Satellite 'pings' revealed missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370's path

Mar 25 2014, 12:54 IST
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A model plane of MH370 on display at well wish board for passengers aboard a missing Malaysia Airlines plane at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang, Malaysia, Tuesday, March 25, 2014.  China demanded Tuesday that Malaysia turn over satellite data used to conclude that a Malaysia Airlines passenger jet was lost in the southern Indian Ocean with no survivors during a flight to Beijing.(AP) A model plane of MH370 on display at well wish board for passengers aboard a missing Malaysia Airlines plane at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang, Malaysia, Tuesday, March 25, 2014. China demanded Tuesday that Malaysia turn over satellite data used to conclude that a Malaysia Airlines passenger jet was lost in the southern Indian Ocean with no survivors during a flight to Beijing.(AP)
SummaryThe satellite operator Inmarsat has said it managed to work out which direction the missing Malaysia Airlines plane flew in by measuring the Doppler effect of hourly 'pings' from the aircraft.

The satellite operator Inmarsat has said it managed to work out which direction the missing Malaysia Airlines plane flew in by measuring the Doppler effect of hourly 'pings' from the aircraft.

Malaysia's prime minister announced earlier that the Inmarsat analysis of flight MH370's path placed its last position in remote waters off Australia's west coast, meaning it can only have run out of fuel above the southern Indian Ocean.

Inmarsat yesterday explained how they plotted models of the flight's route by measuring the Doppler effect of satellite pings, giving corridors arcing north and south along which the plane could have flown for at least five hours.

Despite the plane's communication systems being switched off, satellite pings were still bouncing back from the aircraft, which which vanished on March 8 with 239 people on board while flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

MH370

The New Straits Times' darkened front page showed an aircraft above the words "Goodnight, MH370" -- a reference to the last message from the cockpit, "All right, good night", before the Malaysia Airlines jet lost contact on March 8.

Also read: Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370

The pings are sent from a ground station to a satellite, then onto the plane, which automatically sends a ping back to the satellite and down to the ground station.

They do not include global positioning system (GPS) data, time or distance information.

So the British satellite operator measured the amount of time it took for the pings to be returned.

"We looked at the Doppler effect, which is the change in frequency due to the movement of a satellite in its orbit," Chris McLaughlin, Inmarsat's senior vice president of external affairs, told Britain's Sky News television.

"What that then gave us was a predicted path for the northerly route and a predicted path the southerly route."

MH370

"We don't know whether the plane stayed at a constant speed; we don't know whether its headings changed subsequently," he explained.

Therefore, "we applied the autopilot speeds - about 350 knots. We applied what we knew about the fuel and range of the aircraft to hit the series of ping information we had.

MH370

A sympathy message is displayed at the webpage of the Malaysia Airlines website, in Shah Alam, outside Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Tuesday, March 25, 2014. It was the grim news that

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