While charting the next phase of the search for missing Flight MH370, Australian officials on Thursday June 26 stated that the flight more than likely crashed into the Indian Ocean on autopilot. The new analysis comes more than 100 days after the Boeing 777 disappeared along with 239 passengers and crew on March 8 after taking off from Kuala Lumpur bound for Bewijing, according to Reuters’ Lincoln Feast (MH370 update: ‘Highly likely’ plane was on autopilot when it flew into ocean, officials said). Investigators have had little evidence to work with, however the evidence does suggest that the plane was deliberately diverted thousands of kilometers from the scheduled route before it plunged into the Indian Ocean. The search for the missing plane was narrowed in April after acoustic pings possibly from the plane’s black box recorder were heard along the final arc where analysis of satellite data put its location last. Unfortunately, a moth later, officials determined the wreckage was not in the area located 1,600 km off the northwest coast of Australia and the search area need to be widened.
According to Feast, Australian Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss told reporters in Canberra,”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… 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 explains the area was determined after 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. The next phase of the search will begin in August and take one year to complete, covering 60,000 sq km and cost roughly A$60 million or $56 million. The area of priority is around 2,000 km west of Perth, a stretch of isolated ocean with storm force winds and massive swells. In a 55 page report, the Australian Transport Safety Board outlined how investigators narrowed the final resting place from thousands of possible routes, while noting the absence of communications and steady flight path. The ATSB report explains: “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.” Two vessels, one Chinese and one Dutch engineering company Fugro, are mapping the see floor along the arc where depths exceed 5,000 meters in some parts.