Malaysia has already partnered with American and Australian contractors to supply additional search equipment, including a towed side-scan sonar and ROV. It’s not yet clear how these will be integrated into the larger, Australian-run operation. [eap_ad_2]
Where to start?
Where the search teams begin their work will depend on what the underwater maps show. “If there’s a chunk of fairly smooth terrain and fairly shallow, you could get a lot of ground covered early on, which raises spirits a little bit,” Gallo says.
But there’s a lot of ground to cover. The area search teams hope to tackle over the next year is four times the size of the search zone for Air France 447, which went down in the mid-Atlantic in June 2009.
And with more ground to search, and potentially up to half-a-dozen search assets involved, Gallo says, the operation becomes far more complex.
“The worst thing that we could do is have a ship show up with technology, have them go over the spot…and you write that spot off forever.”
But Gallo adds that he is completely confident in the ATSB’s ability to manage the overall operation and says that if the wreckage of MH370 is in the designated search zone, it will be found.
Are they looking in the right place?
There is far less confidence about whether search teams are looking in the right spot. The search for MH370 continues to focus along the seventh arc, the so-called “partial handshake,” which experts believe was the last signal sent between the Malaysia Airlines plane and a communications satellite operated by Inmarsat.
“What I’m a little concerned about… is that there still seems to be some confusion about Inmarsat data and how it’s being interpreted,” said David Soucie, a former safety inspector at the U.S Federal Aviation Administration and author of “Why Planes Crash.”
In late June, the ATSB announced it was moving the priority search area several hundred kilometers southwest, the second major shift of the search zone along the arc. That move was based on analysis of the satellite data and a review of aircraft performance limits, including speed and altitude, by an international group of experts.
That analysis also made a series of assumptions, “in order to define a search area of practical size,” the ATSB’s June report says, including that the plane was flying on autopilot for a long period of time until it eventually ran out of fuel and crashed. Not making that assumption, the report says, “would result in an impractically large search area.”
The ATSB’s Dolan says that the Inmarsat data will continue to be reviewed during the next phase of the search. And the bureau says there is still a chance the search may be extended outside the 60,000 square kilometers designated as the priority area.
“The haystack is a big chunk of terrain in the Indian Ocean,” Gallo of Woods Hole says. And even though the haystack is huge there’s no guarantee that the needle is in that haystack.”
Soucie agrees, however, he adds the ATSB is going about the search in a smart way. “Am I confident they will find the airplane in that area? No. But if it were my search, I would be doing exactly what they’re doing.
Despite a potentially vast search zone, Dolan says he’s cautiously optimistic search teams will find the missing plane “We’re doing this, in a large part, because we want to give some certainty to those who are grieving the loss of their loved ones, and we’re fully committed to doing that.”
MH370 departed Kuala Lumpur for Beijing early on the morning of March 8 carrying 239 passengers and crew. On March 24, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak announced that the flight had ended in the southern Indian Ocean.To date, no trace of the plane has been found.[eap_ad_3]