Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 was “deliberately flown off course”, according to a UK aviation expert.
All the evidence points to a deliberate act and it is also likely that the plane will never be found, said David Learmount, operations and safety editor of Flightglobal publication.
He was speaking as the Malaysian Department of Civil Aviation prepared to publish a report to mark the first anniversary of the disappearance of the Boeing 777 on March 8 2014.
Mr Learmount said: “We are no nearer discovering exactly what happened to this plane than we were a year ago. But all the evidence – and I mean all – suggests the aircraft went to a spot where its computers would never have taken it.
“It looks as if there was some kind of deliberate act. The plane changed direction dramatically. It did a U-turn and went somewhere that makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.”
He went on: “The plane ducked and dived. If the pilots, for some reason, had become incapacitated then the plane would have flown on along its planned route.
“We have got to get used to the fact that we may never find this plane. The Australians have said the search can’t be kept up for ever.”
Mr Learmount referred to the search for the Air France flight 447 which went down in the Atlantic in June 2009. The aircraft was eventually located, and its black box flight recorders recovered, in May 2011.
He added: “The difference between the Air France search and the hunt for MH370 is that in the case of flight 447 people knew where to look. Even then, it took nearly two years to find it.”
It is now one year since Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 went missing. Here is a timeline of the main events over the last 12 months.
:: March 8 – The Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 takes off from Kuala Lumpur at 12.41am local time bound for Beijing, carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew.
The plane is last seen on military radar at 02.14am, heading west over the Strait of Malacca. Half an hour later the airline reveals to the public that it has lost contact with the plane. The plane was due to land at around 6.30am.
:: March 10 – Vietnamese aircraft search for a plane door spotted in their waters but find nothing. A day later the hunt is widened to cover a 115-nautical mile radius involving 34 aircraft and 40 ships from several countries.
:: March 13 – Malaysian authorities expand their search for the missing jet into the Andaman Sea and beyond after acknowledging it could have flown for several more hours after its last contact with the ground.
:: March 15 – Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak says the missing airliner was deliberately diverted and continued flying for more than six hours after losing contact with the ground.
:: March 8 to April 24 – The search area covers the South China Sea, the Straits of Malacca, the Andaman Sea and the southern Indian Ocean.
:: April 24 – The search and rescue phase becomes a search and recovery phase, with it moving a few days later to an underwater phase using an autonomous underwater vehicle and a bathymetry survey covering an area around 692km long and 80km wide.
:: June 2014 – Australian authorities issue a preliminary report in which they theorise that MH370’s crew became incapacitated, possibly due to oxygen starvation, with the plane continuing on autopilot.
:: August 28 – Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister, Warren Truss, says the aircraft “might have turned south a little earlier than we have previously expected”.
:: September 19 – After a four-month lull, it is announced that the underwater search, involving depths of up to 6km, would resume at the end of September.
:: October 2014 – The new underwater search involves ships dragging sonar devices called towfish through the water about 100m above the seabed to hunt for wreckage. The towfish are equipped with jet fuel sensors and can transmit data to those on board the vessels.
:: January – Senior Boeing 777 captain Simon Hardy suggests the missing aircraft’s final resting place is in the Indian Ocean just outside the far south-western edge of the core search area.
:: January 28 – Malaysia’s Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) officially declares the incident “an accident”. The DCA says it had concluded the aircraft exhausted its fuel “over a defined area of the southern Indian Ocean”. The DCA adds that efforts to find the plane will continue.
:: March 7 – Malaysia’s transport minister, Liow Tiong Lai, says data will be re-examined and a new plan formulated if the plane is not found by the end of May.