Slashdot stories can be listened to in audio form via an RSS feed, as read by our own robotic overlord.

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
United States The Military Technology

US Navy Strategists Have a Long History of Finding the Lost 145

Posted by samzenpus
from the serach-continues dept.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Benedict Carey reports at the NYT that the uncertainties surrounding Malaysia Airlines Flight 370's disappearance are enormous, but naval strategists have been unraveling lost-at-sea mysteries as far back as the U-boat battles of World War II, and perhaps most dramatically in 1968, when an intelligence team found the submarine Scorpion, which sank in the North Atlantic after losing contact under equally baffling circumstances. "The same approach we used with Scorpion could be applied in this case and should be," says John P. Craven who helped pioneer the use of Bayesian search techniques to locate objects lost at sea. "But you need to begin with the right people." The approach is a kind of crowdsourcing, but not one in which volunteers pored over satellite images, like they have in search of Flight 370. "That effort is akin to good Samaritans combing a forest for a lost child without knowing for certain that the child is there," writes Carey.

Instead, forecasters draw on expertise from diverse but relevant areas — in the case of finding a submarine, say, submarine command, ocean salvage, and oceanography experts, as well as physicists and engineers. Each would make an educated guess as to where the ship is, based on different scenarios: the sub was attacked; a torpedo activated onboard; a battery exploded. Craven's work was instrumental in the Navy's search for the missing hydrogen bomb that had been lost in the Mediterranean Sea, off the coast of Spain in 1966 and this is how Craven located the Scorpion. "I knew these guys and I gave probability scores to each scenario they came up with," says Craven. The men bet bottles of Chivas Regal to keep matters interesting, and after some statistical analysis, Craven zeroed in on a point about 400 miles from the Azores, near the Sargasso Sea. The sub was found about 200 yards away.

In the case of the downed Malaysian plane, forecasters might bring in climate and ocean scientists, engineers who worked on building the plane's components and commercial pilots familiar with the route. Those specialists would then make judgments based on the scenarios already discussed as possible causes for the disappearance of Flight 370: terrorism, pilot error, sudden depressurization and engine failure. Sound-detection technology in and around the Indian Ocean may aid this forecasting. The sound of the airliner's fall — if it hit the water — might already have been picked up by submarines watching each other. "In that case the information would be classified," says former submarine commander Alfred Scott McLare, "and we wouldn't know anything until it was released through back channels somehow.""
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

US Navy Strategists Have a Long History of Finding the Lost

Comments Filter:
  • by slashmydots (2189826) on Sunday March 16, 2014 @12:46PM (#46499427)
    Some of the earlier "finds" referenced in this article had a lot more evidence and a lot less of a geographic area. I think right now the flight is determined without a doubt to be "somewhere in asia, maybe." It was maybe being flown by a pilot but maybe by hijackers. It was maybe flying for 0 more hours after it last checked in or maybe 5 or maybe something in the middle and at a unknown speed.
    They have about the same odds of finding it on the moon as they do at any particular geographic point with the current level of evidence. So what they need is more evidence, not just a really good search team from the Navy.
    • I'll make it easy (Score:3, Interesting)

      by frovingslosh (582462)
      The plane was stolen. Forget about failures that there are no reason to think happened, about explosions or mechanical failures, about suicides or searching the ocean for debris. Just figure out where a stolen 777 was taken and you'll find the plane.
      • by Splab (574204)

        The big question is what was worth killing 238 people for (the airplane is most probably still intact, the passengers however, was probably killed when they climbed to 45.000 feet)? While an airplane like the 777 clocks in at $250 million, it's probably only going to fetch between $25 million and $50 million as spare parts. One does wonder what was in the cargo; military equipment? Dollars? Perhaps a passenger was carrying high value trade secrets?

        Perhaps someone is planning to stick it in a building at som

        • Re:I'll make it easy (Score:5, Informative)

          by HornWumpus (783565) on Sunday March 16, 2014 @01:45PM (#46499817)

          Airplane parts without a paper trail are, more or less, worthless.

          • Re:I'll make it easy (Score:5, Informative)

            by Splab (574204) on Sunday March 16, 2014 @01:53PM (#46499877)

            In theory yes, in real life no. There is quite a huge black market for spare parts.

            • by Aighearach (97333)

              Yeah but in this case, the Chinese companies might not be so willing to falsify part numbers. ;)

              • by drinkypoo (153816)

                Yeah but in this case, the Chinese companies might not be so willing to falsify part numbers. ;)

                In China, they'll murder you just for tax evasion. Falsifying part numbers and getting caught making China look bad almost certainly qualifies even if the part wasn't involved in an international incident. If you're going to go off to break rocks or get broken up for your internal organs anyway, who cares?

                • by Rich0 (548339)

                  In China, they'll murder you just for tax evasion. Falsifying part numbers and getting caught making China look bad almost certainly qualifies even if the part wasn't involved in an international incident. If you're going to go off to break rocks or get broken up for your internal organs anyway, who cares?

                  Well, yes and no. In China the real crime is embarrassing the government. You can put whatever you want into your infant formula until a reporter actually notices all the kids dying everywhere. Then heads will literally roll.

                  To an extent all countries work this way, but in China it is taken a lot further...

            • by toddestan (632714)

              While that might be true for some airplanes, I doubt there are many operators of an expensive, modern airliner like a 777 that would be interested in some parts that "fell off the back of a truck".

              • by Splab (574204)

                There was a plane some time back that dropped out of the sky, due to black market parts, since then it has been cleaned up quite a bit, but if you are a cheapo operator, picking something up in the far east, that happens to be the real thing for 1/10th of the price, might seem like a good deal.

                Granted I personally doubt this is the goal of this disappearance, iff, and that is a big iff, the airplane was stolen, it is most likely because someone wants to do some terror, e.g. fill it with radioactive material

          • Don't waste time speculating on a motive. It doesn't prove anything and does not find the plane.

            Don't waste time speculating on who. It is on;y speculation and does not find the plane.

            Focus on determining where the plane went, where it is and how it is being hidden. That will lead to the other answers.

            • Logistically, the "who" could give could give a big clue as to the "where". Once you can narrow down the geographical area, you can better focus deduction as to where a 777 could possibly land. It's a big piece of kit & concealing a runway large enough to land it may be an even tougher feat than hijacking it in the first place.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Anonymous Coward

            Not in countries affected by trade sanctions. Iran Air kept some 727s flying forever with no access to official spare parts. Now they replaced them with some old Airbus that they got through several middle men and paid a premium for. Their pilots and mechanics are forced to be creative and figure things out with very limited access to anything official. However, one of the things I don't believe has happened to this plane is theft of the plane itself.

            There are easier ways to get an aircraft for those who ha

        • by Aighearach (97333) on Sunday March 16, 2014 @03:01PM (#46500323) Homepage

          the passengers however, was probably killed when they climbed to 45.000 feet

          The official service ceiling is 43,100 ft. So you can be darn sure that 45000 ft (44000 in the most detailed reports) is not going to kill anybody. You do know the cabin is pressurized, right?

          damned thing can easily be disguised as civilian traffic and can fly around the world and place it where ever they want...

          Not without turning on a transponder. And while you can obviously fly over Malaysia without one and not raise an eyebrow, getting over Western countries without a transponder might prove more difficult. Somebody doesn't just peek up from the ground and say, "ah, gee, looks civilian, let it pass." They actually see it on radar, and most countries will scramble fighters and intercept something large that doesn't have a transponder, or isn't scheduled to be in the area. They then fly close and identify markings. They fly close enough to see faces in the windows when they're doing an escort. An empty plane with no transponder is going to get shot down. So it is substantially more complicated.

          There was at least 1 fairly high level American business exec on the flight. There is significant hostage value there. If they are religious nuts they probably don't care the slightest bit what the "value" in dollars of the airplane is, they care about the propaganda value.

          If the incentive was financial, (highly unlikely) the parts value of the plane is very low, or zero, but the whole plane has significant value as an AWACS type of platform for a smaller country. And while selling parts would be problematic, buying them might not be. 30 years ago, maybe. Not now.

          If they were going to use it as a bomb, the most realistic targets would be India, or a US military base somewhere where they don't control the airspace.

          • Re:I'll make it easy (Score:4, Interesting)

            by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 16, 2014 @06:03PM (#46501415)

            I typed out many different things before realizing they were all instruction manuals on how to do bad things. All I'll leave you with is that the passenger's and flight attendant's oxygen supply will run out long before the cockpit crew's, as it's only meant to be used long enough for the aircraft to perform an emergency descent to an altitude where supplemental O2 isn't necessary. And it's also possible to intentionally depressurize an airliner in-flight from the cockpit if you know which switches to flip and buttons to push. Then fly extra-high (maybe just a touch above the service ceiling on a much-lighter-than-max-gross-weight aircraft, no problem at all) and the time of useful consciousness (without supplemental O2) drops to mere seconds. The "death zone" mountain climbers talk about is above 26,000 feet, and 45,000 is certainly well above that.

          • by jrumney (197329)

            And while you can obviously fly over Malaysia without one and not raise an eyebrow, getting over Western countries without a transponder might prove more difficult.

            When was the last time a Western country intercepted a commercial airliner flying along established air corridors at 23000 - 45000ft because its transponder was not working? Do we really know that this would have turned out any different if the countries involved were different?

        • Re:I'll make it easy (Score:4, Interesting)

          by flyingsquid (813711) on Sunday March 16, 2014 @06:32PM (#46501589)

          The most likely scenario is suicide. It's hard to imagine, but it's happened twice- SilkAir Flight 185 and EgyptAir 990. I don't think there is one case of someone stealing a commercial aircraft, just because there's no way to sell it. It's not a Honda Accord you can sell for cash or strip for parts; it's now the most famous plane in the world and you'll have as much success selling it as you would have selling a stolen Mona Lisa. And the parts have serial numbers.

          No other scenario make sense. If the plane was hijacked for a terrorist plot, it should have turned up. Plots like 9/11 rely on the element of surprise, so you need to strike as quickly as possible, instead of giving the authorities an entire week to track you down. Similarly, if the plane and passengers were taken hostage, this would have been announced by now. If your hostage-takers are politically motivated, parading hostages on TV advances their cause; if they're just after money, they need to open negotations. Either way, we should have heard .

          It all points to pilot suicide. That raises the question of why the pilot would fly on for hours instead of just nosediving into the ocean, but by definition pilot suicide isn't the act of a rational mind. It suggests not a desire to end one's own suffering but to inflict suffering on others and a complete disregard for human life- in other words, a sociopathic mindset. Eric Harris- the sociopath behind the Columbine killers- comes to mind here. He wanted to end his own life but also to take as many people as possible with him, and get as much attention as possible in it. Some careers attract this kind of person- lawyers, CEOs and surgeons are often sociopaths- and being a pilot may be one of those. You probably find that flying induces anxiety, now imagine that you not only have to worry about the anxiety of flying, but have to actually take responsibility for the safety of the airplane itself and several hundred lives... most normal people wouldn't enjoy that. Sociopaths have no anxiety, and actively enjoy control over and manipulating other people, personality characteristics that would make them a natural for the job.

          • by Quila (201335)

            The main problem with this is that with going out in grand style, you don't just disappear over the ocean.

            Dont' forget the possibility of a Flight 93 replay, an attempted terrorist hijacking thwarted, but resulting in a crash.

            • by Geste (527302)

              The main problem with this is that with going out in grand style, you don't just disappear over the ocean....

              I am starting to think of what has happened as "diabolical", with someone creating a sick mystery worth of Moriarty.

              Sick people get their kicks in different ways. This really could be "grand style".

        • by RockDoctor (15477)

          The big question is what was worth killing 238 people for

          "God" (by whatever name he's using when he talks to you) is almost certainly the answer. Whether it's the rational god of the sane beleiver, or the whispering-in-the-ear god of the psychotic pilot doesn't really matter at this point.

      • Re:I'll make it easy (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Nidi62 (1525137) on Sunday March 16, 2014 @07:22PM (#46501821)

        The plane was stolen. Forget about failures that there are no reason to think happened, about explosions or mechanical failures, about suicides or searching the ocean for debris. Just figure out where a stolen 777 was taken and you'll find the plane.

        Why would you steal a passenger aircraft carrying 230+ passengers and crew when you could steal a cargo-configured 777 or 747 with a crew of maybe 4? A passenger aircraft carries a lot more media attention: compare the coverage of the cargo 747 that crashed coming out of Bagram last year versus the plane that crashed recently in SFO. Plus, do you think all of these ships and planes looking for 370 would have been mobilized had the plane been a cargo aircraft? Probably not. To me, it seems more probable that this was a suicide by one of the pilots rather than a hijacking.

    • They seem pretty certain now that plane flew for five to seven hours and they seem to have a very general idea of possible flight paths. The question of immediate concern was this a theft for the purposes of a mass murder of 230+ people, or to gain a large jet for some other purpose.

      • The US better put a hell of a lot of birds in the air just in case. I seriously doubt they can stealth it though so it passes our radar, lol.
      • by Aighearach (97333) on Sunday March 16, 2014 @03:13PM (#46500381) Homepage

        Actually, it is tricky; it sounds like they know more than they do. They talk about 2 flight paths, but actually it is a giant arc from Pakistan to Thailand to the Indian Ocean, and they don't even have a direction. Just a range from the satellite based on the signal strength, which produces an arc that it probably was in when the ping transmitted. There are 2 obvious "flight corridors" in that arc, so those are the best guesses. Sounds clearer than it is.

        Also nothing has been released about if they stopped for fuel, or if it is known. The US keeps saying they think they crashed into the sea in 1 of 2 areas, which implies that they don't know that they DID refuel; but the way they phrase the combination of statements, I think they don't have information to negate refueling, they don't have indication of it. And without refueling, and assuming it was in one of those two corridors, then it would have likely crashed.

        Also they're assuming that the fuel supply is based on having been properly fueled for a flight to Beijing, but no public information has said anything at all about having verified on the ground how much fuel was loaded, or if that can be accurately checked up on with certainty. Seems like airport corruption would have to be 0% in order for them to even know. I'm under the impression that airports in Malaysia actually have a significant corruption problem, and so it is probably impossible to go back and check in the past how much fuel was really taken on. Maximum range at maximum load for the 777-200ER is 7,725 nmi (14,310 km, 8,892 mi), a whole lot more than the 2500 nmi circles the media is drawing on the screens.

        So if they re-fueled OR if they loaded extra fuel, they could be anywhere, and the Indian Ocean flight corridor that is speculated on would lead to waypoints to the middle east. I'm guessing Iran, but it could just as easily be in Sudan or Pakistan.

        • So if they re-fueled OR if they loaded extra fuel, they could be anywhere, and the Indian Ocean flight corridor that is speculated on would lead to waypoints to the middle east. I'm guessing Iran, but it could just as easily be in Sudan or Pakistan.

          They could be anywhere that doesn't have a strong military radar system.

          I'm pretty sure anybody who flies into Iran without authorisation will be told to turn back or be shot down.

        • by Rich0 (548339)

          I'm not sure how the record-keeping works for fueling. Certainly the pilots get a copy of the loading info. I imagine that whoever paid for the fuel gets a copy of the bill if nothing else. It is important for flight crews to have a good understanding of how much fuel is onboard - level sensors tend not to be very accurate so the most accurate figures come from measuring how much goes in and out.

          If the plane has too little fuel the results are obvious. If it has too much fuel the results might not be as

        • Also nothing has been released about if they stopped for fuel, or if it is known.

          This isn't a little car or a Cessna. This is a huge intercontinental jet - it can't just stop for fuel somewhere.

          So if they re-fueled OR if they loaded extra fuel, they could be anywhere, and the Indian Ocean flight corridor that is speculated on would lead to waypoints to the middle east.

          But to get to the Middle East - it would have to cross a bunch of areas criss-crossed with military and civilian radars.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      Maybe they do have more evidence - the Navy search team would be a good way to exploit information from classified US sources without divulging the ultimate means of data collection, the cover story boiling down to, "we're just that good."
    • by davecb (6526) <davec-b@rogers.com> on Sunday March 16, 2014 @06:31PM (#46501585) Homepage Journal
      Actually I studied Bayesian analysis under George Lasker in university (back when dinosaurs walked the earth), and it is a good way to deal with crappy, disorganized evidence. In effect, you find the ares to search, ordered by
      • - the likelihood of getting evidence from searching there
      • - the strength of each kind of evidence, and
      • - the difficulty of searching a given area.

        After each search result comes in, you recompute and find the next best place to search.

    • Some of the earlier "finds" referenced in this article had a lot more evidence ......without a doubt to be "somewhere in asia, maybe."

      Given the abysmal date set we have to work with here it is clear
      that long range (and even local) aircraft need to talk to each other.

      At 20-40,000 feet the line of sight high frequency options are clearly untapped.

      While satellite communications are expensive a p2p (aircraft2aircraft)
      store and forward messaging system is an obvious opportunity.

      There are wide open very high frequency lightly regulated bands that
      seem to me to be an obvious thing to use.

      The number of aircraft flying in any half hemisphere is a l

  • Arcs are a lie (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sshir (623215) on Sunday March 16, 2014 @01:06PM (#46499565)
    Navy guys will need more data.

    Those much hyped arcs from Inmarsat are pretty much bogus. The trouble is that the problem is badly conditioned - because satellite is way too far (geosynchonous orbit - not your friendly neighborhood gps) and it's right on top of the search area. In other words - small errors in time/distance measurements, satellite position, etc. produce huge errors in estimation. They're lucky they placed the airplane on earth.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      How could they not have placed them on the earth? The timing gets converted to a distance, creating a sphere of that distance centered on the satellite. Where that sphere intersects the sphere of the earth, guess what you get? Arcs.
      • by sshir (623215)
        And what if the sphere does not intersect earth? :)
        • Well that would present a problem! One would then wonder how those creative terrorists managed to get a jet engine to operate outside of an atmosphere. :)

          But seriously, wouldn't you just compare the timing of the signals received from the jetliner of interest with the timing signals received from other, less hijacked, planes and based on their more reliable locations figure out what distance 370 must have sent from?
          • by sshir (623215)
            Data from other planes will not help much - mostly only to set error brackets. The ill-conditioness of the problem does not go away.
    • by PPH (736903)

      How many satellites heard the pings? And each satellite has an array of antennas, each with a different field of view. How accurately can the service place a device given the size of each beam?

      It may be possible to calibrate the receivers' timing and signal strengths by comparing the MH370 ping characteristics with those from known ground locations received at more or less the same time.

      • by sshir (623215)

        How many satellites heard the pings?

        Considering that the arcs are, well, arcs, I'll take a wild guess and say that they had data from only one satellite...
        Some spy birds might help, but they tend to focus on land areas.

    • by Aighearach (97333)

      Plus instead of the arcs they show on the screen, it would actually be a cone, with different surface-drawn arcs depending on the altitude, and the combination serves to make the guesses that much fuzzier.

      Also, a cheapo bug-scanner like a private investigator uses would detect the transmission. If they brought some basic anti-tracking tools with them on board, it seems reasonable that after 7 hours they'd find the plug. 2nd ping they realize it pings every hour, 3 rd, 4th, 5th, 6th pings they're getting clo

      • by Rich0 (548339)

        The antenna would be outside the plane most likely. The skin is made of aluminum - wouldn't make much sense to locate an antenna inside - especially at a frequency likely to be used for satellite communications.

        Perhaps some of the equipment involved is located inside an accessible area, but you'd probably want to really know what you're doing before you start cutting random wires in the equipment rack.

      • The pings that were recorded after the other communications gear was shut down were emitted by the Rolls Royce engines. The engine vendor apparently wants to maintain records separate from the black box (might not be recovered) in the event of a crash. This way they can document exactly when their engines stopped. If it's at point of impact, then they avoid blame.

        So, I do not believe that anyone inside the plane could have shut off the engines' transponders without shutting down the engines.
    • by ckedge (192996)

      > Arcs are a lie

      Arcs are TESTABLE. Imarsat staff can look at live online airliner data and live ping timing data, and calibrate their calculations. If it's "plus or minus 5000 miles", it will be obvious. If it's "plus or minus 100 miles", it will also be obvious.

      Please leave the eningeering and science to the Engineers and Scientists.

      • by sshir (623215)
        Well, am an engeneer and a scientist.
        And considering that arcs (as presented) do not have error brackets on them is a dead giveaway that qualifications of people who did the calculations are highly suspect.
        • Re:Arcs are a lie (Score:4, Insightful)

          by rasmusbr (2186518) on Sunday March 16, 2014 @03:55PM (#46500599)

          Well, am an engeneer and a scientist.

          And considering that arcs (as presented) do not have error brackets on them is a dead giveaway that qualifications of people who did the calculations are highly suspect.

          But we haven't necessarily seen the maps that the search effort uses internally. This: http://static01.nyt.com/images... [nyt.com] looks like someone drew it in 20 seconds in MS Paint, I'm guessing while in a hurry.

        • Why should an 'arc' on the ground, which is 'covert' by an receiving antenna have an error bracket?

          • AIUI the arc is based on timing information, take the timing, combine it with knowledge of the speed of light and you get a distance from the sattelite, the distance gives you a sphere, take that sphere and take it's intersection with the assumed altitude of the plane and you get a circle, cut away the bits of the circle that don't make sense (either because other information tells you the plane can't be there or because of the directionality of the antenna on the sattelite) and you get an arc.

            But the timin

            • by daknapp (156051)

              But the timing will not be known perfectly and neither will the height of the plane, so the location of the arc will not be known perfectly. Knowing how imperfect the information is and hence how wide an area on either side of the arc needs to be searched would seem rather important.

              The fact that you cite the altitude of the plane as a potential source of error pretty much demonstrates that you have no idea what you are talking about. The satellite is in GEO, which means it is about 36,000 km above the sur

              • Well, you are a bit harsh. GPS can pinpoint you down to a few inches, that includes altitude. However you are right in this case: we talk about communication satelites, they picked up a transponder signal. The arc we talk about is the arc the sattelites antenna is covering, it seems it was only picked up by one antenna ... so they can not do fancy intersection calculations.
                An Inmersat sattelite has a set of target able antennas, they cover 'circles' on the surface of a few hundret km diameter, not sure if t

            • Instead of introducing an additional "errormargin" I would simply use the biggest plausible arc.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    We've seen maps of where MH770 could be based on the angle of last ping received from the engines. Here's one: http://static01.nyt.com/images/2014/03/16/world/asia/16flight-map/16flight-map-superJumbo.jpg [nyt.com]

    We have a Last Known Position (indicated on that map). We know how fast 777s can fly. If we had the ping arc data as shown in red on the above map for every ping received, we could determine MH770's course, and narrow down where it ended up significantly.

    The following numbers are wrong, but a concrete exa

    • by Virtucon (127420)

      You're looking for the wrong flight. It's MH370 [airdisaster.com] that went missing. MH770 flies from Kuala Lampur to Karabi. [flightaware.com]

      • by PPH (736903)

        That's it! ATC got the call signs crossed up and the plane is still holding, waiting for a landing slot at Beijing.

    • by Aighearach (97333)

      You don't just "throw the entire problem to a computer and let if grind out possibilities" without a lot of time-consuming programming, and air search/rescue doesn't come with programmers. A few weeks of hiring, and you'll be ready to get started!

  • by tji (74570) on Sunday March 16, 2014 @01:12PM (#46499609)

    They mention looking at the causes "terrorism, pilot error, sudden depressurization and engine failure" to estimate likely search locations. Of course, that's true.. But, if the cause is a rogue pilot who doesn't want to be found (as evidenced by the manual disabling of communications) things get tough really quick.

    I guess at that point you're working with the fuel radius and removing areas covered by some form of tracking that would have definitely detected them.

    • Well, you are forgetting another possibility. Just like the Stuxnet virus, you have to ask the questions, who could make the plane disappear altogether from all types of surveillance?

      From one point of view, you see a plane that turns off the transponder, climes to 45k and then descends and is not seen again. Climbing to 45k could simply be a method of killing off the passengers (I'll come back to this).

      The real trick is then dropping below radar, an avoiding all the spy satellites. What you need to that is

  • by nbauman (624611) on Sunday March 16, 2014 @01:12PM (#46499613) Homepage Journal

    The Malaysian military radar showed an unidentified plane without a flight plan fly across their country and over the Indian Ocean. The radar operators didn't notice it. So they missed the opportunity to send up fighter jets to find out what the fuck was going on.

    Instead they were were searching the wrong sea, on the east of Malaysia.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03... [nytimes.com]
    Series of Errors by Malaysia Mounts, Complicating the Task of Finding Flight 370
    By KEITH BRADSHER and MICHAEL FORSYTHE
    MARCH 15, 2014

    • by seyyah (986027)

      Most of the proposed flight paths that I've seen show the plane travelling over Thailand not Malaysia. We've heard nothing from them at all.

    • by sadboyzz (1190877) on Monday March 17, 2014 @01:27AM (#46503269)
      Nope. That NYT piece seems to have forgotten about the initial statement from Malaysia Airlines, which said the last time of contact with flight 370 was at 2:40am:
      https://www.facebook.com/my.ma... [facebook.com]
      That was before the Malaysian authorities went into full denial mode and claimed last contact was at 01:20am. The 02:40 time was inconsistent with their estimated "crash site" in the Gulf of Thailand, which was one of the initial sources of confusion. However, 02:40am turned out to be the exact time of last military radar contact which they were forced to confirm more than 5 days later. Additionally, there were the "small" details that two transponder systems were turned off one after another more than 10 minutes apart, and that the ACARS system was turned off before the last voice contact with the pilots.
      In order to fit all these facts into a theory of stupidity, you'd have to accept that: 1. an unidentified flying object the size of a 777 can just fly across the width of Malaysian airspace (more than 1 hour of flight time) at cruising altitude without being noticed by the Malaysian military 2. that 02:40am time from Malaysian Airline's initial statement just turned out to match the time of last military radar contact by complete coincidence 3. nobody noticed the time descrepancies between the two transponder systems turning off.
      This is clearly beyond the realm of incompetance, and can only be explained with a touch of malice. The Malaysian authorities knew from the beginning what was going on, but was more concerned with the possible liabilities and damages to their "image" resulting from a rogue pilot, than with actually finding the plane. With wanton disregard for the 239 lives on board and their relatives on the ground, they knowingly misled the international community on a wild witch hunt across the Gulf of Thailand, delaying the search for at least five crucial days, thereby eliminating any possiblity of finding survivors (if the plane had ultimately crashed), and quite possibly lowering the likelihood of finding the cockpit recorders to near zero.
  • This is a job for...Ingo Swann!

    • by Shark (78448)

      Well, they did hire climate scientists... These guys never lose sight of their scapegoat.

      (Yeah, I'm trolling but in good humour. I fully expect the zealots to mod me down regardless though.)

      • by PopeRatzo (965947)

        (Yeah, I'm trolling but in good humour. I fully expect the zealots to mod me down regardless though.)

        97% of climate research shows global climate change, but you believe they're the zealots?

        Maybe we need to clarify the definition of "zealot".

  • by mdsolar (1045926) on Sunday March 16, 2014 @01:50PM (#46499855) Homepage Journal
    US investigators are interested in the Southern ping arc because radar installations along the Northern arc would be hard to evade though some mention is now made of traversing Myanmar on the Northern arc. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03... [nytimes.com] However, in the graphic, an envelope of 1 hour flight distance is shown for each arc. The envelopes for the North and South arcs don't overlap. In fact it looks like it would take three hours to get from one arc to the other. Drawing radii from the arc ends to the satellite position, it looks like you'd have to get to Sri Lanka before the arc ends are within an hour's travel distance. But, news reports indicate detection of hourly pings. If similar arcs are associated with the other pings, then there may never be time to jump from one arc to the other if they are never consistent with a position near Sri Lanka, so the Southern arc might be excluded on geometric grounds.
  • Scorpion (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Solandri (704621) on Sunday March 16, 2014 @01:52PM (#46499871)

    and perhaps most dramatically in 1968, when an intelligence team found the submarine Scorpion, which sank in the North Atlantic after losing contact under equally baffling circumstances. "The same approach we used with Scorpion could be applied in this case and should be," says John P. Craven who helped pioneer the use of Bayesian search techniques to locate objects lost at sea.

    Not so fast. The Scorpion was found because the U.S. had an extensive underwater listening array in the Atlantic (SOSUS [wikipedia.org]) designed specifically to (wait for it...) locate and track submarines. Soviet submarines, but it worked equally well on U.S. submarines which were making a lot of noise - like one in its death throes from an onboard explosion and imploding as it passed crush depth. One of their first clues that something disastrous had happened was when those sounds showed up on SOSUS audio tapes.

    Yes the same methodology can (and should) be applied inn locating MH370. But we're talking about uncertainties in location and time an order or three in magnitude larger than for the Scorpion or AF447.

    • by Rich0 (548339)

      Yup - explosions in the middle of the ocean at depth can travel incredible distances. In fact, at some depths the sound can travel all the way around the world. With multiple sonar stations measuring arrival times the position could be determined fairly accurately.

      A plane crash happens on the surface and there would be little other noise - probably hard to notice unless a sensor were fairly closeby. Now, the pingers in the black box probably could be picked up from a distance, but I doubt the US monitors

      • The FDR and CVR beacons operate an acoustic signal at 37.5 KHz. This provides good directional accuracy for homing, sufficiently small size and power requirement, and unfortunately limited range. They have to operate at 14000 feet underwater and typical examples work at 20000 so the detectable range is at least that. I found references to a detectable range out to about 3000 metres (120000 feet) affected by ocean conditions (noise, thermal layering etc.) and depth.

    • Not so fast. The Scorpion was found because the U.S. had an extensive underwater listening array in the Atlantic (SOSUS) designed specifically to (wait for it...) locate and track submarines. Soviet submarines, but it worked equally well on U.S. submarines which were making a lot of noise - like one in its death throes from an onboard explosion and imploding as it passed crush depth. One of their first clues that something disastrous had happened was when those sounds showed up on SOSUS audio tapes.

      Not so

  • by Anonymous Coward

    If the plane got low enough over land, I wonder if any of the passenger or crew cell phone connected to a tower.
    Even if they took the plane up high and decompressed the cabin, someone's phone may still have been powered later in the flight.
    Not everyone turns off their phone - some forget, aren't paying attention, or just think they are special.
    I would ID every cell phone and try to get cooperation to determine if any were detected somewhere.

    • Since this was clearly a well organised operation, it's likely the passengers had their electronic devices confiscated immediately.

  • by PPH (736903) on Sunday March 16, 2014 @02:38PM (#46500177)

    ... if the plane went down over land, or landed somewhere, the US Navy is going to have a tough time finding it.

  • If we want to find the most likely cause of the plane going missing, a sensible question might be:
    In what situation would this be the best location to "disappear" a large jet?

    For example: if you wanted to steal it, intact, is there anywhere else in the world where the combination of remoteness, lack of radar coverage, getting "your" aircrew on board and easy (without much technology) landing and concealment would offer a greater chance of success? If there are places that would make the theft easier to g

    • by tomhath (637240)
      The problem with that approach is is assumes a rational person is in control of the aircraft. A pilot or hijacker who has decided to commit suicide by flying off to a remote corner of the Indian Ocean isn't stealing the plane. The most likely cause was one of the pilots going insane, it's happened before.
      • by FirstOne (193462)

        "The most likely cause was one of a the pilots going insane,", A more likely outcome is that the a radicalized pilot of MH370 [mirror.co.uk] decided on course murder/suicide after attending the sham trial of Malaysiaâ(TM)s opposition leader [huffingtonpost.co.uk] a few hours before takeoff.

        Seams to me, if one were to make a simple assumption that the plane was on auto pilot for the last few hours(pilot suicide, anoxia), the Geostationary SAT ping times from those previous fixes would narrow the search scope considerably. I.E. Mathematic

  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Sunday March 16, 2014 @04:19PM (#46500767) Journal
    Almost all the conjectures have been quit exotic and very imaginative, which coincidentally keeps the interest alive and boosts TV ratings and acts as click bait.

    The delays in turning off the transponder and the data stream to the modem, flying between way points on a well known path etc might be explained by confused and disabled pilots too.

    Hypoxia can set in as little as 90 seconds of oxygen deprivation and will severely incapacitate and confuse people. Cabin pressure loss is the most common theory for hypoxia. But cabin pressure loss would deploy oxygen masks, sound alarms and the pilot would have been alert in the first few seconds to declare emergency and radio out. The captain seems to be nerd with home made flight simulator, he would have reacted correctly to oxygen masks dropping from the ceilings.

    Carbon monoxide is a way for hypoxia to set in. If there was a slow smoldering fire in the cockpit, not hot enough to trigger fire alarms it could result in incapacitated confused pilots. Again there are CO detectors, and warnings and associated with it.

    I am not sure how regularly these systems that detect cabin pressure loss and CO detectors are tested. It is quite expensive to actually deploy all those oxygen masks. So even the regular testing protocol would require the maintenance crew to disable the actual deployment of the oxygen masks and test the detection and deployment signals. They could forget to turn them back on, like the did in the Helios flight disaster I mentioned in another thread. CO detector is chemical based. They have to be replaced regularly and this is an old plane.

    Once the pilots flip switches on and off in confused state lose their consciousness completely, the plane would fly on autopilot following the way points that happened to be programmed.

    If there is foul play involved, it would be worthwhile exercise to make sure every flight plan that was file in that duration and every flight directed by the control towers in that time is legit and locate those planes. The pilot(s) could easily turn off the transponder, drop out of radar, pop back in and start using a different call sign. Without a transponder, air traffic control completely trusts the pilot to self identify the plane correctly. If the malefactors had filed a fake flight plan, the plane could change its identity mid flight without attracting attention.

    • Once the pilots flip switches on and off in confused state lose their consciousness completely, the plane would fly on autopilot following the way points that happened to be programmed.

      Yes - dazed and confused pilots just happened to enter the coordinates for a (reasonably as such things do) direct track at ninety degrees to the planned one and then just happened to enable the autopilot to fly that track. Casino's rake in billions per year because of folks like you.

      If there is foul play involved, i

      • The entire flight control system is based on trust, and it works out ok because it is in the best interest of the planes to tell the truth. Except for small planes in the narcotics corridor, I don't think there is much of audit of the flight plans and verification of planes and identities.

        When control towers "hand over" the planes from one to the next, there is no serious authenticated transfer of stuff. It is completely on trust. Control tower A says, "handing over to the next tower" it basically says,

    • Actually this was _not_ an old plane. It was delivered in 2002 and had accumulated 53K hours and 7500 cycles. Of the 1100+ 777s delivered since 1995 all but 10 or 15 are still in service and this is only the 4th hull loss.

      I think this plane would be considered, at most, to be "middle aged",

  • Two questions (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 16, 2014 @05:06PM (#46501039)

    1 The last fix from Inmarsat gave a Line of Position (LOP) which is a very broad arc.
    They had a ping every hour, each of which should have resulted in an LOP.
        Is there a way to combine these LOP's to get a better idea of the flight path?
          (Old school marine folks would walk the old LOP's forward in time and combine them.)
            One would have to guess a direction and speed to do this which makes the logic somewhat circular.
              Still, there should be more information in the rest of the LOP's.

    2) Who benefits from all this?
            This has focused attention on the flight and not on what's happening in with Russia.
                This seems an unlikely motivation, but it is a definite consequence.
                    I certainly hope this is not the motivation behind this.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Mod parent up! With 4-5 pings that the satellite would have received, and the expected speed for the flight, it would be possible to identify how much of the expected speed was perpendicular to the arcs, and how much was along the arcs. This, combined with the last position, and the amount of time the flight has been in the air would give a good position of the flight plus or minus 100 kms.. So one would not need to search for the flight near Pakistan, or one such extreme of the arc. Quite a trivial calcula

  • What about the other pings? What angle did they come from? What degree of uncertainty is there in the receiving phased array on the bird? My current hypothesis is that they fly south easterly to Sri Lanka and then skirted the west coast of India and landed in coastal Iran. My (primitive) calculations say that's possible. If the last ping was heard at approx 40 from the Inmarsat located at 25 E, that would place them in the area of southern Iran, which supports my hypothesis from last week which was bas

Loan-department manager: "There isn't any fine print. At these interest rates, we don't need it."

Working...