Crew aboard the Australian Defence Vessel Ocean Shield move
the US Navy s Bluefin-21 into position for deployment in
the southern Indian Ocean. REUTERS/US Navy photo by Mass
Communication Specialist 1st Class Peter D. Blair
The search for a missing Malaysia Airlines jetliner
suffered a further setback on Thursday after Australian
officials said wreckage from the aircraft was not on the seabed
in the area they had identified.
Flight MH370, carrying 239 passengers and crew, disappeared
from radar screens on March 8 shortly after taking off from
Kuala Lumpur bound for Beijing.
Investigators say what little evidence they have to work
with, including the loss of communications, suggests the
Boeing 777 was deliberately diverted thousands of kilometres
from its scheduled route.
The search was narrowed last month after a series of acoustic
pings thought to be from the plane's black box recorders were
heard near where analysis of satellite data put its last
location, some 1,600 km (1,000 miles) off the northwest coast
"The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) has advised
that the search in the vicinity of the acoustic detections
can now be considered complete and, in its professional
judgment, the area can now be discounted as the final resting
place of MH370," the agency in charge of the search said in a
ATSB chief Martin Dolan told Reuters he expected the team to
take two to three weeks to reassess and re-analyze the data,
although he was "confident" that the final resting place of
the aircraft was the Indian Ocean.
"We don't know what those pings were," Dolan said over the
phone. "We are still analyzing those signals to understand
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang urged Malaysian Prime Minister
Najib Razak on Thursday to come up with a new search plan.
"We hope the Malaysian side can play a leading and
coordinating role and quickly put in a place a new search
plan to find where the plane came down and seriously develop
the investigation," Li said during Najib's six-day visit to
China, according to the official Xinhua news agency.
BREAKTHROUGH NO MORE
The discovery of the pings on April 5 and 8 was hailed as a
significant breakthrough, with Australian Prime Minister Tony
Abbott expressing confidence that searchers knew where the
plane wreckage was within a few kilometres.
However, a thorough scan of the 850 sq km area around the
pings with an unmanned submarine failed to find any sign of
wreckage. No debris linked to the plane has been picked up
despite the most extensive and expensive search effort in
"We concentrated the search in that area because the pings
were the best information available at the time," Australian
Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss, who is also the transport
minister, told the Australian parliament.
"We are still very confident that the resting place of the
aircraft is in the southern (Indian) Ocean, and along the
seventh ping line," he added, refering to an arc identified
by analysis of satellite communications data from UK company
Earlier on Thursday, CNN quoted Michael Dean, the U.S. Navy's
deputy director of ocean engineering, and said authorities
now almost universally believe the pings did not come from
the plane's onboard data or cockpit voice recorders.
"Our best theory at this point is that (the pings were)
likely some sound produced by the ship ... or within the
electronics of the Towed Pinger Locator," Dean told CNN.
The search zone had already been extended to a 60,000 sq km
zone that is being surveyed by a Chinese vessel. It will then
be searched by a commercial operator in a mission that is
expected to start in August and take up to a year, at a cost
of A$60 million ($55 million) or more.
Malaysia's government and Inmarsat released data this week
used to determine the path of MH370, which families of the
missing passengers hope could help verify the plane's last
location by opening up the data to analysis by a wider range
Australian authorities said the data supported the theory
that the plane crashed after running out of fuel.
Along with surface searches, examination of satellite data
and the undersea sonar searches, authorities have asked the
United Nations' Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty
Organisation (CTBTO) to check its system of hydrophones,
designed to pick up possible nuclear tests, for any clues as
to where the aircraft may have crashed.
"Both the CTBTO and institutions from our 183 Member States
... have analyzed all relevant International Monitoring
System data - infrasound, seismic and hydroacoustic - without
finding any signal that could point to the fate of MH370," a
spokesman from CTBTO said in an emailed response.