The battery of the black box locator beacon of the doomed MH370 had expired over a year before the Malaysian plane mysteriously disappeared, a new report said today as grieving families of the 239 people on board marked the first anniversary of the world’s biggest aviation mystery.
Investigators, however, found no indications of unusual behaviour among the pilots and cabin crew of the Beijing-bound Malaysia Airlines plane that dropped off radar just an hour after taking off from here on March 8.
“There were no behavioral signs of social isolation, change in habits or interest, self-neglect, drug or alcohol abuse of the captain, first officer and the cabin crew,” said the 584-page interim report.
In the aftermath of the disappearance of the plane there was intense focus on the flight’s captain, Zaharie Ahmad Shah, and his co-pilot, Fariq Abdul Hamid.
The report said Boeing 777-200’s captain did not have any personal or financial problems that would cast suspicion on him.
It contained factual information about the missing plane rather than analysis. It offered relatives of the 239 people, including five Indians, on board no apparent answers about why the aircraft dropped off radar.
Meanwhile, Voice 370, a support group for the kin of those on board, hosted a Day of Remembrance at a mall here.
The purpose of the event was to urge people all over the world to not forget about the disaster and encourage the government to keep searching for the wreckage.
According to maintenance records, “The SSFDR ULB battery expired in December 2012. There is no evidence to suggest that the SSFDR ULB battery had been replaced before the expiry date.”
“It is not guaranteed that it will work or that it would meet the 30-day minimum requirement.”
The expired battery of the locator may suggest searchers had less chance of finding the aircraft, although the battery on the cockpit voice recorder was working.
The report also said 221kg of lithium ion batteries packed by Motorola Solutions in northern Penang state did not go through security screening at Penang airport.
The shipment was inspected by airline staff and went through customs inspection and clearance before it was sealed and left Penang a day before the flight. At Kuala Lumpur airport, it was loaded on to the plane without any additional security screening.
The report focused on the ordinary nature of the flight.
Investigators have so far failed to trace the debris of the plane and explain why it veered wildly off its scheduled route.
Search teams are looking for the plane in a 60,000 sq km zone in the southern Indian Ocean.
The emotional public remembrance here included live music performances, poem recitals and live links from various countries to pay tribute to the victims.
“We understand that the search might be scaled down but we are holding on to the Malaysian government’s promise to never give up until the aeroplane is found,” said Jacquita Gonzales, wife of steward Patrick Gomes.
Since news of the missing aircraft made headlines a year ago, life has not been quite the same for G Subramaniam and his wife A Amurathnam, who still find it hard to accept that they would never see their son Puspanathan again.
Subramaniam, 61, has not been sleeping well, has lost weight due to poor appetite and become reclusive. An avid Tamil movie fan, he has stopped going to the cinemas.
“My biggest challenge however is trying to answer my two grandchildren because they keep asking when their father will return from work after they see other classmates being picked up by their fathers from the nursery,” Subramaniam said.
As relatives marked the anniversary of the tragedy, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak today vowed not to give up on the search for the wreckage of the aircraft.
“Together with our international partners, we have followed the little evidence that exists. Malaysia remains committed to the search, and hopeful that MH370 will be found,” Najib said in a statement.
“The disappearance of MH370 is without precedent, and so too is the search – by far the most complex and technically challenging in aviation history,” Najib said, thanking the international teams and people who have been tirelessly looking for the aircraft.
Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the search led by his country would move to a different area if the current operation was unsuccessful, as long as there were reasonable leads.
The Malaysia’s Transport Ministry said it will undertake an immediate review of the 578 pages of factual information that accompanied an interim statement.
The report, compiled by the 19-member Safety Investigation Team, includes air traffic control (ATC) radio and radar tape recordings and transcripts, aircraft maintenance records, cargo consignment data, and interviews with more than 120 people.