This story is an update of an article posted March 21.
Malaysian authorities have concluded that Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 crashed in the southern Indian Ocean, far from any land mass that could have presented the crew with a chance to land, according to a statement issued Monday by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak. New satellite data confirms the conclusion, said Razak during a media briefing in Kuala Lumpur, referring to new guidance given to the Malaysian government by the UK's Air Accidents Investigation Branch and satellite group Inmarsat.
"This is a remote location, far from any possible landing sites," he said. "It is therefore with deep sadness and regret that I must inform you that, according to this new data, Flight MH370 ended in the southern Indian Ocean."
More than two weeks after Flight 370 disappeared from civilian radar screens over the Bay of Thailand, the search for the proverbial needle in a haystack had yielded nothing but a lot of second-guessing, conjecture and theories based on information that might or might not prove credible. Last week authorities redirected more search assets to the southern Indian Ocean, to an area some 1,500 miles southwest of Perth, Australia, after commercial satellite images showed two floating objects that analysts determined might have been debris from the missing airplane. Over the weekend, Chinese authorities released satellite images showing a 72-foot-by-43-foot object in the area, and a French satellite detected more "possible debris." On Monday Chinese and Australian search airplanes spotted more debris in the area but as of press time hadn't identified the nature of it.
As crews from several countries, most notably the U.S., Australia and China, continued the search this week using military surveillance airplanes, attention again turned toward technologies that might have made the search far more manageable, if only the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) had acted on recommendations in the final report from French investigators on the 2009 crash of Air France Flight 447 in the South Atlantic.
The report from the French Bureau d'Enquêtes et d'Analyses (BEA) included recommendations for a requirement that all airliners regularly transmit flight parameters such as position, speed and altitude during flight. It also proposed systems that would eject the flight recorders from an airplane in distress before it crashed and modifications to flight data recorders that would provide automatic data transmission immediately upon detection of an emergency.
While pundits from around the world speculate on various scenarios about what might have happened to Flight 370, authorities in Malaysia continue to search for hard evidence from the flight simulator seized by police from the home of the 777’s captain. So far they haven’t found any sign that the captain planned a flight path away from the intended route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, although Malaysian officials, with the help of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, continue to attempt to retrieve data deleted from the simulator’s memory.
Meanwhile, an investigation into the backgrounds of all the crewmembers and passengers aboard the flight has so far yielded no evidence of terrorist connections or of any possible motive for sabotage.
Until Monday the search for Flight 370 spanned more than two million square miles. Authorities operated on the basis of evidence that the airplane’s satcom system continued to transmit for six-and-a-half hours after Malaysian military radar detected the airplane some 200 miles northwest of the island of Panang off the Western coast of the Malay peninsula. Based on the satellite information, they plotted two separate “corridors” from where the satcom system sent its last “ping” at 8:11 a.m. on March 8, one extending north from northern Thailand to the border of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, the other extending from Indonesia south into the far reaches of the southern Indian Ocean. However, none of the countries within the northern corridor had reported any evidence of an unidentified airplane traveling through its airspace on the morning Flight 370 went missing. That fact, along with new satellite evidence of two possible tracks southward toward the last plotted location of the unidentified floating debris, prompted authorities to concentrate resources in the southern Indian Ocean and, finally, conclude on Monday that the airplane did, in fact, crash there.
Photo: Wikipedia Creative Commons, Aero Icarus under license.