For those interested in why the Independent Group (IG) is wrong on the MH370 end scenario.. everything explained in this article.
Research by Fiorentinohttp://research-investigations.newsvine.com/_news/2014/12/18/27621932-atsb-rebuffs-ig-recommendation-as-official-mh370-search-area-widens
Ever since the Independent Group (IG) made what I believe was a very irresponsible and ill founded recommendation to 'narrow' the width of the MH370 search zone in the Southern Indian Ocean (SIO) I have communicated repeatedly with the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) and others to disregard the IG's idea. I am happy to report that it appears after much effort and persistence the ATSB and I are in agreement.
As first reported by Bloomberg on December 11th, Martin Dolan, the ATSB's chief commissioner indicated in a telephone interview the Boeing 777-200 could have traveled “as far as 50 nautical miles (93 kilometers) from the seventh arc.” i
It should be noted that Dolan is referring to an end of flight scenario which assumes that there were no pilot inputs after both of the 777's engines 'flamed out' due to fuel exhaustion. There is in fact no way to determine at this juncture whether that assumption is correct. If indeed there was intervention by someone at the controls, then MH370 could have glided approximately 100nms before final impact. ii
Another perhaps unlikely scenario (and one which no one has really addressed until now) is an engine(s) restart. If we assume control inputs (i.e., pilots or someone at the controls) then an entirely new dimension is added when trying to determine how far from the 7th arc the 9M-MRO aircraft terminated its flight. Even though there were no reported further communications from MH370 after 00:19:37 does not in and of itself rule out an engine(s) restart. There is a distinct possibility that due to the multiple electrical disturbances experienced during the Boeing 777's flight the plane's Satellite Data Unit (SDU) was damaged, making any further communications, such as another log-on request impossible. Thus, any engine restart would go undetected.
What would all of this mean in terms of distance traveled from the 7th arc? Your guess would be as good as mine, but even a 10 minute engine re-light could translate into perhaps another 50 nms at an assumed 300kts airspeed. Or, as Martin Dolan put it, "These aircraft travel at hundreds of kilometers an hour, so a few minutes can make quite a difference." iii
This possibility is really not out of the question as even though the ATSB estimated time of fuel exhaustion roughly coincides with the final data transmissions from MH370, there is no direct evidence in the Inmarsat data of either engine flameouts or complete fuel exhaustion. In fact the IG in its further progress report of 26 September 2014 stated the following: “The ATSB report (page 33) specifies an anticipated fuel exhaustion time close to 00:16. We find from our fuel analysis for optimal conditions a time of fuel exhaustion occurring about ten minutes later.”
Annie Get Your Gun
So, with all of this uncertainty by many about almost everything, along comes the IG with a cocksure attitude and an Annie Oakley aim. Apparently believing that they could shoot holes through silver dollars thrown in the air, they assure us they have all the answers. The ATSB search should move further South because their computer models say so. We are even provided with an exact endpoint:
We reiterate that our original proposed search area centered on 36.0S 88.5E has a higher probability of a successful search result than the presently envisaged official search area.iv
Shortly thereafter, the proposed endpoint is revised to “a likely point of impact close to 37.5 S, 89.2 E.” vThe IG would have us believe the 9M-MRO aircraft – after suffering fuel exhaustion - descended through the sky like a dive bomber
We agree with the ATSB that MH370 impacted the water very near the 7th arc. We also agree with the assessment that the second engine reached fuel exhaustion approximately 03:40 minutes before the 00:19:29 logon. Given that the autopilot would have disengaged at approximately 00:15:49, the BFO values at 00:19:29 and 00:19:37 indicate that the aircraft was already in a spiral dive at 00:19:29. We estimate the Rate of Climb (ROC) was approximately -15,000 ft/min at 00:19:37 and accelerating at approximately 22 ft/sec2. Thus, we believe MH370 impacted the water within seconds after the last signaling unit log record, and within 1 NM of the 7th arc. This finding suggests that the width of the impact arc could be reduced from -20/+30 NM to approximately ±10 NM. vi
Of course saying you “agree” with the ATSB and stating that MH370 impacted the water “within 1 NM of the 7th arc” after descending in a “spiral dive” at “approximately ~ 15,000 ft/min is a bit disingenuous, because the ATSB never said any of those things.
After another revision of its 'most-probable' end point to 37.71S 88.75E vii the IG continued its full court press to pinpoint how far from the 7th arc (in a perpendicular fashion) MH370 may have traveled. They continued to maintain that the width of the MH370 search area should be reduced.
On June 9, 2014, (8 days before the IG Report of 17/June/2014) I sent my own recommendations to the ATSB. Included among others was my request to widen the width of the official search area. As such, I proposed an increase to the Eastward variable from the then 55kms to 150 kms.
My Phugoid Input
Not seeing any real evidence to support the IG's claims of a near vertical descent by MH370 after fuel exhaustion, other than some very questionable BFO data, I decided to investigate further. Among the research data I offered was a description of a Flight Simulation in a 777-2 full motion zero flight time approved simulator. This resulted in (among other things) a series of phugoid oscillations with bank angle between 5 and 25 degrees and pitch attitude between about 9 degrees nose down and 5 degrees pitch up. Or, to better describe it for those not that familiar with the term phugoid, the simulator showed the aircraft entering a rather sweeping low bank angle descending spiraling turn with the plane losing and gaining altitude in a sort of bobbing up and down fashion.viii
After submitting the sim report I had several communications with Mike Exner, an IG member and prominent cheerleader for the MH370 end of flight dive bomber scenario. Exner clung to his BFO interpretation even though Inmarsat tells us to disregard that last BFO value.ix
I told Mike, even if we allow that the final BFO value is legitimate (which I don't) there is no way to rule out that what is captured in that value is a phugoid descent phase, rather than a mad rush to oblivion. Mike wouldn't have any of that. In an e-mail correspondence to me Exner indicated (excerpt) “182 Hz at 00:19:29 indicates a ROC = 4765 ft/min. -2 Hz at 00:19:37 indicates a ROC = 15,258 ft/min. Such ROC values cannot be attributed to a phugoid maneuver.” (ROC in this instance refers to Rate of Climb, which in this case should be ROD or Rate of Descent, because that's what Exner is claiming)
It seems Exner in his haste to prove a point (at least a point that he could try and demonstrate, namely my phugoid idea) may have bitten off more than he could chew. He posted this on the Jeff Wise forum in the comments section:
airlandseaman Posted October 30, 2014 at 7:42 AM
phugoid? We will see. On Sunday…finally…headed for the B777 simulator. Not talking toys here. 4 hours booked in the right seat with Sr B777 Captain in the left seat and instructor onboard. Will report results on Monday. Hope to record video.x
As yet, there has been no video, and really no “report” other than some blurbs on the Jeff Wise internet blog Exner did indicate that he reported the results of his sim to the rest of the IG and the ATSB, but it seems Exner still owes the ATSB a “report” also.
In recent correspondence to me, the ATSB indicated (excerpt)
The ATSB has not seen any details on how the IG Sim was setup and operated. The IG advised that they were going to produce a report on this.
Dan Daniel JT O'Malley
Communications Officer Australian Transport Safety Bureau
/ P 1800-020-606
Now, perhaps Exner has since provided ATSB with his “report,” leaving just the one he deemed for “general consumption” to be completed. In any event, as I said, we do have the “blurbs.” And what do they show? For one thing, they show that Exner's rather emphatic pronouncement to me in the e-mail above that, “Such ROC values cannot be attributed to a phugoid maneuver.” meaning an ROC = 15,258 ft/min. has been refuted by Exner himself. In an internet post on the Jeff Wise blog Exner states he observed the following during his sim (excerpt) “….vertical speeds that must have been 20-30,000 ft/min for brief transients.”
So, it seems Exner was wrong about the ROC and also wrong about my phugoid input as he also states he observed phugoids - “several” in fact! xi
And what did the ATSB say about the IG's end of flight dive bomber scenario? Well, I asked them and reproduced below are excerpts from their e-mail response to my inquiry:
I’ve consulted with my colleagues in the MH370 Working Group, and have addressed your queries below.
1. Did ATSB observe anything that could be described as a "near vertical descent" during it's sim(s)?
No. In each simulation, the aircraft began a descending spiralling turn. The turn was generally a low bank angle that took up to 12 minutes to descend close to the water from various altitudes.
And how about my phugoids?
4. Any comment on my attached sim description would be appreciated.
The working group advised that also during their simulations as in yours that in many cases, though not all, that the aircraft pitched up and down at low frequency during the spirals (i.e. a Phugoid oscillation was observed). Some of the oscillations were large (0g to 2g) but did not result in a stalled aircraft during these Phugoid cycles.
Dan Daniel JT O'Malley
Communications Officer Australian Transport Safety Bureau
/ P 1800-020-606
So we've demonstrated there is no empirical evidence to support the IG's MH370 end of flight scenario. We've also shown that there is no justification for recommending a narrowing of the width of the official MH370 search zone.
I just want to take this opportunity to thank Martin Dolan and the ATSB for making the proper decision regarding the width of the official MH370 search area.
Copyright 2014 – J.E. Fiorentino – All Rights Reserved