Missing MH370: Plane likely ran out of fuel, says expert

PETALING JAYA - It is highly unlikely that Flight MH370 could have landed anywhere undetected and refuelled before continuing its journey, said an American aviation expert.

Military-trained retired pilot Col J. Joseph told The Star that if the recorded altitude deviations from 35,000ft to 45,000ft and 23,000ft were accurate, the aircraft was uncommanded and out of control or intentionally manoeuvred by a trained pilot.

"Either way, I believe the aircraft is in the water and likely ran out of fuel. If intentional 'crashing' was the motive/plan, the debris would likely have been found in the area of radar loss," he said in an e-mail interview.

He said this when responding to the likelihood of the Malaysia Airlines passenger jet crashing after running out of fuel despite being deliberately flown in a planned route for over seven hours.

Joseph concurred with other aviation experts who believe it is more probable the aircraft took a route heading over the Indian Ocean instead of the northern corridor up to the border of Kazakhstan.

He said it was not that difficult to fly an aircraft undetected at virtually any altitude without a transponder unless air traffic control was specifically searching for it.

He said this applied to flights within radar coverage over land or water. Joseph said military radar was far more discriminating and coul search for large objects upon reflection and give a "blip" or target on the radar scope.

"Flights at very low altitude (200ft above sea level or less) are very hard to detect. That is how we are trained in the military to avoid radar exposure," he said.

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