Big problem with new MH370 search
IT'S 33 days and counting.
And as the latest search for MH370 struggles to locate the missing aircraft, fears are again growing the missing aircraft will never be found.
Ocean Infinity's search with their 65-man vessel Seabed Constructor began their search amid much optimism the plane would be found.
But exactly four years after the plane went down, the latest search of the southern Indian Ocean has revealed nothing after 16,000sq km of the 25,000sq km area identified by an Australian Oceanographer as the "likely" resting place of the aircraft has been scoured.
The New Straits Times, those involved in the search have revealed they are still optimistic about finding the plane but have encountered a number of unexpected problems thus far.
The Royal Malaysia Navy has two officers Azmi Rosedee and Adbul Halim Ahmad Nordin on board the Seabed Constructor who send daily updated back to Kuala Lumpur on the search's progress.
Those reports have revealed the struggles of the Norwegian search ship while enduring massive seas including 15m waves.
"It's been more than 30 days now, but the search team remains optimistic," Rosedee and Nordin said in written interview with the New Straits Times.
"We are giving our utmost to find the plane.
"We have gone through a number of rough days ... days which we would not have been able to survive without having perseverance and a strong will."
"Operations continue even when the sea is rough ... but it makes it difficult for us to deploy and recover the AUVs. This slows us down.
"Aside from that, the seabed of the search areas is hilly and uneven. This also disrupts the AUV's capability to thoroughly sweep the areas.
"When this happens, the team has to send the AUVs (autonomous underwater vehicles) down again to areas that were not swept, or 'painted', by the side-scan sonar.
This is to ensure that the whole radius is covered."
Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 vanished from radar en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8, 2014. No distress signal or message was sent and all 239 passengers and crew on the Boeing 777 are presumed dead.
The aircraft is believed to have made a radical change of course less than an hour after it took off and crashed in the ocean off Western Australia six hours later.
NEW MH370 SEARCH AREA SUGGESTED
In January an Australian oceanographer at the CSIRO suggested a new search area for MH370, where the Ocean Infinity vessel has focused its efforts.
Dr David Griffin, an Australian oceanographer at the CSIRO, has told the ABC that the missing plane could only be 35 degrees south in the southern Indian Ocean.
"The oceanographic reason for why 35 [degrees south] is more likely than say 34, or 33, or 32, is that at all those latitudes the current is going to the east," he said.
"So if the crash had been in any of those latitudes then there'd be a high chance of at least one or two things turning up in Australia. Whereas there've been 20 or 30 or so items turned up in Africa, and not a single one come to Australia.
"Once you start looking in the vicinity of 36 to 32, then 35 is the only option."
His claim that the plane could be at this location comes as Australian investigators believe there were five different autopilot control modes MH370 could have been on when it plunged into the ocean.
Calculations from four of those settings lead to a location 36-39 degrees south or further north at 33-34 degrees south.
But according to the ABC, a source close to the investigation said only one of the five autopilot settings - constant magnetic heading (CMH) - would lead to a crash site at 35 degrees south, where the ocean current was moving towards Africa.
This would explain why most of the debris believed to be from the MH370 flight has been recovered off the African coast in places like Mauritius, Reunion Island, Tanzania and Mozambique.
None of the debris has been found washed up near or on Australian shores.
The claim comes after the Australian Transport Safety Bureau released a report that narrowed the search zone for the missing plane down to an area half the size of Melbourne in August last year.
The report placed the most likely location of the aircraft "with unprecedented precision and certainty" at 35.6°S, 92.8°E - in between Western Australia and Madagascar.
MILLIONS OFFERED TO FIND MH370
Malaysia's government has vowed to pay US company Ocean Infinity up to $70 million if it can find the wreckage or black boxes of MH370 within three months
Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai said there was an 85 per cent chance of finding the debris in a new 25,000 square kilometre area - roughly the size of Melbourne - identified by experts.
The government signed a "no cure, no fee" deal with the Houston, Texas-based company to resume the hunt for the plane, a year after the official search by Malaysia, Australia and China in the southern Indian Ocean was called off.
"The primary mission by Ocean Infinity is to identify the location of the wreckage and/or both of the flight recorders ... and present a considerable and credible evidence to confirm the exact location of the two main items," he told a news conference.
If the mission is successful within three months, payment will be made based on the size of the area searched.
Liow said the government will pay Ocean Infinity $20 million for 5,000 square kilometres of a successful search, $30 million for 15,000 square kilometres, $50 million for 25,000 square kilometres and $70 million if the plane or recorders are found beyond the identified area.
Ocean Infinity Chief Executive Oliver Plunkett said the search vessel Seabed Constuctor, has eight autonomous underwater vehicles, which are drones fitted with hi-tech cameras, sonars and sensors dispatched to map the seabed at a faster pace. Plunkett said the underwater drones can cover 1,200 square kilometres a day and complete the 25,000 square kilometres within a month.
"We have a realistic prospect of finding it," he said in January.
"While there can be no guarantees of locating the aircraft, we believe our system of multiple autonomous vehicles working simultaneously is well suited to the task at hand."
The official search was extremely difficult because no transmissions were received from the aircraft after its first 38 minutes of flight. Systems designed to automatically transmit the flight's position failed to work after this point, said a final report from Australian Transport Safety Board last January.
"I feel very happy but at the same time very panicky whether it can be found or not. Now it's back to four years ago where we have to wait everyday (to find out) whether debris can be found," said Shin Kok Chau, whose wife Tan Ser Kuin was a flight attendant on MH370.
Underwater wreck hunter David Mearns said the new search takes into account oceanographic models used to drastically narrow the possible locations of the crash and deploys state-of-the art underwater vehicles that will allow the company to cover far more seabed at a faster pace.
"There are no guarantees in a search of this type. However, notwithstanding that uncertainty, this upcoming search is the best chance yet that the aircraft wreckage will be found," he said.