MH370 Search: Reunion Island Scoured for Clues After Debris Washes Ashore

An air, land and sea search was launched around an island in the Indian Ocean on Thursday following the discovery of an airplane fragment deemed to be a “major lead” in the hunt for missing Flight MH370.

Beaches were being combed and boats were scouring the waters off Reunion Island as helicopters flew overhead the French territory, east of Madagascar off the southern tip of Africa.

Image: Remnants of a suitcase on Reunion Island
Remnants of a suitcase found on Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean on Thursday, near where a fragment of an aircraft was located a day earlier. Le Journal de l’Ile de la Réunion

The barnacle-covered plane piece was found by a crew cleaning the coastline on Wednesday.

Boeing investigators have looked at photos of the fragment and say that they believe it is from one of their 777s, sources told NBC News. It appears to be a piece of a flap from a wing. There is only one such aircraft missing in the world right now — Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370.

Local media also reported Thursday that the remains of a suitcase had also been found in the same area where the debris was recovered. Officials did not immediately comment on the reports.

“This is obviously a very significant development,” Australian Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss told a news conference in Sydney early Thursday.

Truss said a “piece of debris could’ve floated a long, long way in 16 months” — the period since the Malaysia Airlines jet vanished.

“It’s the first real evidence that there is a possibility that a part of the aircraft may have been found. It’s too early to make that judgment, but clearly we are treating this as a major lead,” the deputy prime minister said. “It is credible that wreckage from the search area could’ve reached Reunion Island.”

The plane wreckage is roughly 6.5 feet to 8 feet in length, according to photographs. It appeared fairly intact and did not have visible burn marks or signs of impact.

Truss told reporters that a number stamped on the piece of debris would help to identify it.

Related: Relatives in Agony Over Debris Find

BEA, the French counterpart to the National Transportation Safety Board, said that it could not officially confirm yet that the fragment was from a Boeing 777.

However, Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak said Thursday that the plane debris was “very likely” from a Boeing 777.

“The location is consistent with the drift analysis provided to the Malaysianinvestigation team, which showed a route from the southern Indian Ocean to Africa,” Najib said in a statement.

Image: Reunion Island map
A map showing where the fragment of a plane that may be lost MH370 have been found, in relation to the original search areas. MSNBC / Malaysian Transport Ministry/Joint Agency Coordination Center

He said the fragment would be shipped to Toulouse where French authorities would determine whether it came from MH370.

Earlier, Malaysia’s deputy transport minister told Reuters it would take about two days to verify if the piece was from the missing jet.

MH370 was carrying 239 people when it disappeared about an hour into its journey from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing, China, on March 8 last year.

Search efforts led by Australia have focused on a broad expanse of the southern Indian Ocean off Australia, roughly 2,300 miles from Reunion Island.

Related: How Currents Could’ve Carried Wreckage to Reunion

Professor Charitha Pattiaratchi, of the University of Western Australia Oceans Institute, told APTN that finding a piece of the debris on Reunion was “entirely consistent with current patterns in the Southern Indian Ocean to be originated from the area that they’re doing the current search for the wreckage.”

He added: “It would not surprise me if more debris will be washing up in that part of the region in the coming weeks.”

In an earlier briefing with reporters, Truss said that the development could finally provide answers for relatives of those aboard the jetliner — including Sarah Bajc, the girlfriend of missing Texan Philip Wood.

“If the wreckage is identified, what that does is give some degree of closure to the families who are waiting for information,” he said. “If it can be established beyond doubt that the aircraft has gone into the water then that helps people to understand what happened.”

MH370: If debris is part of missing plane, what’s next?

(CNN)If confirmed to be from missing flight MH370, could a small portion of plane wing be the clue investigators need to unlock one of aviation’s biggest mysteries?

On the surface, it’s what investigators have been waiting for — the first physical piece of evidence as to what happened to the Malaysian Airlines flight that vanished in March 2014, carrying 239 people.

Here’s what could happen next:

Identifying the wing fragment

Planes are stamped with multiple serial numbers for exactly this purpose — to allow parts to be identified and matched to a specific model and aircraft.

“If the part numbers that are stamped on the pieces of the plane still survive, it literally could be a phone call to Boeing or the parts indices to see if it belongs to a 777. And if it belongs to a 777, it is MH370,” said Mary Schiavo, CNN aviation analyst and former inspector general of the United States Department of Transportation.

Schiavo points out that there have been only five accidents involving Boeing 777s, and the disappearance of MH370 is the only one where debris hasn’t been recovered.

If the identifying numbers are missing, more tests will need to be conducted on the part to determine its origin. In that case, it’s likely that the wing portion will need to be transported elsewhere, potentially Paris, because it was found within French territory.

Australia: Debris found is ‘major lead’ in MH370 search

If it is from MH370, will the main search area move?

Unlikely, analysts say.

The discovery of the potential debris off Reunion Island in the west Indian Ocean is consistent with the route of currents in the region and the time it would take for a piece of metal to be washed thousand of kilometers across a vast ocean, experts said.

“It’s possible that it could have drifted that far — certainly it is possible, especially if air was maintained in that particular piece,” said former pilot Les Abend.

Australian Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss said if the piece is proved to be from MH370, it would indicate authorities are searching in “roughly the right place.”

The current search is focused deep on the sea floor off the coast of Western Australia, along an arc considered by investigators to be the most likely area the plane went down if it turned back towards Malaysia, as indicated by data, and stayed in the air before running out of fuel.

The arc where investigators are mapping the sea floor in the search for MH370.

If it’s part of the plane, is it more likely the main section will be found?

Truss says no.

He told Australian media on Thursday it is “not really going to be all that helpful in pinpointing precisely where the aircraft is.”

However, if confirmed, the find is likely to give investigators further belief that other pieces of the plane have been carried by currents to the same region.

Hope hangs by a thread for MH370 families

Will the search area expand?


If the piece is confirmed to be from MH370, searches are likely to be conducted of surrounding islands.

However, experts are divided as to whether one or more pieces of floating debris will give many clues as to the fate of flight MH370.

“It really is not going to tell us too much about the final moments of the aircraft,” said Geoffrey Thomas from For that, the flight data recorders — or black boxes — are crucial.

However, Tom Ballantyne of Orient Aviation magazine, said the condition of the wing could indicate if the plane met a catastrophic end. Charring, for example, could indicate an explosion, he said.

9 aviation mysteries highlight long history of disappearances

Will debris found near Reunion cause a rethink of past theories?

Not necessarily.

Thomas said, if anything, the location of the potential debris confirms modeling form the University of Western Australia which showed that material from the plane could wash up around Reunion between 12 to 24 months after the plane’s disappearance.

Despite the modeling, no one had been searching in that area, he said, because of the vast nature of the Indian Ocean and the multitude of factors that meant that finding anything would be matter of luck and time.

“It was a matter of waiting for something to wash up,” he said.

Thomas said, however, if confirmed the find would dispel the numerous conspiracy theories that suggest that investigators were searching in the wrong place, or that somehow the plane may have landed safely undetected.

The mystery of MH370: What you need to know

Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 mystery remains deep after six months By Steve Almasy, CNN September 8, 2014 — Updated 0636 GMT (1436 HKT)

(CNN) — Six months ago, the story began as a puzzling news bulletin. A Malaysia Airlines passenger jet with 239 people on board had vanished from radar screens as it was flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

The disappearance was quite the mystery. Was it a terrorist attack? Was there a mechanical failure that led to a crash? Did the plane go down over land or water? Were there any survivors?

We all figured the answers would come after searchers found the aircraft or its wreckage.

Half a year later, it remains a deep mystery. No part of the plane has been discovered. Not one speck of debris.

A Boeing 777-200ER just disappeared. With 227 passengers and 12 crew members on board, it just vanished.

Authorities are convinced the plane crashed March 8 in the southern Indian Ocean. Satellite data and radar information indicate the plane turned off course and most likely went down about the time it would have run out of fuel.

Officials don’t know why it flew off course.

Photos: The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370Photos: The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370

Looking for debris yielded nothing but garbage

Airplanes and ships searched the surface of the ocean for nearly two months, with each report of debris turning out to be a false lead or flotsam from another source. To date, more than 4.5 million square kilometers of sea have been scoured.

Not giving up on flight MH370

An underwater drone with sonar took the search beneath the waves in mid-April and looked for the source of four underwater pings picked up by devices towed by ships.

The pulses were encouraging because they were of a frequency close to that used by the locator beacons on the plane. The four signals were within 30 kilometers of one another.

More days of searching followed. Dozens of underwater missions over hundreds of kilometers. Still nothing.

Heartbroken family members of the people on board the plane have been left still seeking answers.

Deciphering the noise

Recently, Australian researchers said they had recovered another underwater sound recorder that was in the ocean when MH370 vanished. They found a signal similar to one they noticed on recordings from other devices pulled from the water. It could be a noise made by the plane crashing.

New clue about MH370

As with many possible clues in this strange case, there is a big but.

The researchers at Curtin University believe the sound or sounds came from an area thousands of kilometers to the northwest of the search area.

The signal seems to have originated close to the tip of India, near a geologically active ridge — meaning the recordings are most likely those of a seismic event.

Experts poring over data

The latest clue comes from a failed satellite phone call from the airline’s staff on the morning the plane disappeared. Subsequent analysis of the failed call has given experts a better idea of the aircraft’s position and where it was traveling, Australian Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss said August 28.

And that data indicates the missing passenger jet may have turned south slightly earlier than previously thought.

The next phase of the search for the remains of the plane and the people on board is primarily focused on a 60,000-square-kilometer area, roughly the size of West Virginia, in the southern Indian Ocean.

Forbidding undersea terrain

A deepwater search that will involve three ships is expected to start in the area in late September, using a range of sophisticated sonar equipment. The process is forecast to take as long as a year and cost $48 million, officials have said.

$35,000 stolen from MH370 passengers

Ships have already been mapping the undersea terrain in the isolated swath of ocean to help the searchers. Much of the geography of the area was previously unknown before MH370’s disappearance drew attention there.

And some of it will be very, very difficult to search, with the mapping survey showing undersea volcanoes and steep ridges.

The latest analysis of the data indicates that southern areas of the huge search grid may be of high interest, Australian officials have said, suggesting that the zone is likely to be further adjusted.

Job cuts at airline

The loss of MH370 and the shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over Ukraine in July have contributed to 6,000 people at the airline losing their jobs because of heavy financial losses.

The carrier reported in late August that it lost $97.4 million in the second quarter.

Malaysia Airlines was once a symbol of national pride. But the airline was in big financial trouble before the twin disasters of Flight 370 and Flight 17 claimed the lives of 537 people.

CNN’s David Molko contributed to this report.

Why the Official Explanation of MH370’s Demise Doesn’t Hold Up

9 May 2014


Outside satellite experts say investigators could be looking in the wrong ocean.

A map showing satellite communications company Inmarsat’s global subscriptions. (Reuters)

Investigators searching for the missing Malaysian Airlines flight were ebullient when they detected what sounded like signals from the plane’s black boxes. This was a month ago, and it seemed just a matter of time before the plane was finally discovered.

But now the search of 154 square miles of ocean floor around the signals has concluded with no trace of wreckage found. Pessimism is growing as to whether those signals actually had anything to do with Flight 370. If they didn’t, the search area would return to a size of tens of thousands of square miles.

Even before the black-box search turned up empty, observers had begun to raise doubts about whether searchers were looking in the right place. Authorities have treated the conclusion that the plane crashed in the ocean west of Australia as definitive, owing to a much-vaunted mathematical analysis of satellite signals sent by the plane. But scientists and engineers outside of the investigation have been working to verify that analysis, and many say that it just doesn’t hold up.

A Global Game of Marco Polo

Malaysia Airlines flights are equipped with in-flight communications services provided by the British company Inmarsat. From early on, the lynchpin of the investigation has been signals sent by Flight 370 to one of Inmarsat’s satellites. It’s difficult to overstate the importance of this lonely little batch of “pings.” They’re the sole evidence of what happened to the plane after it slipped out of radar contact. Without them, investigators knew only that the plane had enough fuel to travel anywhere within 3,300 miles of the last radar contact—a seventh of the entire globe.

Inmarsat concluded that the flight ended in the southern Indian Ocean, and its analysis has become the canonical text of the Flight 370 search. It’s the bit of data from which all other judgments flow—from the conclusive announcement by Malaysia’s prime minister that the plane has been lost with no survivors, to the black-box search area, to the high confidence in the acoustic signals, to the dismissal by Australian authorities of a survey company’s new claim to have detected plane wreckage.

Although Inmarsat officials have described the mathematical analysis as “groundbreaking,” it’s actually based on some relatively straightforward geometry. Here’s how it works: Every so often (usually about once an hour), Inmarsat’s satellite sends a message to the plane’s communication system, asking for a simple response to show that it’s still switched on. This response doesn’t specify the plane’s location or the direction it’s heading, but it does have some useful information that narrows down the possibilities.

You can think of the ping math like a game of Marco Polo played over 22,000 miles of outer space. You can’t see the plane. But you shout Marco, and the plane shouts back Polo. Based on how long the plane takes to respond, you know how far away it is. And from the pitch of its voice, you can tell whether it’s moving toward you or away from you—like the sound of a car on the highway—and about how fast.

This information is far from perfect. You know how far the plane was for each ping, but the ping could be coming from any direction. And you how fast the plane is moving toward or away from you. It could also be moving right or left, up or down, and the speeds would sound the same. The task of the Inmarsat engineers has been to take these pieces and put them together, working backwards to reconstruct possible flight paths that would fit the data.

What’s the Frequency?

There are two relevant pieces of information for each ping: the time it took to travel from plane to satellite, and the radio frequency at which it was received. It’s important to keep in mind that the transit times of the pings correspond todistances between satellite and plane, while frequencies correspond to relative speeds between satellite and plane. And this part’s critical: Relative speed isn’t the plane’s actual airspeed, just how fast it’s moving toward or away from the satellite.

Authorities haven’t released much information about the distances—just the now-famous “two arcs” graphic, derived in part from the distance of the very last ping. But they’ve released much more information about the ping frequencies. In fact, they released a graph that shows all of them:



This graph is the most important piece of evidence in the Inmarsat analysis. What it appears to show is the frequency shifts or “offsets”—the difference between the normal “pitch” of the plane’s voice (its radio frequency) and the one you actually hear.
The graph also shows the shifts that would be expected for two hypothetical flight paths, one northbound and one southbound, with the measured values closely matching the southbound path. This is why officials have been so steadfastly confident that the plane went south. It seems to be an open-and-shut verdict of mathematics.

So it should be straightforward to make sure that the math is right. That’s just what a group of analysts outside the investigation has been attempting to verify. The major players have been Michael Exner, founder of the American Mobile Satellite Corporation; Duncan Steel, a physicist and visiting scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center; and satellite technology consultant Tim Farrar. They’ve used flight and navigation software like STK, which allows you to chart and make precise calculations about flight scenarios like this one. On their blogs and in an ongoing email chain, they’ve been trying to piece together the clues about Flight 370 and make sense of Inmarsat’s analysis. What follows is an attempt to explain and assess their conclusions.

What We Know

Although the satellite data provides the most important clues about the plane’s overall flight path, they’re not the only clues available. Authorities have some basic but crucial additional information about the flight that can help to make sense of the satellite math:

1. The satellite’s precise coordinates

The satellite in contact with Flight 370 was Inmarsat’s IOR satellite, parked in geostationary orbit above the Indian Ocean. The satellite is meant to be stationary, but its orbit has decayed somewhat, so that it actually rotates slightly around its previously fixed position. Its path is publicly available from the Center for Space Standards & Innovation.

2. The plane’s takeoff time and coordinates

16:41 UTC from the Kuala Lumpur airport.

3. The plane’s general motion toward or away from the satellite

From radar tracking, we know the plane traveled northeast, away from the satellite, over the first 40 minutes after takeoff, then westward, toward the satellite, until 94 minutes into the flight, when it was last detected on radar. Inmarsat spokesmen have stated that the ping distances got progressively longer over the last five hours of flight, meaning that the plane was moving away from the satellite during that time.

4. Two flight paths investigators think are consistent with the ping data

In addition to the frequency shift graph, the Inmarsat report includes a map with two “Example Southern Tracks,” one assuming a flight speed of 400 knots, the other a speed of 450 knots. Check it out:


These bits of knowledge allow us to put some basic constraints on what a graph of the ping frequency shifts should look like. We’ll use more precise numbers later; for now, it’s helpful just to have some qualitative sense of what to expect:

5. Frequency shifts that should all be negative

When the plane is moving away from the satellite, the radio signal gets stretched out, so the frequency decreases. This means that the frequency shifts should be negative over most of the flight. Although there was an approximately one-hour period starting 40 minutes after takeoff when radar showed the plane moving westward, toward the satellite, the graph shows that no pings were sent during that time—so actually, all of the shifts on the graph should be negative.

6. Frequency shifts before takeoff that should be near zero

Plotting the satellite’s path in STK, you can see that it moves through an ellipse centered around the equator. Space scientist Steel has created this graphic of the satellite’s motion, including marks for its position when the plane took off and when it last pinged the satellite:

The satellite’s motion is almost entirely north-south, and the plane’s takeoff location in Kuala Lumpur is almost due east of the satellite. This means that the satellite was only barely moving relative to Kuala Lumpur, so the frequency shift for a plane nearly stationary on the ground at the airport would be nearly zero.

7. Frequency shift graph should match map of southbound flight paths

The way the Marc-Polo math works is that, if you assume the plane traveled at some constant speed, you can produce at most one path north and one path south that fit the ping data. As the example flight paths on Inmarsat’s map show, the faster you assume the plane was moving overall, the more sharply the path must arc away from the satellite.

This constraint also works the other way: Since flight paths for a given airspeed are unique, you can work backwards from these example paths, plotting them in STK to get approximate values for the ping distances and relative speeds Inmarsat used to produce them. The relative speeds can then be converted into frequency shifts, which should roughly match the values on the frequency graph. (This is all assuming that Inmarsat didn’t plot the two example paths at random but based on the ping data.) We’ll put more precise numbers on this below.

The Troubled Graph

But the graph defies these expectations. Taken at face value, the graph shows the plane moving at a significant speed before it even took off, then movingtoward the satellite every time it was pinged. This interpretation is completely at odds with the official conclusion, and flatly contradicted by other evidence.

The first problem seems rather straightforward to resolve: the reason the frequency shifts aren’t negative is probably that Inmarsat just graphed them as positive. Plotting absolute values is a common practice among engineers, like stating the distance to the ocean floor as a positive depth value rather than a negative elevation value.

But the problem of the large frequency shift before takeoff is more vexing. Exactly how fast does the graph show the plane and satellite moving away from each other prior to takeoff?

The first ping on the graph was sent at 16:30 UTC, eleven minutes prior to takeoff. The graphed frequency shift for this ping is about -85 Hz. Public recordsshow that the signal from the plane to the satellite uses a frequency of 1626 to 1660 MHz. STK calculations show the satellite’s relative motion was just 2 miles per hour toward the airport at this time. Factoring in the satellite’s angle above the horizon, the plane would need to have been moving at least 50 miles per hour on the ground to produce this frequency shift—implausibly high eleven minutes prior to takeoff, when flight transcripts show the plane had just pushed back from the gate and not yet begun to taxi.

On the other side of the frequency graph, the plane’s last ping, at 00:11 UTC, shows a measured frequency shift of about -252 Hz, working out to a plane-to-satellite speed of just 103 miles per hour. But the sample southbound paths published by Inmarsat show the plane receding from the satellite at about 272 miles per hour at this time.

In other words, the frequency shifts are much higher than they should be at the beginning of the graph, and much lower than they should be at the end. Looking at the graph, it’s almost as if there’s something contributing to these frequency shift values other than just the motion between the satellite and the plane.

Cracking the ‘Doppler Code’

Exner, an engineer who’s developed satellite and meteorology technologies since the early 1970s, noted that the measured frequency shifts might come not just from each ping’s transmission from plane to satellite, but also from the ping’s subsequent transmission from the satellite to a ground station that connects the satellites into the Inmarsat network. In other words, Exner may have found the hidden source that seems to be throwing off the frequency graph.

Inmarsat’s analysis is highly ambiguous about whether the satellite-to-ground transmission contributed to the measured frequency shift. But if it did, a ground station located significantly south of the satellite would have resulted in frequency shifts that could account for the measured shifts being too large at the beginning of the graph and too small at the end. And sure enough, Inmarsat’s analysis states that the ground station receiving the transmission was located in Australia.

It’s possible to check the theory more precisely. Public records of Inmarsat ground stations show just one in Australia: in Perth. Using STK, you can precisely chart the satellite’s speed relative to this station, and, using thesatellite-to-ground signal frequency (about 3.6 GHz), you can then factor the satellite-to-ground shifts out of the frequency graph. Finally, you can at last calculate the true satellite-to-plane speed values.

The results seem to be nearly perfect. For the first ping, you wind up with a satellite-to-plane speed of about 1 mile per hour—just what you’d expect for a plane stationary or slowly taxiing eleven minutes before takeoff. This finding seems to provide a basic sanity check for interpreting the graph, and led Exner to declare on Twitter, “Doppler code cracked.” He produced a new graph of the frequency shifts, shown below. The gently sloping blue line shows the shifts between the satellite and the ground station in Perth, while the dotted red line shows the newly calculated satellite-to-plane shifts:

Michael Exner



Why Inmarsat’s Analysis Is Probably Wrong

If this interpretation—based on the work of Exner, Steel, Farrar, and myself—is correct, it would allow independent experts to fully review Inmarsat’s analysis, verify its work and check to see if Inmarsat might have missed any important clues that could further narrow down the plane’s whereabouts.

The problem is, although this interpretation matches two basic expectations for the frequency graph, it still doesn’t match Inmarsat’s example flight paths. The new frequency values, calculated by Exner, show the flight’s speed relative to the satellite as only about 144 miles per hour by the last ping, but Inmarsat’s example flight paths show a relative speed of about 272 miles per hour.

It’s possible these outside experts have still erred or missed some crucial detail in their attempts to understand the Inmarsat analysis. But that just means that Inmarsat’s analysis, as it has been presented, remains deeply confusing, or perhaps deeply confused. And there are other reasons to believe that Inmarsat’s analysis is not just unclear but mistaken. (Inmarsat stands by its analysis. More on that in a minute.)

Recall that the Marco-Polo math alone doesn’t allow you to tell which direction pings are coming from. So how could Inmarsat claim to distinguish between a northern and southern path at all? The reason is that the satellite itself wasn’t stationary. Because the satellite was moving north-south, it would have been moving faster toward one path than another—specifically, faster toward a southbound track than a northbound one over the last several hours of the flight. This means that the frequency shifts would also differ between a northbound and southbound path, as the graph shows with its two predicted paths.

But this is actually where the graph makes the least sense. The graph only shows different predicted values for the north and south tracks beginning at 19:40 UTC (presumably Inmarsat’s model used actual radar before this). By this time, the satellite was traveling south, and its southward speed would increase for the rest of the flight. The frequency shift plots for northern and southern paths, then, should get steadily further apart for the rest of the flight. Instead, the graph shows them growing closer. Eventually, they even pass each other: by the end of the flight, the graph shows the satellite traveling faster toward a northbound flight path than a southbound one, even though the satellite itself was flyingsouth.

One ping alone is damning. At 19:40 UTC, the satellite was almost motionless, having just reached its northernmost point. The graph shows a difference of about 80 Hz between predicted northbound and southbound paths at this time, which would require the satellite to be moving 33 miles per hour faster toward the southbound path than the northbound one. But the satellite’s overall speed was just 0.07 miles per hour at that time.

Inmarsat claims that it found a difference between a southbound and northbound path based on the satellite’s motion. But a graph of the frequency shifts along those paths should look very different from the one Inmarsat has produced.

Losing Faith

Either Inmarsat’s analysis doesn’t totally make sense, or it’s flat-out wrong.

For the last two months, I’ve been trying to get authorities to answer these questions. Malaysia Airlines has not returned multiple requests for comment, nor have officials at the Malaysian Ministry of Transportation. Australia’s Joint Agency Coordination Centre and the UK’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch, which have been heavily involved in the investigation, both declined to comment.

An Inmarsat official told me that to “a high degree of certainty, the proponents of other paths are wrong. The model has been carefully mapped out using all the available data.”

The official cited Inmarsat’s participation in the investigation as preventing it from giving further detail, and did not reply to requests for comments on even basic technical questions about the analysis. Inmarsat has repeatedly claimed that it checked its model against other aircrafts that were flying at the time, and peer-reviewed the model with other industry experts. But Inmarsat won’t say who reviewed it, how closely, or what level of detail they were given.

Until officials provide more information, the claim that Flight 370 went south rests not on the weight of mathematics but on faith in authority. Inmarsat officials and search authorities seem to want it both ways: They release charts, graphics, and statements that give the appearance of being backed by math and science, while refusing to fully explain their methodologies. And over the course of this investigation, those authorities have repeatedly issued confident pronouncements that they’ve later quietly walked back.

The biggest risk to the investigation now is that authorities continue to assume they’ve finally found the area where the plane went down, while failing to explore other possibilities simply because they don’t fit with a mathematical analysis that may not even hold up.

After all, searchers have yet to find any hard evidence—not so much as a shred of debris—to confirm that they’re looking in the right ocean.

Police: 31 dead in protest-linked Odessa fire

3 May 2014

People wait to be rescued on the second story’s ledge during a fire at the trade union building in Odessa May 2, 2014. At least 31 people were killed in a fire on Friday in the trade union building in the center of Ukraine’s southern port city of Odessa, regional police said  REUTERS/YEVGENY VOLOKIN

SLOVYANSK, Ukraine — Ukraine’s offensive to recapture an eastern city controlled by pro-Russia forces sharply escalated the crisis in the country’s eastand set off a clash Friday in the southern port of Odessa that police say killed 31 people.

The Kremlin said the move by Kiev’s interim government effectively killed the Geneva pact aimed at cooling the unrest, but pledged to continue efforts to try to calm the tensions.


By nightfall, Ukrainian troops and armored personnel carriers had blocked all major roads into the eastern city of Slovyansk, the center of the pro-Russia insurgency. In the city, most shops were closed and the few that were open were crowded with customers trying to stockpile food and supplies. 

Acting President Oleksandr Turchynov claimed that “many” insurgents were killed or wounded Friday, but the offensive also underlined the military’s vulnerability. Both sides said two Ukrainian helicopters were shot down by the insurgents, killing two crew members.

The Ukrainian Security Service said one was downed with a surface-to-air missile, adding that the sophisticated weapon undercut Russia’s claims the city of 125,000 people was simply under the control of armed locals.

“Ukrainian security forces so far are not ready for large-scale military actions; moreover, such actions could provoke Russia’s invasion,” said Kiev-based political analyst Volodymyr Fesenko.

Russia has massed tens of thousands of troops in areas near Ukraine’s border. Kiev officials claim Russia is preparing to invade and that it is fomenting the unrest in the east, where insurgents have seized government buildings in about a dozen cities in towns. Moscow denies the allegations, but Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has warned Russia would respond to attacks on Russian citizens or interests in the east.

Unlike eastern Ukraine, Odessa had remained largely untroubled since the February toppling of President Viktor Yanukovych, who fled to Russia. But a clash erupted late Friday between pro-Russians and government supporters in the key port on the Black Sea coast, located 330 miles from the turmoil in the east.

Police said the deadly fire broke out in a trade union building Friday, but did not give details on how it started. Earlier police said at least three people had died in a clash between the two sides.

In Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman said the Ukrainian offensive “effectively destroyed the last hope for the implementation of the Geneva agreement” of two weeks ago that aimed to defuse the crisis. But Dmitry Peskov also said Russia “continues to undertake consistent efforts on de-escalation.”


German Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Barack Obama warned Friday that Russia could be hit by new sanctions from Washington and the EU if it continues disruptive actions in Ukraine. Previous sanctions are showing signs of significant effect on the Russian economy. 

The fighting broke out around dawn near Slovyansk, a city 100 miles from the Russian border Stella Khorosheva, a spokeswoman for the insurgents, said three fighters and two civilians were killed in the clashes.

One wounded helicopter pilot was seen in a Rossia 24 television video as being in the hands of pro-Russia forces. Several foreign news crews, meanwhile, were detained for several hours Friday by nervous pro-Russia militia before being released. CBS reported that one journalist was beaten.

Slovyansk is strategically key because Ukraine has a huge stockpile of automatic rifles and other light weapons near the city, according to a commentary Friday for Britain’s Royal United Services Institute defense think-tank.

“Today, Kiev has upped the ante in the standoff and will test Russian resolve to prevent the Ukrainian government from regaining control of the city and its light weapons stockpile,” the think-tank authors wrote.


Turchynov admitted earlier this week that the central government had lost control of the east, and said some government troops and police there were “either helping or cooperating with terrorist organizations.” He said Ukrainian forces were working to prevent the unrest from spreading to central areas like Odessa. 

Meanwhile, the U.N. Security Council on Friday for the 13th time failed to take action on the growing crisis in Ukraine, with Russian ambassador Vitaly Churkin demanding a “swift halt of all violence” and Western powers scoffing at his country’s indignation.

Council members accused Russia of equipping and funding the pro-Russia forces that have seized government buildings in 10 eastern cities. Ukraine on Friday launched its first major offensive against the insurgency.

“Russia … has released bands of thugs on Ukraine … and is suddenly discovering this mixture might escape its control,” French ambassador Gerard Araud said.

Russia called this latest council meeting, the second in a week. Churkin called on Kiev and its Western “enablers … to not commit a fatal error” and stop the offensive, which he described as “criminal misadventures.” He again called Ukraine’s interim government illegitimate.

CBS News’ Pamela Falk reports from the U.N. that U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power went head to head with Churkin, calling Russia’s exaggeration of Ukraine’s military operation to vacate occupied buildings, “cynical and disingenuous.”

“The only agreement by members of the U.N. Security Council, was that the accord reached last month in Geneva – which called for a reduction of violence – was not working,” Falk said.


Ukraine, a nation of 46 million, is deeply divided between those in the west who favor closer ties with Europe and many Russian-speakers in the east who look toward Moscow. Ukraine has accused Russia of backing the insurgents who have seized government buildings in at least 10 eastern cities and fears that Moscow is seeking a pretext to invade or annex more territory like it did with Ukraine’s Black Sea peninsula of Crimea in March. 

The peace deal in Geneva last month aimed to get those who had seized government buildings in Ukraine to leave and calm down the tensions that have prompted the United States and the European Union to slap Russia with rounds of sanctions.

Russia’s foreign ministry accused Ukraine’s fledging government of using “terrorists” from ultranationalist organizations for Friday’s military operation. It also claimed that Kiev deployed tanks and helicopters that were “conducting missile strikes on protesters,” something that neither side in Ukraine reported.

An Associated Press crew also saw no evidence of missile strikes in Slovyansk.

Russia also cited insurgents in Ukraine as saying that some of the government attackers spoke English – an insinuation that the Ukrainian military was getting some help from the West.


Television crews from CBS News and Sky News were detained Friday on the outskirts of Slovyansk. 

CBS New correspondent Clarissa Ward told “CBS This Morning” that she and her crew were stopped by pro-Russia insurgents at a checkpoint just outside Slovyansk, then taken to a nearby town where they were blindfolded tightly with masking tape. They were released several hours later, unharmed except for one man who was beaten.

Ward said the militants separated the men from the women and, while keeping them blindfolded, interrogated them about their nationalities and asked whether they had families. A veteran war correspondent, Ward said that when questions like that are asked, “you start to feel a pit in your stomach.”

Kiev’s interim government came to power after Yanukovych fled, drummed out by months of anti-government protests. Ukraine plans to hold a new presidential election on May 25.

Clarissa Ward, CBS News crew held by pro-Russia militants as Ukraine military moves on Slavyansk

2 May 2014

CBS News’ team in eastern Ukraine was briefly detained with other journalists Friday as they tried to approach the city of Slavyansk, which Ukrainian forces have moved to retake.

Correspondent Clarissa Ward, her producer Erin Lyall, and two male CBS News employees were held for several hours after pro-Russian militants at a checkpoint near the city of Horlivka detained and blindfolded them.

“We were blindfolded with cloth and masking tape really quite tightly around our heads so we couldn’t see anything at all,” Ward told “CBS This Morning” over the phone not long after they were freed.

She said they were bundled into a van and driven to another location where their captors were “quite rough and sharp with us. One woman was shouting at us not to speak.”

Ward said the militants separated the men from the women and, while keeping them blindfolded, interrogated them about their nationalities and asked whether they had families.


A pro-Russian militant stands at a checkpoint near the eastern Ukrainian city of Horlivka, moments before he and his colleagues detained CBS News correspondent Clarissa Ward and her crew
A pro-Russian militant stands at a checkpoint near the eastern Ukrainian city of Horlivka, moments before he and his colleagues detained CBS News correspondent Clarissa Ward and her crew, May 2, 2014.

A veteran war correspondent, Ward said that when questions like that are asked, “you start to feel a pit in your stomach.” 

She said one of her male colleagues was beaten by the pro-Russians before a more senior commander arrived and ordered the militants to free the journalists.

One of the more senior militants told Ward she and her team were likely taken because the pro-Russians at the checkpoint were “emotional,” given the Ukrainian military’s advance on Slavyansk.

She noted that there was “a lot of very strong anti-American rhetoric going on,” and said she heard one of the pro-Russians saying “if Obama was smart he wouldn’t be supporting Kiev.”

Smoke grenades, Molotov cocktails in Ukraine’s Odessa as pro- and anti-Maidan rallies clash

2 May 2014

Injuries have been reported as hundreds of people from rival rallies clash in Ukraine’s port-city of Odessa. A pro-unity demonstration, which included nationalists and football fans, ran into a rally preaching greater autonomy for the regions.

Gunfire was heard in Odessa’s downtown as the two riving rallies met, police having failed to draw them apart. Over 2,000 protesters pelted each other with Molotov cocktails and smoke grenades. Stones from the pavement also made to the fight.

As a fire brigade arrived at the scene, the driver was forced out of the car by the enraged football fans and had to escape, a live stream showed.

At least one person has been seriously injured in the stand-off, reports Interfax. The football fans also say in Twitter that one person from their group was killed, but this is yet to be confirmed.

Around 1,500 supporters of the Kiev authorities gathered at the Sobornaya square in sentral Odessa. They were accompanied by fans of the local football club Chernomorets.

Some of the people in the group were wearing the ultra-nationalist Right Sector movements signs, were armed with chains and bats and carried shields, as Itar-Tass correspondent on the ground reports.

The procession was at a moment confronted by several hundred pro-federalazation activists. Fighting erupted as a result, with members of the rival groups throwing stones at each other and at police, who were trying to stop the violence.


ONGOING: Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 Missing, Presumed Crashed

1 May 2014


Little has changed in the search for Malaysia Airlines (MAS) flight 370, which went missing nearly two months ago. Indeed, the only substantial changes involved the suspension of the aerial search earlier this week, with authorities admitting that, by now, “it is highly unlikely…that we will find any debris on the ocean surface.”

Going forward, the search will focus on scouring the sea floor with highly sophisticated unmanned robotic submarines.

This handout image taken on April 1, 2014 and received on April 10, 2014 from the US Navy shows the Bluefin 21, Artemis autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) being hoisted back aboard the Australia's Ocean Shield after a successful buoyancy test. - AFP

This handout image taken on April 1, 2014 and received on April 10, 2014 from the US Navy shows the Bluefin 21, Artemis autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) being hoisted back aboard the Australia’s Ocean Shield after a successful buoyancy test. – AFP

These are the same submarines, namely the US Navy’s Bluefin 21, that were dispatched to investigate the mysterious pings emanating from the seafloor three weeks ago. The underwater search in the neighborhood of the pings ultimately yielded nothing.

The new direction, which will include private contractors, appears to thus far be disregarding a claim from Australian geophysical survey company GeoResonance, which says it has found an anomaly on the ocean floor in the Bay of Bengal. The company says it found a number of metals and materials underwater that fit the profile of the missing Boeing 777 about 100 miles off the coast of Bangladesh. The company specializes in locating materials, everything from specific metals to nuclear weapons materials, underwater and underground.


Search officials have been skeptical of the claim, noting that the location is very far outside the current search area. Authorities were led to the southern Indian Ocean, off the coast of Australia, based on satellite data that is believed to have tracked the jet to the area. Should the satellite data be errant, the jet had more than enough fuel to have made it to the location in question. GeoReconosance stopped short of saying they believe it is the jet, only that it should be checked out.

With no other leads and still no physical trace of the jet whatsoever, it could be years before the airplane is located, if ever. Authorities remain dedicated to continuing the search, however long it is.

The only modern day comparison would be the search for Air France 447, which took two years to locate even with a pretty solid idea of where it went down.