Flight MH370: Panel to review all plane search data

By Kristen Gelineau

Relatives of those on the missing plane have had no comfort after searches have so far failed to come up with a single piece of debris. Photo / AP
Relatives of those on the missing plane have had no comfort after searches have so far failed to come up with a single piece of debris. Photo / AP

An international panel of experts will re-examine all data gathered in the nearly two-month hunt for the missing Malaysian jet to ensure search crews who have been scouring a desolate patch of ocean have been looking in the right place.

Senior officials from Malaysia, Australia and China met in Canberra to hash out the details of the next steps in the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which will focus on an expanded patch of sea floor of the Indian Ocean off Western Australia. The area became the focus of the hunt after analysts calculated the plane's likeliest flight path based on satellite and radar data.

Starting tomorrow, that data will be reanalysed and combined with all information gathered thus far in the search, which has not turned up a single piece of debris.

Investigators have been stymied by a lack of hard data since the plane vanished on March 8 during a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

A week-long search for surface debris was called off last week after officials determined any wreckage that might have been floating was likely to have sunk.

Angus Houston, head of the search operation, has warned that the underwater search could drag on for a year.

Houston and Australian Transport Minister Warren Truss met Malaysian Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein and Chinese Transport Minister Yang Chuantang in Canberra yesterday to map out the next steps of the underwater search, which will focus on a 60,000sq km patch of sea floor.

Officials are contacting governments and private contractors to find out if they have specialised equipment that can dive deeper than the Bluefin 21, an unmanned sub that has spent weeks scouring the sea floor in an area where sounds consistent with a plane's black box were detected in early April.

In addition to deeper diving capabilities, the new equipment will be able to send information back to crews in real time. The Bluefin's data can only be downloaded when it returns to the surface after each 16-hour dive.

- APNZ

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