MH370 ‘not likely to be in search area’
Experts leading the hunt for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 have said the plane is unlikely to be found in the current search area, and recommended looking further north.
No trace of the plane has been recovered in the southern Indian Ocean, after more than two years of searching.
MH370 disappeared while flying to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur with 239 people on board in 2014.
With the search to end soon, Australian officials say it will not be extended.
Australia’s Transport Minister Darren Chester said the search would be unlikely to go beyond the scheduled end of January or February 2017 as the report does not give a “specific location” for the aircraft.
The governments of Australia, Malaysia and China, who are funding the search, had previously agreed that “we will be suspending the search unless credible evidence is available” that identifies the location, he said.
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB), tasked to coordinate the search, convened a review with a multi-national team of aviation and science experts in November.
Its latest report, based on that meeting, said “there is a high degree of confidence that the previously identified underwater area searched to date does not contain the missing aircraft”.
Search vessels have been looking in a 120,000 sq km (46,332 sq miles) part of the southern Indian Ocean.
Experts identified a new area of approximately 25,000 sq km to the north of the current search area that had the “highest probability” of containing the wreckage.
“The participants of the First Principles Review were in agreement on the need to search an additional area representing approximately 25,000 km²”.
This was the last area the plane could possibly be located, given current evidence, the report said.
Their conclusion was based on new flight simulations and analysis of satellite communications, as well as drift modelling patterns based on the timing and locations of the discovery of debris.
Some debris pieces confirmed to be from MH370 have been found along the African coast and islands in the Indian Ocean by private citizens in recent months.
The experts also said the plane was on an “unstable flight path” and that its wing flaps were in a retracted position, in line with earlier findings by the ATSB that the plane made a “rapid and uncontrolled descent”.
The ATSB said it had presented the recommendation to the Malaysian, Chinese and Australian governments.
Only one vessel is left searching for the plane in the current search area.