The submarine scouring the Indian Ocean for a missing Malaysian Air plane has completed more than 90 percent of its search area without success while a study of debris that washed ashore turned out to be a false lead.
The Bluefin-21 autonomous underwater vehicle is currently completing its 12th dive, Australia’s Joint Agency Coordination Centre said in an e-mailed statement today. As many as 11 military planes and 11 ships will assist in searches today amid forecast for heavy rain and low clouds, it said.
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau, which examined photos of unidentified material that washed ashore yesterday 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) east of Augusta, near Perth, concluded that they were “not a lead” in the search for the missing plane. The material was secured by Western Australia Police, the JACC said without providing any description of the object.
At 48 days, the hunt for Flight 370, which disappeared March 8 with 239 people on board, is the longest search for a missing passenger jet in modern aviation history. The Boeing Co. 777-200ER widebody plane’s disappearance has baffled authorities because contact was lost less than an hour into a routine trip to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur. No debris has been found so far.
Malaysia is setting up a team to investigate the disappearance that will consist of three groups with specific focus areas, Acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said in Kuala Lumpur yesterday. The members will be announced next week and criminal investigation won’t be part of their brief, he said.
“Main purpose of the international investigation team is to evaluate, investigate and determine actual cause of the accident, so similar accidents could be avoided in the future,” Hishammuddin said.
An airworthiness group will look into issues such as maintenance records, he said. An operational group will examine flight recorders, operations and meteorology, while a medical and human factors group will investigate issues such as psychology, pathology and survival factors, Hishammuddin said.
A preliminary report on the Malaysian Airline System Bhd. plane that disappeared with 239 people on board has been issued to the International Civil Aviation Organization, Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, director general of Malaysia’s Department of Civil Aviation, said today. No decision has been taken on whether to release that to the public, he said.
The Bluefin-21 submarine has been searching for almost two weeks now to find wreckage. Almost 3 miles (4.8 kilometers) below the surface of the Indian Ocean, the Bluefin-21 is nearing the end of a sweep across a circular surveillance zone with a 6-mile radius.
The sub is bouncing sound waves off the pitch-black Indian Ocean floor to create images of the seabed in hopes of pinpointing debris from the plane. Investigators had to suspend the air search for a second straight day yesterday because of foul weather.