The search team conducting the underwater hunt for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 said it has been looking for the missing plane in the wrong area of the southern Indian Ocean for over two years. Top searchers at the Dutch company Fugro said Thursday that the plane may have glided down rather than dived in the final moments.
The comments come as the search for Flight MH370 in a remote part of the southern Indian Ocean is expected to conclude in the next three months with no concrete clues as to the whereabouts of the jet. Over the last few months several debris pieces have washed up on the shores of Mozambique, Mauritius and Madagascar, of which five are believed to be from the missing Boeing 777-200.
"If it's not there, it means it's somewhere else," Fugro Project Director Paul Kennedy told Reuters, adding that, "If it was manned it could glide for a long way ... You could glide it for further than our search area is, so I believe the logical conclusion will be well maybe that is the other scenario."
On the same day that Kennedy raised doubts over the search zone, the oceanographer who led independent searcher Blaine Gibson to Madagascar — where he found a potential Flight MH370 debris piece — said that drift modeling suggested that the plane could have crashed slightly north of the current search area.
"He (Gibson) rang me from the Maldives and said: where should I go? Should I go to Rodrigues, Mauritius, Reunion, Madagascar, Mozambique, South Africa?" Western Australian University oceanographer Charitha Pattiaratchi said Thursday. "I said: 'Your best bet is the northeast part of Madagascar,' which is where he went."
"The best guess that we think is that it's probably around the Broken Ridge region, which is slightly to the north of the area that they're looking at," Pattiaratchi said, according to the Associated Press.
On Tuesday, Gibson handed the Malaysian authorities in Kuala Lumpur three pieces of debris and personal belongings found on Madagascar beaches in June, which he suspects came from the missing plane.
The multimillion-dollar search for the plane has been concentrated on a total 46,332-square-mile area, roughly the size of Greece. So far, more than 42,471 square miles of the search zone has been scoured. The search was set to conclude in July but bad weather conditions have delayed the operation for six to eight weeks.
"Malaysia and Australia have worked with Tanzanian officials to assume responsibility for the item, believed to be an outboard wing flap. The Australian Transport Safety Bureau is working with Malaysian investigators to ascertain whether it is from a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777," ATSB said in a statement.
Flight MH370 went off radar on March 8, 2014, with 239 people on board while on its way from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.