KUALA LUMPUR, April 18 – Malaysian authorities are now considering the possibility of deploying more underwater assets in the search for a missing Malaysian jetliner, said acting Transport Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein. He said in a Twitter post that the Deployment of Assets Committee, led by Deputy Defence Minister Datuk Abdul Rahim Bakri, was looking into deploying more autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) in the southern Indian Ocean as the search for the Malaysia Airlines (MAS) Flight MH370 entered its 42nd day Friday. He also said that the experience shared by Jean Paul Troadec, a special advisor to France’s aviation accident investigation bureau who was involved in investigating the 2009 Air France Flight 447 accident, had been helpful for the search operation.
Last Monday, an AUV called the Bluefin-21 was deployed from the Australian Defence Vessel, Ocean Shield, in a 40 square km area to search for MH370 underwater as no confirmed signals were picked up by the tow pinger locator since April 8. The Bluefin-21 is a probe vehicle equipped with side-scan sonar, which uses acoustic sounds to create a 3D map of the sea floor in the hope of locating any debris. However, the AUV found no trace of MH370 after four underwater missions in the southern Indian Ocean since Monday. Hishammuddin said he would meet up with the three ministerial committees this weekend to re-intensify their efforts. “Datuk Hamzah’s committee relating to families will be going to Beijing, then Perth, next week. Angus Houston (the Joint Agency Coordination Centre chief coordinator) is looking forward to meeting them,” he tweeted. Deputy Foreign Minister Datuk Hamzah Zainuddin heads the Next-of-Kin Committee while Deputy Transport Minister Datuk Abdul Aziz Kaprawi chairs the Technical Committee.
The government had announced the establishment of the three committees on April 5 to streamline and strengthen the ongoing efforts in the search for MH370. Hishammuddin said the Technical Committee was looking at the setting up and appointment of an International Expert Panel of Inquiry. Flight MH370, with 239 people aboard, left the KL International Airport at 12.41 am on March 8 and disappeared from radar screens about an hour later while over the South China Sea. It was to have arrived in Beijing at 6.30 am on the same day. A multinational search was mounted for the Boeing 777-200 aircraft, first in the South China Sea and then, after it was learnt that the plane had veered off course, in the southern Indian Ocean. After an analysis of satellite data indicated that the plane’s last position was in the middle of the Indian Ocean, west of Perth, Australia, Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak announced on March 24 that Flight MH370 “ended in the southern Indian Ocean”.