SYDNEY (Reuters) - A new ocean debris drift analysis shows missing Malaysia Airlines MH370 is most likely within a proposed expanded search area rejected by Australia and Malaysia in January, the Australian government's scientific agency said on Friday.
A A$200 million ($150.54 million) search for the aircraft, which went missing in 2014 with 239 people onboard, was suspended when the two nations rejected a recommendation to search north of the 120,000 sq km (46,000 sq mile) area already canvassed, saying the new area was too imprecise.
The new debris drift analysis suggests the missing Boeing 777 may be located in a much smaller 25,000 sq km (9,652 sq mile) zone within that proposed northern search area.
“This new work leaves us more confident in our findings,” Dr David Griffin, a principal research scientist at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) said in a statement.
The CSIRO report featured data and analysis from ocean testing of an actual Boeing 777 flaperon cut down to match the one from MH370 found on Reunion island off the coast of Africa in 2015, rather than the wood and steel models used in a previous test.
"We’ve found that an actual flaperon goes (drifts) about 20 degrees to the left, and faster than the replicas, as we thought it might," said Griffin. "The arrival of MH370’s flaperon at La Reunion in July 2015 now makes perfect sense."
The location of MH370, which went missing on a flight to Beijing from the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur, has become one of the world's greatest aviation mysteries.
Australian Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Darren Chester said he welcomed the new CSIRO report but said it was important to note it did not provide new evidence leading to a specific location of MH370.
He said a copy of the report had been provided to Malaysia for consideration in its ongoing investigation into the disappearance of the aircraft.
“Malaysia is the lead investigator and any future requests in relation to searching for MH370 would be considered by Australia, at that time," Chester said.
(Reporting by Jamie Freed; Editing by Michael Perry)