Flight 370 remains lost more than three months after disappearing from radar, and now officials in Australia are shifting to a new long-term search for the missing Malaysia Airlines plane that they admit will be challenging.
This week Australia, which had been leading search efforts in the Indian Ocean, selected a Dutch company called Fugro Survey to carry out the underwater portion of the search. The company will use two vessels to search the Indian Ocean, using sonar technology as well as video cameras to patrol the ocean floor.
The next phase of the search is expected to cost $56 million, Australian authorities say.
“We have the shape of a plan based on information we have available to us,” says Martin Dolan, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau’s Chief Commissioner. “It’s a concept we need to test out with the operation experts and come up with the detailed plan… for the conduct of the search.”
But the search for flight 370 now takes place in what CNN refers to as “one of the most uncharted, remote places on the planet,” the ocean’s floor.
“You have to know where you’re going or you’ll end up impacting the bottom,” said David Gallo, an oceanographer and director of special projects at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. “We’re looking at less than a handful of tools that can work in this depth and that are available, so you really don’t want to risk anything.”
But Gallo also admits that the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH 370 could still be outside the 60,000 square kilometers that authorities have determined to be the priority area.
“The haystack is a big chunk of terrain in the Indian Ocean,” Gallo of Woods Hole said. “And even though the haystack is huge there’s no guarantee that the needle is in that haystack.”
But despite the challenges, search leaders both in Australia and internationally say they believe Malaysia Airlines flight 370 can still be found.