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.

14 comments:

  1. Very elaborate explanations. I like your theories and suggestions. Here's my take on it.
    http://www.whosaidwha.com/2014/03/malaysia-airline-flight-mh-370.html

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  2. I agree with most of what you have proposed. The pilot, Zaharie Shah is most likely the reason the plane is missing. According to some UK papers, his wife moved out of the house the day prior to the crash and as we all know he attended the trial and sentencing of the opposition political leader he supported. He was a trained enough pilot to pull something like this off "on the fly".

    I think that after departure from Malaysian airspace, Shah locks Hamid out of the cockpit, reprograms the autopilot and disables the communications systems. He uses evasive flying techniques such as climbing to 45000 feet and dropping to avoid potential radar traces.

    If he crashes at the extent of the fuel, when the gas has run out, there is no oil slick (or a significantly reduced one), and if he can bring the plane down relatively gently on the ocean, as opposed to a catastrophic fireball or crash (as in "traditional" aviation disasters), its even further more unlikely that debris or tell-tale signs of wreckage will be spotted from the air. Combining that in with the remoteness of the Indian Ocean and I think Shah planned on the plane never being found.

    The reasons for this seem pretty clear:
    1.) Family out of the picture, but if the plane is lost as a mystery, blame cant be cast on him and the family not vilified (also the financial motive you suggest)
    2.) Identifies strongly/personally with the "maligned" political figure; just look how much of a headache this disappearance has caused the Malaysian regime! I'd say this was excellent political payback from that perspective already. Maybe he knew how incompetent and useless the response would be from Malaysia; how angry the Chinese would be.
    3.) Being a part of the aviation mystery, fantasy aspect you point out.

    I hope the people are alive, but Occam's razor says the plane is on the ocean floor and the pilot is responsible. It is the only plausible hijacking theory where nobody would make a claim or demand. The "saving face" aspect of Asian culture and semi-spontaneous (I believe) actions by the pilot whose world was apparently unravelling pretty quickly just scream out as the most likely explanation, for the achievement of the above objectives political, fantastical, and monetary.

    It's totally rational/plausible I think and the only answer that doesn't require some real amazing coincidences to take place. What I think is that Shah just didn't plan on any data pings going to that Inmarsat satellite; or that data being used in any way to trace the plane to the Indian Ocean.

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    1. We are pretty much in agreement and like I said in the post, I haven't spent a lot of energy worrying about which pilot was fault. All I care about is where could the plane be.

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  3. Hi Vim, I was thinking a little more about the post I wrote last evening and your navigational theories. I think that the waypoints set and the altitude changes may have had only the intention of preventing passengers from using cell phones by any chance or other digital media as they passed over the last remaining bits of islands before heading out to sea? I was thinking this because of the relatively small direction and ease the plane would have to change with just a single vector it could have headed to it's final destination with just a single waypoint change. Instead, there are a series of waypoints that would make any potential radar trace less effective for homing in on the plane's direction before heading out to sea, as well as preventing an off chance a cell signal or message is sent out from a passengers phone.

    This all points to a very technically capable and smart person, able to put this synergy together; again so very likely a pilot if you don't want to specify exactly which one.

    I posted on your blog because in reading a lot of news media and message boards on this matter, your current position on this matter was most similar to mine in a concise manner (though I guess you approached solving the "where" with a physical science and logic based approach, while mine attempted to answer the "why" with a psychological logical approach -- interesting that both our theories agree independently and logically on the starting point for the missing plane's location).

    It will be interesting to see how close we are to the truth. I'm definitely integrating your viewpoints with my own and bookmarked this page. I will check back later if it turns out we were on target. Such a mystery already, and quite fascinating.

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  4. Vim, and one final point I just realized from the psychological profiling perspective. It again dawned on me how synergistic this attack / disappearance is. All the parts fit together so well to make it a great mystery.

    Look at how "synergistic" of a guy Mr. Shah was; -- he builds computers with dual graphics processors, and a huge simulator system around that; he loves cooking, showing off his concoctions and the neatly prepared ingredients.

    These traits a homicidal-murder-captain do not make, but they do clearly point to the sense of synergy which Mr. Shah had in his own life. He was a systems thinker; and it is just so increasingly likely that a systems thinker with avionics knowledge planned this attack. It doesn't mean it was Shah, but I'd really be so surprised if it weren't his doing given the profile that seems so clear to me.

    (Almost a perfect crime scenario if not for the satellite pings -- if not for them -- i'd probably be blaming the Iranians and on board with all the other conspiracy nuts)

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    1. Send me an email if you want to collaborate on a second article. You can focus on the whodunit, I'll focus on the wheredunit.

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    2. where is the plane? me thinks the plane is perched between sea mountain locks somewhere in the indian ocean. Or it has been swept miles away by the undercurrent.
      who done it? Illuminati

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  5. I agree with your logic, but I believe the pilot selected the java trench as the final destination

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  6. This theory makes the most sense to me as well. I hope the authorities are checking into life insurance policies for the pilot. Also wish we knew why the wife moved out of the house with the kids the day before. Were there marital problems or did he tell her to take the kids and leave to protect them? So many unanswered questions but thanks so much for posting this.

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  7. My husband and I thought of the Indian Ocean almost immediately. I felt in this way the pilot's family never knows.
    The family is not harassed there whole life. Settlements are
    made and he has reveived the attention that he expected.
    A plane gone, no one knows where, and no one knows who to
    blame. By the time daylight comes passengers can do nothing
    but call on cell phones and leave messages that area useless.
    He may have by then taken some drug he had also given the co-pilot earlier and went into a deep sleep, death. There is no 'may day' heard, and there is no fuel to break down the door and try to
    return to safey. God Bless Them... JG

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  8. I didn't want to believe this ... but I think it is the most likely explanation. By the way ... the FDR flight data recorder and CVR cockpit voice recorder can both be disabled by the pilot in the cockpit by pulling circuit breakers ... some have said that there MAY be 10 minute battery life if it is disabled ... so from what we know ... was there a 10 minute gap from co-pilot saying good-night to the first dodgy event happening ? i.e. the communications turned off

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    1. Disclaimer - this is my mere speculation. There are some people I know well for whom I could guarantee they could not do this kind of thing. There are others who are less stable. Those closest to him will know whether this is something he could possibly have done, or not, in a moment of madness.

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  9. Additionally I suspect that causing a false fire alert message in the cabin ...prior to shutting down electrical systems ... would be very easy to do ... I guess the outcome will be "case unresolved" because of lack of evidence and insurance money will be paid.

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