Turn-back debunked

After the disappearance  of MH370 on 8th March 2014, satellite communication company insisted that MH370 was tracked flying west by satellite communications with the aircraft. For five straight days after MH370's disappearance Malaysian Air Force chief, General Rodzali Daud denied that MH370 was seen on radar over the Straits of Malacca and this was the official position for at least the first four days.

Malaysia's Government claimed MH370 climbed to 45,000ft turned west and dived below 23,000ft flying beneath radar coverage. Reuters published an image depicting the flight track claimed by MH370 from IGARI to VAMPI, then north to GIVAL and northwest to IGREX.

Also during the first week of the search for MH370 the Malaysian press owned by the Government ruling UMNO Party were feverishly leaking stories trying to direct the narrative towards accusations of pilot suicide. These leaks appeared to come from senior echelons of the Malaysian Police often seeking to discredit or embarrass other branches of government like the Malaysian Air Force. These press leaks routinely cited "an unnamed source close to the investigation."

It became very clear that it was the Malyasian Police and not the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) who were directing the investigation. It was also clear that the Malaysian Police had an agenda to accuse pilots of suicide and link them with exiled Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim.  

RMAF Gen Rodzali Daud


1. I refer to the Berita Harian news article dated 11th March 2014 on Search and Rescue Operations in the Straits of Malacca which (in Bahasa Malaysia) referred to me as making the following statements:

The RMAF Chief confirmed that RMAF Butterworth airbase detected the location signal of the airliner as indicating that it turned back from its original heading to the direction of Kota Bahru, Kelantan, and was believed to have pass through the airspace of the East Coast of and Northern Peninsular Malaysia.

The last time the plane was detected by the air control tower was in the vicinity of Pulau Perak in the Straits of Malacca at 2.40 in the morning before the signal disappeared without any trace, he said.

2. I wish to state that I did not make any such statements as above, what occurred was that the Berita Harian journalist asked me if such an incident occurred as detailed in their story, however I did not give any answer to the question, instead what I said to the journalist was “Please refer to the statement which I have already made on 9 March 2014, during the press conference with the Chief of Defence Force at the Sama-Sama Hotel, Kuala Lumpur International Airport”.

3. What I stated during that press conference was,

The RMAF has not ruled out the possibility of an air turn back on a reciprocal heading before the aircraft vanished from the radar and this resulted in the Search and Rescue Operations being widen to the vicinity of the waters of Pulau Pinang.

4. I request this misreporting be amended and corrected to prevent further misinterpretations of what is clearly an inaccurate and incorrect report.

5. Currently the RMAF is examining and analyzing all possibilities as regards to the airliner’s flight paths subsequent to its disappearance. However for the time being, it would not be appropriate for the RMAF to issue any official conclusions as to the aircraft’s flight path until a high amount of certainty and verification is achieved. However all ongoing search operations are at the moment being conducted to cover all possible areas where the aircraft could have gone down in order to ensure no possibility is overlooked.

6. In addition, I would like to state to the media that all information and developments will be released via official statements and press conferences as soon as possible and when appropriate. Our current efforts are focused upon on finding the aircraft as soon as possible.

Thank You

Chief of Royal Malaysian Air Force

Released On:

11 March 2014
Kuala Lumpur

Claims by RMAF General Rodzali Daud are vastly at odds with information given to relatives at a conference for relatives at the Lido Hotel Beijing on 21 March 2014. General Daud referred to MH370 being seen by Butterworth military radar, near Pelau Perak about 18:40 UTC.

Time calibrated overlay

The Lido Hotel conference image emphatically stated Butterworth radar saw MH370 over Pelau Perak at 18:02 UTC. A huge difference of 38 minutes. The Malaysian Government refused to explain this discrepancy, but instead withdrew all references to General Daud's 18:40 UTC claim. 

Lido Hotel image claimed to be radar footage from Butterworth military radar

However at the same Lido Hotel conference Malaysian authorities also embellished the claimed turn-back with another image which evoked huge protest. This new image insisted MH370 turned a full clockwise loop eastwards from IGARI to accommodate awkward questions why ADS-B derived tracking from Flightradar24 showed MH370 had actually turned east after IGARI, not west. At the time during week two of MH370's disappearance, many commentators were openly challenging the authenticity of claims by Malaysian authorities. Prior to the Lido Hotel conference on 21 March people were asking how could MH370 have turned West when FR24's website was showing telemetry recorded from MH370 showing it turned East after IGARI ?

Screen capture from Flightradar24 website playback of MH370's flight

It turns out the Malaysian Government hired Ketchum, a Russian PR firm to prepare imagery for the Lido Hotel Conference
. We know this for a fact because when this following image was shown it was subsequently discredited as untrue by Malaysia's Minister for the Department of Civil Aviation who said the contested turn back claim was from imagery prepared for the Lido Hotel conference.

Ketchum PR Agency image revealed at Lido Hotel Conference

Malaysia however had already stated MH370 overflew Kota Bharu where the RMAF located a Thales Raytheon GM400 identical to one at Butterworth. General Rodzali Daud had already stated that Malaysia's military radar did not detect MH370 flying west. Then after much diplomatic coaxing, Thailand announced that their radar at Surat Thani had seen MH370 turn back from IGARI, but also claimed they saw it fly south away from Thailand towards Kuala Lumpur and then turn right across Malaysia.
Ketchum produced the following track image to accommodate Thailand's claim.

Turn back disputes

MH370 Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) director-general Azharuddin Abdul Rahman has dismissed reports that the missing Malaysia Airlines (MAS) flight MH370 made a loop during the air turn back.

"The aircraft did not make a loop, it is not true," he said, referring to the different aircraft's trajectory which had been leaked to the public, at the routine press conference today.  - Bernama

Civil Aviation Minister Azharrudin Abdul Rahman in the same press conference was also quoted by Astroawani saying this about the Lido Hotel images prepared by Ketchum PR Agency:

Azharuddin Rahman

“The manner that the aircraft make the turn as reported in Beijing to the next of kin, is not true. The aircraft does not make a loop and turn to the left. It’s not true,” Azharuddin said.

The images, which was believed to have been prepared by the government for families, had contradicted previous assumption that the aircraft had made a left turn.

The bizarre looped turn shown to relatives at the Lido Hotel is a clear example of how evidence was manufactured by the Malaysian Government to support claims about MH370. Minister Azharrudin Abdul Rahman's comments however highlight that not everyone was singing from the same hymn book. The claimed loop turn back itself was an attempt to co-ordinate official claims with Thailand's claims about radar sightings from Surat Thani.

What the Malaysian Government apparently forgot to consider was that radar at Surat Thani could not possibly see an aircraft over IGARI flying below 55,000ft. This is dictated by the radar horizon, distances involved and laws of physics. 

The service ceiling for a Boeing 777 is an altitude of 43,100ft, defined as the altitude above which an aircraft can no longer climb faster than 100 feet per minute. In practice this is also the absolute ceiling because the Flight Management Computer will not permit flight above this altitude and in practice it would disengage the autopilot if attempted. No human pilot has the accuracy to fly a Boeing 777 accurately in the narrow speed range between stall speed and Mach buffet at this altitude, therefore flight above 43,100ft in a Boeing 777 is for all intents impossible.  

The JACC employed two radar technicians from Thales Raytheon to examine all the available Malaysian radar data and concluded MH370 was never seen climbing to 45,000ft or making a U-turn.

Malaysian Chronicle

Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 did not dramatically climb to 45,000 and then dive below 23,000 feet after completing a U-turn before it disappeared. That is the conclusion of investigators looking into the disappearance, who say Malaysian radars hadn’t been calibrated precisely enough to draw any conclusions about altitude.

“The primary radar data pertaining to altitude is regarded as unreliable,” said Angus Houston, the retired head of the Australian military who is in charge of the search

By this stage it would be apparent to any reasonable rational person that MH370's claimed turn West was more of a bungled PR spin manufactured with false evidence than a reliable statement of fact. Nevertheless a large percentage not only of the public, but also highly technical, competent people cling to these claims and treat them as if they were gospel truth. 

As we have seen there were multiple versions of the alleged flight track west from IGARI and even multiple timelines for this claimed flight to the Straits of Malacca, however both officialdom and a group of enthusiastic amateurs known as the Independent Group ("IG") associated with Duncan Steel and Mike Exner now place utter faith in the last of a series of discredited claims. That is to say they place their complete faith in the Ketchum PR Agency image displayed to relatives at the Lido Hotel on 21 March 2014. This image you may recall insists that MH370 made a dog leg under Penang island before tracking across Pelau Perak at 18:02 UTC and then continuing to waypoint Mekar at 18:22 UTC.

This scenario, now commonly accepted as the quintessential proof backing pilot suicide theories, or terrorist hijacking is itself unsound and contrary to basic laws of physics.

How Altitude defines True Airspeed

For MH370 to reach Pelau Perak by 18:02 UTC required a flight flown west not below 20,000 feet. That is because an airliner flies slower as altitude reduces. Fuel consumption also increases with lower altitude. The suggestion MH370 was thrown around like a fighter plane at low altitude is manufactured by the fevered imagination of a novelist with no understanding of aviation.