THE search for Malaysian airlines flight MH370 is set to begin again, more than three and a half years after the plane went missing.
The West Australian reports an offer by US company Ocean Infinity is believed to be favoured by the Malaysian government after a two-year search failed to find any wreckage.
The plane disappeared on March 8, 2014, on the way from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, with 239 people on board, and the Australian-led search for the aircraft was suspended in January.
“The terms of the offer are confidential, but I can ... confirm that Ocean Infinity have offered to take on the economic risk of a renewed search,” company spokesman Mark Antelme said.
Voice370, a support group for families of the 239 people on board, said under the terms of the offer made in April, Ocean Infinity “would like to be paid a reward if and only if it finds the main debris field”.
Earlier this month the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) published its final 440-page report into the search, which spanned 1046 days from the time the Malaysia Airlines plane disappeared on March 8, 2014, until it was suspended in January.
“We ... deeply regret that we have not been able to locate the aircraft, nor those 239 souls on board that remain missing,” the report said.
The search for MH370 was the largest of its type in aviation history, covering several million square kilometres of the ocean’s surface and below.
It came at a cost of $200 million, and involved Australian, Chinese and Malaysian authorities.
“Despite the extraordinary efforts of hundreds of people involved in the search from around the world, the aircraft has not been located,” the report said.
ATSB chief commissioner Greg Hood described the search as “an unprecedented endeavour” but said the situation remained “a great tragedy”.
“We wish that we could have brought complete closure to the bereaved,” he said.
“I hope, however, that they can take some solace in the fact that we did all we could do to find answers. Governments from around the world contributed to the search, with extraordinary expertise committed to the task.”
The ATSB acknowledged that it was “almost inconceivable and certainly societally unacceptable”, in an era where 10 million passengers fly daily, for a large commercial aircraft to still be missing.
“And for the world to know with certainty what became of the aircraft and those on board,” the report read.
At least 20 reported remnants of the plane, including a flaperon, have washed up on the shores of Madagascar and Reunion Island off the African coast since it disappeared.
In August it was claimed new evidence had virtually pinpointed the location of MH370 — 1258 days since it disappeared.
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau released an explosive report that effectively narrowed the search zone for the missing plane down to an area half the size of Melbourne.
The report placed the most likely location of the aircraft “with unprecedented precision and certainty” at 35.6°S, 92.8°E — in between Western Australia and Madagascar.
ATSB chief Greg Hood said he would have liked to see the search continue but admitted it would require more conclusive evidence to convince the government.
“Clearly we must be cautious. These objects have not been definitely identified as MH370 debris,” Mr Hood said.
Malaysian transport minister Dato Sri Liow Tiong said the newly defined area was not enough to go on and it was hoped debris drift modelling would help narrow the location further.
GeoScience Australia has been examining four satellite images of objects floating on the southern Indian Ocean taken two weeks after the plane went missing in the area identified late last year as MH370’s likely resting spot.
They found 12 objects in those images that they deemed man-made and 28 that they regard as possibly man-made.
The images were taken by a French Military satellite in late March 2014 but were discarded by authorities. The ATSB was not involved in the search at that time.
The drift modelling initially released late last year identified an area of 25,000sq km just outside the original search area.
The report combined a refinement of that drift modelling as well as the discarded satellite images to narrow the likely search zone down to an area of just 5000sq km.
As part of the latest report, all satellite imagery of the relevant new area came up for review.
Their location near the “7th arc” of the search zone makes them impossible to ignore, the report states.
The new plot is based on comprehensive drift modelling and testing — including the release of a real Boeing 777 flaperon to test the floating characteristics of the one belonging to MH370 recovered off the coast of Africa.
“We measured its drift characteristics after modifying it to match the damaged one retrieved from Ile de la Reunion,” the report said.
“This work did not change our estimate of the most likely location of the impact — it just increased confidence in the modelling by explaining more easily the 29 July 2015 Ile de la Reunion flaperon discovery.”
The researchers combined ocean current modelling with the satellite images, assessing the motion of wind and water in the Indian Ocean between March 8 and 24.
They came up with a ‘bracket’ of locations based on these tested drift patterns, naming them West 1, West 2, East 1 and East 2. These locations straddle the arc from which MH370’s transmitters were last detected.
Researchers “consider the location in East1 to be the more likely” because it is the only one indicated by both drift models, the report reads.
It goes on to add that it cannot rule out all possible man-made debris came from the same impact location on March 8.
After nearly three years, the hunt for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 ended in futility and frustration, as crews completed their deep-sea search of a desolate stretch of the Indian Ocean without finding a trace of the plane.
The Joint Agency Coordination Center in Australia, which helped lead the hunt for the Boeing 777 in remote waters west of Australia, said the search had officially been suspended after crews finished their fruitless sweep of the 120,000-square kilometre search zone.
“Despite every effort using the best science available, cutting-edge technology, as well as modelling and advice from highly skilled professionals who are the best in their field, unfortunately, the search has not been able to locate the aircraft,” the agency said in a statement, which was a joint communique between the transport ministers of Malaysia, Australia and China.
“Accordingly, the underwater search for MH370 has been suspended. The decision to suspend the underwater search has not been taken lightly nor without sadness.”
Officials investigating the plane’s disappearance have recommended search crews head north to a new area identified in a recent analysis as a possible crash site.
A search and rescue effort is launched in southeast Asia on the morning the aircraft disappears.
Search efforts are launched in the Andaman Sea at the request of officials in Malaysia, on the belief the plane might’ve turned back.
Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak reveals the aircraft was in touch a satellite communication network for ‘several hours’ after it disappeared. It was last located by military radar over the Andaman Sea.
A search of a remote part of the southern Indian Ocean begins, led by Australian authorities. Oceanic and aerial surveillance begins some 2,500 kilometres offshore from Perth. The initial search area is 600,000 square kilometres.
The search area is revised down to approximately 305,000 square kilometres. More ships join the search.
Australia announces satellite imagery taken four days earlier appears to show two large objects floating in the ocean. Planes begin scouring the area but don’t find anything.
Satellite images captured by Chinese authorities show a large object 22 metres long floating in the ocean.
Malaysia announces the plane is believed to have gone down in an area of ocean, with all on board presumed dead. The search area is narrowed again. An Australian search aircraft spots an “orange rectangular object”.
The search shifts to a new 319,000 square-kilometre area some 1100 kilometres north of the previous spot. An international panel is established to investigate the incident.
The Joint Agency Coordination Centre (JACC), headed by Angus Houston, is established to co-ordinate the search effort.
The surface search ends and experts say any debris would’ve become waterlogged and sunk. Some 4.5 million square kilometres of ocean has been searched by 29 aircraft and 14 ships.
A sea floor sonar survey is called off after several weeks, during which 860 square kilometre of ocean floor is scanned.
Authorities prioritise a 60,000 square kilometre search area. An interim report from Australia raises the theory that an unresponsive crew or hypoxia event “best fit the available evidence” for the five-hour period of the flight as it travelled south over the Indian Ocean, likely on autopilot.
An underwater search commences, involving four vessels and continues until January 2017.
A piece of debris resembling an aircraft flaperon later confirmed to be from MH370 and a suitcase are found washed up on a beach on Reunion Island in the western Indian Ocean. Two days later other items, including a water bottle, are found nearby.
A suspected horizontal stabiliser is found on a sandbar in Mozambique and later determined to be from MH370. Later that month, part of an engine cowling is found on the coast of South Africa.
Scientists analyse locations where wreckage was found and compare the data to ocean drift patterns. It results in a new predicted area for the crash site, further north than the last agreed search zone.
Australian authorities suggest a new, smaller 25,000 square kilometre search area.
The underwater search is officially suspended after the examination of 120,000 square kilometres of ocean floor. The total cost of the MH370 search hits $160 million.