The search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 has resumed – but there are currently no plans to extend it to seemingly promising areas around Reunion Island.
Instead, the search is concentrating on an area off the west coast of Australia, near the expanse that has been searched before. The search area will now be expanded and investigators will use “higher frequency sonar” at the sites, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) said.
Promising sightings near Reunion Island were investigated by French authorities, Reunion being French territory. French investigators confirmed that the wing part that washed up on a beach in Reunion two months ago – a B777 flaperon – is definitely from MH370. It is the only piece of the doomed airliner that has ever been found.
Earlier this month, an Air France pilot reported seeing “a white object” floating in the Indian Ocean about 70 kilometres northwest of Reunion Island, where debris from the vanished Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 washed up.
The white object was presumed to be large, as the Air France flight was at an altitude of 3000 metres (close to 10,000 feet), a height from which only big or bulky objects show up in the sea below.
Authorities diverted a merchant ship to the area and flew an aircraft over it at low altitude, but found nothing.
Now, Australian-led teams will resume searching in the “Seventh Arc” area west of Perth.
“Our work will continue to be thorough and methodical, so sometimes weekly progress may seem slow,” the ATSB advised last week.
“Please be assured that work is continuing and is aimed at finding MH370 as quickly as possible.”
The ship Fugro Discovery arrived back in the search area on 21 September and recommenced search operations. Fugro Equator arrived in Henderson for scheduled resupply and maintenance and departed for the search area on 26 September.
The search area has been expanded beyond an original 60,000 square kilometre search area to enable up to 120,000 square kilometres to be searched if required.
Search plans were revised in April to ensure the area is searched as quickly and effectively as possible despite unfavourable weather conditions.
Notwithstanding the onset of spring, weather continues to impact on search operations but conditions are expected to improve in the coming months. More than 60,000 square kilometres of the seafloor have been searched so far.
The Search Strategy Working Group continues to review evidence associated with MH370 which may result in further refinement of, or prioritisation within, the search area.
In the event the aircraft is found and accessible, Australia, Malaysia and China have agreed to plans for recovery activities including securing all the evidence necessary for the accident investigation.
Written by Peter Needham