New MH370 report poses as many questions as it answers

By Rohan Smith of news.com.au

A veteran pilot says there's nothing in the new report that changes his position that the plane was intentionally ditched. Photo / AP
A veteran pilot says there's nothing in the new report that changes his position that the plane was intentionally ditched. Photo / AP

It was a report the families of MH370's missing passengers had anxiously anticipated.

It promised answers to how, why and where the Boeing 777 carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew disappeared on March 8, 2014.

Conclusions included that the Malaysian Airlines flight had no one in control when it plunged into the Indian Ocean, that it was "not configured for a landing" and that it descended in clockwise and anti-clockwise directions.

Wednesday's Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) report was welcome news for those waiting patiently for answers. MH370 Voice, a group representing the victims' families, said it was "the best news (we've) heard in a while".

It also effectively cleared captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah of murder-suicide, but some are not convinced.

A veteran pilot says there's nothing in the new report that changes his position that the plane was intentionally ditched.

THE CAPTAIN DID IT, VETERAN PILOT SAYS

Key to the ATSB's findings is an expert analysis of a wing flap that washed ashore on the African coastline in June.

The flaperon, investigators say, was likely not deployed when it broke off the plane. A pilot would typically extend the flaps during a controlled ditching.

Peter Foley, the bureau's director of Flight MH370 search operations, has previously said that if the flap was not deployed, it would almost certainly rule out the theory that the plane entered the water in a controlled ditch and would effectively validate that searchers are looking in the right place for the wreckage.

"(It) means the aircraft wasn't configured for a landing or a ditching - you can draw your own conclusions as to whether that means someone was in control," Foley told reporters in Canberra.

"You can never be 100 per cent. We are very reluctant to express absolute certainty."

Byron Bailey isn't certain. Far from it. The former RAAF fighter pilot and a senior captain with Emirates for 15 years believes the plane was very much under the control of captain Zaharie.

"It appears to be more likely that he's flown at high level in the southern Indian Ocean until the fuel ran out and both engines quit and then you're left with just power from the ram air turbine which means you can never extend the flap, he told ABC Radio's PM program.

"You can glide for another couple of hundred kilometres with no engines and, the thing is, you're gonna hit the sea (at 350km/h) instead of 250km/h in a ditching with flap down.

"It means you're going to wreck the aeroplane, tear bits off, all that, and you'd be killed."

Bailey flew the same model B777 as flight MH370 for more than a decade before retiring. He has previously called the ATSB's investigation "bollocks" and "a farce".

"The favourite falsity pushed by the ATSB in the media was that the evidence does not support a controlled ditching. Again bollocks," he wrote in The Australian.

"The fact that the plane turned southwest three minutes after the captain said goodnight to Kuala Lumpur air traffic control means it was under control."

He told The Daily Telegraph the crash was deliberate.

"I believe someone hijacked the aircraft, turned all communication equipment off over the South China Sea, then flew westward towards Penang and reprogrammed the Flight Management System to the southern Indian Ocean."

Malaysian Airlines. Photo / 123RF
Malaysian Airlines. Photo / 123RF

SEARCH EXTENSION PLANS UNCONFIRMED

The report's release is being followed by a three-day summit in Canberra, attended by Australia's greatest minds in aviation.

On the agenda will be expanding the current search well into 2017, north of the 120-square-kilometre patch of ocean already scoured. Searching further into new territory will cost an estimated $30 million, ABC News reported.

It's a new development given authorities from Malaysia, China and Australia agreed in July the search for MH370 would end if no credible new evidence was discovered by January 2017.

But the government remains tight-lipped about extending the search and there's no indication Malaysian authorities would be willing to help with funding.

Grace Nathan from MH370 Voice, based in Malaysia, said the ATSB should not be meeting if not for the express purpose of extending the search.

"I don't understand why the ATSB would be having a meeting at this stage if it isn't to sort of re-evaluate and to move towards the direction of extending or expanding the search," she told PM.

Families will be waiting patiently, again, to find out what comes from the three day summit. Waiting is something they're becoming accustomed to.

'ALL OF IT'S DIFFICULT'

Jeanette Maguire's sister Cathy was on board MH370 with her husband Bob. The waiting is agonising, she says.

"We didn't expect it to take this long but it has," she told news.com.au. "All we can do is wait and hope for some information that gives us closure."

She said assigning blame to Captain Zaharie or anybody else is the furthest thing from her mind.

"I have not gone down the process of blaming anybody. Since day one we've worked with evidence and until they find the plane then we don't want to blame anybody."

Ms Maguire said she is hopeful the search continues, but believes funding will be difficult.

"Australia has a massive bill and there have been contributions from other countries but we need bigger contributions.

"It's a massive ocean but they could be looking 10km from where the plane went down and we wouldn't know."

She said every day is hard but she does not dread the updates.

"All of it's difficult. You go through this part where it's quiet and it's nice. Sometimes you need that time to chill out and back away from it all. All the family members feel differently. My personality is that when they find debris I'm excited.

"I know they're not here, I know that plane is in the Indian Ocean. The grieving process has never stopped - it's been there since day one. We don't have our loved ones to say goodbye to and hopefully when we actually know where they are we'll get that closure.

- news.com.au

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