MH370 final report: Aussies still don’t know where it crashed or why

ATSB wraps up, nine months after 'suspending' search

Boeing 777--2H6/ER 9M-MRI, an aircraft very similar to the one that operated Flight MH370. Pic: Ryan Fletcher/Shutterstock
Boeing 777--2H6/ER 9M-MRI, an aircraft very similar to the one that operated Flight MH370. Pic: Ryan Fletcher/Shutterstock

Australian air authorities have published their final report into the MH370 mystery, concluding that they’re no wiser about what happened or why than when the Malaysian Airlines flight vanished three years ago.

Australia’s Transportation Safety Board (ATSB) took a leading role in the investigation at the invitation of Malaysian authorities after the airliner disappeared. It is thought to have crashed into the sea a few thousand miles off Australia’s north-west coast.

The ATSB published its 440-page final report into the MH370 disappearance today.

In spite of more than a dozen nations sending ships, aircraft and submarines to scour the Indian Ocean, the Boeing 777 has never been found. Analysis of some debris that was located and identified as being from MH370 narrowed the search zone considerably, in relative terms.

“This analysis complements the findings of the First Principles Review and identifies an area of less than 25,000km2 which has the highest likelihood of containing MH370,” said the ATSB report. Australia suspended its search in January 2017.

While the captain of MH370, 53-year-old Zaharie Ahmad Shah, did some odd things on his home flight simulator in the month before MH370 vanished – including flying a simulated Boeing 777 from Kuala Lumpur on a southerly course into the empty skies over the southern Indian Ocean – the ATSB said “the simulated aircraft track was not consistent with the aircraft tracks modelled using the MH370 satellite communications metadata.”

Aircraft parts were later washed up on various East African nations’ coastlines. These parts, including items from wings and tailplanes, were later positively identified as coming from MH370.

During the search a Chinese vessel, Haixun 01, reported receiving underwater pulses on a frequency of 37.5MHz. British warship HMS Echo, an underwater survey ship, was unable to pick these up despite racing to the scene to corroborate them. Echo’s own hydrophones had picked up similar pulses a couple of days earlier in a different location but had discounted them as an anomaly of the ship’s own sonar gear.

Various analyses have suggested that searchers were looking in the wrong place for MH370’s fuselage, which would contain the all-important flight data recorder. Original theories were based on the notion that MH370’s crew ditched the aircraft in a controlled fashion, rather than the aircraft simply running out of fuel and crashing.

“The reasons for the loss of MH370 cannot be established with certainty until the aircraft is found. It is almost inconceivable and certainly societally unacceptable in the modern aviation era with 10 million passengers boarding commercial aircraft every day, for a large commercial aircraft to be missing and for the world not to know with certainty what became of the aircraft and those on board,” said the ATSB in a statement. ®

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