A deep-sea sonar search for the missing Malaysia Airlines (MAS) Flight 370 will find its wreckage, the lead investigator said after 263 days of scouring the seas yielded nothing.
Searchers for the plane, which disappeared March 8 with 239 people on board, are “very confident” the plane will be found along an arc in the southern Indian Ocean matching the last transmission from the plane, said Peter Foley, director of the MH370 search at the Australian Transport Safety Bureau.
“We’ve got a good area defined, and we believe that the search methods we’re using will be effective in locating that debris field,” Foley said at a briefing in Canberra today.
No trace of the Boeing Co. (BA) 777-200 operated by Malaysian Airline System Bhd. has been found more than eight months after it disappeared en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. Foley didn’t report any findings from close sonar scans of the sea floor that have been ongoing since Oct. 6. Two boats have scanned about 6,900 square kilometers (2,700 square miles) of the ocean floor so far and a third has been redeployed to carry out ship-based surveys while it waits for new equipment, search coordinators said Nov. 19.
The morale of search teams was “extremely good,” Foley said in today’s briefing.
The Australian Defence Vessel Ocean Shield departs for the MH370 search area after resupplying at HMAS Stirling in Rockingham, Australia, on May 10, 2014.
The best evidence of the plane’s location so far comes from eight failed connections with an Inmarsat Plc (ISAT) orbiter over the Indian Ocean, showing the plane probably traveled south from the Bay of Bengal before ditching somewhere along an arc to the west of the Australian city of Perth.
Investigators are now on the second part of a two-stage examination of the arc. About 160,000 square kilometers of ocean have already been scanned using boat-mounted sonars to produce an accurate map of the ocean bottom, and the GO Phoenix and Fugro Discovery vessels have since carried out a search using towed submersibles that travel close to the sea floor.
These side-scan sonars, which have studied 6,900 square kilometers, need the accurate first-stage mapping to prevent them from hitting underwater obstacles.
Funding won’t be an issue in the search, Judith Zielke, chief coordinator of the Australian government’s Joint Agency Coordination Centre, said at today’s briefing.
“This isn’t about money. This is actually about providing the families of the passengers and crew with answers,” she said.
The Australian government’s main search contract, which runs until August 2016, is worth A$39 million ($33 million). The government set aside A$54 million in its May budget for the search in the year ending June 2015.