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Malaysia releases satellite data on missing MH370 jet



By CHRIS BRUMMITT and EILEEN NG

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) -- Close to three months after the Malaysian jetliner disappeared, the government on Tuesday released reams of raw satellite data it used to determine that the flight ended in the southern Indian Ocean, a step long demanded by the families of some of the passengers on board.

But while the 45 pages of information may help satisfy a desire for more transparency in a much criticized investigation, experts say it's unlikely to solve the mystery of Flight 370 - or give much comfort to relatives stuck between grieving and the faintest hope, no matter how unlikely, their loved ones might still be alive.

"It's a whole lot of stuff that is not very important to know," said Michael Exner, a satellite engineer who has been independently researching the calculations. "There are probably two or three pages of important stuff, the rest is just noise. It doesn't add any value to our understanding."

He and others said the needed assumptions, algorithms and metadata to validate the investigators' conclusion were not there.

The release of the information came as the underwater hunt for the jet is poised to pause until later in the summer while new, powerful sonar equipment is obtained, a sign of just how difficult it will be to locate the jet and finally get some answers on how it went missing with 239 people on board.

Air traffic controllers lost contact with the Boeing 777 soon after it took off from Kuala Lumpur on March 8 on a night flight to Beijing over waters between Malaysia and Vietnam.

An international investigation team led by Malaysia has concluded that the jet flew south after it was last spotted on Malaysian military radar to the west of peninsular Malaysia and ended up in the southern Indian Ocean off western Australia. The conclusion is based on complex calculations derived largely from brief hourly transmissions or "handshakes" between the plane and a communications satellite operated by Britain's Inmarsat company.

Investigators say they believe the plane was deliberately diverted from its flight path, but without finding the plane or its flight data recorders they have been unable to say with any certainty what happened on board. Theories range from mechanical failure to hijacking or pilot murder-suicide.

The families - many of whom have been highly critical of the Malaysian government and, in the absence of any wreckage, have been unwilling to accept that their loved ones were dead - had been asking for the raw satellite data for many weeks so it could be examined by independent experts. Malaysia initially balked at doing so, but then reconsidered.

In a posting on its Facebook page, a group representing some of the families said: "Finally, after almost three months, the Inmarsat raw data is released to the public. Hope this is the original raw data and can be used to potentially `think out of the box' to get an alternative positive outcome."

Steve Wang, whose mother was on the plane, said he was disappointed that the release did not contain an account of exactly what investigators did to conclude the plane had taken the southern route.

"We are not experts and we cannot analyze the raw data, but we need to see the deduction process and judge by ourselves if every step was solid," he said. "We still need to know where the plane is and what is the truth. We know the likelihood that our beloved ones have survived is slim, but it is not zero."

Sarah Bajc, whose husband was on the flight, has been at the forefront of a campaign to press the government for more transparency.

She said that "a half dozen very qualified people were looking" at the information and she hoped to have their conclusions soon.

The investigators were forced to rely on the Inmarsat data because the plane's other communication and navigation systems were disabled. They determined the plane's direction by measuring the frequency of the signals sent to the satellite. By considering aircraft performance, the satellite's location and other known factors such as the amount of fuel on board, they determined the plane's final location was to the south of the satellite.

In early April, search crews picked up a series of underwater signals in the area the satellite data indicated was the likely crash site. The signals appeared to be consistent with the "pings" from aircraft black boxes, which contain flight data and cockpit voice recordings. The head of the search operation, Angus Houston, said the signals were "a most promising lead" and hopes were initially high for a breakthrough, but an intensive search by an unmanned submarine found nothing.

In an interview with CNN earlier this week, Inmarsat chief engineer Mark Dickinson said the planned release of the satellite data would not be enough for independent researchers to replicate the calculations. Some aviation experts have speculated that governments might not want to release all the data, or other needed information on the satellite system, because of commercial or national security reasons.

But Dickinson said he was highly confident of the data.

"This data has been checked, not just by Inmarsat but by many parties, who have done the same work, with the same numbers, to make sure we all got it right, checked it with other flights in the air at the same, checked it against previous flights in this aircraft," he said. "At the moment there is no reason to doubt what the data says."

Congregating in Internet chat rooms and blogs, many scientists, physicists and astronomers have been trying to replicate the math used to determine the southern route, either as an intellectual exercise or out of a belief they are helping the relatives or contributing to transparency in the investigation.

Duncan Steel, a British scientist and astronomer, said some of the data "may" explain the belief that the aircraft went south rather than north, but that a further confirmation would take a day or so. But he too was disappointed. "One can see no conceivable reason that the information could not have been released nine or 10 weeks ago. Even now, there are many, many lines of irrelevant information in those 47 pages," he said in an email.

The final "handshake" message sent to the satellite didn't coincide with the previous, hourly pings.

In a report on its website titled "Considerations on defining the search area," the Australian Transport Safety Bureau said the last message was a "logon request from the aircraft that was consistent with satellite communication equipment on the aircraft powering up following a power interruption."

It said the interruption may have been caused by fuel exhaustion, a potentially significant finding.

Given that investigators believe the plane was deliberately diverted, the role of the pilots has come under scrutiny. Much of the speculation has centered on whether the aircraft could have suffered a mechanical failure in which the pilots struggled to regain control before all on board were somehow incapacitated, or whether it was crashed deliberately.

---

Brummitt contributed from Hanoi, Vietnam. Associated Press writers Kristen Gelineau in Sydney and Didi Trang in Beijing contributed to this report.

Join the discussion

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gr8shapes May 27 2014 at 9:39 AM

why do people post "enough" or "its getting old"? Are you sheeple so F brain dead that you no longer are interested in what happened to all these people? should we just "forget about it" because the story is old??? I will keep wondering and keep asking questions until there is an answer. Even a repetitive news report keeps it alive, and i dont think its something that should just be swept under the rug until the zombies of the world "forget about it" and go back to staring at their Iphones.

Flag Reply +100 rate up
42 replies
maggwheels May 27 2014 at 9:41 AM

Malaysian Gov. sounds a lot like the Obama administration being transparent and truthful.

Flag Reply +85 rate up
26 replies
goldgait May 27 2014 at 10:01 AM

If you had a family member on this plane, you would not want this story to go away. It needs to be found so these poor family members can have some closure. I pray it will be found soon!

Flag Reply +62 rate up
6 replies
PAULIE May 27 2014 at 9:49 AM

ALL BS ..... They had 3 months to fake the data in the new report in conjunction with other countries to hide the truth. It is very very simple ..... A JUMBO JET THAT SIZE CRASHES LEAVING NOT ONE TRACE OF ANY PERSONAL BELONGINGS OR THOUSANDS OF ITEM ON BOARD THAT FLOAT. THAT INCLUDE THE EAST CUSHIONS FOR STARTERS. This is one giant cover up. 3 MONTHS to realease data that existed. Or should I say changed and manipulated to fit a series of lies lies lies.

Flag Reply +62 rate up
22 replies
JoAnne May 27 2014 at 9:53 AM

my heart aches for the families and friends of the 370 flight crew and passengers
I am hoping they will find a measure of closure; there is none when a loved one just disappears

Flag Reply +48 rate up
1 reply
ERIK JoAnne May 27 2014 at 12:24 PM

see a cardiologist.

Flag Reply +4 rate up
5 replies
greatbirdusa May 27 2014 at 9:50 AM

Oh please,
MORE 'information' on this missing jet..!
-- STOP IT --
Hillary Clinton already solved what happened when she said,
"At this point, what difference does it make"..?

Flag Reply +26 rate up
12 replies
You sexy bitch May 27 2014 at 9:48 AM

CNN is very happy that now they have new things to talk about for the next 6 months

Flag Reply +17 rate up
2 replies
debnaert You sexy bitch May 27 2014 at 1:58 PM

IF CNN was a responsible news media they would cover all the horrid scandals going on in Washington.... BUT, if they did that, they would HAVE TO ADMIT they were WRONG ABOUT Getting this guy elected in the first place.... Notice you never HEAR any praises out of HOLLYWOOD? Gee, I wonder why!

Flag Reply +6 rate up
2 replies
nikkitytom debnaert May 27 2014 at 4:39 PM

Yep ... it has to come some time. The troll squeezing a critical comment about our President into a forum in which the topic is totally irrelevant. You don't get votes this way. You highlight the problems of a rigid and intransigent Conservative mentality,.

Flag +3 rate up
rreggaeredkc debnaert May 27 2014 at 5:40 PM

Lol, "Notice you never HEAR any praises out of HOLLYWOOD?" My jaw just dropped. You think if Hollywood doesn't support our POTUS, it's a "sign" of some kind? Please don't let Hollywood run the govt.

Flag 0 rate up
dorc792 You sexy bitch May 28 2014 at 12:55 AM

wolf blitzer....aka breaking news...gotta go...cnn should put him out in the funny farm...hes crackin up

Flag Reply 0 rate up
katrinabennet May 27 2014 at 9:53 AM

Sometimes people have to try to make their own closure. The seas are a big place and it may never be found. Seems that they will try again in a few months but if they find anything, it will be metal, bones, muddy, etc.. There are so many planes, boats missing in the sea and on land as well. We make them, we fly them, we sail them etc.. Some go down with the ship, aircraft, etc...
Man and his machines!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Flag Reply +14 rate up
5 replies
jimmyh51 May 27 2014 at 9:42 AM

The plane flew into another dimension and ended up in the Triassic Period, then the dinosaurs had them for lunch. Or was that a Twilight Zone episode?

Flag Reply +14 rate up
10 replies
nhy76p May 27 2014 at 9:29 AM

Get Fox and Mulder to investigate it.

Flag Reply +14 rate up
2 replies
mike nhy76p May 27 2014 at 4:24 PM

good idea!

Flag Reply 0 rate up
dorc792 nhy76p May 28 2014 at 12:57 AM

cnn should hire ann curry...dump blitzer...

Flag Reply 0 rate up
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