Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, missing since 2014, was probably deliberately steered off course and flown to the southern Indian Ocean, according to the Malaysian government’s safety report into the disaster.
MH370 vanished on March 8, 2014, en route to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur with 239 people on board. Investigators have never been able to explain why the jet abandoned its route shortly into the flight, traversed Malaysia and then cruised south over the Indian Ocean.
It is difficult to attribute the change in course to any system failure, the report said.
“It is more likely that such maneuvers are due to the systems being manipulated,” the report said.
Experts mapped the Boeing 777’s course only after picking through hourly data hookups with a satellite. Extensive sonar searches of remote waters off Australia’s west coast failed to locate the wreckage.
Yesterday’s 449-page report offered little to solve modern aviation’s biggest mystery — and stopped short of apportioning specific blame. There is nothing to suggest the plane was evading radar, or evidence of behavioral changes in the crew, it said.
Significant parts of the aircraft’s power system, including the autopilot function, were probably working throughout the flight, the report said.
“We are unable to determine with any certainty the reasons that the aircraft diverted from its filed planned route,” Kok Soo Chon (郭師傳), chief inspector of the MH370 investigation team, told reporters in Putrajaya, outside Kuala Lumpur. “The possibility of intervention by a third party cannot be excluded.”
Without the help of cockpit data recorders, search teams could only guess what happened in the flight’s final moments.
Analysis by the Australian government suggested MH370 ran out of fuel before plummeting — at as much as 7,520m a minute — into the water. Other investigators speculated that a person was at the controls until the very end, gliding the plane into the ocean beyond the furthest limit of any search area.
The report did not support either theory explicitly, but struggled to come up with a mechanical explanation for the aircraft’s deviations.
“The change in flight path likely resulted from manual inputs,” it said.
A few pieces of wreckage from MH370 did wash up in Africa, but no bodies have ever been recovered. A fresh underwater search this year by US exploration company Ocean Infinity ended without success.
The jet’s disappearance produced a slew of safety recommendations aimed at preventing a repeat of the tragedy.
New aircraft must broadcast their locations every minute when they are in trouble, but only from January 2021. A gradual tightening of requirements starts in November, when airlines must track planes every 15 minutes under regulations adopted by the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organization.
The report documented shortcomings among Kuala Lumpur air traffic controllers: they were too slow to initiate emergency procedures and there was no evidence to suggest they were continuously monitoring radar displays, it said.
Family members of those on board the plane said after a briefing by the investigation team that they were frustrated because there were many gaps in the probe and questions left unanswered.
“There is nothing new, but it highlighted failings of some government agencies” that did not follow protocol and guidelines, said Grace Nathan, whose mother was on board the plane.
Additional reporting by AP
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