Officials: Missing Jet Likely on Autopilot

Autopilot deliberately turned on, Australians say

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff

Posted Jun 26, 2014 4:45 AM CDT | Updated Jun 26, 2014 7:48 AM CDT

(Newser) – Will Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 ever be found? Authorities can't say—but they have found a new place to start looking. Australian Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss says the search will be moved to a fresh area in the southern Indian Ocean, and a report released today by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau explains the reasoning for selecting the new area. Truss says it is "highly, highly likely that the aircraft was on autopilot," per the BBC, and the report paints the likeliest scenario as one in which the crew was not responsive—possibly due to a lack of oxygen, reports the New York Times. Among the evidence to that end, per the report: a loss of radio communications, a long spell in which there was no "en route maneuvering," and a "steadily maintained" cruise altitude. "Given these observations, the final stages of the unresponsive crew/hypoxia event type appeared to best fit the available evidence," the report reads.

The new search will begin in August after the underwater surface has been mapped; it'll take up to a year to cover an area of 23,000 square miles, according to the Telegraph. "This area has never been comprehensively mapped," Truss says, but it "is the best available and most likely place where the aircraft is resting." The chief commissioner of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau says there is a small chance the mapping operation now under way could discover the wreckage. He says it's not clear when the plane with 239 people aboard was set to autopilot, but he believes it was deliberately turned on "somewhere off the western tip of Sumatra." Earlier this week, Malaysia Airlines' commercial boss gave his account of the harrowing night in March when the plane vanished.

This map provided by the Joint Agency Coordination Centre shows the new search zone.
This map provided by the Joint Agency Coordination Centre shows the new search zone.   (AP Photo/Joint Agency Coordination Centre)
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