The UK’s Inmarsat System used a wave phenomenon discovered in the nineteenth century to analyse the seven pings its satellite picked up from Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 to determine its final destination. The pings, automatically transmitted every hour from the plane after the rest of its communications systems had been turned off, thereby proving conclusively that it continued flying for several hours after diverting from its intended flight path from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. From the time the signals took to reach the satellite and the angle of elevation, Inmarsat was able to calculate two arcs, one north and one south that the plane could have taken. Inmarsat’s scientists then analysed the faint pings using a technique based on the Doppler effect, which describes how a wave changes frequency relative to the movement of an observer, in this case the satellite. The UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch provided confirmation of the method of analysis which on Tuesday this week resulted in the Malaysian Prime Minister announcing that the Boeing 777, which disappeared more than two weeks ago, crashed thousands of miles away in the southern Indian Ocean with the loss of all onboard.
Aircraft and ships from six countries including the car carrier Hoegh St Petersburg (above centre) are involved in the effort to locate and retrieve numerous satellite detected indications of wreckage. Following their Friday search pattern, five planes have spotted "objects" in a new area of the Indian Ocean, 700 nautical miles north of the previous search area and much closer to land. A Royal New Zealand Air Force Orion first spotted "a number of objects white or light in colour and a fishing buoy". An Australian plane then went to locate the items and spotted "two blue/grey rectangular objects", and three other planes reported similar sightings.
The Chinese patrol ship Haixun 01 is in the search area and will be dispatched to locate and possibly retrieve any objects of interest on Saturday according to the Australian Maritime Authorities. Of the 239 people lost on the flight, 154 were Chinese. China has therefore pulled out all the stops in pursuing the search for wreckage in terms of sharing satellite images, search planes and at least 13 ships are in or headed for the new search area. The Australian Prime Minister has also vowed “to continue the search for as long as it takes”. Both the Australian and Malaysian governments have also said the focus on the new search area was based on further analysis of radar data that showed the plane had been travelling faster, thus burning more fuel.