KUALA LUMPUR: A long-awaited official report into the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines (MAS) flight MH370 offered no new clues about why the plane vanished more than four years ago, with investigators saying that they are “not of the opinion” that the pilots were responsible.
However, they are not ruling out any possibility.
According to the report released on Monday (Jul 30), there is no evidence to suggest that the aircraft was flown by anyone other than the designated MAS pilots.
“However, the team does not exclude the possibility of intervention by a third party,” said the report.
At the same time, there is no evidence to support the belief that MH370 was taken over by remote control, said the team’s chief investigator Kok Soo Chon, who was Malaysia’s former Civil Aviation Department director-general.
At a news conference, he concluded that the team is unable to determine the real cause of one of the world’s greatest aviation mysteries.
“The answer can only be conclusive if the wreckage is found,” he said when asked if they would ever find out what happened on the plane.
DIVERSION FROM FLIGHT ROUTE
Flight MH370 disappeared on its way from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on Mar 8, 2014, with 239 people on board.
It went missing soon after a routine handover from the Malaysian to Vietnamese air traffic control, which the flight crew acknowledged with “Good night Malaysian three-seven-zero.”
Shortly afterwards, Malaysian air traffic controllers lost contact with the plane somewhere over the sea between Malaysia and Vietnam.
Evidence showed that the plane was diverted from its flight plan and towards the southern Indian Ocean, as captured by both military and civilian radars, leading to theories about a possible hijacking or possible terror plot.
“It could not be established whether the aircraft was flown by anyone other than the pilots,” said the report.
“Later flight simulator trials established that the turn back was likely made while the aircraft was under manual control and not the autopilot.”
This turn back in manual mode “irresistibly point to unlawful interference”, said Mr Kok at the news conference, but he questioned why no claims of responsibility were made if this was the case.
The changes in the flight path were also difficult to attribute to any specific aircraft system failures, according to investigators. The plane was airworthy and maintenance records indicate that the aircraft was equipped and maintained in accordance with existing regulations.
“It is more likely that such manoeuvres are due to the systems being manipulated,” said the report.
It added that the pilot-in-charge and First Officer were competent, with valid licences and medical certification. There was also no evidence to suggest that they experienced recent changes in personal relationships, financial problems, or that there were any conflicts between them.
In addition, there was no unusual activity on the pilot’s home flight simulator.
READ: Families say MH370 investigation report highlights mistakes, guidelines not followed
No sign of the jet was found in a 120,000-sq km Indian Ocean search zone and the Australian-led hunt, the largest in aviation history, was suspended in January last year.
US exploration firm Ocean Infinity resumed the hunt at the start of this year on a “no find, no fee” basis, using high-tech drones to scour the seabed. But that search was called off after failing to find anything.
On Monday, Mr Kok said 27 pieces of debris have been found to date, of which only three fragments – all found on the western Indian Ocean shores – have been confirmed to be from MH370, including a two-metre wing part known as a flaperon.
He stressed that the report put together by a team of experts from eight countries – Malaysia, Australia, Indonesia, Singapore, United Kingdom, China, United States and France – was only focused on safety issues. It is also not the final report on the investigation.