Missing Malaysia Airlines jet was ‘flying on autopilot when it disappeared’

Australian officials say they are confident missing Flight MH370 was flying on autopilot when it disappeared. The Malaysia Airlines plane vanished on March 8 carrying 239 passengers and crew while travelling from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. The search area in the hunt for the missing jet has shifted several hundred kilometres south of the most recent suspected crash site in a remote stretch of the Indian Ocean, where an underwater drone had been scouring 855 square kilometres of seabed. Australian Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss said the new search area is based on fresh analysis of existing satellite data.

Certainly for its path across the Indian Ocean, we are confident that the aircraft was operating on autopilot until it ran out of fuel.

Martin Dolan, chief commissioner of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau

The new search zone of up to 60,000 square kilometres is in the southern corridor and is based on where the aircraft last communicated with an Inmarsat satellite. A survey will be carried out by two surface vessels to map the ocean floor of the area, which will take three months. A comprehensive underwater search will then start in August and take up to 12 months to complete. Truss said he was optimistic the latest search zone is the most likely crash site, but warned finding the plane remains a huge task.

The search will still be painstaking. Of course, we could be fortunate and find it in the first hour or the first day—but it could take another 12 months.

Australian Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss