September 13, 2014
By: John E. Fiorentino
Before I begin the main text, I would just like to take this opportunity to thank the Independent Group (IG) for their prior efforts. Many, like the IG, myself and others have given of their time, without monetary reward to aid and assist the authorities and the families of the passengers and crew of MH370.
Almost immediately after the loss of Flight MH370 on March 8, 2014. I instituted an independent investigation of the tragedy. Since that time the data (such as it is) from Inmarsat has been analyzed and modeled. A preliminary review of the available audio recordings was undertaken with audio expert Steve Barber. Several leads were developed from the audio review which are still being investigated. And, we have researched and reported on the putative underwater acoustic “pings,” as well as communicating with various aviation experts and scientists. Findings in many cases have been reported to the media, investigative authorities and the general public. The investigation is ongoing.
In an effort to enhance brevity and readability, this article will attempt a point-by-point analysis of the Independent Group's (IG's) most recent update of 9/September/14. Those items to which we are neutral will read “As per the report.” More technical data/details will be kept to a minimum.
2 New Information and Developments
2.1 ATSB Report AE – 2014-054
As per the Report
2.2 Turn to the South, etc.
We essentially agree with the IG Report
2.3 7th Arc BFO Data Analysis
We have many reservations regarding the IG's conclusions including but not necessarily limited to the following:
If in fact the second engine reached fuel exhaustion approximately 3:40 minutes before the 00:19:29 logon it is true that the expected response of the auto-pilot would be to disengage. However, this in no way necessarily translates into the Boeing 777 going into a “spiral dive.” The Boeing 777 is a magnificent aircraft that is designed with a robust glide-path (Ex. Approx. 80-100 miles at normal speed from 35,000ft)
Based on the data we have researched (including multiple simulations) the most likely result of multiple engine failure would be a phugoid descent. This aerodynamic condition would last for many minutes more than speculated to by the IG in their scenario. The IG claim that the BFO values support the notion that the Boeing 777 was in a “spiral dive” at 00:19:29 is simply not supported by the evidence. Even if we allow the possibility that the BFO values show a substantial loss of altitude the IG must demonstrate that this indication is not caused by a phugoid descent phase.
The IG goes further out on a limb by declaring that MH370 “impacted the water within 1 NM of the 7th arc.” They further suggest that the width of the impact arc could be reduced from -20/+30 NM to plus or minus 10 NM. Again, the IG has moved beyond the available evidence, and shows very poor judgment in making this recommendation.
In my own recommendations sent to JACC and ATSB on Monday, June 9th, a week before the IG update of June 17, 2014, I indicated: I differ with ATSB in 2 regards, 1. I believe the plane may be farther South than indicated by ATSB and 2. I would extend the Eastward variable in regards to the 7th arc to 150kms rather than 55kms. (This is based on a projected 80-100mile glide path from 35,000ft.
I still maintain this position and believe the IG's most recent recommendation could prove disastrous if implemented by the search authorities. I see no justification for recommending a reduction in the width of the impact arc. If anything, prudence would dictate a widening of the arc, perhaps as I have suggested above.
Also, regarding the “7th ping arc.” Duncan Steel, an IG member, made numerous statements about this arc such as this from his blog on June 18, 2014:
“Thanks Bruce, but just to repeat to everyone (and sorry to shout): THERE IS NO SEVENTH PING ARC! There is a sixth ping arc (from the BTO value at near 00:11 UTC), but after the system reboot near 00:19 UTC the value given for the BTO is not valid because the system had not yet ‘settled down’. The purported seventh ping arc is a line drawn a certain distance from the sixth ping arc, based on an assumption that the aircraft continued in the same direction and at the same speed as it had prior to 00:11 UTC. That is a dubious assumption, because it appears possible or even likely that the 00:11 UTC ping was instigated by fuel exhaustion in one engine.”
Perhaps Dr. Steel has indeed changed his mind, being swayed by the new evidence found in the most recent ATSB report? However, he has made no direct statement to that effect that I' have seen.
The IG also makes the assumption that all on board were incapacitated at the time of the purported engine flameouts.. In fact, even the idea that the plane was on autopilot is an assumption.
2.4 Aircraft Performance Limitation
We request ATSB release the pertinent details re: the ACARS message of 17:07.
2.5 Refined BFO Model
As per the Report
2.6 NOAA Wind and Temperature Fields
As per the Report
2.7 B777 Pilot Interviews
As per the report
3 Applying Human Factors to the Analysis
While I agree with the premise as advanced in the report. I find that its application by the IG is seriously flawed. While the ATSB has apparently relied on statistical methods to arrive at their conclusions, the IG in an effort to apply human factors have unfortunately force fed some errant logic.
The IG maintains that the ATSB approach utilizing airspeed 400kts is “not consistent with standard operating procedure (typically 35,000 feet and 470-489 kts), nor is it consistent with the likely speed a pilot would choose in a decompression scenario (10.000 feet and 250-300 kts).”
While “standard operating procedure” may have in fact been utilized, several things are readily apparent. The disappearance of MH370 is far removed from anything we've witnessed in modern aviation history. The application of normal protocols to an event which is rife with inconsistencies and nonstandard actions may prove to be an unfounded assumption.
As to the IG's “decompression scenario” it is unclear whether they are suggesting this perhaps occurred or simply proffering this idea as another possibility among several others. It is interesting to note that the IG (apparently) finds no definitive support for either scenario in the interpretation of the BFO values which they have so strongly stated in one instance shows MH370 was in a “spiral dive” at 00:19:29.
3.1 Normal Cruise Scenario
Though my own modeling utilized this approach, it is glaringly apparent at this point in time there are many possible scenarios upon which one may place varying degrees of likelihood. Arguments could be made for several as being “the most likely.”
3.2 Decompression Scenario
Because I have not fully modeled this scenario, I will defer on this issue.
3.3 ATSB 400 kts Scenario
Here, it seems the IG goes far afield in their logical deductions. They state that ATSB provides “no rationale” for a pilot to have made a deliberate selection of this speed. The IG goes on to state they “doubt” the pilot would select 400 kts and a lower altitude to match, regardless of the motivation. They then assert that 400kts is not the most likely speed a “human” would choose.
First, we must note the difference between what a “human” might do and what a “pilot” might do. Here, however, the IG seems to infer that the two are somehow one and the same.
It is the IG in this case which has provided no rationale for their ideas. We do not and cannot know what motivations were guiding the hands that set the aircraft controls. We do not know if in fact, a “pilot” – any pilot – set the controls. We do not know it wasn't a passenger or someone else on board.
Based on the weight of the evidence, I concur with ATSB's use of their statistical approach.
4 IG Analysis
As per the Report
My recommendations remain essentially the same as stated in my communication to ATSB of June 9, 2014. I am opposed to any reduction in the width of the Priority Search Area as proposed by the IG.
Copyright 2014 – J.E. Fiorentino – All Rights Reserved
A PDF Copy of this paper may be obtained by sending your request by e-mail to the address below
For further information contact:
John E. Fiorentino
PO Box 324
Oakhurst, NJ 07755 USA