Lion Air crash could explain failure to spot MH370 debris

November 09, 2018
MH370 Lion Air debris
MH370 could have looked like this. Image: YouTube/Newsflare/AP

The debris from Lion Air flight JT610  may explain why searchers failed to find any sign of wreckage from missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 during the early aerial search, according to an independent expert who has closely followed the Malaysia crash.

Satellite-based ADS-B data indicate flight JT610 slammed into the ocean at speed and with high energy from an altitude of about 5000 ft when it crashed shortly after leaving Jakarta on October 29 with 189 people on board.

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Independent expert Victor Iannello noted in a recent blog post that burst frequency offset values derived from satellite data indicated MH370 also hit the sea with high energy at a descent rate of about 15,000ft per minute, assuming a pilot was not at the controls.

Iannello said the debris produced from the JT610 crash gave some indication of the types of debris probably produced by the MH370 crash.

He pointed to a video of the floating debris from JT610 showing small floating parts spread over a limited area.

“Now admittedly, a B777 is considerably larger than a B737, and the floating debris field should be easier to find,’’ he said.

“However, the surface search for MH370 in the Southern Indian Ocean (SIO) from the air began weeks after the disappearance, and the dispersive effects of waves and currents in the SIO are strong.

“The combination of a dispersed field and small parts might explain the failure for the air search to detect floating objects along the 7th arc.

“The small size of the floating parts might also explain why satellite images along the 7th arc have not spotted aircraft debris.”

The independent expert said underwater searchers for MH370  expected to find a fairly substantial debris field of more than 100m with substantial, distinguishable objects such as the landing gear and engines.

This was consistent with the debris field of Air France 447, which plunged into the Atlantic Ocean in high-speed impact in 2009, and the parts of JT610 that had already been found on the seabed, he said.

MH370 Lion Air crash
Part of an engine and landing gear from JT610. Image: Xinhua

There is an ongoing dispute about whether the plane was under human control or on autopilot at the end of the flight.

The failure to find MH370 debris in the intensive Indian Ocean air search has been cited by some observers as evidence the Boeing 777 was involved in a controlled descent that left the fuselage largely intact.

But pieces of the plane recovered so far, the review of the BFO satellite data and an analysis of a key wing component led Australian investigators to conclude it was involved in a high-energy, uncontrolled impact.