KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 18 – Searchers for missing flight MH370 remain optimistic that the latest phase, focusing on a new area farther south-west, will locate the wreckage and give families of the 239 passengers and crew members on board the plane a sense of closure. According to Judith Zielke, chief coordinator of Australia’s Flight 370 recovery efforts, conducted jointly with Malaysia and China, the underwater search was slow and painstaking, moving about two miles an hour and sometimes sidelined by harsh weather.
“It will take until April next year to finish searching the entire area. I pray every day that today is the day,” she was quoted as saying in a report in the Los Angeles Times. Some experts had increasingly come to think that foul play was involved in the plane’s veering off course and presumed crash. A lack of physical evidence had also kept alive a host of conspiracy theories and speculation that the aircraft landed intact somewhere.
Charitha Pattiaratchi, a coastal oceanography expert in Perth who played a leading role in the early recovery research, said it was not surprising that no physical evidence had been found. It took two years to recover the black boxes from an Air France flight that crashed in 2009, he said, and in that case, searchers knew where the boxes were. “They will find it, but it will take a long time, months to years,” he said of Flight MH370 debris.
But even then, he said, the flight recorder might not yield answers for the grieving. “They will certainly have closure in knowing the location where their loved ones may lie, but not really in terms of what actually happened.” Zielke said she was “cautiously optimistic” that this latest undertaking will prove fruitful. Michael Barr, an aviation safety expert at USC, said the efforts had not been in vain. “Scientifically it’s worth it,” he said, noting that searchers had learned about better tracking systems to follow planes in remote regions.