The underwater search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 will move to an area determined as the aircraft’s likeliest resting place by a British pilot who used mathematical analysis and a flight simulator to crack the mystery.
The calculations by Boeing 777 pilot Simon Hardy, pinpointing the crash site with exact coordinates of S39 22' 46" and E087 6' 20", have been described as completely feasible by aviation experts.
However, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, responsible for coordinating the search operations, said they were not guided by Hardy’s analysis but by the simple fact that the area was next in their search sequence.
The area south-west of Australia off the coast of Melbourne determined by Hardy will be scoured during December with ships equipped with underwater search technology.
"I am fairly confident that the wreckage will be found within the next four to eight weeks," Hardy told The Australian newspaper.
Hardy is a proponent of the pilot suicide theory behind the so far unexplained disappearance of MH370 in March last year, which likely killed 239 people. The key piece of evidence, he believes, is the fact that the plane performed three turns around the Malaysian island of Penang as if someone was trying to take a long last look at it. The plane’s captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah was from Penang.
Hardy believes the pilot actually landed on water in a controlled way to prevent the plane from breaking into pieces. Although the theory would explain why no wreckage has been found after 20 months of searching, apart from the wing-flap component discovered on Reunion earlier this year, it contradicts data from satellites. The final data transmission the lost aircraft sent indicated it was actually running out of fuel, which would mean it must have fallen down without control and disintegrated.
"There are many theories from members of the public and various independent experts and all are considered," said the Australian Transport Safety Bureau in a statement.
Martin Dolan, the bureau's chief commissioner, added that the search is moving further south because the southern hemisphere Spring makes the extreme conditions in the southern ocean calmer.
The location determined by Hardy is just outside the initial search area of 60,000 square kilometres which was then widened in April to 120,000 square kilometres - and is at the extreme edge of MH370's range, taking into account its fuel, passenger and cargo load.
Australia and Malaysia are footing the bill for the massive search operation, the most extensive and most expensive in the history of aviation. Earlier this week, China stepped in, pledging to contribute a further A$20m ($14.5m) to cover the cost of the search. 153 Chinese passengers were on board the doomed flight.