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Mystery MH370
June 1, 2014 4:54 PM   Subscribe

Last week it was announced that "Bluefin-21 completed its last mission" and that "the area can now be discounted as the final resting place of MH370". That news came two days after Malaysian authorities released a 47 pages long document of Inmarsat's raw data [pdf].

While the public tries to make sense of the newly released communication logs, experts are reanalyzing all existing information in an effort to identify a new search area and plan to map the sea floor. The search is on halt until August at least and could last for another year. (MH370 previously, previouslier)
posted by travelwithcats (84 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
Man, at some point they're going to have to just call it lost, right?
posted by nevercalm at 4:56 PM on June 1 [5 favorites]


at this point, it isn't ever going to be found. the batteries in the black boxes are dead, the pings to the satellites were ephemeral, the last words of the pilot to traffic control were inscrutable, and the fate of the passengers is unknowable.
posted by bruce at 5:35 PM on June 1 [3 favorites]


When they scan the ocean floor, is that footage also being made available to scientists who probably couldn't afford to do this much scanning otherwise? Seems like a waste if it isn't.
posted by HappyEngineer at 5:35 PM on June 1 [12 favorites]


I'm surprised that no floating wreckage has turned up... but the ocean's a big place. Winter out there is foul.
posted by Marky at 5:48 PM on June 1


Didn't it take longer than this to find Air France? They didn't write that one off? Am I mistaken?
posted by bleep at 5:56 PM on June 1


Didn't it take longer than this to find Air France? They didn't write that one off? Am I mistaken?

I think there was debris found quite quickly (within a day or two at most), but it took much longer to find the actual plane.
posted by hoyland at 5:59 PM on June 1


It'll be found eventually. Because we can't not find it.
posted by zardoz at 6:00 PM on June 1 [5 favorites]


Is CNN still doing 24-hour coverage about this?
posted by double block and bleed at 6:02 PM on June 1 [8 favorites]


Wonder if this thread will be even shorter than the previous thread, which was much shorter than the first thread.
posted by bobloblaw at 6:05 PM on June 1 [4 favorites]


Didn't it take longer than this to find Air France? They didn't write that one off? Am I mistaken?

Yes you are, the crash location of Air France Flight 447 was clear quite quickly.
posted by beagle at 6:12 PM on June 1


Oh, that's right. They didn't find the black box for 2 years but they found the wreckage right away.
posted by bleep at 6:31 PM on June 1


I know this is kinda CNN, but let's say someone onboard did this.

And he/she was meticulous (for reasons we don't understand) flying the aircraft to 40K+ feet and depressurizing to render the crew and passengers unconscious…plotting a zig zag course back over the land mass in an area with low radar coverage, quickly disabling all tracking and beacons, sending the plane into the middle of nowhere so the plane is never found.

Let's call it a terribly misguided mass-murder/suicide for insurance or "reasons".

Would this same person try to anticipate the recovery mission? Would they know the intervals that the engine pings would send on? And would they turn the plane at the very end of the expected fuel burn so that it was far from a location that might be derived from the final series of pings?

Would they fly the plane in a slow arc? Turn it suddenly to the left or right? What impact with the water would leave the least debris?

Someone went to a lot of trouble with their final act…one would expect that they took almost every detail into consideration.
posted by bobloblaw at 6:32 PM on June 1


Someone went to a lot of trouble with their final act…one would expect that they took almost every detail into consideration.
OR it may have been Atlanteans, taking a random sample of modern humans down for analysis, to see if we are ready to know THE TRUTH!!!!!
posted by b1tr0t at 6:42 PM on June 1 [5 favorites]


I know I'm not ready.
posted by double block and bleed at 6:52 PM on June 1 [2 favorites]


This is sad. I stopped following this story ages ago, but I was confident searchers would eventually find the remains of the plane, though this would obviously be slow and take a while, and relatives and friends of passengers and crew would eventually get some kind of closure, and if the black boxes where found, maybe some understanding of what happened.

Somehow it makes it seem even more tragic that the Malaysian ship involved in the bathymetric survey is called Bunga Mas 6, "The Golden Flower 6". It's such a pretty name. (I don't have any idea what the Chinese ship names mean.)
posted by nangar at 7:00 PM on June 1 [1 favorite]


It'll be found eventually. Because we can't not find it.

The Indian Ocean is huge, and incredibly remote, with some of the roughest seas in the world. Without a defined search area, it's impossibly expensive to scan the entire Ocean. Unless new evidence points them in the right direction, at some point, the search will be called off and that will be it.
posted by T.D. Strange at 7:01 PM on June 1 [1 favorite]


A sailor who was on watch on a private yacht may have more information.

On the night in question (7th-8th March), I was standing a night watch alone. Well, sitting, really. Watching the stars, since I had been spending the passage identifying and learning a new constellation every night. And I thought I saw a burning plane cross behind our stern from port to starboard; which would have been approximately North to South. It was about half the height of other flights which I had been gazing at during that part of the passage.


(This site is about as beanplatey as MiFi, beware the rabbit hole)
posted by sammyo at 7:33 PM on June 1 [1 favorite]


This incident is, to me, a pretty serious gut punch from reality showing us just how puny we humans are. Sure hope they find it before any family members die.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 7:42 PM on June 1


They're not going to find that damned plane until someone invents a satellite equipped with neutrino emitting scanners that can map the entire ocean floor down to the micrometer.
posted by planetesimal at 7:42 PM on June 1


My theory, totally without any facts or reason, it's in a hangar in North Korea (and they used one of their missiles to drop the black boxes in the ocean).
posted by 445supermag at 8:13 PM on June 1


The only reason we humans feel so puny is because the airlines don't want to pay for GPS trackers for their airplanes.
posted by Nelson at 8:26 PM on June 1 [4 favorites]


The search won't stop until something is found. The Chinese Government is demonstrating its power - its deep pockets, its commitment to its citizens, and the willingness of other countries (Australia for example) to work with it to solve problems.
posted by jjderooy at 8:37 PM on June 1 [1 favorite]


Jesus christ am i ever tired of hearing peoples weird conspiracy theories about this. No offense intended to you boblolaw, but people have gotten so 9/11 truther about this so quickly and it's just really gross and irritating.
posted by emptythought at 9:00 PM on June 1 [4 favorites]


I wonder what they will do with the detailed scans of this section of deep ocean floor. There must be some scientific value. Or what other things they found (old ship wrecks, piles of plastic ducks). So it wasn't all a waste.
posted by stbalbach at 9:01 PM on June 1


> neutrino emitting scanners

Yeah maybe they need to think outside. A tube full of people is basically a whale fall which creates certain 'impacts' which may be detectable by other means.
posted by stbalbach at 9:16 PM on June 1 [2 favorites]


.
posted by stoneweaver at 9:16 PM on June 1


And here's a rundown of major theories to date for those just catching up.
posted by mazola at 9:34 PM on June 1 [2 favorites]


> the airlines don't want to pay for GPS trackers for their airplanes.

A "GPS tracker" does not and cannot possibly exist. GPS is a receive-only system that relies on a network of satellites that only broadcast data.

What you're asking for is some completely new 24-7 network all around the world (including the farthest reaches of the ocean) which receives a stream of continuous position information from all flying vehicles and reliably records this information.

GPS has cost tens of billions of dollars to set up and maintain, and is a great deal simpler than this would be - the GPS system is simply a bunch of satellites with very accurate clocks that broadcast the time continuously, there's no storage or reception mechanism.

The system you're asking for would cost hundreds of billions of dollars to build - perhaps more. No airline, not even a consortium of airlines, could afford it.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:57 PM on June 1 [12 favorites]


bobloblaw: "Wonder if this thread will be even shorter than the previous thread, which was much shorter than the first thread."

There's less and less to talk about. Many theories ranging from reasonably plausible to batshit insane have been raised from all quarters. Some have been proven to be wrong. The others now have to wait until there is more evidence. It's a gripping mystery, but a mystery lives and dies on the clues that become available. Right now, it looks like we are out of clues.

I think that more evidence will be found sooner or later. Interest in this will be revived. Until then, it's a frustrating enigma with nothing but dead ends.
posted by double block and bleed at 10:04 PM on June 1 [4 favorites]


A "GPS tracker" does not and cannot possibly exist. GPS is a receive-only system that relies on a network of satellites that only broadcast data.
You are being overly pedantic. GPS trackers can and do exist, they just require some other mechanism for transmitting position data. Passenger aircraft on international duty often have a satellite link for the in-flight entertainment system. I would be surprised if insurance companies haven't already demanded (in the wake of the loss of this flight) that they also include a regular ping containing GPS location data.
posted by b1tr0t at 10:19 PM on June 1 [8 favorites]


The system you're asking for would cost hundreds of billions of dollars to build - perhaps more. No airline, not even a consortium of airlines, could afford it.
posted by lupus_yonderboy


I would be surprised if insurance companies haven't already demanded (in the wake of the loss of this flight) that they also include a regular ping containing GPS location data.
posted by b1tr0t at 10:19 PM


Inmarsat offers free airline tracking. -- It would see a plane determine its location using GPS and then transmit that data - together with a heading, speed and altitude - over Inmarsat's global network of satellites every 15 minutes.

"Our equipment is on 90% of the world's wide-body jets already. This is an immediate fix for the industry at no cost to the industry," Inmarsat senior vice-president Chris McLaughlin told BBC News.
posted by xdvesper at 10:52 PM on June 1 [5 favorites]


Kinda gross that he's shilling his company on the back of a tragedy.
posted by marienbad at 1:23 AM on June 2


You know who's really gross and self-aggrandizing in all this? Prime Minister and grade A yutz Tony Abbott, who has repeatedly overstated military and scientific observations to try to grab world attention for his administration.
posted by gingerest at 1:31 AM on June 2 [3 favorites]


Its not gross, he's not building a company on the back of a tragedy, they build the company by investing in an incredibly expensive network of satellites. They put a lot of their own resources into helping with the search, when the airline and the plane were not part of their customer base to begin with.

There is a real need for an upgrade to the technology of tracking planes and wrecked planes and if that's something that Inmarsat can be a part of, good for them.

Also,

When they scan the ocean floor, is that footage also being made available to scientists who probably couldn't afford to do this much scanning otherwise? Seems like a waste if it isn't.

I'm pretty sure this is a sonar search, not an optical search, but I think they might be getting a more detailed map of the ocean floor in this area.
posted by C.A.S. at 1:39 AM on June 2 [2 favorites]


The only reason we humans feel so puny is because the airlines don't want to pay for GPS trackers for their airplanes.

In continuous position transmitters which the pilots can't turn off just in case the pilots decide to hijack the plane somewhere way out of radar range?

Honestly, why? It won't save any lives, really, because if the pilots want to kill everyone they can still do that. Planes don't just disappear very often, so you'd be investing quite a bit of money in doing something that'll just help you to find out what happened in cases that basically never happen.
posted by atrazine at 2:52 AM on June 2 [1 favorite]


you'd be investing quite a bit of money

or, you know, not:

Inmarsat offers free airline tracking. -- It would see a plane determine its location using GPS and then transmit that data - together with a heading, speed and altitude - over Inmarsat's global network of satellites every 15 minutes.

"Our equipment is on 90% of the world's wide-body jets already. This is an immediate fix for the industry at no cost to the industry," Inmarsat senior vice-president Chris McLaughlin told BBC News.
posted by xdvesper at 1:52 on June 2 [+] [!]
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 2:57 AM on June 2


lupus_yonderboy: "What you're asking for is some completely new 24-7 network all around the world (including the farthest reaches of the ocean) which receives a stream of continuous position information from all flying vehicles and reliably records this information."
Oh, something like AIS then?
posted by brokkr at 3:13 AM on June 2


I really think it's unfair to categorise the Inmarsat offer as shilling on the back of a tragedy. It's a genuine solution, it's probably the best way to implement it quickly, and it's not as if Inmarsat needs more exposure among its target market.

Would it be better not to do it, or to decide to do it and then not tell people about it? Wait until MH370 is completely out of the headlines?

Skepticism is good here, cynicism less so.
posted by Devonian at 3:21 AM on June 2 [3 favorites]


The aircraft had a GPS tracker. It was fully equipped with the ability to send back position data and all sorts of other telemetry. We don't need a new system - it already exists.

The reason we don't know where it is? IT WAS TURNED OFF. Nobody expected that. Nobody thought "let's make it so that you can never disable the GPS tracker" because up until a few months ago there had never been an incident like this.

The outcome of this will probably be the modification of the system so that the tracker can't be turned off.
posted by leo_r at 3:33 AM on June 2 [1 favorite]


Kinda gross that he's shilling his company on the back of a tragedy.

If he's offering something with the potential to save people's lives in the future, then I'm all in favor of him doing whatever he can to draw attention to it.
posted by John Cohen at 4:04 AM on June 2 [1 favorite]


On a more positive note, it seems we are making progress on locating the much longer lost Santa Maria.
posted by fairmettle at 4:13 AM on June 2 [1 favorite]


Offering it for *free.* Pretty bad job of "shilling" if you ask me. I wish Tesla Motors would "shill" like that. Or heck, Arby's will do.
posted by spitbull at 4:33 AM on June 2 [6 favorites]


Honest question: why are people paying so much attention to this?
posted by signal at 5:01 AM on June 2 [1 favorite]


Because it is a first world problem.
posted by asok at 5:53 AM on June 2 [1 favorite]


The system you're asking for would cost hundreds of billions of dollars to build - perhaps more. No airline, not even a consortium of airlines, could afford it.

Just argue for the privacy of flight location data and the NSA will immediately start collecting it. Problem solved.
posted by srboisvert at 6:03 AM on June 2 [3 favorites]


Kinda gross that he's shilling his company on the back of a tragedy.

Change in industries like air travel is almost always driven by tragedy. Granted, it would be nice if this was not the case but I don't see that happening anytime soon.
posted by tommasz at 6:09 AM on June 2


fairmettle: "On a more positive note, it seems we are making progress on locating the much longer lost Santa Maria."

MeFi post.
posted by Chrysostom at 6:10 AM on June 2


Because it is a first world problem.

Malaysia and China?
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:10 AM on June 2 [4 favorites]


Why care about any news that doesn't affect you personally? Because you could skip reading 99% of everything with no real consequences, other than being a lot more boring to talk to at parties. At least this news has a genuine mystery in it, which amounts to a form of audience participation.
posted by miyabo at 6:26 AM on June 2 [3 favorites]


Because you could skip reading 99% of everything with no real consequences, other than being a lot more boring to talk to at parties

Anybody who came up to me at a party and started talking about missing airplanes would get a fake smile and a quick 'gotta go check something, over there... bye'.
posted by signal at 7:02 AM on June 2


lupus_yonderboy: "The system you're asking for would cost hundreds of billions of dollars to build"

It would, and it did... But we already did that. The original envisioned use for Iridium was idiotic, but it's really good at transmitting small amounts of data from extremely remote locations.

SAR beacons with worldwide coverage also exist, and that network only requires a small handful of satellites (but probably doesn't have enough bandwidth to handle every commercial flight squawking its location every 60 seconds).

If the airline industry doesn't mandate continuous tracking in the wake of this accident, you can be sure that there will be a renewed interest in developing ELTs that can actually survive a crash.
posted by schmod at 7:34 AM on June 2


Nobody thought "let's make it so that you can never disable the GPS tracker" because up until a few months ago there had never been an incident like this.

You know, I really suspect that they did. Engineers can be very good at designing devices that cannot be tampered with by people, and have plenty of good historical reasons to do so. But since Boeing also builds aeroplanes for Air Force One, I suspect that the ability to disable the GPS tracker was a feature that one of their most important customers wanted preserved. After all, something that is broadcast is something that can be intercepted.
posted by kisch mokusch at 7:42 AM on June 2


Well that was an unintentional derail. We went back and forth on the feasibility of GPS tracking in the initial discussion and I've argued both sides. I'm of the conclusion now that it's completely feasible. I don't know that it's necessary, we do only "lose" an airplane once every few years. It's a cost-benefit question.

The new thing required is a tamper-proof transponder with an autonomous power source uploading GPS locations to an existing satellite constellation. As we discussed before, electronics outside the control of the pilot are somewhat uncommon on airplanes (but not entirely unprecedented). It turns out that in practice Inmarsat system on MH370 pretty much was a tamper-proof transmitter, all that was missing was GPS data on the transmission.

Losing a plane is not a case of puny humans lost in the cosmos. It's a technically solvable problem, and not difficult.
posted by Nelson at 8:25 AM on June 2


signal: "Honest question: why are people paying so much attention to this?"
Honest answer: it's pretty rare for large airliners to vanish. Last time it happened to a passenger flight with more than a hundred passengers was in 1962 (Flying Tiger Line Flight 739).
posted by brokkr at 8:29 AM on June 2 [1 favorite]


Okay, so for the third time in this thread:

The GPS-style system being talked about already exists, and is being offered free by Inmarsat. So could we please stop talking about the cost of such a system as if it matters? Because it doesn't.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:46 AM on June 2


The Inmarsat system exists. It is not necessarily installed on all aircraft, and it does not necessarily have uninterruptible power in those aircraft where it is installed. Ergo, it will cost money, and decent human beings may debate the value of spending that money to prevent something with a relatively rare occurrence rate, vs more pressing safety issues, likely runway overrun protection or collision-avoidance systems. They may also be concerned about the negative side-effects of an uninterruptible transmitter, from onboard fires to communication interference, which may be more hazardous than the issue that is trying to be addressed.
posted by cardboard at 9:08 AM on June 2 [2 favorites]


According to Inmarsat it's already on 90% of all aircraft. So if the hyperbole about billions of dollars could go away and we could discuss the actual issue?

Some government is going to mandate inaccessible GPS-style units on all new airplanes, and give a time limit for older planes to be retrofitted. I'm betting it'll be the USA or France (biggest airplane manufacturers in the world I believe), and it'll happen sooner rather than later.

Frankly, I get why they're looking for this plane, still. But after so much time, the likelihood is low, and how many millions and millions of dollars have been spent that could have helped people who are still alive?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:14 AM on June 2


kisch mokusch: You know, I really suspect that they did. Engineers can be very good at designing devices that cannot be tampered with by people, and have plenty of good historical reasons to do so. But since Boeing also builds aeroplanes for Air Force One, I suspect that the ability to disable the GPS tracker was a feature that one of their most important customers wanted preserved. After all, something that is broadcast is something that can be intercepted.
That's ludicrous. Even ignoring the fact that the current Air Force One aircraft are Boeing 747s built in the late 80s, it's ridiculous to suggest that Boeing would make a decision for their commercial aircraft based on the requirements for an incredibly bespoke aircraft like the VC-25s that make up Air Force One. There is so many changes from the commercial aircraft that small changes in the communications system would make no difference. It's likely that the Air Force One aircraft have completely different communications systems to commercial aircraft. They probably don't even have an Inmarsat transmitter on board (the US Air Force have no shortage of their own communications satellites).

The aerospace industry (and most other engineering industries) design systems to requirements. Yes, engineers *can* build tamper proof devices, but if there wasn't a requirement for one when the aircraft was designed, why would they have? Almost all aircraft systems can be isolated by circuit breakers - it's standard industry practice because it means failing systems can be isolated. If there wasn't an implicit requirement to build a tamper proof location broadcasting system, the designers won't make it tamper proof.

Having worked in various branches of the defence and aerospace industry, I'm quite certain there's not some great conspiracy. There's plenty of bureaucracy but ultimately the vast majority of people who do the day to day work are fairly normal people working to the best of their ability to solve whatever problem they happen to be working on.
posted by leo_r at 9:59 AM on June 2 [3 favorites]


Honest question: why are people paying so much attention to this?

I have asked myself this question, too. It is a fascinating mystery. For that reason alone it attracts attention from many quarters. What I noticed: be it highbrow or lowbrow, analyses share a few premises about technology and state and society:

1) Technological data can solve the mystery
2) Technologies of surveillance and computation can solve the mystery
3) The states and multinationals who possess the data and technologies have an implicit interest in transparency and full disclosure to "the people" (the people being citizens and foreign nationals, since many countries are involved in this search)

These premises do not follow from the history of technology, the Cold War and the post-Cold War state.

It seems wise to proceed with caution when searching for answers in technological data, especially that which is generated and disseminated by the military industrial complex.

MH370 shows that there is a lot of faith in the transparency and... goodness (?) of the US government, its allies and defense contractors. That's what I see in English language media and on the internet. That is a surprise in a post 911 context.*

Another surprise is to not see analysis of the limitations of the the data dumps. They do not change what Donald Rumsfeld called "unknown unknowns" and "known unknowns." Old-fashioned detective work and diplomacy play some unknown role in the investigation, data which will not be made public now, if ever.

To me, MH370 is interesting because in this case we see genuine optimism about the neutrality of technological data. The optimism is at odds with growing fears of surveillance and big data in other spheres of personal life and civil society.

Now of all times it is important not to forget Eisenhower 1960 warning's to US citizens (which holds for people everywhere)

Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.

* Yes I know that the US is not at the center of this story. It is curious that the public looks to Malaysia for "American-style" transparency. No doubt the prestige of the NTSB plays a part here, but I think there's more to this optimism and faith than one agency's record.
posted by CtrlAltD at 10:12 AM on June 2


Oh, very interesting about Inmarsat! And a good idea too - those satellites were put up to do satellite telephony IIRC and aren't really being used for that.

People are fascinated because, of course, there is no definitive ending and there might never be one.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:54 AM on June 2


MH370 is fascinating precisely because the disappearance demonstrates the limits of what we can learn and know with technology. I'm sure there's information we're not being told, but I don't believe the plane's really in a secret hangar or people really know what happened and just aren't telling us. To me, this is one of those cases where something really fell, as it were, off the edge of the world and we're probably never really going to know what happened, or certainly we won't in any near-term time frame. And when we do find something out, it'll be reconstructed and guesswork, not provable exact facts of the sort we tend to expect for modern historical events.

To someone with a smidge of historical training, like me, it's worth watching on that front, even though I'm not involved in any other form. I am sorry for the people who lost their loved ones, though, and doubly so because it's got to really hurt them that in a time when you expect to always know "how" and "why", they're unlikely to find out.
posted by immlass at 11:19 AM on June 2 [1 favorite]


To me, MH370 is interesting because in this case we see genuine optimism about the neutrality of technological data. The optimism is at odds with growing fears of surveillance and big data in other spheres of personal life and civil society.
Tracking commercial airplanes doesn't have the same privacy implications as tracking individuals. Flights are no secret; they're scheduled in advance, with a defined flight path and destination, and hundreds of people are involved.

It's a valid use case for a person to want to go somewhere off-the-grid and not be tracked. There's no such use case for an airplane carrying hundreds of people to want to disappear.
posted by floomp at 12:49 PM on June 2


There's no such use case for an airplane carrying hundreds of people to want to disappear.
Hey, don't be so quick to judge my Bermuda Triangle Tours.
posted by b1tr0t at 2:47 PM on June 2 [1 favorite]


(Sigh. So sad, and probably a mystery for the years ahead. Maybe it'll become the Mary Celeste of the 21st century...)
posted by RedOrGreen at 2:56 PM on June 2


I think now is a good time to re-link the now 65×250 posts Airliners.net thread on the missing airplane:

http://www.airliners.net/aviation-forums/general_aviation/read.main/6090661/ [current last page]

http://www.airliners.net/aviation-forums/general_aviation/read.main/6013265 [page 1]

It's the most amazing microcosm of the internet - informed, detail-oriented, misguided, re-guided, gets viral, everyone falls out, some people leave, eventually it dies a heat death.

But if you want to know something, it's in there...
posted by cromagnon at 3:43 PM on June 2 [2 favorites]


Tracking commercial airplanes doesn't have the same privacy implications as tracking individuals. Flights are no secret; they're scheduled in advance, with a defined flight path and destination, and hundreds of people are involved.

I agree about the public interest of tracking planes. I don't believe that we know everything there is to know about the motivations of Inmarsat, militaries in the region or others calling for the release data and so on. Without that political context, it is hard to know what the meaning is of the data is in the bigger picture of the investigation.
posted by CtrlAltD at 4:26 PM on June 2


signal: "Honest question: why are people paying so much attention to this?"

In addition to the sophisticated points raised by CtrlAltD, and our general horrified fascination with airplane disasters, I think most people have trouble conceiving of the scale of the world. Blame it on our Stone Age brains, or the common lack of experience transiting large distances in any but the most accelerated fashion, but I suspect many of us have difficulty with the notion of losing something that occupies the dimensions of a 20-story office building.
posted by gingerest at 5:40 PM on June 2 [2 favorites]


I didn't see this linked - apologies if it's a double...

Recorded Noise Might Offer Clues to Missing Plane

Scientists plan to release detailed information on Wednesday about a mysterious noise, possibly that of an ocean impact, recorded by two undersea receivers in the Indian Ocean about the time that Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 ceased satellite transmissions and vanished on March 8.

The low-frequency noise, which was outside the normal range of hearing and had to be sped up to be made audible, appears to have traveled halfway across the Indian Ocean to the receivers off the coast of Australia. [...] The general vicinity from which the noise emanated is a large area of the central Indian Ocean off the southern tip of India and about 3,000 miles northwest of Australia. But that is not consistent with calculations of an arc of possible locations in the southeastern Indian Ocean where the plane, carrying 239 people, might have run out of fuel.

posted by RedOrGreen at 8:06 PM on June 2 [1 favorite]


I don't believe anything anybody says about this until they can show me some wreckage.
posted by Justinian at 9:00 PM on June 2


or, you know, not:

Inmarsat offers free airline tracking. -- It would see a plane determine its location using GPS and then transmit that data - together with a heading, speed and altitude - over Inmarsat's global network of satellites every 15 minutes.


Yeah, but MH370 had more or less that same technology already. It just isn't tamper proof because no-one anticipated the need to track a plane that wasn't over land and that the pilots took active steps to hide. So the pilots switched that system off and it didn't do anyone any good.

It's the design of a tamper proof system, including its power circuits which would have to be totally separate to still allow the crew to shut down other power if needed for controlling fires and other emergencies that is an issue. And for what benefit?

Oh, something like AIS then?
AIS is short range, like existing aircraft transponder systems. There have been some trials in using satellites to detect AIS messages but that is not what it was designed for and there are actually significant technical issues with doing that because of the channel access scheme used by AIS which was designed for short range traffic control and collision avoidance.
posted by atrazine at 2:13 AM on June 3 [1 favorite]


A sailor who was on watch on a private yacht may have more information.

From her 1 June blog:
Now, one thing I have to say is that I feel shit about this. Because I doubted my sanity at the time, I didn’t report it when I got to land and heard about the missing plane. Because I assumed I was wrong and the plane had gone the other way to Vietnam I didn’t report it. Because I assumed the other two aircraft I could see at the time would report it if I was seeing was real, I didn’t even consider putting out a Mayday at the time. Imagine what an idiot I would have looked if I was mistaken, and I believed I was. Now I feel shit. Will this help either the authorities get closure? I have no idea; but I chose to sweep it under the carpet, and now I feel really bad.
She was apparently having relationship troubles with her husband and they hadn't spoken in a week when she was on watch that night and he was asleep below. She didn't even tell him about what she saw.

Her 31 May post has details of what she saw and her location, plus a distilled version of the Cruiser Forums discussion.
posted by Kerasia at 5:41 PM on June 3


I wouldn't be surprised if she takes down her blog soon. She is refusing interviews, just taking questions on the Crusiers Forum. She said she was relieved that the freelancers' article wasn't published, but it has been now (link above).
posted by Kerasia at 5:50 PM on June 3


Yes, but she herself says she doesn't remember exactly which night it was. She was also in a very trafficked area (north of Sumatra). Maybe she saw a meteor? Distances at night at sea are v difficult to judge.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 9:27 AM on June 4


Going dark again…
posted by bobloblaw at 7:58 PM on June 9


ping
posted by bobloblaw at 10:07 AM on June 10


Nothing like marital problems on a small boat in an empty sea. Good times, good times
posted by C.A.S. at 8:48 AM on June 11


DEAD CALM
posted by Chrysostom at 9:11 AM on June 11


Malaysian plane MH370: families get $50,000 payments. The insurers are starting to pay out to families of passengers even though the Malaysian government hasn't declared the plane lost yet.
posted by immlass at 8:34 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]


NYT: New Search Plan for Flight 370 Is Based on Farther, Controlled Flying

Investigators looking into the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 have concluded that the plane was probably not seriously damaged and remained in controlled flight until it ran out of fuel over the southern Indian Ocean.

Their conclusion, reached in the past few weeks, helped prompt the decision to move the search area hundreds of miles to the southwest.

[...]

Some investigators of the crash are convinced that one of the pilots was involved, saying that no credible evidence has appeared for another explanation. But other investigators say that the evidence for pilot involvement is inconclusive and contradictory.

posted by RedOrGreen at 2:57 PM on June 23


(Yeah, I'm still following this story. What can I say.)

NYT: Report Underscores Lingering Doubts in Search for Missing Plane

As Australia prepares a yearlong search for Malaysia Airlines’ missing Flight 370 in an area of ocean floor the size of Croatia or West Virginia, a government report underscores the lingering uncertainty about where the plane went, noting that it might have fallen in an area of the southern Indian Ocean up to 19 times as large as the new search area.

Warren Truss, Australia’s deputy prime minister, announced plans on Thursday for an exhaustive search of the areas of seafloor with the highest probability of holding debris from the Boeing 777-200, which vanished on March 8 with 239 people aboard. That search is to cover an area totaling 23,000 square miles. [...]
But a detailed report issued Thursday by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, the government agency overseeing the search, makes it clear that the plane’s possible crash sites could lie far beyond the new search area.

posted by RedOrGreen at 3:03 PM on June 27


And the reports on the speculated cause, from recent days, are contradictory too. A few days ago I was seeing reports that the pilot was now strongly suspected; then yesterday the Australian press conference said something about its being probable that the plane was on autopilot for the long last leg of the journey and they thought it likely to be a crew-incapacitated-by-lack-of-oxygen scenario.
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:45 PM on June 27


And this:
Someone in the cockpit of the Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 might have plotted at least four different potential flight paths, three of them to Australia, feel investigators.

Releasing a a comprehensive 64-page report outlining the basis on which this new search area had been defined, the investigators believe that flight routes were programmed for Port Hedland, Adelaide and Perth. The fourth destined flight path was programmed for the Cocos Island, which is 2750 km north-west of Perth, reports news.com.au.
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:11 AM on June 28


BBC summary of some of the info they used to identify the new search area:
This search area focuses on the so-called “7th arc” – a line through which the analysis suggests the jet had to have crossed as it made a final connection with ground systems.

The interpretation of the data is that this last electronic “handshake” was prompted by a power interruption on board MH370 as its fuel ran down to exhaustion and its engines “flamed out”. The final connection is the jet trying to log back into the satellite network after the interruption, made possible perhaps by an auxiliary power source firing up. But there are very strong indications that MH370 crashed soon after. And here’s why.

Examination of the data shows there was another interruption and logon request from the plane much earlier in the flight. Such interruptions can occur for a number of reasons, including software glitches. But the sequence that follows a logon is telling.

About 90 seconds after the satellite link is re-established, the entertainment system onboard the plane should also try to reconnect with the ground network. All this can be seen in the data for a handshake that occurs at 18:25 GMT, three minutes after the last radar sighting of the jet.

But this entertainment reconnection does not occur following the 7th arc handshake at 00:19 GMT, almost five hours later. The hypothesis then is that MH370 cannot make such a request because by that stage it is spiralling rapidly downwards or has already even hit the water.
And a link to the full Australian report (64 page PDF) about how they decided on the new search area.
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:17 AM on June 28 [1 favorite]


Page 43 of the PDF (numbered 38) explains how they came up with the list of possible destinations of Port Hedland, Adelaide, Perth, or the Cocos Islands. "Air routes and waypoints were then examined to see if there was any correlation with the possible southern tracks for MH370 obtained from the analysis of the SATCOM data. Relevant southern air routes that MH370 may have intersected/traversed were N509, N640, L894 and M641. Waypoints associated with these air routes were also considered as possible points on the MH370 flight path."

If I understand this right, what they did is look at the minimal information we have about where the plane was, try to figure out what navigation fixes the plane was near, then figure out which destinations a pilot may have entered to have flown through those fixes. It's a sensible analysis, but is speculation on top of speculation. I've only skimmed the report but I'd love to understand other possible autopilot settings. Is it possible the plane was flying a constant heading, or simply heading to some very far off navfix in Antarctica or something? I don't know. They get into these questions around PDF page 30.

The report is very thorough and quite readable.
posted by Nelson at 8:33 AM on June 28


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