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Since the 7 June publication of A Little Information is a Dangerous Thing, Duncan Steel, Jeff Wise, and Sid Bennett (also of the IG) have been kind enough to email their thoughts and corrections. I made a few changes to the blog and then stopped. Most visitors are going to read a blog entry once (if that). They aren’t going to go back and re-read ten pages to find edits. So let’s take Dangerous Thing as done (warts and all), and build a more nuanced understanding of what happened to MH370 through new contributions and further collective sweat.

Before I get us kick started below, I have one request. When you send an email to author@bradleywest.net, please let me know if I may copy the email (without your email address, of course, or even your name if you wish to remain anonymous) into the Comments section so that others may benefit from reading your exact words, too.

Thanks in advance.

Bradley West, Singapore 9, June 2015

Brighter lights in a dark room . . . 

What I’ve learned since Sunday makes the probability of pilot mass murder greater, but doesn’t convincingly prove the ‘lone wolf’ theory, either. For the moment, there’s ample room for conspiracies and heaps of space for additional facts to be usefully put to work. Where we now stand:

  • A pilot could definitely disable the ACARS and SATCOM from the cockpit, perhaps in more than one fashion. One anonymous contributor who came through Duncan Steel wrote that “. . . using the flight deck cursor . . . [deselect] SATCOM as an available datalink for ACARS Manager. Note VHF was already deselected, during pre-flight procedures, as evidenced in the ACARS Traffic Log. The datalink state ensures that no automatic ACARS messages were sent when the routing changed.”
Boeing 777 Continental Airlines Flight Training Manual
Source: p. 31 out of the B777 training manual Duncan Steel, email to author 8 June 2015.

It’s still controversial whether it’s possible to cut the power to the SDU/SATCOM from the cockpit, thereby affecting cabin lights, air conditioning, and the in-flight entertainment system. Most observers think that someone would need to get into the E/E bay below decks. Note by cutting power to the L MAIN Integrated Drive Generator and the L BACKUP Generator this then shuts off power to the LEFT MAIN BUS which in turn supplies the SDU and in-flight entertainment modules.

Boeing 777 Continental Airlines Flight Training Manual
Source: p. 15 out of the B777 training manual Duncan Steel, email to author 8 June 2015.

. . . but many objects remain in shadow

There’s still a lot that even the experts don’t agree on, including the following suppositions which were new to me:

  • If MH370 had been on autopilot and crashed when it ran out of fuel, previously published IG work showed that it would likely have hit the ocean close to its last powered position. (See The Last Fifteen Minutes of Flight of MH370 by Brian Anderson, 24 April 2015 on www.duncansteel.com ). New mathematical analysis published in April, 2015 by Texas A&M University at Qatar (and assisted by many other academics and government staff) concluded that the plane would have entered the water nearly vertically. The wings would have sheared off completely, and the fuselage would have sunk without much, if any, debris in evidence. (See press release, Texas A&M Qatar Mathematician Theorizes what happened to MH370, 7 June 2015, www.duncansteel.com.) So an out-of-fuel plane wouldn’t necessarily have left anything floating in the ocean. This means that we need to amend the Conjecture Filter described in Dangerous Thing (7 June), relaxing the condition that the plane was under pilot control when it hit the water. As of 9 June, I thought that was the new consensus and as such, uncontroversial. Not so fast! Victor Iannello on Twitter 10 June posted a short, direct refutation of the Texas A&M research. In short, Victor Iannello’s research concluded the skin of a B777 would have ruptured and the airframe would likely have buckled if the plane struck the ocean even in a near-vertical, high speed dive. The resulting impact would have resulted in surface debris. This debate isn’t settled: stay tuned
  • There’s a lot of thought being given to the question as to why the pilot—having disconnected the ACARS, powered down the electricity supply to the SATCOM (through a means as yet agreed, with or without an accomplice), depressurized the plane, and killed the passengers—decides to restore power as per the SDU re-logging on at 02:25. Sid Bennett emailed that he thought the reason for the re-powering was that this would allow the plane to repressurize and permit the pilot to fly without his oxygen mask. An anonymous IG contributor to Duncan Steel’s email mentions that crew outside the cockpit may have pulled the circuit breakers in the E/E bay to try to get the Flight Deck Door lock open. Possibly power was also cut to decommission one or more security cameras as well.
  • A recent paper posted on www.duncansteel.com (see MH370 section, scroll down to 28 May 2015, MH370 Flight Path Model version 13.5d, by Richard Godfrey) suggests that there still remains a 30km x 100km swath of ocean that’s barely seen a ship. That 3000km2 area is absurdly large (though it’s only 5% of the total search zone) in which to look for two broken off wings and a fuselage on the bottom.

We are getting closer, folks. From the number of hits on the website, it seems that there are plenty of knowledgeable people looking in. Let’s hear from you. This riddle isn’t going to solve itself: that’s for certain.