#MH370: The Doppler Effect, the Undisputed Facts and a Theory

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777

Have remains of MH 370 been found west of Australia?

Good afternoon:

AMSA cancelled search operations today due to bad weather. They plan to resume the search tomorrow.

The cancelled search provides us with an opportunity to consider the doppler effect and why it establishes that MH370 flew south into the southern Indian Ocean as well to review the undisputed facts in an effort to propose a viable theory (i.e., evidence based) that explains what happened to MH370.

The Doppler Effect

The Doppler Effect is the difference you hear in the sound of a siren on an approaching vehicle compared to the sound you hear as the vehicle passes you and recedes in the distance. The siren continuously sounds the same to the driver and anyone in the vehicle, but it gets louder and higher as the vehicle approaches you and softer and lower as it recedes from you. The only time the siren sounds the same to you as it does to the people in the vehicle is when the vehicle reaches you.

Wikipedia describes the effect withe this analogy:

An analogy would be a pitcher throwing one ball every second in a person’s direction (a frequency of 1 ball per second). Assuming that the balls travel at a constant velocity and the pitcher is stationary, the man will catch one ball every second. However, if the pitcher is jogging towards the man, he will catch balls more frequently because the balls will be less spaced out (the frequency increases). The inverse is true if the pitcher is moving away from the man; he will catch balls less frequently because of the pitcher’s backward motion (the frequency decreases). If the pitcher were to move at an angle but with the same speed, the variation of the frequency at which the receiver would catch the ball would be less as the distance between the two would change more slowly.

From the point of view of the pitcher, the frequency remains constant (whether he’s throwing balls or transmitting microwaves). Since with electromagnetic radiation like microwaves frequency is inversely proportional to wavelength, the wavelength of the waves is also affected. Thus, the relative difference in velocity between a source and an observer is what gives rise to the doppler effect.

Inmarsat was able to use the doppler effect to figure out whether MH370 took the northern or southern route by measuring the frequency of the 8 or 9 pinging radio waves. Relative to the position of the satellite in space, they could determine if MH370 was getting closer to the satellite or farther away. Then they verified their theory by using the satellite to determine if other known flights were approaching or receding from the satellite.

Pending an independent review of the data that validates Inmarsat’s conclusions, I will conclude that MH370 took the southern route into the south Indian Ocean.

Nevertheless, I still find it difficult to believe that someone intentionally decided to kill 238 people on the aircraft and then commit suicide by flying MH370 into the southern Indian Ocean until it ran out of gas and plunged into the sea.

Undisputed Facts

Let’s take a look at the undisputed facts:

1. MH270 departed Kuala Lumpur for Beijing at 12:41 am on Saturday, March 8 with 227 passengers and a crew of 12.

2. MH370 confirms reaching cruising altitude of 35,000 feet at 1:01 am.

3. Last ACARS data transmission received at 1:07 am; MH370 reconfirms altitude of 35,000 feet (the ACARS system was disabled sometime after 1:07 am and the next scheduled transmission at 1:37 am). To disable ACARS, a person would have to access the electrical bay beneath the floor behind the cockpit and disconnect the circuit breakers. Access to the electrical bay is through a trap door in the floor that is concealed by a carpet that must be pulled back to reveal the door. A special tool is required to open the door. Although disabled, the system continues to periodically ping the communication satellite approximately once per hour. Inmarsat, which operates the satellite, used the pings to calculate the location of MH370 and its direction of flight.

4. ATC Kuala Lumpur contacts MH370 at 1:19 am and instructs the pilots to contact ATC Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam for the next leg of the flight. The copilot responds, “All right. Good night.” That is a possibly significant variation in routine, which is to respond, “Roger and out.” Some people, including myself have speculated that the response was a veiled warning that something was amiss. MH370 did not contact ATC Ho Chi Minh City.

5. The transponder was turned off 2 minutes later at 1:21 am.

6. Shortly afterwards the aircraft climbed to 45,000 feet and turned sharply to head back across the Malaysian peninsula. It later traveled some distance at 23,000 feet and even dipped down to 5,000 feet.

7. At 1:30 am a pilot on another flight attempted to contact MH370 but only heard mumbling and static.

8. The expected half-hourly ACARS data transmission at 1:37 am did not happen.

9. At 2:11 am the first of seven automated hourly pings received by the Inmarsat satellite.

10. At 2:15 am the Malaysian military lost radar contact with MH370, which was 200 miles northwest of Penang.

11. At 8:11 am, the Inmarsat satellite received the last ping from MH370.

12. Neither the crew nor the aircraft’s onboard communication systems relayed a distress signal, indications of bad weather, or technical problems before the aircraft vanished from radar screens.

A New Theory

I now suspect there was an attempted hijacking and a struggle in the cockpit that ended with the deaths of everyone on board probably due to a decompression of the aircraft.

Tell us what you think.

31 Responses to #MH370: The Doppler Effect, the Undisputed Facts and a Theory

  1. crazy1946 says:

    Before we decide that the flight was hijacked, perhaps we should attempt to determine a motive or reason? Many people have (in their minds) decided the Captain is guilty of some action resulting in the crashing and ultimately the destruction of the aircraft. I would question that if he had masterminded a plot to take over the flight for some nefarious reason, that he would most certainly have left some sort of message as to why he would do so… We have been so quick to point fingers at the senior member of the crew, yet for some reason have not chosen to do the same for any of the passengers up to and including the two individuals that were on the flight illegally.. Can anyone say with absolute certainty that these two allegedly innocent individuals were not in some way (even if indirectly) involved in the destruction of this aircraft? How about the flight engineer from another company that was on the flight? Could he have been involved? Where and who had the alleged specialty tool to access the circuit breakers to disable the electronics under the floor? Now, I realize that it is not popular to suggest that it perhaps could have been a mechanical or electronic failure that caused the destruction of the aircraft, can anyone of us rule that out at this point? One more point that was mentioned but sort of glossed over was the possibility that the flight was seized by a computerized attack from an outside source. Contrary to what they said it ability to control the aircraft from the ground is not impossible.

    • With the exception of the pilot and copilot, investigators have ruled out all of the crew and passengers. No one had any known connection to terrorist groups.

      The copilot is a suspect because he responded to the order to contact ATC Ho Chi Minh City by saying, “All Right. Good night.”

      He did not say anything was wrong and he did not contact Ho Chi Minh City. Two minutes later, the transponder shut off and the plane turned back.

      The pilot is a suspect because he was in the cockpit and 1 of only 2 people who knew how to fly the plane and disconnect the ACARS system.

      • crazy1946 says:

        Professor, I find it unusual that you would openly accept the findings of the investigators as fact in this case? While I find much of what they have said to be credible, I can’t help to feel that they are grasping at straws in an effort to find cause in this incident. Is it possible that there is more to the story to be known in regards to the two illegal passengers? Please do not take my comments wrong, I am not saying that you are incorrect in what you assume, only that perhaps there is too much unknown at this point to actually make a factual assessment…

    • BUAP says:

      Heard of BUAP.
      Stealth flight could be one step further than this. If one could remotly take control of an aircraft then remotly switch off a system! would not be impossible.

      • crazy1946 says:

        ok, feel free to enlighten us on “BUAP”, I never heard of it and a quick web search failed to tell me anything about it…

      • crazy1946 says:

        After reading my last post, I did another web search and found links leading to the alleged project you are referencing. While it is an interesting conspiracy theory, I think it is simply that and nothing more, the first key that I had to how accurate it was, had to do with the inclusion of Pres. Obama into your conspiracy, ditch the political nonsense, and retry. Perhaps then you might be taken a bit more serious.

  2. racerrodig says:

    “Before we decide that the flight was hijacked, perhaps we should attempt to determine a motive or reason?”

    I hear ya loud and clear. but many crimes never have a motive found or explained.

    The issue I have is how does this plane wind up crashing this far off course ? It was headed for Beijing which the original flight path was northerly and it went down far west or that…….

    I can’t argue the plane being taken over electronically as I know that’s possible. Is it possible all radio communication was jammed for lack of a better term ?

  3. towerflower says:

    I do not believe it is a hijacking. Since 911 hijackings are now viewed differently and I doubt the passengers would have stood by and let it happen. There would have needed to be more than 2 hijackers….to fly and control the passengers.

    While the pilot was known to be upset about a recent political situation there is no other indications that he would have gone extremist in such a short period of time. No other passengers have raised any suspicions not even the two with the stolen passports.

    Just about every type of terrorist act has someone claiming responsibility and it has been quiet with no group stepping up.

    I’m convinced that something happened to the plane. They were known to have carried over 400 pds of lithium batteries which are highly flammable and at one time it was pressed to stop having these batteries transported by air since they have been known to have caused crashes in the past.

    The link I provided on another thread was from a pilot who suggested that if it was a fire….which would explain the loss of several key avionics, the pilot might also have climbed the airplane to a very high altitude to try and deny the fire of oxygen and put it out that way. If it was a decompression event than it would also fall into the unconfirmed reports that the jet dropped to 12,000 feet. They would have needed to get to breathable air.

    Once they find those boxes, only the airline components one will provide any clues. The other box only records transmissions and cockpit conversations and it is a looped, constantly erasing and recording device. With the jet flying for another 6 hours there would be nothing left to hear if the crew and passengers were already dead and the recording goes from anywhere to 30 mins to 1 hour. They only go for a short period of time because most accidents are covered within this timeframe.

    I imagine that the Woods Hole institute will be involved in this sooner or later. They were also involved in the location and recovery of the Air France crash.

  4. I think the pilot attempted to hijack the plane and the copilot attempted to prevent it. I believe their struggle resulted in a catastrophic decompression that killed everyone on board.

    I don’t believe the pilot intended to commit suicide.

    I suspect he had a destination in mind where he wanted to seek asylum, rather like the Ethiopian copilot who hijacked an Ethiopian Airlines 767-300 on February 7th.

    Here’s Wikipedia:

    February 17, 2014: Ethiopian Airlines Flight 702 “on scheduled service departing from Addis Ababa at 00:30 (local time) scheduled to arrive in Rome at 04:40 (local time) was forced to proceed to Geneva airport”, according to the airline. The Boeing 767-300 (ET-AMF) was flying north over Sudan when it changed radio frequency to squawk 7500—which is used in case of hijacking. Nearing Geneva, the pilots communicated with air traffic control to inquire about possibility of hijackers receiving asylum in Switzerland. The aircraft circled the airport several times, before landing around 6:00 in the morning with one engine and less than 10 minutes of fuel remaining. The airport remained closed as the aircraft stayed on the tarmac. At 7:12 local time, the pilots communicated to ATC that they would be ready to disembark passengers in five minutes. The hijacker which was the co-pilot was arrested.

    • crazy1946 says:

      Do you have a destination in mind? One that was with in range that could possibly have been willing to offer the pilot safe haven? His motive for doing this was?

      • His motive: He was a member of the opposition party that lost the recent election. The ruling party has been in power since the nation came into existence. It has governed ruthlessly and used the criminal laws to imprison and silence dissent. Following the recent election that the opposition party protested alleging irregularities in the vote, the party’s candidate, who is gay, was prosecuted and convicted of sodomy. The pilot not only supported his candidacy, he is related to him by blood. He was an outspoken critic who wore a t-shirt in public proclaiming “Democracy is Dead.” He attended an appeals court hearing in his relative’s case earlier on the day of the flight. The conviction and sentence were affirmed. He may have believed that he would be targeted for prosecution behind trumped up charges and he may have decided to flee to another country and seek political asylum.

        He may have decided to fly to Diego Garcia in the south Indian Ocean that has an airstrip jointly operated by the UK and the US. The plane had enough fuel to get there.

        • colin black says:

          But Fred as a Pilot he had no need to hijack a plane to flee.

          He flew one as a job?

          He could simply disembark the plane at either a stop over for fuel or at his destination.

          Jump in a Taxi a drive to any embassy he fancied an claim asylum.

          Thats what I would do if I were a pilot an wanted to emigrate an seek assylum.

          I certainly wouldnt staesl a plane full of passengers .

          Kind of puts a dent in you C V in your hope of employment in your new country.

          Only job you would get Is in prison seveing a lengthy sentance .

          And youd get deported back to whence you came on release.

          • He may have been thinking about generating a lot of publicity in hopes of focusing world attention on the state of civil rights in Malaysia.

            Also, the copilot on the Ethiopian Airlines flight to Rome two weeks earlier may have set an example for him by hijacking the flight to Geneva.

            I obviously don’t know the answer.

            Just speculating.

        • towerflower says:

          I don’t believe this makes sense. One he was a senior pilot in the airline. As such he chooses the routes he wants and he could have flown into a country that the airliner stops at in order to leave the plane and ask for asylum.

          Next, if he was making a political statement why not leave a note? Send a note? A letter to a newspaper? Anything to say how it was a political statement. But there was nothing.

    • Agreed. That turn over Malaysia towards the Straits of Malacca says a lot to me.

      Have you read the well received article in Popular Mechanics written about Air France #477, after the ‘black boxes’ were found 2 years later. The author uses actual conversations (translated from French) to tell that story. Beyond haunting what happened in the final 15 mins in the cockpit. The plane was descending from the aft at a 30 degree angle for the entire ride down, They just kept the nose up the while the plane was descending, unbelievable. Conversations show they had no idea till the very end they were descending. Complete pilot error & avoidable. Horrifying and sad.

      http://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/aviation/crashes/what-really-happened-aboard-air-france-447-6611877

      • Trained Observer says:

        Ham — Thanks for posting this compelling read. Simply flabbergasting.

      • bettykath says:

        Icing is sometimes hard to detect. A friend of mine was doing a simulator test with an instructor in the right seat. Something was wrong. Nothing he tried fixed it. He stopped the simulation, admitted that he was stumped and even if it meant he failed the check ride, he wanted to know what was going on. Turns out the wings were iced to a non-flying configuration/weight. The instruments were of no help in figuring out was wrong. He was glad for the lesson b/c he then knew how insidious icing could be and it would be high on his list of possibilities if he were in a similar situation.

  5. colin black says:

    Maylasia Airlines have been beyond vauge concerning the cargo the plane had in its vaults.

    First it was no cargo then it was something or other an then they said battereys.

    Lots of high value cargoes gold money dimonds ect use brown parcel security.

    That is armed gaurds armoured vechicles escorts scream MONEY to criminals.

    So many companies use brown paper security ie bland no big deal and it draws little or no atttention .

    Except to those in the need to know link.

    In thease troubled times we live In currancy=paper loses its value .

    People want gold or even bettter dimonds less bulky an worth a lot more per ounce.

    What If that pale had billlions of pound worth of dimonds?

    A Couple of ruthless people whom could fly a plane equiped with parachutes.

    And an acomplace with a waiting boat could commit the perfect crime.

    • crazy1946 says:

      colin black, towerflower: I suspect that one of the scenario’s that you two have offered are closer to the truth than most of what has been offered up to this point. Perhaps the conspiracy theorists’ ideas are not so far fetched after all… While the only truth that we possible will ever know is that the “true cause” of this incident will never be reveled, people will continue to offer their “pet” theories up as fact for many years to come…

  6. ed nelson says:

    Hey the “Dopler Effect” is like… “… EEEEEaaaYoouuuuwww…. !

  7. Allison says:

    What about the two Navy Seals that were killed guarding the cargo? I know the media is claiming drugs were found in their rooms but I am not buying it.

    • Malisha says:

      Huh? What’s the story of the cargo and the two seals?

      BTW, I wouldn’t rule out far-fetched things simply because they are far-fetched. After all, the disappearance of the plane is itself pretty far-fetched.

      A friend of mine who lived in the region for years and who is familiar with Pnang believes there may be information, if not evidence, to be found in the area known as the “Cameron Highlands.” I can’t figure out why she believes this; she knew a businessman who disappeared there at one point. And it seemed that everybody knew how and where he had “disappeared.” But nobody told how they knew.

      • towerflower says:

        Back in Feb., 2 ex Navy Seals about the Merask Alabama (sp) were found dead in their cabin of a drug overdose. They had been out on the town the night before. After the hijacking of the vessel the company hired ex Navy Seals to help protect their ships.

        The latest conspiracy theory was that these two were guarding a special cargo and they were killed after their services were no longer required to keep them silent. This “cargo” went around to several different places to where it was loaded on the plane bound for China. The US got ahold of the cargo and it was sent to the old nuclear testing fields in the US for detonation. I don’t remember all of it but it was pretty far out into left field.

        • towerflower says:

          There are a few conspiracies theories about the ex seals. Some consider them to be part of some secret that Obama wants to keep silenced…..even though both seals were out of the service before he took power.

        • Malisha says:

          This “cargo” went around to several different places to where it was loaded on the plane bound for China.

          But it was not loaded onto Flight 370 — right?

          There’s no (by the evidence) indication that this had anything to do with 370?

  8. towerflower says:

    about=aboard

  9. Mr Ken Smith says:

    @ item 3.
    It is possible to disable ACARS in cockpit. You don’t have to go down into electronics bay at all. However is you really want to go there you don’t need a special tool, but a key. If one of the pilots would’ve been a highjacker he had to leave cockpit (which is then locked), enter cabin, fold-back carpet, open hatch (all in plain view of passengers and crew), enter electronics bay, locate CB’s (I fly those B777’s as Captain and heve absolutely no idea where those CB’s would be located), pull them, go back out, close hatch, fold back carpet, return to flightdeck and hope te get access back into cockpit after a really outrageously strange escapade. I don’t think so.
    @ item 4.
    “Roger and Out” is a message not one pilot would EVER use. Standard phraseology would’ve been a read-back of next sector’s frequency and callsign (i.e. “Malaysian 370″). A short “Allright, goodnight” is somewhat strange to me, I agree, especially as callsign is omitted.

    • Welcome aboard, Captain.

      Thanks for the explanation. Appreciate your input.

    • towerflower says:

      Mr. Smith……I am an Air Traffic Controller and as such I can tell you it is not uncommon for pilots not to use their callsign, give full read backs and the such. First consider the time of the day, 1am and at that time there is typically not much commercial traffic flying at that time. Pilots and controllers both can be lax in their phraseology requirements. I do not find the reply to a freq. change alarming at all.

      In a perfect aviation world, all pilots and all controllers would use the required by the book phraseology but if you are a pilot then you also know that this is not the case.

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