France has reopened its investigation into the fate of missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 after Malaysia’s long-awaited “final report” failed to provide an explanation for the aircraft’s disappearance.
French newspaper Le Parisien reports that investigators are keen to verify data from Inmarsat — the British operator of a global satellite network — which tracked the aircraft’s pings to the southern Indian Ocean off Western Australia, where it is believed to have crashed.
In response, relatives of those on board MH370 issued a statement urging the Malaysian government to release all data, including military radar data, for review and analysis by independent experts.
Malaysia’s 449-page report into MH370’s disappearance, released on July 30, was universally condemned and sparked accusations by victims’ families of a cover-up at worst and incompetence at best.
They were particularly critical of the decision to rule out a sophisticated murder-suicide plot by the chief pilot, Captain Zaharie Shah, despite evidence showing someone intentionally disabled the plane’s communication systems before manually rerouting it.
Now the Gendarmerie of Air Transport (GTA) has launched its own probe into the mysterious disappearance, according to Le Parisien.
GTA said the presence of four French victims on board the doomed flight, which vanished on March 8, 2014, en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 passengers and crew, allowed the GTA to conduct its own investigations.
The most significant piece of suspected MH370 debris to be located so far — a barnacle-encrusted wing part known as a flaperon — was found on the French-owned island of Reunion in the Indian Ocean in 2015.
The results of the French analysis of the flaperon have never been fully released, but an interim report said investigations had been hampered by an absence of data from Boeing.
According to Le Parisien, French investigators want to re-examine “all the technical data” provided by Inmarsat in order to “verify its authenticity” and confirm if the plane’s path was correctly plotted.
However, the French government has made no formal announcement about any investigation.
Voice 370, a group who claim to speak for the families and relatives of those lost on MH370, echoed French concerns regarding the satellite data in a strongly worded statement issued Tuesday.
“Boeing, for example, that has been silent for the last 4.5 years wasted no time in absolving themselves of blame despite the fact that (the Malaysian) report specifically mentions that a lack of evidence precluded the investigation from definitely eliminating any possibility,” it said.
“Furthermore, the French authority mentions repeatedly in their report that their investigations on the flaperon had been hampered by an absence of data from Boeing.”
“The report highlights that the military’s primary radar data played a significant role in tracing the aircraft’s flight path. Voice 370 calls upon the Government of Malaysia to share all available data with independent experts for a thorough peer review and analysis.”
“We believe that after 4.5 years since MH370 disappeared, there is no reason to continue to withhold data when its probative value far outweighs any prejudicial effect.”
Malaysia’s June 30 report, written by a 19-member team of local and international experts, said there was no evidence that Shah or his co-pilot, Fariq Abdul Hamid, were involved in the plane’s disappearance.
“We did not find any change to their behavior, everything was normal,” lead investigator Kok Soo Chon told a press conference.
Police retrieved more than 2,700 coordinates from various file segments found on Zaharie’s home flight simulator, he said.
They included seven “manually programmed waypoint coordinates” that when linked could fly from the Kuala Lumpur airport to the southern Indian Ocean, but police could not determine if the coordinates were found in a single file or from different files, Kok said.
The report said the plane was diverted from the planned route while “under manual control” but could not “exclude the intervention of a third party.” The report did not elaborate on who or what that “third party” could be.
It concluded that a lack of evidence, including the flight recorder and black boxes, made it impossible to figure out why the plane changed paths and why communication with the craft was lost 40 minutes after takeoff.
However, investigators did find that Malaysian air traffic control and their Vietnamese counterparts failed to act properly when the Boeing jet passed from Malaysian to Vietnamese airspace and disappeared from radars.
The plane had been missing for a full 20 minutes before air traffic controllers raised the alarm, delaying the start of the search and rescue operation, it said.
That revelation prompted the resignation of Malaysia’s civil aviation chief, Azharuddin Abdul Rahman.