back to article MH370 researchers refine their prediction of the place nobody looked

Australian researchers who haven't given up on finding Malaysian Airlines MH 370 have told a conference in Darwin they believe they know where it is likely to be. The flight set off an international mystery when it disappeared in March 2014, presumably crashing into the Indian Ocean. The search that followed cost $180 million …

  1. 9Rune5

    What can be learned of the crash at this late stage?

    I thought the black boxes (or orange or whatever) have all but disintegrated by now?

    I think we can safely assume that hitting the water at speed have probably disintegrated the hull quite a bit. The small pieces found so far bare witness of a violent/horrible crash.

    Even if we were to find 60-80% of all the pieces, would we be able to determine the cause? Or is it merely finding the fuselage at all (way out of its intended flight path) confirmation enough of foul play? (and is that enough to firmly blame one of the pilots?)

    1. Old Used Programmer

      Re: What can be learned of the crash at this late stage?

      What makes you think the flight data and voice recorders would "disintegrate"? The batteries are long dead, but that wouldn't destroy data storage portion.

    2. Denarius Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: What can be learned of the crash at this late stage?

      Why would anyone blame pilots ? It was carrying a batch of lithium batteries in front hold AFAIK.The data mungers deserve credit for refining their data and predictions to reduce search area. They may even be right Fuselage might not be very distinguishable, but two large turbines should be and parts of tail structure. Aircraft tails seem to survive most impacts.

      I would not be surprised if cockpit voice recorder tapes were mostly blank after connections to pointy end were destroyed before plane went down.

      1. katrinab Silver badge

        Re: What can be learned of the crash at this late stage?

        "Why would anyone blame pilots"

        Because a flight from Malaysia to China shouldn't have been anywhere near the Indian Ocean.

      2. Faux Science Slayer

        Non-interuptable Remote Control Autopilot

        Every AirBus from 1989 and Boeing from 1996 has remote control autopilot....MH-370

        made a normal, controlled landing at Diego Garcia, analysis at AbelDanger.org

    3. jtaylor

      Re: What can be learned of the crash at this late stage?

      Indeed, there won't be as much evidence after so much time and seas.

      The "black boxes" (you're right; they're orange) are sealed, durable, and located in the tail of the aircraft to best survive a crash. They're likely intact, and they won't degrade much in seawater. What has failed, though, are the locator beacons. It will be a real pill to find those black boxes now.

      The aircraft...probably not much left of that, and they would probably retrieve only a few things. (In shallow water, it would be torn up and dispersed by heavy seas, and in deep water, hard to recover.)

      The black boxes usually give enough information to model what happened, and make a theory about why. The Flight Data Recorder logs all instrument data (speed, altitude, fuel, attitude, temperatures, engine parameters, etc),warnings, control positions, and control inputs. That's enough to figure out what they plane did.

      The Cockpit Voice Recorder logs all sounds from the flight deck, including conversation, bells and beeps, clicks and swooshes and similar sounds when someone pushes buttons or moves things. If both pilots are chatting about family and then there's a cacaphony of warning bells, that's obviously a different situation than if 1 pilot is heard ranting about Amelia Earhart while there's a muffled banging on the door in the background. Or if we hear labored breathing and 1 pilot asks the flight attendant to find a doctor. If the end is just computer noises, and the pilots were never heard leaving the flight deck, we might remember Payne Stewart.

      1. HCV

        Re: What can be learned of the crash at this late stage?

        I would say the CVR is going to give very little information, because unless I'm seriously mistaken, it's only going to have the last 30 minutes or so of the flight, and anything of note that happened in the cockpit would have happened hours before then. (Unless someone really was hanging on to give a final soliloquy just before the engines ran out of fuel.)

        The flight data recorder might note whether the plane was on autopilot, heading and such, but will mostly confirm what the very existence of the plane will indicate -- this is where it crashed by running out of fuel.

        Separate from the data recorders, the most interesting information to glean may be indications of damage to the plane, perhaps caused by a cargo fire, which seems the most likely scenario to me.

        1. EuKiwi

          Re: What can be learned of the crash at this late stage?

          30 minutes of recording was the original requirement set, however modern CVR/FDR units record much more than this, hours rather than minutes (I think 2 hours or so is the average).

          1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

            Re: What can be learned of the crash at this late stage?

            EuKiwi,

            Even two hours may not be enough in this case. Though that being an average I imagine the more modern ones store much more data.

            1. EuKiwi

              Re: What can be learned of the crash at this late stage?

              @ I ain't Spartacus

              You're right of course... 2 hours may not cover it, but that's just the CVR anyway I believe...

              Most modern airliners record way more than 2 hours of FDR but some limit CVR - not for technical reasons, but artificially. It was introduced to overcome objections from some pilot's representatives/unions that stakeholders other than investigators may (mis)use the data, such as airline management.

              Some recent events though have forced a reconsideration of this, naturally.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: What can be learned of the crash at this late stage?

            We are, if nothing else, learning more about tracking and ocean movement of debris.

            Agree with above posters that data is likely to be intact, although how helpful it may be remains an open question.

            Finding the wreckage is one thing, recovering any of it is another. It's remote, likely to be very deep indeed, and in strong global currents. This will pose a new set of challenges.

            1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

              Re: What can be learned of the crash at this late stage?

              Even just the dispersal pattern of the wreckage will rule out some theories though. So that's useful.

              We might be able to estimate the speed of impact and whether the plane was in controlled flight when it crashed or even if it broke up in mid air.

            2. Steve 114
              Happy

              Re: What can be learned of the crash at this late stage?

              If I'd been running simulations on my elaborate basement kit for weeks before, and thought I'd got a technique for placing it where they'd never look anyway, it would be somewhere really deep.

        2. Stoneshop Silver badge

          Re: What can be learned of the crash at this late stage?

          perhaps caused by a cargo fire, which seems the most likely scenario to me.

          Um. How would a cargo fire make the plane go off course, mere minutes after the last and entirely unremarkable contact, then fly on for several hours with more course changes (and non-erratic legs between them) during the time it was still tracked by radar?

          1. gryff

            Re: What can be learned of the crash at this late stage?

            "perhaps caused by a cargo fire, which seems the most likely scenario to me."

            "Um. How would a cargo fire make the plane go off course, mere minutes after the last and entirely unremarkable contact, then fly on for several hours with more course changes (and non-erratic legs between them) during the time it was still tracked by radar?

            Fires are funny things. Imagine one burning through cabling in the fuselage. As individual cables melt through in different locations the pilots progressively lose the ability to control the plane because the cabling from cockpit to avionics is gone...

            The procedure during suspected electrical fire used to be and may still be switch between power buses to try and isolate the bus which has the fire. Doing so may produce sparks in damaged cabling, making the situation worse. This was a topic discussed when Swissair 111 went down in 1998.

            So...fire, then loss of some avionics. Decision: "Let's turn back to Malaysia, we know local airfields there, they speak our language." More fire. Decision: "Let's go up high and try to starve fire of oxygen and heat." *

            Now remove the links to the avionics including to the engine computers, inside the engines. They obey the last instruction given - maintain the power setting. The aircraft flies blindly on until fuel exhaustion. Meanwhile the fire also burns to exhaustion and stops.

            Rremember United Airlines flight 93 during 9/11 ? I hypothesise pilot mischief would have resulted in a bashed in cockpit door during the hours preceeding the final ocean impact. The cabin crew and passengers had many more hours to do this than the poor beggers on Germanwings 9525 over the Alps..

            * Fire needs all three of fuel, oxygen/oxidising agent and heat.

            1. Stoneshop Silver badge

              Re: What can be learned of the crash at this late stage?

              Fires are funny things. Imagine one burning through cabling in the fuselage. As individual cables melt through in different locations the pilots progressively lose the ability to control the plane because the cabling from cockpit to avionics is gone...

              ...

              More fire. Decision: "Let's go up high and try to starve fire of oxygen and heat." *

              Does not compute. You lose control, and still decide to use whatever control is left to increase the distance between you and terra firma. Plus, they were at FL350 already; going higher still would have done very little w.r.t. starving the fire. And Li-ion fires (thermal runaway actually) are driven primarily by the energy stored in the cell, not by combustible material plus oxygen. Also, I doubt that gambling with 200+ people's lives that way is the normal modus operandi for an airline flight crew. You have a fire and notice loss of control,, you try to get the plane down somewhere as fast and as safe as possible.

              Now remove the links to the avionics including to the engine computers, inside the engines. They obey the last instruction given - maintain the power setting. The aircraft flies blindly on until fuel exhaustion. Meanwhile the fire also burns to exhaustion and stops.

              Aircraft that lose all command of flight control surfaces don't stay airborne very long, and definitely not for over seven hours: any disturbance can't be corrected and will result in the craft changing attitude. And once roll or pitch exceed certain levels, the plane is done for.

              Rremember United Airlines flight 93 during 9/11 ? I hypothesise pilot mischief would have resulted in a bashed in cockpit door during the hours preceeding the final ocean impact.

              Sorry, what? With the hijackers in control, they would have crashed the plane into whatever their target was. If they hadn't been able to enter the cockpit, the pilots would have diverted to the nearest airfield, or even any reasonably flat field that looked to offer sufficient survivability if the hijackers were close to breaching the door (at that point people on board were already aware of the WTC crashes).. And if the passengers had managed to overpower the hijackers and regain control but with the pilots incapacitated, they wouldn't have flown far out to sea. I doubt that none of them would be unable to sufficiently control the plane to put it down in a field if not on an actual airfield.

            2. Jeffrey Nonken Silver badge

              Re: What can be learned of the crash at this late stage?

              "Now remove the links to the avionics including to the engine computers, inside the engines. They obey the last instruction given - maintain the power setting. The aircraft flies blindly on until fuel exhaustion."

              It is a fly-by-wire system, so yoke and power control could be lost in such a scenario. Otherwise I would have said to pull the breakers for the autopilot and fly manually.

              ...So pull the breakers and use the mechanical backup controls.

      2. Blotto Bronze badge

        Re: What can be learned of the crash at this late stage?

        the fact we've not seen much debris indicates that the plane likely landed mostly intact and then likely sunk intact.

        there are lots of the external pieces of the aircraft that are designed to float in the event of a landing at sea (not float enough for the plane not to sink, but float enough for a debris field).

        1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge
          Paris Hilton

          Re: What can be learned of the crash at this late stage?

          Why aren't locator beacons released from the tail section when a violent* impact is detected?

          *i.e. > any possible turbulence could produce

          1. Stoneshop Silver badge

            Re: What can be learned of the crash at this late stage?

            Why aren't locator beacons released from the tail section when a violent* impact is detected?

            Well, cases where that might be beneficial are, as far as I can see, pretty limited: fires and deep-water crashes. In nearly all other cases it's easier to find that large lump of fuselage with the recorders still inside than the recorders on their own. As for fire resistance, that's a design criterion, but keeping the recorders away from one is probably better. And with deep-water crashes you want the recorders to stay floating, otherwise they'll be on the sea floor somewhere without the additional easier-to-find bulk of a bit of fuselage around them. Because if you don't know with sufficient precision where the plane went down allowing you to find them quickly, you might not find them before the locators run out of power.

        2. Stoneshop Silver badge

          Re: What can be learned of the crash at this late stage?

          the fact we've not seen much debris indicates that the plane likely landed mostly intact and then likely sunk intact.

          Maybe, but AF447 hit the sea surface with a comparatively moderate speed of less than 150 kts (a bit over 100 vertical and about 60 horizontal), and several larger pieces broke off and kept floating.

          With MH370, there are roughly two options for the end of the flight: uncommanded, with fuel starvation at altitude, hits sea surface at a considerably higher speed than AF447, plane breaks up with numerous pieces staying afloat (including seat cushions and such), or someone is still in control, getting the plane to go as low and slow as possible before hitting the sea surface (either with or without the engines still running), but 'as slow as possible' would still mean about 150 kts, a little over its stall speed. It's hard to imagine its impact being less severe than AF447, and the resultant debris quite likely being similar. So in both cases there will have been a fair amount of debris. That few parts were found nonetheless is probably due to the wide area over which they were dispersed during the time it took floating from the crash site to where they were found, and a lot of those locations not particularly brimming with people, if they're even accessible at all.

    4. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: What can be learned of the crash at this late stage?

      What others have pointed out can be learned.

      However there's also the human factor. The families should know. They've been told by some that it was aliens who took the plane, or that it was "hijacked" and is now on a secret island. One of the things about humans is they have "hope" and the families will and have grasped for any hope. I believe a little closure is necessary here.

    5. Christoph Silver badge

      Re: What can be learned of the crash at this late stage?

      We don't know what we might learn, we'll only know if we go looking and find it.

      We do know that if we don't look for it we certainly won't learn anything from it.

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What can be learned of the crash at this late stage?

      > is that enough to firmly blame one of the pilots?

      I do not think you quite understand the purpose of these investigations.

    7. k23h4klj234

      Re: What can be learned of the crash at this late stage?

      No, the black boxes will last forever, batteries, of course, run out.

      It did not hit the water very hard at all, since the flaperon was not damaged very badly, which surprised the engineers themselves.

      Everyone wants to know if this was a technical fault, more important than finding the victims frankly since it could prevent other incidents like this.

  2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Thumb Up

    An astonishing feat of ocean current modelling to cope with the time since the crash

    It's not that long ago that such a feat would have simply been impossible, given how little was known about such current far out at sea.

    Ocean data collection buoys and, satellite radar sensors and huge increases in affordable computing power have made a huge difference in this area.

  3. J J Carter Silver badge
    Big Brother

    Let's get real.

    The NSA knows exactly where it is!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Let's get real.

      "The NSA knows exactly where it is!"

      I'm sure the families of the victims will be comforted by your remark.

    2. EuKiwi

      Re: Let's get real.

      @ J J Carter

      Seems like, given the downvotes, you needed a 'joke alert' symbol...

      1. boltar Silver badge

        Re: Let's get real.

        "Seems like, given the downvotes, you needed a 'joke alert' symbol..."

        Tbh with the number of tin foil hat conspiracy theorists around, its hard to tell any more.

    3. Shane Lusby

      Re: Let's get real.

      Excuse me, are you accusing even a portion of the American Government of competency at this point?

      1. DougS Silver badge

        @Shane Lusby

        It is interesting that many of the people in the US who believe in the incompetence of government and thus that the private sector should handle as much as possible also believe in massive conspiracies involving the Fed, the "Deep State", 9/11, election fraud, and so forth.

        Not sure how you can believe the government is too incompetent to be trusted with anything, but also manages massive conspiracies that have never been proven. Belief that some part of the US government knows where MH370 went down but refuses to say for mysterious reasons (i.e. the US/NATO shot it down by accident, terrorist hijacking covered up for some reason, it was taken out deliberately to kill some person(s) aboard while making it look like an accident, etc.) is pretty silly. Given the multiple data dumps of classified information from the US over the last few years, as well as ordinary leaking, it seems impossible you could keep the circle of people in the know small enough to prevent the story leaking.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: @Shane Lusby

          > Not sure how you can believe the government is too incompetent to be trusted with anything, but also manages massive conspiracies that have never been proven.

          Because of the lizards, of course!

          Let me know if you need any more conspiracy theorist advice, happy to help¹.

          ¹ Unless you are one of Them.

  4. wolfetone Silver badge

    "Australian researchers who haven't given up on finding Malaysian Airlines MH 370 have told a conference in Darwin they believe they know where it is likely to be."

    Forgive me when I say "You said that before".

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      ... and I think I've heard it at least TWICE before :(

    2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      This is science. We theorise from the data we have, then we test, then we refine (or completely dump) our ideas and start all over again.

      So completely different scientists in a different field did some rather innovative work with the satellite handshake data to give more information than anyone else had at the time. Then the ocean currents people got into the act, which couldn't happen earlier, as they didn't have the data. Because a lot of their data comes from the location of crash wreckage and post-crash testing of ocean currents.

      1. DropBear Silver badge

        "This is science. We theorise from the data we have, then we test, then we refine (or completely dump) our ideas and start all over again."

        Fair enough; what is also fair enough is anyone's attitude out here in the real world along the lines of "you may think you know where it is, but I have no reason to believe you actually do ('this time for realsies, pinkie swear'...)".

      2. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
        Pint

        "This is science."

        IaS offered, "This is science."

        Science is proudly self-correcting, a feature that is in constant use. But few seem willing to accept the logical leap that: *therefore* a significant fraction of peer-reviewed, journal-published, widely-accepted scientific facts are (or will soon be) wrong.

        (In a vain attempt to pre-empt the inevitable retort: This is not to imply that I'm an evil 'denialist' in this field or that.)

      3. anothercynic Silver badge

        "This is science"

        And damn impressive it is too... no-one thought of looking at satellite handshakes or pings before.

        With the *sat companies (Inmarsat, Intelsat, Eutelsat, Viasat) and Iridium clubbing together with providers like Thales, Panasonic, Aireon, SITAONAIR and Gogo, ICAO's request for the aviation industry to be able to track all their airliners all the time (not just where ADS-B coverage is possible) is made so much easier.

        Qatar Airways was one of the first (if not *the* first) airline to do this. Malaysia Airlines is signed up with SITAONAIR that makes all their flights live trackable through Flightaware.

  5. Milton Silver badge

    Go find it

    With AF447 as a relatively recent and relevant example, we can be fairly sure that the FDR and CVR will be intact and that their data should be recoverable. While it's true that reading them may not confirm the cause of the loss, it will certainly help to rule out a great many theories. No, the electronic record cannot read the pilots' minds and there remains the possibility that this was an elaborate suicide, but contrary to some internet nonsense, it is not the only possibility: it's extremely unusual for a modern western-operated airliner to crash for any one single reason or isolated fault, there usually being a set of converging and unlikely coincidences coming together for disaster to strike, and we absolutely need to find out everything we can.

    The reasons are not only air safety (though, imagine the brouhaha and finger pointing if another 777 mysteriously goes down tomorrow) but also to remove the oxygen from idiot conspiracy theories. The internet abounds with resentful semi-literate halfwits and their damnfool conspiracy drivel, and along with "fake news" it obscures and clouds adult discussion. It's not the best or first reason to find the wreck, but it's still a good one: let's silence the imbeciles who are still claiming that MH370 is parked in a hangar in Siberia following Vlad's plot to distract everyone from his Evil Ukraine Plan ... or whatever.

    There's solid, credible reason to revise the search area, and for the cost of a single POS F-35 it could now be completed - for compassion, for closure, for safety and for the sanity of the net. So please, let's just go find it.

    1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

      Re: Go find it

      Yes. Even ruling out possibilities without finding the actual cause1) would be worth it, it will help making planes and the procedures to operate them better and safer.

      Also, lots of new data for marine research and more accurate maps of the ocean floor.

      Very little chance of quelling the idiot conspiracy theories2), though.3)

      1) My guess is that it's either something utterly trivial that usually isn't a problem or something really weird and far-fetched that nobody hasn't even considered yet. But that's just an thoroughly unsubstantiated gut feeling.

      2) "The tank containing the secret chemtrail chemicals leaked and the fumes instantaneously dissolved the brain of every person on board!"4)

      3) "It's a cover-up! And everybody is in on it!"5)

      4) Actual quote from coworker on MH-370.

      5) Actual quote from same coworker on "faked" moon landings.

      1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

        Re: Go find it

        Do not underestimate 2.

        To put it bluntly, I am thankful that the retarded monkeys that try to stuff their pants with acetone peroxide have no chemistry education. An airplane has at least 50%+ recirculation of air while at cruising altitude. I am leaving the rest as an "exercise to the reader". As an ex-chemist I have done that mental exercise around the time of the liquid panic eight years ago and I'd rather not share the results as they are subject to criminal prosecution according to the UK thought crime laws.

        Though if it was the case of 2 someone would have assumed responsibility. Taking out a 777 is too juicy of a morsel for the lunatics not to brag about it on Telegram and Twitter.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Go find it

          "I'd rather not share the results" - same here - it would be simply too easy. Mostly I think this sort of thing is not discussed too keep the Security Theater illusion going.

      2. Kiwi Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: Go find it

        Actual quote from same coworker on "faked" moon landings.

        Best response to that I've heard (probably on El Reg) is along the lines of "If they could fake that, why haven't they faked any other big achievements?"

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Go find it

        > Actual quote from coworker

        > Actual quote from same coworker

        Have you considered changing jobs? Or if you prefer your coworker to have an accident, that can be arranged too. Call for quotes.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Go find it

      The South African Airways 747 which burnt up in the air near Mauritius was a tough one to find but they did it and managed to find both black boxes

      1. Mike Richards Silver badge

        Re: Go find it

        As well as Air France 447 which lay at 4km.

        Although it long predates the introduction of flight recorders, heroic efforts were made to recover the wreck of BOAC 781 to work out what was wrong with the Comet 1. Can you imagine the frenzy of conspiracy wankers if they'd been around at a time when three of the world's most advanced airliners crashed in short order?

  6. hatti

    I find it odd that a machine equipped with all manner of navigational and gps transponder equipment (let alone a black box) has not yet been located. Earlier reports were able to trace the path of the plane, but subsequent searches all drew a blank. More to this story I feel.

    1. HCV

      "a machine equipped with all manner of navigational and gps transponder equipment"

      There actually wasn't that much equipment, and very little of it had the ability to communicate with anything when the plane was over the ocean. The only device equipped to communicate via satellite was the engine diagnostic reporting equipment, which is what gave the two most likely paths that the plane traveled -- narrowed down to one when debris started to appear.

      The pings from the engine recorder delivered no direct information about the location or status of the plane (other than engine performance stats), and only transmitted once an hour. That's an incredibly sparse amount of data to work with.

      The fact of the matter is that an aircraft over the ocean, once it gets a certain distance from land, is not readily trackable.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "a machine equipped with all manner of navigational and gps transponder equipment"

        If the aircraft landed largely intact on the water with a fair bit of buoyancy it could take some time to sink. It would also "fly" as it sank and could be some way from ground zero if if tracked to that point. Hence new theory on drift being interesting...

    2. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      You seriously underestimate just how ridiculously empty are the Southern Indian Ocean and the Southern Pacific. There is practically zero communications coverage so even if the transponder equipment was not off (that is where the whole thing started) it would have failed to upload anything.

      There is one clear takeaway from the whole debacle - aircraft must have connectivity to the new low altitude broadband constellations being launched in the next decade. These do not do anything above the vast expanses of the sea deserts anyway so the operators are not likely to have any objection to a regulatory mandate for the airlines to use them.

      As a corollary to that, China can go f*** off on their regulatory requirements mandating any aircraft to turn off broadband connectivity entering their airspace and MH370 and the number of Chinese citizens who went down with it is a good enough explanation of why this should be the case.

      1. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
        Pint

        "...practically zero communications coverage..."

        VRH suggested, "...the Southern Indian Ocean and the Southern Pacific. There is practically zero communications coverage..."

        Well, aside from Inmarsat (often used for aircraft) which covers almost the entire globe, roughly as far south as Antarctica (or up to *about* 80N, YMMV) [Ref: "Inmarsat Coverage",then see Google Images]. And Iridium, which provides complete 100% global coverage (everywhere legally permitted, assuming you're outdoors), presently low data rate but their 'NEXT' constellation is being launched now. And HF, which often works to some degree almost everywhere, plus or minus polar absorption caps and other annoyances. And the COSPAR-SARSAT satellites (for 406MHz ELTs) which cover 100% of the entire globe. And aircraft ADSB will shortly (already started) be tracked from orbit, again providing essentially 100% coverage.

        Within a decade 'Comms' will be a "completely solved" problem (not really, but allow me to make my point anyway...), in the same way that GPS essentially solved 'Nav'. Aligns nicely with my retirement, FTW.

        1. anothercynic Silver badge

          Re: "...practically zero communications coverage..."

          @JeffyPoooh: Correct. Iridium NEXT has Aireon equipment on board which provides ADS-B coverage from LEO, which Aireon says will be provided to FlightRadar and Flightaware as part of a standard agreement.

    3. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      hatti,

      There is indeed all sorts of kit to make sure we know where stuff is. However, satellite data rates are expensive, so many airlines don't pay for it. Malaysia have been in financial difficulties for a while, so were one of those cheapskates. I imagine one of the envtual fall-outs from this crash will be over-ocean satellite positional data upload becoming compulsory.

      Many large carriers have constant reporting from all their aircraft all the time, and so know their location to within a few meters. Rolls Royce for example have vast amounts of data coming in directly to their control room on some of their more modern engines, and so can tell the airlines what maintenance they may need to do before the plane has even landed.

      However, when this data is not switched on, the Indian Ocean is huge. And very empty. Look at a map. There aren't many radars out there. And with the aircraft's transponder switched off, it mostly needs to be an active military radar, as modern civilian ones basically just ask the plane to please tell them where it is.

      1. anothercynic Silver badge

        @I ain't Spartacus

        You are unfortunately incorrect on the 'constant reporting'. Not many large carriers ever did constant reporting until ICAO requested they start doing it. Most airliners are *not* equipped (linefit) for satellite data of the volume that's needed (nor were satellites equipped to handle those kinds of data volumes either).

        Only very recently (in the last 3 years or so) have you started seeing the little humps appear on the tops of the fuselages of modern(ish) airliners for Ku- and Ka-band satellite (for which, surprise surprise, the beams are concentrated over the spaces that people actually *live* in, not places like the vast open spaces of oceans), and due to the inevitable thirst of passengers for connectivity whilst in the air ("I'm facebooking you from 43,000 feet, y'all!" - Yes, I've seen these. And the tweets. And the Instagram stories), have airlines finally had the capability to a) share more data of the aircraft's current status, including cockpit voice/data, and b) get their satellite linefit provider to get the live tracking stuff done too.

        The *engine* providers on the other hand have had that mandate for live data from the engines as part of their maintenance agreements, i.e. the engine provider pays the satellite company for the data used, but charges that back to the airline as part of their monthly/annual 'TotalCare' (RR) or equivalent maintenance agreement. Even then, most of this is relayed via ground stations given where 80% of the air traffic is.

    4. Goldmember

      The point is...

      "navigational and gps transponder equipment"

      ... the transponders were switched off. Whether manually (by the pilots) or through another means (fire, electrical short) we don't know. Which is why we could really do with finding that plane.

      But the only other means of tracking it - the 15-minute interval satellite "handshakes" with Inmarsat - were not designed to be used for tracking, which is why the potential final flight path was (and still is) so varied.

      It was basically an accident that we even knew it had gone into the Indian Ocean.

      1. patrickstar

        Re: The point is...

        Not an accident - after AF447, someone at Inmarsat had a sudden flash of insight and decided to start logging more data about the comms.

  7. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

    Let's hope they do find it this time

    Mainly for closure of the relatives of the victims

  8. Adam 1 Silver badge

    > its analysis of the drift patterns revealed by wreckage suggested the original search was in the wrong area.

    As did the fact that they didn't stumble upon it when searching there, Shirley?

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Well the ocean is huge. The floor in many places is unmapped, so there are many places where you might not spot a crashed plane even if you search right where it is. Much easier if you have pre-existing data to compare against. Although, I think modern sonar kit is much better, making this less likely.

      Obviously while the black boxes were pinging we were much less likely to miss them. Assuming the pingers weren't damaged. And of course they found the Air France plane in the South Atlantic well after the boxes were out of batteries.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      As did the fact that they didn't stumble upon it when searching there, Shirley?

      That depends on your confidence in the search pattern and technology. Given that the search area included water depths of 15,000 feet, and pressures of around 7,000 psi, plus the hostile surface operating environment, it is possible that in the murky depths the searchers have missed the mangled fragments of wreckage from MH370.

      If they find it at that sort of depth, then the costs of salvage or anything more than a few components will be huge - the current costs of the recovery of K-129 from 16,000 feet are guesstimated at around $4bn.

  9. Gio Ciampa

    ..."suggested the original search was in the wrong area"

    One for the "No shit, Sherlock" filing cabinet?

  10. This post has been deleted by its author

  11. Alistair Silver badge

    I have to wonder.

    I have 3 kids and a wife. Most of my family could be considered of above average intelligence, even the middle child who's autism renders them socially awkward and as far as most folks are concerned 'robotic' in their interactions with others. Most of the time my family have trouble locating things attached to their bodies. I get the *distinct* impression that a whole bunch of commentards here have absolutely no clue what a deep ocean search for an aircraft would involve and the levels of complexity and detail at which those humans charged with performing such tasks are driven.

    Some would toss out the needle in a haystack allegory here, however it is rather more like a needle in 100,000 haystacks, with the corollary limitation of using only one eye, and a reversed telescope.

    This one case has several aspects that need resolution;

    a) Was this event the result of the action of one single individual with emotional/mental issues. Was this event the result of some utterly bizarre set of mechanical circumstances? In either case what actions were taken or not taken? What mitigations are possible in the future? - This may or may not be determined by the CVR/FDR data but having these items will at least allow some investigation.

    b) Where did these bodies come to rest. For many relatives of those on MH370 knowing this is absolutely imperative. Although the possibility of recovery and return to appropriate internment also holds a candle to their continued interest in locating the aircraft crash site.

    c) What set of circumstances existed that the entire complement of an aircraft (cabin staff, passengers) would not attempt *some* action when the aircraft was so massively overdue at the destination? Did they take action? (see mitigations in a).

    d) Given the (so far) determined flight path it appears that there was a human in charge of the aircraft for rather most of the flight. Given that is there any indication as to the purpose of this individual? Who *was* this individual?

    I would insert the "space is vast" bit here, but I think it is somewhat better to insert the fact that the Indian ocean is roughly 10 times the *area* of the Russian republic. And then there's the fact that we're looking in some of the *deepest* parts of that massive body.

    1. Meph
      Boffin

      Re: I have to wonder.

      "a) Was this event the result of the action of one single individual with emotional/mental issues."

      With all due respect for the victims' families and the ongoing investigation, but I personally have strong doubts about this specific point.

      Lets assume for a moment that this is what happened. Surely if someone suffering serious enough psychological issues chose to end their life, and also chose to use a commercial aircraft full of passengers, there must be some reason for their thinking.

      This is the point where the hypothesis breaks down for me.

      If someone did this, and had a personal reason for doing it in this way, then consciously choosing to make the aircraft nigh-impossible to find would surely invalidate whatever reason was behind their motivations.

      I'm exceedingly aware that suicidal levels of depression can impact on the ability for people to think rationally, but even so, if this was a deliberate act by someone, then the message was clearly lost with the aircraft itself.

  12. M E H
    Black Helicopters

    Convenient

    We'd like to map this bit of the ocean floor please.

    Give us lots of money and we'll do it on the pretext of looking for a missing plane.

  13. Long John Baldrick

    What is the detection range of flight recorder pings?

    See title

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What is the detection range of flight recorder pings?

      Legacy underwater acoustic beacons are typically around 37.5 kHz (ultrasonic), and their range can be imagined as a 45-degree cone, range suitable for all but the very deepest ocean depths. Takes a great deal of searching...

      Recently, low frequency beacons at 8.8 kHz are being suggested or mandated. They have range several times better, thus allowing wider search grids.

      The other change is from 30 day batteries to 90 day batteries.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Precisely" still leaves a daunting 25,000 square kilometre search area.

    The Australian word "Precisely" must have a similar meaning to our "Approximately".

    If you stretch the meaning of "Approximately".

  15. evej

    Ridiculous that witnesses saw the plane flying over the Maldives. Millions lost through so called experts searching the wrong area. Parts were found washed up on mauritius. I still think it was heading for an East African country

  16. evej

    It's ridiculous, witnesses saw it flying over the Maldives. Parts were washed up on mauritius. Millions spent on so called experts searching the wrong area. I still think it was heading for an East African country.

  17. A_Melbourne

    Just like for MH-17, this was deliberate and intentional. It will never be found.

    BTW, the same party was responsible for both and it does not take a work of genius to figure out who was really responsible.

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