A new ocean debris drift analysis shows missing Malaysia Airlines MH370 is most likely within a proposed expanded search area rejected by Australia and Malaysia in January, the Australian government's scientific agency said on Friday.
The $160 million search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 ended in January after a deep-sea sonar scan of 120,000 square kilometers (46,000 square miles) of ocean floor southwest of Australia failed to find any trace of the Boeing 777 that vanished with 239 people aboard on March 8, 2014. But research has continued in an effort to refine a possible new search.
Australian government oceanographers had obtained a wing flap of the same model as the original and studied how that part drifted in the ocean, the Australian Transport safety Bureau said in a statement. Previous drift modeling used inexact replicas.
The new analysis confirmed findings released in December that the airliner had likely crashed north of the searched area.
The December findings were based in part on drift analysis of six replicas of a piece of Flight 370 known as a flaperon which was found on Reunion Island in the west Indian Ocean in July 2015.
"This new work leaves us more confident in our findings," Dr David Griffin, a principal research scientist at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) said in a statement.
"We've found that an actual flaperon goes (drifts) about 20 degrees to the left, and faster than the replicas, as we thought it might," said Griffin. "The arrival of MH370's flaperon at La Reunion in July 2015 now makes perfect sense."
The location of MH370, which went missing on a flight to Beijing from the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur, has become one of the world's greatest aviation mysteries.
Australian Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Darren Chester said he welcomed the new CSIRO report but said it was important to note it did not provide new evidence leading to a specific location of MH370.
He said a copy of the report had been provided to Malaysia for consideration in its ongoing investigation into the disappearance of the aircraft.
"Malaysia is the lead investigator and any future requests in relation to searching for MH370 would be considered by Australia, at that time," Chester said.