KUALA LUMPUR: Australian Infrastructure and Transport Minister Darren Chester has refused to consider revealing reported FBI evidence that Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah deliberately downed Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 on 8 March 2014 after deviating from its Kuala Lumpur-Beijing path.
Labour Transport spokesman Anthony Albanese told The Australian that Canberra had a duty to the families of the victims. He added that the government should disclose what information it had.
“My concern all along has been the need for clarity for the families affected by this tragedy,” said Albanese. “The Australian government should be transparent. It’s about what it knows about issues related to this.”
The emergence of an alternative scenario lies at the heart of the renewed debate on what happened to MH370.
Chester, responding to the Labour Party, said the FBI’s “evidence” was a matter for the Malaysian Government to consider. Australian taxpayers have contributed millions to the search for MH370.
Chester said in a statement to The Australian, that “recent media reports regarding information collected from the MH370 captain’s home flight simulator was a matter for the Malaysian investigators to consider.”
Everyone is entitled to an opinion and to speculate on possible scenarios, he conceded. “I won’t be second-guessing the experts from Australia and around the world who have had access to all of the available data.”
All end-of-flight scenarios have been considered, he added in the statement. This includes controlled and uncontrolled flight in determining the 120,000 sq km search area.
The search for the missing plane, coming to an end, had been based on the “ghost plane” scenario, a narrower search area based on a “unconscious pilots” scenario. Except for 10,000 sq km, the search has so far covered the rest of the zone in the 7th Arc in the southern Indian Ocean, southwest of Australia.
Two hundred and thirty nine passengers and crew, it has been presumed, perished aboard MH370. The majority of the passengers were from China. Six were either Australian nationals or permanent residents.
It’s known that the plane, its transponder shut off, stopped short of Vietnam in the Gulf of Siam before turning back. It was tracked flying across the Malay peninsula before passing Pulau Pangkor in the Straits of Malacca and making for the northern tip of Sumatra. Thereafter, the whereabouts of the plane remains a great mystery.
All the MH370-related debris found so far have been in the western Indian Ocean. This has been from Mauritius and Reunion Island to South Africa, Madagascar and as far north as Tanzania.
New York Magazine, citing a secret FBI report, said that the path which may have been taken eventually by MH370 was in Zaharie’s home computer. “This is the strongest evidence yet that Zaharie made off with the plane in a premeditated act of mass murder-suicide,” said the magazine.
Based on the Forensics Analysis conducted on the 5 HDDs obtained from the Flight Simulator from the MH370 pilot’s house, said the FBI report quoted by New York Magazine, “we found a flight path, that lead (sic) to the Southern Indian Ocean, among the numerous other flight paths charted on the Flight Simulator”.
It was Australian pilot Byron Bailey, quoting an Australian Government source, which first revealed the FBI report.
British airline pilot Simon Hardy, like Bailey, argued that a conscious “rogue” pilot ditched the aircraft in a controlled gliding. The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB), leading the search for the plane, assumed the pilots were unconscious. Apparently, that put the search in a narrower and wrong zone.
Critics say that Australia did not want to embarass the Malaysian Government which may have resisted the “rogue” pilot theory.
Reuters quoted Project Director for the Underwater Search, Paul Kennedy, as saying at the weekend that the “rogue” pilot theory might be right after all.
“You could glide it for further than our search area is,” said Kennedy who is with Fugro, the Dutch Survey Group. “So, I believe the logical conclusion will be, well, maybe, that is the other scenario.”
The hunt for MH370 has been through several scenarios including “in-flight upset” — various weather patterns and system failure — a glide event, and an unconscious pilots scenario.