The missing Malaysian plane was “highly likely” to have been on autopilot as it flew over the Indian Ocean, Australian officials Thursday said, as they decided to focus further south to locate the plane that vanished mysteriously over three months back.
After analysing data between the plane and a satellite, officials believe Flight MH370 was on autopilot before it disappeared along with 239 people, including five Indians, on board on March 8 after taking off from Kuala Lumpur en route to Beijing.
“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.
“We are confident that the aircraft was operating on autopilot until it ran out of fuel,” Martin Dolan, chief commissioner of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau which is leading the search, said.
Investigators have reviewed information in order to define a search zone of up to 60,000 square kilometres along the arc in the southern Indian Ocean.
Truss said latest shift in the search area involves the efforts and expertise of specialists from around the world. He said experts have analysed satellite communications information which was never initially intended to have the capability to track an aircraft and performed extremely complex calculations.
The new priority area is still focused on the seventh arc, where the aircraft last communicated with a satellite. “We are now shifting our attention to an area further south along the arc ,” Truss said.