Roughly 15 months ago, Malaysia, China, and Australia decided that if they couldn't find the wreckage of Flight MH370 in the designated search area—a portion of the southern Indian Ocean the size of Greece, reports Reuters—that that would basically be it: no expansion of the area unless concrete evidence indicated they should do so. Nothing has been found since that April 2015 decision, but there is a new theory, from the search team led by Dutch engineering group Fugro. Project director Paul Kennedy tells Reuters it's possible the plane, which vanished while traveling from Beijing from Kuala Lumpur with 239 board, was manned at the very end. That would change its trajectory, with the plane not diving but gliding—for a distance as long as 120 miles, says Kennedy—into the water after its fuel had run out.
The working theory has been that there was no one at the wheel during its final descent, and Reuters identifies Kennedy's comments as the first time officials involved in the search have suggested otherwise. Bloomberg reports Malaysia, China, and Australia are meeting Thursday to discuss the status of the search, which has thus far covered more than 90% of the designated search area. Getting behind the new theory "could mean combing an area almost as big as California for the best part of a decade," explains Bloomberg. As for the possibility the searchers just missed the plane's wreckage, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau said in an email the search has been so precise even lumps of coal on the ocean floor have been identified.