Why the Official Explanation of MH370’s Demise Doesn’t Hold Up

From  Ari N. Schulman Executive Editor of The New Atlantis: A Journal of Technology and Society

A map showing satellite communications company Inmarsat's global subscriptions. (Reuters)

A map showing satellite communications company Inmarsat’s global subscriptions. (Reuters)

Investigators searching for the missing Malaysian Airlines flight were ebullient when they detected what sounded like signals from the plane’s black boxes. This was a month ago, and it seemed just a matter of time before the plane was finally discovered.

But now the search of 154 square miles of ocean floor around the signals has concluded with no trace of wreckage found. Pessimism is growing as to whether those signals actually had anything to do with Flight 370. If they didn’t, the search area would return to a size of tens of thousands of square miles.

Even before the black-box search turned up empty, observers had begun to raise doubts about whether searchers were looking in the right place. Authorities have treated the conclusion that the plane crashed in the ocean west of Australia as definitive, owing to a much-vaunted mathematical analysis of satellite signals sent by the plane. But scientists and engineers outside of the investigation have been working to verify that analysis, and many say that it just doesn’t hold up.

A Global Game of Marco Polo
Malaysia Airlines flights are equipped with in-flight communications services provided by the British company Inmarsat. From early on, the lynchpin of the investigation has been signals sent by Flight 370 to one of Inmarsat’s satellites. It’s difficult to overstate the importance of this lonely little batch of “pings.” They’re the sole evidence of what happened to the plane after it slipped out of radar contact. Without them, investigators knew only that the plane had enough fuel to travel anywhere within 3,300 miles of the last radar contact—a seventh of the entire globe.

Inmarsat concluded that the flight ended in the southern Indian Ocean, and its analysis has become the canonical text of the Flight 370 search. It’s the bit of data from which all other judgments flow—from the conclusive announcement by Malaysia’s prime minister that the plane has been lost with no survivors, to the black-box search area, to the high confidence in the acoustic signals, to the dismissal by Australian authorities of a survey company’s new claim to have detected plane wreckage.

Although Inmarsat officials have described the mathematical analysis as “groundbreaking,” it’s actually based on some relatively straightforward geometry. Here’s how it works: Every so often (usually about once an hour), Inmarsat’s satellite sends a message to the plane’s communication system, asking for a simple response to show that it’s still switched on. This response doesn’t specify the plane’s location or the direction it’s heading, but it does have some useful information that narrows down the possibilities.

You can think of the ping math like a game of Marco Polo played over 22,000 miles of outer space. You can’t see the plane. But you shout Marco, and the plane shouts back Polo. Based on how long the plane takes to respond, you know how far away it is. And from the pitch of its voice, you can tell whether it’s moving toward you or away from you—like the sound of a car on the highway—and about how fast.

This information is far from perfect. You know how far the plane was for each ping, but the ping could be coming from any direction. And you how fast the plane is moving toward or away from you. It could also be moving right or left, up or down, and the speeds would sound the same. The task of the Inmarsat engineers has been to take these pieces and put them together, working backwards to reconstruct possible flight paths that would fit the data.

Continue Reading at – The New Atlantis:  A Journal of Technology and Society

Photo Credits:  The Atlantis.

Australian Exploration Company Claims MH370 Wreckage Found in Bay of Bengal.

An Australian exploration Company has claimed that it found the wreckage of missing Malaysia Airlines MH370 in the Bay of Bengal.

Six weeks after its departure from Kuala Lumpur bound for Beijing and disappearance and after the most extensive and fruitless search on aviation history, an Adelaide based Australian exploration Company has claimed the possible wreckage of the missing airliner was found in the Bay of Bengal, 5000 kms away from current location search.

Australian GeoResonance said on Monday they have located the possible wreckage after covering 2000.000 sq/km of the possible crash zone, north of MH370 last known location. To analyze the obtained data, they used satellite imagery, images obtained from aircraft and other diverse technologies.

“The technology we use was originally designed to find nuclear warheads and submarines. Our team in Ukraine decided we should try and help” Said, the company spokesman, David Pope.

“The wreckage wasn’t there prior to the disappearance of MH370. We are not trying to say it definitely is MH370. However, it is a lead we feel should be followed up” He added.

Pavel Kursa, another GeoResonance member, mentioned that several elements usually carried by airliners were detected at the location.

“We identified chemical elements and materials that make up a Boeing 777, these are aluminium, titanium, cooper, steel alloys and other materials” said Mr. Kursa to Australian channel 7News.

malaysia-airlines-flight-mh370

Capt. Ivan

Photo Credits:  Reuters / Andrew Barr – National Post

MH370 Too Many Questions, Not a Single Response.

News from MH370 goes slowly fading from media agencies, websites and other social media. But the world seems reluctant to accept that the most modern airliner flying these days can disappear without a trace.

During these days passengers, friends and colleagues made me the same question: – Do you have any idea what could have happened with Malaysia Airlines?  The answer was always the same: – No, honestly no idea…

We live in the internet age, where as far as we know our private life is not private anymore. Where virtually there’s no place in the world that is not accessible to a human being. Constellations of satellites listen to our conversations through our phones, on the street and even inside our homes. Our emails can be read, the book you are holding in your hands can be read, if we sit outside or near a window. The Rover is scrutinizing Mars commanded by a computer from the Earth. We have traveled to the deepest pit of the oceans; we have climbed the highest mountain in the world. And the most advanced aircraft flying through the skies in the era of modern aviation disappears and nobody knows where it is?

The issue is so serious that even the president of the most powerful nation on earth traveled to Malaysia to give explanations on the matter. The world cannot accept this situation.

Since his disappearance, we heard all kinds of speculations about what might have happened to the doomed flight. All kind of experts and so called experts gave their opinion and elaborated hypothesis, even an important news agency mounted a show inside of a flight simulator of the missing plane trying to explain what could have happened. Lovers of intrigue also made their contribution, locating the lost aircraft in different places or islands with hijacked or executed passengers.

The search area is huge and a few hours ago it has been expanded even more, the cost of the search is colossal. But here’s at stake is the dignity of the human race, our brothers have been lost and the world will do everything in its power to unravel the mystery. We must speak honestly and respond that until the plane is not found and the black boxes analyzed will not know exactly what happened that night with the doomed flight.

The truth is that, in deference to the pain of the families who still retain a hope of finding their loved ones and the silent heroes that every day continue the search. We must admit that we don’t know what could have happened with MH370.

Capt. Ivan

 

Ocean Floor Search for MH370 Interrupted Again

The search for a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 deep in the Indian Ocean was again cut short on Wednesday when technical problems forced a U.S. Navy underwater drone to surface without finding anything, officials said.

While a massive air and sea search for missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 is continuing almost 2,000 km (1,200 miles) off the coast of Perth, hopes have been pinned on the Bluefin-21 autonomous underwater vehicle finding the first concrete sign of the plane in more than six weeks of hunting.

A Chinese Ilyushin IL-76 aircraft prepares to fly out from Perth International Airport, to participate in the continuing search in the southern Indian Ocean for the missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370.Malaysian authorities have still not ruled out mechanical problems as causing the Boeing 777’s disappearance, but say evidence suggests it was deliberately diverted from its scheduled route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.An aircraft’s black box records data from the cockpit and conversations among flight crew and may provide answers about what happened to the missing plane.

A unspecified technical problem meant the Bluefin resurfaced early on Wednesday and analysis of the sonar data downloaded showed no significant detections, the Australian agency leading the search said.

It has subsequently been relaunched to continue its search.

The drone was forced to end its first deployment early on Monday after it exceeded its 4.5 km (14,750 feet) depth limit in the remote stretch of ocean where search authorities believe the jetliner crashed after its disappearance on March 8 with 239 people on board.

The introduction of the Bluefin marks a methodical, slower paced new phase of the search, now in its 40th day and described by the search coordinator, retired Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, as the most expensive in aviation history.

U.S. Naval personnel have said the drone could take up to two months to scour a 600 sq km area where the plane is believed to have sunk.

The deep sea area now being searched, the Zenith Plateau, has never been mapped in detail because it is not in any country’s economic zone.

However the sea floor is likely covered in “foraminiferal ooze”, a sludge formed by microscopic marine organisms, which would show up any large metallic object clearly, James Cook University marine geologist Robin Beaman told Reuters.

“A sidescan is very good at detecting the difference in the acoustic return of a hard object versus a soft, muddy sea floor,” he said. “This is quite a good environment for looking for wreck debris, albeit deep.”

An air and sea search for floating debris continued on Wednesday, but Houston has indicated that will soon end.

Up to 11 military aircraft, three civil aircraft and 11 ships would help in Wednesday’s search, covering a total area of about 55,151 square km in rainy conditions.

Authorities have targeted the remote stretch of ocean based on four acoustic signals they believe are from the plane’s black box recorders.

Source:  Reuters

Photo:  Reuters

 

Search for MH370 – MiniSubmarine Emerges with Empty Hands From First Dive

A U.S. Navy underwater mini-submarine sent to search for a missing Malaysian jetliner on the floor of the Indian Ocean could take up to two months to scour a 600 sq km area where the plane is believed to have sunk, U.S. search authorities said on Tuesday.

The U.S. Navy’s Bluefin-21 autonomous underwater vehicle is deployed from the Australian Defence Vessel Ocean Shield in the southern Indian Ocean

The prediction coincided with the end to the abbreviated first mission by the Bluefin-21 autonomous underwater vehicle six hours into what was meant to be a 16-hour operation on Monday after it exceeded its 4.5 km (14,750 feet) depth limit and was automatically returned to the surface.

The introduction of the undersea drone marks a new slower paced phase in the search for Malaysia Airlines MH370 which disappeared on March 8 and is presumed to have crashed thousands of km (miles) off course with the loss of all 239 people on board.

Authorities, who soon plan to scale back the air and surface search, are confident they know the approximate position of wreckage of the Boeing 777, some 1,550 km (960 miles) northwest of Perth, and are moving ahead on the basis of four acoustic signals they believe are from its black box recorders.

But having not heard a “ping” for almost a week and with the batteries on the locator beacons two weeks past their 30-day expected life, the slow-moving “autonomous underwater vehicle” was launched on Monday to try and locate wreckage.

“The AUV takes six times longer to cover the same area as the towed pinger locator. It is estimated that it will take the AUV anywhere from six weeks to two months to scan the entire search area,” Lt. J.G. Daniel S. Marciniak, a spokesman for the U.S. Seventh Fleet, said in a statement.

From its aborted first mission, the Bluefin-21 produced six hours of data which authorities analyzed to find no objects of interest, Marciniak added. The drone was expected to embark on its second search mission late on Tuesday.

The robot, which takes two hours to descend another two to return to the surface, as well as several hours to download data, will build up a detailed acoustic image of the area using sophisticated “sidescan” sonar. It hopes to repeat its success in finding a F-15 fighter jet which crashed off Japan last year.

It is capable of spending up to 16 hours scouring the sea floor. If it detects possible wreckage, it will be sent back to photograph it in underwater conditions with extremely low light.

Officials are focusing their acoustic search on an area equivalent to a medium-sized city – 600 sq km (230 sq miles). But the much broader search area off the Australian coast covers about 60,000 sq km, according to the government.

The deep sea area now being searched, the Zenith Plateau, has never been mapped in detail because it is not in any country’s economic zone.

However the sea floor is likely covered in “foraminiferal ooze”, a sludge formed by microscopic marine organisms, which would show up any large metallic object clearly, James Cook University marine geologist Robin Beaman told Reuters.

“A sidescan is very good at detecting the difference in the acoustic return of a hard object versus a soft, muddy sea floor,” he said. “This is quite a good environment for looking for wreck debris, albeit deep.”

The Bluefin’s main challenge was to remain within 50 meters (165 feet) of the seabed to ensure the best quality sidescan detection without exceeding its 4.5 km depth limit which could risk damaging it, Beaman said.

Malaysian authorities have still not ruled out mechanical problems as causing the plane’s disappearance, but say evidence suggests it was deliberately diverted from its scheduled route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

An aircraft’s black box records data from the cockpit and conversations among flight crew and may provide answers about what happened to the missing plane.

The search for the missing plane is on track to be the most difficult and expensive search and recovery operation in aviation history.

Source:  Reuters

Photos:  Reuters

 

Behind MH370 Black Boxes Signal

Searchers looking for the wreckage of missing Malaysia Airlines MH370 have detected signals consistent with transmissions from black boxes.

In what is described as a  “promising lead” some airplanes and ships looking for the missing Malaysia Airlines jetliner on the Indian Ocean moved on Monday toward waters where a Chinese vessel have picked up “ping” signals  during the weekend, raising hopes of finding the airliner’s black box recorders.

“The towed pinger locator  deployed from the Australian vessel Ocean Shield has detected signals consistent with those of black-boxes” – Said Air Chief Marshall Angus Houston, who is leading the joint search and rescue operation.  He called the development “very encouraging” but said it may it may take days to confirm if the signals come from the flight recorders on flight MH370, which disappeared on March 8 and which is believed to have crashed on the Indian Ocean.

The sounds were detected on two occasions over a period totalling more than two and a half hours.

“Clearly this is a most promising lead, and probably in the search so far, it’s the probably the best information that we have had,’’ Air Chief Marshal Houston told reporters.

“Once the position of the noise was determined, an underwater autonomous vehicle could be sent in to investigate’.

“It could take some days before the information is available to establish whether these detections can be confirmed as being from MH370. In very deep oceanic water, nothing happens fast.’’

The development came as a sea and air fleet scoured the vast Indian Ocean for further underwater signals in the hunt for the Malaysia Airlines flight before its black box batteries run out.

It also comes after the earlier detection of three separate signals, which at the weekend raised hopes of solving the mystery of the missing Boeing 777.

The Ocean Shield had since picked up signals on two separate occasions in the northern part of the search zone, Air Chief Marshal Houston said.

The first signal held for two hours and 20 minutes before contact was lost.

Two distinct “pinger’’ returns, consistent with the flight data and cockpit voice recorders, were then audible for 13 minutes, he said.

Air Chief Marshal Houston said the depth in the area was approximately 4500 meters and he cautioned that it was too early to say the transmissions were coming from the black boxes on the missing passenger jet.

“I would want more confirmation before we say this is it,’’ he said. “Without wreckage, we can’t say it’s definitely here. We’ve got to go down and have a look and hopefully we’ll find it somewhere in the area that we narrowed to.’’

Up to nine military planes, three civil planes and 14 ships were taking part in today’s operation, Australia’s Joint Agency Coordination Centre (JACC) said.

Over the weekend, the Chinese vessel Haixun 01 twice picked up an underwater signal on a frequency used for the plane’s flight data and cockpit voice recorders — once for 90 seconds on Saturday and another more fleeting “ping’’ on Friday a short distance away.

A third “ping’’ was also being scrutinised, 300 nautical miles away, by the Australian vessel Ocean Shield.

Britain’s Ministry of Defence confirmed overnight that the HMS Echo, equipped to detect a black box, had arrived in the area where the Chinese had reported a ping.

The search area was expected to be approximately 234,000 square kilometres today, the JACC said in a statement, predicting good weather throughout the day.

The Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 with 239 people aboard vanished on March 8 during a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing and is believed to have crashed into the southern Indian Ocean.

No debris has yet been found despite extensive aerial and sea searches, prompting authorities to switch to undersea acoustic surveillance in hopes of finding the aircraft.

Air Chief Marshal Houston said yesterday the Chinese finding was more promising.

“I think the fact that we’ve had two detections, two acoustic events in that location, provides some promise which requires a full investigation,’’ he said.

The hunt for the jet was refocused on the southern end of the search zone yesterday after corrected satellite data showed it was more likely the plane entered the water there.

Air Chief Marshal Houston said the Haixun 01 was already operating in that more southerly zone.

Some analysts greeted the acoustic detections with optimism, saying a 37.5kHz signal can only be transmitted by an emergency beacon. But others were sceptical and said it was vital to find supporting evidence.

Air Chief Marshal Houston said Haixun 01 was in waters about 4.5 kilometres deep, meaning “any recovery operation is going to be incredibly challenging and very demanding and will take a long period of time’’ if the plane is found there.

He said time was critical.

“This is day 30 of the search and the advertised time for the life of the batteries in the beacon is 30 days,’’ he said.

“Sometimes they last for several days beyond that — say eight to 10 days beyond that but we’re running out of time in terms of the battery life of the emergency locator beacons.’’

Air Chief Marshal Houston insisted that China was “sharing everything that’s relevant to this search’’ with the lead authority, and sidestepped questions over the Haixun 01’s location far from the other lead vessels in the search.

Greg Waldron, Asia managing editor of Flightglobal, based in Singapore, said he was sceptical that the Chinese ship had picked up a pulse.

“There have been a lot of false leads in this story and we need to be extremely cautious with any information that comes,’’ he told AFP.

Ravi Madavaram, an aviation analyst with Frost & Sullivan in Kuala Lumpur, said most beacons used in the industry had the same frequency and the ping could “likely’’ be from flight MH370.

“But the Chinese have not said exactly where the ‘ping’ is originating and where they detected it,’’ he said.

Malaysian authorities believe satellite readings indicate MH370 crashed in the Indian Ocean after veering dramatically off course for reasons that remain unknown.

A criminal probe has focused on hijacking, sabotage or psychological problems among passengers or crew, but there is no evidence yet to support any of the theories.

Source:  The Australian

Photo:  Reuters

 

 

MH370 Search: Chinese Patrol Ship Picks Up a Possible Signal Coming From the Black Boxes

On what is proven to be the most difficult search in human story, last Saturday, a Chinese Patrol ship looking for signs of Malaysia Airlines MH370 has picked up signals on the frequency emitted by flight recorders.

A pinger locator deployed from the ship Haixun 01 has picked up a pulse signal on the frequency 37.5 kHz, but has not been confirmed if it comes from the black boxes of the missing airliner.

Earlier, the Australian Maritime Authority – AMSA – said in a statement that the Chinese Patrol Ship Haixun 01 has detected electronic pulse signals but “the source cannot be verified”.

Anish Patel, President of Pinger Manufacturer, Dukane Seacom said both, the Flight Data Recorder and the Voice Data Recorder would emit on the same standard beacon frequency. – ‘They are identical” He said.

The 37.5 kHz signal was detected at 4:30PM local time at a location 25 degrees south, 101 degrees east, during a period that lasted for one and a half minutes and while consistent with the frequency standard Boeing black boxes would use, it was “not exclusive” and there was a possibility the signal could be from “other equipment”.

Signal Location

Signal Location

The CCTV report report confirmed that the Haixun 01 had detected a similar signal on Friday wich lasted for 15 minutes, but the other ships around may have “disturbed” the signal at the time.

A separate report from the website of Chinese Newspaper Liberation Daily said the signal was first picked up by equipment on the patrol ship on Friday afternoon and that three team members on the ship confirmed hearing the signal.

Late Saturday, RAAF Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston (ret.) – head of the search’s Joint Agency Coordination Centre – said:  “a number of white objects on the surface were also sighted about 90 kms from the detection area.  However there is no confirmation that the objects and signals are related”.  Australian authorities are considering sending RAAF aircraft to track the area.

Meanwhile, University of Southampton oceanographer, Simon Boxal said: “a variety of things” use the same frequency as the signals reportedly detected.

“We’ve had a lot of red herrings on this whole search.  I would like to see the data confirmed, it could be a false alarm”  Mr. Boxall told CNN.

MH370 vanished 28 days ago and there are fears the beacon’s batteries might run out of power and stop sending signals.

Although black boxes beacons have a battery life of about 30 days, they have been known to continue transmitting for months longer and although the search for the missing airliner has reached its fourth week, vessels started hearing for underwater signals only in recent days.

The Pinger Locator can detect signals from the black boxes, but only 1,6 kms away.  The search for wreckage is 217.000 square kms of ocean NW of Perth.

Capt. Ivan

Photos:  AP

 

Malaysia Airlines MH370: Pilot’s last words not “All right, good night”, Malaysia’s civil aviation authority says

Malaysia’s civil aviation authority has clarified the last recorded words spoken by one of the pilots of the missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, changing a previous account that the pilot’s last words were “all right, good night”.

“We would like to confirm that the last conversation in the transcript between the air traffic controller and the cockpit is at 0119 (Malaysian Time) and is ‘good night Malaysian 370’,” the department of civil aviation said in a statement.

The correction of the official account of the last words was made as Malaysian authorities faced heavy criticism for their handling of the plane’s disappearance, particularly from families of the Chinese passengers on board who have accused Malaysia of mismanaging the search and holding back information.

Black Box Locator Enroute to Search Area

The pinger locator which will be towed behind Australian Navy ship Ocean Shield hoping to detect a black box signal from flight MH370. Mar 30, 2014 (ABC News: Courtney Bembridge)

The pinger locator which will be towed behind Australian Navy ship Ocean Shield hoping to detect a black box signal from flight MH370. Mar 30, 2014 (ABC News: Courtney Bembridge)

Australian Navy ship carrying specialist equipment to detect the black box of the missing plane is heading to the southern Indian Ocean search area.

The Ocean Shield, carrying a towed pinger locator and an underwater vehicle, is expected to reach the search area within three days.

Once in the area, 1,800 kilometres west of Perth, the Ocean Shield will tow the equipment at just 5 kilometres per hour in an attempt to pick up a signal from the plane’s black box.

Timing is crucial as authorities say the plane’s black box may only have enough battery power to send out a signal for another week.

So far, the search for debris from the missing flight has given no results.

Search for MH370 01/04/2014

Source:  ABC Net.au – Australia

Images:  ABC Net.au

 

Two Weeks after Malaysian Airlines B777 Disappearance, There is Only Frustration and Suspicions

Two weeks after the Malaysia Airlines B777-200/ER went missing with 239 people on board, officials are bracing for the “long haul” as searches by more than two dozen countries turn up little but frustration and fresh questions.

RAAF Pilot Flight Lieutenant Brett pilots a RAAF C-130J Hercules as it prepares to launch two Self Locating Data Marker Buoys in the southern Indian Ocean during the search for missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370The international team hunting Flight MH370 in the remote southern Indian Ocean yielded no results on Friday, and Australia’s deputy prime minister said suspected debris there may have sunk.

Aircraft and ships have renewed the search in the Andaman Sea between India and Thailand going over areas that have already been exhaustively swept to find some clue to unlock one of the biggest mysteries in modern aviation.

Malaysian officials have been realistic about their ability to lead the operation with a global dynamic that some have said is beyond the country’s technical capabilities and expertise.

“This continues to be a multinational effort coordinated by Malaysia, involving dozens of countries from around the world,” Malaysian Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said at a briefing on Friday.

Malaysia welcomed “all assistance to continue to follow all credible leads”, said Hishammuddin, who is also acting transport minister.

He said searchers were facing the “long haul” but were conscious that the clock was ticking. The plane’s “black box” voice and data recorder only transmits an electronic signal for about 30 days before its battery dies, after which it will be far more difficult to locate.

Investigators suspect the Boeing 777, which took off from Kuala Lumpur for Beijing shortly after midnight on March 8, was deliberately diverted thousands of miles from its scheduled path. They say they are focusing on hijacking or sabotage but have not ruled out technical problems. A Royal Australian Air Force AP-3C Orion returns from a search for Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 over the Indian Ocean, at RAAF Base Pearce

The search itself has strained ties between China and Malaysia, with Beijing repeatedly leaning on the Southeast Asian nation to step up its hunt and do a better job at looking after the relatives of the Chinese passengers.

 

Hishammuddin has rejected complaints that the country has botched search efforts or refused to share vital information with other governments.

For families of the passengers, the process has proved to be an emotionally wrenching battle to elicit information, their angst fuelled by a steady stream of speculation and false leads.

In a Beijing hotel where the bulk of Chinese families have been awaiting information, the deadlock prompted rage over perceived Malaysian incompetence.

For a handful of Chinese families who chose to be flown to Kuala Lumpur to be closer to the heart of search operations, the flow of information has been no more fluid.

On Wednesday, grief erupted into anger when several family members unfurled a protest banner in front of a throng of journalists, demanding the truth from the Malaysian government. The ruckus prompted police to escort the relatives, including a distraught mother, away from the briefing room.

By Friday, the Chinese families who had been staying at a resort south of Kuala Lumpur had to decamp to another hotel as they were displaced by customers for the upcoming Malaysian Formula One grand prix.

“Tonight all the government could give us was old information. But of course we, the families, want to hear new updates,” Malaysian Hamid Ramlat, the father of a passenger, told reporters after emerging from a briefing on Thursday night.

Some experts have argued that the reluctance to share sensitive radar data and capabilities in a region fraught with suspicion amid China’s military rise and territorial disputes may have hampered the search.

Two people familiar with the investigation said the search had been slowed in some cases by delays over the paperwork needed to allow foreign maritime surveillance aircraft into territorial waters without a formal diplomatic request.

Source:  Reuters

Australia Resumes Search for Missing MH370

An international search force resumed the hunt for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 in the remote southern Indian Ocean on Friday as authorities pored over satellite data to try and confirm a potential debris field.

RAAF pilot, Flight Lieutenant Russell Adams from 10 Squadron, steers his AP-3C Orion over the Southern Indian Ocean during the search for missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370The Australian-led mission said it was sending five aircraft back to a storm-lashed area some 2,500 km (1,500 miles) southwest of Perth. The search began on Thursday after analysis of satellite images identified two large objects floating in the ocean there that may have come from the Boeing 777 which went missing 13 days ago with 239 people aboard.

Investigators have said the sighting in one of the most isolated parts of the globe was a credible lead but nothing beyond that.

“It’s about the most inaccessible spot that you can imagine on the face of the earth, but if there is anything down there, we will find it,” Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott told reporters in Papua New Guineau, where he is on a visit.

“We owe it to the families of those people (on board) to do no less.”

The investigators suspect Flight MH370, which took off from Kuala Lumpur for Beijing shortly after midnight on March 8, was deliberately diverted thousands of miles from its scheduled path. They say they are focusing on hijacking or sabotage but have not ruled out technical problems.

The search for the plane also continues in other regions, including a wide arc sweeping northward from Laos to Kazakhstan.

A source close to the investigation said it might take “several days” to establish whether the objects spotted by satellite in the Indian Ocean came from the missing airliner.

A former senior crash investigator said there had been false leads in many investigations, especially in waters containing stray containers or dumped and lost cargo.

Three Australian P3 Orions would be joined by a high-tech U.S. Navy P8 Poseidon aircraft and a civilian Gulfstream jet to search the 23,000 square km (8,900 sq mile) zone on Friday, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) said. A Norwegian merchant ship that had been diverted to the area on Thursday was still searching there and another vessel would arrive later on Friday.

Satellite imagery provided to AMSA of objects that may be possible debris of the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370

China’s icebreaker for Antarctic research, Xuelong, or Snow Dragon, will set off from Perth to search the area, Chinese state news agency Xinhua cited maritime authorities as saying.

About two-thirds of the missing plane’s passengers were Chinese nationals.

Australia’s deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss said authorities continued to examine satellite footage to pinpoint the location of the suspected debris, which included a piece estimated from the satellite imagery to be 24 meters (79 feet) long.

“Clearly, there’s a lot of resources being put into that particular area. It’s broadly consistent with the flight plans that were talked about ever since the satellites and their work has been added to the information bank,” Truss told ABC radio.

“That work will continue, trying to get more pictures, stronger resolution so that we can be more confident about where the items are, how far they have moved and therefore what efforts should be put into the search effort.”

DIRE WEATHER

Strong winds, cloud and rain had made searching on Thursday difficult, said Kevin Short, an air vice marshal in New Zealand’s Defence Forces, which sent a P-3K2 Orion to search the area.

“The crew never found any object of significance,” he told Radio New Zealand. “Visibility wasn’t very good, which makes it harder to search the surface of the water,” he said.

Satellite imagery provided to AMSA of objects that may be possible debris of the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370A nearby desolate group of French-administered sub-Antarctic islands including St. Paul and Amsterdam and Kerguelen had been asked to look for debris, but none had been spotted, said Sebastien Mourot, chief of staff for the French prefect of La Reunion.

There have been many false leads and no confirmed wreckage found from Flight MH370 since it vanished off Malaysia’s east coast, less than an hour after taking off.

There has also been criticism of the search operation and investigation, as more than two dozen countries scramble to overcome logistical and diplomatic hurdles to solve the mystery.

Investigators piecing together patchy data from military radar and satellites believe that, minutes after its identifying transponder was switched off as it crossed the Gulf of Thailand, the plane turned sharply west, re-crossing the Malay Peninsula and following an established route towards India.

What happened next is unclear, but faint electronic “pings” picked up by one commercial satellite suggest the aircraft flew on for at least six hours.

A source with direct knowledge of the situation said that information gleaned from the pings had been passed to investigators within a few days, but it took Malaysia more than a week to narrow the search area to two large arcs – one reaching south to near where the potential debris was spotted, and a second crossing to the north into China and central Asia.

A diagram showing the search area for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 in the southern Indian Ocean is seen during a briefing at AMSA in Canberra

The four-day delay in identifying satellite images that may show debris was due to the vast amount of data that needed to be analyzed by various agencies, Australian authorities and the U.S. company that collected the images said.

The satellite images, provided by U.S. company DigitalGlobe, were taken on March 16, meaning that the possible debris could by now have drifted far from the original site.

The relatively large size of the objects would suggest that if they do come from the missing aircraft, it was largely intact when it went into the water.

Still, finding any debris, let alone the “black boxes” that could shed light on what happened, remains incredibly challenging in the remote, deep-sea region known as the Roaring 40s for its huge seas and frequent storm-force winds.

 

Source:  Reuters

Photos:  Reuters

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