New MH370 Report: The debris suggests the plane crashed after running out of fuel

Photo: Greg Wood/Getty Images.

A new report by Australian Transport Safety Bureau investigators examining the debris from the missing MH370’s flight believes the plane did not have a controlled landing when it crashed somewhere off the Western Australian coast more than two years ago. The most likely scenario is that it went into an uncontrolled dive and crashed into the ocean after running out of fuel.

MH370 disappeared with 239 passengers and crew on board leaving Kuala Lumpur bound for Beijing on 8 March, 2014.

The two-year search of the Indian Ocean for the missing plane as part of a joint venture between Australia, Malaysia and China has so far failed to find any trace of the missing aircraft. Just 10,000 square km of the 120,000 square km suspected crash zone, 2600km off the Western Australian coast, remains to be examined, with the search expected to end in early 2017.

However, more than 20 pieces of debris have been found on the coasts of Africa, Madagascar, Mauritius, Reunion and Rodrigues. Analysis of them has led investigators to conclude the plane’s flaps were retracted position, which led them to the view it was not a controlled landing.

The flap from the Boeing 777 was found washed up on the island of Pemba, off Tanzania, in June, and was confirmed as belonging to MH370 two months ago. It is the biggest and best clue so far to the fate of the flight. The adjacent flaperon was found on Reunion Island in 2015.

The sections of debris found from MH370. Source: ATSB

The investigation team’s latest update, released today, covers further analysis of satellite data, end-of-flight simulations, examinations of the wing flap, and preliminary results from the CSIRO’s debris drift modelling, to deliver three key conclusions:

* The aircraft was “in a high and increasing rate of descent” – ie it plummeted from the sky.

* It’s unlikely the wing flap had been deployed – as a pilot would in a controlled descent.

* The search area is correct: the CSIRO’s drift analysis indicates it’s unlikely that debris originated from south of the current search area. The northernmost simulated regions were also found to be less likely.

The latest update on the underwater search for MH370. Source: ATSB

Their conclusions address some of the speculation around the final moments of the fatal flight, including the hypothesis that the captain, Zaharie Ahmad Shah, made a controlled ditch, which would place the plane further south of the search area.

Analysis of the final signals from the plane led to the conclusion it fell from the sky when the fuel ran out. The “handshake” signals between the plane and satellites position it flying in an arc over the Indian Ocean.

The MH370 – Search and debris examination update report is available on the ATSB website:

Flight path modelling. Source: ATSB

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