The search for the missing Flight MH370 will now revert to an area hundreds of kilometers south of the first suspected crash site, an official said on Friday, as months of fruitless scouring in the Indian Ocean has failed to crack the unprecedented aviation mystery.
In a dramatic development in the hunt for the Malaysia Airlines plane, the search area in the Indian Ocean is to be moved back to a zone 1,800 kilometres west of Perth, previously dismissed in late March.
The new search area, to be focused on when an underwater probe resumes in August,is not be based on fresh data but on new analysis of the plane’s flight path.
“All the trends of this analysis will move the search area south of where it was. Just how much south is something that we’re still working on,” said Martin Dolan, chief commissioner of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau.
“There was a very complex analysis and there were several different ways of looking at it. Specialists have used several different methodologies and bringing all of that work together to get a consensus view is what we’re finalising at the moment,” he said.
The Joint Agency Coordination Centre (JACC) will announce next week that the six-week analysis of all information related to the Boeing 777’s flight path has resulted in an 800 km shift in the search area to the south-west, The West Australian newspaper reported citing US sources.
The search area is still located on what is termed the seventh arc, based on the Britain-based Inmarsat’s satellite signal contact with the plane – just much further south.
The areas which will now be the focus of the search were previously surveyed from the air, but the undersea hunt was directed north after “pings” were heard which later turned out to be bogus false alarms.
The ATSB has not given out precise details of the search to be undertaken, but the US sources have said that one of the two ocean floor mapping vessels, Fugro Equator, is already operating in the new area, while a second vessel, the Chinese navy’s Zhu Kezhen, is en route to the same area.
The Beijing-bound Boeing 777-200 – carrying 239 people, including five Indians, an Indo-Canadian and 154 Chinese nationals – mysteriously vanished on March 8 en route to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur.