Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 Search Botched — Using Bad Tech, Inexperienced Searchers, Experts Say

Jonathan Vankin

The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, the mysteriously missing Boeing 777 carrying 239 people that vanished on March 8 of last year, has been botched, an increasing number if experts now charge. In fact, they say, even if the missing plane is lying on the floor of the remote Indian Ocean, the searchers who have been on the hunt since last September could have missed it completely.

The new attacks on the effort to find the Malaysia Airlines plane, whose disappearance seemingly without a trace has become perhaps the single greatest mystery in aviation history, came from independent experts who have been involved in earlier searches, as well as from search firms who lost out in the bidding to conduct the Flight MH370 operation.

The fruitless search has so far cost the Australian and Malaysian governments a combined $60 million — with another $50 million now earmarked to spend on the effort to locate Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370.

The search contract ultimately ended up with a Dutch firm Fugro NV — a company that the critics and rival companies say lacks the correct sonar technology, not to mention adequately trained personnel, to find man-made objects on the bottom of the ocean.

The experts made their charges in an article published by the news agency Reuters on Friday. As the calendar is about to mark 15 months since Flight MH370 disappeared, with not a single piece of evidence being located to indicate what might have become of the flight and its passengers, the search effort led by Australia has come under closer scrutiny for its total lack of results.

"Fugro is a big company but they don't have any experience in this kind of search and it's really a very specialized job," French accident investigator Paul-Henry Nargeolet, who took part in the search for Air France Flight 447 in 2009.

"I'm not an Australian taxpayer, but if I was, I would be very mad to see money being spent like that," Nargeolet said.

Though Fugro has defended its capabilities, saying it uses the latest technology that it tests rigorously, the company will now be forced to continue the search for the Malaysia Airlines plane with just two ships.

The first ship to arrive on the scene last fall, Malaysia's GO Phoenix — the ship using cutting edge technology provided by the United States — will quit the search at some point in the next few weeks, returning to its base in Singapore.

According to Reuters, no reason for the GO Phoenix withdrawal has been announced.

The American company Williamson and Associates, which lost the bidding to Fugro, has detailed its concerns about the Fugro efforts in regular correspondence with the Australian government, according to the Reuters report, along with two other losing bidders.

"I have serious concerns that the MH370 search operation may not be able to convincingly demonstrate that 100 percent seafloor coverage is being achieved," said the company's founder Mike Williamson.

In the absence of any findings from the official search, numerous independent theories have been proposed for the possible "real" location of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, ranging from the Bay of Bengal to a remote airfield in Kazakhstan.

[Image: Kevin Frayer/Getty Images]

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