Data Point

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Data Point - a Definition

The recovery of data from Captain Zaharie Shah's Flight Simulator by the Royal Malaysia Police forensic investigation led to a variety of ways in which the data could be described. This article shows how different Investigators used different terminology, including the term 'Data Point' which was used by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, and has been used throughout this website.

A definition of the term 'Data Point' is developed in this Article.


Each team of Investigators seems to have developed their own terminology to describe or refer to the data recovered from Captain Shah's Flight Simulator. In essence, they all mean the same, but here are the different terms:-

The forensic investigators identified more than 2,700 coordinates. Most of those coordinates are simply the latitude and longitude of places, airports etc. within the Microsoft Flight Simulator application.
When the RMP Forensic Investigators referred to Coordinates 1 to 7 they were referring to a simulated aircraft (a Boeing 777-200LR) at a specific latitude and longitude (the coordinates), with other parameters such as fuel, altitude, pitch, bank and heading.
Route Point
The Investigators from CyberSecurity Malaysia must have realised that a coordinate only defines a location and that the relevant data was related to a Route eg. from KLIA to the southern Indian Ocean via the Andaman Sea, so they identified the data as relating to Route Point A, Route Point B etc.
Manually Programmed Waypoints
The Malaysian ICAO Annex 13 Safety Investigation Team for MH370 preferred to use an aviation term Waypoint instead of coordinate, but noted that the latitude and longitude for each of the seven Coordinates did not match any Waypoint in any published Airway Chart so defined them as 'manually programmed waypoints'. However, since a Waypoint is a location used for navigation, the use of the term 'manually programmed waypoints', in the context of the data recovered from Captain Shah's flight simulator, also includes the parameters of the simulated aircraft, as above.
Data Points
The ATSB, in their report The Operational Search for MH370, used the term 'data point' to mean the data about the simulated aircraft at the point defined by it's coordinates.
A definition was not provided by the ATSB but a suitable definition has been developed below.

Data Point - a Definition

The word 'point' is used to define a specific location - a point on a map or a coordinate. But the data retrieved from a flight simulator is much more than that.

Firstly, the simulated aircraft has a property such as the aircraft type, for example a Boeing 777-200LR.

This aircraft then has properties such as it's current location (Latitude and Longitude). If it is on the ground it may be stationary with the parking brake on (100%). Even stationary it will have an altitude, and a heading - perhaps aligned with a runway.

In flight the simulated aircraft has an altitude, heading and values for pitch and bank. The speed of the aircraft can be given as an airspeed value, or a mach number (relative to the speed of sound).

The list of properties or parameters and values used by Microsoft Flight Simulator is extensive, including fuel levels in each tank, performance of each engine, position of the various flight control surfaces, switch and avionics settings and more. A single listing for all the parameters and values associated with a single 'data point' can cover four to five pages.

Therefore, a definition of a 'data point' could be:-

A Data Point can be defined as all the parameters and values which describe the state of a simulated aircraft at a specific time or location.