MH370: US search team extends Indian Ocean mission after failing to find Malaysian passenger jet
Flight 370 disappeared March 8, 2014, while en route from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing with 239 people aboard
The search for missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 has expanded into a new area, after exhausting the main search zone without finding the plane.
The search for MH370 will enter its final phase this week, more than four years after it disappeared.
Searchers have so far failed to find the plane, despite exhausting a 25,000km “priority area” that had been identified by Australian experts as MH370’s most likely resting place.
The renewed search, conducted by US company Ocean Infinity, has covered 80,000 sq km of the Indian Ocean since January.
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) had previously searched for MH370 for three years, but the operation was called off in January 2017 after no success.
In a December 2016 report, the ATSB and Australia’s scientific research agency CSIRO announced a 25,000 sq km area north of the original ATSB search should be the next place to look.
This was based on the discovery of confirmed MH370 debris on the east African coast, which prompted new ocean current drift analysis from CSIRO.
However, on April 3, searchers finished scanning the ATSB priority area – known as Site 1 – and discovered nothing. The search ship, Seabed Constructor, continued to move north.
An April 17 report revealed the first northward extension, Site 2, had been completed with no results, and that a new extension – Site 4 – had been added to the search. Ocean Infinity has been contacted for comment on the new search zone.
On Monday, the CEO of Ocean Infinity, Oliver Plunkett said the company remained “absolutely determined” to find the plane.
“Whilst it’s disappointing there has been no sign of MH370 in the Australian Transport Safety Bureau search area and further north, there is still some search time remaining,” he said.
Under its contract with the Malaysian government, Ocean Infinity has 90 days – not including rest stops – to find the plane. The company will only be paid if it finds the plane, with the fee rising the longer the operation takes.
Seabed Constructor is in Fremantle for a scheduled refuelling stop, and will head out for the final leg of its search on Tuesday.
The search will officially end in the coming weeks when the weather in the southern Indian Ocean worsens.
Malaysia’s civil aviation chief, Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, has said the search will end in mid-June.
Additional reporting by Associated Press