Malaysia

Flight MH370 most likely a victim of on-board emergency, says Aussie paper

A diagram showing the search area for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 in the southern Indian Ocean is seen during a briefing by John Young, general manager of the emergency response division of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA), in Canberra yesterday. The Sydney Morning Herald reported today that missing flight MH370 was most likely a victim of an on-board emergency. – Reuters/AMSA pic, March 21, 2014.A diagram showing the search area for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 in the southern Indian Ocean is seen during a briefing by John Young, general manager of the emergency response division of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA), in Canberra yesterday. The Sydney Morning Herald reported today that missing flight MH370 was most likely a victim of an on-board emergency. – Reuters/AMSA pic, March 21, 2014.The Australian-led search effort for the missing flight MH370 ended last night without finding any debris, but now that the search is taking place in waters 2,500km from Perth suggests that it was most likely the victim of an on-flight emergency, reported The Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) today.

Aircraft and ships had spent yesterday working through dire weather in search of objects, including one as long as 24m, floating in the vast icy seas off Australia.

The SMH said the location of the debris in the southern Indian Ocean would “eliminate some of the wilder theories about what happened to the plane and would lean towards the likelihood of an emergency on the flight”.

The Boeing 777-200ER (9M-MRO) with 239 people on board took off from Kuala Lumpur March 8, bound for Beijing.

Putrajaya said yesterday the satellite images were a "credible lead" in the 26-nation hunt for the jetliner.

The SMH said that most likely the plane had encountered an emergency and tried to turn back, but complications would have left the crew and passengers unconscious, leaving the plane on a ghost flight until it ran out of fuel.

The location of the large objects which Australian officials said were spotted by satellite four days ago suggested that it was unlikely that the plane had been hijacked, said the report.

Flight MH370’s southern trajectory also eliminated the hijacking theory as there were no airports on the flight path, it said.

What is more plausible is catastrophic decompression or the “Payne Stewart scenario”, named after the golfer who died in 1999 when his Learjet underwent decompression and kept flying for more than 1,600km before crashing in South Dakota.

Professional pilots said the most likely scenario was that an on-board emergency knocked out its communication system, leading to either a slow or rapid decompression which rendered the crew incapable of making an emergency landing, The SMH said.

The Australian paper focused on two events that could lead to the disaster.

First, corrosion to the satellite antenna which “caused it to break, cutting off communications, and causing a slow decompression that left the crew confused by the time the cabin pressure alarm went off”.

Second, a fire on board that affected the flight deck crew's emergency oxygen supply. The oxygen is housed under the floor which also includes the communication systems.

Meanwhile, AFP reported that Australia will resume its search today for possible plane wreckage in the Indian Ocean.

The search restarted at first light, as a Norwegian merchant ship arrived in the target area about 2,500km southwest of Perth, after warnings of poor weather conditions and limited visibility.

Four aircraft suspended their search at nightfall yesterday without any sighting of the possible debris after scouring a 23,000-square-kilometre area where the grainy images were snapped, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority said.

Two planes came from Australia, one from New Zealand and one was an American aircraft, while another merchant ship was en route to join Norway's Hoegh St Petersburg merchant ship.

The Australian navy's HMAS Success was also headed for the area, and Britain sent a naval survey ship, HMS Echo.

Acting Transport Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein said during yesterday's daily briefing on the crisis that "there remains much work to be done to deploy the assets."

Clearly wary of raising hopes following a series of past false leads, Hishammuddin warned of delays in verifying the apparent debris.

The satellite images, taken on Sunday, were first revealed by Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

Abbott told Parliament the images represented "new and credible information" but stressed that any link with flight MH370 had still to be confirmed.

"The indication to me is of objects that are of a reasonable size and probably awash with water and bobbing up and down over the surface," Australian Maritime Safety Authority official John Young said.

The images are the first solid clue since the search area was significantly broadened last weekend to take in a vast part of the Indian Ocean.

Experts said the fact that Abbott himself had released the information lent weight to its credibility, but warned it could be difficult to find the objects in an isolated corner of the Earth noted for strong currents.

"The current there is one of the strongest in the world, moving at as fast as one metre per second," said Gan Jianping, an oceanographer at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

HMAS Success, which is capable of retrieving any debris, is some days away from the site.

The objects would have drifted for four days, making them a "logistical nightmare" to locate, said Australian Defence Minister David Johnston.

"We are in a most isolated part of the world. In fact it probably doesn't get, if I can be so bold, more isolated," Johnston told Sky News Australia.

He was later quoted as saying it could take "two or three days" before any firm conclusions are made. – March 21, 2014.

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