Wednesday 21 February 2018

'No one at controls' as Malaysia Airlines jet crashed into ocean

HMAS Success scans the southern Indian Ocean, near the coast of Western Australia, as a Royal New Zealand Air Force P3 Orion flies over in the search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 (AP)
HMAS Success scans the southern Indian Ocean, near the coast of Western Australia, as a Royal New Zealand Air Force P3 Orion flies over in the search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 (AP)
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

A fresh analysis of the final moments of doomed Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 has suggested no one was controlling the plane when it plunged into the ocean.

A technical report was released by investigators on Wednesday, as experts hunting for the aircraft gathered in Australia's capital to discuss the fading search effort.

The report, released by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, which is leading the search, seems to support the theory investigators have long favoured - that no one was at the controls of the Boeing 777 when it ran out of fuel and dived at high speed into a remote patch of the Indian Ocean off western Australia in 2014.

In recent months, critics have increasingly been pushing the alternate theory that someone was still controlling the plane at the end of its flight. If that was the case, the aircraft could have glided much further, tripling in size the possible area where it could have crashed and further complicating the already hugely complex effort to find it.

But Wednesday's report shows that the latest analysis of satellite data is consistent with the plane being in a "high and increasing rate of descent" in its final moments.

The report also said that an analysis of a wing flap that washed ashore in Tanzania indicates the flap was probably not deployed when it broke off the plane. A pilot would typically extend the flaps during a controlled ditching.

A ground controller guides a Royal Australian Air Force AP-3C Orion on the tarmac upon its return from a search for Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 over the Indian Ocean, at RAAF Base Pearce north of Perth
A ground controller guides a Royal Australian Air Force AP-3C Orion on the tarmac upon its return from a search for Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 over the Indian Ocean, at RAAF Base Pearce north of Perth
A family member of a passenger from the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 is cared for after fainting at Lido Hotel in Beijing, China.
A crewman of an RAAF AP-3C Orion aircraft looks out from an observation window during a search for missing Malaysia Airways Flight MH370 on March 24, 2014 off the South West Coast of Perth, Australia.
Co-Pilot, Flying Officer Marc Smith looks out as he turns his RAAF AP-3C Orion aircraft at low level in bad weather while searching for missing Malaysia Airways Flight MH370 off the South West coast of Perth, Australia.
A family member of a passenger aboard Malaysia Airlines MH370 cries as she is surrounded by journalists after watching a television broadcast of a news conference, at the Lido hotel in Beijing. Photo: REUTERS/Jason Lee
A family member of a passenger aboard Malaysia Airlines MH370 shouts at journalists after watching a television broadcast of a news conference, at the Lido hotel in Beijing
A family member of a passenger aboard Malaysia Airlines MH370 falls down an escalator as he cries after watching a television broadcast of a news conference, at Lido hotel in Beijing
Relatives of Chinese passengers aboard the Malaysia Airlines jet, MH370, grieve after being told of the latest news in Beijing, China
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak speaks during a press conference for the missing Malaysia Airlines, flight MH370, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
A family member of a passenger aboard Malaysia Airlines MH370 shouts at journalists after watching a television broadcast of a news conference, at the Lido hotel in Beijing

Peter Foley, the bureau's director of Flight 370 search operations, has said previously that if the flap was not deployed, it would almost certainly rule out the theory that the plane entered the water in a controlled ditch and would effectively validate that searchers were looking in the right place for the wreckage.

"(It) means the aircraft wasn't configured for a landing or a ditching - you can draw your own conclusions as to whether that means someone was in control," Mr Foley said in Canberra.

"You can never be 100%. We are very reluctant to express absolute certainty."

The report's release comes as a team of international and Australian experts begin a three-day summit in Canberra to re-examine all the data associated with the hunt for the plane, which vanished during a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8 2014, with 239 people on board.

Able Seaman Boatswains Mate Stephanie Went keeps watch for any sign of debris aboard the Australian Navy ship HMAS Toowoomba as it continues the search in the southern Indian Ocean for the missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370
Able Seaman Boatswains Mate Stephanie Went keeps watch for any sign of debris aboard the Australian Navy ship HMAS Toowoomba as it continues the search in the southern Indian Ocean for the missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370
Crewmen on a Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3 Orion Rescue Flight 795 search for debris from the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 in southern Indian Ocean, 1,500 kilometers (932 miles) northwest of Perth, Australia
A crew member aboard a Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) AP-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft prepares to launch a smoke canister to mark the position of an object spotted in the southern Indian Ocean during the search for the missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370
A crewman on a Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3 Orion Rescue Flight 795 searches for debris from the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, in southern Indian Ocean
The Bluefin 21, the Artemis autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV), is hoisted back on board the Australian Defence Vessel Ocean Shield after a successful buoyancy test in the southern Indian Ocean as part of the continuing search for the missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370
The Bluefin 21, the Artemis autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV), is hoisted back on board the Australian Defence Vessel Ocean Shield after a successful buoyancy test in the southern Indian Ocean as part of the continuing search for the missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370
A worker lowers from the Australian Defence Vessel Ocean Shield the U.S. Navy Supervisor of Salvage and Diving (SUPSALV) towed pinger locator into the ocean during operational testing in the southern Indian Ocean as part of the continuing search for the missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370
Australian Navy ship HMAS Toowoomba crashes through a wave as it continues the search in the southern Indian Ocean for the missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, in this picture released by the Australian Defence Force April 4, 2014. Malaysia's prime minister visited the Australian search base for missing Flight MH370 on Thursday as a nuclear-powered submarine joined the near-four week hunt that has so far failed to find any sign of the missing airliner and the 239 people on board. REUTERS/Australian Defence Force/Handout (MID-SEA - Tags: MILITARY TRANSPORT DISASTER) MARITIME) ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. NO SALES. NO ARCHIVES. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS
Australian Navy ships the HMAS Success (top) and the HMAS Toowoomba rendezvous to conduct a Replenishment at Sea evolution as they continue the search in the southern Indian Ocean for the missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370
Australian Navy ships the HMAS Success (L) and the HMAS Toowoomba rendezvous to conduct a Replenishment at Sea evolution as they continue the search in the southern Indian Ocean for the missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370
Tiger75, an S-70B-2 Seahawk, launches from the Australian Navy ship HMAS Toowoomba as it continues the search in the southern Indian Ocean for the missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370
Leading Seaman Aircrewman Joel Young looks out from Tiger75, an S-70B-2 Seahawk helicopter, after it launched from the Australian Navy ship the HMAS Toowoomba as it continues the search in the southern Indian Ocean for the missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370
The Bluefin 21, the Artemis autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV), is hoisted back on board the Australian Defence Vessel Ocean Shield after a successful buoyancy test in the southern Indian Ocean as part of the continuing search for the missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370
The Australian navy ship Ocean Shield lies docked at naval base HMAS Stirling while being fitted with a towed pinger locator to aid in her roll in the search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 in Perth, Australia.
A Towed Pinger Locator (TPL), used to detect black box recorders, sits on the wharf at naval base HMAS Stirling in Perth, Australia, ready to be fitted to the Australian warship Ocean Shield to aid in the search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370
Chinese relatives of passengers onboard the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 leave after a meeting at the Holiday Villa in Subang Jaya
Chinese relatives of passengers onboard the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 leave after a news conference at The Holiday Villa in Subang Jaya
A ground crewman guides a RAAF AP-3C Orion along the tarmac as it returns from the search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 in Perth, Australia. Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Sunday he was hopeful clues will emerge soon to help find Flight 370 even though searchers again failed to find jet debris, as relatives of Chinese passengers on the plane protested in Malaysia to demand the government apologize over its handling of the search. AP
Australian prime minister Tony Abbott greets leaders of international forces being used to locate Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 in the Indian Ocean (AP)
Australian Defense ship Ocean Shield is docked at naval base HMAS Stirling while being fitted with an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) and towed pinger locator to aid in the search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370
Malaysian PM Najib Razak, centre, and Australia's PM Tony Abbott greet RAAF crew involved in the search for MH370 in Perth, Australia (AP)
A Korean Air Force P3 Orion returns from the search operation for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 (AP)

More than 20 items of debris suspected or confirmed to be from the plane have washed ashore on coastlines throughout the Indian Ocean. But a deep-sea sonar search for the main underwater wreckage has found nothing.

Crews are expected to complete their sweep of the 46,000-square mile search zone by early next year and officials have said there are no plans to extend the hunt unless new evidence emerges that would pinpoint a specific location of the aircraft.

Australian transport minister Darren Chester said experts involved in this week's summit would be working on guidance for any potential future search operations.

Experts have been pre-emptively trying to define a new search area by studying from where in the Indian Ocean the first piece of wreckage recovered from the plane - the wing flap known as a flaperon - most likely drifted after the plane crashed.

Several replica flaperons were set adrift to see whether it is the wind or the currents that primarily affect how they move across the water. The results of that experiment have been factored into a fresh drift analysis of the debris.

The preliminary results of that analysis, published in Wednesday's report, suggest the debris may have originated in the current search area, or to its north. The transport bureau warned, however, that the analysis was continuing and those results were likely to be refined.

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