MH370 Search : Should the Authorities Have Chosen Heads Rather than Tails?

The five black lines radiating away from the last known position of MH370 show alternate paths the plane could have taken, but in a northerly rather than southerly direction.  The difference between each of the five lines is a function of how fast the plane is guessed to have been flying - the faster its possible speed, the more westerly the plane's heading.
The five black lines radiating away from the last known position of MH370 show alternate paths the plane could have taken, but in a northerly rather than southerly direction. The difference between each of the five lines is a function of how fast the plane is guessed to have been flying – the faster its possible speed, the more westerly the plane’s heading.

As you probably know, the entire ‘conventional wisdom’ about the general area where MH370 is thought to have crashed is based on one single thing – analysis of the radio signals exchanged between an Inmarsat satellite, hovering over the Indian Ocean, and the plane.

These signals had no location data within them, but by analyzing the delays it took for the signals to be exchanged, and by analyzing the Doppler frequency shifts, experts were apparently able to work out the distance between the satellite and the plane, and the relative speed the two objects were either moving together or apart.  From this, they plotted a series of points and directions for where they calculated the plane sort of might have been each time one of these signal sets were exchanged (ie once an hour).

This was a very clever bit of original analysis, and Inmarsat rightly described it as something never done before.  As a result of this, the authorities have a reasonably specific idea about the general area where the plane probably crashed.

But, all along, there’s been a small problem.  In many respects, the plotted data doesn’t seem to match the raw data that was used to calculate the apparent plane locations.  Furthermore, if one flips a coin, there’s an alternate second set of locations that can be calculated that is almost as convincing, but these would have the plane heading north rather than south.

There’s actually a bigger problem, too.  The data, as best anyone can understand it, is somewhat inconsistent with the calculated values that Inmarsat have released.  That would seem to be a tiny and trivial problem, which the ‘experts’ could confer about, analyse, and resolve among themselves.  But, astonishingly, Inmarsat refuses to explain how they calculated what they calculated (which begs a huge and currently unanswerable question about why they are keeping this secret), and independent attempts to recreate their work and reach the same conclusions fail to do so.  Instead, these other studies highlight apparent inconsistencies and possible errors with the Inmarsat calculations.

I had written about the problems with the Inmarsat data three weeks ago and pointed to a website literally published by a rocket scientist which raised credible concerns about the accuracy of the Inmarsat data.

Since that time, the missing plane has remained missing (it is now two months and one day since it disappeared) and the rocket scientist continues to come up with issues and questions, which Inmarsat refuse to respond to.  In partial negation of the validity of the Inmarsat data, no wreckage has been sighted over the thousands of square miles of ocean they have suggested the plane flew over and might have crashed into.  Similarly, the sonar search of 154 square miles of the sea bottom in the area where we were told black box pings had been tracked to came up empty with nothing found – and now, it is being credibly suggested that the pings were very obviously nothing to do with black boxes in the first place!

You’d think this would be the point where the authorities would want to better understand exactly how the Inmarsat people calculated the general area of where the plane may have crashed (the location can’t be too exact, not only due to the inaccuracies in their calculations, but also due to the fact that we’re not sure how much longer the plane continued flying after its last signal swap with the satellite).  But instead they’re doubling down on their bet, expanding the search area, but still working from the Inmarsat data.

Here is an excellent article in The Atlantic that attempts to explain in layman’s terms the problems and discrepancies in the Inmarsat data.  But you can skip through much of that and hurry down to the bottom paragraphs, which we copy here :

Inmarsat has repeatedly claimed that it checked its model against other aircrafts that were flying at the time, and peer-reviewed the model with other industry experts. But Inmarsat won’t say who reviewed it, how closely, or what level of detail they were given.

Until officials provide more information, the claim that Flight 370 went south rests not on the weight of mathematics but on faith in authority. [our emphasis]  Inmarsat officials and search authorities seem to want it both ways: They release charts, graphics, and statements that give the appearance of being backed by math and science, while refusing to fully explain their methodologies. And over the course of this investigation, those authorities have repeatedly issued confident pronouncements that they’ve later quietly walked back.

The biggest risk to the investigation now is that authorities continue to assume they’ve finally found the area where the plane went down, while failing to explore other possibilities simply because they don’t fit with a mathematical analysis that may not even hold up.

After all, searchers have yet to find any hard evidence—not so much as a shred of debris—to confirm that they’re looking in the right ocean.

There comes a point where the assumption of incompetence has to start being shaded by a suspicion of darker motives.  What do you think?  Are we getting closer to that point?

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