May 19 (Bloomberg) -- An underwater search for the wreckage of Malaysian Air Flight 370 was halted for a sixth consecutive day as officials await the delivery of spare parts for the Bluefin-21 submarine that’s scouring the Indian Ocean.
Equipment to repair transponders on the Bluefin and its support ship ADV Ocean Shield should arrive in the port of Geraldton later today, Australia’s Joint Agency Coordination Centre said in an e-mailed statement. The submersible is scanning the sea floor 1,670 kilometers (1,000 miles) northwest of Perth for remains of the Malaysian Airline System Bhd. flight, which disappeared on March 8 carrying 239 people.
Repairs to correct a hardware issue affecting the ability of the transponders to communicate with each other during a dive has meant the Bluefin-21 has carried out just two hours of searching since May 2. In what’s already the longest hunt for a missing passenger plane in modern aviation history, no trace of the Boeing Co. 777-200 has been found during 73 days of scanning waters from the Gulf of Thailand to the Southern Ocean.
“Time is on their side” given the aircraft’s likely location on the undersea Zenith Plateau, Robin Beaman, a marine geologist at James Cook University in Cairns, said by phone. The seafloor in the area is covered in mud firm enough to walk on and receives just a millimeter (0.04 inches) or so of extra sediment every thousand years, he said.
“It’s unlikely that it will be buried in anything that’s drifting down from above,” Beaman said.
The disappearance has baffled authorities because contact was lost less than an hour into a routine trip to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur. The jetliner vanished from civilian radars while headed north over the Gulf of Thailand, then doubled back and flew over Peninsular Malaysia and on into the remote waters of the Indian Ocean, according to analysis of satellite signals.
Investigators have scanned 4.6 million square kilometers of ocean, with 29 aircraft carrying out 334 flights and 14 ships afloat as part of the operation, Australia’s deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss said at a May 5 press conference. In its budget last week, the country’s government set aside A$89.9 million ($84 million) in costs for the hunt over the two years ending June 2015.
Shares in Malaysian Air fell the most since 1998 today amid concern that the government may allow the state-controlled company to fail. The carrier posted its biggest quarterly loss in more than two years in the three months ended March as a measure of revenue per kilometer fell while fuel costs rose.
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