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MH370 report raises no major crew, aircraft concerns

An investigation into flight MH370 has delivered its findings, with no major red flags raised about the crew or missing plane. One probable defect was identified, however: a flat battery on the underwater locator beacon.

The first comprehensive report into flight MH370,

which vanished exactly a year ago

, found no major concerns among the crew or the aircraft's mechanical integrity.

An international team of investigators probed the captain and co-pilot's personal, psychological, and financial profiles, while also conducting background checks on the 10 cabin crew.

"There were no behavioral signs of social isolation, change in habits or interest, self-neglect, drug or alcohol abuse" among those tested, the 584-page report said. Set up as part of International Civil Aviation Organization requirements, the investigative team was obliged to submit its report within one year of the crash.

As for Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah's physical and mental health, the report noted: "There were no significant changes in his lifestyle, interpersonal conflict or family stresses."

Beacon's battery out of date

Investigators did discover that the battery for an underwater locator beacon attached to the Flight Data Recorder had likely expired more than a year before the plane vanished on March 8, 2014. According to maintenance records, the battery was scheduled for change in December 2012, although the investigators noted that it might have continued to function beyond the prescribed date. The recorder itself, however, was in good working order, as was the locator beacon of the cockpit voice recorder.

These beacons, which can potentially increase the chances of a rescue team noticing if they come close to the wreckage, are supposed to have sufficient battery life to remain active for 30 days after an accident.

Air safety investigation only, data still in short supply

The investigation was focused on air-safety issues and did not probe the 227 passengers or the possibility of a hijack. Expectations for the report were always somewhat reserved, considering the relative lack of data and the high levels of scrutiny already afforded to the missing airliner's disappearance. Investigators stressed that "new information may become available" which alters or affects some of their current findings in an ongoing probe.

"The investigation team expects that further factual information will be available from the wreckage and flight recorders if the aircraft is found," the report noted. A year-long, Australian-led search mission in a vast area of the Southern Indian Ocean, where the plane is thought to have crashed, has yet to find any sign of the jet.

Earlier on Sunday, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said that the country "remains committed to the search, and hopes that MH370 will be found." Australia's Tony Abbott, prime minister for the lead country in the search operation, said that he understood that "a nagging doubt in the minds of billions of people" would persist until the plane was found.

"It can't go on forever, but as long as there are reasonable leads, the search will go on," Abbott said. Efforts to scour the sea bed in a massive catchment area of 60,000 square kilometers (23,000 square miles) are currently around 40 percent complete, authorities have said that they are hoping for a breakthrough before May, when the weather in the region worsens.

msh/rc (AFP, AP)

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