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Tuesday 2 September 2014

'No clues' as MH370 search is costliest in history

Jonathan Pearlman in Sydney

Published 30/05/2014 | 02:30

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A ground crewman guides a RAAF AP-3C Orion along the tarmac as it returns from the search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 in Perth, Australia
A ground crewman guides a RAAF AP-3C Orion along the tarmac as it returns from the search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 in Perth, Australia
A woman takes part in a special prayer for passengers onboard the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 at the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) headquarters in Kuala Lumpur April 6, 2014. International search planes and ships are heading to an area where a Chinese ship twice heard what could be signals from MH370's black box locators, Australian search authorities said on Sunday. REUTERS/Samsul Said (MALAYSIA - Tags: DISASTER TRANSPORT RELIGION)
A woman takes part in a special prayer for passengers onboard the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 at the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) headquarters in Kuala Lumpur April 6, 2014. International search planes and ships are heading to an area where a Chinese ship twice heard what could be signals from MH370's black box locators, Australian search authorities said on Sunday. REUTERS/Samsul Said (
People including Chinese relatives (bottom R) of passengers onboard the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 sit during a special prayer session at the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) headquarters in Kuala Lumpur
People including Chinese relatives (bottom R) of passengers onboard the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 sit during a special prayer session at the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) headquarters in Kuala Lumpur

The search for the missing Malaysia Airlines plane has been described as a "tangled mess" as experts predicted costs could reach hundreds of millions of pounds and authorities admitted they had been looking in the wrong area.

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Angry families of the 239 onboard flight MH370 described the decision to move the search as a "slap in the face" after authorities in Australia said they has found no wreckage in the targeted zone.

The search will now shift to a slow and uncertain 12-month hunt across a broad stretch of the Indian Ocean.

In a serious setback, authorities yesterday ruled out the area where a set of pings were detected in April as a possible crash point for the missing aircraft.

The pings were believed to be from the plane's black box locator beacon but some officials have raised doubts about whether they were connected to the plane, which disappeared on March 8.

"Our best theory at this point is that (the pings were) likely some sound produced by the ship... or within the electronics of the towed pinger locator," Michael Dean, the US navy's deputy director of ocean engineering, told CNN.

The US navy contradicted the claim, saying Mr Dean's comments were "speculative and premature".

Analysts said the search – already the most expensive and extensive in aviation history – could cost "at least" hundreds of millions of pounds.

Todd Curtis, an aviation expert and a former engineer for Boeing, said the final cost would depend on if, or when, the plane is found but the operation would be more challenging than previous searches because it was being conducted so far from land.

"The estimate of hundreds of millions of dollars is a good first-cut estimate but it could be of a magnitude higher that. It is too early to tell," he said.

Australia has already spent more than €29m on the search and disclosed this month that it had budgeted €60m for the next two years of the operation.

Malaysia and China will continue to conduct the search with Australia but the two countries are planning to hire private contractors to run the underwater search.

Warren Truss, Australia's deputy prime minister, said authorities were "very confident that the resting place of the aircraft is in the southern (Indian) ocean".

The Australian authority running the operation said that an unmanned submarine, the Bluefin-21, had spent almost two months searching across 328 square miles but found no sign of wreckage.

The next phase will not begin until August and will cover more than 23,000 square miles – an area almost the size of Ireland – across a zone based on the likely path of the Boeing 777, as determined by its contact with satellites.

Australia, Malaysia and China have sent vessels to the Indian Ocean to begin mapping the ocean floor, a process that will take about three months.

The announcement that the search in the targeted area had been fruitless angered some relations. "It just is another slap in the face," said Danica Weeks, a New Zealander whose husband, Paul, was on the plane.

Sarah Bajc, the girlfriend of Philip Wood, a US passenger said the search was "a tangled mess".

The union for workers at Malaysia Airlines has called for the resignation of Ahmad Jauhari, the chief executive, and senior managers as the MH370 ordeal takes a growing toll on the struggling carrier.

(© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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