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MH370: Analysis Of ‘Secret’ Satellite Data Debunks Soft Ditch Landing Theories

'An increasingly steep descent.'

06/07/2017 15:30 BST | Updated 06/07/2017 15:59 BST

A team of experts say they have analysed previously unseen communications data from Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 which they claim illustrates the “steep” descent of the plane into the Indian Ocean.

The Beijing-Bound Boeing 777 disappeared from radar with all 239 souls on board on 8 March 2014, an hour into its departure from Kuala Lumpur.

More than 20 items of debris suspected or confirmed to be from the plane have washed ashore on coastlines throughout the Indian Ocean since then, though the body of the plane has never been found despite international efforts costing £90m.  

Inmarsat
Global coverage of Inmarsat's I3 network, showing the overlap region of the IOR and POR satellites

Last month a team of engineers and technical consultants calling themselves the Independent Group (IG) obtained what is understood to be the complete record of the communications data between the doomed airliner and Inmarsat’s satellite network. It also received the data for the previous flight MH371, from Beijing to Kuala Lumpur. [In 2014 Malaysia released incomplete satellite data logs.]

Engineer Victor Iannello, who is a contributor to IG, says the data was shared with him by a relative of a Chinese passenger on MH370 who says he received it from Malaysia Airlines.

On Tuesday, Iannello shared IG’s insights into the un-redacted satellite logs using data from MH371 as a comparison. His analysis can be read here.

He wrote: “In summary, the previous flight MH371 seems to have been normal in all respects. Using the satellite data from MH371, we have a higher level of confidence that for MH370, power was interrupted to the SATCOM prior to the log-ons at 18.25 and 00:19, and also higher level of confidence that the aircraft was in an increasingly steep descent at 00:19.”

Handout via Getty Images
This satellite image by the AMSA (Australian Maritime Safety Authority) shows a map of the search area for missing Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 on March 28, 2014

Inmarsat satellites periodically sent out a “log-on” request known in aviation as a “handshake”.

If the plane was in a steep descent towards the ocean, it follows that it is unlikely anyone was in control. This debunks myriad theories which suggest Captain Zaharie Shah, his co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid or a hijacker guided the aircraft to “soft land” on the ocean.  

Iannello adds: “Considering that the newly available data generally supports the conclusions of the official investigators, it remains a mystery as to why Malaysia withheld the data for so long, and why it chose to release the data at this time.”

In November a technical report released by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau appeared to support the theory the plane was out of control when it ran out of fuel, with analysis of available satellite data consistent with the plane being in a “high and increasing rate of descent” before crashing.

It also said an analysis of a wing flap or flaperon washed ashore in Tanzania indicated it was likely not deployed when it broke off the plane. A pilot would typically extend the flaps during a controlled landing.

Reuters
French gendarmes and police inspecting a large piece of plane debris which was found on the beach on the French Indian Ocean island of La Reunion in 2015

The three-year underwater search spanning 46,000 square miles in the southern Indian Ocean for the missing aircraft ended in January, with families expressing dismay, amid rumours the operation had not focused on the correct place. Many believe the area marked out as where the plane made impact with the ocean could be different depending on if it glided, thus travelling further than it would had it nosedived.

It comes as Oceanographers at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) claimed they have discovered “precisely” where the lost airliner rests, thanks to hi-tech ocean current modelling.

“We think we know quite precisely where the plane is,” Dr David Griffin told a conference in Darwin, in comments reported by ABC News.

Dr Griffin and his team of scientists believe the plane is in a small pocket of Indian Ocean seabed, having crashed on, or very near, latitude 35 degrees south, with currents carrying floating debris to the coastlines of the Indian Ocean islands and Africa and not towards Australia.

This would put the body of the aircraft in a spot well north of the area searched by Malaysian, Australian and Chinese teams.

CSIRO says the findings have been handed to the Australian government.