A world-leading air crash investigator has stated that he believes that flight MH370 was deliberately flown into the sea. The Boeing 777 disappeared while flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board in March 2014.
Speaking to Australian news programme 60 Minutes, Canadian Larry Vance disclosed that erosion along the trailing edge of recovered wing parts indicates a controlled landing. Mr Vance was formerly investigator-in-charge for the Canadian Aviation Safety Board and the Transportation Safety Board of Canada. He has led more than 200 air crash investigations. He was the chief author of a report into the 1998 Swissair flight 111 crash off Nova Scotia, Canada, in which 229 people were killed. The force of that crash broke the plane into more than two million pieces. He has told 60 Minutes that an absence of such wreckage was one factor that suggests MH370 landed in controlled circumstances. During the programme, he states that “somebody was flying the airplane at the end of its flight…Somebody was flying the airplane into the water. There is no other alternate theory that you can follow.”
An Australian-led search for the mission jet has focused on an area of the ocean floor 2,000 kilometres (1,242 miles) off Australia’s western coast. The zone was selected based on the theory that the flight was running on autopilot after veering off course. An official co-ordinating the search effort however has told 60 Minutes that the wreckage could be outside the search zone, if someone had been in control of the plane when it crashed. Despite the extensive search of the southern Indian Ocean, no trace of the aircraft was found until the discovery of a wing section, called a flaperon, on Reunion Island off Madagascar one year ago. Mr Vance states that photographs of the recovered flaperon depict a jagged edge, which suggests high-pressure water erosion that could only be caused if someone had been flying the plane into the ocean. He further states that “the force of the water is really the only thing that could make that jagged edge that we see. It wasn’t broken off. If it was broken off, it would be a clean break. You couldn’t even break that thing.” He also disclosed that the fact that the flaperon had apparently been deployed for landing also indicated that someone was piloting the plane when it hit the ocean, stating, “you cannot get the flaperon to extend any other way than if somebody extended it…Somebody would have to select it.” Peter Foley, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau’s (ATSB) programme director of the search, has also told 60 Minutes that the type of damage the flaperon sustained provided evidence for the controlled landing theory. Mr Foley was asked: “If there was a rogue pilot, isn’t it possible that the plane was taken outside the parameters of the search area?” To which he replied: “Yeah – if you guided the plane or indeed control-ditched the plane, it has an extended range, potentially,” adding, “there is a possibility…somebody (was) in control at the end and we are actively looking for evidence to support that.”
Mr Vance’s theory is just the latest to emerge on what has become one of aviation’s greatest unsolved mysteries. The search for MH370 has been combing a 120,000 sq km area of seabed using underwater drones and sonar equipment from specialist ships. It is expected to draw to a close by the end of the year if it does not find credible new evidence.
Confirmed/Suspected MH370 Debris Found
- A section of wing called a flaperon, found on Reunion Island in July 2015 was confirmed in September 2015 as debris from MH370.
- Horizontal stabilizer from tail section was found between Mozambique and Madagascar in December 2015.
- Stabilizer panel with “No Step” stencil was found in Mozambique in February 2016.
- Engine cowling bearing Rolls-Royce logo was found in March 2016 in Mossel Bay, South Africa.
- A fragment of interior door panel was found in Rodrigues Island, Mauritius in March 2016.
- Fragments, including what appears to be a seat frame, a coat hook and other panels, were found on Nosy Boraha Island in northeast Madagascar.
Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 is now closer to being solved after Malaysia announced Wednesday that a fragment found in Reunion in late June was part of the missing plane. The Boeing 777, which was travelling from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on 8 March 2014, vanished from radar hours after take-off. The plane, which had 239 people on board, has been missing for 515 days.
At a news conference in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak announced that experts examining the debris in France had “conclusively confirmed” that it was from the aircraft. Investigators however have stopped short of confirming the link, stating only that it is highly likely. Late Wednesday, French prosecutor Serge Mackowiak disclosed that there were “very strong indications” that this was the case and that confirmation would only come after further tests have been carried out. The debris located on the remote French island of Reunion in the Indian Ocean a week ago is a wing part known as a flaperon. It washed up on the beach more than 3,700 km (2,300 miles) away from the main search site. It is the first possible trace of the plane. Last week, the part was flown to a military laboratory in the French city of Toulouse, where experts have indicated that they will continue to carry out further tests on Thursday. On Thursday, Malaysia’s transport minister revealed that a Malaysian team in Reunion has collected more apparent plane debris, including a window and some aluminium foil. Liow Tiong Lai noted however that he could not confirm that the items belonged to MH370, stating that he “…can only ascertain that its plane debris.” Officials are also searching neighbouring areas, including Mauritius and Madagascar, to help comb their beaches for possible debris to widen the search.
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) has been co-ordinating the deep-sea hunt in the southern Indian Ocean, where the plane is believed to have gone down, thousands of miles from Reunion. On Wednesday, Australian prime minister Tony Abbot confirmed that the Australian-led search for the body of the plane would continue. The ATSB has since disclosed that it is possible that debris from the plane could have travelled that distance since the crash more than a year ago. In a statement, officials disclosed, “it is heartening that the discovery of the flaperon is consistent with our search area and we will continue to search this area thoroughly in the expectation we will find the missing aircraft.” Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss has stated that the investigating team is “continuing to finalize its considerations of the wreckage and we will await further detail from them.”
Over the past seventeen months, the search for MH370 has changed in scope a number of times, first beginning in the South China Sea. At its largest, the search operation covered 7.68 million sq km (2.96 sq miles) – a total of 2.24 million square nautical miles, effectively the equivalent of 11% of the Indian Ocean and 1.5% of the surface of the Earth. On 16 March, satellite images of possible debris, along with tracking data that was released by the Malaysian authorities, appeared to indicate that the plane crashed in the Indian Ocean, just south west of Australia. After searching an area of more than 2,000 km (1,240 miles) southwest of Perth, authorities later turned to searching more than 1,000 km (600 miles) further north. In April, the search zone was narrowed to an area of 850 sq km (328 sq miles) of the ocean floor to focus on acoustic signals that were detected by Australian teams. In June 2014, a new refined search area was announced, which shifted the focus to an area that covers 60,000 sq km and which is located 1,800 km (1,100 miles) off the west coast of Australia. Authorities have searched around 30% of the priority area, using specialized sonar technology and searching to depths of up to 6,000 m (19,685 ft).
After departing at 00:41, Saturday 8 March 2014 from Kuala Lumpur International Airport, Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 was due to arrive in Beijing at 06:30 (22:30 GMT). Malaysia Airlines has stated that the plane lost contact less than an hour after take-off and that no distress signal or message was sent. While the plane’s planned route would have taking it north-eastwards, over Cambodia and Vietnam, evidence from military radar later revealed that the plane had suddenly changed from its northerly course to head west. Further evidence, released on 15 March, suggested that the jet had been deliberately diverted by someone on board about an hour after take-off.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has reshuffled his cabinet amid an ongoing corruption scandal that continues to threaten the stability of his administration. On Tuesday this week Najib dismissed his Attorney General, Abdul Gani Patil, who had been investigating the Malaysian leader over embezzlement allegations, along with deputy PM Muhyiddin Yassin, who had called on the premier to answer the charges laid against him. Four other Malaysian lawmakers have also been sacked in what Najib’s critics have described as a purge designed to prevent the premier’s alleged involvement in the scandal from being thoroughly investigated.
On 13 July, Malaysian police said that an investigation had been launched into the release of confidential documents to the Sarawak Report and the Wall Street Journal, which are reported to contain proof of how millions of dollars were siphoned into the PM’s private accounts from a variety of banks, government agencies and other companies connected to 1 Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) – a state investment fund chaired by Najib. These reports claim that five deposits were made in Najib’s accounts, the two largest of which – worth $681 million collectively – occurred during Malaysia’s 2013 election campaign. A special task force has been convened to investigate the case; so far, six of Najib’s bank accounts have been frozen and seventeen more are under investigation.
While Najib does not deny ownership of the accounts or that money was deposited in them, he utterly rejects the allegations of graft and corruption made by his critics and the Wall Street Journal, against whom he is considering taking legal action. In a televised address that took place after the reshuffle, Najib said: “I can accept differences in opinion and criticisms as part of the decision-making process, but these differences in opinion should not be made in an open forum that can affect the public perception of the government and the country.” Representatives for 1MDB have also rejected claims there was anything untoward in their financial dealings with the PM.
While professing his innocence of any wrongdoing, Najib has accused former Malaysian PM Mahathir Mohamad of masterminding an act of “political sabotage” which he claims is an attempt to bring down the government and remove him from power. Certainly, Mahathir has been instrumental in undercutting public confidence in Najib, whose approval ratings have dropped sharply over the past year, but there has otherwise been no conclusive evidence of any such conspiracy.
As the investigation progresses, questions continue to be asked about the future of Malaysia’s leadership. If a smoking gun were found which directly implicated Najib in an embezzlement scam, it seems likely that the United Malay’s National Organization (UMNO) party would drop him as a means of preserving their 58-year long rule. If not, he may be able to weather the storm, provided that the reshuffle hasn’t exhausted his supply of political goodwill within the party.