PUTRAJAYA, Malaysia—Investigators probing the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 found no fault with the pilots or aircraft in the latest report into one of the world’s biggest aviation mysteries, but they had no explanation for what happened to the plane and the 239 people on board.
A report released Monday by a team that Malaysia’s civil aviation regulator had appointed said air-traffic controllers didn’t follow procedures and failed to watch radar displays as required. It said they also delayed activating emergency processes, which in turn delayed starting search-and-rescue operations.
The investigating team included experts from the U.S., Australia and China.
But apart from listing procedural lapses, the bulk of their report recounted information already released since the jet vanished on a scheduled flight to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur about four years ago.
“No conclusions are drawn, no blame is assigned,” said
the daughter of one of the victims on the plane. The report “lacks depth” and may not help prevent such incidents in future, she said, adding the search for the missing plane must continue.
Flight 370 stopped communicating with controllers in the early hours of March 8, 2014. Instead of completing its flight to Beijing, it made a series of inexplicable turns before setting off on a journey into a remote quarter of the Indian Ocean, thousands of kilometers off course, according to satellite data.
After initial search efforts by several militaries failed to find the plane, Australia led a search in the southern Indian Ocean. But that also failed to find the aircraft or its data recorders, which could have helped determine the cause of the disaster.
Pieces of aircraft debris found washed up on the coast of east Africa and the French island of Réunion, thousands of kilometers from the likely crash site, were confirmed to be from the
777 jet, though the main body of the aircraft hasn’t been found. The setting of the wing flap debris suggested it crashed into the ocean in a steep dive instead of gliding down to sea level.
After repeated demands by family members of the victims, all of whom are presumed dead, to keep looking, Texas-based exploration firm Ocean Infinity began a new search at the start of the year. The search was backed by the Malaysian government, which was offering a bounty for the plane if it was found.
It too failed to find any trace of the plane and the search was called off in late May.
On Monday, the leader of the team of investigators,
Kok Soo Chon,
said they couldn’t rule out the possibility of “unlawful interference” of the flight—though no terrorist groups had claimed responsibility.
“It is possible that the absence of communications prior to the flight path diversion was due to the systems being manually turned off, whether by intent or otherwise,” he said at a news conference, adding the report wasn’t final and conclusive given the wreckage wasn’t found.
Malaysia’s new government led by Prime Minister
pledged to release the investigation team’s full, unedited report after winning elections in May, vowing “total transparency” after a heated election campaign.
The previous government also said it would release the report in full, under norms set by the International Civil Aviation Organization.
A fresh investigation appears unlikely given what was in this latest report, which followed a separate one by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau last year, and the fact the search effort has stopped.
Malaysia’s Transport Minister
Anthony Loke Siew Fook
said the government will review the safety recommendations in the report and take steps to prevent similar future air accidents. The government will also conduct a “thorough investigation” and punish those found guilty of any misconduct, he said.