Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 20 August 2014

Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370: Wreckage 'could be found within this week'

PERTH, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 17:  A Japan Orion aircraft takes off from Pearce Airbase, in Bullsbrook, 35 kms north of Perth to help in the search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, on April 17, 2014 in Perth, Australia. Twenty-six nations have been involved in the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 since it disappeared more than a month ago.  The Malaysian Airways aircraft went missing on 8th March 2014 whilst on a flight between Kuala Lumpur and Beijing.  (Photo by Greg Pool - Pool/Getty Images)
PERTH, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 17: A Japan Orion aircraft takes off from Pearce Airbase, in Bullsbrook, 35 kms north of Perth to help in the search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, on April 17, 2014 in Perth, Australia. Twenty-six nations have been involved in the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 since it disappeared more than a month ago. The Malaysian Airways aircraft went missing on 8th March 2014 whilst on a flight between Kuala Lumpur and Beijing. (Photo by Greg Pool - Pool/Getty Images)
Undated Ministry of Defence handout photo of survey ship HMS Echo, as a Lockheed P-3 Orion flies overhead, in the southern Indian Ocean helping in the underwater search for the flight recorder from the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370
Undated Ministry of Defence handout photo of survey ship HMS Echo, as a Lockheed P-3 Orion flies overhead, in the southern Indian Ocean helping in the underwater search for the flight recorder from the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370
AT SEA - APRIL 12:  In this handout image provided by Commonwealth of Australia, Department of Defence, HMAS Success conducts a Replenishment at Sea with United States Navy Ship (USNS) Cesar Chavez, as USNS Cesar Chavez's helicopter, a Super Puma, conducts a Vertical Replenishment at Sea onto HMAS Success' flight deck, during Operation in the Southern Indian Ocean, in search of missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 on April 12, 2014. The search continues as an oil slick has been discovered in the search area in the Indian Ocean. Twenty-six nations have been involved in the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 since it disappeared more than a month ago. (Photo by LSIS James Whittle/Australia Department of Defence via Getty Images)
AT SEA - APRIL 12: In this handout image provided by Commonwealth of Australia, Department of Defence, HMAS Success conducts a Replenishment at Sea with United States Navy Ship (USNS) Cesar Chavez, as USNS Cesar Chavez's helicopter, a Super Puma, conducts a Vertical Replenishment at Sea onto HMAS Success' flight deck, during Operation in the Southern Indian Ocean, in search of missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 on April 12, 2014. The search continues as an oil slick has been discovered in the search area in the Indian Ocean. Twenty-six nations have been involved in the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 since it disappeared more than a month ago. (Photo by LSIS James Whittle/Australia Department of Defence via Getty Images)

The search for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight is at “a very critical juncture”, with the area officials believe the wreckage could be in narrowing significantly over the next two days, Malaysia’s acting transport minister has said.

The search of a tight 10 km (6.2 mile) circle of the sea floor by a US Navy underwater drone could be completed within a week, Australian search officials said on Saturday.

 

The area has been determined based on underwater pings believed to be from the plane's black box recorders, meaning if analysis has been correct and the signal’s were coming from the boxes, remnants from the doomed flight should be located.

 

The almost two month long search for the plane after it disappeared from radars on 8 March has so far brought no sign of wreckage, and officials have little answer as to what happened in the final hours of the flight.

 

“Provided the weather is favourable for launch and recovery of the AUV and we have a good run with the serviceability of the AUV, we should complete the search of the focused underwater area in five to seven days,” the Joint Agency Coordination Centre told Reuters in an email.

Officials did not indicate whether they were confident that this search area would yield any new information about the flight, nor did they state what steps they would take in the event that the underwater search were to prove fruitless.

 

“It is important to focus on today and tomorrow. Narrowing of the search area today and tomorrow is at a very critical juncture,” Malaysian Acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein told a media conference in Kuala Lumpur, asking for people to pray for success.

 

Malaysia was asking oil companies and others in the commercial sector to provide assets that might help in the search, Mr Hishammuddin added, after earlier saying more AUVs might be used.

 

After almost two weeks without picking up any acoustic signals, and long past the black box battery's 30-day life expectancy, authorities are increasingly reliant on the unmanned Bluefin-21 drone, which on Saturday was expected to have dived to unprecedented depths that could risk the equipment.

 

Because visual searches of the ocean surface have yielded no concrete evidence, the drone, with its ability to search deep beneath the ocean surface with “side scan” sonar, has become the focal point of the search 1,200 miles northwest of the Australian city of Perth.

 

But hopes that it might soon guide searchers to wreckage are dwindling with no sign of the plane after six deployments spanning 83 square miles. Footage from the drone's sixth mission was still being analysed, the Joint Agency Coordination Centre said on Saturday.

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