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Flight MH370 satellite data report: Can independent analysis find missing plane?

Back in mid-March, families connected to and other interested parties in the missing Malaysia Airlines flight petitioned the Malaysian government and Malaysia Airlines to release to the public the Inmarsat satellite tracking data and other pertinent information regarding missing Boeing 777. On May 27, the data used in the hunt to find the missing plane was finally released. While the question remains as to why it took so long for the information to be made public, the more important question on the minds of many focuses on Flight 370 and its missing passengers and crew. Succinctly: Can an independent analysis of the satellite data help determine the whereabouts of the missing plane?

Short answer: Yes. Possibly.

The Associated Press reported (via Yahoo News) May 27 that the government of Malaysia released a 45-page report Tuesday covering the data used in tracking and ascertaining the trail and possible final location of Flight 370. However, analysts were quick to note that there were portions of data missing. Those working on finding the missing plane say that there is enough data for independent analysts to work with. Whether or not this is so is as yet unknown.

But the information made available could potentially provide experts and analysts outside the Malaysian government and the international teams working on various searches with what is needed to provide a more accurate model of the missing Boeing 777's flight path and, ultimately, lead to its eventual recovery.

Because it is now known that the pings that were the center of the undersea investigation for the past seven weeks did not originate from the missing Malaysia Airlines plane's black boxes.

"This is all the data we have for what has happened for those six or so hours," Mark Dickinson, Inmarsat's vice president of satellite operations, told CNN last week. "It's important we all get it right and particularly that everyone looking at the data makes the best judgments on it and how it's used. And particularly for the families and friends of the relatives on board, try and make sure that we can help bring this sad incident to a close."

The search for the aircraft is entirely dependant on the satellite data. Of this Dickinson is aware.

Correspondent Richard Quest commented, "It is up to the detractors and doubters to come up and say why they believe it's wrong. Not the other way around."

But those doubts and detractions came as more and more information emerged concerning the Malaysia government's less than exemplary investigation into the whereabouts of the missing plane. Families and friends of the 239 people aboard Flight 370 became increasingly inmpatient and frustrated with the lack of progress in the case and requested that the satellite data be made available to the public for independent analysis.

Concerns were not mollified after CNN made public the Malaysia government's denial of having any of the Inmarsat satellite data -- even though the British satellite company told CNN that they had given all the data to the government. Inmarsat noted that once the data was released to the Malaysia government, it was up to that body to decide on what was to be released to the public.

Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 left Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Saturday, March 8 on its way to Beijing, China. Partway across the South China Sea, it suddenly disappeared from land-based radar and would subesequently alter its flight path. In a series of maneuvers that still has experts and analysts speculating, the Boeing 777 was followed by satellite tracking. Ultimately, according to the satellite data, the missing plane ended up in the southern Indian Ocean west of Australia.

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