First Principles Review


First Principles Review

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

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.


[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.  

The First Principles Review

Satellite data

Width of the search area

Drift analysis

Residual Probability Map