Sex, Lies and Videotape. Or should we say, Radar. Malaysia's, that is. #MH370
Pending on JeffWise.net in
"In Search for Missing Airliner, Peanut Gallery Shows the Way"
Luigi: Many thanks for posting Keith Bradsher's 03.17.14 NYT article "Questions Over Absence of Cellphone Calls From Missing Flight’s Passengers": http://nyti.ms/1vSpWiS
It is not only highly illuminating on close re-read, but it prompted me to go back and re-examine some other articles by Bradsher.
All: But before going on, please let me:
1. Offer a little #protip (in CAPS, because it can't be emphasized enough):
WHEN SOMEONE TELLS YOU A STORY, PLEASE LISTEN FOR WHAT THEY SHOULD SAY THAT THEY DON'T.
2. Lay the foundation with another (theoretically unrelated to MH370) Keith Bradsher story first.
In July 2014 (after MH370 vanished), Keith Bradsher wrote about an incident that occurred in 2000, wherein a mysterious chemical (in canisters), found its way onto an MAS flight. The Malaysian government ended up digging a large hole in the ground near the airport tarmac and burying the entire plane.
What was quite notable (beyond the fact that MAS buried a ENTIRE airplane in the ground) is that Bradsher's article did not specify that the canisters contained oxalyl chloride (a military poison) or better, how he knew that this shipment of chemicals was “destined for Iran”. http://www.duncansteel.com/archives/899#comment-9839
So I posed the Iran question on Twitter (and tagged Bradsher in it). His response:
"Malaysian who worked on the issue at the time said it was destined for Iran."
What Malaysian? WHO?
And you have to wonder — why didn't Bradsher include THAT very important tidbit in the article? How could he state where the shipment was headed but not state the source for that information? My initial reaction was that Bradsher was sloppy - and apparently, so were his editors. Now, however, I'm inclined to believe that when Bradsher's articles are vague on key details, it's intentional. Or perhaps the better word is, purposeful.
Back to the ranch.
In the NYT Bradsher piece that Luigi linked to, the hook is the absence of cell calls from the pax on MH370. But also embedded in that conversation is a discussion of the altitude story, namely that the plane was flying as high as 45,000 feet, which we've already noted, is beyond the *certified* maximum altitude for a 777-2.
I'd like to draw your attention to the following:
1. As far as I can tell, there have been no updates (or corrections) to this article — meaning that no one, from Boeing or elsewhere, appears to have come forward and stated that it was impossible for MH370 to have flown at FL45 — beyond it's certified maximum. Bradsher sure never says it, nor does he even remotely imply that is the case. But he does lay out, based on conversations with experts (and with specificity), what would happen to those in the main cabin if the plane were depressurized at 45K: a total useful consciousness of seconds. The exact same thing my cousin the T7 pilot told me.
2. The paragraph that begins the altitude discussion starts with "According to military radar". Again, I initially thought this was very sloppy, both in the writing and the editorial, because WHOSE radar was not specified. Of course, most people would just naturally assume that given the context, the writer meant MALAYSIA'S military and keep moving. But was Malaysia's military the ONLY military that *saw* MH370 right AFTER its turn over the South China Sea?
3. "Many aircraft carry air phones using radio or satellite technology, and the Malaysia Airlines jet was equipped with THEM (CAPS mine) in business class."
What is "them"? It's vague. Why didn't Bradsher just clearly state that MAS business class comes equipped with SAT phones? We certainly know this to be the case, because that information was sitting right on the MAS website.
[When I tweeted a link to the MAS website on May 20, the page was still up. It was deleted sometime AFTER that.]
4. "If someone deliberately diverted a plane and turned off its transponder and other communications equipment, that person is likely to have disabled the in-flight entertainment system so that passengers could not figure out from the map that they were flying in the wrong direction."
Note the use of "likely to have".
If Bradsher had rung up some random Joe telco, Joe wouldn't be able to say that the IFE system was "likely" to have been disabled, although though he might have speculated that that could have happened.
But it seems clear that the source of this hypothetical statement was not a random Joe. It was a telecommunications expert "who assisted on anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the news media." Not authorized to talk to the media. That means that Brasher's source was/is an INSIDER - either involved directly with the investigation of MH370 or privy to inside information. Who said that the IFE system on MH370 was "likely" to have been disabled. In the world of politics, people would call that a leak.
After reading the Bradsher article Luigi posted, I was prompted to re-visit another Bradsher article I'd tweeted. It's dated June 23 (and filed from Canberra): "Malaysian Jet Was in Controlled Flight After Contact Was Lost, Officials Suspect" http://t.co/I0ZLl2FF8f
From the article:
"Their conclusion, reached in the past few weeks, helped prompt the decision to move the focus of the search hundreds of miles to the southwest...
The main evidence for the conclusion lies in a re-examination of Malaysian military radar data and in a more detailed analysis of electronic 'handshakes,' or pings...
...a comprehensive international review has found that the Malaysian radar equipment had not been calibrated with enough precision to draw any conclusions about the aircraft’s true altitude.
'The primary radar data pertaining to altitude is regarded as unreliable" said Angus Houston...Martin Dolan, the chief commissioner of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, agreed with Mr. Houston. 'There’s nothing reliable about height'...
Mr. Houston and Mr. Dolan declined to discuss any details about the Malaysian radar readings...
SO THE DISMISSAL OF THE RADAR ALTITUDE DATA PROMPTED A CHANGE IN THE FOCUS OF THE SEARCH." (CAPS mine).
Did you get that?
Without a peep (in that article) from any Malaysian officials, and from the pulpit in Australia — sans any details as to who conducted the "comprehensive international review" of Malaysia's military radar system — or an explanation of the technical basis for determining that Malaysia's system was not "calibrated with enough precision" — it was announced that Malaysia's military altitude data was so imprecise that it was being dismissed. Which then allowed the authorities to CHANGE the SEARCH focus.
Other than Keith Bradsher, is there an aviation journalist anywhere on earth who caught this - or questioned it (or the authorities in AUS) in any meaningful way?
I'm also guessing that Anwar Ibrahim was probably surprised as hell to hear that the authorities in Australia found Malaysia's radar system to be wanting for precision — because he gave a video interview to The Telegraph in April, wherein he stated:
"that he had personally authorised the installation of 'one of the most sophisticated radar' systems in the world, based near the South China Sea and covering Malaysia’s mainland and east and west coastlines, when he was the country’s finance minister in 1994."
“We don’t have the sophistication of the United States or Britain but still we have the capacity to protect our borders.”
So Malaysia ponied up what had to be some major coin for a sophisticated Marconi radar system, but didn't bother to keep it calibrated?
I'll just leave you with Duncan Steel's cutting (and I'll wager, very likely spot-on) observation:
"Sorry if I am doing them an injustice, but I would think that the JACC/AMSA is just plotting up the information/possible tracks that they seem to get from the NTSB and then picking areas nearby to search. In that regard the RAAF and AMSA is just acting as a wholly-owned client state of the US, which is likely for the best in this connection: I do not believe that they have the intrinsic ability to do anything useful and value-added themselves, apart from fly search aircraft around the Indian Ocean." http://www.duncansteel.com/archives/549#comment-906
A wholly-owned client state of the US.