Among the myriad of questions surrounding the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines flight MH-370 the biggest question is:
How on earth did MH370 end up in the southern Indian Ocean?
The evidence of the Inmarsat satellite pings is to date practically the only hard evidence of its range from the satellite location at approximately the 8 hour mark of the flight, and the Doppler analysis from those pings suggest that the aircraft was moving on a southerly course in the Indian Ocean. Why? To what destination?
Of course there may be any number of initial causes of a catastrophe that affected MH370 resulting in damage to the aircraft, cockpit conflict, hijacking or whatever.
But the answer to the biggest question might be as simple as a bad co-ordinate. A sign error on a latitude input by hand into the aircraft’s inertial navigation system after the main flight management system was shut down.
The following theory is based on the observation that the aircraft may have been headed for a point in the southern hemisphere that is the mirror image of Beijing’s location in the northern hemisphere. If that assumption is true, then the aircraft was considerably closer to Australia than originally believed.
Essence of the theory:
The aircraft navigation and autopilot system was temporarily re-programmed from its original destination, Beijing. This may have been due to any number of causes. Until the black box is found it will be pure speculation as to why this was done. The aircraft may have been damaged and its main flight management systems disabled.
However a later attempt could have been made to re-enter the co-ordinates of the original destination Beijing into the aircraft’s IRS (INS) navigation system but latitude 39deg54’S was entered instead of latitude 39deg54’N. This is a simple sign error which could have been made by an unskilled person or a pilot who was incapacitated/injured/under duress.
This put the aircraft on a course to the southern Indian Ocean (Assumed Path) where it was detected by pings from Inmarsat satellite, located on the Equator at 64degE, at a range of approx. 4,800km. This gives us intersecting rays to the last ping position.
The aircraft continued on its SSE course until it ran out of fuel. Estimated original course to Beijing was only 4326km (a 5-hr flight) but the aircraft appears to have still been flying at 8hrs. It had to be flying on fumes at that point. This would place the wreck site in a zone approximately 1100km WNW of Shark Bay, WA. Any wreckage still floating will have drifted well away from the crash site in either the West Australian current, heading north and west, or the Leuwin current, heading south and east.
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority has been notified of this theory.
UPDATE 7th April 2014
The Australian Shield has picked up multiple pings near the new search area.