Moment of truth: Seabed Constructor search mission nearing supposed MH370 location

two plane parts in water

Photo Credit: https://blogs.csiro.au/ecos/mh370/L A real flapper from a Boeing 777 was used in a test to prove that it could have floated to Reunion Island from the seas near the coastal areas of Australia

The Ocean Infinity search vessel the Seabed Constructor – Swire Seabed  is reaching what could possibly be the day of reckoning for the families of the missing Malaysia Airlines MH370 airplane.

The reason for the belief that the plane may have crash landed in the new search area is based on scientific evidence, research done by a team using remodelled flaperon and other parts similar to the MH370 and the study of current drifts in the area where the search is being conducted.

One source close to the investigation who spoke to abc.net.au says only one of five auto pilot settings known as constant magnetic heading (CMH) — would lead to a crash site at 35S, where the ocean current at the time of the crash ran in the opposite direction, towards Africa.

New drift testing research using a flaperon from another Boeing 777 has shown how that first piece of debris might have travelled so quickly from the presumed southern flight path of the missing plane west across the Indian Ocean, said the https://blogs.csiro.au.

“The findings in the CSIRO’s latest, and final, report to the Australian Transport Safety Bureau made public today (yesterday) give increased confidence in the drift modelling and in what is now identified as the most likely search area of missing Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370,” said the blog post.

 

What the satellite data told the team of searchers was that there were “two prominent ~150km-wide bands of westward flowing surface current crossing the 7th Arc in March 2014 – one near the 35 degree south and one near 30 degree south”.

“A ridge of high sea level cut across the 7th Arc on March 8th, so flow was initially to the west, changing the long-term destiny of potential debris, offering an explanation for non-arrival of debris off Australia,” the report concludes.

The conclusion estimates the plane would have crashed near the 35S area and the broken parts – including the flaperon found on Reunion Island – would have naturally drifted towards Africa and not towards Australia.

The technical report also shows that the tests showed only a few of the parts could have reached the Australian shores but most of it – that were found mostly the African region – would have drifted towards Africa thus confirming the theory that the plane may have crashed in the vicinity or within the new search area.

DEBRIS CONFIRMS THE MODELS

Once debris was found on the African side of the Indian Ocean, clearer conclusions could be made using those models. The piece of debris which has received the most attention is the flaperon, the first piece of debris to be found, on Réunion Island in July 2015.

What mattered was that a debris field existed and that items were being found exclusively on the African side of the Indian Ocean and not along the West Australian coastline.

It was the absence of debris to the east of the Indian Ocean which narrowed the latitude span for the likely search area.

“There was only one place that explains the absence of findings on the West Australia coast while being consistent with other factors. It was the only chance of precision. It leapt out of the page,” said a researcher.

REPLICA FLAPERONS REFINE THE MECHANICS

The remaining question was how to convincingly explain the arrival on Réunion Island of the flaperon in July 2015.

The oceanographic map of currents and likely trajectories of the water is only half the story. The mechanics of wind and wave forces on a floating object in those conditions is also critical to understanding the passage of floating objects over such a wide expanse.

“The details of how drifting items sail through the water is important,” says Dr Griffin.

“To get to the bottom of that, we built some replicas of the plane parts using Boeing diagrams and information gathered by the French authorities. We put them into the water next to oceanographic buoys and compared how quickly they moved. And that came up with same fascinating results.

“The flaperon moved faster than the drifting buoys whereas other plane parts moved more slowly or at a similar speed. Once we had that information we could use the thousands of buoys that are out there in the ocean now and over the past 20 years to calibrate our model and then change that slightly so that it can simulate a flaperon.”

It was this information which led to the December 2016 report to the ATSB; “The search for MH370 and ocean surface drift”, and which provided the basis for the First Principles Review committee’s recommendation of 35 degrees south as the most likely search site.

A REAL BOEING 777 FLAPERON VALIDATES THE PREDICTIONS

Transport ministers of Australia, Malaysia and China jointly announced in January 2017 that the 120,000 square-kilometre search was suspended.

It was a month later, in February, that an actual Being 777 flaperon was sourced by the ATSB from the US and shipped to Hobart where it was cut down to resemble the recovered Flight MH370 flaperon.

The flaperon was tank tested to compare its buoyancy to the French Direction Générale de l’Armement (DGA) results for the recovered flaperon.

Dr Griffin and his team then conducted 13 days of field tests in North West Bay and Storm Bay off Hobart, comparing the real Boeing 777 flaperon to the replicas and to the buoys.

The actual Boeing 777 flaperon in the foreground and the replica in the background, comparing drift patterns in real conditions.

“This last bit of work has made one slightly uncomfortable cog fall into place,” says Dr Griffin.

“The surface current model said most debris went north of Réunion Island.

“The model also said that arriving on Réunion in July is too early but possible for the flaperon. I was prepared to accept that but I was always nagged by it. I suspected the real flaperon would go faster because it floated higher in the water and the French modelling said it would go left.

“We did the field testing and I saw straight away on our boat that it was going to the left. I knew this would explain the arrival at Réunion.”

The genuine flaperon goes about 20 degrees to the left, and faster than the replicas, as expected.

“The arrival at La Réunion in July 2015 now makes perfect sense.”

Read the full story here: https://blogs.csiro.au/ecos/mh370/

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