It’s been eight years since Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 disappeared with 239 people on board and the next of kin have again called for the search to go on.
On March 6, the relatives of those on board MH370 gathered online via Zoom to mark the anniversary of the plane’s disappearance.
Flight MH370 went missing on March 8, 2014. It was en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.
While some debris has been found that the Malaysian authorities say is from the missing plane, neither MH370 nor its voice and data recorders have been located.
At the remembrance event Oliver Plunkett, who is the CEO of the American seabed exploration company Ocean Infinity, said the company was getting ready to bring new robotic ships into operation.
He said: “For the first time since early 2020, we’ve got clarity on the plan for where we’d search, we’ve got clarity for the availability of our assets and therefore we’re in a position to sensibly reengage in the conversation and say to the Malaysian government ‘Look we’re ready to go back and carry on’.
“Hopefully, all being well, we will be in a position to go back in early 2023.”
In 2018, Ocean Infinity spent more than three months searching for MH370 in the southern Indian Ocean.
Plunkett (pictured left) said two 78-metre robotic vessels, which could be operated completely remotely, with no crew on board, were being built in Vietnam. One of the vessels was about to go in the water for the first time, Plunkett said.
The eventual aim is to have a fleet of 23 robotic ships.
Plunkett said any new search would be conducted on the same basis as before: ‘no cure, no fee’. He added that Ocean Infinity had been carefully reviewing data from the original search to make sure that nothing had been missed.
In the previous search, Ocean Infinity used a leased Norwegian vessel, Seabed Constructor, and its own Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs), capable of operating in depths up to 6,000 metres.
In three months of searching, the company scoured, and collected data from, more than 112,000 square kilometres of ocean floor, which is far in excess of the initial 25,000-square-kilometre target and almost the same area as was examined in the previous search over a period of two and a half years.
The previous Australian-led underwater search was suspended on January 17, 2017, after an area spanning 120,000 square kilometres was scoured.
Plunkett said there was still a lot of work ahead to get the robotic ships ready, and Ocean Infinity would need to deal with the fact that no regulatory framework exists for ships that can be driven with no one on board.
He said the search for MH370 was almost a daily conversation at Ocean Infinity.
“It is not something that we’ve forgotten or we will forget, and we want to come and do it,” he said. “There’s a lot of stuff to sort out between now and 2023. But we’re going to try and make it happen. And if not, it’s 2024.”
On June 20, Plunkett met Malaysia’s transport minister, Wee Ka Siong, and told him that Ocean Infinity was ready to resume searching for MH370 on a ‘no cure, no fee’ basis.
Wee Ka Siong said in a Facebook post: “Plunkett gave us an update on the company’s latest advances in their technology, human talent, and capabilities compared to five years ago.”
The minister added: “I have instructed my officers at MOT to obtain further information from Ocean Infinity for deliberation before we consult on further decisions with the governments of Australia and the People’s Republic of China.
“We further reiterated that there must be new credible evidence before we can proceed with another search operation.”
Officers from the Ministry of Transport’s aviation division, the Air Accident Investigation Bureau, and the Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia also attended Monday’s meeting along with representatives of the next of kin of passengers and crew who were on board MH370.
The editor-in-chief of Airline Ratings, Geoffrey Thomas, wrote on June 22: “It is perfectly clear that the Malaysian Government has absolutely no interest in finding MH370 …”
Thomas quotes Independent Group investigator Richard Godfrey, who, after analysing Weak Signal Propagation Reporter (WSPR) data, proposed a possible new search area, as saying: “Currently, the WSPR-based evidence, as well as Ocean Infinity’s private assessments by three universities together with the original Inmarsat data analysis, are being compiled to justify the choice of the proposed search area.
“In my view, I do not see why Ocean Infinity has to justify their choice of a proposed search area, as their proposal is on a no find no fee basis. When Ocean Infinity is funding the underwater search, they are taking the financial risk for the planned operation.”
Thomas also quotes Godfrey as saying: ““Whereas it is diplomatic of Malaysia to consult with Australia and China in view of the expired tripartite agreement, it is the legal, financial, aviation safety and moral responsibility of the Malaysian government to find MH370.”
According to Thomas, the solution for Ocean Infinity is very simple. He says: “Just tell the Malaysians we going to look for it anyway and they will sign up at the last minute, as they did last time, because the only thing worse than finding it is for someone else to control it when it is found.”
He adds: “Malaysia has a responsibility to international aviation to find MH370 and, if it does not, the International Civil Aviation Organisation should sanction the airline and mount its own search.”
Godfrey has published a new data analysis. He monitored radio signals sent out by radio amateurs around the world. Hundreds of these signals are sent out every two minutes.
He originally placed the location of MH370 at about 33.2 degrees south, 95.3 degrees east in the middle of the southern Indian Ocean, about 2,000 kilometres west of Perth, Australia, but, on September 8, he published a new paper in which he presents new calculations that he says indicate that MH370 took a different route to the one he suggested earlier.
Godfrey now says the crash location is further north than previously thought and up to 42 nautical miles southeast of what has been labelled ‘the 7th arc’.
To make his calculations, he has used the Global Detection and Tracking of Any Aircraft Anywhere (GDTAAA) software based on the WSPR data, which is publicly available on WSPRnet.
He writes: “MH370 crashed between 00:22 UTC and 00:27 UTC. At 00:22 UTC the position from the WSPRnet analysis was estimated to be 30.00°S 98.70°E. At 00:26 UTC the position from the WSPRnet analysis was estimated to be 30.57°S 98.75°E.”
He made the following statement about his new calculations: “We have presented evidence that there was an active pilot until the end of the MH370 flight. We have also presented evidence that the pilot may have been disoriented, which can be caused by hypoxia.”
Godfrey’s new calculations indicate a flight path after Penang that does not go up the Malacca strait as was suggested in the full safety investigation report released by the Malaysian International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Annex 13 Safety Investigation Team for MH370 on July 30, 2018.
In an answer to a question on the website ‘The Search for MH370‘ Godfrey said: “We have shown, with the much improved granularity of the WSPRnet data (77 WSPRnet data points versus seven Inmarsat satellite data points), that the flight path was anything but a straight line and much more like a zigzag flight path.
“Using GDTAAA and the WSPRnet data is more like taking a video as opposed to a few photos. This zigzag flight path raises the question whether the pilot was disoriented, because of all the turns up to every eight minutes during the flight, coupled with times up to 32 minutes under autopilot in straight flight.”
One pilot who has studied the disappearance of MH370 in great detail but prefers not to be named says Godfrey’s new calculations fit perfectly with the theory that the pilot of MH370 was incapacitated and no-one was in control after Penang.
He says the turns every eight minutes looked to him more like uncontrolled meandering than pilot disorientation.
“The meandering flight path that Godfrey is now suggesting would be better explained by a ghost flight scenario than an active pilot being in control,” he said.
Godfrey’s new flight path diagram
Godfrey explains that, when the radio signals crossed the path of an aircraft, it is possible to detect changes in the signal level and in the frequency.
He said at the March 6 remembrance event: “We believe that this is credible new evidence and we encourage the authorities to go back and search again, because the way we will finally validate this WSPR technology is by going and finding MH370,” he said at the March 6 remembrance event.
The original decision to search for MH370 in the southern Indian Ocean was based on calculations by the British company Inmarsat that were based on satellite pings – or handshakes – from MH370. Inmarsat said MH370 was most likely to be found along the 7th arc.
There are investigators who doubt the validity of the Inmarsat data and believe that MH370 never reached the southern Indian Ocean. Others continue to have faith in the data, but question the deductions that have been made.
Godfrey also said during the remembrance event that seven studies by different oceanographers had also pinpointed the location he was suggesting. “It is very encouraging to me to see the Inmarsat data, the fuel data, the oceanography data agreeing with the WSPR data, and these are four independent data sets,” he said.
“We’ve searched that area before … it’s very difficult terrain, very rugged; there are canyons and volcanoes; the ridges and cliffs. So it may have been missed.”
He added in September that Ocean Infinity only searched 22 nautical miles either side of the 7th Arc in his newly defined area. He said the new crash location was near the estimated position given by GDTAAA and the WSPRnet data at 00:26 UTC of 30.57°S 98.75°E and was outside the previously searched area.
He added: “The ATSB did not cover this newly defined search area in their original underwater search in 2015 and 2016, although the area was partially covered in their underwater survey in 2014.”
Godfrey said at the remembrance event : “The Inmarsat satellite data is around about every hour in the Indian Ocean, but the WSPR data allows us to track MH370 much more precisely, every two minutes.”
Godfrey explained further: “We thought, on the basis of the Inmarsat satellite data, and on the basis of a validated fuel model, that the flight path was due south in in a straight line until fuel exhaustion at around 34 degrees south on what is known as the 7th arc.”
He said at the remembrance event that his analysis showed that MH370 did not fly in a straight line and there was a holding pattern of about 22 minutes near to waypoint PAKRA, off the coast of the Indonesian island of Sumatra.
“It is interesting to ask the question, why there was a holding pattern, was there some communication going on? Was the pilot checking whether he was being followed? Or was he just biding time to work out his next move?” Godfrey said.
Godfrey’s original flight path diagram
In the above diagram, Godfrey refers to “Zaharie Shah Simulator End Point”, but it is debatable whether Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah, who was the chief pilot of MH370, had an actual route on his home simulator or whether there were simply a number of unlinked data points.
Godfrey is one of numerous people who have made the unsupported allegation that the pilot of MH370 purposely brought down the plane and was responsible for the deaths of those on board.
He has now made the following statement:
“I am on the record publicly as stating that my private opinion is that the pilot was Captain Zaharie Shah. I have always made it clear that this is based only on circumstantial evidence and is not proven.
“This is not my public opinion, where I have always talked about the pilot without naming anyone.
“I am also on the record publicly as stating that the circumstantial evidence against Captain Zaharie Shah would not hold up in a court of law.
“To be clear the home flight simulator of Captain Zaharie Shah shows an accelerated simulation to fuel exhaustion in the southern Indian Ocean based on the fuel available for a flight to Jeddah and not to Beijing. The simulation is not a flight route, but only a fuel check.
“This cannot be used as evidence in court of a planned flight to fuel exhaustion in the southern Indian Ocean. This is not evidence of a premeditated hijacking and murder suicide. This is like someone being handed a smoking gun and then being accused of being the murderer.
“To solve the mystery of the disappearance of MH370 we need to find the aircraft and recover the FDR and other evidence from the wreckage.”
There is no evidence to prove that Zaharie purposely brought down MH370 and the full report released in July 2018 does not apportion blame.
Lead investigator Kok Soo Chon said when releasing the report that the team was not of the opinion that Captain Zaharie caused the plane’s disappearance.
The investigation team reported that there was no evidence to suggest that MH370 was flown by anyone other than the designated Malaysia Airlines pilots, but Kok Soo Chon said the team could not rule out the possibility that there was “unlawful interference” by a third party.
“But at the same time we cannot deny the fact that there was an air turn back. We cannot deny the fact that, as we have analysed, the systems were manually turned off, with intent or otherwise,” he added.
Godfrey’s WSPR analysis was dismissed by several experts when it was first published. Opinion remains divided now, with some experts considering that Godfrey may be onto something significant and some commentators still dismissing his analysis out of hand.
The next of kin of those on board MH370 see promise and a glimmer of hope that Godfrey’s analysis may lead them to the crash site.
French journalist challenges official narrative
French investigative journalist Florence de Changy, whose book, ‘The Disappearing Act: The Impossible Case of MH370’, has just been published in paperback and was published in hardback in February 2021, says there is no tangible foundation for the official narrative about what happened to MH370: that it made a turn back across Malaysia and then flew on for more than seven hours until it finally crashed in the southern Indian Ocean. There is simply no proof to back up this version of events, De Changy says.
“Many more clues point to a covert interception attempt that went terribly wrong, with a fatal accident happening around 2.40 a.m. between Vietnam and China,” she writes.
De Changy (pictured left) told Changing Times: “Since I published ‘The Disappearing Act: The Impossible Case of MH370’ I have continued to receive information from very solid sources that bolsters the evidence I present in the book.
“People of pretty high calibre have contacted me to comment on some specific aspects of the story, sometimes to provide me with more accurate details and sometimes just to share professional feedback.
“These include crash investigators, military personnel, scientists, and witnesses. This gives me confidence that, sooner or later, the entire truth will come out.”
The main hypothesis De Changy puts forward is that MH370 crashed northeast of Vietnam about an hour after it disappeared from air traffic control at 1.21 a.m.
“When it ‘disappeared’, it was just being jammed and rendered stealthy by American Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircrafts that were on site,” she said.
“Despite being unable to communicate, MH370 continued to fly and, when it approached Chinese airspace, its satcom suddenly was reconnected and its position could be downloaded by the Malaysian operations centre, as reported in the annex of the full technical report.”
De Changy, who is based in Hong Kong and covers the Asia-Pacific region for Le Monde, noted (referring to the the same technical report) that MH370 was carrying 2.5 tonnes of electronic cargo that was not X-rayed before being taken on board and was taken to the airport under escort.
She hypothesises that this suspicious cargo may have triggered a “cargo confiscation operation” that Captain Zaharie may have refused to execute.
“My book has established beyond doubt that the official narrative is a pure fabrication, that the search in Australia was just a diversion,” De Changy said.
“The captain was a perfectly decent man and an excellent pilot. The plane did not U-turn and did not crash in the southern Indian Ocean.”
De Changy notes that the official narrative about what happened to MH370 has returned to the news at a very regular pace. She says people who challenge the official narrative are being silenced.
Another important voice that had gone oddly quiet was that of the highly respected Sir Tim Clark, the President of Emirates Airline.
Emirates runs the largest fleet of Boeing 777s in the world, and its chief was clearly not impressed with the ‘disappearance’ narrative.
He had initially declared that “he would not be silenced” on the matter. “We seem to have allowed MH370 to go into this black hole of ‘it could be one of aviation’s great mysteries’.
“It can’t be left like that, never. I’m totally dissatisfied with what has been coming out of all of this. I will continue to ask the questions and will make a nuisance of myself, when others would like to bury it.”
“We have an obligation not to brush this under the carpet,” he added.
De Changy writes that, according to an Australian diplomatic source in the Middle East, it was the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB), “using – or rather, abusing – its leverage as regulator for one of Emirates’ major destinations”, who asked Clark to stop commenting about MH370.
“Apparently, Clark had no choice other than to comply, but he was so put out that he insisted on registering his annoyance with the Australian ambassador in Abu Dhabi,” she adds.
De Changy told Changing Times that German aviation journalist Andreas Spaeth was about to publish an article clarifying Clark’s views about the disappearance of MH370 that she says should fully vindicate and confirm statements made in her book.
In a ‘Flugforensik’(Flight Forensics) podcast about MH370, Benjamin Denes talks to Andreas Spaeth. There’s a clip on the ‘Flugforensik’ website of Tim Clark speaking about the disappearance of the plane and the way the ATSB reacted when he expressed his doubts about MH370 being in the southern Indian Ocean.
Clark said he would never accept that a 777 aircraft could disappear without trace in the 21st century and added: “I will never ever accept that. Sorry. What happened to it; anybody’s guess, but all the stuff I was receiving didn’t stack up … They haven’t found it, have they.”
De Changy says she thinks only a handful of people have the entire picture of what happened to MH370.
“People who saw the crash first hand may not know what happened or how it happened exactly and people who know precisely what happened may have no idea of why it happened.
“There must be a much large number of people who hold small yet significant pieces of the truth, sometimes without being aware of it. More than once during this almost eight-year-long investigation, people contributed information to me without even realising that they were bringing a small piece to the gigantic puzzle.”
De Changy believes that the former US president Barack Obama knows that MH370 didn’t end its journey in the southern Indian Ocean.
She notes Obama’s “unnatural engagement” with the former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, his “very telling exchanges” with Chinese President Xi Jinping in the weeks after the disappearance of MH370 and, over the ensuing two years, the “unbelievable laissez-faire American attitude that prevailed regarding the intense appropriation by China of disputed islands, atolls, and reefs in the South China Sea”.
De Changy raises doubts about the flaperon found on Reunion Island. She notes that, on September 3, 2015, the Paris public prosecutor’s office confirmed that the flaperon did belong to aircraft 9M-MRO (MH370).
“Due to that confirmation, the studies listed and planned by scientists were considered ‘no longer useful for identification of the part and were thus not continued’,” De Changy says.
“In other words, the experts who should have established with certainty the identity of this flaperon were relieved of the most important part of their mission very early in the process, because this issue had been ‘solved’ by the prosecutor’s statement.”
De Changy also notes that, in the examination report from France’s defence procurement and technology agency (the DGA), it’s stated that “the waterline noted did not correspond to that suggested by the zones where the crustaceans were located”. This, De Changy says, means that the flaperon’s floating position was inconsistent with the way the barnacles grew on it.
“How is it possible to have a flaperon that floats at a different angle when tested in a seawater swimming pool than the angle clearly defined by the waterline of crustaceans that grew on it when it was floating in the ocean?, De Changy asks. “Shouldn’t this glaring inconsistency raise a massive red flag?”
It’s also stated in the examination report that the flaperon had “a zone that seemed to have been touched-up”, and this was never mentioned by Malaysia Airlines, De Changy says.
In its report the DGA oftentimes regrets “the non-cooperation of Boeing” and it mentions “dents and perforations likely due to the presence of salient parts on the ‘objects’ that would have hit the flaperon during the accident”, she adds.
American amateur investigator Blaine Alan Gibson, who has found numerous pieces of plane debris, points out that the fact that the wing flap found in Tanzania was in a retracted position goes against the theory that there was a controlled intact ditching, a “pilot murder–suicide”.
It is astounding, Gibson says, that the controlled ditching theory is still being espoused, and that it is still being argued that the plane was intact under water.
In his search for debris, Gibson has been guided by oceanographer Charitha Pattiaratchi from the University of Western Australia in Perth.
Gibson said on Sunday: “I feel strongly the need to restart the search and find the plane. It was Professor Charitha Pattiaratchi’s drift analysis that guided me to Mozambique and Madagascar where I found the debris and now Richard Godfrey is saying we should go looking in the same area that Professor Pattiaratchi had indicated around latitude 33.
“The way to verify it, is to go there and look so I hope that the search is renewed and we find the plane.”
Gibson told Changing Times at the time of the seven-year remembrance event: “Professor Pattiaratchi’s drift analysis accurately predicted where MH370 debris would wash ashore and when. He advised me where to go search, and with the help of locals and fishermen I found some pieces of the plane.
“Both Professor Pattiaratchi and I think the most likely crash site lies between 32°S and 34° S latitude, most likely at the foot of Broken Ridge at about 32.5 °S.
“This is based on the fact that all the recovered debris was found in East Africa, and none in Australia, and the timing of the arrival of the early found debris.”
Pattiaratchi (pictured left) and Gibson say these latitudes should be searched about seventy nautical miles wide on either side of the 7th arc.
In all, more than thirty pieces of debris have been examined by the Malaysian authorities and three of them have been confirmed in official reports to be from MH370. Five pieces were handed over to the then Malaysian transport minister, Anthony Loke, in November 2018 and the investigating team concluded that one of them – a piece of floor panelling from a from a passenger cabin – was “likely” to be from MH370.
The team concluded that the other four pieces handed in in November were “not identifiable”.
The only debris that is said to be from MH370 has been retrieved on the African mainland and on islands off the African coast.
The full investigation team report states that items of debris possibly from MH370 have been found as far north as the eastern coast of Tanzania and as far south as the eastern coast of South Africa.
It says that this is “in addition to several islands and island nations off the east coast of the African continent”.
Of these items of debris, the flaperon that was found on Reunion island, and is still in the possession of the French authorities, a part of the right outboard flap, and a section of the left outboard flap were confirmed to be from MH370, the report states.
The report states that 27 significant pieces of debris had been recovered and examined at the time it was produced.
In addition to the three pieces confirmed to be from MH370, seven pieces, including some cabin interior items, had been determined to be “almost certainly” from the plane. The report says that eight pieces of debris are “highly likely” to be from MH370 and one piece is “likely” to be from the plane. Eight pieces of debris were not identifiable.
Malaysia still awaits ‘credible evidence’
In a recorded message for this year’s remembrance event, Wee Ka Siong (pictured left) expressed his sympathy with the next of kin and said the Malaysian government would carefully consider all new credible information brought forward about the possible location of MH370.
“Please let me reiterate the government of Malaysia’s aspiration to look for MH370 has not been abandoned,” Wee Ka Siong said. “We just need credible and actionable evidence to act on before we can mount an expedition which we are certain could yield results.”
The ATSB requested a new review of the data gathered during the ATSB-led search in the southern Indian Ocean.
“When the ATSB was made aware that Mr Godfrey’s zone incorporates an area of ocean surveyed during the ATSB-led search, out of due diligence the ATSB requested Geoscience Australia review the data it held from the search to re-validate that no items of interest were detected in that area,” the ATSB said.
The bureau said it had not had a formal involvement in any search for MH370 since the conclusion of the first underwater search in 2017 and had not recommenced a search for the aircraft.
The ATSB said it acknowledged that Godfrey was a credible expert on the subject of MH370, but the bureau did not have the technical expertise to, and had not been requested to, review his ‘MH370 Flight Path’ paper and workings.
ATSB chief commissioner, Angus Mitchell, added: “As such the ATSB cannot offer an assessment of the validity of Mr Godfrey’s work using WSPR data.”
Mitchell said any decision to conduct further searches for MH370 would be a matter for the government of Malaysia, and that the ATSB was not aware of any requests to the Australian government from Malaysia to support a new search for the missing aircraft.
The ATSB said in a joint statement with Geoscience Australia that the review of the data from the original search that led by the ATSB concluded that it was “highly unlikely” that there was an aircraft debris field within the reviewed search area.
The search was conducted between October 2014 and January 2017.
Angus Mitchell said: “The Geoscience Australia report notes that it is highly unlikely that there is an aircraft debris field within the area reviewed.”
The ATSB said in the statement issued on April 22 that the review identified 11 objects not analysed during the original search but none were assessed to be from an aircraft wreckage debris field.
“Eight of the objects were assessed as most likely geological features, and while three were identified as anthropogenic (i.e. not naturally occurring), none were determined to be associated with an aircraft,” the ATSB and Geoscience Australia said.
The CEO of Geoscience Australia, James Johnson, said that, over a two-month period, a team of experts had reviewed a band of high-resolution sonar imagery spanning 4,900 square kilometres.
“This data allowed us to detect objects as small as 30 centimetres by 30 centimetres. If the aircraft was within the area we have reviewed, the sonar data would have shown a scatter field of highly reflective debris,” Johnson said.
Mitchell said: “The ATSB concluded its formal involvement the search for MH370 in 2017, but we acknowledge the importance of locating the aircraft to provide answers and closure to the families of those who lost loved ones and in the interests of aviation safety.”
Johnson said: “We all understand the emotion that will come with this news, and those at the centre of this tragedy remain in our thoughts.”
Geoffrey Thomas pointed out in a review of the Geoscience Australia report that only 29% of the requested area was reviewed.
“Also, the report states multiple times that ‘further data acquisition’ and ‘additional data acquisition’ are required,” he added.
“It is perfectly clear from the report that there are multiple gaps in the search and it is important to note that even Ocean Infinity, with far better search equipment, had to make two sweeps to find the ARA San Juan, while AF447 was only found in Phase 4 of the underwater search.”
Thomas quoted Godfrey as saying it was clear that “the previous search has in principle skipped a significant portion of the search area with the ‘holidays’ [areas with a dimension greater than 100 metres where no data, or delineated lower quality data exist] and the use of equipment with insufficient performance (resolution) to find the target.”
He further quoted Godfrey as saying: “MH370 could easily have ended up in one of these insufficiently searched areas.”
Thomas said the Geoscience Australia report noted that there were “significant regions, mainly beyond the 10 nautical mile radius from the proposed crash location, that have either no data, data collected by Ocean Infinity that is not part of this review, or data collected using shipborne multi-beam sonar, which has insufficient resolution to identify an aircraft debris field”.
He pointed to Geoscience Australia’s conclusion that there remained “a significant area of 12,100 km2 within the 40 NM [nautical miles] radius from the proposed crash location as well as 72.79 km2 area of gaps and holidays” that had not been reviewed.
Retired ATSB programme director Peter Foley (pictured left), who was in charge of the ATSB-led search in the early days, said at Sunday’s remembrance event that his motivation was to provide some answers for the next of kin so that they can bring their loved-ones home, but, in a broader context, finding MH370 was absolutely crucial to aviation safety.
Foley said there was great sadness among the members of the Australia-led search when it was suspended in January 2017.
“I have said for quite some time that I believe the official search ended prematurely,” Foley said. He said there were still prospective areas left to search and some crucial analysis that was still being undertaken at the time the search was wound up.
Foley also pointed out that Malaysia was the “state of registry” for MH370. There was no need, he said, for the Australian or Chinese governments to agree to a new search. The Malaysian government decided unilaterally to commence the first operation and it could do the same again, he said.
Theories still abound
There are investigators who believe that there was a technical fault on MH370 and that Captain Zaharie tried to land the plane in Penang. They say evidence for a possible attempt to go to Penang is provided by the primary surveillance radar data from Kota Bharu and Butterworth.
One expert has suggested that MH370 crashed after there was a rupture in one of the crews’ two oxygen bottles.
The theory has been put forward by a senior British Boeing 777 airline captain, who prefers not to be named.
The pilot explains that emergency oxygen for the crew is stored in the avionics bay, which is located immediately beneath the flight deck.
He says that, if an oxygen bottle ruptured, it could be propelled into the fuselage structure, would breach the hull, and would cause decompression of the aircraft.
He suggests that the transponder could have been disabled when hit by the valve end of a bottle, or the power to it severed as the bottles sit next to the power source. This, the pilot says, would cause the aircraft to disappear from radar. And any number of other pieces of equipment could be affected by such an explosion.
“With the aircraft’s decompression, the pilots would be incapacitated within sixty seconds because of hypoxia and the fact that the emergency crew oxygen supply was destroyed,” the pilot said.
“With the flight crew now disabled and/or unconscious, no immediate descent would be initiated, no radio call would be made, and the passengers and crew would also soon succumb to hypoxia despite the drop-down oxygen in the cabin.”
The pilot says MH370’s erratic flight path could be explained by wiring damage caused by an explosion that could disable the autopilot and autothrottle.
“It is entirely possible that, after a decompression, the ensuing drop in temperature in the avionics bay could interfere with the information received by Inmarsat, thereby corrupting the data that was critical to their 7th arc theory and invalidating the coordinates that were used in the search in the southern Indian Ocean.”
Australian aviation enthusiast Michael Gilbert has speculated that there was a windshield heater fire that was fuelled by an oxygen leak in the plane’s cockpit and the one pilot he believes survived tried to reach Penang.
There are witness testimonies from locals in the Maldives who say that, at about 6.15 a.m. local time on the day that MH370 disappeared, they saw a low-flying jet fitting the plane’s description.
One pilot, who also prefers not to be named, explained to Changing Times that, if those were sightings of MH370, then the Inmarsat data has to be incorrect because it has the plane going in a completely different direction. “It is a case of one or the other. If the Inmarsat data was correct, then the sightings in the Maldives were not of MH370,” the pilot said.
Search ‘not just about need for closure’
Grace Subathirai Nathan (pictured above), whose mother, Anne Daisy, was on board MH370, pointed out that resuming the search for MH370 was not just about the next of kin’s need for closure.
“Like I’ve said in the past, it stands to benefit the aviation community and the international flying public,” she said.
“What is more important than our grief, our loss, and our need for closure is the fact that finding MH370 will answer many questions that are of great importance to the international flying community.”
K.S. Narendran from Chennai in India, whose wife Chandrika was on board MH370, makes the same point.
He told Changing Times: “We can’t give up the search … We need to know what happened. We need to make sure that it doesn’t happen again.
“I think one lesson that we have learned over the years is to be at peace with saying ‘I don’t know, but I am not giving up’.”
Narendran (pictured left) added: “I think we should continue to press for a more ongoing and substantive engagement from the Malaysian government. We have learned patience; we know that there are no miracles here, but we also know that there is truth that is waiting to be revealed.
“I don’t lose hope. I don’t lose my sleep anymore. I don’t agonise needlessly. I don’t have any illusions that just a handful of people can make all the noises to make the mountains move or the Malaysians act.”
Narendran (pictured left) praised the ATSB for “showing initiative and acting without being prompted” in its decision to review its search data.
“I wish that Malaysia had shown the same alacrity, the same enthusiasm, the same initiative, and the same commitment to something that should bother not just Malaysia, but everybody who flies, everybody who takes to the skies.”
It’s open for anybody to ask the government of Malaysia what has happened since 2017, when they stopped the search, Narendran points out.
“Have they buried the matter?” he said. “Do they see themselves as still responsible for finding answers? Have they been silently working on it, away from the public eye? Are they planning to publish any of that? Or have they gone back to business as usual and treated the whole matter as closed.
“Any dispassionate observer who’s looking for data, looking for statements coming from that government, looking for evidence of any reports, would come to the same conclusion: that they have done nothing.”
Narendran said at the remembrance event: “Every anniversary has been significant and it’s been painful, and it’s also been a moment of hope for all of us.
“It’s also been an occasion for us to remind ourselves of unfinished business, which has to do with the search and the investigation … We do believe that one day we will find the plane and one day we will have answers.”
The remembrance events are painful, Narendran says, because they are a sharp reminder of the loss the next of kin have endured.
“It’s not just about remembering those whom we lost, but also an opportunity to remind ourselves of the fact that we know very little beyond what he knew on March 8th, 2014.
“Eight years have gone by and we know far too little about what happened, why it happened, why the plane disappeared, and what might have caused it, or who might have caused it.
“It’s my hope that, one more time, we will recommit and dedicate ourselves to this search.”
Narendran called for mutual understanding and urged people to “stay connected” and to stand together and to “continue to press on with the science that makes all this possible and not let our egos come in the way”.
He told Changing Times that eight years now suddenly felt like a long, long time. “Personally I think I’ve put it behind me,” he said. “I think the process started perhaps even in 2017 or 2018. I think with every passing year it’s become a little easier to accept the reality that we are one member short in the family.
“I don’t look back much. I don’t feel weighed down by the overhang of memory or nostalgia. I think, for all of us in the house, acceptance has more or less come and I can look ahead.”
Grace Subathirai Nathan said that, for her and her family, the emotional journey of waiting for MH370 to be found had not become any easier. “We still don’t know where we are headed. We still don’t know if another search will start. And we still don’t know, even if a search starts, if MH370 will be found.
“So we continue to carry this burden of ‘maybe we will never know’. And that’s been very difficult, for me especially, on a personal level. We still have all these questions that remain unanswered, even though it’s been almost eight years.
“And we think that makes grieving and the loss ambiguous; extremely complex.”
Chinese next of kin
Next of kin from China joined Sunday’s remembrance event and called for the search to go on.
Jiang Hui, whose mother was on board MH370, today (Tuesday) went to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Malaysian embassy in Beijing and to the Beijing court that is dealing with compensation claims from the Chinese next of kin.
“I will be urging the court to make a judgment as soon as possible,” Jiang Hui told Changing Times on Monday. He said today (Tuesday) the presiding judge said that proceedings would begin as soon as possible, but he was not given a date.
The Chinese next of kin said in a message read out at Sunday’s remembrance event that they were ready to contribute to a reward fund for any new search for MH370.
They criticised the Malaysian government for not having released an interim report since the publication of the ‘full report’ in 2018. Not publishing an interim report every year is a violation of the ICAO’s regulations and is “an irresponsible act”, the Chinese next of kin said.
The next of kin in China have still not been able to obtain a complete Chinese translation of the Malaysian investigation team’s full report. Only about 500 pages have been translated. The full 1,423-page report comprises a main document totalling 495 pages and six separate appendices.
The Malaysian government issued a 584-page report in 2015 and interim statements in 2016, 2017, and 2018, before the release of the full safety report. The 2016 and 2018 statements were just three pages long and the 2017 statement was four pages.
The Chinese next of kin said they hoped the Malaysian government would pay compensation as soon as possible, and unconditionally, to the families of the 89 Chinese passengers who had not yet received any.
“Over the past eight years, most of the Chinese families have not received a penny in compensation, which is causing them great difficulties. Many don’t even have the money to consult a doctor.
“This compensation could also be used for family members to set up a search fund.”
In a letter delivered to the Malaysian Embassy in Beijing and the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs today (Tuesday) the Chinese next of kin said: “The tears of pain have dried up. It’s been eight years; many of our Chinese family members have been unable to wait for the day when the truth comes to light; they left this world.
“No matter how long it takes, as long as we do not find our relatives, we will never give up.”
The next of kin urged the Malaysian government to resume the search for MH370 and reiterated that they supported the idea of offering a “reasonable reward”.
They point out that Malaysia Airlines now has no has office in China. “While the MH370 incident is not resolved, Malaysia Airlines’ evasive action is irresponsible,” the next of kin wrote.
“We urge the Malaysian government to urge Malaysia Airlines to set up domestic liaison agencies and personnel, open online video conferences, ensure smooth communication channels with family members, and protect the families’ legitimate rights and interests such as the right to know.”
The added: “The psychological assistance promised by Malaysia Airlines has not yet been implemented. The response of Malaysian Airlines to leave our families to receive medical treatment at their own expense is irresponsible.”
The Chinese next of kin described Malaysia Airlines’ response to the families’ needs and demands as inhumane.
They requested that the Malaysian government provide a written response to their letter within one month.
As he has at every remembrance event, Patrick Leong (pictured below) performed a song on March 6 and Julian Mathews (also pictured below) read two heart-rending poems.
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