Missing Malaysia Flight Data Released — but Expert Says It’s Just ‘Noise’

The raw technical data gathered via satellite pings from Malaysia Airlines flight 370 was released to the public Tuesday, nearly three months after the flight disappeared over the Pacific, and after weeks of petitions from the passengers’ relatives.

But some experts say the data may raise more questions than answers.

A visitor looks out from the viewing gallery as Malaysia Airlines aircraft sit on the tarmac at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) in Sepang, Malaysia, Tuesday, May 27, 2014. The Malaysian government on Tuesday released 45 pages of raw satellite data it used to determine the flight path of the missing jetliner, information long sought after by some of the relatives of the 239 people on board the plane. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)

“It’s a whole lot of stuff that is not very important to know,” Michael Exner, a satellite engineer who has been intensively researching the calculations based on information released, told USA Today. “There are probably two or three pages of important stuff, the rest is just noise. It doesn’t add any value to our understanding.”

The 47 pages of satellite data was prepared by Inmarsat and features hourly “handshakes” — digital log-on confirmations from the satellite network with the aircraft — after the plane disappeared from civilian radar screens March 8. But according to the Daily Mail, the report has bewildered the surviving family members and they continue to complain that the report is missing data.

The tracking data is used regularly by airlines to accomplish maintenance checks on the aircraft and to report the general status of the aircraft. But the codes can be complex to understand, even for industry experts. But Exner said his initial impression was that the communication logs didn’t include key assumptions, algorithms and metadata needed to validate the investigation team’s conclusion that the plane flew south after dropping off radar screens 90 minutes into the flight.

The families have argued even if the data has not revealed conclusive evidence of the plane’s whereabouts, they should have had access to it earlier to have independent experts verify the government findings. The Daily Mail reported:

‘When we first asked for the data it was more than two months ago. I never dreamed it would be such an obstacle to overcome,’ Sarah Bajc, the American partner of a passenger, said from Beijing.

Bajc said experts on flight tracking who have been advising the families would now be able to analyse the data to see if the search area could be refined and determine if Inmarsat and other officials had missed anything.

But she complained the report released on Tuesday was missing data removed to improve readability, as well as comparable records from previous flights on MH370’s route that the families had requested.

‘Why couldn’t they have submitted that?’ she said. ‘It only makes sense if they are hiding something.’

Based on the same data, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau also issued a report explaining that the plane most likely descended to its fate after running out of fuel, based on calculations for possible descent times after fuel burn off along various flight paths.

At the request of the Australian Government, the U.S. Navy continued supporting the MH370 sub-surface search effort with the Bluefin-21 side scan sonar for the last last month, but the undersea radar will end it’s mission to hunt for the wreckage Wednesday. At that point, the search will be opened up to private contractors.

(H/T: The Daily Mail)

Follow Elizabeth Kreft (@elizabethakreft) on Twitter