The search for missing Malaysia Airlines 370 has shifted to a different area - this time to a remote part of the Indian Ocean. The area which will now come under scrutiny is exactly where a British pilot had calculated that the Boeing 777 made a controlled ditching.
The aircraft was on a routine flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 passengers and crew on board when it disappeared on 8 March 2014. Despite international search operations, the aircraft has yet to be found. Other than a flaperon belonging to the plane was found on Reunion Island in July, there have been no indication where the fuselage has ended up.
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau, which is coordinating the search on behalf of Malaysia, said in a statement that the deep sea search for the aircraft was now moving further south within a 46,000 square mile priority area because the southern hemisphere spring had made the extreme conditions in the southern ocean calmer. The area will be searched through December.
The area cited by the bureau is where senior pilot Captain Simon Hardy has calculated is the most likely resting place of the aircraft. However, the bureau's chief commissioner Martin Dolan was quick to point out that the Australian authorities are not being guided by Hardy's analysis.
"We're aware that we're in the area that Capt. Hardy specifies, but we're in that area because it was next in our search sequence, and we've been moving progressively south because the weather is improving," Dolan said. "There are many theories from members of the public and various independent experts and all are considered," the bureau said in a statement. It described Hardy's analysis as credible.
What is Hardy's theory?
So what exactly is Hardy's theory, which has been widely published in recent months in various media? According to his theory, MH370, pilot Zaharie Ahmad Shah performed a final emotional fly past of Penang Island before landing the plane on water, where it had sank intact.
Hardy, noted that it was unusual for Shah to make the last radio call especially when all previous communications were made by first officer Fariq Abdul Hamid. He believes the aircraft was depressurised and that the passengers and crew lost consciousness. This theory is also backed by aviation experts in a National Geographic programme about the missing plane.
Hardy, who works with a major commercial airline, used mathematical analysis and a flight simulator to plot the course he believed the airliner took when it vanished in one has been described as aviation's most baffling mysteries. "I am fairly confident that the wreckage will be found within the next four to eight weeks," Hardy told The Australian newspaper.
Dolan however disputes Hardy's theory on how the aircraft went down. The chief commissioner said the authorities still believe that the final satellite transmission from one of the jet's engines indicated that it was out of fuel, leading to the conclusion that the plane would have plummeted into the ocean out of control and disintegrated.
Australia and Malaysia are splitting the cost of the search of the vast expanse of seabed that started in October last year. The search, which is taking place more than 1,100 miles off the Australian cost, has so far covered 27,000 square miles.
China has pledged an additional $14.5m over the weekend to fund the search. A total of 153 Chinese citizens were on board the missing plane.