jet most likely on autopilot when it crashed, Australia says
Send a link to a friend
[June 26, 2014]
By Lincoln Feast
SYDNEY (Reuters) - Malaysia Airlines
<MASM.KL> Flight MH370 was most likely on autopilot when it crashed into
the Indian Ocean further south than previously thought, Australian
officials said on Thursday, as they charted the next phase of a so far
The new analysis comes more than 100 days after the Boeing <BA.N>
777, carrying 239 passengers and crew, disappeared on March 8
shortly after taking off from Kuala Lumpur bound for Beijing.
Investigators say what little evidence they have to work with
suggests the plane was deliberately diverted thousands of kilometres
from its scheduled route before eventually plunging into the Indian
The search was narrowed in April after a series of acoustic pings
thought to be from the plane's black box recorders were heard along
a final arc where analysis of satellite data put its last location.
But a month later, officials conceded the wreckage was not in that
concentrated area, some 1,600 km (1,000 miles) off the northwest
coast of Australia, and the search area would have to be expanded.
"The new priority area is still focused on the seventh arc, where
the aircraft last communicated with satellite. We are now shifting
our attention to an area further south along the arc," Australian
Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss told reporters in Canberra.
Truss said the area was determined after a review of satellite data,
early radar information and aircraft performance limits after the
plane diverted across the Malaysian peninsula and headed south into
one of the remotest areas of the planet.
"It is highly, highly likely that the aircraft was on autopilot
otherwise it could not have followed the orderly path that has been
identified through the satellite sightings," Truss said.
The next phase of the search is expected to start in August and take
a year, covering some 60,000 sq km at a cost of A$60 million ($56
million) or more. The search is already the most expensive in
[to top of second column]
The new priority search area is around 2,000 km west of Perth, a
stretch of isolated ocean frequently lashed by storm force winds and
In a 55-page report, the Australian Transport Safety Board outlined
a how investigators had narrowed down the possible final resting
place from thousands of possible routes, while noting the absence of
communications and the steady flight path.
"Given these observations, the final stages of the unresponsive
crew/hypoxia event type appeared to best fit the available evidence
for the final period of MH370ís flight when it was heading in a
generally southerly direction," the ATSB report said.
Two vessels, one Chinese and one from Dutch engineering company
Fugro <FUGRc.AS>, are currently mapping the sea floor along the arc,
where depths exceed 5,000 metres in parts.
A tender to find a commercial operator to conduct the sea floor
search closes on Monday.
(Additional reporting by Matt Siegel; Editing by Nick Macfie and
[© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2014 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.