So, an Australian satellite has potted debris in the Indian Ocean at the far end of the arc MH370’s engine data fixed the aircraft on for seven hours. There’s now going to be a rush to find it, no doubt.
Apparently these images are four days old and have only just come back from analysis.
I think this could well be a wild goose. What we’re looking at is a cluster of white dots in a texture of black and white. Experts have declared this likely debris; to me it looks more like waves. Or perhaps it’s a container washed off a ship, or who knows what? That’s it’s part of MH370 seems very unlikely. Probability is against it.
Let’s look at that probability. Firstly, why is the aircraft presumed to be on this arc leading north and south from Malaysia? It’s actually the line of equal distance (more or less) from the Inmarsat satellite collecting the data from the engines, and this is based on a 1d fix; namely the elevation. I believe it’s known to be 40 degrees declination from the satellite. That’s sound.
The arc ends where the aircraft stopped transmitting, which is also when it is likely to have run out of fuel, and the maximum distance it could have flown along the arc.
However, to get to the far end of the arc, someone would have to have flown it there – or set the autopilot to follow THAT course. Not any of the other courses it could have taken from the point, but that precise arced course. It’s not impossible; it could have taken this course. But is it likely? Probability says “no”.
What seems more probable to me is that the aircraft hung around in a holding pattern close to where it was lost. That’s where to look. If the satellites have found it, great – and the explanation as to why it followed that precise course will be interesting, but I’m not hopeful.
If you’re working on a conspiracy theory, the data sent to Inmarsat could have come form a ground-based transmitter; it could be fake to throw investigators off the scent.