2021-03-30

MH370 — still waiting

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by Neil Godfrey

When you press questions on this, I sense a degree of belligerence; the more belligerent people become, the more worried I become.

I know the feeling all too well though in the contexts of other discussions. That quote comes from Sir Tim Clark, President of Emirates Airline (the company with the world’s largest fleet of Boeing 777s), responding to the official narrative of the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370. The interview with German journalist Andreas Spaeth was originally published in Der Spiegel but the full transcript is also on The Sydney Morning Herald page.

I have just completed reading The Disappearing Act: The Impossible Case of MH370 by the French journalist Florence De Changy. The research into every facet of the narratives that have arisen to explain the disappearance of MH370 is refreshingly easy to read but above all thorough. The work is an exemplar of how to do serious research into current and historical events.

The inconsistencies and impossibilities that are bundled into the official narrative that the airliner crashed somewhere in the Indian Ocean are made mercilessly transparent. As Clark himself has said:

What do you think happened?

Sir Tim Clark. Image from eturbonews.com

CLARK: My own view is that probably control was taken of that aeroplane, the events that happened during the course of its tracked flight will be anybody’s guess of who did what and when. I think we need to know who was on this aeroplane in the detail that obviously some people do know, we need to know what was in the hold of the aeroplane, in the detail we need to know, in a transparent manner. And we need to continue to press all those stake holders, that were and are involved in the analysis, in the assessment of what happened, for more information. Because heading an airline that operates the largest number of 777s in the world, I have a responsibility of knowing exactly what went on. I do not subscribe to the view that the aircraft, which is one of the most advanced in the world, has the most advanced avionic and communication platforms, needs to be improved so that we can introduce some kind of additional tracking system for an aeroplane that should never have been allowed to enter into a non-trackable situation.

What do you mean by that?

CLARK: The transponders are under the control of the flight deck. These are tracking devices, aircraft identifiers, that work in the secondary radar regime. If you turn off that transponder in a secondary radar regime, it causes a disappearance of that particular aeroplane from the radar screen. That should never be allowed to happen. All secondary and primary radar should be the same. Irrespective of when the pilot decides to disable the transponder, the aircraft should be able to be tracked. So the notion by the Malaysians that the disappearance from the secondary radar and then the ability of the military to use primary radar to track the aeroplane and identify it as ‘friendly’ – I don’t know how they did that – is something we need to look at very carefully.

. . . .

. . . . I’m still struggling to find why a pilot should be able to put the transponder into standby or off. In my view, that should not be an option. Thirdly, the air traffic control systems should not have a situation where a non-transponder aircraft without its squawk identifier should not be allowed to turn off and still not be able to track it. This is absolute stuff of nonsense. Radar is radar, it will pick up metal objects flying at the speed of the size of a 777 without any difficulty. Who took the decision to say: ‘If a transponder is off, we can’t track it in a secondary radar regime’? Which apparently most air traffic control systems are in. We must look at that as well. This aircraft in my opinion was under control, probably until the very end.

But why would they fly down five hours straight towards Antarctica?

If they did! I am saying that every single element of the ‘facts’ of this particular incident must be challenged and examined in full transparency, exhausted to the point that there is no other way that we can think of this other than a complete mystery. We are nowhere near that, there is plenty of information out there, which we need to be far more forthright, transparent and candid about.

There is indeed “far more information out there” and Florence de Changy spills it all out along with clarity about the sources and their reliability or otherwise.

It’s a book well worth reading. Meanwhile, here’s a brief intro. It’s a 25 minute interview on ABC’s Late Night Live with the author.

And no, no credence is given to conspiracy theories that have placed the plane in Pakistan, in Somalia, in Kazakhstan, on its way to crash into Diego Garcia. But the origins of those fanciful ideas are included. And if you were assured by the debris washed up on Reunion Island and Madagascar and surrounds you will be surprised to learn how many problems arise with that supposed evidence, how it was found, what it actually is and its condition, and the way the results of studies on it were officially announced. And no, there is no evidence that the captain was suicidal: all the evidence points to anything but.

Just to give you some idea of the scope of the research that has gone into Florence de Changy’s book here is an extract from her acknowledgements:

. . . Piecing this jigsaw together would not have been possible without the hundreds of people – pilots, scientists, academics, diplomats, engineers, politicians, whistle-blowers, fellow journalists, hackers, mercenaries and military personnel – scattered around the globe, all of whom I have either met in person or online in Malaysia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Singapore, Thailand, Philippines, India, Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand, China, Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan, USA, Canada, England, Scotland, France, Germany, Belgium, Holland, Switzerland, Italy, Portugal, Israel, United Arab Emirates, Maldives, Mozambique, Mauritius, Madagascar, Reunion . . . (p. [412])

 

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Neil Godfrey

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8 thoughts on “MH370 — still waiting”

    1. Thank you, Swamy. I am attaching here a compressed PDF version of the report you sent me that draws attention to the possibility of a windshield heater fire and a link to a news report citing the report’s author:

      Download (PDF, 1.44MB)

      Australian aviation enthusiast comes up with plausible theory about MH370’s fate

      Florence de Changy’s research brings out other suggestions that it was impossible for the aircraft to have made the U-turn that is claimed it made (was the radar signal pointing to something over Malaysia of another aircraft?), and further, that there is evidence of the pilot issuing a mayday call seeking an early landing because the cabin was disintegrating. This was further north off the Vietnamese coast.

      Changy also raises questions about the transponder ceasing transmission (it did issue a fainter signal after it was first thought to be off) and certain problems with the lack of transparency over the evidence for the pings from the west of Malaysia.

      Some of these points are raised briefly in the interview I attached in the post. I raise them here simply as an outsider who is responding to Florence de Changy’s book and thinking about the report you have shared. The book, from what I recall, does not address the possibility raised by Mick Gilbert.

  1. The information in Florence de Changy’s book derives from confirmation of a report of a mayday call by the pilot that came to her in 2019 — well after Mick Gilbert’s report, of course. Changy had been unable to confirm various reports of the pilot’s mayday call until “late 2019”. She writes, beginning p. 314:

    For years, I found the possibility that this distress signal actually took place – with the pilot requesting an emergency landing saying that the plane was about to disintegrate – to be quite haunting. Eventually, some proof that MH370 did actually send this message came my way.

    It was only in late 2019 that Patricia Thomas, a hardcore and incredibly resourceful MHist with whom I had long established a trusted relationship, sent me a new “clue that she had forgotten about but that lent considerable credibility to the ‘SOS message’. A pilot from Vietnam Airlines, who was flying in the region of Thua Thien Hue in the northern part of central Vietnam, had actually reported having heard the SOS distress call on the emergency frequency, somewhere to the north of Phu Bai International Airport. His statement was repeated both in a Vietnamese newspaper, the Southern Daily, and on Vietnamese TV, but no international news agencies picked it up. In the extracts of this pilot’s message that I saw, no time was provided, but it was nevertheless the first tangible proof that MH370 might indeed have sent an emergency message just before crashing. If this was further proved to be accurate, it would locate the crash in a completely unexplored and uncovered part of the South China Sea.

    There follows details of the radio communications among the air traffic controllers in Vietnam, Malaysia and the Malaysia Airlines operations centre. Then,

    And this incredible three-way exchange was actually printed in the official interim report! I read these bursts of conversation, again and again, and for a long time I just could not make sense of them. They suddenly seemed not only plausible, but also consistent with the emergency message request for landing that was timed at 2.43 am. Actually, the five initial statements from Malaysia Airlines stated very clearly that contact had been lost with the plane at 2.40 am. The last contact time was changed, from 2.40 am to 1.30 am, from the sixth MAS statement onwards.

    Could it have been by mistake? In fact, this fascinating information was supposedly denied one hour later.

    And then the problems that that denial raised, and subsequent relevant sightings of oil slicks and seismic recordings are discussed.

  2. “If you turn off that transponder in a secondary radar regime, it causes a disappearance of that particular aeroplane from the radar screen.”

    No. Just the ID of the track disappears. The primary radar continues to operate and track the aircraft.

    “All secondary and primary radar should be the same.”

    No. They are separate systems. However, they are synchronized – that is, the primary radar antenna and secondary (IFF) radar antennas are incorporated to effectively “point” on the same azimuth, at the same time, so the primary radar return, and secondary radar return are received at the same time, giving both range and bearing to the target aircraft. Note – IFF is not a reflection off the metal, like the primary radar is, but is an actual radio transmission from the aircraft, in response to the IFF interrogator’s transmission at the radar site.

    “So the notion by the Malaysians that the disappearance from the secondary radar and then the ability of the military to use primary radar to track the aeroplane and identify it as ‘friendly’ – I don’t know how they did that”

    No. The track gets assigned an ID by the aircraft’s previous transponder replies. They continue getting primary radar reflections back, even if the transponder is off, or disabled/failed, for some reason. So the military can continue to track it by the primary radar’s return reflections from metal. However – and it’s a big however, the primary radar track ID can be switched, or mis-ID’ed, by confusing it, with another aircraft track, if the IFF is disabled. This happens frequently if the IFF is not working. You are depending on a past history to continue to ID the right aircraft. So you end up tracking the wrong aircraft. Also, a thing called multipath propagation, results in mis-identification of aircraft, so it is not as simple as it would seem.

    1. I read Tim Clark’s explanation differently. (Indeed, at first I found it difficult to make sense of what he was quoted as saying and it took me a few re-reads and posting some additional subsequent information for what he was saying to become clearer, at least to me.)

      So, for example, when TC says: “If you turn off that transponder in a secondary radar regime, it causes a disappearance of that particular aeroplane from the radar screen”, I concluded that what he meant was exactly as you are saying — that it is only the ID of the track that disappears — that is, the identity of “that particular aeroplane” is removed from the radar screen.

      And as I added from the Tim Clark interview, he appears to be saying what you yourself are saying, that radar is radar and is designed to detect metal objects as large as a B777.

      1. Tracks can easily be mis-identified if IFF is either off, or failed. It would be interesting if the actual raw data was presented, instead of a summary by others. I assume that the actual recordings of the radar/secondary radar are floating around somewhere. With that, you can see what other flights were in the vicinity, and what possible track ID swaps could have occurred. Very complex issue.

        1. Indeed. And your points are those that are addressed and explored by Florence de Changy in her book. The lack of transparency with respect to the original data should be deeply concerning.

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