According to the latest report from Australian transportation authorities, Malaysian Flight 370 was on autopilot and on its path across the Indian Ocean when it ran out of fuel, crashed and disappeared.
Chief Commissioner of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, Martin Dolan, reported that the autopilot was most likely switched on manually before the crash. Australian officials also promised to continue the so-far fruitless search.
The crew was likely suffering from oxygen-deprivation or was otherwise unresponsive to the needs of the aircraft, the report said. Crew members and pilots are trained to put on air masks immediately if an aircraft suffers even the smallest loss of pressure.
“Given these observations, the final stages of the unresponsive crew/hypoxia event type appeared to best fit the available evidence for the final period of MH370’s flight when it was heading in a generally southerly direction,” the document said.
Hypoxia occurs when a plane loses air pressure and pilots become confused, unable to perform even basic tasks. Investigators and government officials have not reached a consensus as to whether or not hypoxia or an unresponsive crew would fully explain the crash.
The updated search area for the airliner now comprises of a 23,000 square-mile area in the southern India Ocean.
“Specialists have analyzed satellite communications information — information which was never initially intended to have the capability to track an aircraft — and performed extremely complex calculations,” Transport Minister Warren Truss said. “The new priority area is still focused on the seventh arc, where the aircraft last communicated with satellite.”
The Boeing 777 headed to Beijing was carrying 239 passengers and crew when it disappeared on March 8. The little evidence that authorities have found suggests that the plane diverted thousands of miles off track before plummeting into the ocean, never to be found again.
Workers will continue to target the area’s ocean floor, before beginning an underwater search in August. This search will require extremely advanced and expensive equipment could take up to 12 months.