UK satellite data confirms missing flight went down in Indian ocean

Data from a British company has been validated by the UK’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch to pinpoint the final destination of Malaysia airline flight MH370.

The Malaysian prime minister, Najib Razak confirmed today that that the aircraft’s final resting place is likely to be in the middle of the Indian Ocean.
In a statement Razak said: ’This evening I was briefed by representatives from the UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB). They informed me that Inmarsat, the UK company that provided the satellite data which indicated the northern and southern corridors, has been performing further calculations on the data. Using a type of analysis never before used in an investigation of this sort, they have been able to shed more light on MH370’s flight path.

’Based on their new analysis, Inmarsat and the AAIB have concluded that MH370 flew along the southern corridor, and that its last position was in the middle of the Indian Ocean, west of Perth.

‘This is a remote location, far from any possible landing sites. It is therefore with deep sadness and regret that I must inform you that, according to this new data, flight MH370 ended in the southern Indian Ocean.’

Inmarsat was appointed as a technical adviser to the UK Air Accident Investigation Branch on Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 on March 15, 2014 in order to fully support the Malaysia investigation.

The company said: ‘Since being advised that Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 was missing we have responded quickly and afforded urgent priority to the provision of data and assistance to those participating in the search and rescue activities.’

The London-based company provides numerous aircraft safety and communications’ services that are transmitted to and from aircraft globally via 10  satellites in geosynchronous orbit 35,786km (22,236 miles) above the Earth. They include Satellite-aided Air Traffic Control (ATC) Communications, Satellite-aided Air Traffic Control (ATC) Communications (which delivers automatic reporting of an aircraft’s real-time position to air traffic control (ATC) centres, and Controller/pilot datalink communications (CPDLC).

Inmarsat says that with CPDLC, The Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) enables route instructions, clearances and other messages to be sent directly to the cockpit via Inmarsat as electronic data messages. ACARS is used for sending text messages between an aircraft, aviation authorities and the airline, and is the standard non-voice communications method for aviation operations.

Messages and data can include those sent from pilots to air traffic control, or automatically generated data on how the aircraft’s systems are performing, or other vital information such as weather reports. When an aircraft flies over land, ACARS messages are sent via VHF radio but when an aircraft is in remote regions, or over water and out of range of VHF radio, the signal automatically switches to satellite.

Aircraft fitted with the appropriate equipment log onto the company’s network when an aircraft powers up. If no communications activity is registered, an Inmarsat ground earth station periodically sends ‘polling signals’ or ‘handshakes’ to the satellite, which relays them to the aircraft. If the aircraft is still operating, an acknowledgement signal, containing basic system information, is sent back to the ground earth station from the aircraft.

According to the Washington Post, the handshakes from the satellite – along with assumptions about the plane’s speed – helped Australia and the US National Transportation Safety Board to narrow down the search area to just 3 per cent of the southern corridor on 18 March.