CNN source: Yes, the Malaysian jet sent engine data hours after it disappeared; AP source: No, it didn't

I know most readers are hard at work and not following the news minute to minute so I thought I’d do you a solid by bringing you up to speed on the missing jet. To sum up: Everything is completely farked.


Here’s what Vaughn Sterling, Wolf Blitzer’s producer, tweeted four hours ago:

Bombshell. The splashy WSJ story this morning about the jet flying on for hours after it went missing was wrong.

Now here’s CNN again, as of about two hours ago:

New information, U.S. officials told CNN, indicates the missing airplane could have flown for several hours beyond the last transponder reading.

Malaysian authorities believe they have several “pings” of engine data from the airliner’s service data system, known as ACARS, transmitted to satellites in the four to five hours after the last transponder signal, suggesting the plane is believed to have flown into the Indian Ocean, a senior U.S. official told CNN. That information combined with known radar data and knowledge of fuel range leads officials to believe the plane may have made it to the Indian Ocean.


Wait a sec. It was Malaysian authorities who dismissed the Journal’s story earlier today. Maybe they’ve changed their minds. The jet did fly on! They do have engine data, just like the Journal said!

No, wait. The Journal’s not saying that anymore. There is data, just not engine data:

Corrections & Amplifications
U.S. investigators suspect Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 flew for hours past the time it reached its last confirmed location, based on an analysis of signals sent through the plane’s satellite-communication link designed to automatically transmit the status of onboard systems, according to people familiar with the matter. An earlier version of this article incorrectly said investigators based their suspicions on signals from monitoring systems embedded in the plane’s Rolls-Royce PLC engines and described that process.

So, er, the plane was transmitting data from some of its systems afterward, but not the engine systems specifically as the Journal claimed earlier. Well, okay.

Wait, scratch that. Nope, it wasn’t transmitting anything once it dropped off radar. So says a different source to the AP:

A U.S. official says there were no data transmitted on the status of a missing Malaysia Airlines jet’s engines after contact was lost with the plane…

The official said there was information about the Boeing 777-200’s engines sent via a digital datalink along with other information on the functioning of the plane before contact was lost.


Wait — so it wasn’t transmitting engine data after it dropped out of contact or it wasn’t transmitting any data? We don’t care which data it was precisely. All we’re looking for is a heartbeat here, regardless of which onboard system it’s coming from, to show that the jet was functioning in some way after it went off the communications grid.

Actually, I think ABC’s gotten to the bottom of this. CNN’s second report quoted above is basically right. There’s something onboard (not an engine system but something else) that checks in with satellites hourly. Sounds like they detected four or five satellite “pings” from the plane after it dropped off radar, ergo they assume it flew on for four or five hours afterward.

No, wait. Scratch that too:

It’s not clear what the indication was, but senior administration officials told ABC News the missing Malaysian flight continued to “ping” a satellite on an hourly basis after it lost contact with radar. The Boeing 777 jetliners are equipped with what is called the Airplane Health Management system in which they ping a satellite every hour. The number of pings would indicate how long the plane stayed aloft…

The official initially said there were indications that the plane flew four or five hours after disappearing from radar and that they believe it went into the water. Officials later said the plane likely did not fly four or five hours, but did not specify how long it may have been airborne.


I wonder why they’ve now reconsidered that. Maybe they think … the plane landed in the Indian Ocean intact and kept transmitting for an extra hour or two before it sank? Could it have stayed afloat that long?

Exit question: How long before the “History” Channel turns this into a special about alien abduction?

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