The search area for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 in the southern Indian Ocean has been refined based on the latest analysis, officials said yesterday. They said the investigation into how the plane came to crash cannot proceed until the wreckage and black boxes are recovered.
Australian Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss said analysis of a failed attempted satellite phone call from the airline to the flight, which disappeared March 8, "suggests to us that the aircraft might have turned south a little earlier than we had previously expected".
However, Truss said the overall search area of Australia's west coast remained unchanged. He did not elaborate on how that analysis was achieved.
Truss and Malaysian Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai signed a memorandum of understanding on cooperation in the search for the missing Boeing 777 as it progresses to the expensive next phase. The agreement shares the ongoing cost between the two countries.
China's deputy transport minister He Jianzhong, who also attended the Canberra meeting, said the ministers had all agreed that the search would not be interrupted or given up. Most of the plane's passengers, 153, were Chinese.
The airliner disappeared with 239 people aboard after flying far off course while on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.
Liow said investigators had advised that success of the undersea search for wreckage and the aircraft's black boxes with cockpit voice recordings and flight data was crucial to solving the mystery of the disaster.
"The investigation cannot continue without the search result," he said. "We need to find the plane, we need to find the black box in the plane so that we can have a conclusion in the investigation."
Malaysia, as the country where the Boeing 777 was flagged, has overall responsibility for the investigation. But Australia has search and rescue responsibility for the area of the Indian Ocean where the plane is thought to have crashed 1,800km off Australia's west coast.
Dutch contractor Fugro Survey will conduct the underwater search, starting next month. Three vessels towing underwater vehicles equipped with side-scan sonar, multi-beam echo sounders and video equipment would search for the plane, Truss said.
The search could take up to a year to scour 60,000 square kilometres of seabed and cost A$52 million (HK$376 million).
Before the underwater search starts, two survey ships are mapping the entire search area.