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​Interim MH370 report offers details but few clues

Exactly one year after the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an interim statement about the safety investigation offers few new clues into what happened to the missing Boeing 777-200ER.

The 587-page report was compiled by a 19-member, multi-national investigation team established by the county’s minister of transport under the auspices of ICAO regulations.

But among the more notable items are the revelation that the battery for the flight-data recorder's underwater locator beacon had expired, as well as clarifications on the last voice transmission from the aircraft.

The report ascertains that it was the 53-year old captain, Zaharie Ahmad Shah, who uttered the aircraft’s last nine voice transmissions. This includes the final communication – “Goodnight Malaysian three-seven-zero” – at 01:19:30 local time (17:19:30 UTC). This transmission occurred 1min 6s before the aircraft’s transponder ceased transmitting at 01:20:36 local time.

Five sets of audio recordings between MH370 and air traffic controllers were examined, comprising some 23 “utterances”, the inquiry states. The first three sets of “utterances” were established as being spoken by 27-year-old first officer, Fariq Abdul Hamid, who was on his final training flight for the 777 – he had been promoted from the carrier’s Airbus A330-300 fleet.

The recordings were assessed by replaying them to other pilots, as well as the friends and family members of the pilots. In addition, independent experts provided objective analysis.

The report also revealed that the battery for the underwater locator beacon affixed to the aircraft’s flight-data recorder had expired in December 2012, and there is no evidence it had been replaced. This could have reduced its discharge time below the nominal 30-day period, possibly limiting searchers’ ability to locate the aircraft.

Investigators state that the battery for the cockpit-voice recorder beacon was up-to-date.

The report also shows that the aircraft was picked up by primary radar several times after it turned back and headed over peninsular Malaysia, with primary radar targets transmitted to Kuala Lumpur's air traffic control centre.

After crossing the peninsula, MH370 made an abrupt right turn south of Penang, and headed to waypoint VAMPI, which is located at the north-western mouth of the Malacca Strait between Sumatra and Malaysia.

Military radar continued to track the signal as it appeared to head for the subsequent waypoint MEKAR, on the N571 airway, before it disappeared at 02:22:12 local time about 10nm after this waypoint.

Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak says that Malaysia is committed to finding the lost aircraft, which satellite data indicated as having crashed in the southern reaches of the Indian Ocean. All 227 passengers and 12 crew perished in the disaster.

“Together with our international partners, we have followed the little evidence that exists. Malaysia remains committed to the search, and hopeful that MH370 will be found,” said Razak.

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