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This installment is a month behind the times as there is enough information on hand to post an MH370 update. This entry is behind schedule and lacks a lot of figures because it’s prime fishing season in the North Woods, so everything is in short supply (even words).


The Insider’s Guide to Sea of Lies extracts reproduced below focus on aviation and MH370 topics, too. I progressed Pack of Lies not at all with house guests, airport shuttles, fishing and the odd dinner with friends taking precedence over literary undertakings. That’s likely to be the drill through end October.


Mick an’ Keef (plus a German geezer named Goethe) provide the inspirational quotations, and fellow novelist and blogger C. C. Yager’s comment on her fictional characters being unique, so much so that she can’t imagine anyone in Hollywood playing them, serves as the inspiration for Hue and Cry.


The last month has been a Goldilocks story book in terms of weather: first too little rain, then too much, and for the last few days the weather’s been perfect, the rivers are in shape and the fishing is on the upswing.


Brad West

Skeena Valley, BC


 “Ready, Fire, Aim!”


A Poor Showing


Australia’s media produced a pair of inferior pieces of journalism in August. First, 60 Minutes aired a two-part current affairs piece that MH370 expert Duncan Steel labeled “utter buffoonery” (see Duncan Steel on MH370 page 2). Then The Australian newspaper weighed in the same day with a re-hash of two-year old theories and misinformation.


To add to the muddle, for several weeks international news outlets ran with the story that Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah’s erased home flight simulator showed a flight path very similar to that actually flown by MH370. Jeff Wise ( was initially taken in (as was I) by data points that showed the infamous track to the east and northeast towards Vietnam, a reversal west across peninsular Malaysia, a flyby of Captain Shah’s home island of Penang and then south past the western tip of Sumatra and out into the Southern Indian Ocean and infinity. On closer examination, those data points came from three or four separate simulated flights and not a single practice run. So the home simulator’s deleted hard drive doesn’t prove to be a smoking gun after all. (See Flight Simulator Claim Unravels 2016 Aug 31).


As always, even the real students of MH370 can’t agree on everything


I read the last few months’ of archived MH370 articles. As usual, the two best sites are (especially for the scientists among us) and (for the conspirators within). Richard Godfrey, a founder member of the serious MH370 Independent Group that publishes through Steel’s website, authored the single best article I’ve read of late, “Where is MH370 and how will it be found? (see Duncan Steel on MH370 page 2). Godfrey’s conclusion is that the search team spent US$180 million and two years looking too far south in the range of latitudes from 35.5°S to 39.5°S along the so-called 7th arc (a path identified by Inmarsat ping data). Godfrey’s (and others’ in the Independent Group) believe that the plane ran out of fuel and crashed farther north in the 31.5°S to 34.5°S range. Godfrey followed up with another article that this time used the sounds captured by Australia’s underwater listening devices [see Hydrophone Data and MH370 (July 28th, updated August 7th), also at the same Duncan Steel website] that posits a crash site even farther north around 30.0°S to 33.6°S. Irrespective of the core cause, the outcome seems the same: the Australian Transport Safety Bureau searched in vain 92% (as of late August) of the 120,000 square kilometers of ocean floor looking for wreckage. Also as of August, the three lead countries—Malaysia, China and Australia—announced that once the current search grid concluded, then there wouldn’t be any further looking. There’s simply no more money.



Source: Duncan Steel’s MH370 website, Duncan Steel on MH370 page 2


Not so fast: maybe they were searching the right spot after all, but the odds just didn’t pan out


Jeff Wise posted (Neil Gordon MH370 stats interview) the transcript of his interview with Neil Gordon, the top mathematician on Australia’s investigative committee under the ATSB:


At the end of the day, it’s a prioritization exercise, it’s not an exhaustive enumeration of all the possible ways you can do this, because, you know, I can draw trajectories that perfectly match the metadata measurements that fill a humungously large segment of the seventh arc. You can draw an enormous area that you’ve got to look. But the reality is, there’s a finite set of money that’s available, a finite amount of time. You’ve got to prioritize.” Gordon is philosophical about the possibility that the area chosen isn’t actually where the plane crashed. He notes that, “. . . the 120,000 square kilometers that’s currently funded for searching, encompasses approximately 72-ish, 75-ish percent of the probability.” Once again, there just wasn’t enough money (or specialized search equipment and expertise) to do more.


So for different reasons, Messrs. Godfrey and Gordon conclude the same thing, namely that MH370 is unlikely to be found unless the search area expands to the north, and that isn’t going to happen.


The plane crashed without a pilot at the controls

As a side note, there’s also increasing evidence that the plane crashed uncontrolled and disintegrated rather than gliding down or otherwise ditching on a controlled basis that kept the fuselage intact. One of the canards in the 60 Minutes TV broadcast was the statement that nothing from inside the passenger cabin had been recovered. This was the principal evidence cited in support of the controlled ditch (“Miracle on the Hudson”, Part II, sort of) hypothesis. It turns out that there are at least three parts have been conclusively identified as coming from inside the plane, with many more possibilities, including passengers’ personal effects that have yet to be identified for certain.


Mathematician Gordon also weighed in with his expert opinion that, based on satellite and radar information, he is convinced that the plane was not under pilot control when it crashed. “So if you strongly believe that there was no changes (sic) to the autopilot in the last five hours, the final communications messages are pointing to a very rapid descent rate, then clearly that’s going to prefer uncontrolled descent over controlled.”







Other than fiction writers and people who wear tinfoil hats, there are few people left who doubt that MH370 crashed in the Southern Indian Ocean. Unfortunately, that’s about all that everyone who follows this case agrees on. If I paid taxes in Australia, China or Malaysia, I’d be livid at how the search was conducted and information not communicated on a timely basis.


Insider’s Guide to Sea of Lies extracts 

The Insider’s Guide features we’re looking at this week all deal with MH370 or airline catastrophes in general. (For newcomers to the newsletter, there are six prior True Lies blog entries on MH370 to peruse as well on


Surely you’re not serious? Could MH370 have been hijacked as described in Sea of Lies. Probably not, but possibly so. The flaws with the MH370 hijack theories fall into one of two camps. For MH370 to have landed undetected in the Irrawaddy Delta or any other place on land with the possible exception of Banda Aceh at the northwestern tip of Sumatra, the Inmarsat ping data would have to be erroneous (or fabricated). See Victor Iannello’s piece on Jeff Wise’s website MH370 possible landing at Banda Aceh Victor Iannello Aug 2014 .


In the specific case of the Irrawaddy Delta being the destination, Burma’s civilian and military radars had to have been turned off as well. The satellite ping data are unlikely to have been wholly falsified . . . unless there actually was a massive US- or China-led conspiracy to hijack the plane. Or the ping data could have been fundamentally (and persistently) misinterpreted . . . again, a longshot.


Source: Victor Iannello (as per above)

What continues to flummox me is the absence of US satellite and reconnaissance craft data tracking the flight. Surely the US military knows where all large planes are at any one time once they get within, what, a thousand kilometers (miles?) of a capital ship such as an aircraft carrier, These vessels are frequently at port in Singapore’s Changi Naval Base in eastern Singapore. See ‘True Lies’ blog MH370 One Conspiracy to Rule them All  for my overview of the most plausible conspiracy theories, plus a new one that fingers China.

Show-and-tell time: One of the more astounding facts about the real-life investigation of MH370’s disappearance is that even in 2016 there’s still never been a full description of the cargo in the plane’s hold. Four aluminum containers (“ULDs”) contained mangosteens (4570kg). For some reason the Malaysia investigators deem these fruits to be of interest, perhaps because of what could be hidden underneath thousands of pounds of fruit. Next up are “radio accessories and chargers” (2230kg), later described as walkie-talkie accessories and chargers. Motorola, Penang (Malaysia) was shipping “lithium batteries” (220kg) to Tianjin, China. That’s more information than what was available when I wrote Sea of Lies, but it’s still inexcusably thin and only feeds the conspiracy rumor mill.


Source: Wikipedia

Even a genius misremembers: In Sea of Lies, Bob Nolan incorrectly alluded to ValuJet [flight 592] as the commercial plane that crashed in 1996 when the lithium batteries on board started a fire. Illegally carried (and expired) chemical oxygen generators ignited in the hold beneath the passenger compartment. The resulting fire shorted out the electrical systems and burned through the pilots’ controls. One hundred ten people died in the flight, the deadliest in Florida aviation history.

A fire from lithium-ion batteries is what caused the crash of UPS Airlines Flight 6 in 2010 from Dubai to Cologne. In addition, lithium-ion batteries are the suspected culprit in the crash of Asian Airlines flight 991 in 2011 between Incheon, Korea and Shanghai.


Source: discussion forum, Why doesn’t Flight 592 crash site show more?

The Other Side


Pack of Lies went sideways the last two weeks.



Locker Room Motivation

The water was low . . . way too low. So I kept wishing for rain. Then the rains came. And then it rained some more . . . putting the river up three feet in a few days. Instead of bad fishing, we had no fishing. And then the rain stopped and the water fell. And fell some more: two feet in two days . . . . And then there was fishing but no fish. And then the fish came upstream and all was good (unless you’re an author with a blog to write and a novel on simmer).



“Be careful what you wish for

Mick Jagger/ Keith Richards

You Can’t Always Get What You Want, 1969

You can’t always get what you want/ But if you try sometimes, you just might find/ You just might find/ You get what you need”



Hue and Cry


Author, Goodreads friend, and blogger C. C. Yager commented on Dissecting Bob Nolan:


Very surprised that you actually have given thought to actors for your characters, whether they inspired them or would be appropriate to play them. My characters are so much their own people I’d be hard pressed to think of anyone to play them. I don’t anticipate a movie of Perceval’s Secret any time soon anyway, so it won’t be an issue! LOL.


I replied that the characters in Sea of Lies were influenced more by real people than made-up players, and as such it was easy to imagine someone in Hollywood portraying one person versus another. I also alluded to the experiences of Elmore Leonard, William Faulkner and many other authors who went to Los Angeles to write scripts for stage and screen, and ended up disillusioned rather than as celebrities. Their advice was always the same: don’t do it if you need to maintain artistic control. No one is bigger than the banality of major motion picture studios. Authors packing their bags for the desert, traffic jams and smog should just focus on making money and ignore the rest. To do otherwise would guarantee deep unhappiness.


I have two additional thoughts on fictional characters. Irish humorist Flann O’Brien wrote several comic novels, with At Swim Two Birds his masterpiece. In this book-within-a-book, O’Brien’s narrator asks why authors everywhere don’t draw from a common pool of characters. Why re-invent Prince Hamlet when Shakespeare did such a grand job the first time around? Every reader can name thirty fictional protagonists and list five character traits for each. In Sea of Lies, I described South and Southeast Asia DEA head man Sam Hecker as looking like Tom Cruise’s angry older brother. (OK, Tom Cruise is a real person, but you get my drift since he plays the same person in every movie.) Author-son Max West cites George Orwell and heaps scorn on this sort of thing. Add in copyright issues, and I guess authors are stuck with having to invent and describe our own dramatis personae.


My second observation is that sometimes the personality of the actor portraying a character influences the author’s future writings. The best example I know of is Alec Guinness’s George Smiley in the 1980 BBC TV mini-series of John LeCarré’s Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. LeCarré was so taken with Guinness-as-Smiley that he altered how Smiley acted in his future novels such as Smiley’s People.


Game of Thrones fans know that George Martin’s next novel is going to incorporate the personality quirks of that long-running HBO hit series’ leading actors. Peter Dinklage, Emilia Clarke, Kit Harington, et. al. are in Martin’s head at least as much as the audience’s. So it’s a give-and-take between active authors and actors. I only hope to get the chance one day to discuss on a sound stage Frank Coulter’s Lizard Cage utterances with a Dustin Hoffman or Robert Duvall.


While I wait for the phone to ring from Southern California, at least I can look forward to seeing Sea of Lies in print in 2017 in Bulgarian. That’s according to a deal I’ve just struck. Stephen King, move over! (Ho, ho, ho.)


Signing off until month end.