News

Malaysia jet likely on autopilot when it crashed

Malaysia jet likely on autopilot when it crashed

MH370: Crew aboard the Australian Defence Vessel Ocean Shield move the U.S. Navy's Bluefin-21 autonomous underwater vehicle into position for deployment in the southern Indian Ocean to look for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight. Photo: Reuters

By Lincoln Feast

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Malaysia Airlines 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 fruitless search.

The new analysis comes more than 100 days after the Boeing 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 Ocean.

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 aviation history.

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 massive swells.

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 MH370’s 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 , 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 Nick Macfie)

Recent Headlines

in Local

Springfield CVB Nabs National “G.I. Joe” Convention

G

It's not unusual for Springfield to host conventions for collectors of certain types of memorabilia, but this is a first.

in Local

Sangamon Co. Authorities Investigate Jury Duty Scam

sangamon county sheriff

The Sangamon County Sheriff's Office is warning of a jury duty scam that's so far affected several people.

in Local

Poe Returns to House Chamber to Thunderous Applause

state_capitol_1

Poe is back in the saddle after being sidelined for months due to a blood disorder.

in Local

Meteorological Winter Ends; Illinois Was About Average

snow1

Winter is over -- at least for the people who study the weather.

in Local

Memorial Medical Center Opens New Surgical Center

memorial-health-podcasts@2x

Springfield's Memorial Medical Center has a new surgical center.