Science and the search for missing flight MH370 - an ACEMS National Science Week 2018 Public Lecture


Saturday, 11 August, 2018, 2 pm - 4 pm


Queensland University of Technology, Gardens Point Campus, P Block Room P421, 2 George Street, Brisbane 4000

On 8 March 2014, Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 went missing on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 passengers and crew on board. Signals transmitted by the aircraft's satellite communications terminal to Inmarsat's 3F1 Indian Ocean Region satellite indicated that the aircraft continued to fly for several hours after loss of contact. The aircraft remains missing despite the largest, longest and most technically challenging search in history.

Two presentations relating to the science underpinning the search will be given:
  • Neil Gordon is the head of the Data and Information Fusion department at Australia's Defence Science Technology Group, which was consulted in the aftermath of the plane's disappearance. Neil will describe how mathematical and statistical modelling methods have been used to define the search zone in the southern Indian Ocean. (A short book is freely available for download from
  • Peter Foley is the General Manager Surface Safety Investigation at Australian Transport Safety Bureau, and Program Director for Australian Transport Safety Bureau Bureau’s search for MH-370. Peter will further discuss the science that determined the search zone, and the methods used to search the deep ocean floor in a remote area of the Indian Ocean.


Peter Foley

Peter Foley held the position of Program Director Operational Search for MH370 at the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) from May 2014 until December 2017 whereupon he was seconded to the MH370 Joint Agency Coordination Centre as Chief Technical Officer. As Program Director was responsible for all the ATSB’s operational search activities for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.  

Mr Foley joined the ATSB in 1999 after a career at sea as a marine engineer with Australian shipping companies, including ANL Ltd, the Commonwealth shipping line. After joining the ATSB, he held a number of roles prior to being appointed MH370 search Program Director including General Manager Surface Safety Investigations responsible for marine and rail safety investigations, the ATSB’s work on the reforms to the National Transport Regulatory framework, and the ATSB’s international programs. He has been responsible for performing and managing a large number of marine and rail investigations, many of them significant, and has represented the ATSB and Australia at many international meetings and conferences.

Mr Foley holds professional qualifications in marine engineering and transport safety investigation, degrees in both marine and mechanical engineering and a Graduate Diploma in Business Management.

Neil Gordon

Neil Gordon received a PhD in Statistics from Imperial College London in 1993. He was with the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency in the UK from 1988-2002 working on missile guidance and statistical data processing. In 2002 he moved to Defence Science and Technology (DST), Department of Defence, Australia, where he currently leads Intelligence Analytics. In 2014 he became an honorary Professor with the School of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering at the University of Queensland. He is the co-author/co-editor of two books on particle filtering and one on search zone calculations for missing Malaysian airlines flight MH370.



Vaughan Clarkson (Chair)

Vaughan Clarkson graduated in science and engineering from The University of Queensland in 1989 and 1990 and completed his Ph.D. at The Australian National University in 1997.  From 1988 to 1998, he was with the (then) Defence Science & Technology Organisation. He then was with The University of Melbourne until 2000, and with The University of Queensland from 2000 to 2016.  He now runs his own consultancy specialising in radar and telecommunications signal processing.  He holds honorary appointments with The University of Queensland and Griffith University.


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