Data Backs Up Theory That Flight 370 Ran Out of Fuel

By
Photo: STR/AFP/Getty Images

As the Malaysian government released 47 pages of raw satellite data from the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 on Tuesday, new reports from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau concluded that the missing plane turned south, ran out of fuel, and crashed into the Indian Ocean. While an underwater search failed to turn up any trace of the plane in the area, investigators say they're still confident that it went down around 25 nautical miles from where the British company Inmarsat’s satellite picked up a final automated ping from the plane, requesting another electronic "handshake." "This is consistent with satellite communication equipment on the aircraft powering up following a power interruption," the ATSB said in a statement. "The interruption in electrical supply may have been caused by fuel exhaustion."

For two months, families of the 239 passengers have demanded that the Malaysian government release the data from the satellite so it can be handed over to independent experts for analysis. "I never dreamed it would be such an obstacle to overcome," Sarah Bajc, the American partner of a passenger, told Reuters. Family members are also upset that some data was removed to improve readability, and the government did not release comparable data from previous flights on MH370's route. "Why couldn't they have submitted that?" Bajc said. "It only makes sense if they are hiding something."

For now, the hunt for Flight 370 is still focused on the seabed. A Chinese ship is currently mapping the ocean floor, which will take at least three months. Once investigators have an idea of where they can search underwater without damaging their equipment, private contractors will take over the deep-sea search for debris, which could take another year. Martin Dolan, chief commissioner of the ATSB, said the complexities "cannot be underestimated," but he remains "confident of finding the aircraft."