Saturday, March 15, 2014

MH370 update 15 Mar

Mar 15, 2014

Update on missing Malaysia Airlines MH370: PM Najib Razak's statement in full

KUALA LUMPUR - On Saturday, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak met international media for the first time to give an update on the missing Malaysia Airlines plane.

Here is the full text of his statement:

"Seven days ago Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 disappeared. We realise this is an excruciating time for the families of those on board. No words can describe the pain they must be going through. Our thoughts and our prayers are with them.

I have been appraised of the on-going search operation round the clock. At the beginning of the operation, I ordered the search area to be broadened; I instructed the Malaysian authorities to share all relevant information freely and transparently with the wider investigation team; and I requested that our friends and allies join the operation.

As of today, 14 countries, 43 ships and 58 aircraft are involved in the search. I wish to thank all the governments for their help at such a crucial time.

Since day one, the Malaysian authorities have worked hand-in-hand with our international partners - including neighbouring countries, the aviation authorities and a multinational search force - many of whom have been here on the ground since Sunday.

We have shared information in real time with authorities who have the necessary experience to interpret the data. We have been working nonstop to assist the investigation. And we have put our national security second to the search for the missing plane.

It is widely understood that this has been a situation without precedent.

We have conducted search operations over land, in the South China Sea, the Straits of Malacca, the Andaman Sea and the Indian Ocean. At every stage, we acted on the basis of verified information, and we followed every credible lead.

Sometimes these leads have led nowhere. There has been intense speculation. We understand the desperate need for information on behalf of the families and those watching around the world. But we have a responsibility to the investigation and the families to only release information that has been corroborated. And our primary motivation has always been to find the plane.

In the first phase of the search operation, we searched near MH370's last known position, in the South China Sea. At the same time, it was brought to our attention by the Royal Malaysian Air Force that, based on their primary radar, an aircraft - the identity of which could not be confirmed - made a turn back. The primary radar data showed the aircraft proceeding on a flight path which took it to an area north of the Straits of Malacca.

Given this credible data, which was subsequently corroborated with the relevant international authorities, we expanded the area of search to include the Straits of Malacca and, later, to the Andaman Sea.

Early this morning I was briefed by the investigation team - which includes the FAA, NTSB, the AAIB, the Malaysian authorities and the Acting Minister of Transport - on new information that sheds further light on what happened to MH370.

Based on new satellite information, we can say with a high degree of certainty that the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) was disabled just before the aircraft reached the East coast of peninsular Malaysia.

Shortly afterwards, near the border between Malaysian and Vietnamese air traffic control, the aircraft's transponder was switched off.

From this point onwards, the Royal Malaysian Air Force primary radar showed that an aircraft which was believed - but not confirmed - to be MH370 did indeed turn back. It then flew in a westerly direction back over peninsular Malaysia before turning northwest.

Up until the point at which it left military primary radar coverage, these movements are consistent with deliberate action by someone on the plane.

Today, based on raw satellite data that was obtained from the satellite data service provider, we can confirm that the aircraft shown in the primary radar data was flight MH370. After much forensic work and deliberation, the FAA, NTSB, AAIB and the Malaysian authorities, working separately on the same data, concur.

According to the new data, the last confirmed communication between the plane and the satellite was at 8:11AM Malaysian time on Saturday 8th March. The investigations team is making further calculations which will indicate how far the aircraft may have flown after this last point of contact. This will help us to refine the search.

Due to the type of satellite data, we are unable to confirm the precise location of the plan[e] when it last made contact with the satellite.

However, based on this new data, the aviation authorities of Malaysia and their international counterparts have determined that the plane's last communication with the satellite was in one of two possible corridors: a northern corridor stretching approximately from the border of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan to northern Thailand, or a southern corridor stretching approximately from Indonesia to the southern Indian ocean. The investigation team is working to further refine the information.

[But somehow they have evidence that the plane CANNOT be in the area between the north and south corridor?]

In view of this latest development the Malaysian authorities have refocused their investigation into the crew and passengers on board. Despite media reports that the plane was hijacked, I wish to be very clear: we are still investigating all possibilities as to what caused MH370 to deviate from its original flight path.

This new satellite information has a significant impact on the nature and scope of the search operation. We are ending our operations in the South China Sea and reassessing the redeployment of our assets. We are working with the relevant countries to request all information relevant to the search, including radar data.

As the two new corridors involve many countries, the relevant foreign embassies have been invited to a briefing on the new information today by the Malaysian Foreign Ministry and the technical experts. I have also instructed the Foreign Ministry to provide a full briefing to foreign governments which had passengers on the plane.

This morning, Malaysia Airlines has been informing the families of the passengers and crew of these new developments.

Clearly, the search for MH370 has entered a new phase. Over the last seven days, we have followed every lead and looked into every possibility. For the families and friends of those involved, we hope this new information brings us one step closer to finding the plane."

From New York Times:

Radar Suggests Jet Shifted Path More Than Once

Mar 14, 2014 Friday

...Radar signals recorded by the Malaysian military appeared to show that the missing airliner climbed to 45,000 feet, above the approved altitude limit for a Boeing 777-200, soon after it disappeared from civilian radar and turned sharply to the west, according to a preliminary assessment by a person familiar with the data.

The radar track, which the Malaysian government has not released but says it has provided to the United States and China, showed that the plane then descended unevenly to 23,000 feet, below normal cruising levels, as it approached the densely populated island of Penang, one of the country’s largest. There, officials believe, the plane turned from a southwest-bound course, climbed to a higher altitude and flew northwest over the Strait of Malacca toward the Indian Ocean.

...The combination of altitude changes and at least two significant course corrections could have a variety of explanations, including that a pilot or a hijacker diverted the plane, or that it flew unevenly without a pilot after the crew became disabled.

... an ascent above the plane’s service limit of 43,100 feet, along with a depressurized cabin, could have rendered the passengers and crew unconscious, and could be a deliberate maneuver by a pilot or a hijacker.

Other experts said that altitude changes would be expected if the pilots became disabled after the plane’s autopilot was disengaged. Changes in the weight distribution on the plane as fuel burned off would make the plane descend and climb repeatedly, though changes in course would be harder to explain.

American officials were concerned in the first few days after the plane disappeared that terrorists had brought it down. But as investigators have examined the flight manifest and looked into the two Iranian men who were on the plane traveling with stolen passports, they have become convinced that there is no clear connection to terrorism.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation interviewed family members of the Iranian men and used computer programs to determine whether they had ties to terrorists. Those efforts showed no such connections, leading the investigators to believe the men were smugglers.

The investigators considered but dismissed the possibility that hijackers landed the plane somewhere for later use in a terrorist attack, according to a senior American official briefed on the investigation.

The data, the official said, “leads them to believe that it either ran out of fuel or crashed right before it ran out of fuel.”

It would take a long runway to land a plane of that size, the official said. Although the radius that the plane could have flown extends into South Asia, the official added, “the idea it could cross into Indian airspace and not get picked up made no sense.”

[This is my unsupported (or supported by selective facts) opinion or speculation: The M'sians are wrong. The plane went down shortly after (within an hour) contact was lost. The whole complicated hijacking went wrong scenario is just the conspiracy-crazy paranoid delusion of an incompetent authority with an inferiority complex.

The conclusions drawn are based on technical data, and not clear, substantiated technical evidence, but isolated and fallible technical evidence that is read with other isolated (and fallible) evidence. 

Here are the human factors:

The two pilots would either have to work together, or the hijacker (one of the flight crew or a third person) would have to isolate (or kill) the honest flight crew in the cockpit (or keep potential interference out of the cockpit). 

None of the passengers so far has been identified as a possible hijacker (or hijackers) with the prerequisite flying skills for a 777, which leaves the flight crew as the main suspects.Neither of them have been found to be suspicious. (so far?)

If it is a hijacking or terrorism, there has been no demands or claims. If the plane has crashed (hijacking gone wrong), the authorities do not know where the plane is, and the hijackers' accomplices can lie and say the plane and passengers are safe and provide enough information to verify their claim (how the plane was hijacked), and make their demands.

If it is terrorism gone wrong... it still has some effect, and the terrorists can still claim credit.

If it is suicide without financial gain (insurance), the whole scheme is too convoluted. And ruthless. But if either of the flight crew was suicidal, there has been no evidence, and there is no need to evade or confuse the issue. One long rambling monologue with M'sian ATC and then a dive into the gulf of Thailand.

The only reason to evade detection, if it is suicide, is to hide the evidence of suicide in order to allow for insurance claims. So were there any unusual insurance bought within the last year or last 2 years? Again, as the two main suspects with the skills to fly the plane in that manner are the flight crew, they just need to focus on those two. 

But insurance information is not so complicated that it cannot be found, and insurance companies are just as eager to denounce such policies bought with the intent to defraud them. 

So that is also a dead end.

Could the plane have landed somewhere?

There are over 600 airfields within range at which the plane could land safely, and innumerable other places it might have attempted a risky landing. But if a strange aircraft landed at your airfield, it would have made the news.

Could the plane have been hijacked with the intent to land somewhere to be used later? The convoluted plan gets even more convoluted. Now in addition to stealing a plane, the hijackers/terrorists also have to steal an airport/airfield. In addition to learning how to fly a plane, they also have to learn how to store a plane, maintain the plane, and refuel the plane (oh, yes, and steal aviation fuel, too). And the ground crew to maintain and refuel the plane? This plan would make sense if they intend to re-configure the plane to do something, say carry a nuclear bomb. Or a "Dirty" Bomb. Or some other even more convoluted enhancement - now they need to know how to build a nuclear/dirty bomb, install it in a plane, and set it to detonate at the right moment - it should be about X metres above the city to ensure maximum coverage and fallout, and maximum death toll.]

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