Malaysia Airlines Flight 370: The ‘Silver Lining’ In The Year-Long Search

Lisa Carley - Author

Jan. 10 2017, Updated 12:52 p.m. ET

The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 has been an extraordinarily long and painful one for the loved ones of those who still do not have answers as to what happened to their family members and friends almost a year ago on March 8, 2014.

Finding the plane and its 239 passengers on board has been the priority of private searchers and entire countries, but along the way, researchers and scientists have found unprecedented knowledge about the ocean, the earth, and how to improve upon searches like never before, according to the Associated Press.

Although this news is sure to do little to bring peace or comfort to those waiting for any news about the whereabouts of their missing loved ones, researchers and scientists are grateful for the information the search has so far provided.

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New underwater maps of the sea floor using sonar from ships have given scientists a better and more accurate depth reading than old satellite data could give. Now scientists know about previously undiscovered mountains and trenches at the bottom of the sea floor. Less than ten percent of the ocean floors have been explored. According to Dave Gallo, the director of special projects at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, the search for Flight 370 has been an exploration into the unknown on almost every level.

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“It’s more daunting than looking on Mars because there’s no light. So we’re in a completely unknown world in mountains that are the most rugged on earth. There’s no maps, so it’s all basic, pure exploration with a a mission that not only are we exploring, but we’re also looking for an aircraft.”

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Realizing how satellite images are not as reliable, the search for Flight 370 has made researchers more aware of the improvements needed to satellite imagery. There were many sightings of debris thought to be parts of Flight 370 from satellite images, but not one of those images turned out to be anything related to Flight 370.

Knowing how the ocean floor is modeled can help scientists understand ocean currents. This can help rescuers to predict where a lost boat may drift, scientists to understand where marine animals spread, and even help meteorologists develop better weather forecasts based on how heat is distributed through the water, according to the Associated Press.

Stuart Minchin, a divisional chief at Geoscience Australia, does not believe the search has been diverted from plane-searching to scientific studies of the ocean floor. He continues to hope Flight 370 will be found.

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“If not, there is a silver lining. The data will be useful to science for many years to come.”

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Australia, Indonesia, and Malaysia have also used the loss of Flight 370 to improve its tracking methods. The countries announced they will begin trial-testing enhanced methods of tracking aircraft over oceans. Instead of being tracked every 30 to 40 minutes, aircraft would be tracked about every 15 minutes using satellite-based positioning technology, according to the Associated Press.

Airservices Australia will oversee the new tracking system, Australian Transport Minister Warron Truss announced on Sunday. If a deviation in an aircraft’s movements occur, tracking would increase to every five minutes or less.

The upcoming one-year anniversary for the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 will almost certainly stir emotions and expectations in improvements in airline safety, and hopefully the search for the plane will provide more than a silver lining for those who want to know what happened to their loved ones.

[Photo by Rob Griffith – Pool/Getty Images]


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