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Published: 12 May 2016 (amended: 24 May 2016)

Debris examination – update No. 2

Identification of two items of debris recovered from the beaches in South Africa and Mauritius

Introduction

On 22 and 30 March 2016, two items of debris were independently found on beaches at Mossel Bay, South Africa and Rodrigues Island in Mauritius. Both items were delivered to the relevant Civil Aviation Authorities in South Africa and Mauritius. Assistance from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) was requested by the Malaysian Government in the formal identification of the items to determine if they came from the Malaysian Airlines Berhad (MAB) Boeing 777 aircraft, registered 9M-MRO, operating as MH370.

The items were packaged in South Africa and Mauritius respectively and delivered safe-hand to the ATSB in their original packaging, in the custody of the ICAO Annex 13 Safety Investigation Team members.

This document (Update 2) is a brief summary of the outcomes from the identification of these items, designated as Part numbers 3 and 4. It follows the identification of Part numbers 1 and 2, the outcomes of which were released by the ATSB in Update 1 on 19 April 2016. This debris identification summary is released with the concurrence of the Malaysian ICAO Annex 13 Safety Investigation Team for MH370.

Quarantine and marine ecology

On arrival into Australia, both parts were quarantined at the Geoscience Australia facility in Canberra. The parts were unwrapped and examined for the presence of marine ecology and remnants of biological material. Visible marine ecology was present on both parts and these items were removed and preserved. The parts were subsequently cleaned and released from quarantine.

Identification

Part No. 3

Part number 3 was initially identified from the partial Rolls-Royce stencil as a segment from an aircraft engine cowling. The panel thickness, materials and construction conformed to the applicable drawings for Boeing 777 engine cowlings.

There were no identifiers on the engine cowling segment that were unique to 9M-MRO, however the Rolls-Royce stencil font and detail did not match the original from manufacture. The stencil was consistent with that developed and used by Malaysian Airlines and closely matched exemplar stencils on other MAB Boeing 777 aircraft (Figure 1).

There were identical inboard and outboard stencils present on the cowlings of each of the engines and the location of the stencils was found to vary between engines. Taking that into consideration, there were no significant differentiators on the cowling segment to assist in determining whether the item of debris was from the left or right side of the aircraft, or the inboard or outboard side the cowling.

On 17 May 2016, the ATSB was provided with an earlier photograph of the item, taken on 23 December 2015. This photograph showed the part was significantly colonised by barnacles at the time it arrived on the beach (Figure 3).

Part No. 4

Part number 4 was preliminarily identified by the decorative laminate as an interior panel from the main cabin. The location of a piano hinge on the part surface was consistent with a work-table support leg, utilised on the exterior of the MAB Door R1 (forward, right hand) closet panel (Figure 2). The part materials, dimensions, construction and fasteners were all consistent with the drawing for the panel assembly and matched that installed on other MAB Boeing 777 aircraft at the Door R1 location.

There were no identifiers on the panel segment that were unique to 9M-MRO, however the pattern, colour and texture of the laminate was only specified by MAB for use on Boeing 747 and 777 aircraft. There is no record of the laminate being used by any other Boeing 777 customer.

Figure 1: Comparison of Boeing 777 engine cowling stencils

This figure shows the comparison between the found part with the RR logo on it with a Malaysian Airlines stencil and a Boeing stencil.  Features on the found part logo are most similar to the Malaysian Airlines stencil.

Note the thickness of the “ROYCE” lettering and the serif geometry on the main ‘R’s (enlarged for ease of comparison).

Source: Malaysian MOT / ATSB

Figure 2: Comparison of recovered item with MAB Boeing 777 Door R1 panel assembly
This figure shows features of the recovered internal panel with an exemplar Malaysian Airlines B777 Door R1 closet panel.  The similarities include the table support hinge and the decorative vinyl laminate.
Source: Malaysian MOT / ATSB

Figure 3: Photograph taken 23 Dec 2015 showing Part No. 3 significantly colonised by barnacles
Figure 3: Photograph taken 23 Dec 2016 showing Part No. 3 significantly colonised by barnacles. Source: Schalk Lückhoff
Source: Schalk Lückhoff

Conclusions

At the time of writing, work was ongoing with respect to the marine ecology samples. The results from these tests will be provided to the Malaysian investigation team once complete. In terms of the identification of the two items of debris, it was concluded that:

  • Part No. 3 was a Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 engine cowling segment, almost certainly from the aircraft registered 9M-MRO.
  • Part No. 4 was a Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 panel segment from the main cabin, associated with the Door R1 closet, almost certainly from the aircraft registered 9M-MRO.
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Download Debris Examination 1
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Published: 19 April 2016

Debris examination – update No. 1

Identification of two items of debris recovered in Mozambique

Introduction

On 27 December 2015 and 27 February 2016, two items of debris were independently found, approximately 220km apart, on the Mozambique coast. Both items were delivered to the relevant Civil Aviation Authorities in Mozambique and South Africa in early March 2016. Assistance from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) was requested by the Malaysian Government in the formal identification of the items to determine if they came from the Malaysian Airlines Berhad (MAB) Boeing 777 aircraft, registered 9M-MRO, operating as MH370.

The parts were packaged in Mozambique and South Africa respectively and delivered safe-hand to the ATSB in their original packaging, in the custody of the ICAO Annex 13 Safety Investigation Team members.

The following is a brief summary of the outcomes from the debris examination. This debris examination summary is released with the concurrence of the Malaysian ICAO Annex 13 Safety Investigation Team for MH370.

Quarantine and marine ecology

On arrival into Australia, both parts were quarantined at the Geoscience Australia facility in Canberra. The parts were unwrapped and examined for the presence of marine ecology and remnants of biological material. Visible marine ecology was present on both parts and these items were removed and preserved. The parts were subsequently cleaned and released from quarantine.

Identification

Part No. 1

The first part was initially identified from a number stencilled on the part (676EB), as a segment from a Boeing 777 flap track fairing (Fairing No. 7) from the right wing (Figure 1). All measurable dimensions, materials, construction and other identifiable features conformed to the applicable Boeing drawings for the identified fairing.

The 676EB stencil font and colour was not original from manufacture, but instead conformed to that developed and used by MAB during painting operations (Figure 2). The part had been repainted, which was consistent with MAB maintenance records for 9M-MRO.

Figure 1: Location of flap track fairing panel No. 676EB

Location of flap track fairing panel No. 676EB

Source: Boeing 777 aircraft maintenance manual (modified by ATSB)

Figure 2: Flap fairing outer surface showing stencil location and comparison

Flap fairing outer surface showing stencil location and comparison

Source: ATSB

Part No. 2

The second part was primarily identified from images showing the materials, construction and “NO STEP” stencil, as a segment of a Boeing 777 RH horizontal stabilizer panel (Figure 3). All measurable dimensions, materials, construction and other identifiable features conformed to the Boeing drawings for the stabiliser panel.

The part was marked on the upper surface in black paint with “NO STEP”. The font and location of the stencil were not original from manufacture, however the stencilling was consistent with that developed and used by Malaysian Airlines (Figure 4).

A single fastener was retained in the part. The fastener head markings identified it as being correct for use on the stabiliser panel assembly. The markings also identified the fastener manufacturer. That manufacturer’s fasteners were not used in current production, but did match the fasteners used in assembly of the aircraft next in the production line (405) to 9M-MRO (404) (Figure 4).

Figure 3: Location of horizontal stabiliser panel No. 3 upper

Location of horizontal stabiliser panel No. 3 upper

Source: Boeing 777 Parts Catalogue (modified by ATSB)

Figure 4: Stabiliser panel “NO STEP” stencil and fastener comparison

Stabiliser panel “NO STEP” stencil and fastener comparison

Source: ATSB, Boeing

Conclusions

At the time of writing, ongoing work was being conducted with respect to the marine ecology identification as well as testing of material samples. The results from these tests will be provided to the Malaysian investigation team once complete. Nevertheless, from the initial examination it was concluded that:

Part No. 1 was a flap track fairing segment, almost certainly from the Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 aircraft, registered 9M-MRO.

Part No. 2 was a horizontal stabiliser panel segment, almost certainly from the Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 aircraft, registered 9M-MRO.

 

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MH370 - Definition of Underwater Search Areas

Released: 3 December 2015

Summary

This report provides an update to the MH370 search area definition, described in previous ATSB reports. For background information, please see the ATSB publications MH370 - Definition of underwater search areas, 18 August 2014 and Flight Path Analysis Update, 8 October 2014 under the tabs on this web page.

Analysis of available data has been ongoing since the search for MH370 commenced. Initial results assisted the search and rescue mission, and later refinements have formed the basis for the underwater search areas.

The Australian Defence Science and Technology (DST) Group conducted a comprehensive analysis of the available data. The analysis used models of the Inmarsat satellite communications (SATCOM) data and a model of aircraft dynamics. Recorded meteorological data (wind and air temperature) were also modelled in the analysis. The SATCOM model was calibrated using SATCOM data and flight data from B777 flights including previous flights of the accident aircraft.

Validation experiments were conducted to ensure that predictions aligned with actual flight data. The output of the DST Group analysis was a probability density function (PDF) defining the probable location of the aircraft’s crossing of the 6th arc. These results were then extrapolated to the 7th arc. The analysis indicated that the majority of solutions only contained one significant turn after the last recorded radar data. DST Group have written a book called Bayesian methods in the search for MH370 detailing the entire analysis.

Performance analysis by Boeing produced a series of achievable ranges, with time intervals, for different cruise altitudes. It was noted that maintaining a constant altitude of FL350 or higher gave range values that closely matched the region on the arc corresponding to the DST Group analysis results. The DST Group and Boeing results were obtained independently and it is significant that they were in general agreement.

In contrast to the series of data points that were recorded from the SATCOM system, only the following indirect information was available to assist the ATSB in determining the end-of-flight scenario and therefore determine a search area width:

  • probable aircraft systems status
  • simulator results
  • review of previous accidents
  • glide distance.

The original ATSB underwater search area definition report published in August 2014 identified a width of 20 NM behind the arc and 30 NM forward of the arc as the priority search area width. This primary priority width has been adjusted to make it symmetrical about the arc (20 NM on both sides). The ATSB has also defined and prioritised additional search area widths.

The probability distribution of the location of the aircraft is shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1: Probability distribution of the location of MH370 Probability distribution of the location of MH370: Figure 1 is a graphical representation of the results from the DST Group analysis combined with the ATSB end-of-flight scenario. The colours in the area represent the different location probabilities as follows:  Low probability - Highest probability The yellow and pink lines are the 6th and 7th arcs respectively. The green line outlines the main area of interest representing approximately 90% of the PDF.

Ongoing work:

Any further evidence that becomes available, and may be relevant to refining the search area,will be considered.

 

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Download updated report of the flight pather analysis
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Released: 8 October 2014

Recent refinement to the analysis has given greater certainty about when the aircraft turned south into the Indian Ocean and has produced a better understanding of the parameters within which the satellite ground station was operating during the last flight of MH370. The latest analyses indicates that the underwater search should be prioritised further south within the wide search area for the next phase of the search. The ATSB has published MH370 – Flight path analysis update to supplement the previously released report MH370 – Definition of Underwater Search Areas, which describes the continuing work.

 

Download updated report of the flight pather analysis
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Download report MH370 - Definition of Underwater Search Areas
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MH370 - Definition of Underwater Search Areas

Summary

On 8 March 2014, flight MH370, a Boeing 777-200ER registered 9M-MRO, lost contact with Air Traffic Control during a transition of airspace between Malaysia and Vietnam. An analysis of radar data and subsequent satellite communication (SATCOM) system signalling messages placed the aircraft in the Australian search and rescue zone on an arc in the southern part of the Indian Ocean. This arc was considered to be the location where the aircraft’s fuel was exhausted.

A surface search of probable impact areas along this arc, coordinated by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, was carried out from 18 March – 28 April 2014. This search effort was undertaken by an international fleet of aircraft and ships with the search areas over this time progressing generally from an initial southwest location along the arc in a north-easterly direction. The location of the search areas was guided by continuing and innovative analysis by a Joint Investigation Team of the flight and satellite-communications data. This analysis was supplemented by other information provided to ATSB during this period. This included possible underwater locator beacon and hydrophone acoustic detections.

No debris associated with 9M-MRO was identified either from the surface search, acoustic search or from the ocean floor search in the vicinity of the acoustic detections. The ocean floor search was completed on 28 May 2014.

Refinements to the analysis of both the flight and satellite data have been continuous since the loss of MH370. The analysis has been undertaken by an international team of specialists from the UK, US and Australia working both independently and collaboratively. Other information regarding the performance and operation of the aircraft has also been taken into consideration in the analysis.

Using current analyses, the team has been able to reach a consensus in identifying a priority underwater search area for the next phase of the search.

The priority area of approximately 60,000 km2 extends along the arc for 650 km in a northeast direction from Broken Ridge. The width of the priority search area is 93 km. This area was the subject of the surface search from Day 21-26.

Work is continuing with refinements in the analysis of the satellite communications data. Small frequency variations can significantly affect the derived flight path. This ongoing work may result in changes to the prioritisation and locale of search activity.

 

Updated: 18 August 2014

Since the public release of the report MH370 – Definition of Underwater Search Areas on 26 June 2014, the ATSB has received a number of queries about some of the technical details contained in the report. The queries have been made directly to the ATSB or through the Chief Commissioner’s blog, InFocus, on the ATSB website. 

As a result of the queries, the ATSB is today releasing an updated version of the report to clarify a number of technical aspects. The changes to the report are detailed in the Addendum on the inside cover.

 

Updated: 8 October 2014

Recent refinement to the analysis has given greater certainty about when the aircraft turned south into the Indian Ocean and has produced a better understanding of the parameters within which the satellite ground station was operating during the last flight of MH370. The latest analyses indicates that the underwater search should be prioritised further south within the wide search area for the next phase of the search. The ATSB has published MH370 – Flight path analysis update to supplement the previously released report MH370 – Definition of Underwater Search Areas, which describes the continuing work.

 

Download report MH370 - Definition of Underwater Search Areas
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At 1722 Coordinated Universal Time on 7 March 2014, Boeing 777-200ER aircraft, registered 9M-MRO and operating as Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, disappeared from air traffic control radar and a search was commenced by Malaysian authorities. The aircraft had taken off from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on a scheduled passenger service to Beijing, China with 227 passengers and 12 crew on board.

Under Annex 13 to the Convention on International Civil Aviation Aircraft Accident and Incident Investigation (Annex 13) Malaysia, as the country of registration, has investigative responsibility for the accident.

On 31 March 2014, the Malaysian Government accepted the Government of Australia’s offer to take the lead in the search and recovery operation in the southern Indian Ocean in support of the Malaysian accident investigation. This assistance and expertise will be provided through the accredited representative mechanism of Annex 13.

In accordance with paragraphs 5.23 and 5.24 of Annex 13, on 1 April 2014, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) appointed an accredited representative and a number of advisors to the accredited representative (ATSB investigators). These investigators’ work will be undertaken as part of an External Investigation under the provisions of the Australian Transport Safety Investigation Act 2003.

The Malaysian Ministry of Transport is responsible for and will administer the release of all investigation reports into this accident. Information on the investigation is available from the following websites:

Any enquiries in respect of the ongoing investigation should, in the first instance, be directed to:

Malaysian Annex 13 Safety Investigation Team

Email: MH370SafetyInvestigation@mot.gov.my

 
General details
Date: 07 Mar 2014 Investigation status: Active 
Time: 1722 UTC Investigation type: External Investigation 
Location   (show map):Southern Indian Ocean Occurrence type:Missing aircraft 
State: International Occurrence class: Technical 
Release date: 24 May 2016 Occurrence category: Technical Analysis 
Report status: Pending Highest injury level: Fatal 
Expected completion: Nov 2016  
 
Aircraft details
Aircraft model: 777-200ER  
Aircraft registration: 9M-MRO  
Operator: Malaysian Airlines  
Type of operation: Air Transport High Capacity 
Sector: Jet 
Departure point:Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Destination:Beijing, China
 
 
 
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Last update 24 May 2016