NYT reports Malaysia plane changed altitude dramatically, shifted course repeatedly

The NYT is now reporting that shortly after Malaysian Air Flight 370 lost contact with ground control (in other words, went off of civilian radar), the plane climbed to an elevation of 45,000, well above standard cruising altitude, and then went down to 23,000 feet, well below standard cruising altitude.

All of this occured after the plane had done a more-or-less u-turn.

They know this because of new Malaysian military radar data.

Then, after the plane descended to 23,000 feet, it turne from a southwest direction to a northwest direction, gained altitude and flew in the direction of the Indian Ocean.

One of the NYT reporters responsible for the story, Michael Schmidt, was just on CNN.  Schmidt says this has led investigators to determine the plane was clearly not flying itself. So the question is “who” was flying the plane?

Schmidt also said that the “pings” from the Rolls-Royce engines suggested that the plane dropped 40,000 feet in one minute, but that information is considered imprecise, at least per Schmidt’s article.
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EARLIER STORY: Reuters is reporting, and CNN has further explanation, that missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 was spotted by military radar passing near various way points for a period of hours after its last official communication with ground control.

This is different from the “pings” the equipment reportedly sent to satellites (a theory that still has not been debunked, by the way, according to reports).

This is actual military radar that plots a series of “waypoints” along a flight’s path.  In this case, the plane passed near at least 3 waypoints after it did it’s u-turn around one hour into the flight.

See this graphic from CNN:

malaysia-air-way-points

Now, from what I can glean, this does not mean the plane flew over each way point and then turned right and then left.  You simply need to fly near the waypoint for it to be set off.  So this suggests the plane flew in a direction from Igari towards Igrex (the first and last waypoint).

CNN’s Richard Quest noted that it’s still possible that the pilot plotted a destination once the plane was at Igari, and that the plane, on auto-pilot, simply flew by Vampi, Gival and Igrex on its own.  But, CNN is saying, that this suggests that a human being who knew how to fly a plane chose to fly the plane in that direction on that specific path.

AP is reporting, via the NY Daily News, that “the plane’s transponder stopped about a dozen minutes before a messaging system quit pointed to “human intervention.”

Judging by the articles, and the history on this issue, that may not be the “last” waypoint, or the last data, that might come available.


(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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  • Dan

    The plane is at Diego Garcia, and was switched with a decoy when it went to low altitude to avoid radar.

  • d

    Al Qiada

  • notfookingtaken

    do you realise you are an idiot?

  • Max Coldest

    Was the severe altitude shift (dive portion) to disable the passengers who may have had drink carts out after the climb? What a mess! Weightlessness inside a passenger jetliner! Then it’s on to an unused remote strip. Look at N. Iran 10,000ft unused strip in the middle of nowhere.

  • dcinsider

    Well, it is perfectly clear to me that Hillary and Bill Clinton masterminded this to divert attention from . . . Benghazi!!!

    Obama and the CIA helped, of course.

  • Michael

    Who could they sell a 200 million dollar plane to?

  • Michael

    Worst theory ever. Its not like they could fly it into the White House.

  • pappyvet

    Don’t care what parts of anything you may find interesting.

  • GoBlue

    They were right on where to find Bin Laden–that is, once Obama, unlike Bush Jr., made it a priority to find him.

  • notfookingtaken

    hi, what the fuck are you talking about? thanks!!

  • notfookingtaken

    would the plane fly further if they pushed the passangers out?

  • notfookingtaken

    who is Edward snow don and what is signifivant about him.
    Thank in advance,
    try to rememeber that the next time u post crypitic bollocks

  • notfookingtaken

    what the fuck does that mean? thanks in advance

  • notfookingtaken

    what does USG stand for, I see no mention of it here and it seem to have been plucked fresh form your anus.

  • notfookingtaken

    how do you know which parts of the world I find interesting?

  • notfookingtaken

    ?? what the fuck are you on about?

  • notfookingtaken

    what the fuck are you on about?

  • Dr. J

    We’ll never know the truth.

  • notfookingtaken

    possibly, however the distance is about 50% further so there would not be enough fuel in my opinion, maybe this explains why the plane zig zagged? Ie they eventually realised they did not have enough fuel?
    It looks like they then switched back to the original flight path beijing, then turned towards pakistan.

  • Carolyn Purser Bolling

    THIS PLANE IS CHOPPED AND SOLD ,AND THE PEOPLE KILLED ALL FOR MONEY

  • eggroll_jr

    Here we have the Sentinelese sign language for Boeing 777 stretch aircraft.

  • hidflect

    Speculation #426. After 9/11 the USA tracks all planes. When they saw this one going off course they took no chances and blew it out of the sky probably with technology not publicly available.

  • sistergirl

    OK, the plane turned left, they had a plan, which apparently worked. Why we would think they flew 7 hours to commit suicide? No, they were heading on a straight line for the coast of Somalia, hundreds of miles of beachfront “runway”. Home of the world’s most infamous pirates/hijackers. Much easier to steal a plane than a freighter!

  • Snarki, child of Loki

    Since the Sentinelese “Went Galt” about 60,000 years ago, by now they should have a super-advanced technology, trading with creatures from alternate universes.

    IF the Randoids social/economic models are correct, that is.

  • 2karmanot

    With Woody Allen they could work the pedophilia angle and the Malaysian sex trade angle.

  • disqus_tu7SEHpgGp

    Wow, another ‘merican spewing ignorance.

  • disqus_tu7SEHpgGp

    Does anyone have charts that might suggest whether 45,000 is even possible?

  • Kieran Dodson

    THERE ARE NO TERRORISTS JUST GOVERNMENT

  • eggroll_jr

    Given the anti-social attitudes of the Sentinelese, you can only imagine the conversation: “Tough shell on the outside, but delicious inside.”

  • sir_steveoh

    No there are other runways long and wide enough. even if they landed in Mayanmar at Myeik is long enough, but then for it to land there likely we would know, unless a crazy general ordered to jail them. I highly doubt this. Far as I can tell if this plane landed to could have made it to Xinjiang, China. I know hot bed for terrorist in China, also very empty quart with very few radars. To get there they fly up Andaman Sea, over Mayanmar maybe cut though Tibet and straight to Xinjang, into hands of muslim extremists, who are recently attacking within China.

  • sir_steveoh

    It is possible that fight MH 370 was hijacked, and landed. One we are getting reports of two things that tell me that is possible. One Chinese families that say that cell phone calls would get though and ring, not go to voice mail, Two that the plane flew onwards for up to past 8:11 AM Malaysia local time. A full fight time for that fuel load. This means that the plane could have landed near cell phone towers, but not seen. So, perhaps to a privet airstrip built for lager aircraft.

    If this was a hijacking, as one many theories suggest, then who did it?

    I wouldn’t point right away at the two with stolen pass ports, why? One they were already looked closely at, and cleared, and why would they use real pass ports only to switch, this would be more risky.

    I would look at possible directions of fight, and one suggest it went North to Western China, via Maynamar. It would have to be flying between radars and low to avoid detection. It is possible they avoided being seen by ground radars, mostly so, and or infrequently.

    If hijacked then the first group I would point my finger at would be the extreme Muslim Uighurs. And or any group they are involved with, anyone involved with the East Turkestan Islamic Movement. They recently have been making attacks in China, and threats of fighting their Jihad. If this flight did land, I would be looking in the regions of China where these extremist live, mostly in Xinjiang.

    If MH 370 didn’t crash, I expect demands will come shortly, that is if they wanted the people as hostages for something, and not just the plane itself. They maybe waiting to further their plans all the while the searching parties waste more resources.

    I would be looking for a route where that 777 could be snuck into China, maybe Xinjiang, China. Then look for where it could possibly land on a private airstrip, one that has cell towers nearby it. I would look closely at any male muslims on this fight coming from Xinjiang first as possible suspects to any hijacking theory.

  • guesst

    Does anyone know if these pilots are allowed to carry a gun in the cockpit like U.S. pilots? If so that would make it very easy for a pilot to hijack a plane.

  • guesst

    “the plane climbed to an elevation of 45,000, well above standard cruising altitude, and then went down to 23,000 feet, well below standard cruising altitude” … “pings from the Rolls-Royce engines suggested that the plane dropped 40,000 feet in one minute”

  • guesst

    With the drastic altitude change it sounds like the pilot was trying to achieve zero gravity with intentional dives. I think this plane was sabotaged by one of the pilots.

    http://science.howstuffworks.com/zero-g1.htm

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

    In fairness, our intelligence agencies have never been right on anything. You can’t believe they had any idea this was going to happen, nor what is going to happen with that plane and people now. They’re waiting for the media to report something, while they stumble around like a billion dollar game of blind man’s bluff as usual.

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

    I’ve made remarks along this line for days now, starting with “…and a man named John Locke has just woken up on a beach, only to find his paralysis has been cured…”

    My friend Bill from Dover’s theory is Langoliers.

  • Bookbinder

    OK, hijacked, yay, No wait, they haven’t made any demands for release of prisoners, so they really want the plane, yes, the holy grail of terrorists, get a plane, load it with explosives, ram it into a hi profile target repeat 911.. So it’s on the ground and has been refueled and maybe flown elsewhere. And the military/CIA MI6 etc, following usual protocol, releasing information 3 days after acquiring it. Projecting ahead a little to compensate for the 3 day delay, US has eyes on the plane and has mobilized a special ops strike force who are now, even as we tweet, jetting to the target. Cool.

  • GreenEagle

    There is one obvious conclusion that has not even been considered yet. I give you one word: Lost.

  • pappyvet

    Hmmm,interesting that . If the plane was indeed on the heading that is suggested by the line between the Gival and Igrex waypoints , it was heading on a line that would take it to some interesting parts of the world.

  • dula

    My hairdresser thinks the co-pilot was in on it with the two others with stolen passports. The two handled the pilot while the co-pilot gained an altitude above what the antiquated Indian radar system can detect. That’s as good a theory as I’ve heard…chop chop. Pakistan by now?

  • BillFromDover

    Would that be Schrödinger’s cat?

  • BillFromDover

    Where is Edward Snowden when we really, really need him?

  • BillFromDover

    I’ll see your Swan and raise ya two Kings!

  • BillFromDover

    Is there some logical rule for naming these waypoints or does a computer just come up with some random shit for letters?

  • DRoseDARs

    Starring Dead Eyes and Shovelface as the obligatory love story shoehorned into EVERY FUCKING DISASTER MOVIE.

  • DRoseDARs

    The most succinct statement of the difference between MIHOP and LIHOP 9/11 theories.

  • http://offnow.org/ CJS

    Nah, just an understanding of technology and critical thinking.

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

    That’s silly.

    Desmond forgot to push the button, that’s what happened.

    4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42…

  • UncleBucky

    You’re so right. Especially with the technology we have now. Not to mention even 5 years ago.

    This tracking aversion. Do you think it stems from misguided “libertarian” beliefs in the industry?

  • Snarki, child of Loki

    I claim first dibs on the story that the plane was taken by the North Sentinel Front, who finally decided that they just HAD to have a jet of their very own.

  • http://offnow.org/ CJS

    How does USG not possess the capability to track a Boeing 777 airliner anywhere across the globe? Isn’t that one thing that 9/11 taught us? To look out for big friggin’ airplanes?

  • NCMan

    How are you managing to mix the air traffic control employees up with the military? Especially when the article doesn’t even tell us which country’s military it is talking about.

  • MyrddinWilt

    Thats fairly straightforward, the airplane had its transponder switched off. So the air traffic control has had to go through all the past logs to identify blips that might be a plane. It is time consuming work.

  • BillFromDover
  • waguy

    Has it been disclosed how much fuel was loaded? Do we know for certain there was not enough to make Iran?

    Also, as I stated elsewhere, perhaps the various militaries along the route don’t want to disclose if they were able to see this plane as it would give away their capabilities (or lack thereof).

    Is it possible an interceptor shot the plane down thinking it was an intruder, and the country responsible doesn’t want to admit to downing a civilian airliner? It wouldn’t be the first time – KAL 007, Iran Air 655, etc.

  • nicho

    Never attribute to malice that which can adequately be explained by stupidity.

  • waguy

    Another possible explanation is that by admitting the military radar ‘saw’ the target at various places, it gives potential adversaries an idea of the radar’s capabilities. Maybe they finally came to realize that everyone knew the capabilities anyway, so they released the data. It would have been a bureaucratic decision, hence the delay.

  • cole3244

    whatever the final determination on this incident turns out to be the citizens of the world will never know the complete truth only those with the need to know will.

  • eggroll_jr

    If you don’t plan to take off again, it’s another story. Little Andaman Island, which is 25 km wide and 40 km long, has lots of flat terrain, large shallow lakes and a huge tribal reserve. Plenty of room for landing a plane.

  • Island In The Sky

    Guaranteed there are any number of screenwriters and producers who are licking their collective chops all over this news story, for sure.

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

    Go-go jam sessions and strong exotic cocktails? Oh the horror!

    No wait, that’s not what I meant to say.

    Oh, sign me up! (But you can keep the sharks with the frickin’ lasers on their heads.)

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

    I watched the opening segment of Chris Hayes’ show on MSNBC last night, and he and a former FAA head did what I felt was a marvelous job of explaining what we do and don’t know. As well as what is and isn’t likely.

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

    And further complicating matters: Let’s assume the aircraft was being flown purposefully. (Which in truth we can’t assume yet.)

    So we have someone with intimate knowledge of 777 systems and aircraft navigation, but they don’t realize there’s not enough fuel to reach the Asian mainland on a general northwest heading? Just doesn’t make sense.

    Even assuming the Andaman Islands were the planned interim destination, there’s only a tiny one-runway airport there at Port Blair / Veer Savarkar, which is co-operated by the Indian Navy. From what I’ve read on Wiki, the runway itself is technically long enough, but only rated for narrow-body aircraft, which doesn’t include the Trip-7.

    Other than that one airport, there’s nothing else within range.

  • perljammer

    I’ll tell you something, John, and I’m sure this impression isn’t unique to me. When I see coverage in the media — and particularly on television — that includes commentary on a technical subject area with which I’m familiar, the media description of the technical subject is almost always tortured, ill-informed, and mostly just plain wrong. This sort of experience is so consistent that I have come to believe that just about any news story contains blatant errors when they’re describing anything not well understood by the layman.

  • perljammer

    Did you see where I asked for no crap to be shoveled? Just kidding.

    The cat isn’t out of the bag. No one has said the plane didn’t crash. No one has said they think they know where it is. Sensitive information is generally purposefully leaked when the guardians of the information decide it’s going to get out regardless.

  • perljammer

    Yes. In the same sense that an aircraft flying from Los Angeles to Chicago is headed for London. The aircraft didn’t have enough fuel to get to Iran; also, pretty tough to find a route from Malaysia to Iran that doesn’t come within radar range of India, Pakistan, or the UAE.

  • eggroll_jr

    Excellent.

  • NCMan

    and, then they decided to let the cat out of the bag today, before the rescue?

  • eggroll_jr

    Unlikely, as it would have been detected. The Andaman Islands, which are held by India, are fairly remote. The flight from Calcutta to Port Blair is over 2 hours, which is like Stockholm to London, or LA to Denver. And the place is famous for piracy and human rights abuses.

  • perljammer

    Waypoints are sets of coordinates (Longitude, Latitude, and Altitude) and other information (more later) that are programmed into an aircraft’s navigation system. Waypoint navigation may be done automatically, wherein the autopilot steers the plane from one waypoint to the next; or manually, where the pilot follows instructions from the navigation as to course and altitude. Waypoints are not “set off” by anything. Among the “other information” mentioned above are things like “how close does the aircraft have to be to the waypoint to be considered to have arrived at the waypoint”, “should the aircraft approach the waypoint altitude from below or above”, and “what should the aircraft do when it arrives at the waypoint (e.g., circle left; circle right; proceed to next waypoint)”.

    This sort of zig-zag flight pattern is unusual for commercial airliners (it isn’t fuel efficient), and it doesn’t happen by accident. It’s tempting to think that it was purposefully done to ensure the plane would be picked up by ground radar system near the waypoints.

  • http://AMERICAblog.com/ John Aravosis

    Every time a new data point comes up, it seems to continue being confused. I wish I was the on tv asking some of these questions.

  • perljammer

    Here’s a possible explanation (and please; I didn’t say “a likely explanation”, and I’m not proposing this as my opinion on what happened, so don’t shovel any crap my way):

    The aircraft was hijacked and landed in an area controlled by hostile forces. The government (of what country?) is putting together a rescue mission and doesn’t want the bad guys to know that (1) they know the plane didn’t crash; (2) they know where the plane landed; and (3) they’re on their way.

  • gumnaam

    with the theory floating around that the malaysian 777 landed on a remote island in the Indian Ocean i cannot help but think Dr. Evil had to be involved. further rumors continue to swirl that upon landing upon the remote island passengers were immediately rushed to this gogo jam session and served strong exotic cocktails

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XnBbjc5hmho

    from puroprted videos sent from passengers’ cell phones to family aned friends

  • NCMan

    And what, if any, is the explanation for it taking almost a week for the “military” to offer up this information?

  • marty

    So it headed toward Iran after all.

  • eggroll_jr

    Since Harold Ramis died, we might have to settle on Woody Allen or Jim Jarmusch to write and direct.

  • nicho

    We may have to settle for the guy was supposed to be on the plane but missed his connection — or his car broke down.

  • http://musephotos.wordpress.com/ GarySFBCN

    Best actress to the woman who plays the pilot’s pregnant girlfriend, who is left with only memories and a torn photograph.

    Queue the sappy music and The English Patient-esque endless screenplay.

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

    The story grows more bizarre and nigh inexplicable with each passing day…

  • eggroll_jr

    If, and it’s a big if, the Die Hard franchise doesn’t get there first. Remember, they’ll move ahead even if nothing is ever found as the fictional story of a plane theft is already compelling. So far there is no evidence of a John McClane Jr. on the manifest, but maybe he switched passports. Tom Hanks probably has his scriptwriters on call and they’re getting ready to go into production. I personally liked Werner Herzog’s Rescue Dawn, and you probably have to have a passenger or crew member escaping and living to tell the tale before that will work.

  • nicho

    Maybe the airplane was using Disqus for its flight plan.

  • http://musephotos.wordpress.com/ GarySFBCN

    OK, Disqus is messing with me again…

  • http://musephotos.wordpress.com/ GarySFBCN

    Maybe a dingo ate your airplane.

  • http://heimaey.us/ heimaey

    I totally do not understand what is going on and you did a great job John but I think I’m more confused.

  • nicho

    My prediction is that the film that will be based on this will be nominated for best picture, best original screenplay, and best supporting actor for the 2016 Oscars.

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