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KUALA LUMPUR, April 8 ― New analysis of partial satellite communications with Flight MH370 that places it in the Indian Ocean location where acoustic signals were detected by search teams have led authorities to believe they may have found the site of wreckage.
British daily, The Telegraph, reported today that the final satellite contact or “half-handshake” ― as it is referred to in aviation jargon ― could have been the moment when the plane ran out of fuel, turned upside down and plunged into the water.
Citing Chris McLaughlin from British satellite company Inmarsat, The Telegraph reported that analysis of the new signals were made at 00.19 GMT ― 8.19am Malaysian time ― on March 8, just eight minutes after Malaysia Airlines (MAS) Flight MH370's last regular hourly handshake.
The daily reported that the signals were further scrutinised by an international team of experts and the latest analysis showed the plane to be travelling faster than previously presumed, burning up more fuel, and would have landed even further north along the same arc.
“The partial handshake would be the plane running out of fuel and faltering for a moment, so the system went off network and then briefly powered up and had communication with the network. The plane looked for a final communication before it went off ― and that was it,” McLaughlin was quoted saying.
The daily also cited a former British Airways pilot who flew Boeing 777s, Stephen Buzdygan, as saying that the jetliner would have continued staying airborne but may have turned over on its back as the engines shut off one after the other.
“Without fuel, assuming the crew were unconscious and no one was flying the plane, it would glide.
“Engines have separate fuel supply, so the chances are it won't go in with the wings level. With no autopilot correction, it would slowly turn on its back and go down at an angle and the wings will be ripped off,” the pilot was quoted saying.
International searchers are racing against time to find the crucial flight data and cockpit voice recorders that may hold the only clues in the “unprecedented mystery” of the disappearance of the Beijing-bound plane carrying 239 passengers and crew on board.
Batteries powering the emergency locator transmitters equipped on the black boxes have a rated life of 30 days; the plane went missing on March 8 or 31 days ago.
An Australian ship, Ocean Shield, had picked up two sets of signals consistent with the beacons from aircraft black box recorders over the weekend had not registered any further pulses and are reportedly separate from those picked up by a Chinese search ship that had placed the site farther south.
The first set was heard on Saturday and lasted for two hours and twenty minutes; the second set lasted 13 minutes.
Ocean Shield, which is towing a deep-sea pinger locator, has since lost track of the pings but is trying to relocate the signals.
Retired Australian Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, who is leading the multinational search, said the second set included two distinct sounds which would be consistent with transmissions from separate pingers attached to the black box's flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder.
“In the search so far it is probably the best information that we have had,” Houston was quoted saying by The Telegraph.
“We are encouraged that we are very close to where we need to be. I would want more confirmation before we say 'this is it'.”