Missing Malaysian plane Flight 370 has been in the news since the plane and her 249 passengers lost contact with air traffic control back on March 8. In the past 100 days, news reports have broke that offered equal parts hope and optimism with despondency and a frustrating lack of actionable information. Despite sightings of so-called debris, pings from the ocean floor and alleged eyewitness accounts, not a single piece of wreckage has been confirmed.
In the latest setback, the search for Flight 370 is shifting south, hundreds of miles from where the original crash site in the Indian Ocean was suspected. This new phase of exploration takes search crews deeper south in the Indian Ocean, to an area earmarked for a 23,000 square mile search, expected to take up to 12 months to complete.
Reports The Associated Press on June 19, via ABC News:
“Despite having missing plane Malaysia found new search area, this shift is reportedly not based on any new data… the basis of the new search area is on more advanced examination of the existing satellite information from the Boeing 777 after having lost contact from control towers during a Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8.”
Private contractors are expected to begin this new search in August, and survey ships are currently mapping uncharted sections of the seabed floor so that the data can be turned over for sonar scanning.
According to CBS News, the British satellite company Inmarsat, “which has provided investigators the only satellite data available on the final hours of missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370,” called this new search zone a “hotspot” and identified, very early on in their investigations, that this southern search grid may be a likely location for the downed airliner.
Explains CBS News:
The Australian ship sent to investigate the region never made it to Inmarsat’s “hotspot” because other vessels detected auditory “pings” which investigators believed could have come from Flight 370’s black boxes. The search focused on the area where the pings were detected for two months, but nothing was found.
“We can identify a path that matches exactly with all those frequency measurements and with the timing measurements and lands on the final arc at a particular location, which then gives us a sort of a hotspot area on the final arc where we believe the most likely area is,” Inmarsat’s Chris Ashton said.
Chief Commissioner Martin Dolan of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau said a collaborative effort is being made in an attempt to shrink that enormous search grid.
“All the trends of this analysis will move the search area south of where it was,” Dolan said. “Just how much south is something that we’re still working on. 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 finalizing at the moment.”
Thus far, all searches have proved fruitless, despite promising acoustic signals that were thought to have come from Flight 370’s black box recorders.