Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 went missing on March 8, 2014, en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board. The official investigation was never able to state conclusively what happened to the aeroplane and everyone on board. However, there is significant evidence that the plane was hijacked and deliberately flown off course.
There is also data that indicates the plane flew out over the Indian Ocean and then crashed into the sea, west of Australia.
However, MH370 expert Jeff Wise, author of the 2015 book ‘The Plane That Wasn’t There’, believes he knows where the plane went and how the hijackers did it.
Mr Wise argued in his book that the plane actually went north towards Kazakhstan, but managed to fake its data output to make it look like it flew south.
He believes the hijackers pulled a “classic con artist” trick to fool investigators, but there was one flaw in the plan that allowed him to discover it.
The main clue as to what happened to MH370 are the communications it had with a satellite called 3F1, which is owned by British satellite telecommunications company Inmarsat.
The communications with 3F1 show that the satellite data unit (SDU) on board the jetliner was initially turned off and then turned back on again.
Mr Wise claimed that hijackers may have been using the SDU to send out fake data once it was turned back on again.
Inmarsat used Burst Timing Offset (BFO) and Burst Timing Offset (BTO) values to work out where the plane went after it disappeared from air traffic control radar.
BTO is a measure of the time taken for a transmission round trip and can be used to calculate the distance between the satellite and the aircraft.
BFO data is the measure of the relative motion of the satellite and the aeroplane.
Together, these can be used to piece together an estimated flight path of the plane.
Once investigators began these calculations, the data seemed to indicate that the plane flew out over the Indian Ocean and headed south.
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However, there are certain discrepancies in MH370’s case that mean these values are somewhat contradictory.
Indeed, there seems to be no path that perfectly matches both the BFO and BTO data sets.
Mr Wise suggested that the BFO data could be a “false trail of breadcrumbs” to put investigators off the scent.
He said: “This is a classic con artist technique ‒ when you pull a ruse on a victim, you can’t just walk away, you have to make sure they don’t come after you.”
He argued that if hijackers could make MH370 as inconspicuous as possible by providing fake data, it would slip away unnoticed.
Therefore, Mr Wise’s theory is that the hijackers turned off the SDU, plugged in a machine that would feed it fake data, and then turned it back on again.
From that point on, the BFO values being received by Inmarsat were false.
Mr Wise said: “For this plan to work out, a very specific set of criteria would need to be met.
“As we’ve seen, the hijacked plane would have to be Boeing not an Airbus, and it would have to be equipped with a Honeywell SDU, not a Rockwell Collins one.
“What’s more, in order for the BFO data to clearly imply that the plane was traveling in the opposite of its true direction, the flight would have to start close to the equator and the implied direction would have to be towards an oceanic basin in which the plane could be lost.
“MH370 of course met all these criteria.”
However, the alleged flaw in the plan was that the hijackers were not counting on Inmarsat also recording BTO values.
When comparing the BTO and BFO values, the fact that they cannot be worked together may indicate that one set of data is fake.
If this is the case, then it must be the BFO values that were faked because BTO values are always calculated within the SDU and cannot be meddled with.
When it comes to BFO values, these calculations are done internally in a Rockwell Collins SDU, but not in a Honeywell one.
Therefore, the flaw in the plan is that Inmarsat was also collecting BTO values that contrast with the BFO, and ultimately give a more accurate indication as to the flight path of MH370.
However, this is just one theory and not one currently endorsed by the official investigation.
This week, a fisherman discovered what may be debris from MH370 on the coast of Queensland.
It has not yet been confirmed whether or not it did indeed belong to the missing plane.
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