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Could disrupted radio signals locate MH370? Theory is examined in new documentary

Radio signals could redirect the search for MH370 in the Indian Ocean  (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
Radio signals could redirect the search for MH370 in the Indian Ocean (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

A BBC documentary investigating the disappearance of flight MH370 has reexamined the theory that Weak Signal Propagation Reporter (WSPR) radio signals could help to locate the missing aircraft in the Indian Ocean.

On 8 March 2014, the flight with 239 passengers and crew onboard fell off air traffic control’s radar 40 minutes into its six-hour journey from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

Since then many theories including technical malfunctions and a hijacking have been speculated, with the answers to the flight’s disappearance believed to be in the aircraft’s unrecovered black box.

Ten years on from the unsolved aviation mystery, ‘Why Planes Vanish: The Hunt for MH370’  looks at new evidence in the search for answers surrounding the Malaysia Airlines flight.

In the documentary, Richard Godfrey, a founding member of the MH370 Independent Group, said: “Aircrafts do not vanish. They always leave a trail of breacrumbs.

“There’s no radar coverage of the Indian Ocean but there are radio signals.”

WSPR radio signals are designed to test the strength of radio frequencies with global transmitters sending thousands of low-power radio pulses around the world, and across oceans, every two minutes.

The theory is that when an aircraft crosses any radio signal it will visibly disturb it.

After examining the signals crossing the Indian Ocean from 8 March 2014, Godfrey claims to have found 130 disturbances on the night MH370 disappeared, possibly evidence of the Malaysian Airline’s plane’s final flight path.

Godfrey says he has a “good idea” of where the crash site is within a “radius of 30km” because of the WSPR database.

The initial search and rescue zone – a 120,000 square mile section of the Indian Ocean – was based on fuel and flight path estimates focusing underwater in and around the ocean’s “seventh arc”.

Scientists at the University of Liverpool are now investigating if WSPR works using a computer system that tracks the impact of aircrafts on the profile of low-power radio signals over 24-hour periods.

Based on the WSPR database, Godfrey believes that the aircraft was manually piloted to glide beyond the seventh arc before it crashed, making several turns and changes to altitude and speed that “implies there was an active pilot until the end of the flight”.

Families of the two qualified pilots in the cockpit, Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah and Fariq Abdul Hamid maintain that there is no proof that either pilot was involved in the plane’s disappearance.

Ocean Infinity and the Malaysian Government announced on 3 March that the underwater search for the Boeing 777 may resume on a “no find, no fee” basis after the original £120m effort was suspended in 2018.