Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 Updates From Australia Confirm That Winter Is Seriously Impacting The Search

Australian authorities announced this week that the country would stop using underwater drones to search for missing Malaysian Airlines flight 370 across the floor of the Indian Ocean in the face of rough winter seas, but stressed that the search for the aircraft will continue. As winter approaches in the southern hemisphere, safety concerns led Australia’s Joint Agency Coordination Centre to decide against using the submersible drones to comb the seafloor. So far, the search teams have covered about 75 percent of the targeted 23,000-square-mile target area located 1,000 miles off the west coast of Perth, but to no avail. Not a scrap of the missing plane has been found since flight MH 370 disappeared over a year ago with 239 passengers on board when making its way from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to Beijing.

“Safety of the search crews also remains a priority,” Australia’s JACC said in a statement.

Using satellite signals emitted from the aircraft shortly before it disappeared from all detection devices on May 8, 2014, analysts concluded that MH 370 flew thousands of miles off track, taking a southwest turn and heading out over the Indian Ocean before going down hours later. Search teams have since focused on a narrowed search area a few hundred miles west of Perth, but weeks of combing the sea floor have not turned up any sign of the plane.

But the search continues, the JACC stressed. Instead, the mission had been redesigned to account for an expanded search area of 120,000 square kilometers.

In mid-April, officials from Malaysia, China, and Australia first announced that if searchers did not find the plane in the initial search area, the zone would be expanded by a further 60,000 square kilometers, or 23,000 square miles.

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Even with the difficulties of winter weather, Malaysian transport minister Liow Tiong Lai, Chinese transport minister Yang Chuantang, and Australian deputy prime minister Warren Truss promised in a joint statement that the attempts to recover the plane would continue:

Should the aircraft not be found within the current search area, ministers agreed to extend the search by an additional 60,000 square km to bring the search area to 120,000 square km and thereby cover the entire highest-probability area identified by expert analysis. Ministers recognize the additional search area may take up to a year to complete given the adverse weather conditions in the upcoming winter months.

Even if the search teams do find the plane, either with the drones or by other means, many experts now worry that the aircraft will be sunk so deep that teams won’t be able to bring it to the surface.

According to aviation expert Neil Hansford, if the plane is in a remote part of the ocean floor, the authorities will “probably leave it where it is.”

Without the plane’s black boxes, it will be hard to piece together the final moments of MH 370’s tragic flight or to figure out what brought the commercial jet out of the sky.

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