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UPDATE: Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) Operational Update

March 16, 2016

“A South African citizen reported finding debris, suspected to be from an aircraft, in Mozambique. Arrangements are being made for the debris to be transported to the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) laboratories in Canberra,” the ATSB said in an operational update, “along with the debris that was found in Mozambique by an American citizen last week.  Both items will be examined by investigators from Australia and Malaysia, as well as specialists from Boeing, to confirm if they come from an aircraft and establish their origin.”

Officials from Malaysia are continuing discussions with French authorities about debris found on La Réunion. 

“Current advice is that it is unlikely to be from an aircraft,” the ATSB says and NBC News confirms.

UPDATE: Meeting To Determine Way Forward For MH370

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Malaysia Ministry of Transport

“Authorities from Malaysia, Australia and China will hold a meeting to determine the next step in the search for missing flight MH370, as the deadline for halting the hunt for the plane approaches, according to a brief press release by the Malaysian Transport Ministry on Tuesday, March 8, 2016, marking the second anniversary of the missing Malaysia Airlines Systems (MAS) flight MH370’s Boeing 777-200ER, and becoming the greatest mystery in the history of commercial international aviation safety and security.

The Australian-led hunt for wreckage from the flight is expected to finish its high-tech scanning of a designated swathe of sea floor in the remote Indian Ocean by July 2016.

Speaking on the two-year anniversary of the disappearance of the plane, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak says “he still holds out hope of finding the Malaysia Airlines aircraft,” which crashed en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board, including six Australians.

The Malaysian Prime Minister said today that “a meeting would be held to determine the next step, if the plane is not found by mid-year. So far, only a piece of wing, known as a flaperon, discovered in July last year has been confirmed by authorities to belong to the missing Boeing 777.”

Earlier, Australian Transport Minister Darren Chester said “finding the aircraft would give answers to the world, in particular the families of missing loved ones.”

Mr. Najib said the discovery of debris – the flaperon – on the island of Reunion last July 29, 2015 provided further evidence that “flight MH370 tragically ended in the southern Indian Ocean.”

Provided in Appendix B is the MAS MH370 Second Interim Statement on the investigation on the second anniversary of Malaysia Airlines (MAS) Flight MH370, prepared by the Malaysian ICAO Annex 13 Safety Investigation Team for MH370. Click here for MAS MH370 First Interim Statement and Factual Information.

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Search for MH370 - English version

Video Credit: Joint Center Coordination Agency (JACC). This ‘Search for MH370’ video posted November 17, 2014 aims to explain the activities and complexity of the international search effort to date on Tuesday, March 8, 2016, the second anniversary of missing Malaysia Airlines (MAS) flight MH370, for families affected by the aviation tragedy, and the general public.

UPDATE: MH370: Head Of Search Says Plane Will ‘Very Likely’ Be Found

Monday, March 7, 2016

Malaysia Ministry of Transport

PETALING JAYA: “The Australian official in charge of the two-year search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 says the plane will be found this year, The Guardian reported.

Martin Dolan, head of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB), was quoted as saying that the plane would “very likely” be found in the next four months, as search efforts entered its final phase.

Four ships had scoured more than 85,000 square kilometers of a long but narrow “seventh arc”, totaling 120,000 square kilometers of seafloor.

“We’ve covered nearly three-quarters of the search area, and since we haven’t found the aircraft in those areas, that increases the likelihood that it’s in the areas we haven’t looked at yet,” Dolan told The Guardian.

MH370 vanished on March 8, 2014 en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people onboard, mostly Chinese.

It is thought to have crashed after diverting from its course but a huge undersea hunt in the southern Indian Ocean, led by Australia, has so far found no sign of it.

A wing fragment was discovered on an island thousands of kilometers from the search area last July, 29, 2016 and later confirmed to be from MH370, the first proof that the plane went down. Two new pieces of debris have been found in the past week, but it is not yet known if they are from MH370.”

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MH370 Takeoff 9M-MRO

Photo Credit: Malaysia Airlines (MAS) Flight MH370, a Boeing 777-200ER aircraft, registered as 9M-MRO

Malaysian Transport Minister, Liow Tiong Lai, says to Reuters there is a “high possibility” that an aluminum-alloy honeycomb or carbon-fibre composite airliner horizontal stabilizer debris of an airliner tail section wing washed ashore on Saturday, February 27, 2016 on the east coast of Africa between Mozambique and Madagascar, near second debris found on the eastern shore of La Réunion Island on Thursday, March 3, 2016, could allegedly be from a Boeing 777 jet, pending further assessment and examination by Australian and United States safety investigators and Boeing engineers. Still, experts remain cautious and unsure until the next few days.

Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai, nonetheless, confirmed in a press release on Wednesday, March 2 that “the Mozambique horizontal stabilizer debris would be sent to Australia, but added that it would remain under Malaysian custody.”

THIS JUST IN: A resident on the French Indian Ocean island of La Réunion Island, who last year found a “flaperon” part from Malaysia Airlines (MAS) Flight MH370’s Boeing 777-200ER, said on Sunday, March 6, 2016 to French news service, AFP, and The Associated Press, “he had come across a second possible piece from the missing plane,” reports The Star, NBC News, Sydney Morning Herald, and The Guardian (U.K.).

Johnny Begue, who found the “flaperon” part, while cleaning a beach on July, 29, 2015, told AFP “he handed over the new suspected object to police immediately” after finding the debris on Thursday, March 3, 2016.

He said “he was out jogging by the eastern sea shore of La Réunion Island, when he found the object measuring about 40 by 20 centimeters (or 15 by 8 inches), which had a blue mark on the surface and was grey underneath.” Begue added: “it was of the same lightweight “honeycomb” construction as the flaperon piece.”

Eastern Shore of La Reunion Island

Photo Credit: Zhang Chuanshi/Xinhua Press/Corbis “Another piece of debris, which could be related to MH370 has been found on the eastern coast of La Réunion in the Indian Ocean,” The Guardian (U.K.) reports.

The flaperon Begue found on July 29, 2015 remains the only piece of debris identified and confirmed as a part of MAS flight MH370’s Boeing 777-200ER.

Begue said, “he has been combing the island’s shores ever since.”

Australian Transport Safety Bureau’s (ASTB) Martin Dolan said on Sunday, March 6, Australian safety investigators welcome all debris found by anyone anywhere and that once found should be turned over to authorities immediately for further examination and potential identification and determination as to whether or not any such debris found is in fact a part of the MH370 airliner.

Meanwhile, Montreal Convention mandates any legal tribunal action to claim damages from a commercial airline must be made within two years from the date the aircraft arrived or should have arrived. In the case of Malaysia Airlines (MAS) flight MH370, the Boeing 777-200ER vanished from military radar en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing two years ago on March 8, 2014, carrying 227 passengers and 12 MAS crew aboard. International Business Times reports, “the families of 12 passengers aboard missing MAS flight MH370 filed suits against the carrier on March 4, 2016 in a frantic rush to pursue claims before a [Montreal Convention] two-year deadline for legal action expires.” 

Five defendants, MAS (the now asset-free holding entity), MAB (Malaysia Airlines Berhad, the new “value-based” carrier emerging, which is discussed at the end of this piece), Ketua Pandaran Jabatan, DCA (Department of Civil Aviation), The Royal Malaysia Air Force and the government of Malaysia,” said the lawyer representing the families, Sangeet Kaur Deo.

Sangeet said, “the families were seeking unspecified damages for negligence, breach of contract and breach of statutory duty,” reports International Business Times.

MAB holds that “it has no liability on MH370, since it was set up eight months” after MAS’ Boeing 777-200ER vanish, which has been officially declared as an accident and all lives lost.

Flight MH370 is the only missing Boeing 777 airliner in the world, since the aircraft was launched by Boeing back in 1997, which does feature manufactured carbon-fibre composites and Alcoa-developed aluminum-alloy tail section wing control surfaces to reduced the overall structural weight of Boeing 777 aircraft, which is specifically described in more detail below in this piece.

Photo Credit: AFP, NBC, University of Western Australia/JACC/ATSB/Malaysia Airlines/Boeing/Australian Government/Imarsat

Malaysian transport investigators, working alongside United States aviation safety officials and Boeing engineers on Wednesday, March 2, have examined online photos of the debris and they have suggested the possibility that it is an aluminum-alloy honeycomb or carbon-fibre composite jet horizontal stabilizer perhaps from a Boeing 777 airliner’s tail section wing, reports NBC News and The Telegraph (U.K.).

Australian Transport Minister Darren Chester said to The Associated Press on Thursday, March 3, “the location of the debris in Mozambique matches investigators’ drift modeling and would therefore confirm that search crews are looking in the right part of the Indian Ocean for the main underwater wreckage.” Malaysian Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai also said “the location of the debris lines up with investigators’ predictions.”

Photo Credit: American Blogger Blaine Gibson

Photos of the debris appear to show a jet part (shown above) “made of fiberglass composite on the outside, with aluminum honeycombing on the inside,” a U.S. official has said to The Associated Press, who spoke on condition of anonymity, because he wasn’t authorized to speak publicly, reports Fox News, and the part also “appears to show the fixed leading edge of the right-hand tail section of a Boeing 777.” 

The new Mozambique horizontal stabilizer debris found has markings “NO STEP,” which has prompted experts to speculate it could be from a Boeing 777’s horizontal stabilizer, allegedly attached to the tail section wing of the missing MH370 airliner, particularly given the close proximity in which this new debris was found in relation to a barnacle-encrusted flaperon wreckage of MH370 washed ashore off La Réunion Island last year on July 29, 2015.

Photo Credit: NBC News

However, Mr. Lai added “it is yet to be confirmed and verified” that the new Mozambique horizontal stabilizer debris was from Malaysia Airlines’ flight MH370, missing now for two years next Tuesday, March 8, 2016, while it was en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing that ill-fated early morning when it suddenly vanishes from military radar and satellite in space. Carrying 239 passengers and Malaysia Airlines crew on board, the Boeing 777-200ER is believed to have crashed in the southern Indian Ocean off the western coast of Australia near Perth, and about 6,000 kilometers (3,700 miles) to the east of Mozambique.

Photo Credit: American Blogger Blaine Gibson

Is the Mozambique Debris from MH370?

At the moment, experts remain cautious and officials are unsure the part is from missing flight MH370’s Boeing 777-200ER, largely because three large jets are known to have crashed in the past off the east coast of Africa between Mozambique and Madagascar near La Réunion Island.

According to the Australian News Service, “the object, believed to be from the horizontal stabilizer of an aircraft, was found by American blogger Blaine Gibson (shown above), 58-year-old lawyer from Seattle, who is conducting a private investigation into the plane’s disappearance.”

“Mr. Gibson, according to the Australian news service, upon discovering debris on Saturday, February 27, 2016, “had invited a handful of investigators to privately view images of the part on his Facebook page over the weekend, but news of the find only became public overnight,” Gibson said in an interview with The Associated Press. Gibson added: “he had wanted no publicity about his discovery until after the piece was assessed by investigators, but that news of the finding leaked.”

“The part, which has been described as a “fibre glass skin aluminum honeycomb cored panel” with no identifying features other than the printed words ‘NO STEP’,” a marking typically seen near the exit door of a commercial jet wing.

The consensus of MH370’s Independent Group (IG), including Dr. Victor Iannello (U.S.), Mike Exner (U.S.) and Don Thompson (Ireland), appears to be that it is unlikely that the Mozambique horizontal stabilizer debris found came from the missing MH370 Boeing 777.

“The found item is an aluminum honeycomb panel and, as such, is not a construction that is consistent with composite components employed on a B777,” MH370 IG member Don Thompson (Ireland) posted to Reddit.

“Neither did it look like it had been in the ocean for two years, or even lying on a sandbar where allegedly found as there was no sign of sand filling the honeycomb structure.”

“I was struck by the condition of the part,” another MH370 IG member, Dr. Victor Iannello (U.S.), wrote.

”It had no barnacles, little or no algae, and no water line. The condition of the part was nothing like the flaperon that was recovered. As (Don Thompson) said, the construction is composite skin with aluminum honeycomb core, which leads me to believe it is not from a B777.”

Dr. Iannello added: “I have not been able to identify a part on the B777 of similar construction, but I don’t have access to all the drawings of a B777, so I can’t say for certain that it is not from a B777.”

Carbon-Fibre Composites and Alumimum-Alloy Structural Design of Boeing 777 Aircraft

To fill in more specific technical structural specification to MH370’s Independent Group speculation on the Mozambique debris, let’s consider the following details to shed further light on the mystery debris find, acknowledging my consultation of longstanding civil aviation expert, Philip Birtles’ finely illustrated reference treatise on the Boeing 777.

Carbon-fibre composites and Alcoa-developed aluminum-alloy tail section wing control surfaces reduces the overall structural weight of Boeing 777 aircraft.

Only about ten percent of a Boeing 777 airliner structure is non-metallic, namely composites largely in the tail surfaces and the wing trailing edge control stabilizing surfaces, flaperons, spoilers, fixed wing leading edges, engine nacelles, wing to fuselage fairings, and main undercarriage doors.

The major portion of the Boeing 777’s primary structure is manufactured using composites in the tail assembly. The main assembly box of the fin is a carbon-fibre-reinforced structure, consisting of front and rear spars and ribs. The fin skin panels are also made from carbon-fibre composites.

The main and front spars are manufactured using carbon-fibre-reinforced plastic with only the rear auxiliary spar manufactured using aluminum. The all-important rudder, containing a pair of spars and ribs, are constructed from carbon-fibre composites covered by carbon-fibre epoxy sandwich skins.

Only the small dorsal din is typically manufactured from aluminum frames and skins. Use of composites on the Boeing 777 is intended to save about 2,595 pounds (or 1,180 kilograms) of structural weight.

Photo Credit: American Blogger Blaine Gibson/NBC News

In addition to this, an advanced lightweight aluminum lithium alloy material is used to construct the primary structure of a Boeing 777, which includes the front and rear spars, upper and lower spar chords, webs, skin panels, stringers and ribs of the airliners’ overall structural design.

More specifically, an Alcoa-developed aluminum alloy, 7155T77, is typically employed for construction of the upper wing skin for enhanced compression load capacity. The Alcoa aluminum alloy is also used to construct the upper wing stringer systems to stiffen the skin panels.

In similar fashion, the lower wing skins are typically manufactured using a 2,000 series aluminum alloy best designed to carry higher tension loads on the Boeing 777 wings.

Use of advanced lightweight aluminum lithium alloy is intended to save an additional 3,190 pounds (or 1,450 kilograms) of weight of the airliner.

Speculatively speaking, it appears that the Mozambique debris has breakage of the metal around fasteners on the aluminum-alloy honeycomb construction, but this isn’t quite enough just yet to definitive conclude the debris is a Boeing 777 wing or tail stabilizer.

MH370 Debris Image 4

What’s in the Oceanography Science Supporting the La Réunion Island and Alleged Mozambique MH370 Debris Finds?

Fox News says, “authorities have long predicted that any debris from the plane that isn’t on the [southern Indian] ocean floor would eventually be carried by currents to the east coast of Africa.”

“The possibility of debris washing up on La Réunion island [and now nearby Mozambique] is a scientific possibility. Although the currents today are significantly different to those seen 16 months ago, the Indian Ocean Gyre could move debris from the southern Indian Ocean in a counterclockwise direction towards Africa, spitting it out near the island of Reunion [and now nearby Mozambique],” Mashable reported back in early-August 2015.

On whether it was possible for either a flaperon or tail section wing horizontal stabilizer to have floated on oceanic water for over 4,000-6,000 kilometers before ending up on La Réunion Island [and now nearby Mozambique], Zaaim Redha said it was plausible based on sea current modeling by oceanography experts.

“Going by how the earth rotates, it’s highly possible that the piece of debris could have floated (over a long distance), because the ocean current can be really powerful.”

Australian oceanic science investigators of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization reported on Tuesday, August 4, 2015 that the Boeing 777-200ER flaperon discovery “matches with predictions from updated debris flow computer models.”

“Their drift model computer simulation was run from March 8, 2014 to July 30, 2015, to see if the flaperon could have drifted to La Réunion [and now nearby Mozambique] from the search zone somewhere along the 7th arc.”

The debris flow modeling below does show consistency with the 7th arc theory established by the British satellite firm, Inmarsat, which has and will further assist investigators in making adjustments to their current search area as the hunt for the Boeing 777-200ER airliner continues.

Photo Credit (via Mashable), Australian national science agency, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO).

Bottom line in MH370 Search: Good facts, good law of scientific plausibility; Bad facts, bad law of scientific plausibility.

Malaysia’s Ministry of Transport has published a 47-page article, containing hundreds of lines of communication logs between the jetliner and the British company Inmarsat’s satellite system, and detailing how the U.K. firm Inmarsat helped to pinpoint the southern corridor flight path taken by MH370. 

The 47-page article reports that Inmarsat informed Malaysia’s Ministry of Transport on March 13, 2014 that routine automatic communications between the Inmarsat satellite and MH370 could be used to determine several possible flight paths.

The United Kingdom (U.K.) Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) then presented Inmarsat’s findings on March 24, 2014, indicating the southern corridor as the most likely flight path of MH370.

Based on the analysis of data communicated to the ground station by the Inmarsat satellite moments before the Boeing 777-200ER airliner’s oceanic crash, investigators concluded that the flight had ended in the southern Indian Ocean. 

Be that as it may, a nearly $150 million dollar search lead by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) initially covered 60,000 square kilometers (23,000 square miles) of sea floor before being subsequently extended to another 60,000 square kilometers, a deep sea search area expected to be completed by July 2016.

French, Australian and Malaysian officials have confirmed in mid-August 2015 only a barnacle-encrusted flaperon wreckage debris (shown below) coming from the missing MH370’s Boeing 777-200ER has been found on the shore of La Réunion Island in the Indian Ocean off the southern coast of Africa at Madagascar on July 29, 2015.

Shortly thereafter, on August 5, 2015, Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, upon affirming that the maintenance record seal on the flaperon provided the definitive proof, announced the debris found on La Réunion is from MH370’s Boeing 777-200ER. He said,

“An international team of experts have conclusively confirmed that the aircraft debris found on Reunion Island is indeed from MH370. We now have physical evidence that, as I announced on 24th March last year, flight MH370 tragically ended in the southern Indian Ocean.” — Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Razak, August 5, 2015

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Following the above announcement, Malaysia Airlines stated in a press release: “We expect and hope that there would be more objects to be found, which would be able to help resolve this mystery.”

Photo Credit: American Blogger Blaine Gibson/NBC News

So far, search teams have scoured more than 80 percent of the priority “hot-spot” search of the southern Indian Ocean sea bed in the area, where MH370 is predicted to reside.

As the full French report has yet to be released, persistent open questions remain surrounding the search for MH370, now including radar anomalies, as the ATSB’s latest “hot-spot” search analysis has so far found no wreckage of the missing airliner hull at the bottom of the southern Indian Ocean off the western coast of Australia near Perth. If no trace of any new evidence of the jet has been found in the latest “hot-spot” area, the ASTB and Joint Agency Coordination Center (JACC) have announced they expect to continue its search for MH370’s Boeing 777-200ER until July 2016.

Members of the respected MH370 Independent Group, working with ATSB officials, say in contraction to the French and Malaysian officials, “damage to the flaperon will allow us to estimate the speed and angle at which the plane entered the water and whether or not it was controlled by a pilot as it descended. The barnacle species and its level of growth may provide a more precise ‘splash-point’,” reports the Australian News Service.

Several questions in particular raised by MH370’s Independent Group stand out, regarding the aircraft forensics of the La Réunion Island flaperon:

  • “Has the barnacle species attached to the flaperon been definitively determined? What is the habitat for this species? Is it consistent with a part that has drifted from the southern Indian Ocean to La Réunion Island?”
  • “What does the failure analysis reveal regarding how the flaperon became separated from the wing and how it sustained the damage to its trailing edge?”
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Oliver McGee: MH370 "Aircraft Forensics" of Reunion Debris, Fox News

Official findings of Malaysia are highly anticipated inside its United Nations (UN) International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) mandated MH370 progress report, due out next week timed upon MH370’s Second Anniversary on Tuesday March 8, 2016.

Voice 370, a group representing MH370’s ‘next-of-kin’, issued a statement accusing the Malaysian government of denying them “existing rights in law, including also access to justice mechanisms, for the benefit of a private business, namely Malaysian Airlines System Berhad (MAS).”

“The egregious behavior of the Malaysian government has gone mostly unnoticed by the world press, but it deserves to be highlighted, investigated and broadcast far and wide,” Sarah Bajc, the partner of American MH370 passenger Philip Wood, said in an email accompanying the statement.

“After almost two years we still know nothing concrete about what happened to MH370, though we are SURE there is information that has been withheld. Besides the terrible crimes of negligence and obstruction, for allowing the plane to disappear, then impeding the investigation of the disappearance of 239 people, the Malaysian government has also prevented the pursuit of reparations by affected families,” Bajc added.

Photo Credit: Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200ER, Registration #9M-MRO

MH370 Search Continues Along the ATSB’s Priority “Hot-Spot” in the Southern Indian Ocean

Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 disappeared from military radar early morning on March 8, 2014 en-route to Beijing International Airport from Kuala Lumpur International Airport with 227 passengers and 12 MAS crew members, becoming the greatest mystery in the history of commercial international aviation safety and security for two years on March 8, 2016.

Australian investigators of the Australian Joint Agency Coordination Center (JACC), and the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) coordinates a massive undertaking of several huge sea vessels (shown below) scouring the southern Indian Ocean floor for the missing airliner, resting therein, ATSB and JACC officials confidently believe. 

Malaysia Missing Plane

Australian authorities, including deputy prime minister Warren Truss (shown below) speaking to reporters in Canberra, Australia on Thursday, December 3, 2015, confirmed two new search vessels had arrived in the “hot-spot” search area. 

Photo Credit: ATSB/JACC

Three-quarters of a “hot spot” search area that is within the well-known “priority search area” (shown above) has been scoured during November coming into December, deputy prime minister Warren Truss (shown above) says to numerous media outlets now widely reporting.

The ATSB and JACC have confirmed this new ‘Gentle Landing‘ analysis exist, but says “the highest probability” that the Boeing 777-200ER will be found within a 700 square kilometer “hot-spot” inside the “priority search area”, comprising a 120,000 square kilometer arc in the southern Indian Ocean off the western coast of Australia at Perth, nonetheless, is not explicitly supported by evidence of a “controlled ditching scenario” the ATSB discusses in a December 3, 2015 report that describes in detail the “hot-spot” as “an arc running southwest, roughly 700 square kilometers,” The Guardian (U.K.) reports.

According to the ATSB report, investigators of the Australian Defense Science and Technology (DST) Group have penned an upcoming Springer-Verlag book entitled, “Bayesian methods in the search for MH370,” detailing their complete analysis in establishing the 700 square kilometer “hot-spot” search area.

Photo Credit: ATSB/JACC

mystery_mh370_header

Specifically, “a probability density function (PDF) defines the probable location of the aircraft’s crossing of the 6th arc models of the British firm Inmarsat satellite communications data and a model of aircraft dynamics. These results were then extrapolated to the Inmarsat-based 7th arc (at 08:19 (24:19 GMT) shown below along with all seven time signatures handshakes from the Inmarsat satellite on the early morning of March 8, 2014). The analysis indicated that the majority of solutions only contained one significant turn after the last recorded radar data,” the ATSB report summarizes, which is “inconsistent with a controlled ditching scenario,” the agency argues.

Seventh Arc Google Globe Map

Photo Credit: Inmarsat, Boeing, Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB)

The bureau said that “a controlled ditching scenario requires engine thrust to properly control the direction and vertical speed at touchdown and to provide hydraulic power for the flight controls including the flaps.”

MH370’s Boeing 777-200ER flew early morning March 8, 2014 for 7 hours and 38 minutes, as “fuel exhaustion was probable,” ATSB concludes.

“It is likely that the right engine flamed out first followed by the left engine,” ATSB said in the report, adding that the left engine “could have continued to run for up to 15 minutes after the right engine flamed out.”

Still, a ‘Gentle Landing‘ hypothesis of some experts allegedly supports a scenario that the massive Boeing 777-200ER rests on the deep sea floor of the Indian Ocean largely intact.

Else, where are the numerous floatable devices washing ashore from a lone broken-apart Boeing 777-200ER airliner hull resting on the deep sea oceanic floor known to exist worldwide?

Led by former head of the Australian defense and retired Air Force Chief Marshal, Sir Angus Houston, the over $150 million dollar international search effort has involved more than two dozen countries contributing planes, ships, submarines, satellites, Bayesian probabilistic search methodologies, oceanic current and debris drift models (shown below), and aircraft forensics of barnacle-encrusted flaperon debris.

Photo Credit: CBS News/NASA/Australia Maritime Safety Authority

As confidence now runs high on the probability of finding the Boeing 777-200ER wreckage laying in the “hot-spot” search area of the southern Indian Ocean floor, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said China has provided 20 million Australian dollars of additional funds to complete the MH370 search.

Malaysia Airlines Downsizes From B777 Long-Haul to B737 Short-Haul Carrier in MH370/MH17 Dual-Crisis Aftermath

The last Boeing 777, performing as a Malaysia Airlines Berhad (MAB) flight, took off Monday, January 25, 2016 at noon (local time) from Amsterdam en route to Kuala Lumpur. This marked an end of four decades of this signature scheduled flight in the Southeast Asia region operated by the Malaysian flag carrier. This also was an end to 19 years of service for the carriers original fleet of 15 Boeing 777-200ER airliners before the loss of two from the 2014 dual-crises of the missing MH370 aviation tragedy on March 8, 2014 and the shot-down MH17 aviation disaster on July 17, 2014.

Also at noon Monday, January 25, 2016, another Malaysia Airlines Berhad (MAB) Boeing 777-200ER flew into Kuala Lumpur International Airport from Guangzhou in China. As the new Malaysian flag carrier maintains this flight schedule, the Boeing 777-200ER airliner “is being downsized to a Boeing 737-800 – a predominantly short-haul jet with about half the capacity,” reports The Independent (U.K.) on Monday.

As a new “value-based” air carrier, Malaysia Airlines Berhad (MAB) aims for profitability by 2018 in the lucrative southeast Asia air travel market in the next 5-10 years, according to Boeing-Airbus international airline industry projections. MAB’s downsizing towards profitability is a focus of this section, as we also say so-long here to MAB’s fallen MH370 Boeing 777-200ER, Registration #9M-MRO and also goodbye to the Grand-Ole Lady of MAB — its two-decade cash-producer, formerly 15 Boeing 777-200 large-capacity passenger airliner fleet.

Turning back to civil aviation historian Philip Birtles (1998), “in early 1996 Malaysia Airlines Systems (MAS) ordered a total of 15 B777s, including five of the stretched B777-300s, with options on two more B777s and a commitment to acquire 35 further aircraft as required. The first MAS B777 – designated B777-2H6 – was WA064, Registration #9M-MRA, and made its first flight on March 26, 1997 [nearly seventeen years prior to MH370’s ill-fated early morning on March 8, 2014]. On delivery flight this aircraft broke the great circle distance record, when it flew non-stop from Seattle to Kuala Lumpur, a distance of 12,457 miles (or 20,044 kilometers). The opportunity was then taken to continue around the world, back to Seattle, beating the eastward round-the-world record with an average speed of 553 miles per hour (or 889 kilometers per hour), covering the 23,210 miles (37,345 kilometers) in a time of 41 hours, 59 minutes.”

Four months after Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370’s Boeing 777-200ER international search initially commenced, another Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200 was shot down. According to a final report, flight MH17 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was downed by a Buk surface-to-air missile fired from war-torn Hrabove, Ukraine on July 17, 2014, in which 283 passengers and 15 crew members died on board. 

The October 12, 2015 MH17 crash final report by the Dutch Safety Board (DSB) of The Netherlands, headed by Chairman Tjibbe Joustra, followed a previously released preliminary MH17 investigation report on September 9, 2014, sketching out the causes of the aviation disaster that has impacted Malaysia Airlines Berhad (MAB).

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MH17 Crash - English Spoken

Video Credit: about the Dutch Safety Board’s investigation into the causes of the crash of flight MH17 on July 17, 2014 in the eastern part of Ukraine and the Board’s investigation into flying over conflict zones. The video was based on the Dutch Safety Board’s investigation reports, which were published on October 12, 2015.

DSB chairman Joustra said the warhead that downed MH17 fits the profile of a Russian-built automatic computerized Buk ground-to-air missile. However, Russian officials who participated in the investigation said “it was not possible to confirm the warhead or type of system,” according to Joustra (via CNN).

The new air carrier has been operational, since September 1, 2015, with a new RM6 billion (or US$1.9 billion) business model and management team, led by Christoph Mueller, CEO of Malaysia Airlines Systems Berhad (MAS) and CEO-Designate of the new “value-based” airline, Malaysia Airlines Berhad (MAB), aiming for profitability estimated by 2018 (which is briefly reviewed now as one says goodbye to Malaysia Airlines Berhad (MAB) Boeing 777 fleet here).

Malaysia Airlines Logos 333

Execution of a New Competitive Business Plan

By way of background, Malaysia Airlines on Thursday, August 28, 2014, released a new business plan, asking for nearly 6,000 staff cuts, curtailed long-haul routes, and a US$1.66 billion dollar restructuring strategy, as it reported a 75 percent wider loss in April-June 2014 second-quarter earnings, as operations further stalled from passenger bookings continuing to slide in response to the air carrier’s dual-crisis from the loss of 537 souls on board MH370’s aviation tragedy and MH17’s aviation disaster in the past nearly 15 months.

The April-June 2014 second-quarter earnings reflected the impact of the MH370 aviation tragedy on the Malaysia air carrier’s income and cash financials. Malaysia Airlines further forecasted poor second-half earnings, signaling the air carrier’s “average weekly bookings had declined 33 percent, with numerous flight cancellations immediately after the shooting down of flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine in July 17, 2014,” reports Reuters and the New York Times.

On Friday, August 29, 2014, Malaysian officials and Malaysia’s sovereign wealth investment company, Khazanah Nasional, announced that top-level management for the Malaysian flag carrier would then remain in place, whereupon later a significant shakeup of the senior management was put in place. 

The Malaysian cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Najib Razak, on Wednesday, August 27, 2014 approved the air carrier’s business restructuring plan, which also called for focusing the airline’s core southeast Asia regional routes, while retaining a number of its historically profitable international flights to China and Australia to help feed traffic to its routes pulling in and out of its hub at Kuala Lumpur, a person familiar with the plan said on Thursday, August 28, 2014 to the Financial Times.

The flag-carrier’s workforce transition follows as Malaysia Airlines at the end of April 2015, supposedly in reconsiderations of its business assets, has offered for sale or lease all six of its Airbus A380s, its two Boeing 747-400Fs, four Airbus A330-200Fs, and four Boeing 777-200ERs (then at that time leaving just only nine such Boeing airliners assets (now retired as of Monday, January 25, 2016 and downsized to Boeing 737-800 short-haul airliners) – excluding the loss of the MH370 and MH17 Boeing 777-200ERs – among the Malaysian national air carrier’s fleet), reports respected aviation industry site Leeham News, as the flag-carrier seeks to restructure its daily operational losses that reach as high as US$1.6 million in the first half of 2014. Leeham News’ Scott Hamilton says liquidating the freight airliner fleet – encompassing two Boeing 747-400Fs and four Airbus A330-200Fs – essentially “wipes out MASCargo (Malaysia Airlines Cargo).”

Prompted by inquiries from Australian Business Traveller, Malaysia Airlines issued a statement saying the airline “is currently still working to finalize the Business Plan. Exploring fleet options to enhance viability of long-haul sectors is one area being looked into.”

However, the airline “refused to confirm or deny that it plans to sell or lease any Airbus A380s” (shown below).

Incoming Malaysia Airlines Berhad CEO Christoph Mueller has added “recent speculations on the airline offering some of its fleet for sale or lease is too premature, when nothing concrete has been achieved.”

Mr Mueller has recruited a former easyJet and Flybe executive, Paul Simmons, as Chief Commercial Officer, The Independent (U.K.) reports.

Malcolm Ginsberg, Editor of Business Travel News, said to The Independent (U.K): “People have short memories. If the management can be allowed to manage, then Air Asia and Singapore Airlines might quickly find they have real competition on their hands.”

I made a similar southeast Asia airline industry competitive strategy assessment as Mr. Ginsberg several years back on August 30, 2014, appearing on Al Jazeera English, Inside Story, asking “Malaysia Airlines: Can It Survive?” 

Video Thumbnail
Oliver McGee on Aljazeera, Malaysia Airlines: Can It Survive? 8-30-14

“Malaysia Airlines needs to operate and utilize its fleet at an optimum level besides maximizing revenue on the route it flies. The market needs to give Malaysia Airlines room to explore various options in determining the most viable strategy,” Mueller counsels.

Why, because managing airlines and airplanes is big global business.

MAS, emerging into the new company MAB, is swimming through deep sea waters of crisis management recovery in partnership as a government, a sovereign wealth fund, and a global business enterprise. Mueller and the MAB senior leadership is expecting escalating hyper-competitive strategic engagement among airlines operating in the southeast Asia region.

And, the MAB team is preparing for heightened market and operational risks, and even some innovation risks, particularly in the areas of flight routes management, workforce transition and redevelopment, pilot training and certification, aviation safety and security regulatory oversight, crash investigation and crisis management expertise, fleet assets utilization, and customer experience and brand loyalty outreach and engagement, rapidly emerging in the coming 5-10 years among the airline industry players in the southeast Asia commercial passenger air travel marketplace.

The Malaysian air carrier said the MH17 aviation disaster halted “all the hard work and effort” to regain market confidence the top-level crisis management team had put in place upon the onset of the missing MH370 aviation tragedy still ongoing. The dual-crisis has been devastating to the flag carrier’s business, as passenger loads in the first half of 2014 dropped from over 80 percent to 74 percent, although good recovery of passenger loads has been achieved in 2015. Meanwhile, in the first half of 2014 moving into 2015, the air carrier’s operating expenses rose 2 percent on higher fuel costs, maintenance costs, and labor costs. However, substantial staff cuts from about 19,000 to around 13,000 has considerably dropped the flag carrier’s fixed operating costs, which makes profitability more easily reachable in the near future, perhaps even aggressively by 2018.

Photo Credit: Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200ER, Registration #9M-MRO

However, the flag-carrier’s restructuring steps have been slowed, most likely from favorably lower oil prices in the last half of 2014 going well into 2015, which have provided some relief of the air carrier’s daily cash burn and direct operating expenses.

Maybank aviation analyst Mohshin Aziz recently expressed concerns to CNN Money about this relief in the face of advancing through the last half of 2014 the overall restructuring of Malaysia Airlines. Aziz believes “there are few signs yet that Kazanah is following through on the hard decisions. And, there may be one simple reason for that: the plunging price of oil.”

“Oil prices have just about halved and right now just about every route is making money. The momentum on the need to reform in a great hurry is definitely not there anymore,” said Aziz.

What is generally known by experts about the airline business, nonetheless – it’s a five days of working cash business.

The air carrier lost US$360 million last year in 2013, amounting to three times its losses in 2011, and the flag-carrier lost $260 million, burning nearly US$2.16 million in cash a day in the first half of 2014, while at the same time losing US$1.6 million a day in its operations.

“The company hadn’t turned a profit since 2008, and in the three years to 2013, cumulative losses totaled US$1.3 billion,” CNN Money confirms.

Malaysia Airlines has been losing nearly one million dollars a day well before the MH370 and MH17 aviation crises hit the ailing firm. The Malaysian government has been significantly subsidizing the air carrier to keep it afloat.

Historically, the Malaysian air carrier has been one of Southeast Asia’s safest and most secured airlines. However, escalated competitive rival forces in the region have put a squeeze play on financials and 2-5-year market declines of Malaysian Airline Systems BHD securities

The company has not made an annual profit since 2010. Unfortunately, the firm became trapped in the 1990s between high-end premium Singapore Airlines, and low-cost entrepreneurial Asian air carriers. like AirAsia, and its long-haul business, AirAsia X, both having hubs operating from inside Malaysia.

Shares in Malaysian Airline Systems BHD fell sharply right after the first moments of the MH17 aviation disaster, down 11% on July 17 by the mid-day break in volume trading in Kuala Lumpur, as already negative investor sentiment deepened, acknowledged CBCNews.

In all, unadjusted stock price has dropped by 35 percent during 2014. In fact, Malaysia Airline’s unadjusted stock price has fallen more than 36 percent, since August 2013.

Since the disappearance of MH370, the stock price has continued to slide sharply. 

Moments after the MH17 aviation disaster occur on July 17, 2014 Malaysia Airlines stock fell a dramatic 13 percent in just moments of trading on the Malaysian stock market. 

Continuing to strategically restructure past the 2014 dual aviation safety and security crisis of MH370/MH17, and to settle the flag carrier’s legal liabilities, the new “value-based” airline, Malaysia Airlines Berhad (MAB), aims for profitability estimated by 2018, says Mr. Mueller.

Boeing 777 9M-MRO

Photo Credit: Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200ER, Registration #9M-MRO

Liow: MH370 families advised to file their claims under Montreal Convention before March 8

Malaysia Airlines (MAS) flight MH370 was officially declared on Thursday, January 29, 2015, an accident and all lives presumed lost on the southern Indian Ocean floor, authorities said, after history’s largest and costliest oceanic airliner search for nearly eleven months as of Monday, February 9, 2015. Officially, this cleared the way last year for Malaysia Airlines (MAS) to pay compensation to victims’ relatives, while the search for the massive Boeing 777-200ER airliner continues, reports Reuters.

“We officially declare Malaysia Airlines (MAS) flight MH370 an accident … and that all 239 of the passengers and crew on board MH370 are presumed to have lost their lives,” Malaysian Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) director-general Azharuddin Abdul Rahman said in a statement.

“The announcement is in accordance with standards of annexes 12 and 13 of the International Civil Aviation Organization,” said the Malaysian DCA director-general. “It will allow families of the passengers to obtain assistance through compensation,” he said.

In a Malaysia Ministry of Transport statement (shown full below), Transport Minister Liong Tong Lai cautioned, “as we approach the second anniversary of this unfortunate [flight MH370] event, I have been informed by Malaysia Airlines System Berhad (MAS) that less than 60 compensation claims have been settled in relation to the 227 passengers and 12 crew on board the flight, whereas to date, 169 families have commenced final compensation process.”

The next-of-kin remain considerably concerned about the status of Malaysia Airlines (MAS) assets and operations transferred to Malaysia Airlines Berhad (MAB) under the restructuring plan reviewed above.

“Multiple suits have been filed in the United States, Australian and Malaysian courts in the past few weeks and more are expected, as the two-year deadline [on Tuesday, March 8, 2016] approaches,” according to International Business Times adding, “International convention states that families are automatically eligible for around £113,000 ($160,000) in compensation per passenger.”

Malaysia Airlines (MAS), as the national flag-carrier, last year reached an “out-of-court” settlement of the first legal claim by the family of a gentleman, who was a passenger on flight MH370, a lawyer handling the claim said to the French press service, AFP, on Tuesday, June 2, 2015.

Jee Jing Hang, an online web-based business owner, was one of 227 passengers and 12 Malaysia Airlines (MAS) crew aboard. In October 2014, Mr Hang’s family brought a lawsuit, benefitting his two living sons, aged 11 and 14 when the lawsuit was filed, against Malaysia Airlines (MAS) and the Malaysian government, including its Department of Civil Aviation and Department of Immigration, and the Royal Malaysia Air Force Chief, agencies altogether involved in investigating the missing MH370 flight. The premise of the plaintiff’s lawsuit argued “for negligence and breach of contract,” against the air carrier, as it “failed to bring its passengers to its destination,” according to AFP.

“The court was informed that all the parties in the suit had come to an amicable settlement,” Gary Edward Chong, a lawyer for Mr Hang’s family told AFP, of which “terms of the settlement could not be disclosed.”

Liow-Tiong-Lai-MOT-Transport-Minister-Ministry-of-Transport 2

APPENDIX A

MEDIA STATEMENT

YB DATO’ SRI LIOW TIONG LAI, MINISTER OF TRANSPORT, MALAYSIA

MINISTRY OF TRANSPORT (MOT), PUTRAJAYA, MALAYSIA

Friday, March 4 2016

Liow: MH370 families advised to file their claims under Montreal Convention before March 8

“It has undoubtedly been a difficult and trying twenty-four months for the families and loved ones of the passengers and crew of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370.

As we approach the second anniversary of this unfortunate event, I have been informed by Malaysia Airlines System Berhad (MAS) that less than 60 compensation claims have been settled in relation to the 227 passengers and 12 crew on board the flight, whereas to date, 169 families have commenced final compensation process.

With regard to the passengers of MH370, according to Article 35 of the 1999 Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules for International Carriage by Air (Montreal Convention), the right to damages against MAS shall be extinguished if an action is not brought within a period of two years from the date on which the aircraft ought to have arrived in Beijing, that is on 8 March 2014.

Therefore, as previously stated by MAS, the limitation period under the Montreal Convention ends on 8 March 2016. This right to claim damages under the Montreal Convention is available to the families and next-of-kin of the passengers of MH370.

Hence, I urge all the families and next-of-kin, regardless of nationality, to file their claims under the Montreal Convention against MAS by March 8, 2016 to preserve their legal rights as provided under the Convention.

The Government of Malaysia remains ever conscious that the families and next-of-kin of the passengers and crew of MH370 need to be accorded their legitimate rights as provided under the relevant international instruments and domestic laws.”

APPENDIX B

Second Interim Statements on MH370 Safety Investigation

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Provided below is the MAS Flight MH370 Second Interim Statement (Footnote 1) on the investigation on the second anniversary of Malaysia Airlines (MAS) Flight MH370, prepared by the Malaysian ICAO (Footnote 2) Annex 13 Safety Investigation Team for MH370. Click here for MAS Flight MH370 First Interim Statement and Factual Information.

“1. This 2nd Interim Statement1 has been prepared under Chapter 6, paragraph 6 of ICAO2 Annex 13 to provide information on the progress of the investigation on the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines (MAS) Flight MH370, a Boeing 777-200ER aircraft, registered as 9M-MRO, pending the completion of the Final Report as required under ICAO Annex 13. A Final Report will be completed in the event wreckage of the aircraft is located or the search for the wreckage is terminated, whichever is the earlier.

2. The Beijing-bound international scheduled passenger flight, with a total of 239 persons (227 passengers and 12 crew) on board, departed KL International Airport (KLIA) at 1642 UTC on 07 March 2014 [0042 MYT on 08 March 2014]. Less than 40 minutes after take-off, radar contact with the aircraft was lost after passing waypoint (Footnote 3) IGARI.

3. As a Contracting State of ICAO and in accordance with Annex 13 to the Convention on International Civil Aviation, Aircraft Accident and Incident Investigation, and under Regulation 126(1) (Footnote 4) of the Malaysian Civil Aviation Regulations 1996 (MCAR), on 25 April 2014, Malaysia established an independent international Air Accident Investigation Team, known as ‘The Malaysian ICAO Annex 13 Safety Investigation Team for MH370’ (the “Team”) to investigate the disappearance of flight MH370. The Team, headed by the Investigator-in-Charge, comprises 19 Malaysians and 7 Accredited Representatives of 7 safety investigation authorities (Footnote 5) from 7 countries.

4. On 08 March 2015, the 1 st Interim Statement and the Factual Information on the Safety Investigation for MH370 were released (Footnote 6) to the public on the first anniversary of the disappearance of MH370.

5. To-date, the MH370 wreckage has still not been found despite the continuing search in the South Indian Ocean. However, a flaperon was recovered in the French island of Réunion on 29 July 2015 and was determined to have been a part of the MH370 aircraft.

6. At this time, the Team is continuing to work towards finalizing its analysis, findings/conclusions and safety recommendations on eight relevant areas associated with the disappearance of flight MH370 based on available information. New information that may become available before the completion of the Final Report may alter these analysis, findings/ conclusions and safety recommendations.

7. The eight areas being reviewed by the Team are as follows:

  1. Diversion from Filed Flight Plan Route;
  2. Air Traffic Services Operations;
  3. Flight Crew Profile;
  4. Airworthiness & Maintenance and Aircraft Systems;
  5. Satellite Communications;
  6. Wreckage and Impact Information (following the recovery and verification of a flaperon from the aircraft);
  7. Organization and Management Information of the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA), Malaysia and MAS; and
  8. Aircraft Cargo Consignment.

The Malaysian ICAO Annex 13 Safety Investigation Team for MH370″

“Footnote 1 If the report cannot be made publicly available within twelve months, the State conducting the investigation shall make an interim statement publicly available on each anniversary of the occurrence, detailing the progress of the investigation and any safety issues raised.
Footnote 2 ICAO – International Civil Aviation Organization, a specialized agency of the United Nations charged with coordinating and regulating international air travel. The Convention establishes rules of airspace, aircraft registration and safety, and details the rights of the signatories in relation to air travel. Today, there are 191 Contracting States in ICAO.
Footnote 3 Waypoint – A specified geographical location used to define an area navigation route or the flight path of an aircraft employing area navigation. Waypoints are identified as either: Fly-by waypoint – A fly-by waypoint requires the use of turn anticipation to avoid overshoot of the next flight segment; or Fly-over waypoint – A flyover waypoint precludes any turn until the waypoint is overflown and is followed by an intercept maneuver of the next flight segment.
Footnote 4 For the purpose of carrying out an investigation into the circumstances and cause of any accident to which these Regulations apply, the Minister shall appoint persons as Inspectors of Air Accidents, one of whom shall be appointed by him as a Chief Inspector of Air Accidents.
Footnote 5 Air Accident and Incident Investigation Organizations:
  • Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) of Australia,
  • Civil Aviation Administration of the People’s Republic of China (CAAC),
  • Bureau d’Enquêtes et d’Analyses pour la sécurité d l’aviation civile (BEA) of France,
  • National Transportation Safety Committee (NTSC) of Indonesia,
  • Air Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB) of Singapore,
  • Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) of United Kingdom, and
  • National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) of United States of America.
Footnote 6 The 1st Interim Statement and the Factual Information remain available on the MH370 Safety Investigation websites of the Ministry of Transport (MOT) Malaysia and the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC): “
  • http://mh370.mot.gov.my
  • http://www.mh370.gov.my  

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