27 June 2014

Report does not state crew of MH370 was likely to have been unresponsive

Journalists are not accurately quoting a report released by Australian officials on the search for the missing plane of flight MH370 with statements that the crew was “likely” to have been unresponsive when it crashed. It is merely an assumption that best fits the limited evidence available for the purposes of narrowing the search area, as explained on pages 34 and 35:

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:

  • loss of radio communications
  • long period without any en route manoeuvring of the aircraft
  • a steadily maintained cruise altitude
  • fuel exhaustion and descent

This suggested that, for MH370, it was possible that after a long period of flight under autopilot control, fuel exhaustion would occur followed by a loss of control without any control inputs.

Note: This suggestion is made for the sole purpose of assisting to define a search area. The determination of the actual factors involved in the loss of MH370 are the responsibility of the accident investigation authority and not the SSWG.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) has to make assumptions so that they have a model to guide their search for the missing aircraft. They’ve looked at scenarios that have led to previous aircraft accidents and chosen the one that seems more likely than the others to have occurred. It is just the candidate theory that currently wins in terms of the small amount of evidence available to support it.

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