Mapping An Oil Rig Sighting of Plane Going Down

There’s an interesting new development in the MH370 search. An oil rig worker thinks he saw a plane “burning at high altitude”. Here’s a jpg of his letter. He observed the flaming object for between 10 to 15 seconds. He observed no change in bearing, suggesting it was heading toward the rig or in the reciprocal in general direction.

Sighting of a plane going down

Sighting of a plane going down Click to Enlarge

According to McCay, it was bearing 265 or 270 of 08°22’30.23”N 108°42’22.26”E, which is the location of his oil platform.  He estimated 50-70 km bearing 260-275.

The Chinese satellite sighting of what they regard as possible aircraft wreckage is 6°42’00.0″N 105°37’48.0″E.  I’ve plotted the two together on a map. The Chinese siting is about 240 km bearing 241.

380 km range bearing 241

380 km range bearing 241

The distances and bearings don’t exactly coincide, but like McCay says of his sighting, “the timing is right.”   ABC News Correspondent Woodruff added a Tweet which said, “Vietnamese say they found nothing.”

But of course that would be too simple. The Wall Street Journal, citing “US investigators” say that engine data, apparently sent during flight, show that the plane flew four hours after it was reported missing.

U.S. investigators suspect that Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 stayed in the air for about four hours past the time it reached its last confirmed location, according to two people familiar with the details, raising the possibility that the plane could have flown on for hundreds of additional miles under conditions that remain murky.

Aviation investigators and national security officials believe the plane flew for a total of five hours based on data automatically downloaded and sent to the ground from the Boeing Co. 777’s engines as part of a routine maintenance and monitoring program….

The latest revelations come as local media reported that Malaysian police visited the home of at least one of the two pilots.

As part of its maintenance agreements, Malaysia Airlines transmits its engine data live to Rolls-Royce for analysis. The system compiles data from inside the 777’s two Trent 800 engines and transmits snapshots of performance, as well as the altitude and speed of the jet.

Those snippets are compiled and transmitted in 30-minute increments, said one person familiar with the system. According to Rolls-Royce’s website, the data is processed automatically “so that subtle changes in condition from one flight to another can be detected.”


This puts a rather different construction on things since there is no plausible way Rolls Royce Trent engines can keep sending telemetry from the bottom of the sea.  Since, in the immortal words of Sherlock Holmes, “when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth” it necessarily follows that the engines are not on the ocean floor, or at least, not in the places we believe.

Unless of course you believe the Malaysian Transport minister, who says that Boeing and Rolls Royce have received no data from the missing airplane.  In which case the engines could be at the bottom of the sea, though the Malaysians are unsure what sea that might be.

The WSJ correspondent seems very confident though, as shown in this video. And he says, authorities are looking at the possibility that the aircraft was acquired for use “later on”.  The range ring drawn from the aircraft’s range is shown here.  This is not strictly correct as heading West it might have met headwinds. Also the aircraft in descending to get below the radar would have had to travel more slowly than its speed at cruising altitude. Nevertheless that circle potentially covers a large part of the world.

Now the Pentagon is quoted as saying the plane may be down in the Indian Ocean.

U.S. officials have an “indication” the missing Malaysia Airlines jetliner may have crashed in the Indian Ocean and is moving the USS Kidd to the area to begin searching.

It will take another 24 hours to move the ship into position, a senior Pentagon official told ABC News.

“We have an indication the plane went down in the Indian Ocean,” the senior official said.

The official said there were indications that the plane flew four or five hours after disappearing from radar and that they believe it went into the water.


There have been a number of false positives in the last few days. The Malaysian authorities have not exactly covered themselves with glory and had the USN searching in the Malacca Straits where they said their primary radars tracked an unidentified objected. Who knows?

Lately the Malaysians, many of them devout and intelligent Muslims, have become increasingly incensed at the permission given by authorities to solicit the help of witchdoctors to find the plane. This culminated in a display of bomoh at the airport, which has resulted in what many Malaysians describe as a ridiculous exhibition that portrays them in a farcical light. Some Muslim imams want these witch doctors shut down for blasphemy, etc.

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In many ways the bomoh antics resemble the syncretic melding of Christianity with animist superstitions so often found in the Philippines. Many of the indigenous beliefs were adapted or grafted to the superficial symbols of the new religion, resulting in such things as the anting-anting amulets and the voodoo (kulam).  If the search for the aircraft mobilized future technologies it certainly mobilized those of the past.

Where MH370 has gone to is now as much of a mystery as ever. The sea is a big place and it holds many secrets.  But if the MH370 is out there, then maybe the Kiwi oil rig worker witnessed its last moments and has finally given searchers their lead. Alternatively there may be something in the acoustic records of the Navy, or perhaps some trace on an air defense radar that can give us a clue to the truth. It’s a better bet than bomoh.


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