Flight MH370: Underwater beacon battery had expired

THE first comprehensive report into the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 revealed yesterday that the battery of the locator beacon for the plane’s data recorder had expired more than a year before the jet vanished on 8 March, 2014.

Chinese relatives weep outside the Lama Temple in Beijing. Picture: Getty
Chinese relatives weep outside the Lama Temple in Beijing. Picture: Getty

The news came as Australian premier Tony Abbott said the hunt for the plane would not end, even if the scouring of the current search area off his country’s west coast revealed nothing.

Apart from the anomaly of the expired battery, the detailed report, on the anniversary of the disaster, devoted several pages to describing the normality of the flight, which disappeared en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, setting off aviation’s biggest mystery.

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Families of the 239 people on board the Boeing 777 vowed never to give up on the search for wreckage and answers.

Despite an exhaustive search for the plane, no trace has been found. In late January, Malaysia’s government formally declared the incident an accident and said all those on board were presumed dead.

The expired battery in the beacon of the plane’s flight data recorder indicated that searchers would have had less chance of locating the aircraft in the Indian Ocean, where it is believed to have crashed, even if they were in its vicinity. However, the report said the battery in the locator beacon of the cockpit voice recorder had been working.

The two instruments – commonly known as “black boxes” – are crucial in any crash because they record cockpit conversations and flight data.

The 584-page report by a 19-member independent investigation group went into minute details about the crew’s lives, including their medical and financial records and training.

It also detailed the aircraft’s service record, as well as the weather, communications systems and other aspects of the flight. Nothing unusual was revealed, except for the previously undisclosed fact of the battery’s expiry date.

According to maintenance records, the battery expired in December 2012, but because of a computer data error, it went unnoticed by maintenance crews.

The report also gave insights into the physical and mental wellbeing of the pilot, Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah, saying he had no known history of apathy, anxiety or irritability. “There were no significant changes in his lifestyle, interpersonal conflict or family stresses,” it said.

It also said there were “no behavioural signs of social isolation, change in habits or interest, self-neglect, drug or alcohol abuse” by the captain or his crew.

Financial checks showed nothing abnormal about their spending patterns. It said Capt Zaharie held several bank accounts and two national trust funds. He had two houses and three vehicles, but there was no record of him having a life insurance policy.

The co-pilot, First Officer Fariq Abdul Hamid, had two savings accounts and a national trust fund. He owned two cars and “spent money on their upkeep”.