Malaysian Airlines Flight 370: Mathematicians Who Help Locate Crash Site of Air France Jet Willing to Assist in Finding Missing MH Boeing 777 Plane
By Vittorio Hernandez | March 28, 2014 9:44 AM EST
From the obscure to high-tech - that is how far Malaysian authorities investigating the mysterious disappearance of Malaysian Airline Flight 370 on March 8 have gone to find out where is the missing jet and what happened to it.
Malaysians Prime Minister Najib Razak has hinted that the missing Malaysian Airlines MH370 was almost certainly hijacked.
Malaysia was ridiculed when it allowed a witch doctor to perform a weird rite inside the Kuala Lumpur airport days after the Boeing 777 jet disappeared. Then theories ranging from terrorism to political vengeance sprouted until Australian and Chinese satellites spotted floating objects in the southern Indian Ocean, prompting the Malaysian government to conclude that the ill-fated aircraft's 239 passengers and crew are now presumed dead.
The location appears to be getting clearer. However, finding the aircraft could possibly be speeded up further to end the doubt in the mind mainly of Chinese relatives that their loved ones are dead if investigators would tap the services of mathematicians from Metron, a scientific consulting company based in Reston, Virginia.
Metron's math experts helped pinpoint the location of the Air France jet that sank into the Atlantic Ocean. Ahead of being asked to help, Metron head of Advanced Mathematics Applications Division Van Gurley told AFP that the firm is trying to acquire all public data available on the missing plane so it could start its own independent assessment.
Mr Gurley promised to provide the result of their assessment to anyone interested.
Metron, established in 1982 and manned by 170 applied math specialists, holds mathematical analysis for national security applications of the U.S. such as sonar systems. It developed a search-and-rescue protocol for the U.S. Coast Guard using a theorem developed by Thomas Bayes - an English statistician, philosopher and Presbyterian minister - in the early 18th century.
Mr Gurley explained, "It's a structured method that forces you to look at all the available information about a problem and then apply a confidence factor - how confident you are in any piece of information."
For Air France Flight 447 that crashed into the Atlantic in 2009, killing 228 people, Metron targeted the flight data recorder at the ocean's floor. BEA, the French air accident probing agency, sought the help of Metron to figure out the most likely location of the jet's black box.
What helped Metron successfully pinpoint the location were the floating debris of the Airbus A330 and an 80-mile search circle. The black box was recovered by undersea drones in May 2011.
The challenge for Metron is how vast Indian Ocean's remote section is where 122 floating objects were spotted recently by a satellite.
Mr Gurley said that technology is available to reach the ocean bottom even as he acknowledged it is an incredibly challenging task.
As to what happened, a veteran pilot has suggested the ill-fated plane caught fire and the incident made pilot Zaharie Ahmad Shah turn the aircraft from its route going toward Beijing for an emergency landing to Malaysia's Langkawi Airport, the nearest gateway.
The pilot's theory dispelled speculations that Mr Zaharie hijacked his own plane allegedly in protest of the five-year jail term meted Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim for sodomy. The pilot is a supporter of the ex-deputy prime minister.
And Ahmad Seth Zaharie, the youngest son of the pilot - even though he is biased in favour of his missing father - denied his dad was responsible for the disappearance of the aircraft.
A senior Malaysian public official had also said that Mr Zaharie and the co-pilot lack motive, whether political, suicidal or terroristic, to hijack the plane.
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