MH370 Report: Pilot Not Blamed for Missing Plane but Report Doesn't Exclude 'Unlawful Interference by Third Party'

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Family members read MH370 briefing reports before a closed-door meeting in Putrajaya, Malaysia, July 30. Families said the report does not offer any closure into what happened. REUTERS/Sadiq Asyraf

A long-awaited report into the disappearance of flight Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 offered no solace to the victims' families, who said the report offered no new findings into the missing aircraft.

The report released on Monday said it found no reason for the pilot to have sabotaged the plane, and it appeared to clear the cabin staff of blame. Families were given the full report before its official release during a news conference in Kuala Lumpur.

Lead investigator Kok Soo Chon told the media conference that the pilot, Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah, was the first to be investigated. He said Zaharie was an experienced pilot with 18,000 hours of flying. He had no history of treatment for mental-health problems, nor was there any evidence he had anxiety or any troubled relationships.

The Malaysia Airlines jet disappeared in March 2014 with 239 people onboard, en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. The largest search in aviation history across a 46,000-square-mile zone found nothing. The black box had not been recovered, and only three fragments had been found, including a wing part known as a flaperon, which washed up on Reunion Island.

There had been speculation over Zaharie's home-flight simulator, which had seven custom coordinates that plotted a course from Malaysia to the Indian Ocean, where MH370 is believed to have ended up. But the report said this was not proof that the crash was deliberate.

Kok said radar had confirmed that the aircraft had turned back after takeoff, and this was "not because of anomalies in the mechanical system. The turn back was made not under autopilot but under manual control.

"We cannot establish if the aircraft was flown by anyone other than the pilot. We can also not exclude the possibility that there's unlawful interference by a third party. And based on the military record, there was no evidence of a rapid change in the altitude or speed to indicate that MH370 was deliberately evading radar, Kok said.

"We can confirm the turn back was not because of anomalies in the mechanical system," Kok said.

The report focused on mistakes and protocols as well as guidelines that had not been followed. Ho Chi Minh air traffic control should have notified Chinese authorities earlier when the plane did not make contact, which delayed the search operation.

But one victim's family member said, according to The Guardian: "Some of the information in the report is wrong, the information about the cabin crew. How can they expect us to believe anything in there."

Jennifer Chong, whose husband, Tan, was onboard the flight, told the news outlet: "To me, it is a helpless day as doors are shut."

Grace Nathan, whose mother was on the flight, tweeted: "Some very difficult questions being put forth by the NOK to the investigation team. There is a lack of depth in the answers and no adequate answer to some pertinent queries.

The report said the aircraft was well-maintained and had no malfunction. It concluded that the plane deviated from its path, but the team "is unable to determine the real reason for the disappearance."

The report was compiled by Malaysian investigators, along with teams from seven other countries.

In a statement to Newsweek, Malaysian transport minister Anthony Loke Siew Fook said, "The aspiration to locate MH370 has not been abandoned, and we remain ever hopeful that we will be able to find the answers we seek when the credible evidence becomes available.

"With the release of this report, my heart goes out to the families and loved ones of those onboard flight MH370," he added.

This report has been updated to include a statement from Malaysian transport minister Anthony Loke Siew Fook.