A nearly 500-page report following a safety investigation into missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 has offered a series of safety recommendations based on revelations about events leading up to the disappearance of the plane, but authorities are no closer to understanding what actually happened.
MH370 disappeared in March 2014 after departing for Beijing from Kuala Lumpur with 239 passengers and crew on board. Investigators have searched the oceans since trying to locate the wreckage of the aircraft, but only debris has washed up on shores.
The report highlights that MH370’s radar readings before it disappeared show the aircraft did not follow its filed flight path, instead turning back in a south-westerly direction over the Andaman Sea.
Contrary to news reports that the captain in command of MH370 may have been practising a ‘suicidal route’ on a flight simulator at his home, the report says that although police found ‘manually programmed’ waypoints on the simulator that when connected created a flight path from Kuala Lumpur to an area south of the Indian Ocean through the Andaman Sea, investigators did not believe they found any “unusual activities other than game-related flight simulations”.
Lead investigator Kok Soo Chon said he could not rule out the possibility that the pilot deliberately crashed the aircraft in a suicide bid, but commented that it was unlikely. The report showed there were no mental health issues in the pilot’s past. Two psychiatrists on the team also said they did not hear evidence of stress or anxiety in recordings of the pilot during the flight and saw no “significant behavioural changes” on CCTV footage.
Investigators also shed some light on why the aircraft has yet to be located. The B777 was fitted with four emergency locator transmitters (ELTs), but the report found a fault in the devices when they are immersed in water, as it is assumed MH370 crashed into the ocean. The ELTs remain effective on land and the surface of water, but fail to transmit a signal when they are submerged. Even the aircraft’s portable ELT failed because the plane’s structure “may degrade the transmission”.
The report recommends a review of the effectiveness of current ELTs in situations where planes are submerged.
Another major revelation of the report takes into account MH370’s cargo. The aircraft was carrying nearly 2,500kg of lithium ion batteries and more than 4,500kg of mangosteen fruit. Investigators considered whether the combination could’ve sparked a fire, but the report rejects the theory based on analysis of previous battery and mangosteen shipments.
However, the investigation did find that the batteries did not go through security screening at their origin in Penang because there were no available x-ray machines large enough for the packages, but they were inspected physically by Malaysia Airlines’ cargo firm MASkargo and cleared customs. The shipment did not go through any additional screening before being loaded onto MH370.
Family members of MH370’s passengers say the report doesn’t provide answers as to what happened to the aircraft, with the daughter of one passenger saying it appears the team behind it did not question anything handed over to them by the police and other bodies from the two months before they began their own investigation.
The report concluded that the team was unable to determine the cause for the disappearance of MH370, and that without “the benefit of the examination of the aircraft wreckage and recorded flight data information”, the real reason may never be discovered.
The full report can be read here.