Australia said the search for MH370 has shifted further south and the aircraft is now believed to have been on autopilot before it disappeared.
“It is highly likely that the aircraft was on autopilot.
“Otherwise, it could not have followed the orderly path that has been identified through the satellite sightings,” said Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss during a press conference in Canberra yesterday.
However, he said the investigators could not, and had not intended to, pinpoint the moment when the aircraft was put on autopilot.
“We know it was on autopilot during the critical phase of our tracking but it will be a matter for the Malaysia-based investigation team to look at precisely when it may have been put on autopilot,” said Truss, who also declined to comment on speculation about the pilot having flown the course on his simulator, pointing out that it was irrelevant to their task of finding the aircraft.
“I don’t really want to comment on areas which will probably be the responsibility of Malaysia and its investigators,” he said.
Truss said the Australian Transport Safety Bureau had released a report which outlined the basis for their conclusion that the new search area was the most likely place where the aircraft could be found.
He said the new priority search zone was 60,000sqkm, and was greatly expanded compared to the previous underwater search area of only 860sqkm.
“The new phase of the search will have two elements. Firstly there will be mapping of the sea floor in the area, which is already under way, and a comprehensive search once mapping had been completed,” he said.
Mapping is currently being undertaken by Chinese survey ship Zhu Kezhen and the Australian-contracted vessel Fugro Equator.
Truss said mapping of the very deep sea floor was expected to take about three months to complete, while the underwater search was expected to commence by August.
“To put new equipment into the area without a clear knowledge of what the sea floor is like will certainly put at risk the capacity of that equipment to operate safely,” he said.
Truss added that the search effort would include equipment provided by Malaysia, including vessels equipped with towed sonar systems.
Despite acknowledging the enormity of the task, Truss remains optimistic.
“The search is still going to be painstaking. Of course, we could be fortunate and find it in the first hour or the first day, but it could take another 12 months.”
The Star/Asia News Network
Missing Malaysian airliner 'likely on autopilot' as new search area announced
Prime Minister Warren Truss points the new search area for MH370 to
reporters at a press conference at Australian Parliament House in
Canberra, June 26, 2014. Australian Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss
said on Thursday that it is "highly likely" the missing Malaysian
airliner flew on autopilot until it ran out of fuel and crashed into the
Indian Ocean. (Xinhua/Xu Haijing)
Truss made the comment on Thursday when announcing the joint search operation involving Australia, Malaysia and China would shift its focus in the southern Indian Ocean for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.
The revised search area is based on the findings of an international satellite working group.
The group has reviewed all existing information to define a search zone of up to 60,000 square kilometers along the arc in the southern Indian Ocean.
Truss said the refined search area would still be focused on the seventh arc, where the aircraft last communicated with satellite.
But the search would shift to an area slightly further south along the arc, based on the calculations of the international experts.
"Specialists have analyzed satellite communications information- - information which was never initially intended to have the capability to track an aircraft -- and performed extremely complex calculations," Truss said.
"This site is the best available and most likely place where the aircraft is resting."
"It is highly, highly likely that the aircraft was on autopilot, otherwise it could not have followed the orderly path that has been identified through the satellite sightings," Truss said.
He said the search for MH370 was ongoing. A three-month mapping of the ocean floor in the search area is in progress and would be followed by a comprehensive search of the sea floor that is expected to begin in August and take up to 12 months to complete.
"The bathymetric survey has already commenced, with the Chinese survey ship Zhu Kezhen and the Australian-contracted vessel Fugro Equator conducting operations in the areas provided by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau," Truss said.
"The underwater search will aim to locate the aircraft and any evidence to assist with the Malaysian investigation of the disappearance of MH370."
"This area has never been comprehensively mapped previously and so to put new equipment down into that area without having clear knowledge of what the sea floor is like certainly risks the operation and the capacity of that equipment to operate safely."
He warned that the search will still be painstaking. "Of course we could be fortunate and find it in the first hour, or the first day, or it could take the next 12 months."
Australia, Malaysia and China have reaffirmed their commitment to continue to search for MH370 and to keep families informed of developments.
Truss said search nations owed it to "the passengers and the crew and everyone associated with MH370 to bring this mystery to a conclusion."
"I can assure all the families and those with an interest that Australia remains dedicated to the task of solving this greatest aviation mystery."
Flight MH370 vanished on March 8 with 239 people aboard, while en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.
New search area announced for missing Malaysian jet
CANBERRA, June 26 (Xinhua) -- Australia announced on Thursday a new search area for the missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370. Full story
Malaysian speaker vows continued MH370 search
BEIJING, June 24 (Xinhua) -- The speaker of Malaysia's House of Representatives has said that the country will continue searching for missing flight MH370 until its fate has been discovered. Full story
Investigator: New search area for MH370 to shift south
BEIJING, June 21 (Xinhuanet) -- Search for the missing Malaysian passenger plane MH370 will focus on the area hundreds of kilometers south of the first suspected crash site in the Indian Ocean. That’s according to chief commissioner of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, Martin Dolan. Full story
Malaysia commits continuing search for missing plane
KUALA LUMPUR, June 15 (Xinhua) -- The Malaysian government and the Malaysia Airlines (MAS) on Sunday reiterated their commitment to continuing the search operation for the missing MH370 flight as 100 days had passed since its disappearance on March 8. Full story
Full coverage: Malaysia Airlines Plane Bound for Beijing Goes MissingRelated posts:
Boeing has patent for autopilot tech PETALING JAYA: When it was first speculated that Flight MH370 could have been hijac...
MH370 flight confirms: “deliberate acts”, suggest hijacking and terrorism planning, crew under scrutiny
Malaysian PM confirms that deliberate acts were involved in the plane’s disappearance Any terrorist seizure of the plane ‘would have r...