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From the Caspian to the Southern Indian Ocean

March 18th, 2014 - 1:50 am

The unprecedented scale of the search for MH370 was highlighted by an announcement that the UAE was joining the search. “A search unprecedented in its scale is now under way for the plane, covering an area stretching from the shores of the Caspian Sea in the north to deep in the southern Indian Ocean and involving more than 25 countries including the Emirates and Oman.” A graphic showing the furthest possible MH370 could go is illustrated in blue.

Even when you rule out three quarters of that circle, it’s a big search area.  What makes it even bigger is the possibility that the plane — assuming it landed — has refueled. In which case a second circle in blue can be drawn tangent at some point to the first.

The maximum and minimum extents

The maximum and minimum extents

 

How do we narrow it down?

The altitude profile of the flight, plotted against hours and significant events is here.  You can infer terrain, somewhat, from the profile. But that still leaves a huge set of possibilities.

Maybe we can try to get inside the pilot’s mind — whoever he might be. The closest approach we can have both psychologically from the point of view of the pilot and objectively with respect to flight dynamics is the simulator.

The simulator is in the news again. The Malay Mail says “investigators have discovered the runways of five airports near the Indian Ocean loaded into Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah’s home-made flight simulator”.

“The simulation programmes are based on runways at the Male International Airport in Maldives, an airport owned by the United States (Diego Garcia), and three other runways in India and Sri Lanka, all have runway lengths of 1,000 metres.

This information is obviously wrong. Male International has a runway length of 3,500 meters.  Assuming the simulator belonged to the perp, he would hardly have left his destination so conveniently on the computer.

The Male idea got confirmation today after islanders in the Maldives reported seeing a low flying wide body. The Telegraph reports:

The global hunt for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight has shifted to a tiny island in the Maldives, where residents spotted a “low flying jumbo jet” hours after the aircraft disappeared.

Several witnesses in Dhaalu Atoll saw a plane heading south that bore the red stripe and white background of Malaysia Airlines planes.

The sightings, reported by a local news outlet, would have occurred more than seven hours after the plane, carrying 12 crew and 227 mainly Chinese passengers, lost contact with air traffic control and took its sudden westward turn during a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing in the early hours of Saturday March 8.

“I’ve never seen a jet flying so low over our island before. We’ve seen seaplanes, but I’m sure that this was not one of those. I could even make out the doors on the plane clearly,” said an witness.

The press has not described Captain Zaharie’s famous simulator very well. The Daily Mail, for example, simply pictures the video cards and hardware he used and calls it “software”.

In actuality, the Captain apparently built his own simulator, using X-Sim 2.1 which allows the user to construct gauges, controls, etc, to go beyond a keyboard and joystick input.  X-Sim appears to be a kind of software bridging the simulator engine with physical control and output devices, though I am only making an guess as I don’t own it. You can see the install video tutorial at the link above.

With it you can probably build your own simulator of anything. The underlying flight simulation software Zaharie used is nowhere described that I can find. I should be glad of a link. But if we assume it to be of a high quality, it might be represented by something like X-Plane, which comes in three flavors: desktop, mobile and professional. X-Plane was actually used to determine the much quoted fact that “there are at least 634 runways spread across 26 countries, ranging from Australia to the Maldives and Mongolia, that would fit the criteria, according to US public radio station WNYC,” so it can’t be too bad.

The organization’s data team used information from X-Plane, a flight simulator website that provides runway coordinates from around the world, to compile the list of airports.

The criteria for inclusion on the list was that a Boeing 777 would need a runway of at least 5000 feet (1524 metres) to land. The location was also required to be within 2200 nautical miles from the plane’s last known position, based on a recent Wall Street Journal article that quoted sources stating the flight could have continued on for that long.

The X-Plane desktop blurb goes: “For real-world pilots. Practice in the world’s most realistic flight simulator.”

  • Shoot VFR and IFR approaches.
  • Prepare for emergencies.
  • Improve your navigation skills.
  • Fly your airplane from your home airport.

Which would be just the thing. A promotional video is below.

X-Plane has a multiplayer mode, so perhaps the “US investigators” have looked up what scenarios were flown from that connection.

There is nothing except conflicting circumstantial evidence to suggest the captain was the perp. It has been widely reported that the voice heard after the ACARs was switched off was the co-pilot’s. Indeed co-pilot’s last message, which was nonstandard, has been interpreted as a coded call for help. We don’t know what happened on the 777 that fateful flight.  It is not beyond the realm of possibility that both officers were under the control of a very knowledgeable hijacker, who was a pilot himself.

What we do know, however is as  Bruce Schneier notes,  the NSA has been spying on the online gaming world for some time. The New York Times has an article saying that the counterterror folks have been watching the gaming channels for messages.

None of this of course, brings us a step closer to anything. But it does show how high quality commercial software has created planning tools to a degree heretofore unavailable to the general public. Those tools were not necessarily used by the captain to plan this hijack, if that is what it is. However, it reasonable to conjecture that the perpetrators – whoever they may be – planned this operation with the help of similar tools.

Planned, just planned. Because homemade simulators are not nearly like the real thing.

Homemade

Homemade

The real McCoy looks like a million dollars. Here’s the Boeing Flight Management Computer just by itself. You can survey a 777-200LR cockpit at Jon Ostrower’s site.

Flight Management Computer

Flight Management Computer

By looking at the situation through a potential hijacker’s tools we are following as close as we dare to the indistinct figures running before us.


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Top Rated Comments   
The plain fact that we haven’t gotten coherent facts even yet from the Malaysian (Musselmen) Government makes it even more likely it was a Homicide by Plane, But I admit there is lots of room for the “Only in the Movies” theories. Besides the two facts I stated earlier the Pilot was also a devote Musselman (attending a mosque regularly). Seeing his life (wife and children leaving him the day before) and world (local, political hero thrown in jail) falling apart, his leading a less then Heaven achieving Moslem life, he most likely wanted his 72 virgins the fast and easy way, Homicide bombers blow themselves up for far, far less then 230+ Kafur’s (Kafir’s) and Infidel’s, why he probably thinks he’s gett’n double the usual… Any way ya slice this those passengers have got to be dead!

So Putin is no longer using kid gloves with “0bamanator the failure”, the question really becomes does the “Failure in Chief” continue the Piss’n contest with Putin and how many Americans get to lose their lives for his and his staffs absolute treasonous policies? Still waiting on China to drop the other shoe!
26 weeks ago
26 weeks ago Link To Comment
Why haven't we been given more than one red line from the satellite? We know where MH370 could have been at 0811L. What about at 0715 or 0615? What reason could there be to sit on the data?

The available data is consistent with the plane having flown to a region inside China bounded by Tibet Tsinghai and Sinkiang. The southern Taklamakan desert of Sinkiang is sparsely populated by Muslim Uygurs. If the plane landed there and refueled it could now be anywhere.

One effect of the proliferation of computers and games and simulators is the blurring of the line between fantasy and reality. The ability of us here to speculate without consequences on the internet can have a similar affect. It is possible to rehearse without cost or responsibility almost any deed. The final step to action may not seem as large a transition at it would otherwise be.
26 weeks ago
26 weeks ago Link To Comment
As more and more time goes by I believe this bird sleeps with the fish (or Chinese shot it down and are now covering it up), this guy committed homicide by plane, distraught over politics and family life, it was a planned event not spur of the moment thing, He (Pilot) doesn’t want anyone to find them. The Malaysian Government has used ten thumbs form the very beginning, They should feel so disgraced, especially seen that they STILL haven’t gotten their facts straight. This is a prime example of Third world intellect playing with First world toys.
26 weeks ago
26 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (82)
All Comments   (82)
Sort: Newest Oldest Top Rated
If the pilots wee incapacitated and the plane flew past Lankawi International, why might it crash short of Bandar Aceh?

Without someone doing fuel management among the multiple fuel tanks, the weight an balance of the plane would change as it burned off fuel. It might either run out of fuel, or lose trim for straight and level flight and crash as a result.

Drop a line of sonobuoys between both points and listen for the pinger that gets initiated by submersion in water.
26 weeks ago
26 weeks ago Link To Comment
No can do.
Sequester has resulted in a severe shortage of sonobouys, while contrarily producing an avalanche of Foodstamps.
26 weeks ago
26 weeks ago Link To Comment
The global hunt for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight has shifted to a tiny island in the Maldives, where residents spotted a “low flying jumbo jet” hours after the aircraft disappeared.

Several witnesses in Dhaalu Atoll saw a plane heading south that bore the red stripe and white background of Malaysia Airlines planes.

The sightings, reported by a local news outlet, would have occurred more than seven hours after the plane, carrying 12 crew and 227 mainly Chinese passengers, lost contact with air traffic control and took its sudden westward turn during a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing in the early hours of Saturday March 8.

“I’ve never seen a jet flying so low over our island before. We’ve seen seaplanes, but I’m sure that this was not one of those. I could even make out the doors on the plane clearly,” said an witness.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/malaysia/10706853/MH370-Maldives-Islanders-claim-to-have-spotted-low-flying-jet.html
26 weeks ago
26 weeks ago Link To Comment
The Maldives are in a time zone, UTC +5, 3 hours later than Malaysia UTC + 8.

http://www.timeanddate.com/library/abbreviations/timezones/

Do the islanders claim they saw the colors on the fuselage before the sun came up?
26 weeks ago
26 weeks ago Link To Comment
You Mainlanders just don't get it.
26 weeks ago
26 weeks ago Link To Comment
Which would likely mean it was headed for Somalia, a logical choice, given that the place is mostly lawless and has been a base for terrorists, including some the IDF recently found it necessary to hit with airstrikes. And within striking range of numerous soft targets.

Of course the Arabian peninsula is another possible location for that course.
26 weeks ago
26 weeks ago Link To Comment
there's some ideas to pick from the cartoons, they have many stories on how planes disappeared

http://www.slate.fr/culture/84709/malaysia-airlines-mh-370-bande-dessinee
26 weeks ago
26 weeks ago Link To Comment
samisright
I watched two of the Sunday news shows. A White House spokesperson on NBC said "It went down" and then repeated the same story about the change in direction of the search referring to the 777. The host had ask for the latest info. The Host never responded to the comment "it went down". Then on Fox a spokesperson from Homeland Security was ask for an update and the spokesperson said the plane had crashed. In both stores I have recorded the shows so I was able to play it back. When I played it back I ask my wife to listen to what they had said to confirm what I had heard. If someone can still listen to those two shows I would like to hear their reaction to what I heard.
26 weeks ago
26 weeks ago Link To Comment
Here is what Kate MacMillan at Small Dead Animals http://www.smalldeadanimals.com/ has to say about MH370:


"The Mystery Of MH370

Ten days have passed and with no solid leads, only one conclusion can be drawn from the disappearance of a Boeing 777 and its 239 passengers and crew -- the tales we were told of spy satellites that can "read a watch face from space" were, and still are, complete and utter bulls***t.

That is all."

In addition to Kate's comment, I am reminded that March 29 has been designated "Smoke and Mirrors Day" in the U.S. I assume all will be revealed on that day.
26 weeks ago
26 weeks ago Link To Comment
OldSaltUSN

>>>But extending the logic that such a theft was possible, how would this aircraft be used? The only reasonable explanation would be as a Trojan Horse bomber, regardless of the target. That would require a WMD device on the aircraft, plus a second hijacking. The MH370 aircraft would have to make it's way back into legitimate commercial fight routes, a second 777-200 flying, for example, a route into Dulls airport in Washington, DC, would have to be hijacked and "disappeared" without a trace, MH370 configured to squawk the same codes as the legitimate flight, and resuming the route to DC masking as the second aircraft, and detonated.<<<

I tend to give a high probability to this type of attack, although Washington may not be the target, if we do not find proof that it crashed soon. I was speculating earlier about a route around India to the south and then to Pakistan. It was pointed out, accurately, that it would likely be spotted. There are reports today that a plane that may have been the 777 was observed from the Maldives. NOT confirmation, but worth checking. Reading Brit papers, which do suffer from tabloid syndrome, but have the advantages of covering a lot more than our state-controlled media do politically and on international affairs; I saw a report that the radar at the Andaman/Nicobar Islands and India's southward facing Air Defense radars work their version of banker's hours and shut down. Don't know if it is true, but once again worth checking.

As far as the advantages [undeniable to a certain extent] of a seaborne attack, they are not unmitigated.

1) the target may not be near enough to the coast or have restrictions on getting close enough to the target.
2) use of a ship involves both a longer transit time when you are vulnerable and a larger number of people involved who can deliberately or accidentally breach security.
3) the speed of a ship being less, it is subject to investigation for a far longer period than an aircraft. In the 1980's the DOE's NEST [Nuclear Emergency Search Team] had the technology and equipment to scan a ship from the air at a distance and detect the presence of fissionable materials enriched to weapons grade. In the aftermath of 9/11 I cannot but believe that the state of the art for that has advanced and become more widespread. Detection at a distance means more time to react. Further, there are indications that shipping is being watched very closely, as the North Korean efforts to smuggle contraband home undetected show.

And there are other things I am pretty sure we are watching for at sea whose parameters partially overlap the seaborne attack scenario.

As far as the cold-blooded nature of the conspirators if they exist; we should have learned by now that a) Islamic culture is different from ours and includes that cold blooded aspect and b) that it is also hypocritical. q.v. the 9/11 hijackers going through the pre-sacrifice routine, but yet being known for hitting bars and strip clubs ahead of time.

The evidence left behind, the flight simulator [as much as I hate the NSA, I rather expect that if given access to the flight simulator they could find what scenario's he had practiced even of there were attempts to erase them] and the movements, location, and fate of the pilot's wife and three children contain some key information. Incidentally, the fact that the pilot supported the more "western" political leader does not preclude being a Jihadi. The most dangerous Islamic terrorists have been educated in the west.

Still waiting for another shoe to drop; either by an attack using the 777, finding the 777 intact, or [to be realistic the best case scenario] finding proof of a crash. I am assuming that the passengers and non-flying crew have been dead for a while one way or another.

Subotai Bahadur
26 weeks ago
26 weeks ago Link To Comment
Reports from Thailand

http://www.smh.com.au/world/malaysia-airlines-missing-jet-thailand-gives-radar-data-10-days-after-plane-lost-20140319-hvk7i.html

"Bangkok: Thailand's military said on Tuesday that its radar detected a plane that may have been Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 just minutes after the jetliner's communications went down, and that it didn't share the information with Malaysia earlier because it wasn't specifically asked for it.

A twisting flight path described on Tuesday by Thai air force spokesman Air Vice Marshal Montol Suchookorn took the plane to the Strait of Malacca, which is where Malaysian radar tracked Flight 370 early March 8. But Montol said the Thai military doesn't know whether it detected the same plane.

Thailand's failure to quickly share possible information regarding the fate of the plane, and the 239 people aboard it, may not substantially change what Malaysian officials know, but it raises questions about the degree to which some countries are sharing their defence information, even in the name of an urgent and mind-bending aviation mystery.

With only its own radar to go on, it took Malaysia a week to confirm that Flight 370 had entered the strait, an important detail that led it to change its search strategy.

When asked why it took so long to release the information, Montol said, "Because we did not pay any attention to it. The Royal Thai Air Force only looks after any threats against our country, so anything that did not look like a threat to us, we simply look at it without taking actions."

He said the plane never entered Thai airspace and that Malaysia's initial request for information in the early days of the search was not specific.

"When they asked again and there was new information and assumptions from (Malaysian) Prime Minister Najib Razak, we took a look at our information again," Montol said. "It didn't take long for us to figure out, although it did take some experts to find out about it."

Flight 370 took off from Kuala Lumpur at 12.40am Malaysian time and its transponder, which allows air traffic controllers to identify and track the airplane, ceased communicating at 1.20am.

Montol said that at 1.28am, Thai military radar "was able to detect a signal, which was not a normal signal, of a plane flying in the direction opposite from the MH370 plane," back toward Kuala Lumpur. The plane later turned right, toward Butterworth, a Malaysian city along the Strait of Malacca. The radar signal was infrequent and did not include any data such as the flight number.

And near the Malaysian - Thai border

http://abcnews.go.com/International/fishermen-plane-sighting-tip-false-lead-mh370-hunt/story?id=22954793

"Fishermen from this village believe they may have seen the missing Malaysia Airlines flight on the night it disappeared flying low over the Gulf of Thailand.

It's not clear whether what they saw was flight MH370 or whether it is the latest in a string of false leads in the search for the missing plane, but if true it would suggest that the plane may have flown low to avoid radar, what is known as "terrain masking."

On March 8 flight MH370 disappeared from radar as it flew north over the Gulf of Thailand towards Vietnam en route to Beijing. Investigators believe it made a sharp turn to the west about the time it vanished from radar and lost contact with air traffic controllers.

Azid Ibrahim, Rahim Mamat and six other men left Kota Bharu in northern Malaysia for tuna fishing that night and were 10 miles out at sea between Malaysia and Vietnam, an area that would have been in the plane's initial flight path. Suddenly a plane came thundering overhead, louder and lower than Ibrahim had ever seen. The plane was heading west, Ibrahim said. Mamat agrees with what they saw.

The fishing boat returned to Kota Bharu in the morning and when they heard about the plane's disappearance they reported what they saw to the local police.

Kota Bharu is also the home town of the plane's young co-pilot Fariq Hamid. At a kindergarten near Hamid's home, children were praying for the people aboard flight MH370."

26 weeks ago
26 weeks ago Link To Comment
Is this near the southern area of Thailand that Muslim Malay rebels have been trying to seize for some years?

26 weeks ago
26 weeks ago Link To Comment
Cascajun

Let's expound on the story you linked.

Faced with an in flight emergency the pilot (or co-pilot) turns the plane towar the nearest airport, Lankawi international, http://www.gcmap.com/airport/LGK located at 6.329728 N, 99.728667 E.

Further west, on the Indonesian side of the Strait of Malacca is Banda Aceh http://www.gcmap.com/airport/BTJ located at 5.523522 N, 95.420372 E

Located between them, fairly close to Banda Aceh is the point the Greek Tanker ELKA Athina is reported to have found passenger luggage.

http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-1107234?ref=feeds%2Flatest

"Greek Tanker ELKA Athina steamed to area of possible wreckage of Malaysia Flight 370, missing for about a week now.

The debris was found in the Strait of Malacca at,b> latitude 0550 N and longitude 09657.4 east.

Dimitris Zambelis is the Captain of ELKA Athina and Dimitris Karagiannis is vice-captain of the Greek tanker, owned by European Product Carriers and Greek tycoon Karnezis.

The Boeing 777 was enroute to Beijing, China from Kuala Lampur, Malaysia and has been missing for 8 days now.

Items discovered were floating suitcases and debris that appears to be from the ill fated 777. "

There was the report in the Strait Times of the plane 30 minutes ahead of MH370 talking in a static filled exchange, with the co-pilot with a muffled voice who was suddenly lost mid-transmission.


The biggest dissent is that we would have to throw out the red ping-arcs.
26 weeks ago
26 weeks ago Link To Comment

The radio conversation is consistent with a pilot wearing an oxygen mask. This could have been an accident due to avionics failure and subsequent depressurization, but as you say, Inmarsat would have to be gravely mistaken.

If the wreckage retrieved by the Greek tanker were from MH370, I think that would have been announced by now. It can't be that difficult to match up the luggage.
26 weeks ago
26 weeks ago Link To Comment
New Straits Times report

http://www.nst.com.my/nation/general/font-color-red-missing-mh370-font-pilot-i-established-contact-with-plane-1.503464

"The captain, who asked to not be named, said his plane, which was bound for Narita, Japan, was far into Vietnamese airspace when he was asked to relay, using his plane's emergency frequency, to MH370 for the latter to establish its position, as the authorities could not contact the aircraft.

"We managed to establish contact with MH370 just after 1.30am and asked them if they have transferred into Vietnamese airspace.

"The voice on the other side could have been either Captain Zaharie (Ahmad Shah, 53,) or Fariq (Abdul Hamid, 27), but I was sure it was the co-pilot.

"There were a lot of interference... static... but I heard mumbling from the other end.

"That was the last time we heard from them, as we lost the connection," he told the New Sunday Times.


He said those on the same frequency at the time would have heard the exchange.

This, he said, would include vessels on the waters below.

He said he thought nothing of it, as the occurrence (of losing contact) was normal, until it was established that MH370 never landed.

26 weeks ago
26 weeks ago Link To Comment

wildiris,
Brevity being the soul of wit I am exposed as witless. You make the point of my 1,628 word eye glazer on the "Base Course" thread, and you do so in 245 words.

My ASW analogy does acknowledge that it is possible to only have single source bearing data and a feel, but no hard data, for if the target is increasing decreasing or at a steady range, and use that for a best guess firing solution. You don't want to but if needed you might have to rely on that.

Thank you.
26 weeks ago
26 weeks ago Link To Comment
BFtP, you’re welcome. But I keep reminding myself that this satellite-engine ping data may yet turn out to be one big red herring, in which case we’ve all wasted a huge chunk of time speculating on a completely false lead.
26 weeks ago
26 weeks ago Link To Comment
The plain fact that we haven’t gotten coherent facts even yet from the Malaysian (Musselmen) Government makes it even more likely it was a Homicide by Plane, But I admit there is lots of room for the “Only in the Movies” theories. Besides the two facts I stated earlier the Pilot was also a devote Musselman (attending a mosque regularly). Seeing his life (wife and children leaving him the day before) and world (local, political hero thrown in jail) falling apart, his leading a less then Heaven achieving Moslem life, he most likely wanted his 72 virgins the fast and easy way, Homicide bombers blow themselves up for far, far less then 230+ Kafur’s (Kafir’s) and Infidel’s, why he probably thinks he’s gett’n double the usual… Any way ya slice this those passengers have got to be dead!

So Putin is no longer using kid gloves with “0bamanator the failure”, the question really becomes does the “Failure in Chief” continue the Piss’n contest with Putin and how many Americans get to lose their lives for his and his staffs absolute treasonous policies? Still waiting on China to drop the other shoe!
26 weeks ago
26 weeks ago Link To Comment
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