Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 has been missing for more than 20 months, and now new questions are being raised about whether the official search team, run by the Australia Transport Safety Bureau, is looking for the wreckage of the vanished Boeing 777-200 — with 239 people on board — is the right place.
The questions, from an independent analysis of ocean current patterns after the first and so far only piece of debris from the Flight MH370 was discovered in July on French-owned Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean, come just days after the ATSB issued its own official report designed to reassure the public that the Malaysia Airlines plane, or what’s left of it, does indeed lie on the ocean floor within the current search area.
The new ATSB report indicates, however, that the searchers have expanded the area in which they believe Flight MH370 went down, though the search remains centered on the “Seventh Arc,” the region of the Indian Ocean, about 1,200 miles off the coast of Perth, Australia.
But in July of this year, a “flaperon,” or a section of wing from a Boeing 777-200, washed up on a beach on Reunion Island, about 3,000 miles northwest of the search area. A subsequent investigation by French authorities came up with what the investigators said was conclusive evidence that the flaperon was part of the Malaysia Airlines plane. And in any case, no other Boeing 777-200 has ever crashed anywhere in the Indian Ocean.
In fact, the Boeing 777-200 has been involved in only seven accidents in its history, with just three of those resulting in fatalities. Other than the disappearance and apparent crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, the only other time a Boeing 777-200 has been destroyed, with a complete loss of all life on board, also came in 2014 with the shootdown of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine.
Investigators have been puzzled as to how the flaperon somehow floated, escaping detection, for at least 3,000 miles over almost 17 months until reaching Reunion Island. Now independent researcher and statistician Brock McEwen says that after months of research into ocean drift patterns and variable weather conditions, he has come up with an answer.
And the answer is — it couldn’t happen.
Or at least, the possibility appears extremely unlikely, according to McEwen’s analysis, based on the work of nine separate experts in ocean drift patterns.
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While the latest official report, issued on December 3, from the ATSB can be accessed by clicking on this link, the McEwen paper, “MH370 Debris Drift Studies — A Comparative Analysis,” may be downloaded by clicking on this link.
Author and aviation expert Jeff Wise, a frequent critic of the official Flight MH370 investigation, offered his own summary of McEwen’s findings, on his blog.
“Without implausibly strong wind effects debris could not have reached Reunion Island from the current search area,” Wise wrote last week. “Before debris could have reached Reunion Island, other pieces should have washed up in Western Australia and on other shorelines in the Indian Ocean.”
Wise expressed hope the ATSB would take McEwen’s findings into consideration because “the evidence has long been mounting that the authorities are looking for the plane in the wrong place,” he said.
“These points undermine the claim put forward in the most recent ATSB report that ‘the location of the recovered debris is consistent with drift modeling predictions of objects starting in the areas identified as possibly containing MH370,'” he wrote.
The ATSB report made headlines last week not for its widening of the Seventh Arc search zone, but for one passage in the report which appeared to state that Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 had suffered a massive power outage which caused “many of the airplane’s vital systems (to) shut down, placing an urgent demand on the crew to understand and deal with the failures,” according to aviation expert Clive Irving, writing in the Daily Beast.
Irving has long advocated for the theory that the Malaysia Airlines plane was felled by a fire on board, a fire that would cause the type of power outage supposedly described in the ATSB report. But the ATSB issued a clarification after the publication of Irving’s latest Flight MH370 article, stating that the power outage affected only a single Satellite Data Unit, which later switched back on, somehow.
[Featured Photo By Lai Seng Sin / Associated Press]