SITA aids MH370 investigation; expert explains

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SITA has confirmed it supplies Malaysia Airlines with communications via VHF radio and Inmarsat satellites for its fleet’s Aircraft Communications Addressing & Reporting System (ACARS) avionics, and that it is assisting authorities in the probe of what happened to Flight MH370.

“The Malaysia Airlines ACARS avionics communications via the SITA network is proprietary to the airline. We are fully supporting the airline and all the relevant authorities in their on-going investigation of flight MH370,” says a SITA spokeswoman, declining further comment.

Earlier this week, Inmarsat president, aviation Miranda Mills revealed that the satellite provider was supporting the investigation, “as part of the service we provide” but could not comment further at that time. Runway Girl Network tweeted Mills’ comments from the Satellite 2014 conference in Washington DC. “We want to extend our sympathies to the families of the people involved,” added Mills.

But in a statement released today, Inmarsat said routine, automated signals were registered from MH370 during the flight from Kuala Lumpur, and that this information was shared with SITA, “which in turn has shared it with Malaysia Airlines”.

Inmarsat’s Classic aero service underpins the ACARS messaging via satellite that SITA provides. So just what type of information might SITA have at its disposal? Runway Girl Network reached out to an industry insider and expert for answers.

Even on narrowband Classic aero service, he says, “you have a GPS fix from the instruments because the satellite terminal needs to know where it is, and what satellite it needs to connect to. The terminal is pinging satellites, and if the satcom is switched on it is trying to connect to the satellite. The service provider [in this case SITA] is verifying it’s a valid terminal and then you have your connection.

“As long as you have air-to-ground coverage, ACARS messages are delivered via ground, but once you leave land and you’re over water, it has to be satellite, there is no other option. If you’re connected, it would probably provide positioning data, yet when references are made to ‘pinging’ it sounds like the terminal is trying to get onto the network but can’t register.

“If the satcom was alive for hours, that means the aircraft was alive. For reference, Air France AF447 continued to work even as the aircraft was at the point of breaking up or hitting the water. Once the unit hits the water and loses power, it’s gone. Inmarsat’s higher bandwidth SwiftBroadband service pings positioning of aircraft. With Classic aero, you don’t have the same granularity, but with timings you’d look at the last known [ping] point and look at the circle and go from there.”


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  2. Simon Gunson

    I just came across your website by chance, but bravo, on my must read list in future.

    On the subject of MH370 and SITA, if you are able to put my comments to SITA I would be most appreciative.

    Malaysian Transport Authorities insist MH370 turned off their transponder at 17:21 UTC, however a website called Flightradar24 continued to track MH370 past IGARI waypoint turning east 040 degrees up until 17:27 UTC.

    Malaysia insists MH370 turned west at IGARI and dropped to 5,000 feet flown around like a fighter plane (which I disagree with).

    Just north of IGARI aircraft must change their transponders by entering a new Log On address code for Ho Chi Minh Flight Information Region (FIR). As pilots enter this new code, the ADS-B transponder logs off with Kuala Lumpur.

    I hope you get where I am going with this because if it continued to display on Flightradar24 until 17:27 UTC then it had to have logged on with SITA through a radio repeating station in Vietnam (perhaps Con Son Island?). Since the SITA service would only pick up MH370 via radio above 28,000 feet it could not have flown West through the Straits of Malacca at all.

    Furthermore after 17:07 UTC classic aero handshake pings were due to occur every half hour thus at 17:37 UTC and 18:07 UTC, but these handshake pings were missing from the Indian Ocean satellite (INMARSAT-3) Burst Offset Frequency chart published by Malaysia.

    Please could Runwaygirl ask SITA if it knows whether handshake pings were received at 17:37 or 18:07 through the Pacific INMARSAT satellite, because if so this further establishes that MH370 flew east not west as Malaysia claims.

    If MH370 can be proven to have flown east from IGARI then it virtually rules out pilot suicide, or hijacking and exonerates a crew who probably died very bravely trying to fight an inflight emergency.

    Kind regards
    Sy Gunson, New Zealand

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