The Search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 Gone So Wrong

July 25, 2016

The Search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 Gone So Wrong. Why?

It’s been nearly two and a half years since a 777 disappeared over the Indian Ocean. Investigators assured us they’d find Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. How were they so wrong?

by  Jeff Wise

It wasn’t supposed to end like to this. Earlier today, ministers from the three nations responsible for finding Malaysia Airlines Flight 370—Australia, China, and Malaysia—announced that they would stop looking for the lost jet once the current 46,000-square-mile search zone is completed this fall. The decision was essentially an acknowledgement that they’d come up empty-handed in their quest to find the plane that disappeared from the face of the Earth in March 2014 with 239 people on board. This after two years of official assurances that success was right around the corner.

Why had ty been so confident in the first place? How could they have been wrong?

Why had they been so confident in the first place? How could they have been wrong? And if the plane isn’t where it was supposed to be, where else could it have gone? We’ve gone through two years of clues and conspiracy theories and false starts. But to understand how we’ve come to this point, it’s necessary to review the clues that search officials possessed, and how they interpreted them.

Calculating the Direction of Flight

There were two reasons why investigators felt certain the plane had flown toward a specific area of the southern Indian Ocean. The first was publicly acknowledged, the second kept secret.

The first reason had to do with signals exchanged between the plane and an Inmarsat satellite. On the night of March 8, 2014, 40 minutes after takeoff, MH370 suddenly went electronically dark over the South China Sea. Every form of communication it had with the outside world was turned off. The plane then pulled a 180, flew back over peninsular Malaysia, headed up the Malacca Strait, and disappeared from radar.

Then, surprisingly, three minutes later, it began communicating again. A piece of equipment in the back of the plane called the Satellite Data Unit (SDU) sent a log-on request to an Inmarsat satellite perched in a geosynchronous orbit high above the Indian Ocean. For the next six hours, the SDU stayed in contact, automatically sending intermittent pings that were automatically recorded by Inmarsat computers on the ground.

This handout Satellite image made available by the AMSA (Australian Maritime Safety Authority) shows a map of the planned search area for missing Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 on March 24, 2014.

This handout Satellite image made available by the AMSA (Australian Maritime Safety Authority) shows a map of the planned search area for missing Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 on March 24, 2014. Getty Images / Australian Maritime Safety Authority


3 thoughts on “The Search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 Gone So Wrong

  1. I alwys felt not right that Indonesia military radar failed to detect MH370 when Malaysia airforce radar detected MH370 making abnormal flight fr east coast to Penang yet failed to send figher aircrafts to check (intercept). Our defence minister had made fool of himself by saying ‘no point to send interceptor if not to shoot down the plane’; MH370 could hv been saved!
    Indonesia military ppl manning their radars hv proven competency to identify unauthorised aircrafts iin their airspace. Our top gun military cud hv pow-wow wth their counterparts who then hv given affirmative that MH370 was never in their radar. Such radar information on initial position of MH370 could then verify whatever ‘initial’ position information derived fr other referred information such as Inmarsat/othr satellite. We never got to knw if the ppl in charge of search hv done such ‘calibaration’ b4 proceeding to ‘calculate speculatively’ subsequent flight path of MH370 twrds southern Indian Ocean

  2. Bayesian methodology can only do so much with the scant information available. The ‘unprecedented’ reliance on Doppler shift in BFO data seems persuasive initially, but it’s the terminal characteristics of the flight that matter most. Math is in the head, and not in the soul or gut.

    As for sam’s assertion that by scrambling a fast mover (fighter jet), let it be known that the range for these are quite limited – especially if it had used up it’s fuel at supersonic speeds in order to catch up with the civilian ‘target’. It may have been able to point to the general direction (which could have easily been traked by ground based radar), but still won’t be able to:
    1. conclusively detect the end point over the horizon,
    2. see what was going on in the darkened cabin at night,
    3. overfly foreign airspace, without permission.

    My guess would be that it’s much further northwest than the present site, between the northern extreme of the Broken Ridge and southern area of the Ninety East Ridge. A lot of hot air eh..?

    Someone once asked me whether the wreckage would be found. I couldn’t answer that, for the simple reason that there were too many unknown variables, but yes it can be found – accidentally, someday, somewhere.

    My heart goes out to all the families of the victims – for it’s a totally disconsolate and dissolute situation to be in.

    I’m not in the habit of reading about conspiracy theories, but a tragedy like this has not changed real time civil aviation tracking rapidly enough. There are approximately one million passengers travelling in the skies at any one time, nowadays. At 10 to 12 thousand meters up or down, nothing looks the same.. God ain’t there looking out for us puny creatures.

  3. The US have at least a dozen satellites circling over the equator comprising of weather, communications and spy satellites. These high and low orbit satellites takes snapshots almost every 20 minutes while orbiting the earth. The pictures are of very high resolution and they can see you standing in front of your house if needs be. I wonder why Malaysia had not formally requested the US for photos taken by the satellites on the night and morning when MH 370 went missing. If MH 370 was cruising at 580 mph the satellite photos taken at 20 minutes interval will certainly indicate the location and flight path of MH 370 leading to its final resting place or destination.

    The other question is why until today MAS has not formally declared the cargo manifest of MH 370. Was it mangosteen or something else as mangosteen was not in season in Malaysia and it is quite a task to gather 20 tonnes when not in season.

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