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MH370 Had Expired Battery On Black Box 'Pinger,' Report Says

An interim report released on the one-year anniversary of the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH 370 shows that the battery for the locator beacon on the Boeing 777's so-called black box was more than a year out of date at the time the plane lost contact with ground controllers over the Gulf of Thailand.

Reuters graphic showing the equipment that have been used in the search and may be used in the recovery of the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 if it is ever found.
RNGS / Reuters/Landov
Reuters graphic showing the equipment that have been used in the search and may be used in the recovery of the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 if it is ever found.

"According to maintenance records, the SSFDR ULB battery expired in December 2012," the 584-page report said (see below). "There is no evidence to suggest that the SSFDR ULB battery had been replaced before the expiry date."

If the battery was weaker than it should have been, it could have affected how long the "pinger" kept working and theoretically could have complicated the search.

The report, however, presented no evidence to advance theories that the pilot, co-pilot or crew may have intentionally hijacked the flight, which had taken off from Kuala Lumpur bound for Beijing with 239 passengers and crew when it disappeared.

"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," the investigative report said.

"On studying the Captain's behavioural pattern on CCTV recordings on the day of the flight and prior 3 flights there was no significant behavioural changes observed. On all the CCTV recordings the appearance was similar, i.e. well groomed and attired. The gait, posture, facial expressions and mannerism were his normal characteristics."

As The Sydney Morning Herald notes:

"Fingers have been pointed at Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah who according to some reports had problems with his marriage and was upset with Malaysia's government over its jailing of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim.

"But the report provides no evidence to support a so-called 'rogue pilot' theory, saying Captain Zaharie held bank accounts with his wife, owned two houses and had not taken out an insurance policy."

Family members of those aboard MH370 held gatherings in Kuala Lumpur to protest the lack of answers.

"My daughter asks me every day, 'Where is Daddy? Why isn't he answering his phone?" Kelly Wen from China, whose husband was on the plane, was quoted by The Associated Press as saying.

Australia has taken a leading role in the search for the missing plane, which is believed to have diverted from its original course and flown as far as the southern Indian Ocean before running out of fuel and crashing into the water.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said in recent days that the search for MH370 could not go on "at this intensity forever," but on Sunday he said he was "reasonably optimistic of success.

"[But] if we don't succeed in this search there is another search that we intend to make because we owe it to the families of the dead, we owe it to the traveling public, to do whatever we reasonably can to the resolve of this mystery," he said, according to the Herald.

Abbott's latest remarks come after Malaysia's transport minister said that if the search did not yield anything by the end of May, it would be "back to the drawing board."

The search, with a price tag of $120 million so far, is already the costliest in aviation history.

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Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.