MH370 search off Australia: exercise caution; images could be “sea junk”

The search for Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 has shifted to about 1,500 miles west of Australia following the discovery of something in the waters there by satellite images.

One of the objects is about 80 feet long. As with the images released by China of objects in the Gulf of Thailand of roughly the same size, the idea that something 80 feet long seems to us to be too heavy to float. Except in this case, we think if could be possible. Here’s why.

In the Gulf of Thailand, this would have been with an hour or so after take off–a plane still laden with fuel. In Australia, the plane would have been at the point of having used up all its fuel. Therefore, we think it possible a wing separated from the airplane upon impact with the water might remain afloat.

See this video of the impact of the Ethiopian Boeing 767. This was in shallow water, but there is a split second midway through the video where it appears one wing is floating on the water (this is different from the image at the end, where it seems a wing is resting on the bottom).


Having said all that, we urge caution in leaping to conclusions that whatever the Australian images saw, this area of the ocean is, by news accounts, replete with “sea junk.”

18 Comments on “MH370 search off Australia: exercise caution; images could be “sea junk”

  1. There was a simple theory going around that there was a fire on board and this cut off communications and killed the crew and pax. This is what the BBC said:

    Only it very likely didn’t happen that way – as considerable information that was already in the public realm contradicts the story. By Tuesday evening, writers and commentators were picking Goodfellow’s post apart.

    “Goodfellow’s account is emotionally compelling, and it is based on some of the most important facts that have been established so far,” writes Jeff Wise in Slate. “And it is simple – to a fault.”

    “While it’s true that MH370 did turn toward Langkawi and wound up overflying it, whoever was at the controls continued to manoeuvre after that point as well, turning sharply right at VAMPI waypoint, then left again at GIVAL,” he says. “Such vigorous navigating would have been impossible for unconscious men.”


    Goodfellow’s theory fails further when one remembers the electronic ping detected by the Inmarsat satellite at 8:11 on the morning of March 8. According to analysis provided by the Malaysian and United States governments, the pings narrowed the location of MH370 at that moment to one of two arcs, one in Central Asia and the other in the southern Indian Ocean. As MH370 flew from its original course toward Langkawi, it was headed toward neither. Without human intervention – which would go against Goodfellow’s theory – it simply could not have reached the position we know it attained at 8:11 a.m.

    There still should have been a distress call, Greg Feith, a former National Transportation Safety Board crash investigator, told NBC News.

    “Typically, with an electrical fire, you’ll have smoke before you have fire,” he said. “You can do some troubleshooting. And if the systems are still up and running, you can get off a mayday call” and pilots can put on an oxygen mask, Feith said.

    Nine hours after its first article on the subject Business Insider ran a follow-up, with reaction from pilots.

    Michael G Fortune, a retired pilot who flew 777-200ERs like the Malaysia plane, said it was unlikely the crew would have shut off the transponders to deal with the fire.

    “The checklist I utilized for smoke and fumes in the B-777-200ER does not specifically address the transponder being turned off,” he said.

    Another 777 pilot told the website that putting on oxygen masks would have been the first priority for the crew, preventing them from being incapacitated.

    As long as there is no definitive word about the fate of MH370, theories – from respected experts and amateurs relying on a hunch and a little help from Google Earth – will continue to bounce around the internet.

    Some will catch on and go viral, until they are debunked or overtaken by new facts.

    • I think Jeff Wise with slate is weded to the North Arch and its intact so what he says is questionaable at best.

      I also think the Brit Pilot was very emotional. Keep in mind that pilots by enlarge are not any more capable than anyone else (or as bad as anyone else as we have seen). His stuff was pure emotional baggage and contrived to fit the facts.

  2. Well, it could turn out to be a wayward freight container, but we won’t know until they find it and touch it.

  3. This is the third trip down this same street 3 times now:

    1. The Chinese claim of debris in the Gulf of Thailand
    2. Pictures of a MH jet just under the surface of the water in the Malacca Straits
    3. Pictures of debris SW of Perth that even the Aussies are not fully confident of what the debris is.

    I might add this ‘new debris find’ is some 4300 nm from the last known radar position over the Malacca Strait. This is well beyond the fuel range that SHOULD have been aboard.

    Assuming this debris has drifted 300 nm from a crash or ditching location, it would take almost 9 hours to fly the 4000 nm distance (at 450 KTAS). BTW, the flying time from T/O to get to that location, using the route flown (and great circle from last radar position), the total flying time would be about 11 hours.

    I had asked last week what the fuel load was and nobody seems to have an answer. Why is MH quite about the fuel on board?

  4. Why can’t MH or the Malaysians get any story straight? I think they are inherently congenital liars as well as could not tell a fact from fiction (fantasy more like it I guess) if it was run through their left eye.

    Scott: You suggested that the Malaysian and Thais have an exercise in incompetence, I contend they are right in the midst of it. Call it Liar Flag.

    I whole heartedly agree on the hold on any enthusiasm on this or any other sighting until picked up by a ship or it has MH logo on it (or a close visual that clearly IDs it as a likely 777 part) They are trying and finding a large object in that part of the world is not likely but who knows. At least that end is run by very competent people (AUS, NZ and US) and they are releasing what they have when they get it.

    Good or bad, we spotted something, we are looking at it and that is why we have diverted our resources to that location as its got a serious and interesting signature even if not proven to be anything.

    Also keep in mind we not only have wind drift, we have very rough flight data that cold be a long way off, better than nothing we have but still a huge error possibility.

    I would like to think they would get sub into the estimate crash site area and start listening for the FDR pings. No info from them if turned off as seems likely, but they might locate the wreck site and the ping function is automatic using batteries so it can’t be turned off.

    • You see diverse levels of accomplished lying. This has been perfected in some countries ( Remember the media runup to the Iraq War? ).
      Others (fortunately,still) lack proficiency.

      • True, keep in mind I did not vote for the guy! (of course I could be lying)

        On the other hand the US has maintained a pretty good honest system, mostly due to the fact the NTSB is independent. The FAA is conflicted but usually gets thing right though it takes some pushing. A lot of people take the integrity of the aviation industry seriously.

        I have yet to see one sane thing come out of Malaysia. Frankly I would not believe it if they told me it was South of Thailand and (more or less) North of Singapore bounded by the Malacca Straight.

        Its Air Force is 2nd tier, its ability to get a fact straight is worse than many third world countries.

  5. A BIT MORE … Earlier there was a ‘ report’- since perhaps discredited that a search plane had seen radar blips of debris, etc. near that location ?? Guess its possible but I think it was more speculation than fact. IF…big IF the plane did plunge into that area of Indian ocean, the most likely pieces to survive would be the vertical and horizontal stabilizers which are mostly composite on the 777 . . . One could argue that they probably are most likely to float, etc… but less likely to be picked up by radar.

    Of course wings could also float- more likely to be picked up by radar . . .

    Although early reports are that the commercial sat pics were closely looked at due to hints from NTSB, that seems to be a little bit awkward . . . Even so ,IF they are parts and debris, that at least narrows down the search area to a few hundred miles radius.

    Of course we now have some twit- reporter speculating that the plane was swallowed by . . . a black hole ..?? That even beats area 51 and little green men . .

  6. I have wondered that as well. Also the lack of information coming from the flight community on what can and can’t be done (I was astonished when a simulator pilot told me that the left and right horizontal stabilizer on the 767 would indeed split full up and full down in the case of the Egryp Air suicide – it made no sense but when you leave the good old yoke and cables behind, John Wayne no longer wins as its not a strength thing, its someones opinion of what should happen, often to the worse, something to like about the old mechanical systems along with their simplicity!)

    Probably as important can it be disabled (battery backup and or the RAM?)

    This has all the signatures of ensuring at least known sources of com would be killed and no reason to think it would not go onto include the black boxes and any other system that might shed light on or have a softer landing (A ditching type should have triggered ELTs, a hard crash would but the signal would die almost immediately as the fuselage crushed, distorted and ripped things apart and went down quickly. ELT is not intended to function in the case of a totally out of control crash, some semblanc of control and less that total destruction is rightfully assumed)

  7. US had hinted that the area off Perth was most likely. What´s the bet there are already subs in the area by now? IF this is part MH370 then it will help that it is semi submerged. Figuring drift on “light” floating objects is very difficult, not only is it hard to guess how much the wind will push them, as opposed to the current, but they don´t drift straight downwind, they can drift as much as 45° off the downwind direction, depending on the shape of the object. Might be the first lucky break in this investigation, turns finding the wreck from impossible to extremely difficult.

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