With more than 90 per cent of the search area for MH370 now covered, the company leading recovery efforts has conceded it may have been looking in the wrong place all along.
Fugro project director Paul Kennedy told Reuters that a piloted glide by the Malaysia Airlines 777 would probably have taken it outside the strip of Southern Indian Ocean that has been focused on by search teams.
When investigators from China, Malaysia and Australia defined the search area two years ago, they assumed that the aircraft ran out of fuel on autopilot and then plummeted via an uncontrolled descent.
A skilled pilot in the cockpit, however, might have been able to glide the aircraft more than 100km, though this theory raises difficult questions, notably why a pilot seemingly intent on saving the aircraft would have allowed it to reach such a position in the first place.
More likely is the fact that extrapolating a landing zone from an electronic ping sent by the aircraft's engine software was always going to be a task bedeviled with an uncomfortable amount of guesswork, and one further undermined by the vagaries of wind and ocean currents.
The Australian government, which is leading the search, made no mention of the glide theory in its update on the operation yesterday and none of the government agencies involved support the idea.
The update did reveal that the onset of winter weather in the turbulent Southern Ocean could delay conclusion of the search until spring.
However, with 110,000 of the 120,000 square-kilometre ocean strip now investigated by surface scans, sonar, and underwater vehicles, hope is disappearing that MH370 will ever be found. "In the absence of credible new information that leads to the identification of a specific location of the aircraft, Governments have agreed that there will be no further expansion of the search area," reads an Australian government statement.