Flight MH370 'took route to avoid being detected'
Published 02/05/2014 | 02:30
The missing Flight MH370 avoided flying over land after an unexplained westward turn and flew along a route apparently designed to prevent it being detected by military radars, according to a report released by Malaysian authorities yesterday.
In its first published findings on the aviation mystery, the Malaysian government provided a detailed map showing the flight's unusual path after it disappeared from the screens of air traffic controllers on March 8.
The map indicated that the plane did not – as previously believed – follow a series of predetermined navigational waypoints but instead flew directly above the Strait of Malacca. It then turned again, and travelled south above the seas for about seven hours before coming down in the Indian Ocean.
This route would have ensured that the plane did not fly over Indonesian territory – thereby reducing the risk of detection – though it may have passed over the northern tip of Sumatra.
"It does look like the plane was trying to avoid Indonesian air space," said aviation expert David Learmount. "It was an aircraft that has gone rogue. It didn't need to follow waypoints."
The report offered no explanation of why the Boeing 777, with 239 passengers and crew, flew off-course during a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.
But it admitted air traffic controllers did not realise that Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 was missing until 17 minutes after it disappeared from civilian radar.
The report also confirmed there was a four-hour gap between the plane's disappearance from air traffic control screens and the activation of a rescue operation.
The plane's unexpected westward turn was observed by the Malaysian military, which took no action because it believed the aircraft was a "friendly".
The report detailed the baffled attempts by authorities in Malaysia, Vietnam and Cambodia to locate the plane, which had its communications system disabled about 40 minutes after take-off.
It recommended that the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) consider measures to ensure commercial planes are tracked in the air, citing the disappearance of an Air France flight in 2009 which crashed in the Atlantic Ocean and was only found in 2011.
It did not provide any further detail about the plane's final location, though it offered a range of areas where it could have landed in the southern Indian Ocean. The report included new information about the flight but none of the details shed further light on the reason for the plane's disappearance.