Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 descended rapidly when it disappeared: ATSB investigation

By @chelean on
MH370
FILE PHOTO - The shadow of a Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) P3 Orion maritime search aircraft can be seen on low-level clouds as it flies over the southern Indian Ocean looking for missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 March 31, 2014. Reuters/Rob Griffith/Pool/File Photo

Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 could probably be unmanned when it descended rapidly in 2014, according to investigators. On Wednesday, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) released its latest finding based on the outboard flap from the aircraft’s right wing found near Tanzania.

The 28-page report contains further analysis of satellite data and additional end of flight and drift simulations, which suggest that the aircraft was in a “high and increasing rate of descent” before it disappeared. It also analysed the wing flap debris that was found on Pemba Island, off the coast of Tanzania, in June 2016, which was likely in the “retracted position,” meaning it was not configured for landing.

Peter Foley, ATSB search director, said that the wing flap helped “enhanced certainty” at what had happened.

“It was probably in a non-extended position, which means the aircraft wasn’t configured for a landing or a ditching,” he told the media, explaining that wing flaps are extended when the aircraft is preparing for a landing to allow safe and slow descent.

“You can draw your own conclusions as to whether that means someone was in control or not.”

University of New South Wales head of aviation Jason Middleton told Reuters that the wing flap analysis did not reveal a lot. It just meant that the pilot was not alert, awake or planning a safe landing, “that’s all it means,” he said.

The new drift simulations also only showed the aircraft was in “that generic part of the ocean” that is being searched. This did not help in defining a new search area in the Indian Ocean.

MH370, en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8, 2014, was less than an hour from takeoff when it stopped making contact with air traffic control. All 227 passengers and eight crew members onboard were presumed dead in 2015.

Meanwhile, Malaysia Airlines has agreed to hand over most of the documents of the investigation to the families of the victims suing for compensation. At the Federal Court Directions Hearing in Sydney on Tuesday, the airline agreed to release the information by the end of the month.

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