The search for the lost Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 has not been abandoned. During a four months break from sea operations, the search teams mapped the ocean bed to prepare the next phase of the operation.
The search efforts are some of the greatest in the history of aviation, matching only the degree of mystery surrounding the disappearance. On March 8, the flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing lost contact with traffic controllers and drastically changed course while going on autopilot.
At the time, the Boeing 777-200ER was flying above the South China Sea. The search area of the aircraft carrying 227 passengers and 12 Malaysian crew members changed several times. Initially, the international search teams scanned the neighboring areas, including the Indian Ocean. Later on, as the communication data between the plane and tracking satellites was available, the search area was moved closer to Western Australia. The most expensive search effort in history now takes a new route.
The Australian government decided to take a leading role in the next search stage as the ocean area of 23,000 square miles lies close to its borders. The government decided to pledge a total of $60 million AUD to continue the operations. In August, the authorities chose the Dutch company Fugro Survey to map the ocean floor.
The Malaysian government offered the GO Phoenix vessel to augment the efforts. On Monday, the ship started mapping the ocean floor with the help of a towed sonar. The operation will last 12 days, after which the ship will go back to resupply and resume operations.
Later this month, GO Phoenix will be joined by two other ships, Fugro Discovery and Fugro Equator. The three ships will continue the search for one year, until they finish scanning the area. The sonar will lie at around 300 feet from the ocean floor.
The authorities are optimistic that the wreckage will be found. But there is no detailed plan regarding the later stages of the operation.
“If you have a debris field identified, to be able to know what to do with it requires careful mapping and photographing, which will take up to a month,” Martin Dolan, Chief Commissioner and CEO the Australian Transport Safety Board told CNN. “Until we’ve got that largely completed we won’t understand the sequence of what we’re able to do in relation to wreckage and human remains.”