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The ATSB is preparing a final report which will provide a comprehensive description of the work relating to the search for MH370 in the southern Indian Ocean. The report will include:

  • a chronology of search efforts, including the initial surface search
  • search methods and equipment, including search vessels
  • identification, definition and refinement of the underwater search area
  • the search for underwater locator beacons
  • the various drift modelling efforts
  • the data gathered
  • search results, including debris findings and analysis
  • mapping of the seafloor
  • marine ecology examinations, and
  • the various risks associated with the search, and the mitigations put in place.

The report is to be released in the third quarter of 2017.

 
Download CSIRO Drift Report III
[ Download PDF: 1.83MB]
 
 
 

The search for MH370 and ocean surface drift – Part III

Executive summary

Several high-resolution surveillance satellites were tasked to obtain images of the ocean in the vicinity of the 7th arc while the surface search for missing flight MH370 was underway in March 2014. Many objects of interest were seen in several of these images from a wide range of locations at the time, but none led to any successful recoveries. Four of these images, taken just west of the 7th arc in the vicinity of the new search area proposed by ATSB in 2016, have recently been carefully re-examined (Minchin et al. 2017). Three of these images (referred to as PHR4, PHR3 and PHR1) contained 9, 2 and 1 objects, respectively, that were classified as “probably man-made” as well as 28 “possibly man-made” objects. The dimensions of these objects are comparable with some of the debris items that have washed up on African beaches and their location near the 7th arc makes them impossible to ignore. But there is no evidence to confirm that any of these objects (let alone all) are pieces of 9M-MRO (the aircraft flying as MH370).

To completely reject the possibility that any of these objects are pieces of 9M-MRO is difficult to defend. Consequently, we have addressed the obvious question raised by this new piece of uncertain, but plausibly-relevant evidence:

If at least some objects in the images are pieces of 9M-MRO, from where did they drift in the weeks between the disappearance of the aircraft and image capture?

This question is, perhaps surprisingly, potentially more difficult to answer than the ones we addressed in the two reports preceding this one. This is because it requires a very detailed knowledge of the surface currents out in the middle of the ocean where almost no in-situ observations have ever been made. However, thanks to the combined data sets from several types of Earth-observation satellites, coupled with the computational power of Australia’s most powerful super-computer and more than a decade of Government investment in operational ocean modelling, we think we have succeeded.

Taking drift model uncertainty into account, we have found that the objects identified in most of the images can be associated with a single location within the previously-identified region suggested by other lines of evidence. Furthermore, we think it is possible to identify a most-likely location of the aircraft, with unprecedented precision and certainty. This location is 35.6°S, 92.8°E. Other nearby (within about 50km essentially parallel to the 7th arc) locations east of the 7th arc are also certainly possible, as are (with lower likelihood) a range of locations on the western side of the 7th arc, near 34.7°S 92.6°E and 35.3°S 91.8°E. While we cannot be totally sure which of these locations in the southern half of the 2016-proposed search area is most likely, we do have a high degree of confidence that an impact in the southern half of the 2016-proposed search area, near 35°S, is more consistent with detection of debris in the images than is an impact in the northern half.

 

Download CSIRO Drift Report III
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Download Geoscience Australia satellite imagery analyses report
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Summary of imagery analyses for non-natural objects in support of the search for Flight MH370

Results from the analysis of imagery from the PLEIADES 1A satellite undertaken by Geoscience Australia

Geoscience Australia (GA) was asked to assist the Australian Transport Safety Authority (ATSB) in the analysis of a set of four Airbus PLEIADES 1A images. GA received these images for analysis on the 23rd March 2017.

The data was acquired over the Indian Ocean on the 23rd March 2014. The analysis performed by GA was to determine whether the images included objects that were potentially man-made in origin. GA analyses included semi-automatic workflows and a number of potential objects were identified.

The overall location of the study area is shown in Figure 1, and a detailed overview of the four scenes with associated detected objects is shown in Figure 2. Figure 3 details the relationship between the PLEIADES data and other MH370 search-related activities.

The appendix to the report presents a data summary for each of the images. This includes a browse image of each scene, including the object locations, a cross plot of the representative spectral radiances observed in the image, a table of the object locations plus size metrics and an indicative label as to the object’s origin. The detected objects are shown in true colour and in a false colour derived from Principle Components Analysis (PCA) to help distinguish objects from their surroundings.

 

Download Geoscience Australia satellite imagery analyses report
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Download CSIRO Drift report 2
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The search for MH370 and ocean surface drift

Executive summary - Report II

This report explores the possibility that an improved ability to simulate the path taken by the flaperon across the Indian Ocean might yield an improved estimate of the location of the remains of the aircraft on the sea floor.

Our earlier field testing of replicas of the flaperon was unable to confirm numerical predictions by the Direction Generale de L’Armement (DGA) that the flaperon drifted left of the wind. Field testing of a genuine Boeing 777 flaperon cut down to match photographs of 9M-MRO’s flaperon has now largely confirmed the DGA predictions, at least with respect to drift angle. The impact of this information on simulated trajectories across the Indian Ocean is that the July 2015 arrival time at La Reunion is now very easy to explain.

This new information does not change our earlier estimate of the most probable location of the aircraft. It does, however, increase our confidence in that estimate, so we are now even more confident that the aircraft is within the new search area identified and recommended in the MH370 First Principles Review (ATSB 2016).

The proposed new search area has been determined by combining many lines of evidence, the strongest being that the descent began close to the SatCom 7th arc. The following evidence from drift modelling helps indicate where along the 7th arc the aircraft impacted the sea surface:

  • The July 2015 arrival date of the flaperon at La Reunion island is consistent with impact occurring between latitudes 40°S and 30.5°S.
  • Arrival off Africa of other debris exclusively after December 2015 favours impact latitudes south of 32°S, as does the failure of the 40-day aerial search off Western Australia to find any floating debris.
  • Absence of debris findings on Australian shores is only consistent with a few impact latitudes – the region near 35°S is the only one that is also consistent with other factors.

The new search area, near 35°S, comprises thin strips either side of the previously-searched strip close to the 7th arc. If the aircraft is not found there, then the rest of the search area is still likely to contain the plane. The available evidence suggests that all other regions are unlikely.

Download CSIRO Drift report 2
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Download Final Report
[ Download PDF: 2.19MB]
 
 
 

This report documents the proceedings and outcomes of the First Principles Review meeting on the search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 held in Canberra from 2 to 4 November 2016. Participants consisted of experts in data processing, satellite communications, accident investigation, aircraft performance, flight operations, sonar data, acoustic data and oceanography. The purpose of the meeting was to reassess and validate existing evidence and to identify any new analysis that may assist in identifying the location of the missing aircraft.

Throughout the search, the ATSB has issued several reports updating the definition of the search area based on analysis progressively refined, or when new information has come to light. This document complements those reports and provides a summary of the detailed analysis of the satellite data combined with new evidence derived from the modelling of the drift of debris from the aircraft.

The experts attending the meeting considered:

  • The results of the search to date.
  • Satellite communication metadata and its analysis including methodology, assumptions, limitations, the probability distributions of possible flight paths, and validation results.
  • Results from simulations and the aircraft manufacturer’s analysis of aircraft performance.
  • The width of the search area based on what is known about the end of the flight.
  • Hydro-acoustic analysis potentially relevant to the search.
  • Failure analysis of recovered debris.
  • Drift analysis of aircraft debris.  

For background information, please refer to the previous ATSB publications available online at www.atsb.gov.au/mh370

The updated independent analysis of the satellite data and the drift analysis consistently identified the most likely impact location of MH370 as being close to the 7th arc[1] (within ~25 NM) and bounded by latitudes of approximately 33°S to 36°S.

There is a high degree of confidence that the previously identified underwater area searched to date does not contain the missing aircraft. Given the elimination of this area, the experts identified an area of approximately 25,000 km² as the area with the highest probability of containing the wreckage of the aircraft. The experts concluded that, if this area were to be searched, prospective areas for locating the aircraft wreckage, based on all the analysis to date, would be exhausted.

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[1]     The 7th arc is an arc of possible aircraft positions, equidistant from Inmarsat’s Indian Ocean Region satellite, where the accident aircraft made the final series of satellite communications transmissions. It is the key datum in the search for MH370 and its derivation is described in previous ATSB search area definition reports.  

Download Final Report
[ Download PDF: 2.19MB]
 
 
 

The First Principles Review

Satellite data

Width of the search area

Drift analysis

Residual Probability Map

Conclusions

 
Download CSIRO Drift Report 1
[ Download PDF: 1.86MB]
 
 
 

The search for MH370 and ocean surface drift

Executive summary - Report 1

This report details the results of a comprehensive attempt to use drift modelling to inform efforts to locate the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 (registered 9M-MRO). It differs from earlier attempts to do this in several important ways, which, along with other developments, have enabled it to come up with a location of the aircraft that is much more precise than we thought was possible.

We have concluded that the northern third (from 36°S to 33°S or perhaps 32°S) of the initial search area uniquely remains prospective. This northern area was partially searched (close to the 7th arc) in the latter half of 2014 and early 2015. Locations outside the searched area, but still within a likely distance from the arc, remain unsearched. The region near 35°S is particularly prospective because there is strong evidence (from Earth-observation satellite data) that this is where, at the time of the accident and for weeks after, the debris field would have been carried north-west for about 500km, away from where the March-April 2014 surface search was conducted and away from the shores of Western Australia (WA). The scenario of a final location near 35°S is the one that is most consistent with:

  • the absence of debris findings on the WA coastline
  • the absence of debris findings during the aerial and surface search
  • the July 2015 arrival time of the flaperon at La Reunion
  • the December 2015 and onwards (only) arrival times of debris in the western Indian Ocean.

The uncertainty of this finding has been greatly reduced from what was possible earlier by:

  • measuring the wind-driven drift rate of replica aircraft parts alongside oceanographic drifters (whose travel times across the Indian Ocean are well known), and
  • using a new ocean model that is informed by very accurate satellite measurements of small perturbations of sea level, yielding estimates of surface currents that have been validated using the global archive of oceanographic drifters.

Are other regions also prospective?

If the flaperon had remained the only piece of debris found we would have to say ‘perhaps’, but now many debris items have been found, we can conclude that regions north of 32°S and south of 39°S are both less likely. Drift modelling suggests that debris items originating north of 32°S would probably have been detected by the surface search, and that items would have probably arrived in Africa before December 2015. Regions south of 39°S are not prospective either, because debris from those regions would more likely have turned up on Australian coastlines than west Indian Ocean ones.

Download CSIRO Drift Report 1
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Download search and debris update
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MH370 – Search and debris examination update

Published: 2 November 2016

Amended: 2 December 2016 - Correction to Figure 11 caption text under image to remove inconsistency with report text on Page 17.

Executive summary

This report provides an update to the MH370 search area definition described in previous ATSB reports. It comprises further analysis of satellite data, additional end of flight simulations, a summary of the analysis of the right outboard wing flap, and preliminary results from the enhanced debris drift modelling.

For background information, please refer to the ATSB publications available online at www.atsb.gov.au/mh370:

  • Definition of underwater search areas, 18 August 2014
  • Flight Path Analysis Update, 8 October 2014
  • Definition of Underwater Search Area Update, 3 December 2015.

The Australian Defence Science and Technology (DST) Group[1] conducted a comprehensive analysis of the Inmarsat satellite communications (SATCOM) data and a model of aircraft dynamics. The output of the DST Group analysis was a probability density function (PDF) defining the probable location of the aircraft’s crossing of the 7th arc.

Details of this analysis and the validation experiments are available in the open source published book here: http://link.springer.com/book/.

Additional analysis of the burst frequency offsets associated with the final satellite communications to and from the aircraft is consistent with the aircraft being in a high and increasing rate of descent at that time. Additionally, the wing flap debris analysis reduced the likelihood of end-of-flight scenarios involving flap deployment.

Preliminary results of the CSIRO’s drift analysis indicated it was unlikely that debris originated from south of the current search area. The northernmost simulated regions were also found to be less likely. Drift analysis work is ongoing and is expected to refine these results.

__________

  1. Formerly the Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO)
Download search and debris update
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7th arc burst frequency offset (BFO) analysis

End of flight simulations

Drift modelling update

Debris summary and analysis

Acknowledgements

 

These debris examination reports are released with the concurrence of the Malaysian ICAO Annex 13 Safety Investigation Team for MH370.

Debris Report 1 (19 April 2016)

Debris Report 2 (12 May 2016)

Debris Report 3 (15 September 2016)

Debris Report 4 (22 September 2016)

Debris Report 5 (7 October 2016)

 

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

 
Download report released 3 Dec 2015
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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.

 

Download report released 3 Dec 2015
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Download updated report of the flight pather analysis
[ Download PDF: 1.84MB]
 
 
 

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.

The schedule is the responsibility of the investigating state.

Download updated report of the flight pather analysis
[ Download PDF: 1.84MB]
 
 
 
 
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
[ Download PDF: 7.34MB]
 
 
 
 
General details
Date: 07 March 2014 Investigation status: Active 
Time: 1722 UTC Investigation type: External Investigation 
Location:Southern Indian Ocean Occurrence type:Missing aircraft 
State: International Occurrence class: Technical 
 Occurrence category: Technical Analysis 
Report status: Pending Highest injury level: Fatal 
 
Aircraft details
Aircraft model: 777-200ER  
Aircraft registration: 9M-MRO  
Operator: Malaysia Airlines  
Type of operation: Air Transport High Capacity 
Sector: Jet 
Departure point:Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Destination:Beijing, China
 
 
Related: MH370
 
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Last update 16 August 2017