between 18:02 and 18:22 UTC were never shared with the ATSB. (See figure above.)
  2. The partial data set of raw radar data made available to the ATSB was never shared publicly.
  3. The ATSB report released in June 2014 includes statements about a radar capture of MH370 at 19:12 UTC in the Andaman Sea. Later, the ATSB acknowledged the data to be from Singapore radar, and considering the distance from Singapore, likely from an aircraft with radar capability operating in the Malacca Strait or Andaman Sea. No mention of this data is included in the Factual Information released in March 2015, yet if this data exists, it would place the terminus in the SIO much further north than where MH370 was searched.
  4. The existence of telephone records indicating a connection of the First Officer’s cell phone to a tower on Penang Island was first denied by Malaysia and not included in the Factual Information report released on March 2015. The secret RMP report has detailed information about this connection.
  5. The simulator data recovered from the Captain’s computer suggest a simulated flight with points in the Andaman Sea and the SIO. Malaysia first denied the existence of this data and did not include the data in the Factual Information report released in March 2015. The secret RMP report included some information about the simulator data, but the details about how the data was extracted and analyzed are unknown.
  6. The secret RMP report documents WeChat activity on the Captain’s cell phone while MH370 was lined up on the runway, only one minute before takeoff. The details of this activity are not presented in the RMP report. No mention of this data was included in the Factual Information report released on March 2015 despite its extreme relevance.
  7. Malaysian authorities have shown no timeliness in retrieving possible MH370 debris recovered from the shores of Eastern Africa.

The slide shown to next of kin by Malaysian Authorities and annotated with highly pertinent questions by Victor Iannello is shown at the top of this post. It should be pointed out that the few media that have stuck to the course since the Malaysian Airlines 777-200 ER with 239 people vanished on March 8, 2014, have gone blue in the face asking for answers to such questions since the early months of the saga.

The authorities do not appear to give a shit how many times such vital questions are asked, which means they really don’t have any commitment that is meaningful to giving the next of kin of the dead the full story.

This puts the Australian search in a diplomatically impossible bind, as Canberra, which takes its instructions on the search it managed in the south Indian Ocean from Kuala Lumpur, is hardly in a position to grill its masters in this matter on the quality of the information the ATSB has to work on. The silence from China on these matters is deafening, although early in the saga, Beijing gave KL a notably hard ride through state controlled PRC media on the quality of the information coming out of those stage managed nightly MH370 briefings in the Malaysia capital.

Mick Gilbert, whose research has focused on some troubling discoveries about possible defects in the vanished 777, and the state of the bottled oxygen supplies available to the the two pilots, has developed a compelling but as yet unproven although not unprovable hypothesis in which a short intense fire in the cockpit led to a crisis which ultimately could not be resolved and led to the flight ending up on a course to oblivion in the south Indian Ocean.

This hypothesis has been revised on a number of occasions and has benefited from a number of acknowledged experts. It is a much more reasoned hypothesis that those that start by declaring one or both pilots guilty of deliberately diverting MH370, and then inventing, as so many commentators have, a range of increasingly wild assumptions to explain away the peculiarities of the early part of its journey westwards from the Gulf of Thailand and then to a controlled landing after seven hours 39 minutes in the southern ocean without the benefit of full electrical or hydraulic control of the jet.

Those imaginative and prejudicial theories also ignore the detailed analysis of signals from MH370 and of fragments of the jet recovered from South Africa and Indian Ocean island, which point to a high  energy impact with the ocean.

In his paper Mr Gilbert says:

There is a great deal to consider in the Iannello and Gilbert papers. There is no need to rush to conclusions and try to ‘pick winners’ which is the fixation of so much ill informed social media on the MH370 mystery, including by this reporter early in the saga.

And as to the missing radar data on the slide shown by KL authorities to the next of kin, Mr Gilbert says “It’s missing because it either doesn’t exist or it doesn’t belong to the Malaysians.” He argues that it could have been Thai military radar.

Both papers should be read with the knowledge that the ATSB and some of the searchers have already made it clear they believe calling off the search without looking at a final area of high probability for the wreckage north of the main priority search zone was a mistake.