Australia appointed a Dutch company to scour the floor of the Indian Ocean for a Malaysian passenger jet that vanished on March 8, and warned it may take another year to find the missing aircraft.
Fugro Survey Pty will use two ships equipped with sonar scanners and underwater cameras as it combs 60,000 square kilometers of ocean, Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss told reporters in Canberra today.
“I remain cautiously optimistic that we will locate the missing aircraft within the priority search area,” Truss said. The search, which may cost as much as A$80 million ($73 million), will be “a challenging one,” he said.
The hunt for the Malaysian Airline System Bhd. (MAS) jet, which vanished with 239 passengers and crew during a routine flight to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur, is already the longest in modern aviation history. The aircraft vanished from civil radar with no emergency warnings, leaving investigators to analyze satellite and plane data to define a search area in the remote ocean off the west coast of Australia.
An initial report on the incident showed confusion reigned as the jet went missing, with the Malaysian military not realizing it was seeing the diverted plane, and top government officials not being briefed about the situation for nine hours.
Australia is discussing with Malaysia and others on how the cost of the search may be shared, Truss said today.
The Malaysian government will suppport the hunt with four vessels, including a naval survey ship that will arrive in late August.
A Chinese vessel, the Zhu Kezhen, will continue to survey the sea floor in the southern Indian Ocean until mid-September, Truss’s office said in an e-mailed statement.