Australian defence scientists who analysed signals from missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 have revealed the Boeing 777 fell very fast before crashing into the Indian Ocean off the coast of Western Australia.
Australian media reported on Tuesday that data analysis and manufacturer simulations showed it was likely the aircraft lost engine power before falling out of the sky at a rate of up to 20,000 feet per minute on March 8, 2014, Xinhua news agency reported.
An aircraft attempting a regular landing – or a crash landing in water – would descend at a rate of around 2,000 feet per minute, raising doubts over previous predictions that the plane “landed” intact in the water before breaking up, the analysts said.
Australian scientists believed that prior to its final moments, the jet made a number of automated “handshake” signals with satellites on the ground near Perth in Western Australia.
After six of those handshakes, a seventh, out-of-sequence signal came from the jet, indicating engine failure likely from lack of fuel.
The data gives life to the theory that MH370 fell out of the sky, and did not glide to a final crash-landing spot in the Indian Ocean.
Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) chief commissioner Greg Hood said the scientists’ analysis of the signals closely matched a flight scenario in which there was no pilot at the controls at the point of impact – in contrast to previous theories about how MH370 went down.
Hood said the signal data meant MH370 likely crashed in the 120,000-square-km search area now being combed by Australian authorities.
If the aircraft had glided to a final resting place – as previous theories had hinted – the plane may have gone down outside of the current search area.
MH370 was a scheduled passenger flight from Kuala Lumpur bound for Beijing. It had 239 passengers and crew on board when it disappeared on March 8, 2014.