MH370: search to 'intensify' as new phase begins
New vessel to join the underwater search for flight MH370 after mapping of the seabed is completed
The hunt for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 is about to intensify as another search vessel joins the operation, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) has said.
A ship that was involved in the first phase of the operation has finished mapping out the seabed and is expected to join two other vessels in their underwater search for the wreckage "in the coming days".
Multi-beam sonar mapping technology has been used to chart 60,000 square miles of seabed in the remote region of the southern Indian Ocean where flight MH370 is believed to have crashed.
"[This] provided knowledge of the terrain that was essential for the underwater search," says the ATSB.
The two vessels already involved in the latest phase of the operation have so far examined about 1,000 square miles of the search area.
"While it is impossible to determine with certainty where the aircraft may have entered the water, the available data and analysis indicate that the most likely location lies close to a long but narrow arc in the southern Indian Ocean (where the aircraft last communicated with a ground station through a satellite)," ATSB noted.
In recent weeks, some airline industry insiders have raised new doubts that flight MH370 did end in the Indian Ocean. Tim Clark, head of Emirates, is among those calling for a fundamental review of the case.
The search efforts have been co-ordinated by Australian authorities and jointly funded by the Malaysian and Australian authorities. The total cost of the operation is expected to exceed $150 million.
Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 went missing on 8 March with 239 people on board.
With the underwater search for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 intensifying, the country's defence minister has said that he is "99 per cent sure" that the missing plane will be found.
Hishammuddin Hussein was speaking at the launch of the GO Phoenix, a ship equipped with a probe designed to scour the sea bed for signs of the lost Boeing 777.
"This is cutting-edge technology, he told Sky News. "My personal view based on experts' opinion [is] 99.9 per cent sure" that the plane will be found.
His comments come two weeks after British satellite company Inmarsat acknowledged that "significant uncertainty" remains about MH370's final flight path.
"The aircraft remained operational for at least seven hours after the loss of contact as the satellite terminal continued to transmit messages during this period," the company said, but analysis of the data could not conclusively determine the plane's final resting place.
Sir Tim Clark, the president and chief executive of Emirates, recently said that he was unsatisfied with the investigation into the fate of flight MH370.
"There hasn't been one overwater incident in the history of civil aviation – apart from Amelia Earhart in 1939 – that has not been at least 5 or 10 per cent trackable," he told Der Spiegel. "But MH370 has simply disappeared. For me, that raises a degree of suspicion. I'm totally dissatisfied with what has been coming out of all of this.
"Every single second of that flight needs to be examined up until it, theoretically, ended up in the Indian Ocean – for which they still haven't found a trace, not even a seat cushion."
He also questioned whether data exchanged between the aircraft and Inmarsat's satellite, which has been used to predict the aircraft's flight path, was reliable.
"We have not seen a single thing that suggests categorically that this aircraft is where they say it is," he said, "apart from this so-called electronic satellite 'handshake', which I question as well."
On Wednesday, Hishammuddin dismissed the suggestion that the search had been mishandled.
"All that could have been done to find the plane at this point has been done," he said.
A second ship, the Fugro Discovery, has now joined the underwater search for the remains of MH370 in a remote area of the southern Indian Ocean more than 1,000 miles west of Australia.
Flight MH370 went missing on 8 March with 239 people on board.
MH370: were Tony Abbott's black box claims 'reckless'?
Tony Abbott has come under pressure to explain why he expressed confidence that early pings detected in the search for the missing flight MH370 were from the plane's black box.
The Australian prime minister had received no official briefing from his department or the special search envoy before making the comments, according to a report from The Guardian.
Christine Milne, the leader of Australia's opposition Greens Party, questioned whether Abbott acted recklessly in making the statement. In a Senate hearing yesterday, she pressed him to explain where he had obtained his information.
Abbott's comments came in the weeks after the Malaysia Airlines plane disappeared on its way from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board.
At a press conference in China, he said that the search area had been "very much narrowed" after acoustic noises, or pings, were detected. He added that he was "very confident" that the pings were coming from the plane's black box.
However, Angus Houston, head of the Australian team co-ordinating the search, released a statement on the same day to stress that there had been "no major breakthrough".
Scientists later condemned Abbott's announcement as premature and lacking in detailed analysis – and the area that Abbott was talking about was subsequently discounted as the final resting place of MH370.
Families of passengers on board told Sky News at the time that they felt "helpless" and "angry", and questioned where Abbott had got his evidence from.
Australia's Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC) last night said that Abbott had spoken without an official briefing from its staff, but insisted that he had been in constant discussion with the search team.
However, opposition leader Milne said that neither the Australian Maritime Safety Authority nor the Bureau of Transport and Safety had provided the advice to the prime minister.
"It was pretty reckless, surely, to go and make a statement like that if there's no detailed analysis at all of the substance," she told the Senate.
The fate of Malaysia Airlines' missing flight MH370 has been thrown into doubt once again after a British satellite company central to the search said that there was "significant uncertainty" about the final flight path of the Boeing 777.
As underwater searches for the aircraft continue in the southern Indian Ocean, Inmarsat – one of the companies whose analysis of satellite data has been critical to helping refine the investigation – has published a report on the data analysis techniques in the Journal of Navigation.
The report goes into "extraordinary detail" about the so-called "handshakes" between MH370 and satellite communication equipment prior to the plane's disappearance, News.com.au reports.
Through close analysis of the satellite data it is possible to deduce that "the aircraft remained operational for at least seven hours after the loss of contact as the satellite terminal continued to transmit messages during this period", but it is not possible to be certain about the plane's final resting place, Inmarsat concluded.
The main problem for analysts, the report said, is that the information they are working from cannot be refined significantly enough to confidently identify the plane's final resting place.
"A potential flight path has been reconstructed that is consistent with the satellite data ... but it is stressed that the sensitivity of the reconstructed flight path to frequency errors is such that there remains significant uncertainty in the final location," the report said.
The new report comes just two days after airline chief Sir Tim Clark, the head of Emirates, criticised the search for MH370 in Der Spiegel newspaper.
Clark, whose fleet has 127 aircraft identical to the missing Malaysia Airlines plane, said: "Our experience tells us that in water incidents, where the aircraft has gone down, there is always something. I am saying that all the 'facts' of this particular incident must be challenged and examined with a full transparency. We are nowhere near that."
He added: "There is plenty of information out there, which we need to be far more forthright, transparent and candid about. Every single second of that flight needs to be examined up until it theoretically ended up in the Indian Ocean – for which they still haven't found a trace, not even a seat cushion."
More about Flight MH370:
Flight MH370: official report claims plane 'spiralled' into seaGhost flight theory 'most likely' explanationPilot had rehearsed landing on island runwayMystery cargo continues to raise questionsRelatives to offer $3m reward for informationBook claims missing plane was shot downFlight MH370: flight path suggests plane went 'rogue'Former PM accuses Malaysia of cover-up Plane 'has crashed with no survivors' Pilot of missing plane deleted simulator data'Deliberate action' diverted Malaysian airlinerPhantom phone calls cause upset for families ·