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Australian scientists 'confident' MH370 lies north of original search zone

This file photo taken on July 29, 2015, shows a policeman and a gendarme standing next to a piece of debris later identified from missing Malaysia Airlines plane MH370, found on the French Indian Ocean island of La Reunion. -- AFP

This file photo taken on July 29, 2015, shows a policeman and a gendarme standing next to a piece of debris later identified from missing Malaysia Airlines plane MH370, found on the French Indian Ocean island of La Reunion. -- AFP

AN Australian scientific body said it has pinpointed "the most likely location" of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, which has been missing for more than three years.

In a new report released on Friday, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) said tests recently completed on an actual Boeing 777 flaperon revealed that MH370 was probably lying north of the actual search zone, in an area twice the size of greater Sydney (25,000 square-km).

This latest research confirms their earlier drift analysis made in a report released in November 2016.

A total of 239 passengers and crew members were on board of the flight travelling from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8, 2014 when it disappeared from aviation radars.

Dr. David Griffin, from the CSIRO, said on Friday that he was "confident" that the data obtained from ocean testing of a remodelled Boeing 777 flaperon had pinpointed a new search area for the missing flight.

Instead of using a replica flaperon as they did for their earlier drift analysis report, the scientists obtained and modified a genuine used Boeing 777 part so that it appeared identically damaged to the debris that washed up on the island.

"Testing an actual flaperon has added an extra level of assurance to the findings from our earlier drift modelling work," Griffin said on Friday.

"Earlier drift modelling was conducted using replicas of the flaperon found on La Reunion Island. Those replicas had been made of wood and steel, and were designed to float and behave like the original."

The original MH370 flaperon found on La Reunion is still being examined by the French judiciary. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) of the United States was able to assist in sourcing a genuine flaperon of the same model. This flaperon was cut down to match photographs of MH370's flaperon, and then testing was done in the waters near Hobart.

"We wanted to see if the genuine flaperon drifted straight downwind like the replicas, or off at an angle, and at what speed through the water," said Griffin.

"We've found that an actual flaperon goes about 20 degrees to the left, and faster than the replicas, as we thought it might. The arrival of MH370's flaperon at La Reunion in July 2015 now makes perfect sense.

"Knowing how the flaperon, and the other parts of MH370 that have been found, respond to wind and waves is just as important as knowing the currents of the Indian Ocean.

"We add both together in our model to simulate the drift across the ocean, then compare the results with observations of where debris was and wasn't found, in order to deduce the location of the aircraft."

The new report's findings support the conclusions of the first report, which indicates that the most likely location of MH370 is in the new search area identified and recommended by the First Principles Review report, and most likely at the southern end of that, near 35 degrees South.

This search area comprises thin strips either side of the previously-searched strip close to the 7th arc. "If the aircraft is not found there, then the rest of the search area is still likely to contain the plane. The available evidence suggests that all other regions are unlikely," Griffin said.

"We cannot be absolutely certain, but that is where all the evidence we have points us, and this new work leaves us more confident in our findings."

The search for the Boeing 777 was suspended in January 2017. About 120,000 square-km of the ocean bed had been searched to no avail, despite the operation costing more than more than 140 million U.S. dollars.

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