MH370: Anyone Can Track It

Only two pieces of information are needed to accurately locate this plane’s debris field: 1) the precise location of the Inmarsat satellite that tracked it when it sent it’s 7th and final ping; and 2) the radius of the final ping.

The satellite’s location on the final ping was 0.5311N, 64.4643E; the radius of the final ping was 4,820 kilometers.

Now, let’s do it: 1) draw a circle of radius 4,820 km around the satellite’s ground point GPS, and draw a line that connects the satellite and airport, as shown below.

The plane is somewhere on that final white ping ring’s circumference. But where?

To find out exactly where the plane crashed on the final ping ring, simply extend a line south from the plane’s departure point at Kuala Lumpur Airport due south until it intersects the circle previously drawn. That intersection will occur in what is known as the “Zenith Abyss”.

Figure 2

That is all there has ever been to finding MH370’s terminal location. A few thoughts below.


MH370’s terminal location is not “secret”, and hasn’t been since the US government advised Malaysia and its search partner, Australia, that surface debris from the plane had been spotted by satellite shortly after the plane’s disappearance. That information was made public within days by Australia’s AMSA and ATSB. But it was left to private individuals to confirm the US conclusion without satellite imagery. Here is the link to a thirty minute press conference in which the location was publicly broadcast on March 28, 2014: 

Technicians in the US used the same technique illustrated here and in my Twitter feed to confirm that the Zenith location had to be MH370. They knew that because the radius of the final ping puts the plane 2,761 kilometers due south of Kuala Lumpur Airport on a heading of 178.6 degrees. That is the only place on planet earth the plane could have crashed, given inherent limitations in our laws of physics. For it to have gone even one kilometer farther would have required physics that do not exist.

So, why did Malaysia, Australia, and a number of private searchers continue looking in the Southern Ocean where the plane could not possibly have flown? I do not know.

The geometric approach illustrated here relies heavily on Google Earth, but any GPS utility should work fine. It is important to use some sort of GPS utility, whether Google Earth or another, simply because the planet’s spherical mass precludes us from using some forms of flat-surface geometry. Nevertheless, there are many commonalities between Euclidean Geometry and its Spherical counterpart.