MH370 report: Black box battery expired a year before plane vanished

KUALA LUMPUR - The first report into the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 revealed that the battery of the underwater locator beacon of the aircraft's Flight Data Recorder had expired more than a year before the plane vanished.

The 584-page report, titled Factual Information Safety Investigation for MH370, said maintenance records showed that the battery on the beacon attached to the Flight Data Recorder, commonly known as the 'black box', expired in December 2012.

"There is some extra margin in the design to account for battery life variabilty and ensure that the unit will meet the minimum requirement," the report said.

The report, by an international team of investigators, said the battery on the locator beacon of the cockpit voice recorder was working.

The team probed the captain and co-pilot's personal, psychological, and financial profiles, and also looked into the backgrounds of the 10 cabin crew.

Their lengthy report mentioned no findings that cast suspicion on them.

"There were no behavioural signs of social isolation, change in habits or interest, self-neglect, drug or alcohol abuse of the Captain, First Officer and the Cabin Crew," it said.

The report said that civilian radar had tracked the plane for a short time after it diverted on March 8 of last year, apparently contradicting earlier Malaysian statements that only its military radar had monitored the plane.

Other highlights of the report:

> Gross monthly income and out-of-pocket expenses of all crew indicated nothing unusual;

> Li-Ion batteries cargo did not undergo additional security screening;

> 99 shipments of Lithium Ion batteries made by MAS to Beijing Jan-May 2014;

> No major disciplinary records on crew members.

> No unusual aircraft engine behaviour.

Analysts said the investigation into missing flight found no red flags relating to the crew or mechanical issues, that the report mostly restated what was already known.

"There is nothing much to go on with the new report," Gerry Soejataman, a Jakarta-based aviation consultant told AFP. "This is because there is little to analyse."

The team was set up in the weeks after the plane's disappearance under International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) requirements and was required to submit its findings within one year of the disappearance.

The report also ticked through a number of the plane's mechanical systems and noted in each case that according to available data and maintenance records, nothing alarming was seen.

It remains unknown what caused the Boeing 777 to veer from its Kuala Lumpur-Beijing route with 239 passengers and crew aboard.

Suspicion had fallen on the cockpit crew of pilot Zaharie Ahmad Shah and his co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid. Other theories have included a mechanical problem or hijack.

The report was focused on air-safety issues related to MH370 and the investigators did not probe the 227 passengers or the possibility of a hijack.

The report stressed that the investigation was ongoing and that "new information that may become available may alter this information."

"The investigation team expects that further factual information will be available from the wreckage and flight recorders if the aircraft is found," it said.

A year-long, Australian-led search effort in the southern Indian Ocean where the plane is believed to have crashed has yielded nothing as yet.

Next of kin have been sharply critical of Malaysia's initial handling of the crisis and remain deeply unhappy with the lack of answers one year on.

Related stories:

MH370: Full interim statement

MH370: Najib’s heartfelt message on anniversary

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