#MH370: Search update for Saturday, April 12

April 12, 2014

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Good morning:

A Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777

Acoustic data analysis continues.

No pings from the black boxes have been detected since the towed pinger locator detected signals on Tuesday. The previously reported signals picked up by the sonar buoys have been analyzed and excluded as electronic signals from the black boxes.

The Chief Coordinator of the Joint Agency Coordination Centre, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston (Ret’d), said an initial assessment of the possible signal detected by a RAAF AP-3C Orion aircraft yesterday afternoon has been determined as not related to an aircraft underwater locator beacon.

“The Australian Joint Acoustic Analysis Centre has analysed the acoustic data and confirmed that the signal reported in the vicinity of the Australian Defence Vessel Ocean Shield is unlikely to be related to the aircraft black boxes,” Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston (Ret’d), said.

Here’s the media release for today.

Media Release
12 April 2014—am

Up to nine military aircraft, one civil aircraft and 14 ships will assist in today’s search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.

Today the Australian Maritime Safety Authority has planned a visual search area totalling approximately 41,393 square kilometres. The centre of the search areas lies approximately 2331 kilometres north west of Perth.

Today, Australian Defence Vessel Ocean Shield continues more focused sweeps with the Towed Pinger Locator to try and locate further signals related to the aircraft’s black boxes. The AP-3C Orions continue their acoustic search, working in conjunction with Ocean Shield. The oceanographic ship HMS Echo is also working in the area with Ocean Shield. This work continues in an effort to narrow the underwater search area for when the Autonomous Underwater Vehicle is deployed. There have been no confirmed acoustic detections over the past 24 hours.

The weather forecast for today is 10 knot south easterly winds with isolated showers, sea swells up to one metre and visibility of five kilometres in showers.

Aircraft and ships reported spotting a number of objects during yesterday’s search, but only a small number were able to be recovered. None of the recovered items were confirmed to be associated with MH370.

The underwater search area is approximately 14,800 feet below the surface of the ocean and about the same size as the city of Los Angeles. That’s why they are going to continue to listen for pings until they are satisfied that the batteries have expired. The more pings they detect, the easier it will be to shrink the search area and locate the black boxes.

The Bluefin 21’s sonar can scan only about 100 meters to each side and its lights can only illuminate a few meters. The maximum depth at which it can operate is 4,500 meters and some areas of the search zone are deeper. Because of these limitations, they will continue to listen for pings until they are satisfied that they know the location of the black boxes or the batteries have died. The boxes are not going anywhere, so they are not going to risk losing or damaging the Bluefin 21 during a premature dive.

The searchers are also concerned about the firmness of the ocean bottom, which they believe to be composed of a layer of silt, approximately 75 feet deep. They fear the wreckage, including the black boxes, may have disappeared into the silt muffling and misdirecting the pings while also making it difficult to see any wreckage.

You are up to date.

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#MH370: Sonobuoys detect possible signals from black boxes

April 10, 2014

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Good morning:

I have more good news to report in the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370.

CNN is reporting this morning that an Australian P3 Orion has picked up signals during Thursday’s search from some of the 84 sonobuoys that were dropped into ocean in the vicinity of the location where the Ocean Shield picked up signals from the black boxes with the towed pinger locater (TPL).

Sonobuoys, which float on the surface, dangle a hydrophone (i.e., an underwater microphone) attached to a 1,000 foot cable. The sonobuoy broadcasts any radio signal picked up by the hydrophone.

Searchers are using the sonobuoys to precisely locate the black boxes on the ocean bottom, which is 14,800 feet deep.

The electronic information picked up by the sonobuoys will be evaluated Thursday night.

Depending on the results, the Ocean Shield may deploy the Bluefin 21 to find the wreckage and and photograph it.

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#MH370: Searchers detect more pings late Tuesday afternoon and evening

April 9, 2014

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Good morning:

The Ocean Shield, which is using the U.S. Navy’s towed pinger locater (TPL) to search for the black boxes that were on board Malaysia Airlines MH370, twice detected pinging signals from the flight data recorder late Tuesday afternoon and again on Tuesday night.

Zee News India is reporting:

In what is further expected to boost the chances of finding black box of the missing Malaysia Airlines jet MH370, Australian Naval ship Ocean Shield equipped with US-Navy supplied black box detector (Towed Pinger Locator) is reported to have detected two more ‘pings’.

Australian search coordinator Angus Houston told reporters that the signals detected on Tuesday afternoon and evening, were believed to “be consistent with the specification and description of a flight data recorder”.

“Ocean Shield has been able to reacquire the signals on two more occasions, late yesterday afternoon and later last night,” said Angus Houston, head of the Joint Agency Coordination Centre.

“I believe we are searching in the right area,” he said.

CNN provides specific information about the pings:

The first signal, at 4:45 p.m. Perth Time on Saturday, lasted 2 hours 20 minutes.

The second, at 9:27 p.m. Saturday, lasted 13 minutes.

The third signal was picked up Tuesday at 4:27 p.m. That lasted 5 minutes 32 seconds.

The fourth, at 10:17 p.m. Tuesday, was 7 minutes long.

Unfortunately, the searchers do not yet have enough data to confidently pinpoint the location of the black boxes. They do not want to begin searching with the remotely operated sub (Bluefin 21) until they have shrunk the area to be searched as much as possible.

The Bluefin 21’s sonar can scan only about 100 meters to each side and its lights can only illuminate a few meters. The maximum depth at which it can operate is 4,500 meters and some areas of the search zone are deeper. Because of these limitations, they will continue to listen for pings until they are satisfied that they know the location of the black boxes or the batteries have died. The boxes are not going anywhere, so they are not going to risk losing or damaging the Bluefin 21 during a premature dive.

Due to the difference in time, Perth is 12 hours ahead of New York and the late news conference Tuesday evening, news of the pings was not reported until long after I posted my article yesterday in which I said no pings were found Tuesday.

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#MH370: No pings detected during Tuesday search

April 8, 2014

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Good morning:

The searchers did not detect any pings on Tuesday and that may be because the batteries on the black boxes have expired.

They will continue to listen for pings because it’s possible that the batteries might not have expired and they need the pings to triangulate the precise location of the black boxes. Otherwise, it might take a long time of hit and miss searching of the ocean bottom to locate them.

Here’s the latest report from Sky News in Australia.

Two sets of possible black box pings picked up by the Australian vessel Ocean Shield in the southern Indian Ocean – one that was held for two hours and 20 minutes, and another for 13 minutes – remain the best lead so far.

Search co-ordinator Angus Houston said no more signals had been detected since those announced on Monday.

But the former defence force chief said strenuous attempts to pick up more would continue until there was no doubt the black box beacon’s battery, now two days past its 30-day life, had run out.

Batteries often lasted several days longer than that, so there was still hope, he said.

‘Until we stop the pinger search, we will not deploy the submersible … unless we find another transmission,’ he told reporters in Perth on Tuesday.

‘If we can get more transmissions, we can get a better fix on the ocean floor, which will enable a much more narrowly focused visual search for wreckage.

‘If we go down there now and do a visual search, it will take many, many days because it’s very slow, very painstaking work to scour the ocean floor.’

He said some of the false acoustic leads that had been discounted had come from a search ship.

‘It got its own transmissions back again. Funny things happen in that environment and you can’t assume things,’ he said.

‘We think the Ocean Shield transmission is probably the most promising one and we continue to prosecute that.’

You are up to date.

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#MH370: “We are very close to where we need to be” Updated below

April 7, 2014
A Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777

We are very close to where we need to be

Monday, April 7, 2014

Good morning:

Angus Houston, the head of the joint agency coordinating the search in the southern Indian Ocean said today, “We are very close to where we need to be.”

CBS is reporting encouraging news this morning regarding signals picked up by the Ocean Shield:

The Australian navy’s Ocean Shield, which is carrying high-tech sound detectors from the U.S. Navy, picked up two separate signals within a remote patch of the Indian Ocean far off the west Australian coast that search crews have been crisscrossing for weeks. The first signal lasted two hours and 20 minutes before it was lost. The ship then turned around and picked up a signal again – this time recording two distinct “pinger returns” that lasted 13 minutes, Houston said.

“Significantly, this would be consistent with transmissions from both the flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder,” Houston said.

He said the position of the noise needs to be further refined, and then an underwater autonomous vehicle can be sent in to investigate.

The ocean is approximately 14,800 feet deep in the area where the two distinct pinger sounds were detected. That is within the range that the remotely operated sub can function.

While urging caution, Houston said,

“We’ve got a visual indication on a screen, and we’ve also got an audible signal. And the audible signal sounds to me just like an emergency locator beacon,” he said.

“We are encouraged that we are very close to where we need to be.”

This location is 600 kilometers northeast of the location where the Haixun 01 detected signals on Friday and Saturday.

Because the two locations are so far apart, there is little likelihood that the sounds detected came from the same source. Many people believe the Ocean Shield is more likely to have detected the black boxes than the Haixun 01 because it’s towing a sensitive pinger locater that is attached to a cable that can reach a depth of 20,000 feet, whereas, the Haixun 01 is using a surface sound detector that was designed for divers to locate items of interest at depths up to 600 feet. It was not designed for the purpose that it is being used and may not be providing accurate and reliable information, according to the manufacturer.

The next step will be an attempt to verify that the signals came from the two black boxes. That will involve multiple efforts to drag the pinger locater through the area of interest in order to identify a specific location on the ocean bottom to search.

Then send the sub to take a look.

UPDATE: The LA Times is reporting:

Cmdr. William Marks of U.S. 7th Fleet, who is aboard the Ocean Shield, said the towed pinger locator was only about 985 feet deep when it began detecting the pings at one-second intervals. “We were not overly optimistic,” he told CNN by satellite phone from the ship.

But after lowering the towed pinger locator to nearly 4,600 feet, the crew was able to get hold of the signal for more than two hours.

Marks noted that if the signal was coming from a black box, the signal should get stronger and then fade as the locator passed over the site. “That’s what happened,” Marks said, describing searchers as “cautiously optimistic.”
Crews then did a course change and passed back over the area, lowering the towed pinger locator to about 9,850 feet, which Marks called the “optimal depth.” Crews were able to pick up a signal for about 15 minutes, he said.

According to Houston, the area where the signals were detected has a depth of about 14,800 feet — the maximum depth the underwater vehicle can operate in. He cautioned that “in very deep oceanic water, nothing happens fast” and that it could take “some days” to establish whether this is connected with Flight 370.

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#MH370: Important update on sign off and search effort

April 1, 2014

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Good afternoon:

The disappearance of MH370 a little over three weeks ago, the investigation to find out what happened to it and the effort to recover the two black boxes have failed to locate any wreckage from the Boeing 777-200.

Boeing reported late last week that a reevaluation of the ping data led them to identify a new area to search in the south Indian Ocean that is northeast of the original search area and much closer to western Australia. Because the flight to and from the new search area takes less time, aircraft can now spend up to five hours searching the new area compared to only two hours in the original area.

China and Thailand also announced last week that their satellites detected the presence of many objects floating on the surface. Unfortunately, the ocean is rather like a vast garbage dump, so the presence of objects in the water is not surprising. Its presence complicates the search for MH370 because every object retrieved from the sea must be examined in a manner that reliably determines whether it came from MH370 or from some other source. In other words, the searchers need a forensic laboratory.

Moreover, they need it on-site. The mountain must come to Mohammad because the nearest laboratory is several days distant in Perth. I say “several days” because the number and varying size, weight and condition of the objects necessitates the use of a ship to transport them to Perth.

The Australians have decided to create the on-site lab on their ship, Success, where they have a helipad and a large crane. The Washington Post describes the situation,

Malaysia technically must secure the wreckage and make it available for the investigation. But Australia is handling that responsibility on Malaysia’s behalf. As a result, any ship that collects suspected plane wreckage must hand it over to Australian authorities, said Martin Dolan, chief commissioner of the Australian Transporation Safety Board.

“Any wreckage that is obtained, we will hold on behalf of the Malaysian investigation team and await their instructions,” Dolan said. “We’re in continual discussions with the Malaysians about the progress of the search and we will continue to discuss with them the handling of wreckage as and when it comes to hand.”

Australian authorities have not divulged details about how identification of objects retrieved by ships is being conducted to determine whether they are from the plane or are sea trash.

But an Australian government official said ships in the search area have the capability of transmitting photos of recovered debris to experts on the Australian mainland who can make detailed examinations. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak with the media.

The Australian supply ship HMAS Success is searching but is also designated as the ship that will store potential plane wreckage at sea. It has a heavy crane. How transfers of potential plane debris will happen from one ship to another and transferred to the navy base near Perth will be decided on a case by case basis, Walker said.

“They’re not going to sail into Perth every time they pick something up,” he said. That voyage takes days.

MH370 is transforming our world in potentially beneficial ways.

The most obvious benefit is cooperation between nations on a peer-to-peer basis to organize, share resources and use technologies, previously reserved for military use against each other, to find the aircraft.

The second effect that we are beginning to see is a mega increase in awareness that we humans have transformed our oceans into garbage dumps. “Out of sight, out of mind,” is a description of our failure to acknowledge and take responsibility for the garbage we generate and the duty to dispose of it beneficially.

Visit any garbage dump or landfill anywhere in the world and you will discover that corporations are not the only polluters.

Before publishing this post, I checked for the latest update on the search for MH370 and discovered that Malaysian officials announced today that the copilot did not say, “All right. Good night.”

The sign-off to the command to switch to ATC Ho Chi Minh City for the next leg of the flight to Beijing was the final radio communication with the flight.

As readers may recall, Towerflower and I disagreed about the potential significance of that sign-off because it’s not pilot-speak. With my tinfoil hat firmly in place, I said I thought it may have been a coded signal that a hijacking may have been underway, but he could not say that because the hijacker may have been holding a knife to his throat. Towerflower disagreed. She said pilots will occasionally lapse into normal-speak during late night flights when fewer aircraft are aloft. She is an air traffic controller, which I am not.

Mr Ken Stewart, who started commenting here recently, is a captain who pilots triple-7s. He said he always signs off in pilot-speak, which requires an identification of the flight and a word-by-word repetition of the command. This procedure was designed to assure that the message was received.

The sign-off occurred at 1:19 am. Two minutes later, the transponder stopped broadcasting and the aircraft turned back toward the Malay Peninsula.

The Telegraph is reporting,

Meanwhile, Geoffrey Thomas, an Australia aviation expert and the editor of Airlineratings.com has criticised the Malaysian government’s admission that the final words spoken from on board the aircraft were different to those they originally reported. He said it was “extraordinary” that it took so long for a correction to be issued.
“This just gives the families of those, the families of the victims, more evidence that things have been hidden from them if you like,” he added. “The sign off from the Malaysian pilots is still not correct because they should have said, ‘Malaysian 370 contact Ho Chi Minh centre on 1 2 0 decimal 9, goodnight.'”

Thomas is correct. A transcript of the radio communications between ATC and Malaysian 370 establishes that

01:19:24 ATC: Malaysian 370 contact Ho Chi Minh 120 decimal 9. Good night.

01:19:29 MS370: Good night Malaysian 370.

Although I knew about the plastic garbage dump in the Pacific Ocean and the oil pollution in the Gulf of Mexico, I did not realize the extent of the problem until recently. Sea trash is severely hampering the search for MH370 and may ultimately make it impossible to find floating wreckage from the flight until a fishing boat snags it by accident or it starts turning up on a beach somewhere. Depending on how long it takes to find wreckage from MH370, retracing its path to find out where MH370 entered the water may not be possible.

Our oceans have become a vast garbage dump and we absolutely must change that.

You are now up to date.

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#MH370: The Doppler Effect, the Undisputed Facts and a Theory

March 25, 2014

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777

Have remains of MH 370 been found west of Australia?

Good afternoon:

AMSA cancelled search operations today due to bad weather. They plan to resume the search tomorrow.

The cancelled search provides us with an opportunity to consider the doppler effect and why it establishes that MH370 flew south into the southern Indian Ocean as well to review the undisputed facts in an effort to propose a viable theory (i.e., evidence based) that explains what happened to MH370.

The Doppler Effect

The Doppler Effect is the difference you hear in the sound of a siren on an approaching vehicle compared to the sound you hear as the vehicle passes you and recedes in the distance. The siren continuously sounds the same to the driver and anyone in the vehicle, but it gets louder and higher as the vehicle approaches you and softer and lower as it recedes from you. The only time the siren sounds the same to you as it does to the people in the vehicle is when the vehicle reaches you.

Wikipedia describes the effect withe this analogy:

An analogy would be a pitcher throwing one ball every second in a person’s direction (a frequency of 1 ball per second). Assuming that the balls travel at a constant velocity and the pitcher is stationary, the man will catch one ball every second. However, if the pitcher is jogging towards the man, he will catch balls more frequently because the balls will be less spaced out (the frequency increases). The inverse is true if the pitcher is moving away from the man; he will catch balls less frequently because of the pitcher’s backward motion (the frequency decreases). If the pitcher were to move at an angle but with the same speed, the variation of the frequency at which the receiver would catch the ball would be less as the distance between the two would change more slowly.

From the point of view of the pitcher, the frequency remains constant (whether he’s throwing balls or transmitting microwaves). Since with electromagnetic radiation like microwaves frequency is inversely proportional to wavelength, the wavelength of the waves is also affected. Thus, the relative difference in velocity between a source and an observer is what gives rise to the doppler effect.

Inmarsat was able to use the doppler effect to figure out whether MH370 took the northern or southern route by measuring the frequency of the 8 or 9 pinging radio waves. Relative to the position of the satellite in space, they could determine if MH370 was getting closer to the satellite or farther away. Then they verified their theory by using the satellite to determine if other known flights were approaching or receding from the satellite.

Pending an independent review of the data that validates Inmarsat’s conclusions, I will conclude that MH370 took the southern route into the south Indian Ocean.

Nevertheless, I still find it difficult to believe that someone intentionally decided to kill 238 people on the aircraft and then commit suicide by flying MH370 into the southern Indian Ocean until it ran out of gas and plunged into the sea.

Undisputed Facts

Let’s take a look at the undisputed facts:

1. MH270 departed Kuala Lumpur for Beijing at 12:41 am on Saturday, March 8 with 227 passengers and a crew of 12.

2. MH370 confirms reaching cruising altitude of 35,000 feet at 1:01 am.

3. Last ACARS data transmission received at 1:07 am; MH370 reconfirms altitude of 35,000 feet (the ACARS system was disabled sometime after 1:07 am and the next scheduled transmission at 1:37 am). To disable ACARS, a person would have to access the electrical bay beneath the floor behind the cockpit and disconnect the circuit breakers. Access to the electrical bay is through a trap door in the floor that is concealed by a carpet that must be pulled back to reveal the door. A special tool is required to open the door. Although disabled, the system continues to periodically ping the communication satellite approximately once per hour. Inmarsat, which operates the satellite, used the pings to calculate the location of MH370 and its direction of flight.

4. ATC Kuala Lumpur contacts MH370 at 1:19 am and instructs the pilots to contact ATC Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam for the next leg of the flight. The copilot responds, “All right. Good night.” That is a possibly significant variation in routine, which is to respond, “Roger and out.” Some people, including myself have speculated that the response was a veiled warning that something was amiss. MH370 did not contact ATC Ho Chi Minh City.

5. The transponder was turned off 2 minutes later at 1:21 am.

6. Shortly afterwards the aircraft climbed to 45,000 feet and turned sharply to head back across the Malaysian peninsula. It later traveled some distance at 23,000 feet and even dipped down to 5,000 feet.

7. At 1:30 am a pilot on another flight attempted to contact MH370 but only heard mumbling and static.

8. The expected half-hourly ACARS data transmission at 1:37 am did not happen.

9. At 2:11 am the first of seven automated hourly pings received by the Inmarsat satellite.

10. At 2:15 am the Malaysian military lost radar contact with MH370, which was 200 miles northwest of Penang.

11. At 8:11 am, the Inmarsat satellite received the last ping from MH370.

12. Neither the crew nor the aircraft’s onboard communication systems relayed a distress signal, indications of bad weather, or technical problems before the aircraft vanished from radar screens.

A New Theory

I now suspect there was an attempted hijacking and a struggle in the cockpit that ended with the deaths of everyone on board probably due to a decompression of the aircraft.

Tell us what you think.


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