SYDNEY: Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 was almost certainly on autopilot when it ran out of fuel and crashed, with the crew likely “unresponsive,” Australian officials said yesterday, announcing the search for wreckage would shift further south.
Investigators have been grappling with the mystery of the Boeing 777’s disappearance on March 8 with 239 people on board, spending months scouring the Indian Ocean in vain.
An expert group has reviewed all the existing information and Australian Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss said it was now “highly, highly likely that the aircraft was on autopilot” when it went down.
“Otherwise it could not have followed the orderly path that has been identified through the satellite sightings,” he told reporters.
Martin Dolan, commissioner of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB), which is leading the search, agreed.
“Certainly for its path across the Indian Ocean we are confident that the aircraft was operating on autopilot until it went out of fuel,” he said.
He quantified this by saying the experts assessed that the plane flew in a straight line, according to the electronic “handshakes” it periodically exchanged with satellites.
“If you look at our detailed report, you will see there are seven arcs that we are looking at and we’re saying the path the aircraft took to intercept each of those arcs was a straight path,” he said. The plane was flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing when it veered off course and vanished, shattering families of those aboard, who still have no idea what happened to their loved ones.
No trace of the plane has been found despite an extensive Australian-led search deep in the Indian Ocean, where Malaysia believes it crashed.