S. Martin Shelton

Retired U.S.Navy Captain, Novelist

Malaysia Flight 370: Have they found it?

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US Navy Captain (ret), S. Martin Shelton shares facts and thoughts on Malaysian Flight 370’s disappearance.

Review:  Malaysian Flight 370 departed Kala Lumpur at 41 minutes after midnight on 8 March 2014 bound for Beijing.  The aircraft was a Boeing model 777-200 ER (Extended Range).  Approximately 60 minutes later, electronic transmission from Flight 370 ceased.  Several hours later Malaysian Airlines declared Flight 370 missing.

Over this past month, aircraft and ships from thirteen countries searched the South China Sea, Gulf of Thailand and the southern Indian Ocean—acting on false clues and erroneous information.  All search efforts were to no avail.  It’s been a circus for a host of reasons. Malaysia does not have the technical capability to resolve this issue, and they was embarrassed to ask for help—causing serious delays in getting an organized search underway.

Now the Australians are coordinating the search venture under the management of Air Chief Marshall Angus Houston.

Friday, 4 April, the Chinese Xinhua News Agency reported that the sailors on the Chinese patrol ship Haixum 01 heard electronic pings at 3.5 Kilohertz and at one-second intervals—the frequency that the Flight Data Recorded (“black box”) would transmit and the correct interval.  Such electronic signals are similar to those of the black box transmissions but were not confirmed as such.   Please note that it was the official new agency of the People’s Republic of China that made the announcement—not the ship on station.  Nevertheless, the ships location in the south Indian Ocean was reported as:

  • 25 degrees South Latitude
  • 101degrees  Longitude.
  • That spot in the Indian Ocean is about 950 miles west of Perth, Down Under.

That’s wonderful!  China, can you spare that much information? Does it hurt that bad to tell more?  What’s missing are the minutes and seconds of each of the coordinates of this one spot in the southern Indian Ocean.  This announcement is so lacking in detailed information that it’s only minimal useful.   Assuming that these two coordinates are accurate, China has narrowed the search area to about 1,000 square miles.  “Thanks.”

Caution:  The pings, reportedly heard by the Chinese, are not confirmed as emitted from the “black box.”  Could be something else?

Sailors onboard the Haixum 01, it had been first reported (passive voice on purpose) heard the one-second interval pings for ten minutes.  Later that number was revised to ninety-seconds.  For unexplained reasons, the Chinese did not record these signals!

Question:  If the Chinese heard ping-type signals, why did the ship not circle the area and keep listening to pinpoint the location down to the nearest mile.  Answer: I reckon that the Chinese failed technically and are too embarrassed to admit it, or else they are “fudging.”  (You may fill a more appropriate word.)

Several factors are involved: 152 passengers on Flight 370 were Chinese citizens—close to seventy-percent.  Accordingly, it’s to China’s favor to find the missing aircraft to “save face.”    However, the Chinese government is not known for cooperation in this type of international endeavor, or to have much technical “know how.”  For example, earlier in this drama the Chinese Xinhua News Agency reported that a Chinese satellite had photographed a wide area of debris in the water, (Resolution of the released photographs of this debris obviously had been distorted to disguise the satellite’s actual photographic resolution.)  On fiscal inspection of this debris field, the stuff in the water was junk.  Accordingly, we must be cautious about Chinese new releases.  Can we trust them?

Here’s one educated guess I make: if Flight 370 is at the bottom of the Indian Ocean, an American attack submarine with its advanced sensors will find this aircraft.

Apparently, the FBI has completed their investigation of the plane captain’s hard drive from his computer simulator.  They did not find a “smoking gun.”   However, they did find that the captain practiced emergency landing-procedure on various airstrips.  This training probably is of no conspiratorial significance.  On the other hand, my interest is piqued as such information suggests another direction of inquiry, as it were.

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