Malaysia has publicly released the raw data of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370’s ‘handshakes’ with an Inmarsat satellite on 8 March.
The data is contained a 47-page transcript of satellite transmission and “handshake” data as recorded by Inmarsat. It was produced by Inmarsat, and contains brief explanatory notes at salient moments during the flight, such as the aircraft’s last ACARS (Aircraft Communications and Reporting Addressing System) transmission.
It commences at 16:00:13 GMT (on Saturday 7 March) with a “Log-on/Log-off Acknowledge” event, this would have been just after midnight local time on 8 March.
After over 30 pages of routine transmissions, at 17:07 GMT, the report notes the “Last acknowledged Ground to Air DATA-2 ACARS” message. Eventually, at 00:18:37 GMT on Saturday 8 March, the final transmission is received from the aircraft.
The release of the data is part of an effort to bring greater transparency to the search for MH370, the loss of which claimed the lives of 227 passengers and 12 crew. The lack of information about the aircraft’s disappearance, as well as Malaysian public relations gaffes in the days after the aircraft vanished, infuriated the families of the victims and led to a row with the Chinese government. The majority of passengers on the aircraft were Chinese nationals.
The disclosure of the Inmarsat data will also give external consultants and experts an opportunity to examine the data, which has so far provided the only clue to the final position of the lost aircraft.
Meanwhile, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) is preparing for an intensified underwater search for MH370. It envisages the search taking 12 months and covering an area of up to 60,000 square kilometres. The objective will be to locate the aircraft and map the debris field.
“The ATSB will use data obtained from a comprehensive bathymetric survey of the search area to identify and prioritise areas of the search zone,” it says. “The bathymetric survey – currently underway – will essentially provide a map of the search zone, charting the contours, depths and hardness of the ocean floor.”
The extended search for the lost aircraft, which will be conducted by private contractors, will use specialist equipment capable of operating at depths of “at least 6,000m.” It will included a towed sonar, autonomous underwater vehicle, and advanced optical imaging equipment.