Latest phase of MH370 search gets interesting

On 3 November the Australian Transport Safety Bureau resumed the deep sea search for the lost Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 [but see update at end of story].

Refuelled, replenished and ready to go, the ATSB’s survey ship Fugro Discovery has arrived on station once more in the southern Indian Ocean (see footnote for an update).

For those seeking a reason to be optimistic following a discouraging 20 months of searching the ocean without a result, there is definite cause for renewed hope this time.

Since it began the search the ATSB has been scrupulously methodical, scanning the ocean floor within a long, slender curved rectangle that encompassed what became known as the “7th arc”. This is a long line on the earth’s surface established by vestigial radio responses from the fatal aircraft to Inmarsat satellites just as it was running out of fuel.

Theoretically the Boeing 777 could have come down anywhere close to it, but working with the aircraft’s last radar position the ATSB identified the arc sector where the aircraft could realistically have come down, and has searched almost all of the identified curve and its close vicinity.

Since it has now trawled almost all the 7th arc’s viable sector and not found the wreckage of MH370, there is not much more to search. Logic says they must be getting close.

But not only logic.

For those who doubted MH370 came down in the sea at all, the fact it did so was established in July when one of its flaperons was washed up on a beach on the Indian Ocean island of La Reunion. This fact was forensically confirmed more recently by the French air accident investigation agency BEA.

But there’s another reason for optimism: on 22 December last year Flightglobal published a mathematical/geometric calculation by Boeing 777 captain Simon Hardy, also a mathematician, which indicates precisely where, according to his calculations, MH370 came down.

The search sector that Fugro Discovery has just begun to trawl encompasses Hardy’s predicted position for MH370. His recent refinements to the aircraft’s final descent profile put it at S39 22′ 46″ E087 06′ 20″. He adds, however, that depending on how long the aircraft floated, the main wreck could have drifted some time before sinking, and even during the descent could have travelled laterally. At this location he would expect to see mainly “some moveable aerodynamic surfaces, like the missing part of the flaperon that we already have, and parts of slats and flaps and maybe even the RAT [ram air turbine].”

This could be said to be the last chance for the search under present estimated criteria, because 777 performance dictates that the aircraft could not have flown further than this extreme southern end of the 7th-arc-defined potential ditching area.

Anyone who has published material on the web knows that it may receive praise, but it will certainly receive criticism. The impressive fact about Hardy’s mathematics is that, despite hundreds of thousands of hits on the article containing his calculations, nobody has been able to blow a hole in them.

By 3 December Fugro Discovery expects to have completed the search of the area containing, according to Hardy’s calculations, the wreck of MH370 and the remains of those who went down with it.

Hardy says he says he is excited about the next month’s search, having invested more than a year of mental and emotional energy into working out where MH370 flew, and why. He wants it found.

He’s not alone.

Watch this space for more on MH370.

LATE NEWS: On 5 November Fugro Discovery had to suspend the search and return to Fremantle, Western Australia, according to Australia’s Joint Agency Coordination Centre, because one of the crew developed suspected appendicitis.

UPDATE: Fugro Discovery was due to arrive back in the search area on 3 December.


17 thoughts on “Latest phase of MH370 search gets interesting

  1. “Remember remember the fifth of November
    Gunpowder, treason and plot.
    I see no reason why gunpowder, treason
    Should ever be forgot”…Quite a Guy was Erebus-Son of chaos-Guy, without knowing it.
    S39 22′ 46″ E087 06′ 20″,
    Ah yes, another plotted position over the abyss. And it is better to be unsure of your position and know it, rather than to be certain of where you are not, as the Navigator’s creed professes.
    Let’s remember, remember also Air New Zealand 901 DC-10 30 , ZK-NZP of Nov 28 1979. 257 Fatalities.
    The error coordinates were changed back to correct, unknown to the crew. Thus: Capt Jim Collins accepted an honest error without knowledge. The error below of degree, minutes and seconds of arc amounts to 27 NM.
    Time flies, memory stands still. and as Groucho the great Marxist said, “Either this man is dead, or my watch has stopped !”. Never a truer LNAV word spoken, before the LNAV age. Lest we forget. Never me at least.

    7753.0 S 16448.0E on Nov 7 1979 Capt Dalziell, NZAA-NZCH 06/11/79
    7752.7 S 16658.0E on Nov 27 1979 Capt Collins, NZAA-NZCH 27/11/79


    • Sounds strange but approx a month before the crash I had a dream and was given coordinate numbers E91.14 S31.12 so as soon as the aircraft went missing I passed on this information to Australian authorities. Understandably they didn’t take it seriously but I’m glad they are searching in Simon’s suggested area as it is getting a little closer to my coordinates. Either way it’ll be for the best to get an answer for all involved.


  2. Hi David,

    Simon Hardy’s result is…

    1) Dr. Bobby Ulich’s result, minus consideration of
    a) all but the last 3 BTO values
    b) any BFO values
    c) wind

    2) implausibly beyond the drift limits firmly established by the drift work of all eight of the eight Ph.D. oceanographers I’ve studied:
    a) Griffin (CSIRO)
    b) Pattiaratchi (UWA)
    c) Baart (Deltares)
    d) van Sebille (
    e) Garcia Garrido (ICMAT)
    f) Ebbesmeyer (Ocean Motion)
    g) Maximenko (IPRC)
    h) Durgadoo/Biastoch (Geomar)

    Most of these experts conclude the flaperon must have begun its journey from well north of the current search zone entirely.

    The rest are barely able to rationalize the extreme northern end of the current search zone (and even then, only via dubiously aggressive wind-aided drift assumptions).

    (All, by the way, predicted debris in W. Australia by long before the Réunion discovery – and none can explain why no other piece of debris has been found in the four months since – but I digress.)

    NONE shows greater than a zero probability of debris generated anywhere near Hardy’s point – at the extreme SOUTHERN end of the current search zone – making it anywhere near Réunion Island within 16.7 months.


  3. Yup, and the Flaperon was reportedly sighted in the Reunion surf in early May. If so, it made the trip across faster than possible to come from the current SA. Likely it would have been found on a West or South Australia beach if it had come from the current SA.


  4. Have the details of Hardy’s route been published? E.G. a table of UT, longitude/latitude, track, ground speed, BFO, BTO, etc? The old FlightGlobal article is now locked being a registration page. From other articles written at the time, it seems that the favored path is a true track course. Such tracks do not match the BFO data well. Other autopilot modes, such as magnetic track, match the BFO and BTO data better, but cannot be discerned by simply looking at the “ping rings”.

    The latest position refinement is displaced by more than a degree from the initial claimed position of S38:04:55 and E87:24:00. What is the rms position error claimed by Hardy?


  5. Hi David,

    Re: “logic says we must be getting close”: it is an accepted truth that the 7th arc has now been scanned to BEYOND what the ATSB reports to be MH370’s southwest performance limit (compare ATSB’s Oct, 2014 report to, e.g. Richard Cole’s tweeted search progress maps. You and I are free to dispute that limit, but it’s the ATSB who are directing search ships, not us: what makes you think they will extend the search beyond what it publicly asserts to be A hard fuel limit?

    That leaves just scan width as a basis for your “we must be getting close” argument. Unfortunately, the same Inmarsat data we’re told to trust also indicates a steep descent (15,000’/min at 00:19). Before the deep sea search began, consensus was strong among serious analysts that wreckage would be found VERY near the 7th arc – single-digit nmi, if the data was trustworthy. The scan has already covered much MORE than this distance.

    If you are searching for your car keys – and have covered your own home, and those of your immediate neighbours – does “logic say we must be getting close” if we go on to search houses further down the street?

    Or does logic in fact suggest the data we’ve been trusting – and/or its official interpreters – are in desperate need of a stiff audit, to rule out errors and/or foul play?


  6. Oh yea of little faith.

    Stop bashing the poor old ATSB, especially when they are just about to come up with the goods!
    For your information, MH370 flew a great circle or geodesic path from waypoint ANOKO to the 7th arc (passing over waypoint ISBIX) crossing the 7th arc at S37.71, E88.82, gliding to impact at approximately (very approximately, because of indeterminate effects of winds at both high and low levels)
    S38.24, E88.73 – assuming a glide ratio of 15:1 nominal.

    Robin Stevens


      • David

        Oops, sorry! Extracting foot from mouth!
        I didn’t mean you personally. I was responding to a general, negative sentiment I perceive on the Net iro the ATSB. They are basically in a no win situation.


        Liked by 1 person

  7. David

    According to Richard E Cole’s search map on Twitter, Captain Hardy’s location for MH370 is not on the seventh arc.

    It would be better if his endpoint was moved west to encompass the seventh arc between S39 E86.5 and S39.5 E85.5. Which is the endpoint in Captain Ripari’s Oxygen Bottle Rupture Theory.



  8. David

    Brock McEwen makes a very valid point. The aircraft has not been found near the 7th arc – the accepted interpretation of the BFO data must be questionable. The search is in great danger of drawing a blank. The ATSB now need to consider the extended glide (15:1 or more) scenario, and extend the search southward, outward, at least in the Southern Sector, centered on E89 longitude.




  9. I agree with Robin. The ATSB should consider the 15:1 glide senario. This captain loved the 777. He may have considered it a a matter of honor to stay alert through the the night and glide the the plane to a water landing.


  10. Following on from Bernard’s comment, yes agree totally.
    The pilot was a very experienced aviator, and enjoyed paragliding and flying model aircraft. But this is all circumstantial I hear you say, and shouldn’t influence the search. Bolderdash! Of course it should be considered. The one reason the pilot performed a controlled ditching was to avoid leaving a lot of debris to
    give his location away. And he almost succeeded, but the flaperon got away to tell its own story



  11. It has been over a month now that Captain Hardy’s suggested search area should have been completed. As I understand it, December 3 2015 was the date that Fugro was to have completed searching the area whuch includes Captain Hardy’s coordinates. Taking into account disruptions in the search due to weather and resupply, surely they should be finished by this point (January 14, 2016). That gives them over a month leeway from the predicted December 3 completion. And guess what? Still no MH370 wreckage found. It’s sad, really, for the poor families. Yet another example of providing false hope to the families.
    If the search is indeed complete which includes the area that Capt Hardy says will contain the wreckage, I’m not surprised that I haven’t read anything from him, anywhere, commenting on the fact that it wasn’t found where he was convinced it would be.


  12. We can now be confident that MH370 did not come down close to the 7th Arc, a fact which throws the engine flameout/uncontrolled descent into doubt (in fact, it makes it extremely unlikely)
    I have researched the problem. I have found that, contrary to the current consensus, the aircraft was still on both engines, cruising at Mach 0.8 when it reached the 7th arc.
    The pilot must have deliberately set up the SATCOM log on transmission (by de-emerging the Left Main AC bus) to make it appear that the aircraft had run out of fuel at that point. He then glided it for 90Nm to a ditching at S38deg, E88.40deg approx, and sank the plane essentially intact, hence the detatched flaperon.

    Bottom line is, unless the ATSB extend the search southward, the aircraft will not be found.



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