[SystemSafety] MH 370

From: Peter Bernard Ladkin < >
Date: Mon, 31 Mar 2014 14:51:45 +0200

The disappearance of the Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 is turning into one of the big mysteries in aviation. I just did a live radio interview with ABC's Late Night Live on it. http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/latenightlive/the-mystery-of-mh370/5350114 I hope I'm not too embarrassed when I listen to it.

As part of my order-of-magnitude overprep, I put together the following this morning in response to a query.

There is a NYT piece which includes a clickable timeline, which hasn't changed since 19 March when they published it:

The timeline is:

  1. 16:41Z departure (=12:41 local time)
  2. 17:07Z last ACARS transmission
  3. 17:19Z last verbal exchange (hand off to Vietnam)
  4. 17:21Z transponder return lost
  5. (17:37Z no ACARS transmission as expected)
  6. 18:15Z reported "detection" of an unindentified plane by military primary radar: during tracking was said to ascend to 45,000 ft then descend "unevenly" to 26,000 feet and heading west towards Indian Ocean. It is hard to see how the altitudes can have come from primary radar.
  7. Regular hourly "pings" from a functioning comms device are received by Inmarsat, at 17:11Z, 1811Z, 1911Z, 2011Z, 2111Z, 2211Z, 2311Z.
  8. 0011Z last detected satellite signal (presume: by Inmarsat)

In addition, there is some continually-timed info:

9. Doppler-shift chart of frequencies with correlation on track.

  1. A route was announced: near IGARI, then a turn west to VAMPI near Sumatra (Aceh) then north-east to GIVAL, near Phuket Island, then north-west direction IGREX near the Andaman Islands
  2. No record of catastrophic thermal event by SBIR
  3. There was said to be "engine data" gathered by Rolls-Royce after the comms break, which was said to show a 40,000 ft descent in a minute. People expressed scepticism that this was veridical.

Some comments:

Both 6 and 12 were announced and seem now to have disappeared from discussion. They have not been repudiated as far as I know. As noted above, it is hard to see how altitude attributions come from primary radar.

Notice that 5 is a non-event - something expected to happen that didn't.


1-5 are info from Malaysian ATC that will have been recorded (or not, in the case of the non-event 5).

6. Was announced by the Malaysian AF Chief, then retracted, then reinstated through WSJ and NYT. The NYT reported that the Malaysian authorities said they had shared it with the US and China. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/15/world/asia/malaysia-military-radar.html There is a Reuters article which "broke" the story at

7. Inferred by PBL from the info given in the Inmarsat interview with Gwen Topham of the Guardian.

8. Was given by Inmarsat analysts to the Guardian's Gwyn Topham before Inmarsat was officially incorporated into the investigation; reported on March 14 in http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/mar/14/mh370-search-for-missing-plane-extends-to-the-indian-ocean-live-updates  Now, Inmarsat defers to the AAIB which defers to the Malaysian lead, as per protocol.

9. Published by Malaysian authorities on their Facebook page on 25 March. https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=740971779281171&id=178566888854999&stream_ref=10

10, 11. Written by US journalists on 2014-03-13/14 (Reuters, WSJ for 10, MSNBC for 11) on the basis (they said) of off-record briefings by "officials" or "people close to the investigation". No further mention has been made of the info in 10; I don't know if we can take it as veridical, but AFAIK it hasn't been retracted. But, in particular, we know the "northern route", from GIVAL in direction IGREX, is no longer believed. WSJ: http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304185104579437573396580350?mod=WSJEurope_hpp_LEFTTopStories&mg=reno64-wsj&url=http%3A%2F%2Fonline.wsj.com%2Farticle%2FSB10001424052702304185104579437573396580350.html%3Fmod%3DWSJEurope_hpp_LEFTTopStories

A colleague asked whether a flight path to fuel exhaustion that is 1100 Km shorter than was previously estimated is consistent with the known minimum flight duration (from Inmarsat data), the revised speed estimate, and the fuel burn rates that would result. Those are good questions, but none of that flight path information has been made publicly available, AFAIK.

PBL Prof. Peter Bernard Ladkin, Faculty of Technology, University of Bielefeld, 33594 Bielefeld, Germany Tel+msg +49 (0)521 880 7319 www.rvs.uni-bielefeld.de

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