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Malaysia Airlines jet crew might have suffered from hypoxia: ATSB report

Thursday, 26 June 2014 - 5:48pm IST | Place: Canberra | Agency: Zee Media Bureau

  • malaysian-airlines AFP

The search area for the missing Malaysian Airlines Fligh MH370 has been shifted further south in the Indian Ocean after fresh review of satellite data by the specialists, announced Australian Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss on Thursday. The new search zone has been jointly approved by three major nations involved in the jet hunt – Australia, China and Malaysia. 

Announcing the details of new refined search area on Thursday, Mr Truss informed that the new search area lies 1800 km off western Australia and the focus now, will be on area of seventh partial satellite handshake.  "The new priority area is still focused on the seventh arc, where the aircraft last communicated with satellite. We are now shifting our attention to an area further south along the arc based on these calculations," Warren Truss said. 

The new search area is based on the analysis and complex calculations conducted by the specialists, who have reviewed the satellite communications information, Mr Truss said.  Truss added that it was “highly highly likely” that the missing jet was flying on autopilot after the fuel ran out.  Deputy Prime Minister Truss added that the search for MH370 will continue with the detailed ocean floor mapping, or a bathymetric survey. 

The bathymetric survey which is being carried out by the Chinese survey ship Zhu Kezhen and the Australian-contracted vessel Fugro Equator, will take three months to conclude. The underwater search will begin in August and take up to 12 months to complete, said the Joint Agency Coordination Centre. Also, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau released a report today, outlining the basis on which the new search area has been defined. The 55-page report by the Australian Transport Safety Boar suggested that the crew of the plane was "unresponsive" or possibly suffering from hypoxia when the plane went down.  Hypoxia is the lack of oxygen due to a drastic drop in air pressure. 

The report said that the possibility of unresponsive crew is strengthened by evidences like the loss of radio communications, a long period with no maneuvering of the aircraft, a steadily maintained cruise altitude and eventual fuel exhaustion and descent. “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,” the document said. 

The ATSB report, however, clarified that it was just an assumption. MH370 disappeared on March 8 while flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on-board. Despite a marathon search effort costing billions of dollars and involving dozens of nations (a maximum of 26), the searchers have not been able to find any trace of the plane, making it one of the biggest aviation mysteries. Earlier, a British satellite company INMARSAT has said that the searchers of the missing plane never focussed on what according to them is the crash 'hotspot'.  Talking to the BBC's Horizon TV programme, the satellite company Inmarsat claims that the search mission could not really zero in on the area in the southern Indian Ocean, which has the highest possibility of being the crash site.  

Inmarsat officials added that even though Australian naval vessel Ocean Shield was sent to search for the hotspot, it was distracted midway by the 'pings' thought to be coming from the plane's flight recoders.  After which the search was mainly focussed on the pings as prime lead and it consumed over two months of search with searchers scanning 850 sq km of sea bed. However, it turned out that 'pings' were perhaps sonar detections from some other objects and the hunt yielded no results.  

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