Flight MH370 ‘made rapid descent’: new report
As a team of international aviation and communications experts gather in Canberra to discuss the next stage of the search for the missing MH370 plane, a report says that Flight MH370 most likely made a rapid and uncontrolled descent into the Indian Ocean.
The missing Malaysian Airlines plane, flight MH370, had 239 people onboard and was en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on 8 March 2014 when air traffic control staff lost contact with it.
Despite an extensive search of the southern Indian Ocean, no trace of the aircraft was found. So far only seven of the 20 pieces of recovered debris have been identified as definitely or highly likely to be from the missing plane.
A barnacle-encrusted flaperon on Reunion Island, was discovered more than 3,700km (2,300 miles) away from the main search site, on July 2015.
French investigators confirmed the aircraft wing part came from the missing Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777. One of three numbers found on the flaperon was formally identified by a technician from Airbus Defense and Space (ADS-SAU) in Spain, which made the part for Boeing.
Despite an extensive search no trace of the plane’s fuselage has been found. But the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) said analysis of two recovered wing flaps showed they were not in the landing position when the plane went down in the Indian Ocean.
The new report says a wing flap which carried MH370′s unique numbers was “most likely in the retracted position at the time it separated from the wing”, meaning it had not been readied for landing.
Satellite data also indicated a “high and increasing rate of descent”, said the report.
“You can draw your own conclusions as to whether that means someone was in control or not,” the ATSB’s search director Peter Foley told reporters.
But Mr Foley stressed that the bureau was “very reluctant to express absolute certainty”.
“You can never be 100%,” he said.
The report also used mathematical models and replica parts to work out how the confirmed debris might have moved through the water, and so where the plane most likely came down.
It said all the analysis indicated the debris came from “within the current search area or further north”, indicating the bureau could be considering to extend the search zone.
Australia’s Transport Minister Darren Chester said the Canberra meeting would “inform the remainder of the search effort, and develop guidance for any future search operations”.
The Australian-led search has been combing a 120,000 sq km area of seabed about 2,000km off the coast of Perth, using underwater drones and sonar equipment deployed from specialist ships.
Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss said officials were “optimistic” the remains of the plane would be found.
The scope of the search has changed many times since the plane disappeared, because of confusion over its last movements, but it is expected to be concluded by the middle of 2016.