Main article: Search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 The current phase of the search is a bathymetric survey and sonar search of the seafloor, about 1,800 kilometres (1,100 mi) southwest of Perth, Australia.
The search for Flight 370 is the most expensive search operation in aviation history, but has failed to locate any physical debris from the aircraft. In June 2014, Time estimated that the total search effort to that point had cost approximately US$70 million. The tender for the underwater search is AU$52 million (US$43 million or €35 million)—shared by Australia and Malaysia—for 12 months, but would differ if found in more or less time.
Since 30 March 2014, the search has been coordinated by the Joint Agency Coordination Centre(JACC), an Australian government agency established specifically to co-ordinate the search effort to locate and recover Flight 370, which primarily involves the Malaysian, Chinese, and Australian governments.
Southeast AsiaSearch efforts began in the Gulf of Thailand and South China Sea. On the second day of the search, Malaysian officials revealed that radar recordings indicated Flight 370 may have turned around; the search zone was expanded to include part of the Strait of Malacca. On 12 March, the chief of the Royal Malaysian Air Force announced that an unidentified aircraft—believed to be Flight 370—had travelled across the Malay peninsula and was last sighted on military radar 370 km (200 nmi; 230 mi) northwest of Penang Island; search efforts were subsequently increased in the Andaman Sea and Bay of Bengal.
Records of signals sent between the aircraft and a communications satellite over the Indian Ocean revealed that the aircraft had continued flying for almost six hours after its final sighting on Malaysian military radar. Initial analysis of these communications determined that Flight 370 was along one of two arcs—equidistant from the satellite—when its last signal was sent; the same day this analysis was publicly disclosed, 15 March, authorities announced they would abandon search efforts in the South China Sea, Gulf of Thailand, and Strait of Malacca to focus their efforts on the two corridors. The northern arc—from northern Thailand to Kazakhstan—was soon discounted as the aircraft would have to pass through heavily militarised airspace and those countries claimed their military radar would have detected an unidentified aircraft entering their airspace.
Southern Indian Ocean Accordingly, on 17 March, Australia agreed to lead the search in the southern locus from Sumatra to the southern Indian Ocean.
Initial searchFrom 18–27 March, the search effort focused on a 305,000 km2 (118,000 sq mi) area about 2,600 km (1,600 mi) south-west of Perth that Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said is "as close to nowhere as it's possible to be" and which is renowned for its strong winds, inhospitable climate, hostile seas, and deep ocean floors. Satellite imagery of the region was analysed; several objects of interest and two possible debris fields were identified on images captured between 16–26 March. None of these possible objects were found by aircraft or ships.
Revised estimates of the radar track and the aircraft's remaining fuel led to a move of the search 1,100 km (680 mi) north-east of the previous area on 28 March which was followed by another shift on 4 April. An intense effort began to locate the underwater locator beacons (ULBs; informally known as "pingers") attached to the aircraft's flight recorders, whose batteries were expected to expire around 7 April. Two ships equipped with towed pinger locators (TPLs) and a submarine equipped with a hull-mounted acoustic system,:11–12 began searching for pings along a 240-kilometre (150 mi) seabed line believed to be the Flight 370 impact area. Operators considered it a shot in the dark, when comparing the vast search area with the fact that a TPL could only search up to 130 km2 (50 sq mi) per day. Between 4–8 April several acoustic detections were made that were close to the frequency and rhythm of the sound emitted by the flight recorders' ULBs; analysis of the acoustic detections determined that, although unlikely, the detections could have come from a damaged ULB.:13 A sonar search of the seafloor near the detections was carried out between 14 April and 28 May without any sign of Flight 370.:14 It was later revealed that the battery for the ULB attached to Flight 370's flight data recorder expired in December 2012 and may not have been as capable.
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The underwater phase of the search, which began on 6 October 2014, uses three vessels equipped with towed deep water vehicles, which use side-scan sonar, multi-beam echo sounders, and video cameras to locate and identify aircraft debris. A fourth vessel joined the search at the end of January 2015; it has an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) which can search areas which cannot be effectively searched by equipment on the other vessels. As of 6 May 2015, over 75 percent of the 60,000 km2 (23,000 sq mi) priority search area had been searched and with no significant delays, the search of the priority search area will be completed around May 2015. If no trace of the aircraft is found in the priority search area, the underwater search will be extended to search an additional 60,000 km2 (23,000 sq mi) of seafloor adjacent to the priority search area.
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The Boeing 777, introduced in 1994, is generally regarded by aviation experts as having a safety record that is one of the best of any commercial aircraft. Since its first commercial flight in June 1995, there have been only four other serious accidents involving hull-loss: British Airways Flight 38 in 2008; a cockpit fire in a parked EgyptAir 777-200 at Cairo International Airport in 2011; Asiana Airlines Flight 214 in 2013, in which three people died; and Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which was shot down over Ukraine with 298 people aboard in July 2014.
Passengers and crew
CrewAll 12 crew members were Malaysian citizens. Two pilots were among the crew:
- The pilot in command was 53-year-old Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah from Penang. He joined Malaysia Airlines as a cadet pilot in 1981 and, after training and receiving his commercial pilot's licence, became a Second Officer with the airline in 1983. Shah was promoted to captain of the Boeing 737-400 in 1991, captain of Airbus A330-300 in 1996, and to captain of Boeing 777-200 in 1998. He had been a Type Rating Instructor and Type Rating Examiner since 2007 and had 18,365 hours of flying experience.:13
- The co-pilot was 27-year-old First Officer Fariq Abdul Hamid. He joined Malaysia Airlines as a cadet pilot in 2007 and became a Second Officer on Boeing 737-400 aircraft. He was promoted to first officer of Boeing 737-400 aircraft in 2010 and later transitioned to Airbus A330-300 aircraft in 2012. In November 2013, he began training as first officer on Boeing 777-200 aircraft. Flight 370 was his final training flight and he was scheduled to be examined on his next flight. Hamid had 2,763 hours of flying experience.:14
PassengersOf the 227 passengers, 152 were Chinese citizens, including a group of 19 artists with 6 family members and 4 staff returning from a calligraphy exhibition of their work in Kuala Lumpur; 38 passengers were Malaysian. The remaining passengers were from 13 different countries. Twenty passengers — 12 of whom were from Malaysia and 8 from China — were employees of Freescale Semiconductor.
Under a 2007 agreement with Malaysia Airlines, Tzu Chi – an international Buddhist organisation – immediately sent specially trained teams to Beijing and Malaysia to give emotional support to passengers' families. The airline also sent its own team of caregivers and volunteers and agreed to bear the expenses of bringing family members of the passengers to Kuala Lumpur and providing them with accommodation, medical care, and counselling. Altogether, 115 family members of the Chinese passengers flew to Kuala Lumpur. Some other family members chose to remain in China, fearing they would feel too isolated in Malaysia.
International participationMalaysia set up a Joint Investigation Team (JIT), composed of specialists from Malaysia, Australia, China, the UK, the US, and France,:1 being led according to the ICAO standards by "an independent investigator in charge". The team consists of an airworthiness group, an operations group, and a medical and human factors group. The airworthiness group will examine issues related to maintenance records, structures, and systems of the aircraft. The operations group will review flight recorders, operations, and meteorology. The medical and human factors group will investigate psychological, pathological, and survival factors. Malaysia also announced, on 6 April, that it had set up three ministerial committees—a Next of Kin Committee, a committee to organise the formation of the Joint Investigation Team, and a committee responsible for Malaysian assets deployed in the search effort. The criminal investigation is being led by the Royal Malaysia Police,:9 assisted by Interpol and other relevant international law enforcement authorities.
On 17 March, Australia took control for co-ordinating search, rescue, and recovery operations. For the following six weeks, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) and Australian Transport Safety Board (ATSB) worked to determine the search area, correlating information with the JIT and other government and academic sources, while the Joint Agency Coordination Centre (JACC) coordinated the search efforts. Following the fourth phase of the search, the ATSB took responsibility for defining the search area. In May, the search strategy working group was established by the ATSB to determine the most likely position on the aircraft at the 00:19 UTC satellite transmission. The group included aircraft and satellite experts from: Air Accidents Investigation Branch (UK), Boeing (US), Defence Science and Technology Organisation (Australia), Department of Civil Aviation (Malaysia), Inmarsat (UK), National Transportation Safety Board (US), and Thales (UK).:1
The Malaysian Ministry of Transport issued an interim report entitled "Factual Information: Safety Information for MH370" on 8 March 2015. As suggested by the report's title, it focused on providing factual information and not analysis of possible causes of the disappearance.