Missing Malaysian Air flight MH370 appeared to be out of control when it plunged into the ocean, with the wing flaps not prepared for landing, a new report said Wednesday.
The report by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau found the plane’s final satellite communications were “consistent with the aircraft being in a high and increasing rate of descent” when it vanished.
Analysis of the right outboard flap — which was found off Tanzania — showed it was “most likely in the retracted position at the time it separated from the wing”, suggesting the plane was not configured for landing before it smashed into the ocean.
The bureau noted that the width of the defined search area was appropriate “to encompass all uncontrolled descent scenarios from the simulations”.
“This report contains important new information on what we believe happened at the end of MH370’s flight,” Australia’s Transport Minister Darren Chester said at the start of a three-day meeting in Canberra where experts will plan the final stages of the search.
Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 disappeared en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8, 2014 carrying 239 passengers and crew.
Despite a massive underwater hunt far off Western Australia’s coast, no trace of the jet has been found.
Investigators have however confirmed that three pieces of debris recovered along western Indian Ocean shorelines came from MH370.
More than 110,000 square kilometres (42,470 square miles) of a 120,000-square-kilometre search arc have been scoured so far and the operation is due to wrap up in early 2017.
The findings of the ATSB’s new report, which analysed satellite data, end-of-flight simulations, recovered sections of the plane and debris drift modelling, confirm extensive testing by US manufacturer Boeing and the Australian defence department.
Experts at the meeting will “review all the available data and analysis associated with the search to date”, Chester said in a statement.
Their findings will “inform the remainder of the search effort, and develop guidance for any future search operations.”
“There are currently more than 20 items of debris of interest to the investigation team which have been located on the coasts of Africa, Madagascar, the island of Mauritius, Reunion and Rodrigues,” he added.
Ongoing drift analysis also suggested the search was in the right place, the ATSB said, noting it was “unlikely debris originated south of the current search area.
“The northernmost regions were also found to be less likely,” it added.
The governments of Australia, Malaysia and China, where most of the passengers were from, this year agreed to pull the plug on the operation once the search area was fully scoured unless “credible new information” emerged.