Flight MH370 WAS flying on auto-pilot: Australian officials reveal new details of missing flight as authorities admit they have been looking in the wrong place
- Australian Deputy PM says it is 'highly likely' plane was on auto pilot
- He said officials were confident plane ran out of fuel earlier than predicted
- Search operation will focus on a 60,000 square kilometre area further south in the Indian Ocean based on new satellite projections
- New search phase will begin in August and could take more than a year
More than 100 days after the Malaysia Airlines MH370 flight went missing search authorities admit they have been looking in the wrong place.
Based on new satellite projections, the Australian-led search operation will now focus on a 60,000 square kilometre area further south in the Indian Ocean.
Officials also said they are confident the Boeing 777, carrying 239 people, was set to autopilot several hours before its demise into desolate and unmapped waters.
Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss said: '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.'
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Deputy Prime Minister WarrenTruss confirms flight MH370 was on autopilot and may have run out of fuel earlier than previously thought
as search area (pictured) moves further south
'Certainly for its path across the Indian Ocean we are confident that the aircraft was operating on autopilot until it ran out of fuel,' Australian Transport Safety Bureau boss Martin Dolan said.
Mr Truss added that officials were confident the plane ran out of fuel earlier than they had previously predicted. Mr Truss said the new search area is based on fresh analysis of existing satellite data from the missing Malaysia Airlines flight.
The plane vanished during a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8 with 239 passengers and crew aboard.
Mr Truss added that the new search phase could take more than a year. It will take about three months to map the ocean floor before the search can begin.
News comes days after Malaysian police said pilot Zaharie Shah, 53 (pic), is main suspect in the disappearance as he had been practicing landing on small airfields in Indian Ocean on his flight simulator
'We could be fortunate and find it in the first hour or the first day, but it could take another 12 months,' he said.
The new search area, about 1800km from the West Australian coast, has been the subject of an aerial search previously, but efforts will now head below the waves, combing the ocean floor which is some 5km deep in parts.
Underlining the scale of the task, he said the previous search area covered just 330 square miles of seabed.
The shift was expected as the head of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, Martin Dolan, said last week it would move south.
'This site is a most likely place where the aircraft is resting,' he said. 'The search is going to be painstaking – of course we could be fortunate and find it in the first hour or the first day, but it could 12 months.'
Mr Truss said Australia remained dedicated to the task of solving 'this greatest aviation mystery in total history.'
Two vessels, one Chinese and one from Dutch engineering company Fugro are currently mapping the seafloor along the so-called seventh arc, a travel path where the plane last made contact with satellites, where depths can exceed 16,000ft (5,000m) in parts.
The next phase of the search mission is expected to start in August and cost of A$60 million ($56 million) or more. The search is already the most expensive in aviation history.
The news that the plane was on autopilot comes just days after Malaysian Airlines pilot Zaharie Shah, 53, was revealed to be the prime suspect behind the plane's disappearance.
Malaysian police made the announcement after discovering files on Shah's home flight simulator showing he practiced landing on small airfields, including several in the Indian Ocean.
The files had been deleted from the computer before officials seized it, but have since been recovered by detectives.
Malaysia airlines flight MH370 vanished during a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8 with 239 passengers and crew
The criminal inquiry completed intelligence checks on all of the people on board the flight to Beijing via Kuala Lumpur, but the only individual arousing suspicion was Captain Zaharie.
The father-of-three was found to have no social or work-related future plans, unlike the rest of the crew including his co-pilot, Fariq Hamid.
The criminal inquiry, which is yet to rule out other reasons for the plane's disappearance including a mechanical failure and terrorism, has so far only released its results to foreign governments and their investigators.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2670314/Search-missing-Malaysian-plane-shifts-south.html#ixzz35mcw4oad