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US Navy Strategists Have a Long History of Finding the Lost

samzenpus posted about 4 months ago | from the serach-continues dept.

United States 145

Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Benedict Carey reports at the NYT that the uncertainties surrounding Malaysia Airlines Flight 370's disappearance are enormous, but naval strategists have been unraveling lost-at-sea mysteries as far back as the U-boat battles of World War II, and perhaps most dramatically in 1968, when an intelligence team found the submarine Scorpion, which sank in the North Atlantic after losing contact under equally baffling circumstances. "The same approach we used with Scorpion could be applied in this case and should be," says John P. Craven who helped pioneer the use of Bayesian search techniques to locate objects lost at sea. "But you need to begin with the right people." The approach is a kind of crowdsourcing, but not one in which volunteers pored over satellite images, like they have in search of Flight 370. "That effort is akin to good Samaritans combing a forest for a lost child without knowing for certain that the child is there," writes Carey.

Instead, forecasters draw on expertise from diverse but relevant areas — in the case of finding a submarine, say, submarine command, ocean salvage, and oceanography experts, as well as physicists and engineers. Each would make an educated guess as to where the ship is, based on different scenarios: the sub was attacked; a torpedo activated onboard; a battery exploded. Craven's work was instrumental in the Navy's search for the missing hydrogen bomb that had been lost in the Mediterranean Sea, off the coast of Spain in 1966 and this is how Craven located the Scorpion. "I knew these guys and I gave probability scores to each scenario they came up with," says Craven. The men bet bottles of Chivas Regal to keep matters interesting, and after some statistical analysis, Craven zeroed in on a point about 400 miles from the Azores, near the Sargasso Sea. The sub was found about 200 yards away.

In the case of the downed Malaysian plane, forecasters might bring in climate and ocean scientists, engineers who worked on building the plane's components and commercial pilots familiar with the route. Those specialists would then make judgments based on the scenarios already discussed as possible causes for the disappearance of Flight 370: terrorism, pilot error, sudden depressurization and engine failure. Sound-detection technology in and around the Indian Ocean may aid this forecasting. The sound of the airliner's fall — if it hit the water — might already have been picked up by submarines watching each other. "In that case the information would be classified," says former submarine commander Alfred Scott McLare, "and we wouldn't know anything until it was released through back channels somehow.""

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145 comments

Sex up the headline... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46499379)

"US Navy Strategists Have a Long History of Finding the Lost..." WITH DRONES!

Re: Sex up the headline... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46499813)

So .. If they're so good, where did flight 19 go and where is the wreckage?

Re: Sex up the headline... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46499869)

"Whooooooooooosh..."

Re: Sex up the headline... (2)

Aighearach (97333) | about 4 months ago | (#46500203)

If there was a reason to search for it, they would. There is none. The question about Flight 19 is, why did it happen, and how to prevent it? That is all understood now. You don't let some hotshot look out his window and fly by the seat of his pants guessing at unlikely locations, when his subordinates knew where they were. Finding the crashed airplanes is meaningless; the crews are all dead and there was no sensitive cargo.

Re:Sex up the headline... (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | about 4 months ago | (#46499843)

"US Navy Strategists Have a Long History of Finding the Lost..." WITH DRONES!

And remote viewers!

not quite as easily (5, Insightful)

slashmydots (2189826) | about 4 months ago | (#46499427)

Some of the earlier "finds" referenced in this article had a lot more evidence and a lot less of a geographic area. I think right now the flight is determined without a doubt to be "somewhere in asia, maybe." It was maybe being flown by a pilot but maybe by hijackers. It was maybe flying for 0 more hours after it last checked in or maybe 5 or maybe something in the middle and at a unknown speed.
They have about the same odds of finding it on the moon as they do at any particular geographic point with the current level of evidence. So what they need is more evidence, not just a really good search team from the Navy.

I'll make it easy (2, Interesting)

frovingslosh (582462) | about 4 months ago | (#46499595)

The plane was stolen. Forget about failures that there are no reason to think happened, about explosions or mechanical failures, about suicides or searching the ocean for debris. Just figure out where a stolen 777 was taken and you'll find the plane.

Re:I'll make it easy (1)

Splab (574204) | about 4 months ago | (#46499745)

The big question is what was worth killing 238 people for (the airplane is most probably still intact, the passengers however, was probably killed when they climbed to 45.000 feet)? While an airplane like the 777 clocks in at $250 million, it's probably only going to fetch between $25 million and $50 million as spare parts. One does wonder what was in the cargo; military equipment? Dollars? Perhaps a passenger was carrying high value trade secrets?

Perhaps someone is planning to stick it in a building at some point in the future (even worse, load it with a nuke - damned thing can easily be disguised as civilian traffic and can fly around the world and place it where ever they want...)

Re:I'll make it easy (5, Informative)

HornWumpus (783565) | about 4 months ago | (#46499817)

Airplane parts without a paper trail are, more or less, worthless.

Re:I'll make it easy (4, Informative)

Splab (574204) | about 4 months ago | (#46499877)

In theory yes, in real life no. There is quite a huge black market for spare parts.

Re: I'll make it easy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46499927)

Yeah, United Airlines has been known to black market shop their spare parts

Re:I'll make it easy (1)

Aighearach (97333) | about 4 months ago | (#46500329)

Yeah but in this case, the Chinese companies might not be so willing to falsify part numbers. ;)

Re:I'll make it easy (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 4 months ago | (#46501145)

Yeah but in this case, the Chinese companies might not be so willing to falsify part numbers. ;)

In China, they'll murder you just for tax evasion. Falsifying part numbers and getting caught making China look bad almost certainly qualifies even if the part wasn't involved in an international incident. If you're going to go off to break rocks or get broken up for your internal organs anyway, who cares?

Re:I'll make it easy (2)

Rich0 (548339) | about 4 months ago | (#46501231)

In China, they'll murder you just for tax evasion. Falsifying part numbers and getting caught making China look bad almost certainly qualifies even if the part wasn't involved in an international incident. If you're going to go off to break rocks or get broken up for your internal organs anyway, who cares?

Well, yes and no. In China the real crime is embarrassing the government. You can put whatever you want into your infant formula until a reporter actually notices all the kids dying everywhere. Then heads will literally roll.

To an extent all countries work this way, but in China it is taken a lot further...

Re:I'll make it easy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46501739)

Well, yes and no. In China the real crime is embarrassing the government. You can put whatever you want into your infant formula until a reporter actually notices all the kids dying everywhere. Then heads will literally roll.

To an extent all countries work this way, but in China it is taken a lot further...

Chinese government simply more easily embarrassed than others.

Re:I'll make it easy (2)

toddestan (632714) | about 4 months ago | (#46502409)

While that might be true for some airplanes, I doubt there are many operators of an expensive, modern airliner like a 777 that would be interested in some parts that "fell off the back of a truck".

only where matters (2)

frovingslosh (582462) | about 4 months ago | (#46500235)

Don't waste time speculating on a motive. It doesn't prove anything and does not find the plane.

Don't waste time speculating on who. It is on;y speculation and does not find the plane.

Focus on determining where the plane went, where it is and how it is being hidden. That will lead to the other answers.

Re:only where matters (1)

Anonymice (1400397) | about 4 months ago | (#46501177)

Logistically, the "who" could give could give a big clue as to the "where". Once you can narrow down the geographical area, you can better focus deduction as to where a 777 could possibly land. It's a big piece of kit & concealing a runway large enough to land it may be an even tougher feat than hijacking it in the first place.

Re:I'll make it easy (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46500507)

Not in countries affected by trade sanctions. Iran Air kept some 727s flying forever with no access to official spare parts. Now they replaced them with some old Airbus that they got through several middle men and paid a premium for. Their pilots and mechanics are forced to be creative and figure things out with very limited access to anything official. However, one of the things I don't believe has happened to this plane is theft of the plane itself.

There are easier ways to get an aircraft for those who have the resources to do something with it than to steal one full of passengers. I mean, sure, a pilot can take the plane he's flying and put it down somewhere else than the intended destination but what is he going to do then? And if you have the resources to get enough terrorists/mercenaries/sycophants/whatever to help you, you also certainly have the resources to charter a private jet, which is then much easier to steal like this. And the largest ones for charter with 24 hour notice are A320s and if your intention is crashing it into something, I doubt that you need anything bigger. Furthermore, the companies that offer jet charters are used to customers wanting no attention whatsoever and guarantee that everything will be completely confidential (i.e. the families of the crew do not know where their jobs take them and rarely when to expect them back). They're also used to accommodating bizarre requests by passengers. If you say you enjoy chopping wood with your ancient axe whilst flying, you just might get what you need in the cabin. Or just break a few bottles from the minibar to get weapons to subdue the crew.

Re:I'll make it easy (4, Insightful)

Aighearach (97333) | about 4 months ago | (#46500323)

the passengers however, was probably killed when they climbed to 45.000 feet

The official service ceiling is 43,100 ft. So you can be darn sure that 45000 ft (44000 in the most detailed reports) is not going to kill anybody. You do know the cabin is pressurized, right?

damned thing can easily be disguised as civilian traffic and can fly around the world and place it where ever they want...

Not without turning on a transponder. And while you can obviously fly over Malaysia without one and not raise an eyebrow, getting over Western countries without a transponder might prove more difficult. Somebody doesn't just peek up from the ground and say, "ah, gee, looks civilian, let it pass." They actually see it on radar, and most countries will scramble fighters and intercept something large that doesn't have a transponder, or isn't scheduled to be in the area. They then fly close and identify markings. They fly close enough to see faces in the windows when they're doing an escort. An empty plane with no transponder is going to get shot down. So it is substantially more complicated.

There was at least 1 fairly high level American business exec on the flight. There is significant hostage value there. If they are religious nuts they probably don't care the slightest bit what the "value" in dollars of the airplane is, they care about the propaganda value.

If the incentive was financial, (highly unlikely) the parts value of the plane is very low, or zero, but the whole plane has significant value as an AWACS type of platform for a smaller country. And while selling parts would be problematic, buying them might not be. 30 years ago, maybe. Not now.

If they were going to use it as a bomb, the most realistic targets would be India, or a US military base somewhere where they don't control the airspace.

Re:I'll make it easy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46500359)

Really? Are you really assuming I'm that stupid? Boy thank you ever so much.

There are several ways of disabling the pressurization of the airplane, if it does not support doing so electronically, you can shut off the engines, you can blow a hole in the fuselage and there are probably even more ways of doing so. But thanks, makes me feel special when you assuming I'm that stupid...

Re: I'll make it easy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46500763)

He's only assuming you're stupid because you said something stupid.

Earlier you were implying that all the 300+ passengers died because the plane flew too high. If the goal was to kill everyone, they could just depressurize the plane at normal cruising altitude - no need to fly above the service ceiling.

Re: I'll make it easy (2)

Rich0 (548339) | about 4 months ago | (#46501269)

Yup. I doubt anything bad would happen to a 777 at 45k feet. It probably would take a while to climb that high, and if it were heavily loaded it probably couldn't make it that high at all. That doesn't mean that it would fall apart of anything - the plane just would start slowing down as you tried to climb past a certain point and eventually start losing altitude or stall (not that any competent pilot would let it get that slow). If climbing on autopilot using a flight level change mode the airplane just wouldn't climb at all - the airplane would prioritize speed over climbing.

Typically airliners on long flights will step-climb - the optimal altitude increases as it burns off fuel and the crew will command ascents every few hours. They can flight higher than the optimal altitude, but it will cost them extra fuel.

If they were flying at 45k feet I imagine it would reduce their range considerably unless the winds were just that much more favorable (which seems unlikely).

Re:I'll make it easy (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46501415)

I typed out many different things before realizing they were all instruction manuals on how to do bad things. All I'll leave you with is that the passenger's and flight attendant's oxygen supply will run out long before the cockpit crew's, as it's only meant to be used long enough for the aircraft to perform an emergency descent to an altitude where supplemental O2 isn't necessary. And it's also possible to intentionally depressurize an airliner in-flight from the cockpit if you know which switches to flip and buttons to push. Then fly extra-high (maybe just a touch above the service ceiling on a much-lighter-than-max-gross-weight aircraft, no problem at all) and the time of useful consciousness (without supplemental O2) drops to mere seconds. The "death zone" mountain climbers talk about is above 26,000 feet, and 45,000 is certainly well above that.

Re: I'll make it easy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46501777)

Cell Phones

Once aware they were being hijacked, everyone would turn theirs on. Over the ocean, they would not connect, but once they were over land the phones would connect with cell towers, even if the owners were incapacitated. Even if they were not aware they were being hijacked certainly not every one of the 200 or so phones was turned completely off so one or more must have connected with cell towers at some point when they were over land.

Re:I'll make it easy (1)

jrumney (197329) | about 4 months ago | (#46501995)

And while you can obviously fly over Malaysia without one and not raise an eyebrow, getting over Western countries without a transponder might prove more difficult.

When was the last time a Western country intercepted a commercial airliner flying along established air corridors at 23000 - 45000ft because its transponder was not working? Do we really know that this would have turned out any different if the countries involved were different?

But (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46502355)

As said by one of the english papers, they turn the radars off to save money. Which implies the radar is turned on about enough time for the commuter flight to come in. And america is in a money saving mode since Fair haired Regan. Makes you wonder if some of those fair haired generals shouldn't be getting part time pay for defending our country.

Re:I'll make it easy (3, Interesting)

flyingsquid (813711) | about 4 months ago | (#46501589)

The most likely scenario is suicide. It's hard to imagine, but it's happened twice- SilkAir Flight 185 and EgyptAir 990. I don't think there is one case of someone stealing a commercial aircraft, just because there's no way to sell it. It's not a Honda Accord you can sell for cash or strip for parts; it's now the most famous plane in the world and you'll have as much success selling it as you would have selling a stolen Mona Lisa. And the parts have serial numbers.

No other scenario make sense. If the plane was hijacked for a terrorist plot, it should have turned up. Plots like 9/11 rely on the element of surprise, so you need to strike as quickly as possible, instead of giving the authorities an entire week to track you down. Similarly, if the plane and passengers were taken hostage, this would have been announced by now. If your hostage-takers are politically motivated, parading hostages on TV advances their cause; if they're just after money, they need to open negotations. Either way, we should have heard .

It all points to pilot suicide. That raises the question of why the pilot would fly on for hours instead of just nosediving into the ocean, but by definition pilot suicide isn't the act of a rational mind. It suggests not a desire to end one's own suffering but to inflict suffering on others and a complete disregard for human life- in other words, a sociopathic mindset. Eric Harris- the sociopath behind the Columbine killers- comes to mind here. He wanted to end his own life but also to take as many people as possible with him, and get as much attention as possible in it. Some careers attract this kind of person- lawyers, CEOs and surgeons are often sociopaths- and being a pilot may be one of those. You probably find that flying induces anxiety, now imagine that you not only have to worry about the anxiety of flying, but have to actually take responsibility for the safety of the airplane itself and several hundred lives... most normal people wouldn't enjoy that. Sociopaths have no anxiety, and actively enjoy control over and manipulating other people, personality characteristics that would make them a natural for the job.

Sorry (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46502365)

There could have been problems with the aircraft. Along with intercepted and diverted for other reasons. And it could have been other then the aircrew. Won't know till we find out.

Re:I'll make it easy (4, Interesting)

Nidi62 (1525137) | about 4 months ago | (#46501821)

The plane was stolen. Forget about failures that there are no reason to think happened, about explosions or mechanical failures, about suicides or searching the ocean for debris. Just figure out where a stolen 777 was taken and you'll find the plane.

Why would you steal a passenger aircraft carrying 230+ passengers and crew when you could steal a cargo-configured 777 or 747 with a crew of maybe 4? A passenger aircraft carries a lot more media attention: compare the coverage of the cargo 747 that crashed coming out of Bagram last year versus the plane that crashed recently in SFO. Plus, do you think all of these ships and planes looking for 370 would have been mobilized had the plane been a cargo aircraft? Probably not. To me, it seems more probable that this was a suicide by one of the pilots rather than a hijacking.

Re:not quite as easily (2)

MightyMartian (840721) | about 4 months ago | (#46499619)

They seem pretty certain now that plane flew for five to seven hours and they seem to have a very general idea of possible flight paths. The question of immediate concern was this a theft for the purposes of a mass murder of 230+ people, or to gain a large jet for some other purpose.

Re:not quite as easily (1)

slashmydots (2189826) | about 4 months ago | (#46499775)

The US better put a hell of a lot of birds in the air just in case. I seriously doubt they can stealth it though so it passes our radar, lol.

Re:not quite as easily (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46499835)

How quaint, a plane goes missing on the other side of thye earth and an american automatically assumes that it probably is a terrorist plot against you.

Re: not quite as easily (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46500769)

Seems like a good precaution... Probably more effective than the TSA.

Re:not quite as easily (3, Interesting)

Aighearach (97333) | about 4 months ago | (#46500381)

Actually, it is tricky; it sounds like they know more than they do. They talk about 2 flight paths, but actually it is a giant arc from Pakistan to Thailand to the Indian Ocean, and they don't even have a direction. Just a range from the satellite based on the signal strength, which produces an arc that it probably was in when the ping transmitted. There are 2 obvious "flight corridors" in that arc, so those are the best guesses. Sounds clearer than it is.

Also nothing has been released about if they stopped for fuel, or if it is known. The US keeps saying they think they crashed into the sea in 1 of 2 areas, which implies that they don't know that they DID refuel; but the way they phrase the combination of statements, I think they don't have information to negate refueling, they don't have indication of it. And without refueling, and assuming it was in one of those two corridors, then it would have likely crashed.

Also they're assuming that the fuel supply is based on having been properly fueled for a flight to Beijing, but no public information has said anything at all about having verified on the ground how much fuel was loaded, or if that can be accurately checked up on with certainty. Seems like airport corruption would have to be 0% in order for them to even know. I'm under the impression that airports in Malaysia actually have a significant corruption problem, and so it is probably impossible to go back and check in the past how much fuel was really taken on. Maximum range at maximum load for the 777-200ER is 7,725 nmi (14,310 km, 8,892 mi), a whole lot more than the 2500 nmi circles the media is drawing on the screens.

So if they re-fueled OR if they loaded extra fuel, they could be anywhere, and the Indian Ocean flight corridor that is speculated on would lead to waypoints to the middle east. I'm guessing Iran, but it could just as easily be in Sudan or Pakistan.

Re:not quite as easily (1)

abhi_beckert (785219) | about 4 months ago | (#46501275)

So if they re-fueled OR if they loaded extra fuel, they could be anywhere, and the Indian Ocean flight corridor that is speculated on would lead to waypoints to the middle east. I'm guessing Iran, but it could just as easily be in Sudan or Pakistan.

They could be anywhere that doesn't have a strong military radar system.

I'm pretty sure anybody who flies into Iran without authorisation will be told to turn back or be shot down.

Re:not quite as easily (2)

Rich0 (548339) | about 4 months ago | (#46501343)

I'm not sure how the record-keeping works for fueling. Certainly the pilots get a copy of the loading info. I imagine that whoever paid for the fuel gets a copy of the bill if nothing else. It is important for flight crews to have a good understanding of how much fuel is onboard - level sensors tend not to be very accurate so the most accurate figures come from measuring how much goes in and out.

If the plane has too little fuel the results are obvious. If it has too much fuel the results might not be as obvious, but it can be a big problem. Fuel is heavy - a plane needs more takeoff thrust or distance if it has more fuel, and it needs more landing distance if it lands with extra fuel (indeed, if a long-range flight has a problem right after takeoff they often end up circling or dumping fuel before landing just to shed weight). In order to maximize engine life the crew calculates the necessary takeoff thrust based on weather, weight, and runway length/slope, and programs the autopilot to deliver just that much thrust. If their weight was significantly over, they could run out of runway (especially if they had to abort at what they thought was the last possible moment - which would turn out to be too late - the crew calculates what that threshold is on every flight as well).

They certainly could put some max limits on range. A 777 fully fueled and fully loaded (that is, every seat taken and every baggage compartment loaded to rated capacity) couldn't take off at all. Long-range flights cannot carry as much cargo as a result.

So, based on what was in the plane they probably have a decent idea of what the range is. They probably don't know within 100 miles, but I doubt they'd be off by much more than 1000. Now, one thing the search radii doesn't reflect is winds - the effective range will be much less upwind, and much longer downwind. Obviously the max range is only achievable if the plane flies a direct route, and all that climbing/descending reduces range as well - max range can only be achieved at an optimal altitude (which starts out at one level and slowly goes up as the plane burns fuel).

Re:not quite as easily (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46502341)

Are you on crack? No pilot I know, and certainly no pilot flying a commercial airliner, would voluntarily take off without knowing what their fuel load was!

It determines the plane's range. It determines how many intervening stops must be made, and approximately where. It determines the takeoff weight and load distribution of the plane. Also the fuel must be of known quality. In short, not having a tight control on the fuel supply of the plane makes a long life for the pilot and passengers extremely unlikely.

Now mistakes can happen of course. And sometimes corruption of a system is a problem. I'm aware that Maylaysia's domestic airlines are not well-regarded and have sometimes been denied airport privileges as a result (internationally, not domestically).

All that said, fooling around with the fuel supply is going to result in immediate feedback and shortly, correction. It just cannot be tolerated.

Re:not quite as easily (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46500537)

Maybe they do have more evidence - the Navy search team would be a good way to exploit information from classified US sources without divulging the ultimate means of data collection, the cover story boiling down to, "we're just that good."

Re:not quite as easily (4, Interesting)

davecb (6526) | about 4 months ago | (#46501585)

Actually I studied Bayesian analysis under George Lasker in university (back when dinosaurs walked the earth), and it is a good way to deal with crappy, disorganized evidence. In effect, you find the ares to search, ordered by
  • - the likelihood of getting evidence from searching there
  • - the strength of each kind of evidence, and
  • - the difficulty of searching a given area.

    After each search result comes in, you recompute and find the next best place to search.

Losers had to drink the Chivas. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46499525)

Anyone who thinks that Chivas is good has no knowledge of
whiskey.

It's nasty horrible rotgut garbage.

Re: Losers had to drink the Chivas. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46499751)

Chivas Regal is whisky, not whiskey.

Re: Losers had to drink the Chivas. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46501791)

It is the Scottish who say that the only thing the Irish have contributed of possible meaning to the whisky universe is an 'e'.

The Hunt... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46499533)

Respond with one ping!

Arcs are a lie (4, Interesting)

sshir (623215) | about 4 months ago | (#46499565)

Navy guys will need more data.

Those much hyped arcs from Inmarsat are pretty much bogus. The trouble is that the problem is badly conditioned - because satellite is way too far (geosynchonous orbit - not your friendly neighborhood gps) and it's right on top of the search area. In other words - small errors in time/distance measurements, satellite position, etc. produce huge errors in estimation. They're lucky they placed the airplane on earth.

Re:Arcs are a lie (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46499633)

How could they not have placed them on the earth? The timing gets converted to a distance, creating a sphere of that distance centered on the satellite. Where that sphere intersects the sphere of the earth, guess what you get? Arcs.

Re:Arcs are a lie (1)

sshir (623215) | about 4 months ago | (#46499697)

And what if the sphere does not intersect earth? :)

Re:Arcs are a lie (2)

olsmeister (1488789) | about 4 months ago | (#46499811)

Well that would present a problem! One would then wonder how those creative terrorists managed to get a jet engine to operate outside of an atmosphere. :)

But seriously, wouldn't you just compare the timing of the signals received from the jetliner of interest with the timing signals received from other, less hijacked, planes and based on their more reliable locations figure out what distance 370 must have sent from?

Re:Arcs are a lie (1)

sshir (623215) | about 4 months ago | (#46500069)

Data from other planes will not help much - mostly only to set error brackets. The ill-conditioness of the problem does not go away.

Re:Arcs are a lie (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46499979)

Then the plane would be between the satellite and the earth, probably about 35,000 feet above sea level.

Re:Arcs are a lie (1)

PPH (736903) | about 4 months ago | (#46500255)

How many satellites heard the pings? And each satellite has an array of antennas, each with a different field of view. How accurately can the service place a device given the size of each beam?

It may be possible to calibrate the receivers' timing and signal strengths by comparing the MH370 ping characteristics with those from known ground locations received at more or less the same time.

Re:Arcs are a lie (1)

sshir (623215) | about 4 months ago | (#46500365)

How many satellites heard the pings?

Considering that the arcs are, well, arcs, I'll take a wild guess and say that they had data from only one satellite...
Some spy birds might help, but they tend to focus on land areas.

Re:Arcs are a lie (1)

Aighearach (97333) | about 4 months ago | (#46500427)

Plus instead of the arcs they show on the screen, it would actually be a cone, with different surface-drawn arcs depending on the altitude, and the combination serves to make the guesses that much fuzzier.

Also, a cheapo bug-scanner like a private investigator uses would detect the transmission. If they brought some basic anti-tracking tools with them on board, it seems reasonable that after 7 hours they'd find the plug. 2nd ping they realize it pings every hour, 3 rd, 4th, 5th, 6th pings they're getting close to where it is, then once they find the antenna, 30 minutes to trace it to a place they can cut. That's with just standard off-the-shelf security equipment and one person in that role. So no reason to assume the signal ending means the plane crashed or landed.

Re:Arcs are a lie (1)

Rich0 (548339) | about 4 months ago | (#46501359)

The antenna would be outside the plane most likely. The skin is made of aluminum - wouldn't make much sense to locate an antenna inside - especially at a frequency likely to be used for satellite communications.

Perhaps some of the equipment involved is located inside an accessible area, but you'd probably want to really know what you're doing before you start cutting random wires in the equipment rack.

Re:Arcs are a lie (1)

ckedge (192996) | about 4 months ago | (#46500461)

> Arcs are a lie

Arcs are TESTABLE. Imarsat staff can look at live online airliner data and live ping timing data, and calibrate their calculations. If it's "plus or minus 5000 miles", it will be obvious. If it's "plus or minus 100 miles", it will also be obvious.

Please leave the eningeering and science to the Engineers and Scientists.

Re:Arcs are a lie (1)

sshir (623215) | about 4 months ago | (#46500491)

Well, am an engeneer and a scientist.
And considering that arcs (as presented) do not have error brackets on them is a dead giveaway that qualifications of people who did the calculations are highly suspect.

Re:Arcs are a lie (3, Insightful)

rasmusbr (2186518) | about 4 months ago | (#46500599)

Well, am an engeneer and a scientist.

And considering that arcs (as presented) do not have error brackets on them is a dead giveaway that qualifications of people who did the calculations are highly suspect.

But we haven't necessarily seen the maps that the search effort uses internally. This: http://static01.nyt.com/images... [nyt.com] looks like someone drew it in 20 seconds in MS Paint, I'm guessing while in a hurry.

Re:Arcs are a lie (1)

angel'o'sphere (80593) | about 4 months ago | (#46501095)

Why should an 'arc' on the ground, which is 'covert' by an receiving antenna have an error bracket?

Re:Arcs are a lie (1)

petermgreen (876956) | about 4 months ago | (#46502445)

AIUI the arc is based on timing information, take the timing, combine it with knowledge of the speed of light and you get a distance from the sattelite, the distance gives you a sphere, take that sphere and take it's intersection with the assumed altitude of the plane and you get a circle, cut away the bits of the circle that don't make sense (either because other information tells you the plane can't be there or because of the directionality of the antenna on the sattelite) and you get an arc.

But the timing will not be known perfectly and neither will the height of the plane, so the location of the arc will not be known perfectly. Knowing how imperfect the information is and hence how wide an area on either side of the arc needs to be searched would seem rather important.

Slashdot could find MH770 (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46499583)

We've seen maps of where MH770 could be based on the angle of last ping received from the engines. Here's one: http://static01.nyt.com/images/2014/03/16/world/asia/16flight-map/16flight-map-superJumbo.jpg [nyt.com]

We have a Last Known Position (indicated on that map). We know how fast 777s can fly. If we had the ping arc data as shown in red on the above map for every ping received, we could determine MH770's course, and narrow down where it ended up significantly.

The following numbers are wrong, but a concrete example is easier to follow. Say the first ping occurs 15 minutes after the Last Known Position, and we think the 777 is flying at 500 mph. Set your compass for 125 miles (scale), put the pointy end on the last known position, and draw a circle. That circle will intersect the First Ping Arc in two places (we hope). If it doesn't, we need to rethink assumptions. Anyway, the plane was in one of those positions (more or less) at the time of tyhe first ping.

Do it again for the second ping arc. And again. Some of these potential courses will make no sense and no longer need to be followed. With any luck. though, there will emerge a Most Probably Course for the aircraft.

It may be necessary to rerun this analysis for different speeds - if MH770 was flying low to avoid radar it would travel more slowly. Do it. Hell, throw the entire problem to a computer and let if grind out possibilities.

Has the satellite angle data, or the location arcs at particular ping times, been released? Can it be released?

Re:Slashdot could find MH770 (1)

Virtucon (127420) | about 4 months ago | (#46499645)

You're looking for the wrong flight. It's MH370 [airdisaster.com] that went missing. MH770 flies from Kuala Lampur to Karabi. [flightaware.com]

Re:Slashdot could find MH770 (1)

PPH (736903) | about 4 months ago | (#46500155)

That's it! ATC got the call signs crossed up and the plane is still holding, waiting for a landing slot at Beijing.

Re:Slashdot could find MH770 (1)

Aighearach (97333) | about 4 months ago | (#46500445)

You don't just "throw the entire problem to a computer and let if grind out possibilities" without a lot of time-consuming programming, and air search/rescue doesn't come with programmers. A few weeks of hiring, and you'll be ready to get started!

Cause is key (2)

tji (74570) | about 4 months ago | (#46499609)

They mention looking at the causes "terrorism, pilot error, sudden depressurization and engine failure" to estimate likely search locations. Of course, that's true.. But, if the cause is a rogue pilot who doesn't want to be found (as evidenced by the manual disabling of communications) things get tough really quick.

I guess at that point you're working with the fuel radius and removing areas covered by some form of tracking that would have definitely detected them.

Re:Cause is key (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46499781)

Not sure there is much area where they would definitely be detected AND identified. They would be detected and identified over military bases and in areas actively monitored by JSTARS (and the like), if any. Most other places they would either not be detected at all, or their blip would go un-identified among many other transponder-less blips.

Re: Cause is key (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46499973)

There are radar tracks.
The blips have a size.
There are also the absense of tracks. So you know where is is not. And where it cannot have gotten to.
The is a lot of data to be crushed.
But if you. Do it before the lingers loss power. It is an easier job.

Does the title remind you of.
I am a Navy diver if it's lost I find it.

Maylasian military fucked up (4, Funny)

nbauman (624611) | about 4 months ago | (#46499613)

The Malaysian military radar showed an unidentified plane without a flight plan fly across their country and over the Indian Ocean. The radar operators didn't notice it. So they missed the opportunity to send up fighter jets to find out what the fuck was going on.

Instead they were were searching the wrong sea, on the east of Malaysia.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03... [nytimes.com]
Series of Errors by Malaysia Mounts, Complicating the Task of Finding Flight 370
By KEITH BRADSHER and MICHAEL FORSYTHE
MARCH 15, 2014

Re:Maylasian military fucked up (1)

seyyah (986027) | about 4 months ago | (#46499733)

Most of the proposed flight paths that I've seen show the plane travelling over Thailand not Malaysia. We've heard nothing from them at all.

In the Navy.... (-1)

Virtucon (127420) | about 4 months ago | (#46499661)

In the navy
Yes, you can sail the seven seas
In the navy
Yes, you can put your mind at ease
In the navy
Come on people, fall an' make a stand
In the navy, in the navy

Finding the Lost (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46499825)

... What?
Lost dogs? cats? pets?

The Men Who Stare at Goats (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | about 4 months ago | (#46499853)

This is a job for...Ingo Swann!

US investigators like Southern ping arc (3, Informative)

mdsolar (1045926) | about 4 months ago | (#46499855)

US investigators are interested in the Southern ping arc because radar installations along the Northern arc would be hard to evade though some mention is now made of traversing Myanmar on the Northern arc. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03... [nytimes.com] However, in the graphic, an envelope of 1 hour flight distance is shown for each arc. The envelopes for the North and South arcs don't overlap. In fact it looks like it would take three hours to get from one arc to the other. Drawing radii from the arc ends to the satellite position, it looks like you'd have to get to Sri Lanka before the arc ends are within an hour's travel distance. But, news reports indicate detection of hourly pings. If similar arcs are associated with the other pings, then there may never be time to jump from one arc to the other if they are never consistent with a position near Sri Lanka, so the Southern arc might be excluded on geometric grounds.

Re:US investigators like Southern ping arc (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46499941)

Who says the plane needed to go undetected. It just needs to go unnoticed. If they could turn on another transponder they could look like any other private plane.

Re:US investigators like Southern ping arc (2)

malakai (136531) | about 4 months ago | (#46500149)

I'm not positive about this, but I don't think they need to turn on 'another' transponder, they just need to change their transponder code. I'm pretty sure pilots dial in the code based on what the tower tells them to use. I don't think every transponder is guaranteed unique, and traceable.

Re:US investigators like Southern ping arc (2)

hax4bux (209237) | about 4 months ago | (#46500377)

Mode S transponders carry more information than Mode C. It isn't just the 4 digit code that ATC assigns you.

Re:US investigators like Southern ping arc (3, Informative)

Rich0 (548339) | about 4 months ago | (#46501373)

Yup. Also, I doubt that even in 3rd world nations that planes flying at that altitude would simply be ignored if they had a transponder on. They're almost certainly in controlled airspace, and that is illegal just about everywhere without a clearance, even for domestic flights. You can't just go flying over the US at 20k feet and expect ATC to ignore you just because you have a transponder on. In theory you should be challenged as soon as you enter the ADIZ, and for domestic flights depending on where you are they'll either intercept you, or just see where you land and send the police to get your tail number and ID.

Re:US investigators like Southern ping arc (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46501857)

Since radar doesn't give altitude information, you could be there and they wouldn't know you're in controlled air space (unless it's controlled down to ground). A 777 can probably go slow enough to look like something else, but probably with a little bigger radar echo.

While transponders do have a fixed address, the code displayed (be it registration or flight number) can still be programmed. Unless they were quick to distribute information about the lost plane, so any radar would know which address to look for, it could still go unnoticed.

Re:US investigators like Southern ping arc (1)

Rich0 (548339) | about 4 months ago | (#46502279)

Since radar doesn't give altitude information, you could be there and they wouldn't know you're in controlled air space (unless it's controlled down to ground). A 777 can probably go slow enough to look like something else, but probably with a little bigger radar echo.

Well, if the transponder were on then it would transmit altitude. I don't know that you can get an airliner transponder to work in Mode A so that you don't encode altitude, though I imagine you could tamper with the encoded altitude if you wanted to (heck, just cover the static ports and the plane will think it is at low altitude, though have fun flying it with no airdata).

Flying slow, it won't have much range.

Military radar can determine altitude of course (incoming air raids typically won't broadcast transponder returns). Also, you could infer minimum altitude from range - if you're getting primary returns 60 miles away you know they're not hugging the ground.

All of this is really only applicable to a takeoff from within the US. Any aircraft approaching the US from overseas has to enter the NORAD ADIZ. Now, I'm sure it isn't nearly as well-monitored as during the 60s, but I'm sure it has continuous military radar coverage especially since 9/11, and the ADIZ for the US looks like it is upwards of 300 miles thick. Any aircraft entering that zone will be intercepted if it hasn't identified itself.

Re:US investigators like Southern ping arc (3, Insightful)

GumphMaster (772693) | about 4 months ago | (#46501837)

The classic Mode C transponder simply blurts out the four octal digit code programmed by the flight crew (at ATC request usually) every time it is painted by a secondary radar (typically associated with a primary radar and usable over longer range that the primary). The code is associated by ATC with that flight in that control zone for that time only. A Mode S transponder carries a 24-bit globally unique ID that is registered to the particular airframe. This code is attached to the response any selective query for altitude, airspeed, heading, rates of change etc. Although it can be changed in the equipment (e.g. for maintenance reasons) this is not a normal function of flight operations. An ADS-B system actively broadcasts much of the same information as Mode S including an absolute position and the unique ID. Turning off these devices negates the presence of the unique id.

Re:US investigators like Southern ping arc (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46501921)

"you'd have to get to Sri Lanka before the arc ends are within an hour's travel distance" Not sure what you mean by this--do you mean that the arc goes near Sri Lanka? The one I see on the NY Times page you link to doesn't go near there.

FWIW (which is nothing) my first thought was they were headed to the Maldives, six or seven hundred miles SW of Sri Lanka. Ten of them (not sure how many a 777 could land on). But the Maldives are nowhere near the arcs in the NY Times article, so I guess that's out.

Scorpion (4, Insightful)

Solandri (704621) | about 4 months ago | (#46499871)

and perhaps most dramatically in 1968, when an intelligence team found the submarine Scorpion, which sank in the North Atlantic after losing contact under equally baffling circumstances. "The same approach we used with Scorpion could be applied in this case and should be," says John P. Craven who helped pioneer the use of Bayesian search techniques to locate objects lost at sea.

Not so fast. The Scorpion was found because the U.S. had an extensive underwater listening array in the Atlantic (SOSUS [wikipedia.org] ) designed specifically to (wait for it...) locate and track submarines. Soviet submarines, but it worked equally well on U.S. submarines which were making a lot of noise - like one in its death throes from an onboard explosion and imploding as it passed crush depth. One of their first clues that something disastrous had happened was when those sounds showed up on SOSUS audio tapes.

Yes the same methodology can (and should) be applied inn locating MH370. But we're talking about uncertainties in location and time an order or three in magnitude larger than for the Scorpion or AF447.

Re:Scorpion (2)

Rich0 (548339) | about 4 months ago | (#46501387)

Yup - explosions in the middle of the ocean at depth can travel incredible distances. In fact, at some depths the sound can travel all the way around the world. With multiple sonar stations measuring arrival times the position could be determined fairly accurately.

A plane crash happens on the surface and there would be little other noise - probably hard to notice unless a sensor were fairly closeby. Now, the pingers in the black box probably could be picked up from a distance, but I doubt the US monitors the Indian Ocean like they did the Atlantic in the Cold War.

Re:Scorpion (1)

GumphMaster (772693) | about 4 months ago | (#46501925)

The FDR and CVR beacons operate an acoustic signal at 37.5 KHz. This provides good directional accuracy for homing, sufficiently small size and power requirement, and unfortunately limited range. They have to operate at 14000 feet underwater and typical examples work at 20000 so the detectable range is at least that. I found references to a detectable range out to about 3000 metres (120000 feet) affected by ocean conditions (noise, thermal layering etc.) and depth.

You Fail It (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46499957)

It attEmpts jto [goat.cx]

Fuck beta (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46500123)

This is why slashdot is in the shitter. Because any article the faggot editors post that is truely news for nerds and not well-known get less than 50 comments. Political, polarizing bullshit "stories" get hundreds of comments. Dice and the editors didn't ruin this site. The readership did.

Cell Phones (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46500159)

If the plane got low enough over land, I wonder if any of the passenger or crew cell phone connected to a tower.
Even if they took the plane up high and decompressed the cabin, someone's phone may still have been powered later in the flight.
Not everyone turns off their phone - some forget, aren't paying attention, or just think they are special.
I would ID every cell phone and try to get cooperation to determine if any were detected somewhere.

Re:Cell Phones (1)

abhi_beckert (785219) | about 4 months ago | (#46501347)

Since this was clearly a well organised operation, it's likely the passengers had their electronic devices confiscated immediately.

Yeah but ... (2)

PPH (736903) | about 4 months ago | (#46500177)

... if the plane went down over land, or landed somewhere, the US Navy is going to have a tough time finding it.

Optimum scenarios (1)

petes_PoV (912422) | about 4 months ago | (#46500369)

If we want to find the most likely cause of the plane going missing, a sensible question might be:
In what situation would this be the best location to "disappear" a large jet?

For example: if you wanted to steal it, intact, is there anywhere else in the world where the combination of remoteness, lack of radar coverage, getting "your" aircrew on board and easy (without much technology) landing and concealment would offer a greater chance of success? If there are places that would make the theft easier to get away with, then maybe it would rule out that particular possibility for the disappearance.

Just go through the list of possibilites until this location bubbles up to the top, then assume you've got the reason - search accordingly.

Re:Optimum scenarios (1)

tomhath (637240) | about 4 months ago | (#46501327)

The problem with that approach is is assumes a rational person is in control of the aircraft. A pilot or hijacker who has decided to commit suicide by flying off to a remote corner of the Indian Ocean isn't stealing the plane. The most likely cause was one of the pilots going insane, it's happened before.

Re:Optimum scenarios (1)

FirstOne (193462) | about 4 months ago | (#46501591)

"The most likely cause was one of a the pilots going insane,", A more likely outcome is that the a radicalized pilot of MH370 [mirror.co.uk] decided on course murder/suicide after attending the sham trial of Malaysiaâ(TM)s opposition leader [huffingtonpost.co.uk] a few hours before takeoff.

Seams to me, if one were to make a simple assumption that the plane was on auto pilot for the last few hours(pilot suicide, anoxia), the Geostationary SAT ping times from those previous fixes would narrow the search scope considerably. I.E. Mathematically wise, one data point, verses five or six data points, would make a huge difference.

Want to hear a prosaic theory about MAL370 (3, Interesting)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | about 4 months ago | (#46500767)

Almost all the conjectures have been quit exotic and very imaginative, which coincidentally keeps the interest alive and boosts TV ratings and acts as click bait.

The delays in turning off the transponder and the data stream to the modem, flying between way points on a well known path etc might be explained by confused and disabled pilots too.

Hypoxia can set in as little as 90 seconds of oxygen deprivation and will severely incapacitate and confuse people. Cabin pressure loss is the most common theory for hypoxia. But cabin pressure loss would deploy oxygen masks, sound alarms and the pilot would have been alert in the first few seconds to declare emergency and radio out. The captain seems to be nerd with home made flight simulator, he would have reacted correctly to oxygen masks dropping from the ceilings.

Carbon monoxide is a way for hypoxia to set in. If there was a slow smoldering fire in the cockpit, not hot enough to trigger fire alarms it could result in incapacitated confused pilots. Again there are CO detectors, and warnings and associated with it.

I am not sure how regularly these systems that detect cabin pressure loss and CO detectors are tested. It is quite expensive to actually deploy all those oxygen masks. So even the regular testing protocol would require the maintenance crew to disable the actual deployment of the oxygen masks and test the detection and deployment signals. They could forget to turn them back on, like the did in the Helios flight disaster I mentioned in another thread. CO detector is chemical based. They have to be replaced regularly and this is an old plane.

Once the pilots flip switches on and off in confused state lose their consciousness completely, the plane would fly on autopilot following the way points that happened to be programmed.

If there is foul play involved, it would be worthwhile exercise to make sure every flight plan that was file in that duration and every flight directed by the control towers in that time is legit and locate those planes. The pilot(s) could easily turn off the transponder, drop out of radar, pop back in and start using a different call sign. Without a transponder, air traffic control completely trusts the pilot to self identify the plane correctly. If the malefactors had filed a fake flight plan, the plane could change its identity mid flight without attracting attention.

Re:Want to hear a prosaic theory about MAL370 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46501271)

Or a suicidal pilot could turn off the transponder and fly the plane out over the Indian Ocean.

Re:Want to hear a prosaic theory about MAL370 (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | about 4 months ago | (#46501439)

He would have to secure some kind of cooperation with the copilot on the suicide plot.

cooperation (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46501841)

That cooperation would have likely happened with the axe kept in all cockpits.

Re:Want to hear a prosaic theory about MAL370 (1)

jittles (1613415) | about 4 months ago | (#46502261)

oR he could have locked the copilot out of the crew station while he was in the bathroom.

Re: Want to hear a prosaic theory about MAL370 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46501443)

And the plane will never be found.

Re: Want to hear a prosaic theory about MAL370 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46502079)

And the plane will never be found.

Not saying it was aliens . . .

Two questions (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46501039)

1 The last fix from Inmarsat gave a Line of Position (LOP) which is a very broad arc.
They had a ping every hour, each of which should have resulted in an LOP.
    Is there a way to combine these LOP's to get a better idea of the flight path?
      (Old school marine folks would walk the old LOP's forward in time and combine them.)
        One would have to guess a direction and speed to do this which makes the logic somewhat circular.
          Still, there should be more information in the rest of the LOP's.

2) Who benefits from all this?
        This has focused attention on the flight and not on what's happening in with Russia.
            This seems an unlikely motivation, but it is a definite consequence.
                I certainly hope this is not the motivation behind this.

fiuck off beta (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46501927)

yes you know stop redireticting me to beta

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