Finding MH370: 'Head for Home'

A theory of the disappearance and final resting place of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370

New independent research on MH370 by Paul Smithson.

'I think it's a given that the more time and energy that goes into a set of numbers, the greater the tendency to trust them. This thing hinges on debris, be it on the bottom or floating, and there should be plenty of both if [the 'plane] goes in close to Mach 1.'

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Download a PDF of Paul Smithson's full MH370 report (70 pages, 16Mb file).

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The theory in essence

This theory of MH370’s disappearance is very simple. After an in-flight emergency at 17:21 UTC Captain Zaharie and his crew were trying to get the plane home.

I propose that:

  1. It was an emergency of some sort and not malicious action that caused the aircraft to “go dark” and divert from the current flight plan. The nature of the emergency remains a puzzle and will likely remain so until flight data recorders and sufficient physical evidence is recovered.
  2. Within 270 seconds of Mode S signal loss at 17:21:36 the aircraft diverted back towards Kuala Lumpur International Airport, from where the flight took off 40 minutes earlier. With the pilots incapacitated, the aircraft continued under autopilot on constant magnetic heading for a further 6 hours until fuel exhaustion, shortly before 00:19:30.
  3. An extensive debris field in the vicinity 45S, 088E was detected by US, Chinese, French, Thai and Japanese satellites 8-16 days after the aircraft’s disappearance. Reverse-drift modelling of this debris produces a [preliminary] best estimate of origin at 44.2S 088.1E. This position matches with remarkable precision the end point of a constant magnetic heading flight path arising from diversion Direct To Kuala Lumpur(WMKK waypoint) at the same speed prevailing before disappearance.
  4. The theory provides a parsimonious and plausible answer to the puzzle of how and why MH370 flew deep into the South Indian Ocean and offers a clue to where the wreckage may lie.
  5. This hypothesis requires us to set aside the alleged tracking of MH370 by Malaysian military radar along a path south-west and then north-west. It also requires a re-appraisal of the BTO “handshake” data. The flaperon find at Reunion Island is potentially compatible with this theory, although southern Australia looks like a more likely destination for debris.

Theory for flight route and crash site of MH370

I am acutely aware that accident investigators have access to a much richer tapestry of evidence than is available in the public domain. I would like to hope that the scenario described here has already been investigated. Given the compelling convergence of evidence presented in this analysis, perhaps it deserves a second look.

» Your comments and questions are welcome.