Australian Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss points the new search area for MH370 to reporters at a press conference at Australian Parliament House in Canberra, June 26, 2014. Australian Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss said on Thursday that it is "highly likely" the missing Malaysian airliner flew on autopilot until it ran out of fuel and crashed into the Indian Ocean. (Xinhua/Xu Haijing)
CANBERRA, June 26 (Xinhua) -- Australian Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss said on Thursday that it is "highly likely" the missing Malaysian airliner flew on autopilot until it ran out of fuel and crashed into the Indian Ocean.
Truss made the comment on Thursday when announcing the joint search operation involving Australia, Malaysia and China would shift its focus in the southern Indian Ocean for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.
The revised search area is based on the findings of an international satellite working group.
The group has reviewed all existing information to define a search zone of up to 60,000 square kilometers along the arc in the southern Indian Ocean.
Truss said the refined search area would still be focused on the seventh arc, where the aircraft last communicated with satellite.
But the search would shift to an area slightly further south along the arc, based on the calculations of the international experts.
"Specialists have analyzed satellite communications information- - information which was never initially intended to have the capability to track an aircraft -- and performed extremely complex calculations," Truss said.
"This site is the best available and most likely place where the aircraft is resting."
"It is highly, highly likely that the aircraft was on autopilot, otherwise it could not have followed the orderly path that has been identified through the satellite sightings," Truss said.
He said the search for MH370 was ongoing. A three-month mapping of the ocean floor in the search area is in progress and would be followed by a comprehensive search of the sea floor that is expected to begin in August and take up to 12 months to complete.
"The bathymetric survey has already commenced, with the Chinese survey ship Zhu Kezhen and the Australian-contracted vessel Fugro Equator conducting operations in the areas provided by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau," Truss said.
"The underwater search will aim to locate the aircraft and any evidence to assist with the Malaysian investigation of the disappearance of MH370."
"This area has never been comprehensively mapped previously and so to put new equipment down into that area without having clear knowledge of what the sea floor is like certainly risks the operation and the capacity of that equipment to operate safely."
He warned that the search will still be painstaking. "Of course we could be fortunate and find it in the first hour, or the first day, or it could take the next 12 months."
Australia, Malaysia and China have reaffirmed their commitment to continue to search for MH370 and to keep families informed of developments.
Truss said search nations owed it to "the passengers and the crew and everyone associated with MH370 to bring this mystery to a conclusion."
"I can assure all the families and those with an interest that Australia remains dedicated to the task of solving this greatest aviation mystery."
Flight MH370 vanished on March 8 with 239 people aboard, while en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.
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