Mon, Jan 08, 2018 - Page 4 News List

US firm resumes search for Malaysian plane on a ‘no cure, no fee’ contract

AP, KUALA LUMPUR

The Malaysian government on Saturday said that it has approved a new attempt by a private company to find the wreckage of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, nearly four years after its disappearance sparked one of aviation’s biggest mysteries.

The Houston, Texas-based company Ocean Infinity this past week dispatched a search vessel to look in the southern Indian Ocean for debris from the plane, which disappeared on March 8, 2014, on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 227 passengers and 12 crew members.

The governments of Malaysia, China and Australia called off the nearly three-year official search in January year. The Australian Transport Safety Bureau’s (ATSB) final report on the search conceded that authorities were no closer to knowing the reasons for the Boeing 777’s disappearance, or its exact location.

“The basis of the offer from Ocean Infinity is based on ‘no cure, no fee,’” Malaysian Minister of Transport Liow Tiong Lai said. “That means they are willing to search the area of 25,000 square kilometers pointed out by the expert group near the Australian waters.”

However, “I don’t want to give too much hope ... to the [next of kin],” he added.

Ocean Infinity said in a statement that the search vessel Seabed Constructor, which left the South African port of Durban on Tuesday, was taking advantage of favorable weather to move toward “the vicinity of the possible search zone.”

In the initial search for the plane, a 52-day surface search covered an area of several million square kilometers in the Indian Ocean west of Australia, before an underwater search mapped 710,000 square kilometers of seabed at depths of up to 6km. They were the largest aviation searches of their kind in history, according to the ATSB.

Despite other methods such as studying satellite imagery and investigating ocean drifts after debris from the plane washed ashore on islands in the eastern Indian Ocean and the east coast of Africa, the 1,046-day search was called off on Jan. 17 last year.

However, the ATSB’s report said the understanding of where the plane could be is “better now than it has ever been,” partly as a result of studying debris that washed ashore in 2015 and 2016 that showed the plane was “not configured for a ditching at the end-of-flight,” meaning it had run out of fuel.

The search team also looked back at satellite imagery that showed objects in the ocean that might have been MH370 debris.

The report said this analysis complemented work detailed in a 2016 review and identified an area of less than 25,000 square kilometers — roughly the size of the US state of Vermont — that “has the highest likelihood of containing MH370.”

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