MISSING flight MH370 spiralled into the sea in an uncontrolled "ghost dive", analysis of a piece of jet debris suggests.
Experts say part of a wing spoiler was ripped off – countering a past theory that the plane glided to the surface in a controlled ditching.
Fresh evidence emerged exactly seven years after the Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 vanished with 239 people on board, sparking the world's greatest aviation mystery.
A report by an independent panel of experts examined a piece of wreckage that washed up in South Africa last August, reports The Times.
They said damage on the part indicated it had been torn off the aircraft in "an uncontrolled high-speed dive".
It appears to confirm the view of other experts that the jet flew until it ran out of fuel, then plunged into the ocean with no one at the controls.
Crash investigators have been working on the assumption that one of the crew — most likely the captain, Zaharie Shah — steered the jet to its doom.
It was flying in the wrong direction when it was last seen on radar, and is believed to have flown for another seven hours over the open ocean.
It has been suggested that the pilot may already have been dead or unconscious when the fuel ran out.
The jet would then have plummeted around 40,000ft in a "ghost dive" with no input from the controls.
An alternative theory put forward by some experts not involved in the official investigation claims the pilot ditched on purpose in a murder-suicide plot.
His motive would have been to ensure the plane stayed in one piece and sank without trace as far away from land as possible.
It has been claimed Captain Shah wanted it to be a mystery so he would be famous after death.
A close friend and fellow pilot said in 2019 that Captain Shah – who had an elaborate flight simulator at home – was "depressed".
He could have locked his co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid out of the cockpit, then suffocated all on board by depressurising the cabin.
But the actual events on board will remain a mystery unless the black box recorders are recovered one day.
Today the head of Australia's £110million hunt for MH370 said there should a new search after fresh evidence pinpointed the likely wreckage site.
Peter Foley said a new inquiry should examine the sea floor 70 nautical miles either side of the original target area.
“Large tracts haven’t been searched fully,” he told The Times.
Australian teams scoured 50,000 square miles of Indian Ocean floor using high-resolution sonar from 2014 to 2017.
A second search in 2018 sponsored by the Malaysian government also failed to find any trace.
Mr Foley said he agreed with a panel of oceanographers and flight experts who identified a new area where they think the plane is lying.
Ocean drift analysis and a review of a revised flight path released late last year agreed it probably went down about 1,200 miles west west of Cape Leeuwin, Western Australia.
The area is notorious for its deep ocean floor canyons and underwater mountains.
So far only 33 pieces of debris — either confirmed or deemed highly likely to be from MH370 — have been found in La Reunion, Mauritius, Madagascar, Tanzania and South Africa.
Another suspected piece, also part of a wing spoiler, was found in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, last month.
Experts say currents would have washed them there from the presumed crash site on other side of the Indian Ocean near Western Australia.
Flight MH370 took off from Kuala Lumpur shortly after midnight on March 8, 2014.
It was bound for Beijing, but radar tracked it making an unexplained U-turn and heading back across the Malay peninsula and the Malacca strait.
The last radio contact with air traffic control was one of the pilots saying: "Goodnight Malaysian three seven zero."
Automatic pings to satellites continued for seven hours.
Based on the estimated range from the satellite, search teams identified an arc for its last known location stretching across the southern Indian Ocean.
MH370 – WHAT HAPPENED?
Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 took off from Kuala Lumpur and was heading to Beijing with 239 people on board.
Passengers included Chinese calligraphers, a couple on their way home to their young sons after a long-delayed honeymoon and a construction worker who hadn't been home in a year.
But at 12.14am on March 8, 2014, Malaysia Airlines lost contact with MH370 close to Phuket island in the Strait of Malacca.
Before that, Malaysian authorities believe the last words heard from the plane, from either the pilot or co-pilot, was "Good night Malaysian three seven zero".
Satellite "pings" from the aircraft suggest it continued flying for around seven hours when the fuel would have run out.
Experts have calculated the most likely crash site around 1,000 miles west of Perth, Australia.
But a huge search of the seabed failed to find any wreckage – and there are a number of alternative theories as to its fate.
Theories have claimed the captain planned it as a murder-suicide, and ditched the plane as far away from land as possible so it would never be found.
Last year experts pinpointed three new "high priority" search zones west of Australia.
They estimate where the plane would be depending on whether it was guided to the surface or plummeted with no input from pilots.
Others have suggested the plane was hijacked and flown to a secret base in Kazakhstan.
That is within the seven hour range if it flew the other way along the arc suggested by the satellite pings.
But it would have flown over several countries to get there and would have been picked up on radar.
Other outlandish theories claim it was shot down to kill certain passengers, or because of mysterious cargo on board.
And internet sleuths claimed they had found evidence it ditched in dense jungle in Cambodia.
In October plane debris found in Queensland sparked fresh hope of solving the mystery – although experts said it was unlikely to be from MH370.
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