Flight MH370

Malaysia Airlines flight 370

International experts to take fresh look at data in hunt for flight MH370

Top officials agree on expanded search in remote area of Indian Ocean

PUBLISHED : Monday, 05 May, 2014, 11:14pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 06 May, 2014, 8:20am

An international panel of experts will re-examine all data gathered in the nearly two-month hunt for the missing Malaysia Airlines jet to ensure search crews who have been scouring a remote area of ocean for the plane have been looking in the right place.

Senior officials from Malaysia, Australia and China met in Canberra to thrash out the details of the next steps in the search for flight MH370, which will centre around an expanded patch of sea floor in the Indian Ocean off Western Australia.

The area became the focus of the hunt after a team of analysts calculated the plane's likeliest flight path based on satellite and radar data.

Starting tomorrow, that data will be reanalysed and combined with all information gathered so far in the search, which has not turned up a single piece of debris despite crews scouring more than 4.6 million square kilometres of ocean.

"We've got to this stage of the process where it's very sensible to go back and have a look at all of the data that has been gathered, all of the analysis that has been done and make sure there's no flaws in it, the assumptions are right, the analysis is right and the deductions and conclusions are right," Angus Houston, head of the search operation, said in the Australian capital.

Investigators have been stymied by a lack of hard data since the plane vanished on March 8 during a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. A search for surface debris was called off last week after officials determined any wreckage that may have been floating had probably sunk.

"Unfortunately, all of that effort has found nothing," Australian Transport Minister Warren Truss said.

Houston has warned the underwater search is likely to drag on for up to a year.

Houston and Truss met with Malaysian acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein and Chinese Transport Minister Yang Chuantang yesterday to map out the next steps of the underwater search, which will focus on a 60,000 square kilometre patch of sea floor.

Officials are contacting governments and private contractors to find out whether they have specialised equipment that can dive deeper than the Bluefin 21, an unmanned sub that has spent weeks scouring the sea floor in an area where sounds consistent with a plane's black box were detected in early April.

The Bluefin has been limited by the fact it can dive only to depths of 4.5 kilometres - and parts of the search zone are likely deeper than that. Adding to the difficulties is the fact no one really knows exactly how deep the water in the search area is.

"I don't know that anyone knows for sure, because it's never been mapped," Truss said, adding that detailed mapping of the sea floor will be a key focus of the next phase of the search.