UPDATE: Engine data, additional radar data, suggests Malaysia Air plane in air 4-5 hours

US investigators are saying that lost Malaysia Air Flight 370 may have flown an additional four hours after its last confirmed location, according to a story in the Wall Street Journal.

The information is based on data sent to Boeing by the plane’s engines.

UPDATE: CNN reported at 3:06PM Eastern on 3/13/14 that the Malaysians may in fact have additional data points suggesting the plane WAS in the air 4 to 5 hours (this may or may not confirm the earlier report from the WSJ – it’s not clear if this is the same data, or something different).  CNN got this information from the Obama administration. If the plane turned around, and headed towards the Indian Ocean, if you flew four to five hours you’d reach the huge US naval base at Diego Garcia once you traveled a little over 2,000 miles. Diego Garcia is a rich target.

And let me just add, I’ve been asking for days why everyone just assumed the plane went down and didn’t continue flying.

diego-garcia

Now, the plane is a Boeing 777-200ER. According to Boeing, that plane has a cruising speed of .84 Mach at 35,000 feet.

At 35,000 feet, Mach 1 is 660.7mph.

Assuming that’s the definition of Mach 1 they’re using, that’s a cruising speed of around 554mph.  Wikipedia seems to back that up, they say 560mph is the cruising speed at 35,000 feet of the 777.

But, Wikipedia notes the maximum speed is 590mph.  So that means it may have traveled an additional 2,240 miles at cruising speed, or an additional 2,360 miles at maximum speed.

(Of course, that’s assuming the plane was at 35,000 feet.  At lower elevations, Mach 1 is faster.  At ground level, for example, .84 Mach would be 639mph – making the cruising speed distance 2,557 miles.)

But let’s assume around 2,250 miles traveled from the last location plotted, which is the x in the center of the map below.

That means the red circle on the map below is the distance the plane could have traveled if it traveled 2,250 miles. If it traveled more like 2,500 miles, it would extend the circle out a bit – if you look at India, for example, the circle would extend out to New Delhi.  It’s not a great difference.

But that’s a heck of a lot of area to search.  And it again raises the question of whether the plane was hijacked and landed somewhere.  Why else would it stay aloft for four hours, not contacting anyone, and not trying to land.  Unless the equipment was so damaged, the plane just flew on and on trying to identity some landmarks in an effort to land.  And failed.

malaysia-air-2250-big

In fact, that map matches closely to the map I made the other day, showing the distance to Beijing, the original destination of the plane, and then drawing a circle based on it.

range-of-malaysia-air-flight (1)

And here’s the map of Diego Garcia’s location side-by-side with the maximum range of the plane at cruising altitude (assuming the usual cruising speed):

diego-garcia-vs-max-range


(I’m told that in order to better see my Facebook posts in your feed, you need to “follow” me.)


Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown (1989); and worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, and as a stringer for the Economist. Frequent TV pundit: O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline & Reliable Sources. Bio, .

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  • gabrielle moller

    I think Indonesia is where they can seach

  • billy Mac

    yes its quite an interesting theory that the yanks cd have shot it down. The plane was likely flying in that direction so wd have been spotted on radar for sure. A fire bottle form an airliner was only just washed up in the maldives, the authorities didn’t allow any pictures.

  • Kevin Hughes

    I love a good conspiracy theory but i doubt the US have it. maybe it was hijacked with the intention of crashing it into the island and the US shot it down.

  • Nick Knack

    If my recollection is correct…..fuel to intended airport plus fuel to an emergency alternate plus another 45 minutes…under IFR flight rules which all airliners are regardless of weather.

  • llewellynh

    Why wouldn’t US just announce that up front?

  • llewellynh

    Not here on 9-11 though.

  • The_untold_story

    Did you watch another repeat of “Capricorn One” recently? If the plane was heading toward Diego Garcia it is more likely that the military would have let it make an “emergency” landing at the runway there – believing the pilot’s “mayday”. Then the plane would have “accidentally” crashed into a bunch of military jets or if one was there…. an aircraft carrier with 5,000 sailors and fuel-loaded jets aboard. That type of sinister plan would be a terrorist’s dream. Maybe Al-Qaeda learned the lesson from Flight 93 on 9/11 – if you do your signature simultaneous events, sometimes the element of surprise works in your favor initially, but eventually word gets out.

    Perhaps some simulator practice landing a jet on an aircraft carrier or checking waypoint settings for the trip to D.G. would come in handy.

  • Toriyali

    John! your analyses of MH370 is highly commendable. Why?

    In todays’ Express on Sunday, UK, according to “British anti-terror expert Dr Sally Leivesley said last night: “It might well be the world’s first cyber hijack.”

    Dr Leivesley, a former Home Office scientific adviser, said the hackers could change the plane’s speed, altitude and direction by sending radio signals to its flight management system. It could then be landed or made to crash by remote control. Possible culprits include criminal gangs, terrorists or a foreign power.”

    As soon as I read the full story (the story is entitled: World’s first cyber hijack: Was missing Malaysia Airlines flight hacked with mobile phone?), Diego Garcia jumped as the most possible candidate to my mind. To connect the dots I started looking for the maps covering regions from Malaysia to Kazakhstan as some suggestions were made in the media about the later. However, I luckily stumbled upon your blogs in search of the maps which thankfully saves me from undertaking any further trouble.

    Please also look into Hugo Teso’s presentation at the last years’ HITB conference. There is video available on youtube@ Hugo Teso – Aircraft Hacking: Practical Aero Series http://youtu.be/wk1jIKQvMx8

    The comments above are not meant to accuse any individual/s or any countries, nor to suggest or promote a conspiracy theory, but just a theory of a possibility for an experiment based on Teso’s work.

    Hope everyone is found safe and sound. Hope its OK to use your maps with a reference to your blog.

  • Sail Trim

    The best way to get the world behind a war is to fain a tragic event.

  • JohnP

    do not see any of Bhutan, Myanmar or Bangladesh upsetting the Chinese by accepting the plane and saying nothing. And landing that plane in Paro? Sounds quite a feet of flying. If landing safely has to be somewhere remote and or controllable. Or its crashed.

  • Acacia

    Coming from they Bay of Bengal, it takes a southwest path, but then switches briefly to a southeast path off the west coast of Malaysia, then from the south Indian Ocean, it comes in from southeast to northwest, meeting the other pathway off the west coast of Malaysia. This map shows it clearly: http://earth.nullschool.net/#current/wind/surface/level/orthographic=97.71,-6.98,404

  • Acacia
  • Rob C

    Then the question would be why was the plane anywhere near Diego Garcia if it was on its way to Bejing?

  • Wayne Duong

    Actually, no. This plane flew off course deliberately, so it’s entirely different from the other plane.

  • shankz

    First, I think you have to modify the map, since they released that the plane went through several known waypoints the last being waypoint Igrex at 9°43’28.00″N, 94°24’60.00″E. I googled the waypoints and added them to google maps then used the ruler. This allows you to have a final length you can move around from the last waypoint, but that includes the distance flown from Waypoint Igari, where it stopped the transponder. Now I talked to a friend who is an airline mech and he told me the transmitter in the engines, that pinged them for 4-5 hours, is self-contained and powered. This means it is powered by the engine and can not be turned off by the pilot. It turns off when the engine turns off. This means that point in time where it stopped transmitting the plane either crashed or landed. This would seem to me to narrow the search area from all the area of a circle from Igrex, but just the edge of that circle give or take. My bet is Paro Airport in Bhutan, although Myanmar and Bagladesh have several airports at that radius. Just a thought.

  • not a stupid sheep

    The writer referring to Diego Garcia as a “rich” target I mean…the world has better things to do than plan to conspire against the US…in fact its the US which does that!

  • Not a stupid sheep

    Oh please America, stop fucking flattering yourselves. We can see how this “hijacking” is turning into a smear on the innocent crew…we all know what the US is capable of…AWACS planes, disrupting communications..using innocent pilot hobbies and turning them into sinister things/premeditated actions…bloody paranoid US sheep falling for your government lies. Another major false flag op.

  • http://yermom.com Bill Bootay

    Greetings doofici. I am Big Bootay.

    A 777 has a max range of 9000 miles plus reserve, if it is fully fueled.

    If this event is a piracy, there are co-conspirators.

    These cc’s may have had several roles, one of which was to top off this airplane’s fuel tanks regardless of what the standard orders said.

    So, it matters not how much fuel the airplane should have been carrying, or usually carried. Assume it was full.

    So, max range is then 9000 miles.

    That’s enough to take off, fly in the proper direction for a while, then turn, then fly around the Sri Lankan cape to available destinations in Somalia or Pakistan or Afghanistan or Iran.

    Coo dad Coo.

    The fearkin aeroplane has been stolen to acquire someone or something of interest that was boarded or loaded on the flight.

    Doofici is plural for doofus.

    That is all.

  • http://offnow.org/ CJS

    There must be some coverup. In a post-9/11 world where the NSA insists on owning every piece of data everywhere, how do you not know where a Boeing 777 airliner is in the sky at all times? Heck, 9/11 if anything told us “Hey, look out for big airplanes!”

  • jimshannon

    There was another episode like this 10 or so years ago. The integrity of the plane was violated and decompression occurred slowly. The pilots died and the plane kept flying until it crashed into the Andes.

  • http://www.greattefljobs.com Jack Woods

    I think it’s pretty clear that the US government shot down the plane as a perceived threat to Diego Garcia. The last week has given them plenty of time to scrub any evidence of a shoot down and create a situation where important wreckage will never be found.

  • Steve

    Regulations require commercial airliners carry a fixed fuel reserve of 30 minutes additional flight time at destination, and also a variable reserve component (probably another 5%, or 20 minutes on a 8 hour flight) On top of those reserves MH370 would have been carrying sufficient additional fuel to travel to an alternate airfield after arriving at Beijing to allow for the eventuality of not being able to land there. It would not be unreasonable to expect that MH370s total flight endurance at the time it disappeared 1 hour after departure would be a further 8-9 hours of flight time. The B777 has a typical cruise speed of .084 Mach and would have been flying into a headwind after turning around. A reasonable range circle is (allowing 50kts headwind) at 32,000ft is over 3500 Nautical Miles and still landing with 30 minute fuel reserves intact or 3750nm to dry tanks

  • Truthbetold Now

    Can anyone check in the Arabian sea?

  • Rob Wipprecht

    ADS-B, MLAT and FAA info show data on the aircraft at 17:19 UTC flying at 35,000 ft at an airspeed of 474 kts on a ground track of 25 degrees. At 17:20 UTC it’s airspeed dropped to 471 and track changed to 40 degrees. This is along the same airway and ground track as flight MH52 which was approximately 20 minutes ahead of flt 370. Right after the turn to ground track 040 (on course) the altitude reported went to 00 kts. There was no indication of a decrease in altitude (VSI or altimeter) before it went to 00

  • Rob Wipprecht

    Don’t forget altitude- If the plane went to a lower altitude it would burn a much higher rate of fuel, thus decreasing it’s maximum range. What if there was an electrical issue that caused failure of the transponder as well as other com equipment. The Pilots started to turn back to the nearest landing site and there was a catastrophic air frame rupture maybe due to the same thing (fire?) that took out the com equipment. If the plane was on autopilot (heading hold) and the sudden decompression incapacitated the crew it would fly on the same heading till running out of fuel. That has happened here in the US a couple of years ago to a pro golfers plane.

  • http://AMERICAblog.com/ John Aravosis

    Perhaps I wasn’t clear. My question isn’t why people are assuming a plane can’t stay aloft for 7 days without refueling :) My question is and has been why they assumed it went down where that last radar blip was, the one that showed up without a transponder between Malaysia and Indonesia, rather than going down somewhere else 2000 miles away. I was asking why everyone thought the plane went down near THERE when it had 5 more hours of fuel.

  • sJames6621

    planes do talk to satellit4es and overseas planes also have sat phones for the pilots

  • sJames6621

    it does its called ADSB. Ultimately to use radar as only a backup, plane reports Gps position etc etc with existing onboard equipment Enormous savings in cost of running the Air traffic system

  • sJames6621

    some eyars ago the govt was searching for a plane simply stolen in africa. The concern was obvious

    Possibly the same sort of thing. I never saw any info on whether the lost 727 was found

    BTW there is an air defense zone about 200 miles of of our coast. Missle armed fighter planes are most likley on 24 hour alert re any incursion.

  • mark_in_toronto

    Thanks for that . . . . love the original TZ!

  • Kirschwasser

    Ironically enough, it also makes a fabulous place to land a jetliner on long transcontinental flights:

    ETOPS emergency landing site

  • DRoseDARs

    “If the plane turned around, and headed towards the Indian Ocean, if
    you flew four to five hours you’d reach the huge US naval base at Diego
    Garcia once you traveled a little over 2,000 miles. Diego Garcia is a
    rich target.

    And let me just add, I’ve been asking for days why everyone just assumed the plane went down and didn’t continue flying.”

    They’re assuming because that’s what planes do: One way or another, they come down. This is a commercial jet, so not exactly inconspicuous. It lands in any airport large enough to take it, ground control and local authorities are going to know right away something is wrong. It attempts to land at any airport NOT large enough to take it, people on the ground are going to know something is wrong. This wouldn’t be kept quiet days after its disappearance. People are assuming this plane crashed because publicly NO ONE has seen it anywhere. If you are suggesting that this plane was diverting towards Diego Garcia, then that opens a number of unpleasant scenarios:

    The plane crashed by itself into the ocean on the way (most likely and least scandalous scenario).

    It was shot down on the way before it could reach its target (deeply repellent course of action to protect military assets in the Indian Ocean).

    It landed and is being kept secret by the US/UK governments (hostage situation in progress).

    It crashed into the base as intended and is being kept secret (largest and deadliest terrorist attack since 9/11).

  • DRoseDARs

    If Nye or Tyson where here, they’d kiss you for that. ;-)

  • BlueIdaho

    I say the Klingons took it.

  • pappyvet

    Good point as usual John. If there is evidence that the plane was flying an additional 4-5 hours it is true that it would be difficult not to be noticed by radar. Difficult but not impossible. It’s not just altitude but terrain . Depending on , trees, gullies and other irregularities there is a height below which radar does not detect targets – or detects them very badly .

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    I half-jokingly brought up the Oceanic 815 scenario the other day…

  • TomL

    I just read that Malaysia Air wasn’t part of the engine data program, but that the Boeing engines were still sending out pings. Apparently this is what has led to reports that the engines were still functioning for a few hours after the disappearance.

  • Monophylos Fortikos

    “Flight 107…Why didn’t you leave a clue?…Why didn’t you ever tell anyone what happened to you?”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mm9CxxZBR2U

  • perljammer

    The majority of commercial airplane crashes are caused by pilot error. However, the most common phase of flight for a pilot-error crash is landing, followed by takeoff. Almost all cruise-phase crashes (excluding collisions) are caused by equipment failure.

  • perljammer

    The jet stream has a habit of traveling from west to east, with a sort of snakelike, undulating path, no matter which hemisphere you’re in. I would expect that its effect would be small near the southern end of Malaysia, and a lot stronger as you fly toward Bejing.

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    Yet aviation experts are saying that four more hours of actual flight time after transponder loss without the plane being detected by radar anywhere seems extremely improbable.

    The problem is each bit of ‘news’ ends up being unconfirmed or just confuses matters more.

    – There’s the oil platform guy who said he saw a fireball in the sky, but his position was well to the east northeast of the plane’s flightpath.
    – Nobody knows for sure if the plane turned west or not, or if the radar trace was actually the plane in question.
    – The reports as to whether the engine transponder was actually working or not is still in dispute, even though the U.S. gov’t says they think it was. CNN now says even though two people said it was working, they can’t confirm it.

  • http://AMERICAblog.com/ John Aravosis

    Heisenberg Uncertainty principle of engines :)

  • http://AMERICAblog.com/ John Aravosis

    I’m telling you… diverted to target Diego Garcia and crashed short. Just a theory.

  • http://AMERICAblog.com/ John Aravosis

    You’re absolutely right. Which way is the wind going there, or don’t we know? I know going to Europe from America the wind is with us. And it can add or subtract almost an hour (for me) doing that trip. Any idea how it affects travel in this part of Asia?

  • http://AMERICAblog.com/ John Aravosis

    It’s actually even farther than the distance I estimated above.

  • http://AMERICAblog.com/ John Aravosis

    Yes, that was my first assumption that i wrote about the other day. And I did a map showing the distance to Beijing, and then used that radius to make a circle. It’s the same circle as above :) http://americablog.com/2014/03/missing-malaysian-airplane-appears-done-u-turn-disappearing.html

  • http://AMERICAblog.com/ John Aravosis

    New reports in now from USG.

  • dcinsider

    Has anyone checked the airports?

  • http://www.americablog.com/ Naja pallida

    Standard procedure for aircraft manufacturers after any incident. They will continue to play a game of ‘cover your ass’ until the plane is found, and months of investigation are done. They don’t want to risk sounding like they are admitting there might be some fault with their aircraft.

  • MyrddinWilt

    That does not surprise me. Trust not the Murdoch press, they tell nothing but lies.

  • http://www.americablog.com/ Naja pallida

    There’s a fairly large group of people trying to advance the blackbox technology beyond the 1960s, by having airliners upload telemetry in real-time to satellite relays to store it remotely. So incident investigators never have to rely on finding the physical box to get an idea of what went wrong. Unfortunately, the aviation industry, and especially airlines, on the whole are slow moving dinosaurs, and hesitant to make real strides forward.

  • nicho

    The Malaysian government says both Boeing and Rolls deny the report.

  • nicho

    Paul Ryan’s base feeds on crazy. Take the crazy away, and he loses his base. It’s that simple. These are people who reject logic and truth and embrace the crazy.

  • BillFromDover

    Not to mention uploading critical data (to a satellite, perhaps?) every five minutes or so, and immediately when an anomily is detcted (with no way do disable this function from the cockpit, of course.)

    Black/orange boxes are great, except having a major flaw of having to go down with the aircraft.

    Personally, until convinced otherwise with hard evidence, I will continually blame this one on the Langoliers.

  • ferd

    If the jet engines send engine data, why not include a $20 gps chip and also send location data?

    I mean, is there some reason not to do so? Or is it just one of the M A N Y palm-to-face, omg, how can we be so dumb things in this world?

    And also, if somebody in Paul Ryan’s position, or at least one of his advisors, isn’t bright enough to edit the script before saying what he just said about lazy inner city culture — palm-to-face, omg.

  • sjsw

    Maximum cruising range would not be at top speed for a given load of fuel. The best way to estimate range is to assume it had enough fuel to reach its destination and a bit of spare on top of that.

  • cole3244

    this is bizarre and i tend not to believe anything i’m told by any (experts) until i see the plane or its wreckage.

  • perljammer

    Bizarre is a good word for it.

    Boeing and Rolls Royce are both denying receiving any engine data that would support the theory that the aircraft flew for any significant amount of time after the transponders went off.

  • perljammer

    John, a technical point you might want to be aware of: cruise speed is airspeed, not ground speed. Airspeed is the speed at which the aircraft is moving through the mass of air it’s in. Ground speed is the aircraft’s speed with respect to the ground. The difference between the two is wind speed, which can be suprisingly high — as a frequent traveller, you’ve probably noticed that in the US, flying from west to east usually takes less time than flying the same distance east to west; this is due to the jet stream’s effect on aircraft ground speed. “Cruise speed” is the airspeed at which the aircraft performs with maximum fuel efficiency. An aircraft cruising at an airspeed of 560 mph into an 80 mph headwind has a ground speed of 480 mph.

    The punchline is, the circle you drew on the map should probably really be more egg-shaped, and you can’t really know its dimensions accurately unless you know the plane’s average ground speed.

  • DRoseDARs

    The engines don’t report position, only function, else we’d’ve had the plane’s location days ago.

    I wonder if Boeing could do a firmware update to its engine computers going forward that would tap into other systems and report GPS data too.

  • Dave Bright

    In addition to the fuel range issue, you could probably easily rule out N. Korea just based on the fact that, due to round-the-clock level of military monitoring by US, China, and S. Korea using the most advanced arsenal of remote-sensing tech, it would be virtually impossible to get an unidentified passenger jet anywhere near N. Korea without being detected.

  • MyrddinWilt

    Where the plane is matters rather less than whether it crashed or not.

    The only way that the plane’s engines could report position but the transponder not is if the transponders all failed (unlikely) or someone turned them off. That suggests that there is a chance the plane was diverted rather than crashed. But it might have been diverted and then crashed during an attempt to retake it.

    There are some less than pleasant countries in the area but none of them look like the kind of place that would knowingly hide a jet. The only Idi Amin type country in the region is North Korea and that is likely beyond the fuel range of the plane. And it is rather hard to see what Kim Il would stand to gain from annoying his Chinese protectors by kidnapping a hundred of their citizens.

    The situation is completely bizarre.

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