Malaysia Airlines Flight 370: Why the confusion about the flight path?

Malaysia Airlines Flight 370: Malaysia's Air Force chief says the last military radar signal from MH370 was at 2:15 a.m. Saturday, 200 miles northwest of Penang, Malaysia. But he says, he's not sure. Why the confusion?

Another day, another radar data point from Malaysian officials. 

First, Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 was suspected of disappearing 100 miles off the east coast of Malaysia, in the Gulf of Thailand. Initially, the time was reported as 2:30 a.m. Then, it was confirmed at 1:30 a.m., about 45 minutes after take off.

And the search and rescue mission was on. At last count, there were at least eight nations contributing some 43 ships and 39 aircraft to scour an area of 92,600 square kilometers (35,800 square miles).

Then, on Monday, a Malaysia military officer told Reuters that military radar had tracked Flight 370 to a location over the small island of Pulau Perak in the Strait of Malacca - west of Malaysia. That would suggest that after civilian air traffic control lost contact with the plane, it had turned around and flown west for an hour and 10 minutes.

Then, today, Malaysia’s Air Force Chief Tan Sir Rodzali Daud said that the last military radar signal from MH370 was at 2:15 a.m.Saturday, 200 miles northwest of Penang, Malaysia. So, Malaysia alerted the Indian military to begin search and rescue operations, because that signal would indicate that the plane was heading toward the Andaman Sea, and Indian waters.

This latest radar report raises questions about timing too. How could Flight 370 have flown over Pulau Perak at 2:40 a.m. if it was heading northwest toward India at 2:15 a.m. Or did Flight 370 fly northwest toward the Andaman Sea, and then turn south toward Pulau Perak?

But Daud expressed doubts about whether this latest radar contact was Flight 370 or not.

“I’m not saying this is MH370. We are still corroborating this ... There is a possibility of the aircraft making a come back. It remains as a possibility ... It is very difficult to say for sure it is the aircraft.”

Why the confusion?

"There's too much information and confusion right now. It is very hard for us to decide whether a given piece of information is accurate," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang told reporters in Beijing Wednesday. "We will not give it up as long as there's still a shred of hope."

In response to the confusion, Malaysia agreed to set up a hotline with Beijing to convey information about the missing flight.

Is it confusion or is it obfuscation?

The Malaysia military may really be struggling to identify the the blips on their radar screens early last Saturday morning. Or, they may be deliberately hiding their radar capabilities.

"The first thing we don't know in the public domain is what the military ground radar were seeing," David Gleave, a former air crash investigator, told The Telegraph.

"We have an area of relatively high tension politically, so we have Malaysia, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Burma, Singapore - could all have their radars working but we don't know what they've seen, and one reason for not saying what they've seen is that it would be to declare their military capability to the other people around them," said Gleave, who now works as an aviation expert at Loughborough University. "However this aircraft should have appeared on several military radars for a considerable period of time," he said.

If Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 was northwest bound, did India or Thailand military radar "see" it? Would they disclose what they'd seen or say nothing so as not to reveal what they may or may not be able to detect? 

The hunt for Flight 370 continues with more questions than answers.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to