The search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 is set to be the most expensive in aviation history, analysts say, as efforts to find the aircraft deep under the Indian Ocean show no signs of slowing.
The Boeing 777 vanished on March 8 with 239 people on board, after veering dramatically off course en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing and is believed to have crashed in the sea off Australia.
Australia, which is leading the search in a remote patch of water described as “unknown to man”, has not put a figure on spending, but Malaysia has warned that costs will be “huge”.
“When we look at salvaging (wreckage) at a depth of 4.5 kilometres (2.8 miles), no military out there has the capacity to do it,” Transport and Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said Thursday.
“We have to look at contractors, and the cost of that will be huge.”
Ravikumar Madavaram, an aviation expert at Frost & Sullivan Asia Pacific, said Malaysia, Australia and China, which had the most nationals onboard the flight, were the biggest spenders and estimated the total cost up to now at about US$100 million (72 million euros).
“It’s difficult to say how much is the cost of this operation … but, yes, this is definitely the biggest operation ever (in aviation history).
“In terms of costs this would be the highest,” he told AFP.
– Hopes rest on submersible –
In the first month of the search — in which the South China Sea and Malacca Strait were also scoured by the US, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam — the Pentagon said the United States military had committed US$7.3 million to efforts to find the plane.
Meanwhile the Indian Ocean search, in which assets have also been deployed by Australia, Britain, China, South Korea, Japan and New Zealand, has failed to find anything conclusive.
Hopes rest on a torpedo-shaped US Navy submersible, which is searching the ocean floor at depths of more than 4,500 metres (15,000 feet) in the vicinity of where four signals believed to have come from black box recorders were detected.
David Gleave, an aviation safety researcher at Britain’s Loughborough University, said the costs “will be of the order of a hundred million dollars by the time we’re finished, if we have found it (the plane) now”.
But he said the longer it took to find any wreckage, the more costs would mount because scanning the vast ocean floor “will take a lot of money because you can only search about 50 square kilometres (19 square miles) a day”.
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The mini-sub searching for missing flight MH370 has reached record depths well beyond its normal operating limits, officials said Friday as it dived on its fifth seabed mission.
With no results to show since the Boeing 777 carrying 239 people disappeared on March 8, Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbott has set a one-week deadline to locate the plane which is believed to have crashed in a remote area of the Indian Ocean west of Perth.
Searchers have extended the hunt beyond the normal 4,500 metre (15,000 feet) depth range of the US Navy’s Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) called Bluefin-21.
“The AUV reached a record depth of 4,695 meters during mission four,” the US Navy said. “This is the first time the Bluefin-21 has descended to this depth.
“Diving to such depths does carry with it some residual risk to the equipment and this is being carefully monitored,” a statement said.
Australia’s Joint Agency Coordination Centre (JACC) announced that the mini-sub had been deployed on a new mission as operations run round the clock.
“Data analysis from the fourth mission did not provide any contacts of interest,” it added.
The unmanned Bluefin-21 which maps the seafloor by sonar, has searched 110 square kilometres (43 square miles) to date, JACC said.
The UAV, which hit a technical snag on Tuesday had also re-surfaced Monday after breaching a pre-programmed maximum depth of 4.5 kilometres (2.8 miles).
JACC said Thursday night that the US manufacturer of the UAV, Phoenix International, had advised the risk was “acceptable”.
“This expansion of the operating parameters allows the Bluefin-21 to search the sea floor within the predicted limits of the current search area,” it said.
The Malaysia Airlines jet is believed to have crashed in the ocean after mysteriously vanishing while en route between Kuala Lumpur and Beijing.
Hopes for finding the plane have focused on the Bluefin-21 after signals believed to be from the plane’s flight data recorders on the seabed fell silent in recent days.
The submersible is being deployed from an Australian vessel to scan an uncharted seafloor at extreme depths, but Abbott said the Bluefin-21 would be given about a week as questions are asked about the massive costs.
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Shock … relatives of the missing MH370 passengers at the Metro Park Hotel in Beijing on April 21, 2014. Picture: Wang Zhao Source: AFP
FAMILY members of passengers lost on missing Malaysia Airlines 370 have criticised the Malaysian government for an investigation they say has been mismanaged.
Appearing on US morning television, Sarah Bajc, the girlfriend of Flight 370 American passenger Philip Wood, told Today host Matt Lauer passengers’ loved ones all just “wanted to go back to square one”.
“We just don’t believe they’re using proper evaluative techniques to check the data,” she said. “It’s day 45 and we’re basically on the same position we were on on the first day.”
We don’t know anything for sure,” she said. “We want to go back and start over again, but with new people looking at the information.”
Ms Bajc sent an email to the media, on behalf of “the united families of MH370”, detailing their complaints and concerns.
Despair … Sarah Bajc with her boyfriend Philip Wood, who was a passenger on missing Malaysian flight MH370. Picture: Facebook Source: Supplied
Among their grievances is the suggestion by the government it issues death certificates or pay compensation before the plane is found.
“Until they have proof, they have an obligation to make regular prepayments to the families in need, and they have an obligation to exert themselves beyond dozing and snickering in resolving this case,” the email says.
The families say they are gaining strength and prepared to get noisier in their criticisms. The letter signs of “WE ARE IN UTTER OUTRAGE, DESPAIR AND SHOCK!”
The Acting Minister of Transport in Malaysia has posted a comment to Twitter that he hopes to discuss with Angus Houston the status of the remaining third of the search area being combed by the Bluefin-21 unmanned submersible.
DETAILS OF TODAY’S SEARCH
Bluefin-21 is still scouring the ocean depths on its ninth mission trying to locate wreckage from MH370.
So far it has searched about two thirds of the underwater area, with no contacts of interest found to date.
Up to 10 military aircraft and 10 ships will be part of today’s visual search approximately 1500 kilometres north west of Perth.
Scattered showers are predicted to continue with south easterly winds and sea swells of up to three metres.
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