The MH370 mirage

Existence for the relatives of passengers and crew lost with Flight MH370 continues like a nightmare. Every time information is released about the missing Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 they comb it for something – anything – to provide either hope or closure, but they receive neither.

And thus it has been this time. Within a 48h period two pieces of information were released, but neither provides any cause for optimism.

The release by the Malaysian authorities of the raw satellite data from which calculations of the final oceanic search area were made is likely to add nothing to the sum total of knowledge about this awful event. Indeed, it was released as proof of their commitment to information transparency, rather than as anything actually new. While this allows independent communications experts to scan columns of figures for clues that Inmarsat might have missed, there has been silence, and considering Inmarsat’s expertise, the silence seems likely to continue.

The announcement by the Australian coordinators of the oceanic search that the wreckage of MH370 is definitely not in the sea area where acoustic signals were picked up is the latest blow.

It is an admission, suspected at the time, that the pulses came from some other source, not from MH370’s “black box” recorders.

The search team had no choice, however, but to carry out the extensive and lengthy trawl, despite their lack of optimism.

There is still some slight comfort to be had from the fact that the French-led team which searched for the wreckage of Air France 447 in the deep south Atlantic found it after two years. But they had more reliable data on where the aircraft went missing, and they also had the massive psychological advantage of having recovered floating wreckage from the surface.

There is no doubt that the world will not tolerate this surreal absence of information again, so the industry will have to adopt, as soon as possible, a reliable system for universal flight tracking in non-primary-radar areas, which means most of the world.

That will not stop events like this happening, but it will mean the world can find the wreckage quickly. But the world will also be able to watch in horror as the data disappears from the screen.

The belief that modern technology can enable society to regulate every aspect of daily life has been revealed, once again, as an illusion.

There is no light at the end of the tunnel, so the only choice available is to continue in the darkness. That is what the multi-national search teams plan to do.

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4 Responses to The MH370 mirage

  1. Don 29 May, 2014 at 7:16 pm #

    David,
    The means to reliably track aircraft is available now. The AF A330 fleet, if not their whole fleet, transmits position updates over ACARS every 10 minutes and, if there hadn’t been a procedural error over the AFN login, Senegal would have been receiving AF447′s ADS-C transmissions. Inmarsat tell us they’ve been saving their ground station traffic logs since AF447 for this purpose. MAS alluded to 30 minute routine updates from 9M-MRO and air traffic service ADS-B covers the region very well. All avionics systems capable of external comms ceased to function on 9M-MRO leaving the aircraft in stealth mode for 1hr 18min until only the satcom terminal reconnected to its ground station. Systematic failures, or absence of appropriate systems, within MAS’ ops centre, Malaysian ATC & VATM wasted valuable time at the outset when military assistance could have been engaged to identify and intercept the aircraft.
    Additional technology isn’t needed, between Iridium and Inmarsat the coverage is available.
    ELTs could be improved, certainly: bit.ly/1hrQXZ3

  2. Kavita 31 May, 2014 at 2:36 pm #

    It is possible that the aircraft might not have crashed at all , that is why we are unable to find the debris….It might have sank in the ocean with its structure intact, there can be many reasons as how an airplane can come to stop with gradual reduced speed without the interference of the pilot. Pilots or all passengers might have been unconscious or died because of decompression or various other factors.When this happens its highly difficult to locate as where it has sunk, it might show up after some years just like star dust crash of Andes or Titanic..Its very unfortunate event but we need to accept the limitations of technology esp in aviation industry where the planes fly mostly on top of oceans( which covers largest part of planet). No technology can beat the vastness of the oceans.

  3. Velis 1 June, 2014 at 7:18 am #

    Please allow me 2 questions:

    a) Have the Malaysian authorities released the (unprocessed) primary radar (civilian and/or military) recordings relevant to MH370?

    b) Was there any official statement / apology for all the efforts (and costs) wasted during the first week of search at a completely wrong location?

  4. John 11 September, 2014 at 10:18 am #

    This is what I wrote on 17 March 2914 to friends. I still think it is a likely scenario for the entire event.
    I think I know what happened to the Malaysia flight.
    It was the pilot.
    Why?
    First: motive. He is obviously a crazy guy. Who else would build a flight simulator in his own house? He lives, sleeps and talks aviation, it seems. He has been flying with Air Malaysia for over 30 years, and has been everywhere and done everything. He is bored to death.
    So now, the biggest challenge of his life. Perhaps one day he was chatting with a colleague – maybe about the Air France plane that disappeared in the Atlantic and wasn’t recovered for two years. So our mad pilot thinks about this and says to himself “What is the chance of getting a big jet to vanish PERMANENTLY?”
    What a challenge! What a madman!

    All the evidence stacks up. It must have been either the pilot or co-pilot who switched off all the signals. This is complex and could only be done by someone with 777 experience.
    Not the co-pilot because he wasn’t such a madman.

    Why did he ascend to 45,000 feet just before he crossed back over Malay/Thai territory? Because radar, even if he was detected, would have thought it was a military plane; 777s are not supposed to go above 43,000 feet.
    Why did he then descend to 29500 feet? Normally planes fly at 1000 feet gaps. At 29500 he would be unlikely to hit or be hit by another plane. That would spoil his plan completely.
    Why did he then turn south into the endless Indian Ocean, instead of turning north where he would have soon reached land? This is a no-brainer: the whole idea was to get lost! And where better to do it than the vast Indian Ocean, where the depths often exceed 2 miles . . .

    I rest my case.

    But just remember also that he was a middle-aged Malay, a group with generally bitter feelings against the Chinese. That’s why he chose the Beijing flight. What better than to drown 150 of them at a stroke! (It would be good if the investigators could check out the extent of his anti-Chinese feelings.)

    Final note: How did he keep the co-pilot quiet – probably some quiet drug that made him look asleep. Apart from that, he could have allowed the cabin crew to come and go normally. Why should they realise on a night-time over-sea journey that they weren’t off to China? Everything would have seemed normal, both to them and to the passengers.

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