What Happened to Flight 370? An Analysis of What Is Known

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UPDATE 3/13/14: As expected (see my analysis of ocean currents and drift-time below), the purported debris was a false lead. The revelation that the automated ACARS was still sending data on the Rolls Royce engines is not surprising given what else is known, nor is the Malaysian claim that the data is false. Engine data indicates Malaysian plane flew four hours after disappearing

Now we have the report I have been expecting, via ABC News: “U.S. officials have an ‘indication’ the missing Malaysia Airlines jetliner may have crashed in the Indian Ocean and is moving the USS Kidd to the area to begin searching.” I take this “indication” to mean data collected by U.S. space-based and terrestrial assets has finally been analyzed.

The U.S. is moving the search to the Indian Ocean while Malaysia is denying the engines continued sending data. Which set of officials do you reckon knows more? The U.S. would not be sending the USS Kidd to an area based on rumor or hearsay. I strongly suspect the U.S. has data which it cannot share publicly because the data would reveal the extent of U.S. capabilities.

The story gets curiouser and curiouser–but so far every piece of new data conforms to my basic analysis of the known facts.

Like many other people, I am following the story of what happened to Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 with keen interest. Much of what we’ve been told doesn’t add up, deepening the mystery.

It seems to me that we can already draw a number of conclusions from the known data by pursuing a logic-based analysis of what is possible and what can be excluded as illogical.

Let’s start with what is known:

1. The Malaysian authorities have been evasive to the point of misdirection, in other words, they’ve hidden the facts to serve an undisclosed agenda.

What is the agenda driving their evasion? What is known is that Malaysian security is obviously lax. This fact has caused Malaysian authorities to lose face, i.e. be humiliated on the global stage. Malaysia is an Asian nation, and maintaining face in Asia is of critical importance. We can conclude that one reason the Malaysian authorities are dissembling is to hide their gross incompetence.

It is also suspected that Malaysia is a safe haven for potentially dangerous Islamic groups. (Follow the threads from Pakistan’s secret nuclear proliferation program to Malaysia for documentation of this possibility.) The Malaysian government may have an informal quid pro quo along these lines: you are welcome to set up shop as long as you don’t cause any trouble here or do anything to cause Malaysia to lose face.

This provides another logical source of Malaysian evasion: if there is indeed a terrorist connection to the loss of the aircraft, this would focus the global spotlight on Malaysian tolerance of potentially dangerous groups.

That the Malaysian military was unable to effectively monitor the aircraft or coordinate with civilian air traffic control (ATC) also suggests incompetence at the most sensitive levels. Revealing this would also cause a loss of face.

Summary: Malaysian authorities have not been truthful or timely in their reporting. The logical conclusion is that they’re hiding data to protect national pride and the true state of their abysmal security.

2. Additional information is available but is not being shared with the public. To take one example, the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) on Flight 370 was functioning and automatically sent data on four critical systems, including the engines. This data has not been released by Malaysian Airlines.

It also appears that the pilot of another 777 airliner heading to Japan contacted the pilot in Flight 370 and reported the transmission was garbled.

Even with the transponder off, the aircraft would appear on primary (military) radar. The Malaysian military tracked Flight 370 but is dissembling. Clearly the authorities are not revealing the full extent of what is known.

3. Satellite imagery did not detect a high-altitude explosion. This excludes all scenarios in which the aircraft crashes into another plane, explodes in mid-air, etc.

4. Flight 370 changed course and altitude, and then maintained the new bearing for hundreds of miles and an additional hour of flight after losing contact with ATC (air traffic control). This limits scenarios in which decompression causes everyone on board to lose consciousness or a catastrophic electrical fire incapacitating the flight deck to an emergency that enabled the pilots to set a new course before losing consciousness or control of the aircraft.

5. The Malaysian military reported Flight 370’s altitude as 29,500 feet. This conflicts with eyewitness accounts from fishermen reporting a large aircraft at a much lower altitude around 1,000 meters (3,000 feet). If the radar altitude is correct, this suggests the aircraft was not experiencing decompression, as the pilots would descend as an emergency response to decompression. If the fishermen’s report is accurate, then decompression would not be an issue.

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