World

MH370 may have glided down rather than dived

The Dutch company leading the underwater hunt for Malaysia Airlines jet MH370 has said it could have been looking for the plane in the wrong part of the Indian Ocean for the past two years.

The Boeing 777 airliner disappeared in March 2014 with 239 passengers and crew onboard en route to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur, prompting an exhaustive search of sea bed roughly the size of Greece.

But engineers from the Dutch group Fugro said yesterday that they now believe the plane may have glided down rather than dived in the final moments, meaning they have been scouring the wrong patch of ocean for two years.

That search, which was carried out over 120,000 sq km of the southern Indian Ocean off Western Australia, is expected to end in three months and could be called off after a meeting of officials from Malaysia, China and Australia on Friday.

The three countries agreed in April last year that should the aircraft not be located within the search area, and in the absence of any new credible evidence, the search area would not be extended.

SOMEWHERE ELSE

"If it's not there, it means it's somewhere else," Fugro project director Paul Kennedy told Reuters.

So far, nothing has been found, although parts of the plane have been found washed up in east Africa.

Mr Kennedy does not exclude extreme possibilities that could have made the plane impossible to spot in the search zone, but he and his team said that a more likely option is that the plane glided down - meaning it was manned at the end - and made it beyond the area marked out by calculations from satellite images.

He said: "If it was manned, it could glide for a long way.

"You could glide it for further than our search area is, so I believe the logical conclusion will be, well, maybe, that is the other scenario."

Doubts that the search teams are looking in the right place will fuel calls for all data to be made publicly available so that academics and rival companies can pursue an "open source" solution - a collaborative public answer to the airline industry's greatest mystery.

Fugro's controlled glide hypothesis is also the first time officials have lent some support to contested theories that someone was in control during the flight's final moments.

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