Thursday, March 08, 2018

MH370: A wave of optimism sweeps team

Kuala Lumpur: The team scouring the depths of the southern Indian Ocean for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 that disappeared exactly four years ago is optimistic that the deep will finally give up its secrets.

This optimism of the 65-man crew of the Seabed Constructor grows as the vessel, tasked with locating the aircraft, moves closer to completing the 25,000sq km search zone marked out by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau as the “most likely” final resting place of the Boeing 777-200ER with its 239 passengers and crew.

The search team has only 9,000sq km of this area left to cover. This fresh area is said to have the highest probability of containing the wreckage, based on the analysis of drift patterns of the Boeing 777’s flaperon found on Reunion Island in 2015. Analysis confirmed that it was from MH370.

In the event that the search area comes up empty, Seabed Constructor will proceed, as part of its 90-day search deadline, to two “extended sites” involving an estimated 48,000sq km.

The team’s confidence also comes from the fact that the “free-flying” Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) are among the best that technology has to offer, equipped with side-scan sonars, multi-beam echosounders, sub-bottom profilers, HD cameras, self-compensating magnetometers, synthetic aperture sonars and turbidity sensors.

The eight AUVs, capable of operating at depths of up to 6,000m, are being deployed simultaneously and collect higher quality data.
Seabed Constructor began its journey from Durban, South Africa, to the search area, on Jan 2. It has sailed for 66 days, but the search in the designated areas, as of today, has only entered its 33rd day.

Malaysia has on board the vessel two Royal Malaysian Navy officers, who send daily reports and data back to Kuala Lumpur.

Royal Malaysian Navy chief Admiral Tan Sri Ahmad Kamarulzaman Ahmad Badaruddin said apart from being the government’s eyes and ears on this mission, his two officers were tasked with ensuring that this mammoth undertaking was carried out as per the agreement between the Malaysian government and Ocean Infinity, the United Kingdom company based in the United States.

Kamarulzaman told the New Straits Times that the two hydrographers, Lieutenant Commander Azmi Rosedee, 32, and Lieutenant Abdul Halim Ahmad Nordin, 31, would also ensure the smooth operations of the search while addressing any speculation that may arise.

“Aside from that, the country will benefit immensely from having these two highly-trained officers on board to gain experience as this high-tech search uses the latest technology.”
08/03/18 Tasnim Lokman & Aliza Shah/New Straits Times