A safety report released on Monday was initially deemed Malaysian investigators' final report on flight MH370 — but there were no definitive conclusions, and investigators acknowledged it may not actually be the "final" one. The search could continue.
Instead of offering concrete answers, the report ruled out many theories, including conspiracy theories offered on social media and the prominent one that the pilot may have intentionally crashed the plane in a murder-suicide.
Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 disappeared in March 2014 with 239 people on board. The plane was headed from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing when one hour into the flight, just as it exited Malaysian airspace, it changed from its course. The plane is thought to have continued flying for six hours before crashing into the Indian Ocean. Extensive searches have come up empty, save for pieces of debris that have washed up on the coast of Africa.
Dr. Kok Soo Chon, the lead investigator gave a press conference Monday, acknowledging some key findings in the report, including that the rerouting was not done by autopilot. “The turn back could not be attributed to an anomalous system,” Kok told reporters. “It has been established that the air turn back was done under manual control, not autopilot … we cannot rule out unlawful interference by a third party.”
At the press conference, Kok, a former director general of Malaysia’s Civil Aviation Department, also ruled out the common theory that the pilot brought down the plane. “We have examined the pilot and the first officer and we are quite satisfied with their background, with their training, with their mental health,” he told reporters. “We are not of the opinion that it could have been an event committed by the pilot.”
But the report does place the blame on a person, not flight systems, even though no terrorist group has taken credit. Kok acknowledged the contradiction given that some evidence "points irresistibly to unlawful interference, such as the communications ceasing and the manual turn back" but no one to pin it on. The passengers on board have been checked by authorities and seem to be above board, "a clean bill of health for everybody," as Kok put it.
One clear takeaway from the safety report was the error of air traffic control in following the plane when it first veered off course. There were at least 20 minutes the plane was not tracked and the search and rescue operation was delayed even further. "The air traffic controllers did not initiate the various emergency phases required of them, thereby delaying the activation of the search and rescue operations,” Kok told reporters Monday.
The group of investigators who gave their final report will disband, but the search for the plane may not end. "It is too presumptuous of us to say this is the final report,” Kok said at the press conference. “No wreckage has been found. The victims have not been found. How could this be final?”
Victims' families didn't appreciate the lack of closure. Grace Nathan, a daughter of one of the passengers wrote on Facebook, "Ladies and gentlemen after 4.5 years of investigation the conclusion ... is : 1. We don’t know what happened. 2. We don’t know why it happened. 3. We don’t know how it happened. 4. We don’t know what if anything is going to be done about it."
The report may be "final," but there are still many questions unanswered.