SYDNEY, Australia – Missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 was highly likely on autopilot when it ran out of fuel and crashed, Australian officials said on Thursday as they announced the search will shift further south.
“It would be fair to comment that it is highly, highly likely that the aircraft was on autopilot, otherwise it could not have followed the orderly path that has been identified through the satellite sightings,” Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss said.
The search for missing flight MH370 has moved further south in the Indian Ocean, with searchers forced to spend three months mapping previously uncharted waters before a proper investigation can take place. Truss announced the search for the plane off Western Australia had moved further south and was still about 1,800km offshore.
An expert satellite working group defined a new search zone of up to 60,000 square kilometres along the arc in the southern Indian Ocean in the hunt for the plane which has so far been fruitless. The new search area has not been mapped and Chinese and Australian ships are mapping the seafloor. This is expected to take three months.
The search will be able to start properly in August and could last for 12 months. Chief Commissioner of Australian Transport Safety Bureau Martin Dolan joined Truss for the press conference in and said it was likely that MH370 was on autopilot for hours before it crashed.
He said the conclusion was reached because of the orderly path the plane took. The federal budget set aside $90m over two years for the search and authorities are still confident the Malaysian Airlines plane is off Australia’s west coast.