In Brief

MH370: mysterious 89kg load ‘added to cargo flight list after take-off’

Discovery by French investigators fuel theories that plane was hijacked by stowaway

MH370: Google Earth used to pinpoint possible crash site

29 November

An American statistician claims he has uncovered clues to the final resting place of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 using Google Earth.

Mike Chillit says that based on his research, the crash site is miles from the Australian Transport Search Bureau (ATSB)'s current search zone.

Using historical imaging data from Google Earth, Chillit has identified several examples of potential debris around Saint Brandon, a cluster of a minuscule uninhabited archipelago 200 miles north of Mauritius. 

Combining the location of the possible debris with the drift patterns of ocean currents, he suggests the probable crash site is far north of the current search site, which so far is located around 800 miles west-northwest of Carnarvon, in Western Australia.

"There is no funding for searching beyond the current 120,000 square kilometre area," the Daily Mail reports. 

Chillit is attempting to raise money for a private search if the ATSB is unwilling to investigate his theory.

"I try not to take myself too seriously, but I think this is worth investigating," he said.

Chillit also told News Corp that a previous attempt to use Google Earth in his investigation found debris on the French-administered island of Reunion a week before a piece of flaperon was discovered there in July 2015.

The ATSB recently confirmed that a piece of debris discovered on Mauritius in May was a part of a Boeing 777 left outboard flap and that its serial number identified it as belonging to MH370.

Items washed up on the island of Pemba, off the coast of Tanzania, and on Reunion have also been confirmed to be from the plane.

So far, 22 pieces of potential debris have been passed on to investigators, The Guardian reports, 14 of them found by US lawyer-turned-wreck hunter Blaine Gibson.

MH370: 'Plausible' new theory suggests pilot was a hero

15 November

A new theory that blames a windscreen heater fire for the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 is at least plausible, according to one leading aviation expert. 

The theory has been proposed as part of a thesis by Mick Gilbert, described by Australian site News.com.au as an "aviation enthusiast". He says problems with windscreen heaters, including fires, have plagued Boeing jets.

Gilbert suggests MH370's windscreen heater caught fire, knocking out the communications equipment in the cabin and depressurising the cockpit. He believes the crew oxygen system was already leaking after earlier maintenance work.

The change in cabin pressure would also have unlocked the door to the rest of the plane, says Gilbert, causing it to depressurise as well. The lack of oxygen would have rendered the crew – and presumably passengers – unconscious.

Gilbert suggests one pilot or co-pilot managed to stay awake. He could have noticed his colleagues becoming faint and used deep, rapid breathing to ensure he stayed alert.

With the fire extinguished, says Gilbert, the pilot discovered he had no workable instruments and no realistic chance of manually landing the plane. 

Aware that he was flying near a heavily populated part of Malaysia, says Gilbert, the pilot instead pointed the jet in a direction that would ensure it landed in the ocean without causing loss of life on the ground, before lapsing into unconsciousness. 

The Malaysia Airlines flight went missing in 2014 with 239 people on board. After many months, pieces of debris were found thousands of miles from what is believed to be the crash site. Some pieces are thought to show burn marks.

Other theories accounting for the loss of MH370 have suggested the pilot deliberately crashed the aircraft. Reports claim American investigators found a route matching the plane's eventual flight path on a simulator kept at home by the pilot, Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah.

Gilbert's theory provides an explanation with no malicious action involved – and would even make Shah, or one of the other cockpit crew, a hero.

US safety consultant John Cox told Australian media he believes the theory is at least plausible. He said he had previously believed the most likely explanation was deliberate action by Shah but would now reserve judgement.

Aircraft manufacturer Boeing and Malaysia Airlines have previously said their goal is to determine what happened to the flight and why.

MH370: Why investigators think no one was at the controls

2 November

A new report on the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 concludes the pilots were not at the controls during the jet's last descent.

Following a fresh examination of the final series of satellite handshakes between the Boeing 777 and ground stations, the  Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB), which is leading the search, found the plane may have been airborne for about 20 minutes after its second engine died and that it appeared to have descended very swiftly.  

This led investigators to conclude that the plane was not guided by a pilot but simply crashed. The conclusion supports previous theories ATSB has put forward about the final moments of the flight and contradicts other theories that the plane might have come to rest in the Indian Ocean after a controlled descent.

The report said that debris from the plane's right wing flap indicate that it was in a cruising position rather than a landing position when it was damaged. "The wing flap debris analysis reduced the likelihood of end-of-flight scenarios involving flap deployment," the report said.

As international aviation experts assembled in Canberra, Australia, to discuss whether it is possible to redefine the search zone, the report's findings suggest the underwater search for the missing plane in the southern Indian Ocean has been conducted in the right area.

There is a significant financial dimension to this aspect of the investigation: further searches beyond the current zone would cost about £20m, reports the Daily Telegraph.

The Malaysia Airlines aircraft disappeared in March 2014 during a routine flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. It was carrying 239 passengers and crew.

MH370: Hunt for missing plane 'to be extended'

1 November

Reports claim a plan is emerging to extend the hunt for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370.

Investigators are searching a 46,000sq-mile patch of the southern Indian Ocean, roughly equivalent to the size of Greece, but it had been scheduled to finish this month after failing to find the plane's crash site. 

However, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation says a proposal is being drawn up to shift investigations north – at a potential cost of AUS$30,000 (£18.8m).

Starting tomorrow, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, which has been leading the investigation, will host a three-day "back to first principles" meeting of experts in the Australian capital of Canberra.

The aim "is to shape a proposal for the Transport Minister to take to his Malaysian and Chinese counterparts," the ABC reports.

At the same time, Malaysia Airlines has agreed to allow lawyers of the victims access to "potentially sensational" company records that have only previously been released to Malaysian police.

The documents reportedly include medical and personal records for the MH370's captain and co-pilot as well as maintenance log books of the Boeing 777.

Flight MH370 disappeared en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing in March 2014. There were 239 people on board.

MH370: Latest theories for the plane's disappearance

27 October

Bad weather conditions are hampering progress in the underwater search effort for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.

Investigators were due to comb a 46,000sq-mile area of the southern Indian Ocean by December, but the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB), which is leading the search, says it will now take until "around January/February 2017".

More than two and a half years have passed since the flight and its 239 passengers and crew disappeared en route from Beijing to Kuala Lumpur and relatives of the victims are no closer to discovering what happened to their loved ones. Several pieces of debris have been uncovered, but the bulk of the plane is yet to be found.

Experts have pored over satellite, radar and aircraft performance data and believe the plane entered the sea close to a "long but narrow arc" in the southern Indian Ocean.

However, there are a number of interpretations about how the aircraft might have come down. Here are the top three theories.

Death dive with no pilot in control

The ATSB has suggested an unresponsive pilot scenario.. Analysis of the Satcom data suggests there was no human intervention during the last five and a half hours of the journey, it says, especially at the end, when the aircraft is likely to have exhausted its fuel. With nobody to man the controls, the plane would have crashed into the sea in what some have described as a "death dive".

Rogue pilot lands plane on water

In this theory, a pilot hijacked the aircraft after the last goodnight to Kuala Lumpur air traffic control, flew it via a pre-planned route to the southern Indian Ocean and then carried out a controlled ditching in the water. However, ongoing analysis of a wing flap washed ashore in Tanzania appears to support the theory of a death dive. Peter Foley, the head of ATSB's search team, told the Australian Associated Press the flap was retracted, rather than deployed, when the plane hit the water, suggesting there was no controlled landing.

Rogue pilot deliberately exhausts fuel to trigger death dive

A third theory combines the two above. In this scenario, the pilot hijacked the plane but simply allowed it to run out of fuel without intervening, causing a death dive.

Malaysia Airlines MH370: Could amateur 'Indiana Jones' solve the mystery?

10 October

An amateur investigator who has been compared to Indiana Jones has vowed to continue his search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.

Blaine Gibson, 58, of Seattle, dumbfounded professional sleuths in February when he found a piece of the aircraft during a self-funded search.

The triangular panel, stencilled with the words "no step", has since been confirmed as "almost certainly" a horizontal stabiliser from a Flight 370 wing.

Speaking in Canberra during a visit to the official search headquarters, the lawyer now says he won't quit his one-man investigation until the mystery is solved.

"I always love travel with a purpose," said Gibson, who has visited 177 countries, "and solving the mystery of Malaysia 370 is a purpose ... until I or someone else finds out what happened to the plane and those on board."

Like action hero Indy, Gibson wears a bomber jacket, a Fedora and hunts hidden treasures. But in contrast to his fictional counterpart, he had to concede defeat on his search for the legendary Ark of the Covenant, which is said to contain the Ten Commandments.

"The Ark of the Covenant - I did not find it," he told AP. "However, I do believe that it's in Ethiopia somewhere."

Flight MH370 disappeared with 239 people on board while flying to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur in March 2014.

In an online essay about his search, Gibson describes at length how he "combed beaches for a year to find anything that looks like it could be possibly be from an airplane".

Authorities have also confirmed that a piece of debris found on the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius came from the missing Boeing 777.

On Friday, experts from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) said a piece of wing flap that washed up on the island was definitely from the MH370.

Investigators were able to track a part number found on the flap back to the missing plane, the ATSB said.

A "unique work order number" placed on the flap by its manufacturer corresponded to MH370.

Malaysian transport minister Liow Tiong Lai also confirmed the identification.

The new piece adds to the growing collection of debris that has washed ashore from the missing plane.

Investigators previously confirmed a part of the MH370 had been discovered on the French island of Reunion in July 2015, while an outboard flap, a very large piece of debris, was discovered on Pemba, off Tanzania in June.

According to Sky "investigators are also examining a piece found in Mozambique, in southern Africa."

Malaysia Airlines flight MH370: Is China's search ship spying on the Australian army?

23 September

Security experts claim the Chinese government ship searching for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 has probably spent more time spying on the Australian army.

Analysis published in The Australian found that in the seven months since the Dong Hai Jiu 101 arrived in the Australian port city of Fremantle, it has spent between 17 and 30 days on search efforts, leading to speculation the ship is in fact spying.

"I would be surprised if a vessel like the Dong Hai Jiu 101 did not have an intelligence collection role," said Clive Williams, a former Australian army officer who was director of security intelligence.

China had the highest number of passengers onboard the Boeing 777, which disappeared with 239 people on board in March 2014, during a scheduled flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. The country has contributed £15.3m of the £138m budget for the search efforts.

Meanwhile, Australian authorities have cast doubt on the theory that the jet may have suffered a fire before it went missing.

Debris collected earlier this month appeared to show burn marks. However, authorities now say they were caused by resin on the debris, not fire, and that there is no evidence yet that the debris came from MH370.

"At this stage it is not possible to determine whether the debris is from MH370 or indeed even a Boeing 777," the Australian Transport Safety Bureau said.

Australia, China and Malaysia have agreed that in the absence of "credible new information", the search should end later this year.

 

MH370: Evidence adds to fears 'broken-hearted' pilot crashed plane

19 September

Analysis of wreckage thought to be from the missing Malaysia Airways flight MH370 appears to support the theory that the Boeing 777 was flown into the ocean on purpose, say reports.

Tests conducted on a part of the plane's wing, which was found off the coast of Tanzania, support the theory that MH370 plunged into the ocean in a "death dive," Australia's 7 News reports.

"Investigators have confirmed that the wing flap was not deployed at the time of impact, ruling out a controlled crash landing in the ocean as that would have required the flaps to be deployed," the site says. "Instead it suggests the missing flight plunged into the ocean at high speed, breaking up on impact."

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau said the debris was still being tested, but Peter Foley, the head of the organisation's search team, told the Australian Associated Press the flap was retracted, rather than deployed, when the plane hit the water.

"A pilot attempting a soft landing would have extended the wing flaps," 7 News says.

The report comes amid claims the pilot, Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah, was "heartbroken" over the failure of an alleged relationship at the time of the MH370's disappearance, the Daily Mail reports.

According to the paper, "Shah was messaging [married friend] Fatima Pardi about a 'personal matter' just two days before the plane vanished.

"Captain Shah is also believed to have split from his wife Faizah Hanun," the site adds, "although they lived under the same roof in Kuala Lumpur."

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