back to article MH370 airliner MYSTERY: The El Reg Pub/Dinner-party Guide

So, the mysterious case of the missing flight MH370. We've mainly stayed out of this - apart from noting that no, the jet wasn't hackjacked using a mobile phone. But naturally we've been poking around a bit to see what we could find out, and it's not completely nothing. Here's what we bring to the party. Some of us know a bit …

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Re: From the horse's mouth...

Yes, but speculating about this isn't nearly as obvious as debating about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

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It is aliens, obviously, contracted by Putin to distract from Crimea. As someone who runs with the wolves, and holds several PhDs (awarded to myself by myself, because nobody else is worthy), I am about to sue NSA, NASA and NHS for deliberately not investigating this matter. I don't need to have read more that half of the first paragraph of the article to comment on it.

/stupid tin hat

Seriously, though:

This search for the missing Malaysian jet is happening in the same week that the mainstream media - Al Jazeera, The Daily Telegraph - is asserting that Al-Megrahi, and indeed Libya itself, was framed for the bombing of the Pan Am flight above Lockerbie. The evidence against Libya was always flimsy (see Paul Foot), and it appears more likely the bombing was carried out Syrians under orders from Iran, though at the time the US and UK wanted Syria's cooperation re the invasion of Iraq.

Naturally, Iran is claiming that the evidence against them is a conspiracy by 'Zionists'.

Oh well.

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Do you run with 3 wolves in the light of the moon? Coz that would be awesome!

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Yes!

/stupid tin hat

See http://www.theregister.co.uk/2014/01/29/nasa_sued_over_claim_that_mystery_martian_rock_is_a_fastgrowing_fungus/

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Holmes

Naturally, Iran is claiming that the evidence against them is a conspiracy by 'Zionists'.

Well, Robert Fisk always claimed that Pan Am was actually payback for the massacre of that Iranian airbus by "Robocruiser" aka. USS Vincennes, an act rewarded by "medals of courage" instead of immediate shitcanning of the whole crew, so I guess why not.

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If there was one 'ping' per hour then presumably there should be 5 or 6 other possible location arcs that can be calculated from the other pings before the last one.

This data would be very interesting as it would allow some further calculations on flight path and final location - for instance if the arcs for two consecutive hours are 500-600 nmi apart then you can infer that during that time the plane must have been flying almost perpendicular to the arcs - away from or towards point on the earth the satellite is above.

If the arcs were only (say) 200 nmi apart then you can work out the angle to the arcs the plane is likely to have been flying by assuming a ground speed and a spot of geometry.

I'm sure a more detailed analysis would rule out big chunks of the final arcs as being inconsistent with the previous ping data.

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I was thinking that too. Unless the plane just happened by fluke to fly along that exact arc we've been shown from the geo-stationary satellite, surely we can figure out a much clearer flight path it took?

Unless it did ditch at sea and stayed floating for those hours until it finally sank?

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"If there was one 'ping' per hour then presumably there should be 5 or 6 other possible location arcs that can be calculated from the other pings before the last one."

Quite. I've been thinking the same. Analysis of the other 6 arcs would provide a better idea of general heading if mosaiced together.

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Quite. I've been thinking the same. Analysis of the other 6 arcs would provide a better idea of general heading if mosaiced together.

The rings/arcs would be concentric so you would be unlikely to be able to extrapolate a heading from them. What would be key would be the distance (as in number of arcs) traversed between pings. If the plane flew at 90deg to the arc the 1hr period would carry it the maximum possible distance from the previous arc. If it flew at a true tangent to the previous arc the distance from it to the next arc would be the minimum. If you took a good guess at likely airspeed you could infer from these intervals whether a straight or deviating course was flown.

A deviating course would imply zig-zagging to the north while a straight course would likely put the aircraft somewhere at the bottom of the South Indian Ocean.

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As I understand it, the arcs are the 5 or 6 pings joined together.

Remember, they know where the plane started from so you're only interested in the bit of the first range ring that's within a sensible distance of that. I.e. draw the range ring on a map. then draw a ring representing the max distance the airliner could have gone since its last transmission and where they intersect is your first point. Repeat for the next 5 pings and you get a line, as you only have the range you can't tell whether it went north or south.

The line they've drawn is really a datum to search from, there could be quite a bit of deviation from it depending on the actual speed of the airliner, but if the range to the satellite is changing you have to assume the aircraft is moving.

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Anonymous Coward

There's a good deal of interest in these other ping arcs, but the Malaysians (and others) have not released them. Why, don't know.

But one can be certain that the various SARS groups conducting the search have that info and have used it to concentrate their searches.

The Australians for example have delineated a search area at almost the far southern end of the arc to the WSW of Perth (coincidentally about half way to the various French antarctic territories/islands) in the middle of one of the emptiest parts of the earth. It is far enough out that even the P3 Orions have limited loiter time over the area; spotting debris that has now been in the sea for 9-10 days or so will be tough.

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I sure hope the air crash investigators have the good sense to check the forums on el reg or they may end up looking in the wrong spot.

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Facepalm

Eh?

So, all the post 9/11 civil and military tracking technology is quite useless then.

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Re: Eh?

"So, all the post 9/11 civil and military tracking technology is quite useless then"

Don't be absurd.

How does the over-the-horizon radar capabilities of south east Asian minor nations have a bearing on the air defence capabilities over major US cities?

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Re: Eh?

Not really, the Malaysian radar saw the plane but no one did anything about it. The other countries are simply keeping schtum so they don't expose how much/little they can see.

It's a bit like the Kursk: military secrecy trumps human life.

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Re: Eh?

I was writing from the perspective that the threat of hijacking was global and so, presumably, was the response.

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Re: Eh?

"I was writing from the perspective that the threat of hijacking was global and so, presumably, was the response."

How does an air defence system prevent hijacking? We don't even know if it was hijacked. And if it was hijacked by a pilot, what measures can you think of that would prevent a pilot from hijacking a plane?

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Re: Eh?

How does an air defence system prevent hijacking? We don't even know if it was hijacked.

It doesn't but at least you'd know where the plane was. I agree with the original point, since Sept-11, I'd've thought that any airliner being detected as inexplicably going off course would have as much available tracking gear pointed at as possible, even to the point of scrambling an interceptor or two to see what it was up to. Even if it turned out to be nothing it would be a good 'live' exercise.

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Re: Eh?

"It doesn't but at least you'd know where the plane was."

Over open water, over-the horizon from any radar emitters and in international, uncontrolled airspace? How? No amount of willpower and keenness to prevent another such incident can make RADAR do things that it can't do, nor finance a new international track-everything-in-the-air system of some kind. And we'd also need to integrate everyone's air tracking systems on an international basis.

The only way to do that is to either cover the planet with sat coverage and AWACS or to put an active transmitter in every aircraft. And the moment that you do that, the pilot needs an off switch, because sometimes that transmitter is going to cause an issue and will need turning off.

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Re: Eh?

Sadly it may have had all the tracking gear pointed at it. But only in case of required defence, not as a proactive deterrent or assistance. Thus the "keep quiet" if there is radar info from certain military. :(

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Re: Eh?

I'd've thought that any airliner being detected as inexplicably going off course would have as much available tracking gear pointed at as possible, even to the point of scrambling an interceptor or two to see what it was up to.

Maybe. And maybe not if the thing is clearly going away from anything you (as the country's defense/antiterrorist organisation) would be responsible for protecting.

Also, the flight initially had its transponder on, so it was identified. If they did keep tracking the blip across the transponder on/off transition (so they'd know that that un-ID'd blip was MH370), and it kept to an official airway during the time it was over their territory, they might not have been in any great hurry to take a closer look.

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Re: I'd've thought that any airliner being detected

What are you smoking?

I'm a crazy redneck 'Merkin and even I don't have that expectation about a non-US flight outside of US airspace. As far as I've heard, we wouldn't even have asked for the background papers on the passengers for this flight.

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Re: what measures can you think of

Make him take poison before the take off with the promise that he'll get the antidote on the other end?

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Accident or Malicious?

I was going to ask how do you know that a system has been intentionally switched off by a human as opposed to switching off due to a technical fault? I was wondering whether some form of depressurization (either slow or catastrophic) might have incapacitated the crew and passengers al-la Payne Stewart.

However, if the ping has been detected hundreds of miles off and at right-angles to the intended course, this would seem to be implausible.

With regard to hijack, they would require a runway of c1.5km to land a 777, presumably there can't be many of those around that are not under the control of a government?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Accident or Malicious?

"With regard to hijack, they would require a runway of c1.5km to land a 777"

Only if landing was the intent. My guess is that it was a suicide pact between the pilot and co-pilot. Take a few kufars with them and then have some virgins in paradise.

Religion knows no logic, and this is by far and a way the simplest answer.

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Re: Accident or Malicious?

And Islam is a nice easy scapegoat?

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Roo
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Re: Accident or Malicious?

"Take a few kufars with them and then have some virgins in paradise."

Perhaps you could fly out to Malaysia and put that theory to the authorities there. I'm sure they'd the love the input of a spineless bigot & creep.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Accident or Malicious?

"And Islam is a nice easy scapegoat?"

Religion in general. As Islam happens to be one of the fairy tales followed by people in Malaysia, I chose that. It certainly does not have a monopoly on bigotry, sexism, hatred or exploitation.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Accident or Malicious?

"Perhaps you could fly out to Malaysia and put that theory to the authorities there."

I'm sure they've thought of it.

"I'm sure they'd the love the input of a spineless bigot & creep."

Stating that religion is devoid of logic isn't bigotry, it's a statement of fact. Religion is probably the most evil human invention of all time.

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Re: Accident or Malicious?

Well the passengers have remained unusually quiet... no phone calls or anything. Poison in the food? Gassed? Toxic carbon dioxide or monoxide build up? Could the pilots have turned back drunk or high or otherwise intoxicated/poisoned, setting the autopilot course back roughly to where they came from which the plane followed before running out of fuel and crashing? Mistaking the transponder standby switch position for the automatic mayday position (if it had one)?

Speculation is rife.

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Re: Accident or Malicious?

Alternatively, aliens did it. there is just as much evidence for that as there is that the pilot was a religious maniac intent on killing heretics.

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Re: Accident or Malicious?

The problem here is that even insofar as suicide by religion goes, that does not compute.

The aim of religious suicide is to take a lot of unbelievers with you.And make a big statement.

Now an airliner with 200 or whatever passengers on board pales into insignificance besides a large tower full of office workers. So why NOT fly it into one.

No, this has all the hallmarks of a covert operation. The airliner was deliberately hidden from electronic prying eyes and taken somewhere.

This means careful planning.

And I would assume, if the destruction of it was not the intention, somewhere to put it down, relatively intact.

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Roo
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Re: Accident or Malicious?

"Stating that religion is devoid of logic isn't bigotry, it's a statement of fact."

Quite correct, however the original post did not make that statement.

OTOH slandering folks who *may* have actually been trying to save the aircraft on the basis of their religious beliefs is bigotted and hiding behind AC is spineless.

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Re: Accident or Malicious?

> they would require a runway of c1.5km to land a 777

It depends, on if you wish to take off again.

Looking at the 777 incident at Heathrow, the plane stopped within 300 meters.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Accident or Malicious?

"OTOH slandering folks who *may* have actually been trying to save the aircraft on the basis of their religious"

It's all conjecture: hijack, catastrophic equipment failure, ransom, shot down, aliens...religion is just another.

"beliefs is bigotted and hiding behind AC is spineless."

Ah yes, because "Roo" is your given name and it is just SO HARD to create a throwaway account.

Deliberate action on part of the crew is highly probably. Religion is a highly probable motive.

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Re: Accident or Malicious?

"Stating that religion is devoid of logic isn't bigotry, it's a statement of fact. "

No it's not. Religion can easily be devoid of bigotry and the idea that the universe is inhabited or was created by something outside of our knowledge is not entirely utterly devoid of rationality (plenty of clever rational people believe in a God; they just don't believe in many of the dogmatic fictions used to pad them out and lend authority to them in times past).

I'm not of any real religious conviction, but I don't believe that everyone has justified their belief in an entirely irrational manner.

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Re: Accident or Malicious?

"Well the passengers have remained unusually quiet... no phone calls or anything. Poison in the food? Gassed? Toxic carbon dioxide or monoxide build up?"

Why bother when you can just de-pressurise the aircraft?

It's what I'd do if I thought the passengers were going to be a problem.

Otherwise I'd just manage the problem by flying evenly, at altitude, in the knowledge that they're unlikely to notice anything is wrong that way.

It's why the 5,000 foot of altitude thing would be foolish to try unless you'd depressurised the plane first: Someone would notice, someone would get out a phone call, someone would raise hell.

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HCV

Re: Accident or Malicious?

"Otherwise I'd just manage the problem by flying evenly, at altitude, in the knowledge that they're unlikely to notice anything is wrong that way."

And I guess turning off the mappy screens -- "We're very sorry, we've had a technical problem, please enjoy this single episode of 'Spongebob Squarepants' looped over and over and over again". That seems reasonable.

But hoping that not one of the passengers -- or flight attendants! -- would notice that the terrain is kind of different, and/or the moon isn't where it's supposed to be? (No, I haven't checked whether the moon would have been up during the flight)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Accident or Malicious?

"...passengers -- or flight attendants! -- would notice that the terrain is kind of different, and/or the moon isn't where it's supposed to be..."

Or, perhaps, God help us WE'RE ALL GONNA DIE because of the RF-something-or-other, ...flicked on their mobile phone's GPS to see how the flight is going.

It's been known to happen once in a while, by curious passengers.

Edit: PS - Of course one must download the necessary map tiles in advance, due to the lack of data connection.

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Re: Accident or Malicious?

"we've had a technical problem, please enjoy this single episode of 'Spongebob Squarepants' looped over and over and over again". That seems reasonable."

The evil sons of bitches...

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Re: Accident or Malicious?

Ah yes, because "Roo" is your given name and it is just SO HARD to create a throwaway account.

It's an identifiable name. I can click on it and read other comments by him or her. Even if he or she used their real name, it would still be of limited value beyond the purposes of this forum. (Also the gold "badge" next to the name has significance, perhaps you should check that out.)

You, on the other hand, can't even manage to summon up the "courage" to create "throwaway account".

And, as pointed out, your original post was indeed bigoted. Trying to make up for it with random assertions after the fact doesn't help your position..

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Accident or Malicious?

"your original post was indeed bigoted."

I didn't realise that not believing in fairy tales made one a bigot. Must be a new definition that passed me by. I guess I should start apologising, should I begin with all the Tooth-Fairyians or the Easter-Bunnyians?

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Re: Accident or Malicious?

"But hoping that not one of the passengers -- or flight attendants! -- would notice that the terrain is kind of different, and/or the moon isn't where it's supposed to be? (No, I haven't checked whether the moon would have been up during the flight)"

Red-eye flight, over open water, 35k'... should probably be ok. It's certainly a better way than managing the aircraft than flying at 5k' and hoping the cockpit door holds out!

We are simple creatures in many ways, and even if someone did think the moon was in the wrong place (it was a half-moon - I checked. Good thinking, though), I suspect that they'd probably assume the pilot knew what he was doing, or if he raised it to a passenger and stewardess they'd make a similar reassuring comment. Simply, the idea that the plane is flying completely in the wrong direction and something is wrong is one of those conclusions that we would tend to throw out of our minds because it poses many more troubling questions... especially at 2am!

And even if you were sure... what are you going to do? Scream and shout: Get pinned down by other passengers. Ask a stewardess for pilot to confirm that you're going the right way, and you'll get comforting reassurance. Rationally explain, and people will disbelieve for the reasons mentioned above.

It's certainly what I'd try and do. That or de-pressurise.

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Re: Accident or Malicious? -- Moonlight

> I haven't checked whether the moon would have been up during the flight

I have, now:

The following information is provided for Kuala Lumpur (longitude E101.7, latitude N3.1):

Saturday 8 March 2014 Universal Time + 8h

SUN

Begin civil twilight 07:01

Sunrise 07:22

Sun transit 13:24

Sunset 19:26

End civil twilight 19:47

MOON

Moonrise 12:07 on preceding day [i.e. 7 March]

Moonset 00:40

Moonrise 12:57

Moon transit 19:13

Moonset 01:29 on following day [i.e. 9 March]

First quarter Moon on 8 March 2014 at 21:27 (Universal Time + 8h).

Source: http://aa.usno.navy.mil/data/docs/RS_OneDay.php

So the moon set over Kuala Lumpur almost at the same moment as MH370 took off, and would not have risen again over any plausible location for the aircraft before the fuel ran out circa 8 hours later. It was a moonless night.

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Joke

Re: Accident or Malicious?

> they would require a runway of c1.5km to land a 777

You can 'land' in a little over the wingspan - depends on the debris scatter.

If you want a "good" landing then a couple of hundred metres - like that 777 incident at LHR, where everybody walked off.

You only need the 1.5km for a "great" landing - ie one where you get to use the plane again.

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Re: Accident or Malicious?

"Religion knows no logic, and this is by far and a way the simplest answer."

Intredasting.jpg

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Re: Accident or Malicious?

>>With regard to hijack, they would require a runway of c1.5km to land a 777, presumably there can't be many of those around that are not under the control of a government?

A full weight, full speed landing with maximum brakes can be done comfortably in less than 1.2Km, a slow, full brake, full flap "light" landing with no float can be done in a shade over 300m on a 777, but they are the kind of landings you'd need to practice (specifically, to stop the float, you need to get the wheels down asap), a zero altitude stall (spot landing) isn't really appropriate for such a large aircraft, but some of the same techniques could be used, typically longer distances are used because tyres are very expensive and a long landing protects them (at $40k a set this is important, but not so much for hijackers).

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Re: Accident or Malicious?

Now an airliner with 200 or whatever passengers on board pales into insignificance besides a large tower full of office workers. So why NOT fly it into one.

Because you'll find very few office towers full of unbelievers around Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia, and at night they don't tend to be full at all anyway, no matter the religious persuasion of the people in them by day. A luxury hotel full of business people and affluent tourists would make a better target there, but try hitting that in a high-rise city, at night.

Australia as well as China would quite probably offer those office tower targets, but given the timing of events the element of surprise would be gone, to be replaced by jet fighters with air-to-air missiles.

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Re: Accident or Malicious?

That's It!

It was Alien Muslim Nazi Jews from the dark side of the Moon!

Assisted by Bimbos from Outer Space and of course the Killer Tomatoes.

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