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A key member of the search team looking for Flight MH370 believes the plane plunged in to the ocean at great speed

Flight MH370: chief investigator believes plane plunged into sea at 400km/hr

The Australian crash investigator overseeing the ongoing search for missing Flight MH370 has said in an interview that, given the known satellite communication data during the final minutes of the flight, he believes the plane plunged into the sea at almost 400Km per hour.

Speaking to AirlineRatings.com, Greg Hood - the newly appointed Chief Commissioner at the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) – says that  data indicates that MH370 could have been descending at up to 20,000ft (6700m) a minute in the moments just before it smashed into the sea with 239 passengers and crew.

The automated satellite communication with the Boeing 777 in its final minutes showed that its descent increased dramatically from about 5,400ft (1,200m) a minute to 20,000ft (6,700m) a minute. The big increase suggests that no one was in control of the aircraft, Hood said.

Hood’s interview with AirlineRatings.com comes after recent speculation that the plane may have glided to a controlled landing on water. This speculation was largely fuelled by a two-year-old FBI report into a flight simulator program found on MH370 Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah's home computer. The FBI analysed Zaharie’s hard drives, looking for clues, and it has been known since 2014 that the investigators found a route plotted to the Southern Indian Ocean.

Hood commented on the report, saying, “We have known about the FBI report for two years and it was widely reported in the media at the time. It is nothing new. [The FBI report] only potentially shows planning and possibly intent, but it does not tell us where the aircraft is."

MH370 disappeared in mysterious circumstances on 8 March 2014, after communications from the plane were cut during what was supposed to be a routine flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

Hood remains confident of finding the remains of MH370 in the coming months, despite the recent announcement by ministers of China, Malaysia and Australia that the search will be abandoned if the plane is not found in the current search area.

Hood said that he was coming into the search with fresh eyes and after reviewing all the data believes that the search is being conducted in the highest probability area. Hood’s conclusions are in contrast to recent comments from Paul Kennedy, project director at Fugro, the engineering group coordinating the ocean search. Kennedy said that their failure to find anything so far suggests the bulk of MH370 is in another location. "If it's not there, it means it's somewhere else," he said.

Italian researchers have also recently proposed what they believe to be the most accurate likely location for the MH370 plane, based on computer simulation of ocean currents and debris movement.

10,000 sq.km of the defined area remains to be searched. Hood expects it to take up to December to complete the search, as difficult underwater terrain and extreme weather conditions – including 78ft-high waves – are naturally causing problems for Fugro’s special autonomous underwater vehicles. The company has already lost one of its AUVs after it struck a seabed volcano.

AirlineRatings.com full interview with Greg Hood can be found online.

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