Australia investigators defend MH370 out-of-control scenario

A model of a plane in rememberance of the passengers from Malaysia Airlines MH370 and MH17. PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

SYDNEY (AFP) - Australian investigators on Tuesday (May 22) defended their findings that missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 was out of control when it plunged into the ocean, despite renewed theories that a rogue pilot ditched the plane.

The Boeing 777 - which vanished in March 2014 en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing carrying 239 passengers - has not been found despite an extensive search led by Australia in the southern Indian Ocean and a continuing private search commissioned by Malaysia.

The failure to find the plane has fuelled theories which differ from the conclusions of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB), which led the first search, that the jet was making a high-speed out-of-control descent when it hit the water.

The theory that a rogue pilot deliberately ditched the jet - landing it in a controlled way on the ocean surface - was revived in a new book released this week by former Canadian air crash investigator Larry Vance.

Mr Vance has also asserted that there were failures in the ATSB-led probe, leading to what he believed were the wrong conclusions about the end-of-flight scenarios.

The ATSB's chief technical officer Peter Foley, who was the MH370 search head, defended its conclusions, saying investigators had explored all the expert advice and analysis they were provided with.

"I can say with great confidence...that we considered every piece of evidence that we had at the time in an unbiased fashion," Mr Foley told a parliamentary hearing in Canberra, adding that he had already read Mr Vance's book.

"We have quite a bit of data to tell us that the aircraft, if it was being controlled at the end, it wasn't very successfully being controlled."

Mr Foley said a key piece of evidence was from the right outboard flap, which was found off Tanzania in June 2016. This showed that the flap was most likely in a retracted position and therefore not configured for landing when it smashed into the ocean.

Analysis of MH370's last transmission by an Australian defence agency suggested that it was triggered by fuel exhaustion, a scenario that was less likely to have occurred if a pilot had planned to ditch the aircraft, Mr Foley added.

Investigators have so far confirmed that three pieces of debris washed up on western Indian Ocean shorelines - including the one off Tanzania - came from MH370.

The current hunt, which was commissioned by Malaysia on a "no find, no fee" basis, is just north of the former search zone and is likely to end by mid-June.

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