Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Where to Search for the Missing Malaysian Airlines MH370 Plane

Like most of us I spent the last week closely following the search for the missing Malaysian Airlines MH370 jet. Crazy theories abound; UFOs, Bin Laden loyalists, selling the plane for its resale value of $40 million and kidnap ransoms. All those seem really unlikely; there are easier ways to make $40 million than kidnapping 250 people.  And if someone really wanted to steal a plane why not commandeer a cargo plane where there are few people on board.

To come up with my theory I dismissed the possibility of catastrophic failure which has been ruled out and looked at the following key facts:

1. The plane flew 8 hours.  If the pilot wanted to just kill himself, why not just make it quick and get it over with. 
2. India and Pakistan say the plane didn't go that way.  Both nations swear that no airplane crossed their coverage.  Have to take this with a grain of salt, because neither would admit holes in their radar coverage. But Afghanistan is in the vicinity and I have to believe that the US military keep track of mosquitoes flying anywhere near that area.
3. Serious piloting skills were necessary. Multiple screens of the passenger manifest has ruled them out. And let's also rule out the idea that Steven Seagal's twin brother was hiding out in the luggage compartment.
4. Black boxes transmit for 30 daysAfter 30 days they stop transmitting and the likelihood of finding plane starts dropping.
5. Meticulous planning was required. Whoever piloted the plane made evasive maneuvers to go undetected.

So drawing upon Occam's Razor "most likely scenario" thinking, it had to be pilot suicide.  One of the pilots, and I don't really care which one, decided that he wanted to go out in a way that would make the plane extremely hard to find.  Hard to find would be important for one of three reasons:

1. Following the money trail, he wanted his next of kin to cash out on some life insurance policy or death benefit, but knew that they wouldn't get anything if the plane and those pesky black boxes were ever found.
2. Suicide and taking the lives of innocent folks would bring dishonor to his clan.
3. He wanted to join Amelia Earhart in folklore.  

How would he do it?

Scenario 1In February/March, the Antarctic ice sheet is at the thinnest.  It is at the maximum width in September.  So if he could crash the plane where the ice had retreated, it would soon be covered up until a year from now. After six months of fruitless searching, the plane would be very hard to find. There is no radar down there, no cities, few ships, a moving ice field that would make salvage operations very difficult.  But there's one huge hole with this theory; the plane didn't have enough gas.  Experts are saying the plane had a 5,000 mile range since it flew 7-8 hours; and would have to had to fly 7,000 miles or 11-12 hours to get there. 
Antarctic Ice

Scenario 2. Okay, so he couldn't make it to the Antarctic, but perhaps he decided to go with the next best option.  In the diagram below we see major ocean currents with the surface current, denoted in red. The one that flows left to right right above Antarctica is of the most interest to me.  If he flew straight down for eight hours he could have made it there. Crashing the plane in that area would result in evidence drifting east in an area that few ships ply.  Eventually debris would show up in South America but by then the black boxes would have long stopped working. 

Global Ocean Currents
Where to Look?

So using scenario #2 I would fly planes directly over the current and have ships sail in the middle of the current to detect the black box signal.  If debris was spotted, determining the speed of the current and multiplying by the amount of days since the crash would give you a rough idea of where the wreckage lay.

So that's it; a plausible scenario that matches all the data points I am aware of. Please let me know of any holes you see.

Editor 3/21/14: Please see today's article on how the sequence of events might have transpired based on all evidence presented to date.