The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB), which is leading the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, will not release a report by international experts reviewing the strategy to find the missing plane until the search is complete, authorities said.
The move by the Australian authorities has given rise to speculation that ATSB is using a public relations cover for its decision to base the search on its “death dive” theory of an unpiloted rapid descent at the end of the flight, the Australian reported Friday. Alternately, it is also suggested that authorities may be reviewing to identify a new search area.
Last week, Australia's Transport Minister Darren Chester reportedly conducted a three-day meeting in Canberra of the ATSB’s Search Strategy Working Group, made up of experts from air crash investigation organizations in the U.S. and Britain, satellite group Inmarsat, Boeing, European aerospace group Thales and the Australian Defence Science and Technology Organization. Representatives from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, Geoscience Australia and the Malaysian and Chinese governments attended a "first principles review."
Experts would “review all the available data and analysis associated with the search to date” and “inform the remainder of the search effort, and develop guidance for any future search operations," Chester said.
Roger Gottlob, spokesman for the Joint Agency Coordination Centre, said the report “is currently being drafted and will be released in the coming months,” but did not mention whether it will be complete before the search ended.
“The main focus for all concerned will continue to be finding the aircraft to assist the Malaysian investigation team and to bring closure to the families of the passengers and crew of MH370,” Gottlob said.
ATSB announced last month that bad weather in the search zone in a remote part of the southern Indian Ocean pushed the operation's end to January or February next year. The search of a 46,000-square-mile area has been ongoing for nearly three years with no concrete clues about the plane's whereabouts.
Flight MH370 went missing on March 8, 2014, with 239 people on board while on its way from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.
The ATSB was “just trying to write a cover story to protect themselves," professional pilot and aviation commentator Byron Bailey reportedly said, adding that "they started with the wrong basis for the search that the pilot was unresponsive."
Air crash investigator John Cox reportedly said the ATSB review was “the next logical step.”
“It is self-evident that the search effort, to date, has not been successful,” Cox said, according to the Australian, adding: “Therefore, it is reasonable to put the experts in a room to review all the available data for ideas and recommendations. If this group finds reason to, and recommends searching in a different area, it will be much easier to persuade the involved countries.”