Feeds

back to article New MH370 search zone picked using just seven satellite 'handshakes'

Australia's Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) has published a detailed analysis of efforts to find Malaysian Airways Flight 370. The 64-page report (PDF) explains that just seven “handshakes” between the plane and satellite systems are being analysed. The analysis is extensive: The UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch, Boeing, …

COMMENTS

This topic is closed for new posts.

Page:

Silver badge

Ughh... bad news

Looking at the new search area it now covers a tectonic plate boundary with its associated ridge, activity, etc.

Chances to find something down there are pretty slim. It took nearly 2 year to find the Air France black boxes in a similar location and we knew where it fell. This does not look good...

3
0
Silver badge

Re: Ughh... bad news

That swath is as wide as Australia. Frankly interplanetary levels of finder's luck required..

1
0
Bronze badge

Re: Ughh... bad news

Seeing as there is a reasonable chance of a crashing international plane hitting water why not develop a simple locator that is held in a sealed recessed area of the outer body which has a switch activated when significant water pressure is detected (non-electrical)?

The flap pops open and a floating tracker beacon pops out and stays on the surface.

This would not be able to be deactivated by crew (and due to a pressure opener wouldn't be at risk of causing an electrical fire). The high pressure, only experienced underwater, would ensure non-accidental release and with an armoured housing wouldn't get destroyed on impact.

6
4

Re: Ughh... bad news

But they found wreckage after 4 days with the France flight. It's now been over 3 months. That's why I think what actually happened to flight is very different to what the authorities are telling us. There is a huge number of bits on an aircraft that are designed to float, and it would have hit the water at at least 200 miles per hour, if it had crashed there would be wreckage strewn all over the place that would have washed up somewhere by now. I think the plane was hyjacked and taken somewhere (either by terrorists or a foreign power). I think the search in the Indian ocean is a complete smokescreen

8
14
Silver badge

Re: Ughh... bad news

But they found wreckage after 4 days with the France flight.

Are you paying attention or not?

2
0

Re: Ughh... bad news

DaLo said: "Seeing as there is a reasonable chance of a crashing international plane hitting water why not develop a simple locator that is held in a sealed recessed area of the outer body which has a switch activated when significant water pressure is detected (non-electrical)?"

I was under the impression that there were Tsunami sensors all around the Pacific rim - could these not correlate the search area like you suggest?

1
1
Silver badge
Pint

Re: Ughh... bad news

"...why not develop a simple locator... floating tracker beacon pops out..."

Why not? Because deployable ELTs have already been developed, and are installed on some aircraft fleets.

PS: They're far from simple.

0
0

Re: Ughh... bad news

He means floating debris. It took a long time to locate the actual wreckage of the Air France plane on the bottom of the Atlantic, but they found floating debris to confirm the crash area within days.

1
0

Re: Ughh... bad news

These EPIRB's already exist and are in use on the crab boats in the Bering Sea, triggered when a boat goes down and stays on the surface in much the same manner as you have described.

Same old story, they exist but are not being used..........................global tech fail.

3
0
Go

Re: Ughh... bad news

I urge people to actually read the report, not the news articles. If you had read it, then you would see that underwater sonar equipment which is installed to detect nuclear weapons tests (who knew?) DID hear the plane going down. Unfortunately the information from this doesn't really add anything to the satellite information already being used.

0
0

Re: Ughh... bad news

As I understand it, the Air France flight stalled, crashed into the ocean, and broke apart. If the MH370 made a "controlled" descent (even gliding on autopilot without engines), it is probable that the fuselage would not have broken open - and therefore it could well have sunk in one piece.

0
0
Thumb Up

Re: Ughh... bad news

Agree with the comment nearby of Glostermeteor's.

There are two major all-trumping concepts in Asia, "Responsibility" and "Face". All else is secondary.

1. The "filed" flight plan here was not necessarily the "intended" flight plan.

2. Anyone familiar with the Midnight to Eight shift knows the physical and mental conditioning required to stay alert, particularly necessary inside any radar aircraft controlling/surveillance operation.

3. IMHO, this was a hijack with unintended consequences.

4. The Malay and/or Vietnamese en route traffic controllers were not up to European standards. The major flight path deviation/alteration on the radar scopes went unnoticed for an unknown period of time during which the aircraft's IFF or whatever it's called now had been turned off.

So, all of this futile west-of-Perth search effort, based upon those increasingly vital "pings" from the engines has been, and remains a tragic wast of time and expensive facilities.

Methinks the intended destination was an abandoned Brit colonial airfield in Muslim Bangladesh. Dispose of the asphyxiated/dead passengers after a short-field landing after jettisoning unnecessary fuel, remove all passenger cabin fixtures/galleys/etc. Then effect a short field takeoff with vastly reduced weight. Head for another Muslim/Terrorist controlled facility for refitting as an aerial bomb.

The wise and wonderful Aussies are most sensibly having nothing to do with being the sole arbiters of what went wrong and bearing the sole party expected to yield results/opinions. Hence, their wise referral back, right back to the Malay Civil Aviation authorities for the official conclusions. The Malay authorities have the ultimate responsibility here.

There is no shifting away of this to save "face".

2
2
Silver badge
Headmaster

Re: Ughh... bad news

The Malay and/or Vietnamese en route traffic controllers were not up to European standards. The major flight path deviation/alteration on the radar scopes

There weren't any because the plane went off primary radar, then the transponder went suspiciously at the time handover to VIetnam would be happening.

went unnoticed for an unknown period of time

17 minutes before Vietnam asked Malaysia whether there shouldn't be a plane or something, an interval described as "peculiarly long" by I-don't know who.

during which the aircraft's IFF or whatever it's called now had been turned off.

See above. It's called a transponder.

0
0
Thumb Up

Re: Ughh... bad news

This is pregnant ......" an interval described as "peculiarly long" by I-don't know who....."

----and I maintain that this interval is the primary cause of all of this face-saving-over-to-you-Aussies-right-back-to-you Malaysia, all based upon this engine ping analysis.

Let's face it [no pun intended here] the main thing is to penetrate this Malay/Vietnamese vacuum.

Good luck with that.

And, that's a vital seventeen minutes at modern jet transport speeds. More than enough time to be well to the NorthWest and Bangladesh or elsewhere in Muslim controlled territory.

Re: "transponder"......thanks, I remember now.

1
1
Silver badge

Re: Ughh... bad news

The Air France flight hit the water at a fairly low forward speed thanks to having stalled (and the vertical speed wan't high either), in a more or less level attitude, with the enghines turning (somewhere between 140 and 250mph)

The Malaysian airlines flight most likely hit the water at high speed in a near vertical dive and was pulverised (5-700mph). The analog for this is the swissair flight which crashed off St Johns some years back. There wasn't much found from that crash which more than 5cm across, nor was there much floating debris, let alone anything identifiable as bits of aircraft,

The reason MH370 most likely went in that way is that fuel would have cut off in one engine before the other and while the resulting thrust imbalance would have been able to be compensated for by the autopilot, that would have lost control when the remaining engine finally died (the fully dead engine would act as an airbrake, whilst the spinning down engine would still produce some thrust for about a minute. The ramair turbine (a windmill) would have deployed after a few seconds, restoring electrical power (and hence the final handshake), but once the autopilot is disengaged it has to be manually reengaged - and without someone at the controls the plain would have stayed in cruise trim

Even if the 777 hit the ocean in level attitude (unlikely), that would have been at a significant nosedown pitch in cruise configuration (remember the plane has to be trimmed to counter the tendency of engines to force the nose high, they're no longer doing that and noone's at the helm to change trim) at a speed of 400-700mph and been ripped apart anyway

1
0
Silver badge

What about those black-box locator pings?

Did we ever find out who or what produced those alledged black-box locator pings heard in the previous search area? (If they were faked, then the faker must presumably know something about what really happened to MH370.)

1
5
Bronze badge

Re: What about those black-box locator pings?

The pings detected were of the wrong frequency. And with a frequency offset that makes it likely it was coming from the detection equipment itself (possibly echoing off the seafloor) If I remember correctly the frequency was such that adding a real ping and the signal together would produce an audible tone.

3
1
Silver badge

Re: What about those black-box locator pings?

Interesting. Not sure why the original poster of this thread got 2 downvotes. Is it not reasonable to ask that question given the importance to the search. Maybe it's the slight hint at collusion etc. from the last sentence.

However, if the pings were the wrong frequency, why did the investigation continue with them for so long? Surely this would have been obvious early on and they would have been discounted and a large amount of time saved and the investigation could move onto better areas, maybe even with the batteries still running and pings still being produced?

4
1
Silver badge

Re: What about those black-box locator pings?

The pings detected were of the wrong frequency. And with a frequency offset that makes it likely it was coming from the detection equipment itself (possibly echoing off the seafloor)

An interesting theory were it not for the fact that the towed pinger locator carries a passive listening device for detecting pingers. (My emphasis.)

If the detection equipment was not generating the false pings then who or what was?

(And thanks for the downvotes.)

5
3
Silver badge

Re: What about those black-box locator pings?

"passive" does not mean a lot of electronic mixing isn't downstream of the signal. a lot.

1
0
Bronze badge

Re: What about those black-box locator pings?

The problem is that the pings can change frequency as the batteries run down, it is quite easy for a 37.5kHz pinger to drift down to 33kHz once the batteries are nearly dead. In addition the water pressure also affects the frequency a little, so the frequency can change depending on the depth.

1
1
Bronze badge
Headmaster

Re: What about those black-box locator pings?

it is quite easy for a 37.5kHz pinger to drift down to 33kHz once the batteries are nearly dead.

And the evidence for this claim is?

If the frequency dropped from 37.5kHz to 33kHz during the minimum 30 day battery life then it would seem the ULB was not performing to specification.

2
1

Re: What about those black-box locator pings?

News just in: things don't always perform to specification.

2
0
Bronze badge

Re: What about those black-box locator pings?

Natural mimicry is possible.

Some fishy entity may be having a whale of a laugh.

0
0
Silver badge

Re: What about those black-box locator pings?

News just in: things don't always perform to specification.

Protip: This is not the realm of Microsoft-level consumer-grade shit.

1
0
Silver badge

Re: What about those black-box locator pings?

Maybe the chinese sailors demonstrating how a pinger works managed to drop the one they were demonstrating when they pulled that hydrophone in a rowboat stunt.

0
0
Silver badge

They haven't got a clue

All the available evidence suggests they don't really have a clue.

They thought they'd got black box pings, but now seem to have discounted them. So, what were they? How could they not know they were/weren't from black boxes. Defies belief. The search area (caused by the pings) never did coincide with the expected location from the satellite information, so why did that not cause worries.

The area they're trying to search is so large, only amazing luck can possibly allow them to stumble upon the wreckage or black boxes. The batteries on the black boxes must have run out by now, so no signals can be expected from them.

Also, it all went very quiet, very quickly and the Chinese haven't been making anywhere near as much noise as one might expect. The whole of the known circumstances are weird to put it mildly. Information has been kept secret for periods of time. A good example of the US Navy searching the west coast of Malaysia when the investigation was insisting there was no reason to. Did the US Navy have information that hadn't been passed onto the investigation? Did the investigation have the information, but kept searching in the wrong place for some reason?

All through this, there's been a stench about it. The whole circumstances of the disappearance, the complete and utter incompetence of the investigation. It all really, really stinks. Air defence radars all over that area simply must have followed the aircraft. Any US Navy ships at sea nearby would have been tracking it. As the transponders were turned off, it would have assumed to be hostile by everyone.

So, do they really not have a clue, or maybe they absolutely know, but don't want to tell.

7
9

Re: They haven't got a clue

Well of course they don't have a clue. Apart from these very fine slivers dragged out by smart people and organisations giving their time and energy not just to solve a mystery but to help bring closure to fellow human-beings.

In the meantime, this is what I want you to do.

I've parked my car in France. I need you to find it please.

22
2
Bronze badge

Re: They haven't got a clue

I find it interesting how hard most of us want to search for a deliberate explanation. The idea that there are large areas of the earth's surface that we know almost nothing about and that are not constantly surveyed seems to concern a lot of people. There is a great fear that nobody is in charge, that events can be truly contingent.

The world is a big place in which accidents happen. Sometimes a tragedy is just a tragedy and that is the human context in which you need to look at it.

If there is a terrorism element to this, it is most likely to relate to the cabin being isolated entirely from the crew compartment so if there was a problem in there nobody would be able to do anything about it. Finding what went wrong is the part of this search that would make the biggest difference for everyone not directly linked to the flight.

10
2
Silver badge

Re: They haven't got a clue

"Finding what went wrong is the part of this search that would make the biggest difference for everyone not directly linked to the flight."

Totally agree, but how can they find out what went wrong without finding the wreckage and trying to get information from there? At the moment, they have no idea what happened. Plenty of guesses and conjecture etc., but very little real facts.

I don't think the issue is areas of the planet not surveyed and constantly monitored, but the idea that a plane (wherever it may be) can suddenly pretty much disappear. A few faint radar returns is all we know about. Most people would assume civilian airliners are constantly monitored and their position is known at all times. It's this that's worrying people more than not knowing much about the seabed west of Australia.

1
1
Silver badge

Re: They haven't got a clue

Most people would assume civilian airliners are constantly monitored and their position is known at all times.

Most people don't even know where Ukraine is.

13
2
Silver badge

Re: They haven't got a clue

"Most people would assume civilian airliners are constantly monitored and their position is known at all times. It's this that's worrying people more than not knowing much about the seabed west of Australia."

There are large areas of land where aircraft operate off radar coverage, let along ocean areas.

0
0

Why did it take them so long to start

As I recall, it took over two weeks of the 30 day window of the pinger to start to search in the area, even though the initial satellite data was available in days. A lot of the reason I believe is that they did not want to believe that the pilots were responsible, which is now most likely.

Incidentally, talk of asphyxiation due to Oxygen shortage is nonsense. It might have happened late in the flight, but it in no way explains the very odd course changes.

And why are we still wasting millions on tying to find the aircraft. Most unlikely to succeed without the pinger. And what would we learn? That pilots are human?

P.S. My preferred conspiracy theory is that a Stuxnet2 virus accidentally escaped into the wild and took over the flight control systems. The powers that be are desperately trying to cover that up.

1
10
Silver badge

Re: Why did it take them so long to start

My preferred conspiracy theory is that a Stuxnet2 virus accidentally escaped into the wild

Here's another conspiracy theory to put out there: What if the downing of MH370 was a demonstation of capability by Chinese betting syndicates wanting match-fixing compliance from various teams taking part in the World Cup? As in: "Give us the result we want or you won't be arriving home from Brazil."

2
2
Terminator

Re: Why did it take them so long to start

And why are we still wasting millions on tying to find the aircraft. Most unlikely to succeed without the pinger. And what would we learn? That pilots are human?

You could argue that it's not really a waste of millions, rather a real-life training exercise (the best kind) - think how much the rescue teams and other organisations are learning from all of this. Also that's the reason for finding the plane (apart from closure for the families), finding out what went wrong (be it system failure or terrorism) is important so we can try and prevent it happening again. If all we learn is that the pilots were human it could be an argument for taking even more control away from the pilots...

7
0
Bronze badge

Re: Why did it take them so long to start

There was some initial doubt about where they should be looking so at least a day or two would be lost due to that problem. As it became cl;ear that the flight path was not as expected a search area had to be worked out. From what I remember the first scientifically plotted idea took about 2 weeks to emerge using a technique that was at the time cutting edge and not used before. It was only thought up almost be chance when the 7 data bursts were confirmed.

The plane might appear large when you stand next to it, but in a huge mass of water it is frankly tiny. The fact that no one usually visits the area is a drawback. Most people know more about the inside of their colon than the world knows about the area in question. Sure planes have bits that might float. They might float very well if broken into tiny fragments free of anything that would make them sink. How many 1 cm bits would you spot in an area the size of the area now being considered? Anyone ever misplaced their car keys or phone in their own house? Earlier someone asked if anyone could find their car somewhere in France - possible too easy a task compared to this one, though we know that this particular 'car' is likely in an underground (water) garage bigger than Europe. Just for good measure, should anything escape from this underwater garage no one knows the currents, storm patterns or anything else about the area.

Frankly I do not like theories, they disrupt careful thought and delay progress. The only facts are, the plane took off and did not arrive as planned. What is more it can be see that it did not follow the correct flight path. We have the result of ground breaking mathematical study by Inmarsat to give a rough idea of a possible location. The wild theories are worse than reading Enid Blyton and expecting to find the answer.

Modern air crashes are always researched by cold, logical analysis to find the cause of the disaster and in the hope of preventing any risk factor that could affect other flights.

Uncertainty is hated.

9
0
Silver badge

Re: Why did it take them so long to start

They expend those millions looking for the craft so that they can determine what exactly brought the plane down. You can say pilot error was "most likely" but you can't know that's what brought it down.

There are plenty of instances in which pilot error was assumed to be the cause of a plan crash, only for the subsequent investigation to discover extremely dangerous flaws in the aircraft design, or in operating procedures, or flight operation manuals, or any number of other things.

The possibility that there are planes flying around with potentially fatal design flaws is why they keep looking until all options are exhausted.

Even if it turns out to be pilot error, the money wasn't wasted. They can then understand why the pilots made their mistakes and mitigate that in future with improved training.

3
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: Why did it take them so long to start

But Stuxnet was designed to infect the control systems of an array of centrifuges.

I don't see an evidence that MH370 went round in faster and faster circles.........

Better get me coat.

0
0
Silver badge

Re: Why did it take them so long to start

"Frankly I do not like theories, they disrupt careful thought and delay progress. "

Theories are hypotheses with a good deal of supporting evidence.

People taking wild-eyed hypotheses and running with them despite no supporting evidence is common and counterproductive. If anything the Internet has made it easier to debunk such things.

There is no evidence of pilot (or anyone else) malfeasance and given the abysmal recent industrial history of MAS (massive layoffs, dispirited workforce, fires in maintenance depots destroying documentation (caused by a cigareete in areas where smoking is prohibited), a number of safety incidents - and all thie BEFORE MH370 went missing) everything points towards a massive cockup leading to tragedy, followed by conspiracy afterwards to cover up and deflect blame.

This kind of thing isn't new. Air New Zealand did exactly the same thing in 1979 after they managed to fly a DC10 into Mt Erebus (in that instance, someone in the maintenance base altered the programmed flight path on the flight computer without telling the pilots and becase of whiteout conditions they didn't see the mountain until 2 seconds before they hit it.)

0
0
Bronze badge

Re: Why did it take them so long to start

"And why are we still wasting millions on tying to find the aircraft. Most unlikely to succeed without the pinger. And what would we learn? That pilots are human?"

The engineering lessons from aircraft failures like this have led to the steady, enormous drop in flight fatalities between the 1920 and today, and those lessons have led to commercial flight being the safest form of transport on the planet. The formal flight regulatory bodies like the FAA have the power to take those lessons and force them on both aircraft manufacturers and operators.

Which leads to a matter of cost-benefits of these expensive searches. This search, expensive as it is, is still cheaper than one new jumbo jet (like another 777). If there's a recognizable flaw in aircraft construction (like the sorts that doomed Comets and DC-10s), or an identifiable mistake in pilot behavior, then the lessons learned from this aircraft recovery will pay for itself by preventing so much as a single other hull-loss accident.

The crashes of Air France 447, Asiana Flight 214, and British Airways Flight 38 all taught lessons and brought (or are bringing) tangible, actionable* changes to aircrew training and engineering. Boeing is changing aircrew training and maybe autothrottle interfaces, Rolls Royce is changing fuel heat exchangers, and Air France finally installed heated pitot tubes. These all apply to problems that are not unique - prior to Air France 447's crash, Airbus had 9 prior pitot icing incidents. Boeing's had plenty of autothrottle mishaps. Rolls Royce had two other heat exchanger problems on its Trent 895 engines. Even the most expensive investigations, like the recovery of Air France 447, pay for itself by reducing the number of similar accidents.

*Apologies for the buzzword, but it works here.

1
0

err... the phone call

Who'd they try and call!?

2
0
Bronze badge

Re: err... the phone call

At that stage of the flight maybe ghostbusters.

This mystery has got all the conspiracy nuts out in force, the more I read the more I feel they may be justified.

4
1
Silver badge
Pint

Re: err... the phone call

This mystery has got all the conspiracy nuts out in force, the more I read the more I feel they may be justified.

That's how conspiracy nuts reproduce: they flood discussion of a topic with cleverly crafted wild theories.

At first, you read these theories with a mind to debunking them, and often you can do so easily, or someone else already has. But that's beside the point: The words are now in your brain.

As you read more conspiracy theories, the echoing insanity convinces you to work harder to debunk what you're reading.

This debunking instinct spills over to the rational explanations, which, while most likely correct, are usually not expressed quite precisely enough to be immune to debunking.

So now your brain is actively debunking the rational explanations, based on nothing more than a poor choice of words or misplaced punctuation.

Eventually, your brain realizes that if everything sane is false, than the insane must be true, and a new conspiracy nut is born.

Since this is all a side effect of the natural evolution of our brains, the only preventative is to kill enough brain cells to prevent that critical mass of critical cynicism to develop.

So have another one!

2
1
Silver badge

Re: err... the phone call

If there's any conspiracy, it's happening on the ground, covering up cockups.

Management will do anything to shift the blame.

0
0
Silver badge

Re: err... the phone call

That was an _unanswered_ ground to air call.

So the answer is "MH370"

0
0

Doppler Shift and Timing of Satellite Signals

It must be possible to test these techniques on the thousands of normal flights each day. No report I have read has ever mentioned this. So does the science work or not?

1
4

Re: Doppler Shift and Timing of Satellite Signals

I watched the Panorama about MH370 - the main chap from Inmarsat did say they tested their calculations etc on data from something like 8 other 777-200's with known tracks on that day, in that region using the same satellite and found good correlation.

8
0
FAIL

Re: Doppler Shift and Timing of Satellite Signals

You mean you never bothered to actually search;

http://www.atsb.gov.au/publications/2014/considerations-on-defining-the-search-area-mh370.aspx

Burst Timing Offset (BTO)

The BTO is a measure of the time taken for a transmission round trip (ground station to satellite to aircraft and back) and allows a calculation of the distance between the satellite and the aircraft. Based on this measure, a possible location ring can be mapped on the surface of the earth (Figure 3). An analysis of SATCOM system parameters showed that the accuracy of the rings was ± 10 km. This analysis was validated using recorded BTO values from the initial stage of the flight when the aircraft’s position was known.

6
0
Bronze badge

Re: Doppler Shift and Timing of Satellite Signals

Read the ATSB report, there are two or three examples of other commercial flights being tracked using the same Inmarsat systems and their ground tracks being plotted within a quite small error in comparison with their position recorded from GPS coordinates. That should mean that data captured from the MH370 aircraft is valid and relatively accurate.

3
0
Silver badge
FAIL

Re: Doppler Shift and Timing of Satellite Signals

"...possible to test these techniques... ...No report I have read..."

So you haven't even opened the 64-page report that is the subject of this article. Page 31: "Using nine previous flights of the accident aircraft (registered 9M-MRO) and 87 other aircraft with the same SATCOM terminal equipment in the air at the same time as MH370, some path prediction analysis techniques were verified."

8
0

Page:

This topic is closed for new posts.