MH370 path ends in Southern Indian Ocean; Malaysia keeps focus on pilots and crew

A ground controller guides a Royal Australian Air Force AP-3C Orion to rest in Perth after sunset upon its return from searching for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 over the Indian Ocean

After 17 days of waiting in agony, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak tonight announced that the flight path of the missing Malaysia Airlines (MAS) Flight MH370ended in the southern Indian Ocean.

He made the announcement following the never before used analysis by the UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) and Inmarsat, the UK company which provided the satellite data which indicated the northern and southern corridors.

A girl reads some of the messages of hope and support left for the passengers of MH370.

“Using a type of analysis never before used in an investigation of this sort, they have been able to shed more light on MH370’s flight path.

“Based on their new analysis, Inmarsat and the AAIB have concluded that MH370flew along the southern corridor, and that its last position was in the middle of the Indian Ocean, west of Perth.

“This is a remote location, far from any possible landing sites. It is therefore, with deep sadness and regret that I must inform you that, according to this new data, Flight MH370ended in the southern Indian Ocean,” Najib told a media conference at the Putra World Trade Centre (PWTC) here.  (No reader restrictions at Malaysia’s New Straits Times.)

The Wall Street Journal reports that Malaysia is continuing to focus on the pilots and crew:

Malaysia’s police chief said Monday that investigators are keeping their focus on the pilots and crew in the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, but held out the possibility that it could take years to discover why it vanished.

All of the 227 passengers on board the missing Flight 370 have passed background checks and been cleared, Inspector-General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar told a news conference, while investigations into the pilots, Capt. Zaharie Ahmad Shah and co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid, and crew were ongoing.

Authorities have focused on four areas of investigation in the disappearance of Flight 370, hijacking, sabotage, personal problems or psychological issues.

“We are still investigating all the four areas. At this moment we will not eliminate any,” Mr. Khalid said. Our investigation is ongoing. As long as we have not found the cause, it is ongoing. Sometimes, [investigations take] years.”

However, if you are really curious about the topic, you should be reading the Professional Pilots’ Rumour Network entry on the topic.  The forum may be read by anyone.  Last night they were running through the scenario of a fire caused by a shipment of lithium-ion batteries said to be on board.

Some of the forum members have been on search flights like those now underway in the Southern Indian Ocean. They all note how hard it is to spot items floating on the ocean from a plane, and that there is a considerable amount of junk floating all around the world that has fallen from cargo ships.

There is general consternation that Malaysia waited so long to say that they had detected the flight turn, wasting valuable time letting people search the South China Sea. The satellite data that was eventually used to estimate what the plane’s final path came from a UK company, Inmarsat, who looked through their data of their own volition. On the night the flight disappeared, a Malaysian radar station detected an unknown objected flying through their airspace but failed to follow up on this.

It seems fair to say that Malaysia has not done a very good job, but then again, they have little experience in the area.

Yet they have been reluctant to accept outside help. They turned down help from the French who tracked the lost Flight 447 that crashed in the sea off the coast of South America. They delayed handing over the pilot’s flight simulator with deleted data to the FBI, who are now attempting to recover the deleted data. They did not interview the pilot’s family for two weeks, on the grounds that it would have been “insensitive.”

Related: Der Spiegel interviews Captain Bill Palmer, author of “Understanding Air France 447,” who also leans to the fire theory.

Just in: China demands Malaysian satellite data on missing airliner.