In a 55-page report, the Australian Transport Safety Board
outlined how investigators had arrived at this conclusion after
comparing the conditions on the flight with previous disasters,
although it contained no new evidence from within the jetliner.
The report narrowed down the possible final resting place from
thousands of possible routes, while noting the absence of
communications and the steady flight path and a number of other key
abnormalities in the course of the ill-fated flight.
"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 MH370's flight when it was heading in a
generally southerly direction," the ATSB report said.
All of that suggested that the plane most likely crashed farther
south into the Indian Ocean than previously thought, Australian
officials also said, leading them to announce a shift farther south
within the prior search area.
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 kilometers
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.
[to top of second column]
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
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
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 meters 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
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