Experts leading the hunt for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 have said that the plane is unlikely to be found in the current search area. They recommended looking further north.
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) released the findings from its MH370 First Principles Review summit of crash investigators, aviation experts and government representatives, held in Canberra over three days from 4 November.
The Australian-led search effort of 120,000 sq km of the southern Indian ocean, informed by satellite data, has cost $145m (£117m) and is due to end in January. Fewer than 10,000 sq km remain to be searched. But progress has been slowed by bad weather.
But experts meeting in Canberra to reassess existing evidence and analysis say they are now confident the wreck of the plane is not there.
Satellite communications led investigators to conclude that the plane had flown far off course. Heading to a remote area of the Indian Ocean before crashing.
“Given the high confidence in the search undertaken to date, the experts agreed that the previously defined indicative underwater area is unlikely to contain the missing aircraft.” the ATSB said in a report.
“The experts also agreed that CSIRO’s debris drift modelling results present strong evidence that the aircraft is most likely to be located to the north of the current indicative underwater search area,” the report continued.
A stretch of the ocean farther north that encompasses 25,000 sq km and has the “highest probability” of containing the wreckage of the aircraft.
“The experts concluded that, if this area were to be searched, prospective areas for locating the aircraft wreckage, based on all the analysis to date, would be exhausted,” the officials said.
Australian government oceanographer David Griffin, who worked on the drift analysis, said he is confident the plane is in the newly identified search area. But he conceded it doesn't completely rule out the possibility that the plane rests in the current search area. And was somehow missed by search crews.
"It could have been where we were searching, absolutely, but the new information does clarify that immediately north is more likely." Griffin said.
Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 was flying from Beijing to Kuala Lumpur in March 2014 when it disappeared with 239 people on board.