Ship to revisit MH370 search sites

CANBERRA - The authorities will revisit the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines jet in the coming weeks, returning to more than 30 sites which had been previously ruled out as final locations of the jet.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau announced yesterday that one of the two search vessels had been tasked with revisiting "Classification 2 contacts", reported Perth-based newspaper The West Australian.

The bureau said that investigators returning to the site would use "higher frequency sonar" to "identify the relevance of the contacts".

According to the newspaper, Classification 2 contacts are described as locations or objects of more interest than Classification 3 contacts but still unlikely to be significant to the search. Classification 1 contacts warrant immediate investigation.

"The higher-resolution data from this method will enable the search team to identify the relevance of such contacts without the need to await the arrival of the autonomous underwater vehicle, which cannot be deployed until the weather improves in the summer months," said the bureau.

Flight MH370 vanished on March 8 last year, en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board.

In late July, a small part of the plane, a 2m-long flaperon, surfaced on the French island of Reunion. It was confirmed by both French and Malaysian authorities to be part of the wing of the Boeing 777 jet, raising hopes that the plane would soon be located.

But some two months later, there has been no further sign of debris despite investigators' initial confidence that the wing part would lead to further discoveries.

Australia, which is leading the search, had said in the wake of the discovery that it was confident the hunt is in the right place.

The chief commissioner of the bureau, Mr Martin Dolan, told ABC radio last month that "the find is consistent with all the work we've done, so we're confident that we're looking in the right area and we'll find the aircraft there". He added then that the current search area is scheduled to be completely combed by the end of next June.

More than 60,000 sq km of the sea floor has been covered since the Australian-led search was launched last October, reported The West Australian. It is the largest multinational search operation in history, funded primarily by the Australian government at an estimated cost of A$90 million (S$89 million).

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 25, 2015, with the headline 'Ship to revisit MH370 search sites'. Print Edition | Subscribe