One Year on, Few Clues to MH370 Disappearance

One Year on, Few Clues to MH370 Disappearance
One Year on, Few Clues to MH370 Disappearance

Exactly one year after Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 disappeared without trace, investigators released a new report Sunday revealing little progress has been made on unraveling one of the biggest mysteries in aviation history. The detailed 584-page report brought together vast quantities of factual information and data gathered by a multinational team of independent investigators over the past year. But it shed little new light on what happened to the jetliner after it vanished on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8, 2014, with 227 passengers and 12 crew on board, France24 said in a report.

One of the few pieces of new information was that the battery of an underwater locator beacon had expired more than a year before the plane disappeared, potentially hampering efforts to locate the wreckage, believed to be somewhere in the southern Indian Ocean. The report said that according to maintenance records, the battery on the beacon attached to the Flight Data Recorder expired in December 2012, but because of a computer data error it went unnoticed by maintenance crews.

“There is some extra margin in the design to account for battery life variability and ensure that the unit will meet the minimum requirement,” it said. “However, once beyond the expiry date, the (battery’s) effectiveness decreases so it may operate for a reduced time period until it finally discharges.” While it is possible the battery will operate past the expiry date, “it is not guaranteed that it will work or that it would meet the 30-day minimum requirement”, said the report.

  Pilots’ Backgrounds

As well as examining the aircraft’s service record and maintenance schedule, weather, communications systems and radar data, the report went into minute details of the crew’s lives, including their medical and financial records and training. However, in all cases it found nothing unusual or suspicious.

Of the crew and pilots it said, “There were no behavioral signs of social isolation, change in habits or interest, self-neglect, drug or alcohol abuse.” That the cockpit crew of pilot Zaharie Ahmad Shah and his co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid had deliberately crashed the plane was one of the many theories put forward in the wake of the MH370’s disappearance.

Financial check also showed nothing abnormal about the gross monthly income and spending pattern of the pilots or crew, said the report. The report was focused on air-safety issues related to MH370 and the investigators did not probe the passengers or the possibility of a hijack.

The investigative team was set up in the weeks after the plane’s disappearance under International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) requirements and was required to submit its findings within one year of the disappearance. The report stressed that the investigation was ongoing and that “new information that may become available may alter this information.”

“The investigation team expects that further factual information will be available from the wreckage and flight recorders if the aircraft is found,” it said.

  Continued Hopes

Despite the lack of progress on the search for MH370 to date, the prime ministers of Australia and Malaysia vowed Sunday to continue the hunt for the missing jet and said they were optimistic a breakthrough would eventually be made.

“The disappearance of MH370 is without precedent, and so too is the search -- by far the most complex and technically challenging in aviation history,” Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said in a statement. “Together with our international partners, we have followed the little evidence that exists. Malaysia remains committed to the search, and hopeful that MH370 will be found,” he said.

His Australian counterpart Tony Abbott said Australian authorities were about 40 percent through scouring a priority 60,000-square-km area of the southern Indian Ocean due to conclude in May, but intended to search further “as long as there are reasonable leads.”

“We are reasonably optimistic of success, but if we don’t succeed in this search, there is another search that we intend to make because we owe it to the families of the dead, we owe it to the travelling public to do whatever we reasonably can to resolve of this mystery,” Abbott told reporters Sunday.

Meanwhile, some of the relatives of those on board have been holding vigils this weekend to mark the anniversary of the flight’s disappearance. “I can’t sleep at night, each night I’m only getting about two hours, but I’m certain that my daughter is still alive and I’m going to get her back,” said one mother, who did not give her name, before being escorted away.