Search for MH370 Winding Down with Little Results, But a New Theory is Emerging

Experts say the discovered debris suggests a more nefarious event.

ByJEFFREY COOK
July 22, 2016, 6:25 PM
PHOTO:In this March 31, 2014 file photo, a shadow of a Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3 Orion aircraft is seen on low cloud cover while it searches for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 in the southern Indian Ocean.
In this March 31, 2014 file photo, a shadow of a Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3 Orion aircraft is seen on low cloud cover while it searches for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 in the southern Indian Ocean.
Rob Griffith/AP Photo

— -- After two and a half years and more than 110,000 square kilometers of scouring the floor of the southern Indian Ocean, the hunt Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 will soon come to a close; at least for now.

But some experts say that the debris discovered so far indicates that the plane glided down to the surface of the ocean, instead of falling out of the sky in some way.

In a joint statement from the Malaysian, Australian and Chinese ministers of transportation, the search will be suspended when crews finish the final 10,000 sq km remaining in the current search area.

“Ministers acknowledged that despite the best efforts of all involved, the likelihood of finding the aircraft is fading,” a joint press release said.

They added that this does not mean the end of the search for certain, but “should credible new information emerge which can be used to identify the specific location of the aircraft, consideration will be given in determining next steps.”

PHOTO: The MH370 underwater search area in the southern Indian Ocean. As of now, the search plans to conclude this summer if the plane is not found.
The MH370 underwater search area in the southern Indian Ocean. As of now, the search plans to conclude this summer if the plane is not found.
ATSB

The current search area was determined by an international panel of scientists and engineers, under the theory that the aircraft, with 239 people on board, ran out of fuel and fell into the ocean.

The quest to find the missing the Boeing 777 has yielded very little results despite several pieces of positively-identified debris washing ashore in Africa.

"While acknowledging the significance of the debris, ministers noted that to date, none of it had provided information that positively identified the precise location of the aircraft."

On Monday, the Australian and Malaysian governments confirmed a wing flap was being examined as possibly being part of MH370.

Experts say the debris discovered so far suggests the jet made a controlled descent and glided down on to the ocean surface.

“What we are finding in parts is more commensurate with the airplane having been ditched by a live pilot, and that would have been probably outside that box someplace,” said John Nance, ABC News aviation consultant and a former Air Force pilot. “That airplane, if so, is largely intact on the bottom somewhere.”

If the theory that someone glided the plane down onto the surface of the ocean is true, it could more than double the size of the search area.

The jet, bound for Beijing, took off from Kuala Lumpur International Airport shortly after midnight, at 12:41 a.m. local time on March 8, 2014.

A couple of actions soon after the flight departed -- turning off the data transmission system and the transponder -- suggest that someone may have been alive and conscious inside the cockpit.

Bolstering this hypothesis is radar data, which shows that four minutes after the transponder shut off, the plane deviated from its planned route, doubling back on itself and flying back over Malaysia, then north along the Strait of Malacca, until it eventually dropped off Malaysian radar.

According to rudimentary satellite data -- the only data available, since the data system and transponder had been shut off -- the aircraft continued flying for about six hours, until it likely ran out of fuel over the Indian Ocean at just after 8:19 a.m. Malaysia time.

ABC News' David Kerley, Erin Dooley, John Nance and Col. Stephen Ganyard contributed to this report.

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