By: John E. Fiorentino
The Independent Group or (IG) for short, of which Brian Anderson is a member seems intent, even at this late date to make a statement designed as they put it to: "... assist the official search teams in their identification of where to concentrate their efforts to achieve the highest likelihood of timely success."
We will ignore for the moment that the (IG) has indeed already had it's chance to achieve this worthy goal by placing various "endpoints" in its reports of where it believes MH370 is most likely to rest. So far, no success has been achieved in locating the remains of MH370 even though the vicinity of the endpoints already suggested has been searched.
With all of that in mind, one wonders about the timeliness of this latest report by the IG. Most of the latest entry is merely a regurgitation of past statements of positions that have already been examined and critiqued. Perhaps the IG simply wishes to "keep its hand in the game" or maybe they are simply holding a ticket on a train that has already left the station.
In any event, we will attempt to analyze the IG's latest report drawing in many instances on our own already published critiques of previous IG reports and commenting on newer developments.
Borrowing from the IG's report we find that Mr. Anderson has made the following assumptions in his analysis:
There was no manual intervention to control the aircraft during the last 15 minutes of flight; The aircraft was flying on autopilot during its passage south over the Indian Ocean until the second engine failure; The flight path is similar to the path discussed in the IG statement dated September 26 (and also a number of other independently-derived flight paths ending at similar latitudes, so that the precise flight path taken over the Indian Ocean is not significant here); The B777 level flight simulator runs previously studied by the IG (per Mike Exner) deliver a valid representation of how MH370 would be expected to have behaved near the end of its flight.
The first three assumptions made by Mr. Anderson offer an adequate description of the guidelines used. It is the fourth assumption that sounds the death knell to the entire endeavor. Since this assumption is essentially the sine qua non of the report it must be accurate and have the ability to fend off criticisms. Unfortunately, this assumption doesn't cut the mustard.
While I could simply deal with the fourth assumption relating to the purported Exner simulator runs, there are a few questions and statements which offer the opportunity to educate those amenable. Unfortunately, I would assume that won't include Exner or the IG who up to this point have simply dealt with these issues by ignoring them.
A few Observations
From the IG report:
Turning back to what we know about the actual flight, the BFO at 00:11 suggests that at that instant the aircraft was descending at about 250 feet per minute. Together then, the BFO descent rate, the estimated time of the Right engine failure, and the simulator trials, may all be reconciled if the altitude was greater than FL350, in which case it is possible that a shallow descent commenced just prior to 00:11.
Quite frankly, I have serious issues with that entire statement, but certainly with the significance of the BFO at 00:11. Rather than what is suggested here, the fact is the BFO values were moving in a rather linear fashion from 18:39:58 up and through 00:11 consistent with horizontal flight as shown here:
18:39:58 0×60 - Telephony Acknowledge IOR-373E-21000 BFO – 88 19:41:03 0×15 - Log-on/Log-off Acknowledge IOR-R1200-0-36ED BFO - 111 20:41:05 0×15 - Log-on/Log-off Acknowledge IOR-R1200-0-36ED BFO - 141 21:41:27 0×15 - Log-on/Log-off Acknowledge IOR-R1200-0-36ED BFO - 168 22:41:22 0×15 - Log-on/Log-off Acknowledge IOR-R1200-0-36ED BFO - 204 23:14:03 0×60 - Telephony Acknowledge IOR-3737-21000 BFO - 217 00:11:00 0×15 - Log-on/Log-off Acknowledge IOR-R1200-0-36ED BFO – 252 (ii)
The basis for the balance of the statement has somehow escaped me.
Mr. Anderson makes some other interesting statements. He says for instance that: "...the ensuing part of the simulator trial was perforce cut short by the failure of the second engine. The speed (and time) at which MH370 would have begun to descend is therefore unknown from the simulator trial."
And yet indicates: "The time required for the entire process, from loss of the second engine until the log-on, is 3m40s. This time was confirmed during the B777 flight simulator trials mentioned previously."
Just how the log-on time would be confirmed in a simulator trial, while "The speed (and time) at which MH370 would have begun to descend..." was undetermined, is a bit mind-boggling to me. I have personally never seen any confirmation of the log-on time from any sim trials (doesn't mean it hasn't been done) and the speed and time of descent should have been readily discernible to any attentive participants. Even without an active APU, the Ram Air Turbine (RAT) (which I haven't even seen mentioned in the IG report) provides power for instrumentation and even limited hydraulics. (The RAT however, does not provide power for the SDU which is not considered an essential system)
Mr. Anderson further asserts, (or more accurately repeats what is indeed a factoid) that: "The appendices in the ATSB report  provide an indication of possible vertical descent rates resulting from loss-of-control events at high altitude. Descent rates of greater than 20,000 feet/min have been observed."
While the ATSB appendices do indeed provide examples of vertical descent rates in selected aviation disasters, a thorough reading of the examples provided fails to show anything which closely resembles the circumstances surrounding the MH370 incident. Many of the listings are for smaller aircraft like Lear Jets under extreme circumstances. An in flight break-up is also provided as an example. However, not a single B777 is listed. (iii)
One certainly must question the premise that a B777 – having flown (apparently) without aerodynamic incident for over seven hours – would suddenly and precipitously plunge to earth after a dual engine flameout without other serious exacerbating factors.
Aircraft can either have inherent aerodynamic stability (the typical case), or de-facto stability, in which stability requirements are met with the aid of a control system augmented with sensors and feedback. For example, in order to achieve maximum maneuverability, the F-18 lacks inherent stability, and can't be flown without some operational brainpower on board in addition to the pilot. The Boeing 777 has relaxed inherent longitudinal static stability, which produces efficiencies in cruise from a more rearward c.g. and a physically lighter tail structure than otherwise possible. (iv)
So, the Boeing 777 has "inherent aerodynamic stability." It is extremely unlikely then that the 9M-MRO aircraft would behave like a fighter jet, or drop like a rock under normal conditions even after a dual engine flameout.
Poor Logic and Farfetched Ideas Continue
As it becomes apparent that the 9M-MRO aircraft is not where the IG postulated it is, some have taken to devising more and more speculative scenarios. For instance, the IG's Victor Iannello's latest entry is Northern Routes for MH370 Ending at Airports. Former IG member Jeff Wise entered early with his Russian Sci-Fi adventure and continues to spout the IG's baseless ramblings. Wise, in his latest blog entry has declared that , "it would be virtually impossible for the plane to have traveled very far from the 7th ping arc." Indeed!
Wise, to his credit does admit that this "hypothesis" would be falsified if the plane isn't found during the current search.
So, some from the same group who told us all where MH370 was, but we now know it isn't, wants us to look for the aircraft to the north. No suggestion is made for any other search approach along the remaining southern portion of the 7th arc. In another leap of logic we are guided to the north, preferably near airports.
For my part, I have been in recent communication with the ATSB and hope to be able to submit recommendations on a revised search methodology on or along the remaining southern portion of the 7th arc.
The sine qua non
In Anderson's fourth assumption, the phrase (per Mike Exner) conspicuously appears. This indicates (apparently) then that no other members of the IG participated in the purported sim runs.
The notion of a near vertical descent or dive bomber end to the flightpath of MH370 has been dealt with before. Mike Exner has so stated and I have rebutted the notion. With this newest report by Brian Anderson, it appears we will have to deal with it again.
With this newest report, the IG hasn't swayed from its previous pronouncements:
"….the BFO values at 00:19:29 and 00:19:37 indicate that the aircraft was already in a spiral dive at 00:19:29. We estimate the Rate of Climb (ROC) was approximately -15,000 ft/min at 00:19:37 and accelerating at approximately 22 ft/sec2. Thus, we believe MH370 impacted the water within seconds after the last signaling unit log record, and within 1 NM of the 7th arc."
MH370 Search Area Recommendation The Independent Group September 9, 2014
The question should be asked here: "Is there any support (other than Exner's purported sim runs) for the notion that MH370 made a near vertical descent after the loss of both of its engines?
The answer, in a word is "no." Neither myself, Boeing, or the ATSB has witnessed anything like Exner's description of his sim runs. My prior response to Exner's contentions are included in my article, "ATSB Rebuffs IG Recommendation as Official MH370 Search Area Widens" which includes actual e-mail correspondence between the ATSB and myself.
And what did the ATSB say about the IG's end of flight dive bomber scenario? Well, I asked them and reproduced below are excerpts from their e-mail response to my inquiry: "I've consulted with my colleagues in the MH370 Working Group, and have addressed your queries below. 1. Did ATSB observe anything that could be described as a "near vertical descent" during it's sim(s)? No. In each simulation, the aircraft began a descending spiralling turn. The turn was generally a low bank angle that took up to 12 minutes to descend close to the water from various altitudes."
The weight of the available evidence indicates that a near vertical descent by MH370 as alluded to by the IG's Mike Exner (while not impossible) is the least likely scenario, not the most likely description of events after the aircraft suffered a dual engine flameout on 8 March 2014. Thus the report by the IG's Brian Anderson – which draws heavily on Exner's claims - relating to the last 15 minutes of MH370's flight is not a reliable indicator of events which may have transpired in that time frame and should not be used by the official search teams when making decisions regarding the search area going forward.
Notes and References
(i) http://www.duncansteel.com/archives/1461 (ii) Chris Ashton, Alan Shuster Bruce, Gary Colledge and Mark Dickinson (2015). The Search for MH370. Journal of Navigation, 68, pp 1-22. doi:10.1017/S037346331400068X. (iii) ATSB Report – Definition of Underwater Search Areas - 26 June 2014 (iv) Flightlab Ground School 7. Longitudinal Dynamic Stability Copyright Flight Emergency & Advanced Maneuvers Training, Inc. dba Flightlab, 2009. All rights reserved. (Used under "Fair Use" for Non-profit, educational or news reporting purposes)
Copyright 2015 – J. E. Fiorentino – All Rights Reserved
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John E. Fiorentino Fiorentino Research P.O. Box 324 Oakhurst, NJ 07755 USA Twitter: @jefiorentino E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: 732-361-8599