The missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 appears to have been in an uncontrolled decent when it slammed into the Indian Ocean, a scenario that almost certainly rules out theories about a controlled landing somewhere, according to the latest report by Australian investigators.
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) report released yesterday, found that evidence from the debris so far retrieved was “consistent with the aircraft being in a high and increasing rate of descent”.
The outboard flap from the right wing of the plane, which was found washed up near Tanzania, was likely “in the retracted position”, investigators said – which is not the position it would have been in if somebody had been trying to land the aircraft.
The ATSB’s Greg Hood confirmed that the flap position indicated the passenger plane “wasn’t configured for landing or ditching”, ABC News reported.
“You can never be 100 per cent [sure] and we are very reluctant to express absolute certainty, but that’s the most likely scenario,” he said.
“You can draw your own conclusions as to whether that means someone was in control or not.”
While the findings provide a clearer picture of the missing plane’s last moments, the major mysteries remain. Namely, where were the pilot and co-pilot at the time? And where did the major portion of the aircraft, the cabin and fuselage, end up? The evidence so far suggests that nobody may have been at the controls – or nobody conscious.
The ATSB is currently hosting a three-day meeting with other experts which could result in the ocean-bed search for the missing plane being shifted farther north.
The ATSB added:
The Australian Defence Science and Technology (DST) Group conducted a comprehensive analysis of the Inmarsat satellite communications (SATCOM) data and a model of aircraft dynamics. The output of the DST Group analysis was a probability density function (PDF) defining the probable location of the aircraft’s crossing of the 7th arc.
Details of this analysis and the validation experiments are available in the open source published book here: http://link.springer.com/book/10.1007/978-981-10-0379-0.
Additional analysis of the burst frequency offsets associated with the final satellite communications to and from the aircraft is consistent with the aircraft being in a high and increasing rate of descent at that time.
Additionally, the wing flap debris analysis reduced the likelihood of end-of-flight scenarios involving flap deployment.
Preliminary results of the CSIRO’s drift analysis indicated it was unlikely that debris originated from south of the current search area. The northernmost simulated regions were also found to be less likely. Drift analysis work is ongoing and is expected to refine these results.
Written by Peter Needham