27 June 2014 at 07.35 GMT
A catastrophic event soon after take-off that incapacitated the pilots of the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 is being suggested as most likely explanation for its disappearance.
The theory comes in the first international report by air accident investigators into the disaster.
A 50-page report by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau is the first official document to suggest a scenario for why the Boeing 777 went off course and vanished 110 days ago while flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 passengers and crew on board.
The ghost flight scenario put forward by Australia’s air accident investigation authority assumes that the aircraft was on autopilot when its two fuel-starved engines cut out after more than five hours flying far off course, and the pilots made no attempt to make a controlled ditching in the southern Indian Ocean.
The report, based on analyses by an expert panel, including representatives from Boeing, the British satellite firm Inmarsat and the US National Transportation Safety Board, says “the unresponsive crew/hypoxia type event” scenario is the “best fit” with what is known about MH370’s last hours of flight, The Times reported.
The report suggests that MH370’s pilots managed to reset the 777’s autopilot on to a southerly heading in a desperate effort to get back towards Malaysia for an emergency landing, but became too incapacitated to complete it – causing their aircraft to keep flying south until the fuel ran out.
Hypoxia occurs when the body is starved off oxygen. The report said that such events on aircraft were generally caused by the failure to pressurise during the initial climb.
However, a fast fire fuelled by the aircraft’s oxygen supply in the cockpit area has also been suggested as a possible cause of the crew’s incapacitation.
The ATSB document was issued to explain why the hunt for the lost jet is being moved to a new 60,000 square kilometre area south of regions of the Indian Ocean previously searched.
Sourced from Travel Weekly