The search for a missing plane from Malaysian Airlines will move south by several hundred miles, according to Australian Transport Safety Bureau chief Martin Dolan. The jet, MH370, went missing en route to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur on March 8 with 239 passengers on board.
BBC reports that the new search area for the missing Malaysian plane will focus on an area 1,100 miles off the coast of Perth. Nearby areas were already surveyed from the air, but the undersea search was moved north after pings were heard. Experts hoped the pings were from the missing plane's flight-data recorders, but they concluded after weeks of searching the ocean floor that the noises were unrelated to the plane.
After giving up on the pings, search teams returned to the initial satellite data to determine a new search area for the missing plane. Dolan explained to ABC News, "All the trends of this analysis will move the search area south of where it was. Just how much south is something that we're still working on."
He added, "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."
The new search is expected to start in August under the guidance of private contractors. They will use powerful side-scan sonar equipment that can probe ocean depths of 4.3 miles. The search will likely take up to 12 months to finish. Two survey ships are already mapping uncharted expanses of the seabed in the search zone before the sonar scan starts.
The search area is in the same expanse of ocean that was swept for floating debris by search aircraft in the weeks directly after Flight MH370 disappeared. No trace of the aircraft has been found so far, and it is unlikely now that any floating debris will ever be found.
Dolan explained that experts will make an announcement next week on exactly where the search for the missing plane will take place. UK firm Inmarsat, whose analysis is one of several being used in the investigation, told the BBC this week that their data pointed to a "hotspot" to the south-west of the recent undersea search. The firm believes this area is a crash zone of highest probability.
The initial survey in the new search for the missing plane MH370 will take about three months.
[Image by Paul Rowbotham]