Malaysia's government has released the final investigation report into the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 on 8 March 2014, with no new conclusive findings on the cause of the accident or the whereabouts of the Boeing 777-200ER.
The report however stated that "there were uncertainties on the position" of MH370 by both Kuala Lumpur and Ho Chi Minh air traffic control, further pointing to irregularities between both sets of area centre controllers that had most likely caused the delay in the deployment of search and rescue teams when the aircraft (9M-MRO) was initially discovered to have gone missing from radar.
It was found that Kuala Lumpur area controllers had transferred MH370 to Ho Chi Minh controllers at 17:19 UTC, 3min before the original estimated time of the transfer of the control point. Furthermore, Ho Chi Minh did not notify Kuala Lumpur when two-way communication was not established with MH370 within five minutes of the estimated time for the transfer of control point.
Kuala Lumpur controllers instead relied solely on position information of the aircraft provided by Malaysia Airlines' flight operations despatch centre rather than checking with other air traffic authorities. By this time, the aircraft had left the range of radars visible to the Kuala Lumpur controllers. They also did not alert the Royal Malaysian Air Force joint air traffic centre, and failed to continue to monitor the radar display for the aircraft.
MH370 was operating a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing when contact was lost over the Gulf of Thailand. The aircraft made a mysterious turn-back and, after a circuitous route, flew towards the southern Indian Ocean. The aircraft’s approximate location was determined by a series of satellite log-on “handshakes” with the 777 during its flight.
Investigators believe the turn-back was probably made while the aircraft was under manual control and not the autopilot, according to the inquiry. But they could not establish whether two further turns, over the south of Penang and towards the southern Indian Ocean, were made under manual control or the autopilot.
The main wreckage of MH370 has still not been found despite a four-year search. Twenty-seven items of debris have been located, washed ashore in south-eastern Africa, of which three have been confirmed as parts of the missing aircraft. Seven other pieces are "almost certain" to have come from MH370, the inquiry says.
"Without the benefit of the examination of the aircraft wreckage and recorded flight data information, the investigation was unable to identify any plausible aircraft or systems failure mode that would lead to the observed systems deactivation, diversion from the filed flight plan route and the subsequent flight path taken by the aircraft," the investigation states.
"However, the same lack of evidence precluded the investigation from definitely eliminating that possibility. The possibility of intervention by a third party cannot be excluded either."