Looking at multiple "handshakes" between the Inmarsat satellite and the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 could help plot the aircraft's trajectory before it disappeared, The Washington Post reported today.
But, curiously, authorities are not looking closely at this data, the report said.
Authorities have determined the missing plane's last known location by measuring how long it took for the handshake signal, or signal from the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS), to return, and the angle at which it hit the satellite.
"But we also know that there were multiple handshakes made between the satellite and the plane," the report said, adding that a string of those extra handshakes could help plot the aircraft's trajectory.
The daily said it was sure that this idea already occurred to authorities as Inmarsat revealed that it had shared the information with Malaysia Airlines.
"But it's not clear why officials haven't said more about this line of reasoning," The Washington Post said.
"Why aren't we looking more closely at the other data? Why is the last one so important?"
Quoting an anonymous industry expert, it said that the final handshake gave investigators the most up-to-date information they needed to calculate how much fuel the aircraft had left, how to expand the search area and others.
However, authorities have no idea if the plane turned north or south. "The confusion is reinforced somewhat by all the speculation about how MH370 could have avoided radar installations in Afghanistan, China, India and Pakistan."
The report said that the other handshakes could offer an important clue – it could show if the aircraft was travelling perpendicular to the last known possible position or if the plane was closing in on the satellite's position.
If the other hourly pings produced a pattern that displayed the plane's angle changing in relation to the satellite but its distance from it never changed, it was possible to conclude that the aircraft was travelling along the green line rather than perpendicular to it, said The Washington Post.
"If, on the other hand, the pings produced a pattern with all the same angle in relation to the satellite but otherwise showed diminishing distances from it, we might conclude that the plane was closing in on the satellite's position."
However, it added that there was still a flaw in looking at the plane's trajectory before it made its final handshake – what happened afterwards is still a mystery.
"It could've turned north, or it could've turned south. Or it could've continued on."
It was reported that Australian officials are currently searching a patch of ocean southwest of Perth based on calculations obtained from satellite pings.
"If true, it suggests that investigators did in fact find the other handshakes useful," The Washington Post report said. – March 20, 2014.